Here is a snapshot of my room in 1979: A box of Warren horror magazines, with assorted outliers such as Psycho and Scream; a stack of Dungeons & Dragons books, including some of the earlier supplements such as Eldritch Wizardry; a shelf displaying various Aurora monster models; a bookshelf holding any number of supernatural and horror short story anthologies; and my beloved but completely dog-eared copy of A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford.
Imagine then, the goings on in my adolescent mind, or for that matter, the mind of most of my friends as well. It was the era of weirdness, sometimes of the most gruesome variety, where monsters even made it onto cereal boxes and Vincent Price was the spokesperson for a toy with instructions on making apples look like shrunken heads. I didn’t think there was ever a way to capture the true spirit of this time. Even Ozzy Osbourne was merely a symptom of some greater demiurge that had possessed pubescent consciousness. Who would imagine it could be so brilliantly celebrated in the form of a coloring book? Leave it to Last Gasp Press to publish such an abysmal tome. And I say that with all the love I can muster.
Forbidden Activities for Neglected Children by the artist known only as Skinner has somehow channeled an entire gestalt into a slight but richly dense book of insanely detailed drawings, mazes, and “activities” (such as Choose a New Mom, where you must pick from a selection of horrible demon creatures). Skinner references every part of a late 1970s/early 1980s childhood, from D&D to Mad Max to rock and roll album covers to skateboards. On every page is a wonderful grotesquery, subverting some of the more beloved and precious moments from the time, such as E.T. and She Ra. Pentagrams, demons, and battle axes abound. But there is nothing here offensive or exploitive. If anything, it’s an honest portrayal of how bat-shit crazy some of the pop culture artifacts from that era really were. It’s also a reminder of how, despite the luridness of it all, it was mostly innocent fun. A perfect gift for the middle-aged weirdo in your life, Forbidden Activities will have them digging out their old monster magazines to scare their own children with.