Interview: Herman Louw of Into the Weird and The Longbox of Darkness
Herman Louw is a passionate podcaster who hosts two popular shows, "Into The Weird: A Marvel Bronze Age Comic Book Podcast" and "The Longbox of Darkness - A Horror In Pop Culture Podcast". With his deep love and knowledge of comic books and horror fiction, Louw takes listeners on an entertaining journey into the madness of Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age and the shadowy corners of fiction. From trippy Doctor Strange stories to H.P. Lovecraft, Louw explores the horrors and humor in books, film, and comics.
Where are you from? What is your background?
I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa, but I’ve been an expat living in Taipei, Taiwan since 2002. I have a background in Literature and Linguistics, and after a brief stint in the UK as a copywriter I moved to Taipei to pursue a career in academic publishing. Currently I’m an editor by day, and by night I blog and occasionally podcast about horror and the weird in comic books and pop culture.
What inspired you to do a podcast on old magazines of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and comic books, especially the bronze age?
My main inspiration came from the desire to be part of that particular community, the community of bronze age comic book fanatics I met in Facebook groups and Twitter circles between 2012 and 2017. Most of my old comic book friends from childhood either don’t read comics anymore or have left their bronze age fandom behind and now read more “literary” comic book fare. For decades now I’ve yearned to talk about and pick apart key issues and storylines from my formative years as a comic book reader in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but to do so as an adult, partly to discover why these books still exert such an influence over me. The friends I made online galvanized me to create a platform through which I could finally do this, and this is where my blogs and podcasts come from. Why my obsession with the Bronze Age specifically? Well, that’s the era in which I discovered comics, so my fondest comic book memories come from the period between 1970 and 1985. Looking back, the Bronze Age was the perfect marriage of science fiction and superheroes, horror and the occult, the experimental, the underground, the taboo, the outré. It’s writers and artists even managed to bring back the horror and weirdness of the Golden Age, but transformed by psychedelic drug culture, music, new age philosophies, nascent organized fandom, and societal fears into something completely unique. For me there has never been anything to rival the Bronze Age’s explosion of rampant creativity.
What was the first comic book you remember reading?
That is a very difficult question to answer. After nearly five decades memory becomes a tricky customer. I will say that it was probably either an Asterix or a Tintin comic album, one of my dad’s old MAD magazines, an annual of the British Beano mag for kids, or an issue of 2000AD. My first American comics came from a collection my uncle gifted me when I was 4 years old, but the first issues I pulled from that monstrous old long box are lost to the vagaries of memory.
What performer or artist/writer inspires you the most?
As a kid it was Steve Gerber, the writer of Marvel’s Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, and the Defenders, among many other great titles. After I got a bit older it was Alan Moore. As a teenager it became British sci-fi and fantasy scribe Michael Moorcock, and that hasn’t changed yet. If you’re a lover of the weird, you’ve GOT to be a disciple of Moorcock.
What other areas of art are you involved in?
I write the occasional short story every now and then, and like most avid dreamers I have a novel or ten sitting in the back of my head. Other than that I’m more of a consumer and analyst of creative content than a creator myself.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you create?
Not particularly. My creative life is lived online or in publications that not a lot of people in Asia might be expected to consume. All my interests and inspirations come from western sources. Although I am fascinated by Asian culture, it’s not something that influences the content I create, as I cater mostly for western audiences.
What long term goals do you have?
Of course I’d like to see The Longbox of Darkness and the Into The Weird podcasts grow. At the moment I am vetting some new co-hosts for both shows, so the future is uncertain, at least until I find some new creative partners. My former co-hosts Billy and Misty have their own projects and commitments, and are unable to continue podcasting on a stable basis. But never fear, both podcasts will be back ere long. My blogs over at darklongbox.com and sinkintotheweird.com are still active though, and I hope to expand the range of content over there in the coming months.
What do you think the popular culture will be like in ten years?
I think that, sadly, more short-form content will become the norm. The comics from my youth were wordy bastards, but nowadays everything is being tailored to suit the needs of the TikTok generation. Perhaps a new style of anthology filmmaking will debut to cater to the shorter attention spans of the impatient dopamine fiends. I know I’m sounding cynical, but that’s the way I feel at the moment. I also suspect that Superhero Box Office success will be on the wane by then. I have no inkling as to what will replace it. Perhaps a new sub-genre of Science Fiction? We’ll have to wait and see.
What other things would you like to explore as a podcast?
I’d dearly love to talk Horror Movies if I could find the right co-host. Horror Cinema is something I’m obsessed with, and might even eclipse my love of Bronze Age comics. Other than that, a podcast focusing purely on Science Fiction comics is an itch I would like to scratch one of these days.
What projects are you working on now?
Well, I can’t say too much, but there are some Into The Weird mini-episodes I’m working on that will be available on the ITW podcast feed in early 2023 featuring two major Marvel properties from the 1970s. There’s also something focusing on DC Comics’ Silver Age in the works, slated for 2023 as well. Hopefully it will garner the attention of some old school comic book fans and turn some eager younger readers on to the glory of old comics.