On this day, 24 March 1984: Scream!
I reviewed the first issue of Scream! this time last year, but the scans were a bit dim so I thought it deserved another airing from the GNFAR crypt. Look at the colours on that busy front cover – even on my bashed-up old copy of the comic they’re still bold and eye-catching. I think I was a reader of Eagle and Roy of the Rovers at this time (aged 13, in the third year of secondary school), and starting to move away from comics – football and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks becoming my greater interests – but I do remember buying this and the first few issues of Scream! and wondering why it had taken so long for such a fantastic horror comic to reach the shelves.
I have no special insight into the history of Scream! but highly recommend a few sources. David McDonald of Hibernia produced a brilliant Comic Archive on Scream! last year. I’m not sure whether it’s still available to buy but do try and track down a copy if you can. It’s 64 pages of previously unpublished strips and covers that were commissioned before Scream!’s untimely demise, and revealing interviews with IPC’s boys’ group editor Barrie Tomlinson, the comic’s editor Ian Rimmer and sub-editor Simon Furman. Back from the Depths is a superb Scream! tribute website, with loads of cover galleries and story guides. And last summer Ian Rimmer gave an extensive interview, describing daily life producing Scream! 29 floors beneath King’s Reach Tower, to Michael Molcher on the 2000AD Thrill-cast. Rebellion have produced a collected edition of Scream!’s Monster (first episode written by Alan Moore, the remainder by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and beautifully illustrated by Heinzl and Jesus Redondo), and later this year will collect Gerry Finley-Day and Eric Bradbury’s The Dracula File.
There’s a fog of mystery surrounding the cancellation of Scream! after just 15 issues. It was one of the many IPC titles removed from production in response to the NUJ strike of the summer of 1984, but never reappeared as a standalone title (only as a low-key merger with Eagle). It’s possible that its readership numbers were considered too weak to justify bringing it back after the strike. If that’s true then I would suggest it was indicative of a declining comics market rather than the fault of poor content, as this was quality material. It’s also been mooted that IPC’s higher-level management cancelled the comic because they felt nervous about the horror comic. These were the days of hysterical ‘video nasty’ pontification in the British tabloid press, leading to the passing of the Video Recordings Act in July. Both Barrie Tomlinson and Ian Rimmer have bemoaned the editorial interference they received from on high during the preparation of the 15 issues of Scream! that made it to press. I’d love to have seen some of what didn’t make the cut, because the comic that was produced was still quite the chiller. Feast your eyes on just some of the horrors from the first issue below …