Writers: Steve Skeates, Mike Friedrich, Sergio Argones, Maury Boltinoff, and more
Artists: Alex Toth, Nick Cardy, Don, Heck, Tony DeZuniga, Dick Giordano, and more
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars
"The Witching Hour" was one of DC Comics' long-running horror anthology titles. This massive, low-cost volume reprints more than 500 pages of content and covers from the first 21 issues, showcasing artwork from some of the comic book mediums true masters in glorious black-and-white.
As a kid, I loved DC Comics' horror anthologies, what few of them I ever gained access to. I'm not sure what my reaction would have been to "Witching Hour" if I had come across back in those days, but as an adult and a lover of anthology films, I thought the majority of this book was an exceptionally fun read. The early issues of this title should be counted among the best horror anthology comics ever published.
A standard for a comic book horror anthology has always been a host character giving a little introduction and epilogue to the stories, and some titles would take it further and start the issue with a page or two establishing the host with a couple of puns and a gag situation. It's also typical for the host to make some joke or ironic comment at the end of each story.
But with "The Witching Hour," editor Dick Giordano took this convention a little further and brought it in line with produced a title that followed the standard set by horror anthology films, placing the titles' hosts in a wrap-around story that sometimes tied all the stories together thematically, but that always provided a prologue, epilogue, and amusing interludes in each issue.
"The Witching Hour" was hosted by three witches, which appear to be loosely based on the Weird Sisters from "MacBeth" and which also had fun with the notion that the younger generation never has any respect for the older generation and visa-versa. Two of them are the stereotypical slovenly hags with warts and pointed hats while the third one is a sexy, swinging, college educated chick who keeps her wardrobe and rooms as fashionable and clean as her older sisters keep theirs tattered, run-down, and vermin infested. And while her sisters boil their witch's brew in the traditional large iron pot over a live flame with ingredients gathered from the swamp surrounding their home, their younger (adopted, they are quick to point out) sister happily lets hers simmer in a pan on an electric range using frozen ingredients from the grocery store.
The framing stories featuring the sisters often involve amusing arguments over modernity and tradition as it relates to witchcraft, and over what makes better stories... old school fairy tales and twist-ending chillers, or more modern and futuristic stories with sci-fi angles. The generation gap jokes are full of 1960s and 1970s slang and outdated technology, but they're still amusing, especially with the recently passed "Okay Boomer" craze.
Unfortunately, after Dick Giordano was replaced as the title's editor, the framing sequences are reduced and eventually phased out. The stories remain interesting--and a few of the best ones in the entire book can be found in the back half--but I still missed the side stories with the sisters, as well as the subplot involving their hideous servant. (The promise of readers getting to see his face, and the payoff of that promise, is one of the funnier running bits I have come across. It's too bad the editors at DC Comics didn't keep that approach going.)
Artwise, the quality is universally top-notch, with a virtual whos-who of comic book greats providing it. The black-and-white presentation and superior printing and paper quality makes it even easier to admire the line-work. Of particular note is the many pages by Alex Toth, who drew many of the framing sequences, and even the majority of the short tales in some issues as well. The art on those Nick Cardy covers especially benefit from being in black-and-white.
"DC Showcase Presents: The Witching Hour" is an anthology of anthologies, and it's a book I highly recommend if you like well-done comics and horror short stories. With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, it even be the book to get you in the proper mood.