By Squares 16 Comments
Recently I decided to delve into the world of Hellblazer and read from the first to somewhere around the 70th issue (all in a span of 48 hours, too...) and have since decided to drop the series from my read list. This decision was reached after much thought and consideration, which can essentially be summed up thusly: I sat back and asked myself 'Do I actually enjoy reading this title?'.
Needless to say, the answer was no. That in and of itself can be explained by the nature of the stories themselves- largely due to the fact that they seemed to revolve around levels of violence that I found very unnecessary. Which makes my dislike of the title (and writer) driven purely by personal taste- some people like that kind of thing, I'm told, but I'm not one of those people.
To be frank, I have a fairly weak stomach when it comes to violence, and I'm sad to say that I just can't handle experiencing much of the horror genre, in print or film. Mind you, I'd be the last person to say that violence has no place in the media and/or literature; in fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's an essential part of both, and I have yet to read a good book or comic that didn't feature it to some degree.
That being said, at what point does a writer think to himself "okay, a few issues ago I had a lovely full-page depiction of a grotesque mass of evil-looking cancerous flesh hanging off of the dying form of my main character, and recently Jack the Ripper's demon-thing has been brutally maiming people for a while now, writing this story where a mob of people get killed in various ways for most of the issue will be totally tasteful and not at all overdone"? I'm not saying violence has no place in comics, but it should be better employed. Even in the horror genre one could utilize little to no violence and still come up with something terrifying. For example, the only issues of the Hellblazer title that made me really profoundly uncomfortable were 25-26, which were written by the often impressive Grant Morrison, and featured practically no depicted violence ('told', not 'shown', which can be just as effective when done right). What really had an effect on me was the frenzied, animalistic, malignant nature of the writing and to some degree the inevitability of the events. Perhaps I'm a bit too cerebral when it comes to the horror genre, because I tend to find drawings of blood, gore and the usual sorts of mutilation to be more offensive and irritating than 'scary'. Artistic renderings of the results of horrible brutality aren't usually the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, and a truly talented writer should be skilled enough that they don't have to rely on gruesome images to scare people.
So I ask you, my fellow comic enthusiasts, whether you agree with my sentiments- is over-the-top blood and gore really called for in the horror genre, as a rule?