Sunday, March 8, 2009

Banjo Lessons / Terminated

Twisted Tales Weekend concludes with two tales from the startlingly controversial October 1983 issue of Twisted Tales #5. Both stories were written by Bruce Jones of course, with art on the first story by Rand Holmes, while the second story features the wonderfully chunky art of Richard Corban (who also provided the cover art for this issue.) Jones daringly entered EC Shock SuspenStories territory with the first tale here today, but I’ll leave it to Pacific Comics’ editor April Campbell to set this one up for you with her Special Editorial:











TOMORROW: Back to the 50's!

++++++++++++++++++++++

Terminated
by Bruce Jones and Richard Corben




26 comments:

oeconomist.com said...

“Banjo Lessons” really needed more of an explanation as to why Banjo was so subservient, even ab initio.

None-the-less, it was a really powerful effort, especially as a result of some excellent structuring.

“Comic” books, indeed.

Chuck Wells said...

Ah, this was some super, groovy & fun stuff. Its a great time to seek these issues out too, since the speculators are currently focusing most of their attention on 1970's books.

Anonymous said...

The first story had some neo-'50's style art, which was appropriate, since the story appears to have taken place in the late '40's-early '50's from the style of the autos. Since the flashback occured 12 years before, this would explain the subservient behavior of Banjo.

I really have no further comments on this, except to say that this is the strongest stuff I have read on this site since I've been on this site, which is over a year and a half.

Anonymous said...

I can see what they were trying to do in Banjo Lessons, but as it is, it's a truly flawed and misguided effort and quite racist in its own way.

Anonymous said...

Shock SuspenseStories taken to the next level.

goblin said...

What I like about Twisted Tales is that their stories are very well told and fairly unpredictable.

That being said, I feel kind of ambiguous towards 'Banjo Lessons.' I'm sure that the intentions of the writer were good, but yeah, Banjo's portrayal as an obedient 'dog' was rather questionable. Sim's apparently homoerotic feelings for him gave the story an interesting twist, but I really could've done without the part where they ate Banjo. That bit seemed to be in there for sheer shock purposes only and it didn't help the story to get its point across at all (quite the contrary, actually).

As much as I've enjoyed this weekend's look at Twisted Tales (thanks again, Karswell), I'm kind of glad that it's back to the 50's tomorrow. Ultimately, these stories are just too grim and, sadly, too real for me to appreciate on a daily basis.

joe bloke said...

man, I haven't seen Banjo Lessons for years. gotta admit, it's a lot clumsier than I remember, but it's still a great little comic. nice one, fella!

goblin said...

Oh, I forgot to add: I'm wondering if Eli Roth read Twisted Tales #7 back in the day. The ending of 'Cabin Fever' is like a movie adaption of 'Terminated.'

sfdoomed said...

These Twisted Tales stories are fantastic! The coloring is superb, the stories are creepy, and the artwork is always excellent.

Chuck Wells mentions that most speculators are focusing on 1970s books, and I have to agree. A couple of years ago I got back into comics after a ten year hiatus, and I was surprised with how relatively cheap and easy I was able to find old Eclipse and PC horror comics to fill the gaps in my collection. I thought for sure they would be valuable collector's items since they FREAKIN'RULE, but alas, I was wrong.

With that said, like Goblin, I'm happy to be returning to the '50s tomorrow. I appreciate the occasional sidetrack from pre-code though, so a big thanks to Karswell for the weekend Twisted Tales treats!

Karswell said...

>could've done without the part where they ate Banjo.

But that's pretty much the entire "twisted" point of the story, and Sims mind snap / rampage. If they really had just eaten a dog the story wouldn't have had as much impact. Granted Jones could've avoided the race issues of the "coon dog" by simply, for example, making Banjo a "stray" homeless bum (of any unidentifiable race) who is doing anything just to make some spare change, but still... the point of the story is to induce the reaction that some of you are expressing here today. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, obviosuly that was the other point.

HEH said...

Ah Holmes and Corben. I love and own these issues.
Short-lived, but glorious!

oeconomist.com said...

Anonymous #1—

Depictions in popular fiction notwithstanding, setting the earlier events in 1938 really doesn't explain Banjo's behavior.

goblin

It might have been better to let the reader fill-in-a-blank rather than show a human corpse on a platter. But the fact that Banjo was eaten is a deliberate inversion of the mythology that depicts blacks as always close to cannibalism.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that the guy who wrote the very nuanced and mature story "Jenifer" for Creepy magazine wrote "Banjo Lessons," a decidedly simplistic exploitation (not to say exploration) of the theme of racism. Twisted Tales was a comic for "Mature Readers," but what does the story even say about bigotry that a child doesn't already know? Bigotry is wrong and we shouldn't treat human beings like dogs? Boy, that's a sophisticated message, huh? There's not a single panel in the story where Banjo is shown as being anything like a real human being. His character is not even one dimensional. It's a straw dog (no pun intended) utilized solely for shock value, nothing more.

Take a look at Shock Suspenstories -- specifically something like "In Gratitude..." where the object of racial hatred is never actually depicted in the art. In spite of that, his heroism and sacrifice -- as described by the story's protagonist -- shape a believable and sympathetic man in the reader's mind. Without even appearing in the story, that character has far more depth and humanity than "Banjo."

Yes, I know, it's a different kind of story, but if Jones couldn't find a way to say something of value about racism, he should have just stuck to pure shock stories.

Sorry to be a downer. Just thought it needed saying.

Anonymous said...

And that's not the only problem - there's also the implication that Sims only feels pity for Banjo because he (=Sims)'s a homosexual, the whole "we're starving and must eat something" subplot is unnecessary and ultimately the story is about Sims and not Banjo (who's nothing more than a McGuffin) anyway.

todd said...

"As much as I've enjoyed this weekend's look at Twisted Tales (thanks again, Karswell), I'm kind of glad that it's back to the 50's tomorrow. Ultimately, these stories are just too grim and, sadly, too real for me to appreciate on a daily basis."

Glad to know I'm not alone after all. I skip over the late seventies and eighties stuff without comment because I respect that I'm in the minority here about it. Oddly enough, "Banjo Lessons" doesn't bother me like most seventies and eighties stuff: shocked me, absolutely, but it isn't pure slasher with ugly art and some heavy-handed message about rampant hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

There are so many things wrong with this ill-advised and sloppy story (and the circumstances under which it was published) that it would take hours to discuss them all. Probably the most hilarious thing about this whole deal springs from April Campbell's sententious editorial. Bad enough in and of itself, but when you spot such glaring errors as seen on Page Six, panel five -- "you here me?" -- you can see just how seriously she took her job as editor. Yes, "one of the strongest and best written pieces I have ever read" on the subject, but apparently not worth a decent proofreading.

As always, Karswell rules with his efforts to present us the complete picture. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

And why is that judge wearing a wig -- in front of an American flag? WTF?

Horror pariah said...

I'd stay out of this kind of discussion usually, but i'll contribute. I think the story is well-intentioned, but that it isn't handled nearly as well as, like has been said an EC. story. Banjo's subservience could be explained away as simply being mute, or retarded, but it works in context. I also find it funny that Warren comics is mentioned, Bill Dubay wrote a truly disgusting story in 1984/94 where blacks are hunted, and as clumsily handled as this is, it's nowhere near as bad as that.

Mr. Cavin said...

"I skip over the late seventies and eighties stuff without comment because I respect that I'm in the minority here about it."

Ditto. I only mention it now in an effort to provide complete data. Well, that and because I don't want Todd to feel even a little bit alone.

todd said...

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Why is it funny that a Warren story is mentioned? What does one Warren story have to do with another? Is it really reasonable to say that just because one Warren story was terrible that somehow "Banjo Lessons" is by default better than Warren in general? I don't get it.

Horror pariah said...

No, I didn't say that. I just wanted to point out that that was a real example of terrible race-related stories in comics. The mention of Warren just got me thinking.

fate said...

Big thanx in advance.great blog!
Twisted Tales?! someone other than I has read TT(heh)??PC horror was entertaining.Bruce Jones wrote a volume worth of stories.The art was eye grabbing& professional.
Alien Worlds was another PC sci-fi horror comic.

I read Banjo´ 20+ years ago & I never forgot it.

Is this the complete issue?

thanx for the effort!

Fate

fate said...

Hi Aagain...could you scan the rest of this amazing issue?a true one of a kind issue.

Anonymous said...

I found this story to be racist in its portrayal as well. And offensively gruesome. The 80s sure marked the decline of comics. But the reason I wanted to post a message actually is to add to the discussion. Some of the panels in the story were adjusted so that some of the original wording was changed. I'm not sure how well this shows up digitally, but it was quite interesting when I noticed it in the print issue. One of the changed panels, for example, refers to the dog/guy going along with his master because "he loved him." You can faintly piece together the original wording in several spots, where it was then covered over with new wording, if you look carefully.

Anonymous said...

the only thing offensive about the "banjo lesson" story was the generic and innaccurate (yet deliciously paranoid, pun intended) portrayal of "racist dumb southerners".