Monday, February 25, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 2: Creepy! (1965)

The Critical Guide to 
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Creepy #3 (1965)

"Swamped!" ★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Tell-Tale Heart!" ★★★
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"Howling Success!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Haunted!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Incident in the Beyond!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Return Trip!" 
Story by Russ Jones
Art by Joe Orlando

With a posse hot on his tail, escaped con LeRoy Kane stumbles across a gen-you-wine Southern estate in the middle of the swamp but, as most Kane luck goes, he also comes across somethin' bad. Inside the mansion resides a family of vampires, who quickly attempt to put the bite on the nonplussed refugee. Kane makes a deal with the bloodsuckers; he'll lure the posse to them if they'll spare his life. The vamps follow along in bat form and ambush the posse but everyone knows that vampires are notorious for going back on their word. Kane is taken back to the mansion and locked up, but he escapes the following day and stakes the family while they are resting in their coffins. Confident in his ability to survive, he heads back into the swamp as the sun goes down and is set upon by a new peril: the posse, now transformed into vampires! I like that Archie didn't make the big twist that the family was something other than what we thought; he puts it right out there halfway through the story. The real twist to "Swamped!," the undead posse, is handled very well and is a legitimate surprise. Angelo Torres's art has always been hot or cold with me (it's either just right or too sketchy) but it here it's perfectly adequate.

"Tell-Tale Heart!"

Archie's adaptation of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," the story of a man who dives headlong into insanity because of his master's "evil eye," is faithful, but the obvious attraction here is Reed Crandall's iconic artwork. Unlike George Evans, Crandall's fellow alumnus at EC, Reed only seems to have gotten better with the passing decade. The black-and-white presentation only makes the shocking reveal that much more effective.

"Howling Success!"
Joe Schneider's a no-good bum who can't even pick the right horses and he's got a nagging wife, Ethel, who reminds him of said fact every night. One night, after a round of drinking, Joe heads out into the night and stumbles onto a werewolf enjoying its latest meal. The creature chases Joe into a cemetery but the terrified runt is able to squeeze through the bars and escape disembowelment. Joe gets a great idea and tells the werewolf to meet him back in the same spot the following night and he'll feed the nagging battle-axe to the monster. The next night, Joe coaxes "big mouth" out to the spot but the beast is a no-show. That is, until Ethel emerges from the car as... the werewolf. Supremely silly (so Joe lived with this woman for how many years without discovering her secret?) fear fiction has some atmospheric Torres art but little else.


Despite warnings from his cousin and his lawyer, Mr. George decides to hold on to the "Haunted!" hotel he has inherited from his uncle. George hires an "authority on ghosts," Mr. Ransome, to spend the night with him in the hotel to dispel any fears. Almost immediately, the pair are subject to three separate occurrences of what appear to be ghostly suicides, reenactments of deaths that had taken place in the hotel decades before. Ransome isn't buying it, so he digs a little deeper and discovers George's cousin and lawyer behind a curtain with a film projector. When George asks Ransome how he could be so sure the hotel was not haunted, the supernatural PI disrobes down to his skeleton and exclaims, "It takes one to know one!" Like "Howling Success!," "Haunted!" is a really nice story to look at but don't dare read the words. The climax is inane (not much word of mouth for a ghost PI who gives away his secret and then kills his employer, is there?) and the plot might be as skimpy as the salary Warren had Archie on.

"Incident in the Beyond!"
A space ship attempts a long journey by testing a new warp drive that will enable the ship to travel millions of miles in a short time. The previous ship, launched twenty years before, disappeared without a trace. Just as the ship is about to make the jump into warp-drive, an alien vessel approaches. Despite several transmissions, the aliens fail to respond and are destroyed when the captain deems them a safety risk. The journey resumes; the rocket enters warp-drive and exits into an entirely different solar system mere minutes later. Their mission a success, our heroes head into a "reverse-warp" and find themselves back at Point A, where an alien ship sits, waiting. A voice on their radio identifies the ship as being from Earth but our crew discovers that their radio has been damaged and can't respond. As they are fired on and destroyed, they realize that the ship in front of them is the next test rocket sent to find them after they disappeared twenty years before. And so on and so on.

"Return Trip!"
If anything else, "Incident in the Beyond!" proves teenager Archie Goodwin was a Weird Science/Fantasy fan and took copious notes. "Incident..." has the same structure and twist as a dozen Al Feldstein "time is a string" stories that ran in those two titles. Gray Morrow's work on this (as well as on the previous story) is nicely done, with a look of photo-realism to some of the panels. As a Monday Morning Quarterback (who's already read most of these Creepy and Eerie stories a couple of times each), I'll just say that the Warren titles excelled at the horror and fell a little short when it came to SF.

As his decaying corpse shuffles toward his old homestead, the resurrected Arthur Forrest flashes back to how his wife, Gloria, and her lover, Fred, murdered him and inherited his fortune. "Return Trip!" limps along to a cliched and abrupt climax: Arthur gets to his house, strangles Fred, and gives Gloria a great big kiss. The End. Re-reading these stories for the first time in three decades, I'm struck by how weak and pirated these scripts are but, as I recall, the writing got better a little further into the run. At least, I hope it did. -Peter

Jack: Reading these for the first time, I'm enjoying them more than you are! I like how "Swamped!" mixes classic themes, with a convict lost in the swamp finding an old mansion full of vampires. The art is excellent and the finish satisfyingly gruesome. "Tell-Tale Heart!" is a classic story with great art and a nod to EC when one policeman exclaims, "Good Lord! --Choke--" I wasn't too impressed with Goodwin's new frame, though. I was surprised by the ending of "Howling Success!" and the art is good but I had trouble with the scene where Joe has an extended conversation with the werewolf. Since when do werewolves understand English and listen patiently? "Haunted!" is a familiar tale with a silly ending but I love Morrow's shadowy art. I agree with you, Peter, that the sci-fi stories are a disappointment; I knew what was going on in "Incident in the Beyond!" right away. The biggest surprise in this issue was the decent art job by Joe Orlando on "Return Trip!" His rotting corpse is well done and the story's end made me laugh.

Creepy #4 (1965)

"Monster Rally!"★★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Blood and Orchids!"★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Al McWilliams

"The Damned Thing!"★★
Story by Ambrose Bierce
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Moon City!"★1/2
Story by Larry Engleheart
Art by Al McWilliams

"Curse of the Full Moon!"★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Trial of Adam Link!"★★
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Joe Orlando

"Monster Rally!"
Chased by villagers wielding pitchforks, a ghoul accepts refuge in a horse-drawn van driven by a hunchback. They ride to Transylvania and the hunchback locks the ghoul in the dungeon of a castle owned by Dr. Habeas, who is busy replicating Dr. Frankenstein's famous experiment. Also in the dungeon are a werewolf, a mummy, and a witch, but the vampire has escaped! Dr. Habeas is trying to unlock the monsters' secret of immortality, but when the rogue vampire kills a woman in the nearby village, the villagers storm the castle gates. Dr. Habeas tries to use his monsters to protect him but they turn on him and the villagers burn the castle to the ground. Over time, from the "slime and muck of the wreckage," something emerges--a little baby Uncle Creepy!

"Blood and Orchids!"
I LOVE this story! An homage to EC's "A Little Stranger!," Goodwin's aptly-titled "Monster Rally!" uses the Universal monsters and a swipe of Vincent Price to tell a ridiculous tale that combines many of our favorite elements of classic monster movies and ends up as a wholly unexpected origin story for our host. Torres's art is gorgeous and the final image--of a baby with scraggly gray hair on a balding head--is absurd and priceless.

When a man is found in the bog with two puncture wounds on his neck and his body drained of blood, the local constable summons the doctor, who wonders if the body is that of a sailor who delivered items from the nearby port to the home of the countess. The doctor visits the countess, who is oddly pale and hates mirrors. She shows him her prized orchids and tells him that they grow at night and only in their native soil. After another corpse is discovered, the doctor checks his handy-dandy book on vampires and puts two and two together. He rushes to the countess's home and finds the constable newly-dead but, to his surprise, the countess is not a vampire--she is using the victim's blood to feed her blood-eating orchids. The tendrils of one of the plants strangle the poor physician.

More terrific art by Al McWilliams does not save "Blood and Orchids!," a story that points the reader squarely in the direction of vampires but then makes an inexplicable left turn at the end and reveals bloodthirsty orchids that strangle their victims. One problem: who killed the sailor in the bog? Did the orchids take a little stroll? And why did he have puncture wounds in his neck? Do the orchids have fangs? What about the second victim? None of it makes any sense. Maybe we're supposed to think the countess is skulking around pretending to be a vampire in order to feed her plants.

"The Damned Thing!"
Just what is "The Damned Thing!" that Harker claims killed Hugh Morgan? The dead man's diary tells the story of an invisible creature that made itself known in the area around Morgan's cabin; when Morgan tried to shoot it, it ripped his throat out. The men at the coroner's inquest insist that the deed was done by a mountain lion, yet Harker insists that the creature bears a color outside the spectrum visible to the human eye. After Harker leaves and the men head outside, the creature kills the coroner and is visible to him at the point of death.

Ambrose Bierce was a wonderful writer and Gray Morrow a superb purveyor of sequential art, but Archie Goodwin's adaptation of the classic horror story seems to go nowhere and be over in a flash. There's very little suspense and no surprise when the title monster appears at the end, nor did it make sense that it was suddenly visible, though I guess it was necessary to have the final shock.

Easily the highlight of "Moon City!"
"Moon City!" took years to design and build, and young couple Will and Jennifer Chambers wait patiently for the day when they can move there to start their new life together. They arrive at Moon City and are met by ravenous German Shepherds.

Yes, that's it. Perhaps the most anticlimactic story we've seen yet in Creepy. It goes without saying that McWilliams's art is excellent, but the story is about as thin as it could be. Moon City is built, they move in, and bang--hungry dogs. The end. Really? These sci-fi stories are not fitting in well.

A Red-Riding-Hood-esque scene
in "Curse of the Full Moon!"
Riding through 19th-century Bavaria, Sir Henry Langston's coach driver is killed by a werewolf and Sir Henry wanders into the woods, where he finds a gypsy camp. An old woman reads his palm and pronounces that he is marked with the "Curse of the Full Moon!" due to a scratch on his palm in the shape of a pentagram. He will die at the next full moon at the paws of a werewolf, says she, so he goes to his well-appointed hunting lodge and enlists the aid of his lederhosen-wearing pals, Fritz and Oskar, to melt down all the silver into bullets so he'll be ready for the werewolf's attack. Waiting alone by the light of the full moon for the wolf man, Sir Henry is attacked but manages to kill the big furry guy, who turns into the old gypsy woman's son after he dies. What Sir Henry did not predict was the fact that, as a victim of a werewolf attack, he now turns into one himself, and is promptly shot by Fritz and Oskar.

A classic werewolf story, set in Bavaria in the 19th century and featuring an old gypsy woman, this is hard not to like. Throw in some Germans in shorts and suspenders and I'm hooked, especially when Reed Crandall is translating the words into pictures. Funny how quickly the curse works on Sir Henry, though--he turns into a werewolf in no time and stands there talking to the gypsy woman in his new state. Suddenly, the unusually attentive female werewolf in last issue's "Howling Success!" is not so unusual after all.

Doesn't this look like Sekowsky's work?
("The Trial of Adam Link!")
Yes, it's "The Trial of Adam Link!" again! Accused of killing his creator, the sentient robot stands trial and is sentenced to death in the electric chair. No one seems to care that he's saving people left and right--he's a monster and must die. Stay tuned for more yawn-inducing events in the robot's life!

Some of the panels in this tired retread made me think Mike Sekowsky was doing uncredited inks over Joe Orlando's pencils. Not possible, is it?

In addition to the INCREDIBLE Frazetta cover, the last story is followed by--no lie--13 pages of ads, including the back cover. The ads are fantastic but the best has to be hawking the 8 mm movie projector for $9.98. Did anyone buy this?-Jack

Peter: What a racket Joe Orlando had going with this Adam Link nonsense, illustrating the same stories a decade apart (we covered the equally dreary EC version of "The Trial of Adam Link!" here). Perhaps the then-recently-aired Outer Limits adaptation had convinced Archie that Adam Link was the way to go. "Monster Rally!" comes off as lifeless instead of the fun shindig it should have been. I'd lay blame right at the feet of Angelo Torres's use of monster movie stills (perhaps borrowed from the pages of Famous Monsters), as his images look just like stills instead of depicting movement. The still swipes are random as well. "Moon City!" begins with an intriguing concept, spins its wheels, and then dumps its abrupt and out-of-left-field climax right in our laps. The rest of the issue is equally weak, with the clear highlight being Reed Crandall's fine art for "Curse of the Full Moon!" Nice to have Maria Ouspenskaya show up for a cameo as the gypsy woman. The familiar plots and the predictable climaxes were doubtless down to Goodwin's huge workload (which would triple in a very short time with the coming of Blazing Combat and Eerie!).

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Quiddity99 said...

Creepy #3's a fairly strong issue for me, especially from an art standpoint with two stories each from Angelo Torres and Gray Morrow. Torres is my favorite of the early Warren artists and Morrow's style most closely resembles his. I suppose the downside is an issue where the styles are too close to one another. "Haunted" I liked quite a bit more than you if only because I found the ending quite hilarious.

Frazetta's covers at this point, particularly on issue 3 come off a bit disappointing, not because it is bad by any means, but his covers become so memorable later on that these just don't really meet the same muster. We'll fairly soon be getting some really tremendous covers from him.

Issue #4 kicks off quite well with "Monster Rally" which I've always enjoyed a lot (I'd also say the story, the final panel in particular bears close resemblance to "Lower Berth", the Crypt Keeper's origin story). I also like "The Damned Thing", the change to the original ending I don't mind so much if only because Morrow does a great job making the monster really scary.

The rest of the issue on the other hand is disappointing. Nothing particularly wrong with McWilliams' work, but the other artists, sans Joe Orlando I prefer to him. And yikes at the return of Adam Link. This series will soon seem as if it never ends. I'm not familiar with Sekowsky, but given that Orlando has several other artists ghosting him later on, it wouldn't surprise me if it is happening here.

Finally, with respect to Warren's take on sci-fi, I'd agree that it usually isn't up to snuff with their horror work. They really were more suited for horror, both their artists and writers. We occasionally get some good sci-fi stuff, I think of some of the stories drawn by Esteban Maroto, and especially Alex Nino, but I think that's a very, very long way off.

Grant said...

"Return Trip" sounds like it inspired the story "Monster Raid" in the anthology film GALLERY OF HORROR, one of the cheapest horror films ever (even though I'm very fond of it). That story has one of those "iris" endings, the heart-shaped kind, which sounds similar to this story's ending.

andydecker said...

It is kind of surprising how many stories are about vampires and other monsters. There is not much innovation at work here, at least not on the writing front. It is the art which is memorable.

I never bothered to check and am surprised how many stories Goodwin contributed.Warren sure had a lot of faith in such a young writer.

Peter Enfantino said...


Thanks for following us over. I've read the Creepys and Eeries at least two to three times over the last forty-plus years and every time I read the really early issues, they get more and more disappointing considering the level of talent. To be fair, it's the scripts that are sub-par for the most part. But, hey, the good news is: here come Johnny Craig and Steve Ditko!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I'm sorry the older issues have lost their appeal for you over the years. Fortunately, I can still read these early issues and enjoy the heck out of them. Sure, they can be silly or corny, and it's absolutely true that way too many stories end with that "You thought I was the constable (or the Canacki /Van Helsing/ De Grandin stand-in) but actually, I am a ghost (or ghoul or werewolf or whatever), ha ha!" twist. But honestly, it doesn't bother me a bit! Even at their most old-hat or cliche', I can think of the stories simply as Spooky Art Delivery Platforms -- an excuse to look at exquisitely atmospheric renderings of haunted houses, fetid swamps, pretty girls and assorted monsters, and I'm almost never disappointed.

Okay, except for the Adam Link stories, they're god-awful.

- b.t.