Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Inklings Discuss . . . Horror Comics?

So, as part of my work on the festschrift, which is ongoing, I had to confirm some quotes and page references today. And you know how it is: you pick up a book to try to locate one specific passage you need and in the process various odds and bits you've never paid proper attention to before catch your eye. And it was that way with me today.

I was looking up something relating to THE HOMECOMING OF BEORHTNOTH and came across a mention of an Inklings meeting that was held at the Eagle & Child in Oxford on November 9th, 1954: exactly sixty-two years ago yesterday. Present were CSL and Warnie, McCallum, Mathews, JRRT, and semi-Inkling Roger Lancelyn Green (to whose diary entry we're indebted for this account). They discussed Tolkien's just-released LotR, and horror comics, and who was the greatest man to come from each country in the British Isles, deciding on Edmund Burke for Ireland, Sir Walter Scott for Scotland, and Shakespeare for England, although there were dissident votes for Pitt or Wellington for the latter spot (apparently the Welsh need not apply).

The first and third topics here sound pretty much in line with the sort of things I'd expect to read that the Inklings were talking about, but the middle topic brought me up short, and I was surprised not to have noticed it before on any previous reading of this passage. We know that Warnie, Lewis, and Tolkien were quite open in admitting that they read and enjoyed works in the then rather disreputable field of science fiction. But that they would be conversant in comic books came as a bit of a surprise, and horror comics at that. I tried to come up with a mental image of Professor Tolkien, or CSL, reading, say, EC Comics, and I admit the image wdn't come. Curious.

Of course it's possible that they were discussing horror comics without having actually read any of them; the topic was a hot one at the time, that being the same year that the notorious book SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT came out, which I gather more or less argued that reading comics lead to a life of crime.

So, one of those occasional bits of evidence that challenges our preconceptions. They're good for you, if occasionally disconcerting.

--John R.
most recent viewing: MISS HOKUSAI and THE MARTIAN.
current reading: THE GOLD VOLCANO by Verne.

P. S.
I forgot to include the important detail of what book I was looking things up in when I found this: it was the invaluable Scull & Hammond CHRONOLOGY, page 444.  --JDR

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