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Book Review: Sex and Horror Volume Four – “an embarrassment of saucy, gory riches”

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Available to order from Korero Press now, Sex and Horror: Volume 4 is the latest instalment in a bestselling series of books dedicated to the 1960s and ’70s publishing phenomenon known as “fumetti sexy” – Italian adult comics with a unique take on genres such as horror, crime, fantasy, history and fairy tales. And as Y. El Droubie goes on to explain in an exciting and sweet foreword that details their first exposure to these titles, these weren’t underground publications: they were mass market and their highly erotic covers were seen on every newsstand and kiosk across the country.

It’s mad when you think of these books adorned with boobs, bums, zombies, dismembered heads and pints and pints of claret splashed across them being so readily available all over the place in Italy. I remember getting knocked back in a newsagents when I was twelve or thirteen for trying to buy a ‘2000 AD’ with a particularly violent cover!

The comics were obviously hugely successful and are still sought after today, in part for their magnificent cover art which was vivid, lurid, evocative and really put the gore in gorgeous. Author Nicola D’Agostino, who is an Italian freelance writer, translator, musician, designer and consultant with many years of experience in the comics and music publishing industries, has put together a fantastic book collecting these pieces and presenting them full-page in full colour.

The covers are organised according to the publication they appeared in and each section details the comic book’s title in Italian and English alongside details on its popularity, how long it ran for and what its focus was. Some were anthologies, but there were also some brilliant ones such as ‘De Sade’, which reimagined the infamous Marquis De Sade as “a well-endowed antihero … who gets to meet Casanova and Queen Marie Antoinette … Nosferatu, the Loch Ness monster and other such menaces.”

One of my favourites was ‘Zordon’, which was an erotic sci-fi comics series that ran from 1974 to 1977. Chronicling the adventures of the titular Zordon, an alien who wants to learn more about earthlings so transfers themselves into the body of a Jane Fonda looky-likey, builds a time machine, and has saucy adventures everywhere from the wild west to ancient Greece. The art is as top drawer as the other titles, but the premise allows for some crazier situations and covers that feature Zordon variously as a topless blonde fighting off an octopus man at the bottom of the sea and zapping lasers at a pair of blue lesbian alien ladies.

My main favourite chapter though has to be the section on ‘Oltretomba’, which ran from 1971 to 1986. It was one of the most successful adult comics ever, spawning spin-offs and special editions, and even inspiring two films. Mostly written and drawn by Spanish artists, the ‘Oltretomba’ covers are delightful and delirious hard horror with bonkers titles and situations that will leave you desperate to read the corresponding stories. 

Huge snakes bind screaming women bedecked in jewels while assailants with daggers sneak into the background with their daggers gleaming in the moon on one page while the next features the three musketeers sword fighting with a werewolf reared up on its hind legs while in the foreground Lady de Winter goes down on D’Artagnan. It’s wonderful heady stuff that will leave you with a massive smile on your face as you flick from one perfectly painted demented situation to the next.

I thoroughly enjoyed every page turn of Sex and Horror Volume Four and every new bonkers piece of art that lit up my eyes, sparked my imagination and left me praying that someone else sees this stuff and makes the movies I would pay a million pounds to see of ‘Salto nelle tenebre’ (A Jump Into Darkness) which features a man tumbling through the sky with a parachute which has failed to open… BECAUSE THERE IS A SKELETON IN IT – and ‘Il treno fantasma’ that depicts two OTHER skeletons driving a runaway train off a railway crossing and straight through some poor guy’s car smashing him through the glass.

Every single page is chock full of this stuff. It really is an embarrassment of saucy gory riches. If you love horror, comics and incredible artwork – and don’t mind it making you blush too – then Sex and Horror Volume Four comes highly recommended, but be warned: once you start browsing through this book you will most certainly want the previous three tomes too.

Priced at £22.99, Sex and Horror Volume Four is released in the UK in April 2021 and is available to order from Korero Press now.

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