Who could’ve ever predicted that we’d live in this kind of day and age? Obscene is the new avant-garde. Performance art has become a place where shocking onlookers has become something of an act of high art. The more issues you can tackle at once in the most appalling manner seems to be something a lot of today’s creative types strive for. Or at least, I think this is the case. We also live in a politically volatile hell, where one’s unpleasant opinions have become reason enough for them to get labelled as ‘fascist.’ In fact, fascism is the new communism. Everyone wants to be a hero and hunt down neo-Nazis, be the first ones to out bigots in their communities, and promote neo-Marxist values to anyone they deem oppressed or otherwise; all this while firmly staking their place on the right side of social issues.
But what if I told you that we were forgetting the true severity of the word fascist?
I wrote about a man called Mike Diana, the American underground cartoonist who become the first artist convicted of obscenity, in a previous piece. All should hear Diana’s story, and with this piece I am not saying his struggles with the law and censors are no less valid. But I may have come across the creation that needs to be revived in this day and age, this era of trendy Nazi hunting and Trump-bashing. Ladies and gentleman, behold LORD HORROR.
To keep myself from sounding redundant, I assure that I will not always be trying to expose my readers to new forms of transgressive art and writing with every entry. However, this is one such subject that I feel we MUST discuss in this current year. Lord Horror is a comic book character created by David Britton and Michael Butterworth of Savoy Books, a notorious British publisher of comics, music, and novels. I say notorious because their store was been raided an ungodly amount of times since their inception in the seventies. Britton and Butterworth have long languished in obscurity, their works never achieving a significant of exposure except in the tabloids of their home country’s newsstands. Britton, in fact, has gone to prison numerous times as appeasement to the authorities to keep his work from being confiscated and destroyed. I won’t bore you with the details, but the history of the company is certainly worth a read.
Savoy’s most infamous creation, of course, was Lord Horror, a multimedia undertaking centring on the single titular character: Lord Horror, inspired by noted Irish-American Nazi propagandist William Joyce a.k.a. Lord Haw-Haw, is a flamboyant British Nazi who slaughters Jewish victims on the regular and cavorts with Hitler and Mengele at their most debauched. Making his debut on a cover single of New Order’s seminal ‘Blue Monday’ (which swapped out the lyrics for those of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘Cadillac Ranch’), Lord Horror first made shockwaves with the publication of his own comic series, along with the companion comic series Meng and Ecker, which follow the exploits of Horror’s underlings Meng and Ecker. It was here, with these comics, that the world became aware of Britton and Butterworth’s blood-stained bastard child. Slammed with more obscenity charges and newfound notoriety, Savoy Books went full-throttle, crafting some of the straight-up most disgusting, extreme, and destructive stories in the history of sequential art. But even that wouldn’t hold a candle to what Savoy released next.
Written in 1989 and published in 1990, Lord Horror, the novel, became the first book since Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn to be outright BANNED in the United Kingdom. Described by its creators as a literary achievement to be placed next to Naked Lunch, among others, Lord Horror showed the world as having truly been conquered by the Third Reich, resulting in a horrifying surrealist hellscape where anything goes. Britton was again imprisoned as Parliament tried to decide what they thought of this little 192-page monster. Ultimately, by some bizarre twist of fate, the novel was declared a work of artistic merit and promptly unbanned. It was followed up by four more books, the most famous ones being the second and third installments, Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz and Baptized in the Blood of Millions. The comics and graphic novel continuation, these novels EXCEPT the original Lord Horror, and the music produced in association with the project are all still available for purchase through Savoy’s website, meaning that the terror of Lord Horror will mostly likely live on.
So why haven’t you heard of this until now?
Well, it’s hard to say why. A whole melting pot of factors has worked against Lord Horror becoming the cult classic it deserves to be. When initially confiscated by Manchester authorities, all 350 copies of the book- the entire run- was taken, and Savoy has stated that they have no intention of reprinting the book anytime soon. The only ways to catch a glimpse of what was held within these pages are as follows:
- Purchase the abridged audiobook from Savoy Books, which has been called the only way to read the book at the time.
- Look up excerpts online, for there’re a few wild passages out in the cybernetic wilderness.
- Read Keith Seward’s fantastic defensive Horror Panegyric, which explores the Lord Horror novels and their artistic merit.
- Sacrifice an arm and a leg, along with a virgin goat, to a long-dead Mesopotamian deity for a first edition.
- Plop down twenty bucks on an ebook of the thing from some Belarussian ebook seller (this is true, but I have yet to cough up the dough or even believe the legitimacy of the whole thing).
These, as I write this, are the only current ways to even see a little bit into the world that was Lord Horror. It’s sad that a wild and twisted work has fallen by the wayside due to the timing of its release, its quiet departure from the sensationalist spotlight, and its extreme lack of accessibility. I feel that in this time of fascist name-calling, we need to remind ourselves what real fascism is, so that when such an entity of brutality and oppression, we can have a clearer sense of its absolute and unveiled form. Everyone is so eager to call someone out as a Nazi that it’s only a matter of time, I believe until we start ignoring true fascists and begin locking up people we simply don’t agree with. I know this is a controversial statement, but there needs to be some way for us to recognize the fascists from the assholes, not just lump them altogether.
I feel this is particularly true in the wake of the case of one Markus Meechan a.k.a. Count Dankula, a controversial Scottish Youtube personality who was found guilty of making a humorous video about training his girlfriend’s pug to become excited at phrases like ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘Seig heil.’ Despite the Scottish courts having declared the video offensive, anyone with a grasp of humour can see that the video is anti-Nazi in every way. The joke is not in any form of normalization of these things, but in the extreme polarity between a cute dog and one of the most murderous regimes in history coming together for an obvious gag. There was no ill intent. Meechan was not, and is not a Nazi. A dickhead, sure, but not a Nazi.
This is why we need Lord Horror to come back.
Satire is dead. Jokes are being declared weapons on a daily basis. As the world diversifies, more and more of what makes comedy, well, comedy is under attack. The realities of the past are becoming obscured as not to offend or upset. Lord Horror was a twisted, pornographic, ultra-violent work of ART that existed to do what no other alternative history piece of fiction could do: face the horrors of Nazism in the most radical, damning way possible. In a way that no one could ignore, that no one could deny, that no one could ever forget. By letting this book exist, an even stronger condemnation of what the Third Reich were- murderers and monsters- is now floating around out there, waiting to alarm the world like the Marquis de Sade did with his politically-charged erotica or William S. Burroughs with his blasphemous nightmare visions of America’s true underbelly.
We’re trapped in a kind of limbo, ensnared in a Beckett-esque eternal wait for Lord Horror to come, for him to return to the literary world and remind us just what we can do with the arts. And it’s a shame that we may never be able to experience it on some impactful degree. It’s hard to expound on what this book was, especially coming from the words of some wannabe writer who spends his days writing nonsense in his grandparents’ basement. But let me end with this.
To David Britton and Michael Butterworth: bring back the Lord. Show us what Nazis really are, and remind us that we deserve to allow ourselves so much more when it comes to utilizing the arts. Only a work such as this could make something as absurd as swallowing a Jew wholesale far more terrifying that we could’ve ever imagined.
But that doesn’t excuse the use of real dead body pictures in your comic books. I mean… Christ!