Monday, June 22, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 36: June-July 1972

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

Vampirella #17 (June 1972)

"...Beware, Dreamers!" 
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Horus Tomb of the Gods" 
Story and Art by Esteban Maroto

"Death in the Shadows" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Luis Garcia Mozos

"A Man's World" 
Story by Mike Jennings
Art by Jose Bea

"Lover of the Bayou" 
Story by Jan Strnad
Art by L.M. Roca

"The Wedding Ring" 
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"...Beware, Dreamers!"
Vampirella, Pendragon, and Adam Van Helsing row up the Florida Everglades, searching for something... Vampirella can feel something but she doesn't know exactly what it is. Maybe it's the hooded guy staked to the ground? Yep, that's it. The trio disembark and approach but Pendragon (in one of those wise old man moments) opines that perhaps they should take the man's hood off and interrogate him before they set him free. The other two dopes agree, they take off the hood, and all three are blasted by a ray-beam which transports them into a dream-world.

Meanwhile, a schmuck named Ernie Johnson is reading the New York Times best-seller, The Crimson Chronicles (now in paperback), when he decides he wants to serve the Cult of Chaos in some form. Ernie summons up a demon, who explains that the Cult is looking to add a "Dreamslayer" and, if Ernie decides to take the job, he will travel into the mind of (guy on a stake) Norto, an alien who was imprisoned by the Cult centuries before and is now designed to be a trap for unwary passersby. Ernie says he's up to the job and so the demon fits him with a Statue of Liberty skull-cap and an "I'm a Demon Worshipper" logo-ed robe and sends him into the dream-world.

Give me your tired, your poor...
There, Vampi, Pendi, and Adam are trying to stay out of trouble; they've met up and introduced themselves to Norto, heard his sob story, and then been chased by a pterodactyl into a cave. Exhausted, the trio take a nap and awaken refreshed just in time to encounter Captain Dream-Slayer. Vampi makes quick work of him by hypnotizing the loser into turning his power beams on himself. He exits stage left but promises a return. The hypnosis trick has left Vampirella drained of power and she's fresh out of silicon blood (I just knew she only had so much space in that costume for utilities), so Adam volunteers his neck.

After some half-hearted refusals, Vampi goes all out and drains her beau, killing him and leaving her depressed. Dream-Slayer returns, impersonating Vampi's first love, Tristan of Drakulon, but the illusion doesn't last long. Norto returns to battle Dream-Slayer but is no match for the goofy, cactus-headed freak. Norto is killed, which infuriates the Cult of Chaos (who wanted him to remain a bear-trap in the woods for centuries to come), and Ernie Johnson is vaporized. The trio are transported back into our world and discover that what happens in Dream-World stays in Dream-World. Adam is just fine!

Unfortunately, his Pop, the ultra-hyper Phil Spector-look-alike, senses that Adam has died and been reborn. "My son is a vampire" hypothesizes the old kook, and he hops on a plane with a suitcase full of wooden stakes, promising his son's torment won't last long.

Who goosed the vampiress?
If you were worried that T. Casey Brennan would bring pretension to a purple prose-necessary strip like Vampirella, you can rest easy. Pretension isn't the problem here; clarity might be our new goal. "...Beware, Dreamers!" certainly has its moments of kitsch fun (Dream-Slayer's Marvel-inspired get-up is number one on my list), but I spent way too much time muttering, "Wait... what's that now?" to ideas like Norto in a remote part of the swamp being the Cult of Chaos's grand scheme to whisk innocents away to another dimension. Wouldn't he attract more business, I don't know, in a populated part of the world? Lots of gators and cottonmouths in Dream-Land, that's for sure. And shouldn't the demon have explained to Ernie/Dream-Dope that he should not, no matter what, don't even think about it, kill Norto? And raise your hand if you saw the whole, "Wow, Adam is fine because it was all a dream" resolution coming. Brennan still finds a way to use forty words instead of "Yes" or "No" and he has a very annoying habit of going over events that have taken place in the same story. Recaps of what came before this issue, fine; recaps of what happened three pages ago, not so fine. Perhaps it's because the writer is supplied with a chick who runs around in a teeny weeny, but this was the first Brennan story I managed to get through without rolling my eyes five times. It's still not great writing but I'll allow that it's a little entertaining.

"Horus Tomb of the Gods"
Two Egyptian lovers walk through another existence. Are they dead? Are they dreaming? Do you think I know? "Horus (no punctuation) Tomb of the Gods" has to be one of the most confusing Warren stories I've had the displeasure to run across in some time, despite some pretty pictures by Maroto. None of the narrative makes much sense. There's talk of a "sleeper" (and the unnamed male of the couple is revealed in the climax to be the "sleeper") but does that mean the action is taking place in a dreamland? In addition to the head-scratching "plot," we get some flowery prose from Maroto (He felt alone. Infinitely alone. It was as if he had slept through all of recorded time. That corner of the universe that first spawned him was unknown, nameless. He had nothing, only solitude and the aching memory of a girl.) and, though I praise the artist for craftsmanship, I damn him for draftsmanship. There's little to no sequencing with the panels, so my tiny brain has a difficult time following the path without bread crumbs (or arrows). This is just dreadful stuff.

"Death in the Shadows"
Melissa is discovered in a cemetery doing "murderous things" to the caretaker and mumbling nonsense about vampires and the undead. Despite protests from her parents, the girl is quickly committed to a mental hospital, where she grows progressively more violent. Eventually, the doctors use shock treatment but are convinced Melissa is cured and she is released to her Mom and Pop. But mysterious events occur as soon as she gets home; a series of vampire murders seem to happen on nights when she takes walks. Then she discovers her mother's blood-drained corpse and knows she has to get back to the graveyard to finish the business she had started. As she's heading out, though, her father jumps out of the shadows, admits that he's the vampire, and bites his little girl on the neck. The ol' switcheroo only works if it's not predictable and "Death in the Shadows" is way too predictable (Melissa asks her Mom why Dad is never around during the day just a couple pages before the shocking reveal). There's nothing in the way of plot or writing that's original, but Garcia's pencils are stark and atmospheric (especially the moody family drive home from the nuthouse); the artist has Melissa run the gamut from pallid to hauntingly beautiful.

Someone spelling Bea?
Newspaper reporter Leon Campbell is assigned to investigate an all-woman's colony called Sapphoville, located somewhere in the desert. The angle is that, in a nearby town, pieces of bodies (everything but the torso, it seems) have been found and the publisher wants to know how this is affecting the gals. The sapphos are open to the reporter joining their commune, but Leon soon discovers the truth: the girls are cannibals, living off the dead bodies of the men they've been slaughtering. Vampirella had found itself crawling out of the junkyard it was born in (during the dark ages) to stand as a pretty darn good book, with several quality stories per issue, but "A Man's World" and the two stories that precede it give me pause. All three have really atrocious, near-amateurish scripts with logic holes you could drive a hearse through and inane "twist endings" that are pert near telecast halfway through the story. What's going on here? Is it just my imagination or did Jose Bea have a little help with the art chores on "A Man's World?" The usual Bea flourishes are here and there but, in spots (especially the deer-eyed sapphos), it looks like someone else's pencils or inks.

"Lover of the Bayou"
"Lover of the Bayou" isn't a classic either, but it's at least a bit atmospheric and has the always-creepy swamp as the location. Sexy but stifled, Lanora lives on the bayou and dreams of meeting "The Lover," a perhaps-mythological creature that has been, supposedly, murdering lost travelers in these parts. Restless, Lanora takes a boat out on the swamp, becomes mired, and is nearly attacked by a gator before she's rescued by a striking man in a turtleneck. The mysterious stranger offers a room in his shack to Lanora and she quickly accepts, but titillation turns to terror when the man transforms into a tentacled creature and "loves" Lanora to death! The Lovecraftian creature is never explained (Lanora's pop tells her, "Ain't nobody knows; ain't nobody wants to know") but, as is the case with these weirdo thrillers, that's a plus. We don't really need a backstory about this guy cursed by Satan to live as an octopus in the bayou for sleeping with Mrs. Beelzebub. Luis Roca's art (in his final Warren appearance), using quite a bit of shading to get the mood across, is really sharp; Roca's swamp is not a friendly place to be.

"The Wedding Ring"
Roger is summoned to the small town home of his old friends, Bernie and Claire. As he jumps off the bus and walks to their house, he remembers how he had dated Claire in college but, since she wouldn't put out, he had to dump her. Now, Roger is astonished to learn that Claire and Bernie have married. Claire meets him at the gate of her huge house but tells him he has to leave; Bernie has not returned from business (we know, from a prologue, that ol' Bernie is dead, choked to death by a mysterious neck ring which shrinks and suffocates him). Roger, thinking this would be a good time to play hide the salami, edges Claire back into her bedroom. Afterward (as all the 1950s' men's magazines used to say after two characters had done the dirty), Roger awakens to find his throat constricted by a shrinking ring. The lights come on, the room is filled with wailing women, and Claire is crying. The End. Obviously, a deep discourse on the sexually frustrated woman and the stigma society puts on her for enjoying carnal relations. Or something like that.

I could cheat and feed the whole synopsis of "The Wedding Ring" into Google-Psychobabble, but I'm not one to rely on outside influences. Besides, all I have to do is look at the writer credit and it says all I need to know about the clarity of the tale. But to say the climax is a bit abrupt is fair, I think. Jerry Grandenetti, perhaps, has found his apex; his swirling tree limbs and strangling tresses are a wonder to behold. Who are these maidens and why do they seem to get off on killing Claire's lovers? And how do they get the ring to shrink? Why are the women chanting near-Lovecraftian verses (Is Cthluntla--or Chlunthlua--a second cousin to the Great God himself?)? And, most of all, why am I so relieved this issue is over? -Peter

Jack-Peter, you did not mention two highlights of hilarity in this issue of Vampirella: the letter by Don McGregor about his story from issue #15 and the LONG discourse by Doug Moench about his tale from the same issue. Moench goes on and on but, in the end, I agree with his central point. The two discourses are reprinted at the end of this post.

There's some terrific art in this mag; unfortunately, for the most part, the stories don't match up. I gave highest marks to "Lover of the Bayou," with its gorgeous work by Roca and a tolerable story by Strnad. It's not overwritten, unlike other tales this time out, but the ending--as is so often the case with Warren--is somewhat disappointing. These writers really knew how to build things up but rarely succeeded in delivering the last-panel punch. "Death in the Shadows" has spooky art by Mozos and the whole package creates a nice sense of dread. I completely agree with you on the Vampirella story, though agreeing that it's pretty good for Brennan is a low bar indeed. I still love Gonzalez's art on this strip.

"A Man's World" is so darn goofy that I kind of liked it and, again, Bea's art is very good. "Horus" features excellent Maroto art in service of a murky and confusing story whose end was obvious on page one, while I enjoyed "The Wedding Ring," especially for Grandenetti's art, but the end was a giant "what the heck?" especially the big grasshopper that the ladies appear to be worshiping.

Eerie #40 (June 1972)

"The Brain of Frankenstein"★1/2
Story by Fred Ott
Art by Mike Ploog

"The Once Powerful Prince"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jaime Brocal

"The Paradise Tree"
Story & Art by Esteban Maroto

Story & Art by Sanho Kim

"The Prodigy Son"
Story by Don Glut
Art by Jose Bea

"Pity the Grave Digger!"★1/2
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Rafael Auraleon

Dr. Christian Frankenstein is at a party at the home of Lady Harcourt in London. It may be 1845, but the lady has not tired of hearing stories like those told by Mary Shelley so, at her invitation, Dr. Frankenstein launches into the tale of "The Brain of Frankenstein." It seems his father's creation killed his father and fled. Christian has preserved his father's brain and implants it in a newly sewn-together body, with results that are predictable (confused rampage) and unpredictable (anemia that causes a desire for blood). Meanwhile, Christian's friend, Dr. Hans Kemmer, hates his father and vows to kill the monster he has become.

The monster kills some folks and drains their blood. Hans shoots the monster, but only hits him in the shoulder. Christian transplants Kemmer's brain into the monster's body and villagers shoot and kill the creature, not knowing it is animated by Kemmer's brain. His story successfully concluded, Dr. Christian Frankenstein welcomes new guest Dr. Kemmer, who displays stitches on his forehead from a "minor operation."

Mike Ploog really comes into his own with this story, which is an utterly charming mashup of favorite Warren themes. I guess the brain in Kemmer's body is that of the original Dr. Frankenstein? Not bad. A nice tale of revenge that is really an excuse to revive the monster and send him on a rampage, the only false note in the whole thing is the unnecessary addition of vampiric tendencies in our favorite lumbering behemoth. Other than that, "The Brain of Frankenstein" is just about perfect.

Before he turned into a giant creature bent on destruction (see Eerie #37), "The Once Powerful Prince" Targo had another adventure. He came ashore to visit his friend John, a scientist, asking to borrow his submarine and a frogman suit. Targo headed for the undersea kingdom of Manaii to ask his father, the king, for another magic ring that lets him breathe underwater and command fish. The king obliges and Targo sets out to get his old ring back.

"The Once Powerful Prince"
His first ring had been stolen by a beautiful blonde who gave it to a modern day pirate, a tubby, balding man who puts it on and uses its powers to rob ships. Targo sees the pirate riding on the back of a whale and engages in hand to hand combat, eventually killing the man when he is crushed between the whale and the side of a ship. Targo recovers his ring and swims off.

I guess Steve Skeates thought he had a good thing in the character of Prince Targo, who was last seen about to wreak havoc on mankind. Perhaps that's why, instead of continuing the last story, which ended on a cliffhanger, he decided to write this one, which takes place prior to the last story. It's a breezy read and Brocal's art is, as always, above average, but Prince Targo himself is still not a very well developed character.

Dax is a moron!
Tired of wandering around, Dax tries to cut wood from a tree to make a fire, but "The Paradise Tree" rebels and tosses Dax into a deep pit. He lands in the underground palace of Astartea, a stunning woman who hasn't seen a man in way too long. Despite being surrounded by gorgeous women who will give him whatever he wants, Dax announces that he plans to leave. Astartea and Dax get it on and she informs him that she's trapped there by a spell. The only way to break it is by smashing an incense burner. Despite Astartea's pleas, Dax smashes the censer and everything goes bad. The demon Ashtaroth appears and reclaims Astartea, who turns back into a snake, which she had been before the spell took over. Presumably, Dax is able to escape.

"The Paradise Tree" is more enjoyable than the first Dax adventure, and Maroto's art is beyond reproach, especially the gorgeous Astartea. There is an unintentionally funny half page that is supposed to represent Dax and Astartea making love, which is represented by cavorting unicorns, a mermaid, etc. I think Dax is a dolt for breaking that censer. Why not stay with Astartea? It's not as if his life as a wandering barbarian is so hot.

One of the more effective sequences from "Deathfall"
Mr. Papillon waits in his jail cell to be hanged for murdering his unfaithful wife. He denies any last-minute treats and is hanged, then regains consciousness in a void, wondering if it's all a dream.

Ten pages of "Deathfall," Sanho Kim's experimental gobbledegook, shows that Kim was not afraid to take chances, but his skills as an artist don't match his ideas. The page layout is interesting, and certainly shows a heavy Eisner influence, but the concluding dialogue ends with a thud and the last page and a half consists of black panels and jagged word balloons. At least it's a quick read.

Howard Canelly is "The Prodigy Son," an exhibit in a freak show. He has a small twin growing backward out of his chest and it is displayed for the amusement and disgust of crowds. A beautiful woman named Brenda falls for Howard's handsome face and marries him, thinking the twin is just a carnival trick, but when she discovers it's real on their wedding night she is repelled. She soon begins to cheat on Howard, who catches her in the act and murders her lover. Unfortunately for Howard, his gruesome twin, Theodore, chooses that moment to eat his way out of Howard's body, leaving Howard dead and Theodore crawling toward Brenda, a look of love in his eyes!

"The Prodigy Son"
Yuck! Jose Bea really has a creepy way with these stories, doesn't he? I love a good freak show tale and Brenda is a dead ringer for Vampirella, so "The Prodigy Son" ticked all of my sick little boxes. For once, the final panel contains a satisfying horrible image. Oddly, a few panels had a Grandenetti look to them, including the final one.

Busy interring a fresh corpse in the small village cemetery of Middlemist, 18th century caretaker Elias Elger is frightened by a bat. His assistant, Hough Callicott, wonders why a man who has spent his life digging graves would be shaken by such a small thing, so Elger tells a tale. "Pity the Grave Digger!" As a younger man, the caretaker had to drive a stake through the heart of a vampire. Some time later, grave robbers broke in and unearthed the corpse of another vampire; Elger had to chase them off and then re-stake the fiend. But those experiences paled next to the worst of all, which happened when the caretaker found that hideous little somethings were devouring freshly buried corpses. Elger dynamited a crypt and nearly wiped out the tiny fiends, but two escaped in the form of bats and he's been wary of the flying rodents ever since. Three years pass and, one night, Hough hears a scream and rushes to the aid of his old mentor, only to find that bats are changing into tiny ghouls and consuming the body of the poor old man!

Whew! Why do the best stories so often show up in the back of the Warren mags, after pages and pages of ads for Prince Valiant reprints and 8 mm horror flicks? "Pity the Grave Digger!" may be only six pages long, but it packs a lot of Gothic horror into a short space. In an issue with standout illos by Ploog, Maroto, and Bea, I liked the graphics by Auraleon best of all. Maybe it's the setting, in an old cemetery, and maybe it's the way he draws vampires, old caretakers, and tiny ghouls, but I thought this story was the best of a darn good issue of Eerie!-Jack

"Pity the Grave Digger!"
Peter-Is "The Brain of Frankenstein" as dumb and convoluted a tale as you're likely to see? Yes. Is it enjoyable? Undoubtedly. Taking beats from the Universal series and adding mayhem and blood a la Hammer, "Brain" is a perfect bridging of the two generations. It's a grand horror epic that's guaranteed to make you smile, But, oh boy, those logic lapses. You've just murdered a man and transplanted your dead father's brain into the body, so what do you do? You tell everyone at a party. And how did Christian keep his father's brain alive when he had already been dead for some time? Why waste the time swapping brains? Just throw Hans's grey matter in the garbage. Ploog's work here is awesome and it would only get awesomer in another year or so when Marvel handed him the keys to The Monster of Frankenstein. It's a seamless jump.

The Targo tale is confusing until you read the box at the bottom of the splash that says something along the lines of "We have no idea how we're going to bring back Targo as anything but a giant monster so in the meantime, here's another adventure featuring Young Targo of the Pacific!" Call me a nut, but I enjoyed this chapter even more than the last. Sure, it's a semi-sorta Kid Namor strip, but there's a good reason for that. According to a piece published in Back Issue #118, Steve Skeates had taken plots he'd written for Aquaman and rebooted them for the first two Targo stories. That climax would make Mike Fleisher proud!

Maroto continues to illustrate Dax magnificently but provides a weak plot and a rushed climax that leaves a lot unanswered. What I find interesting is that Maroto makes his lead character flawed and impulsive; Astartea sure didn't ask the barbarian to bust her incense burner, did she? "Deathfall" reminds me of the 1950s coffee houses where beatniks would just mutter stream of consciousness babble. The art is ugly but I'll admit that Kim does have a flair for panel experimentation. "The Prodigy Son" is certainly Don Glut's most mature script for Warren (there are no boobies); there's a problematic finish (how did Theodore get so big so quickly and how much of his brother did he eat?), but "The Prodigy Son" could be compared favorably to the work of David Cronenberg. And no, I'm not drinking right now. "Pity the Grave Digger!" brings to close a strong issue of Eerie. Not sure what these little vampires are supposed to be ("d'oh, little vampires, you dolt," I can hear you say), but the story reeks of atmosphere and Auraleon is fast becoming one of Warren's prime artists.

Creepy #46 (July 1972)

"Cross of Blood" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Behold the Cybernite!" 
Story by Richard Margopoulos
Art by Tom Sutton

"On the Ninth Day of Satan" 
Story by Kevin Pagan
Art by Felix Mas

"I, Invisible" ★1/2
Story & Art by Jose Bea

"Spellbound" ★1/2
Story by Lynn Marron
Art by Luis Garcia

"Night Watch" ★1/2
Story by E.A. Fedory
Art by Jorge Galvez

"Friedhelm the Magnificent" ★1/2
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Richard Corben

"Cross of Blood"
Tovarr the vampire has lived and died five times and he loves to talk about it. But love has come to the blood-sucker in the form of a gorgeous wench named Lalena, who vows to bring him fresh blood and love him forever. Unfortunately, the maiden has a secret agenda and betrays Tovarr by smearing blood in the form of a cross on his door.

"Cross of Blood" comes weighed down by a typical Doug Moench script in that, at several points, it's hard to make heads or tails of what's going on. Who is Lalena and why does she betray him? And why does Tovarr insist that the blood cross on the wall is the sustenance that will keep him alive? I had to re-read the last page to make sure Lalena hadn't put his bottle of blood in the room behind the door but no... it still makes no sense. Then you throw in Moench's obvious love for flowery prose (Ironic that I should realize the true power of religion only after my death... God and Satan still waged awesome battle through pawn-like vessels of living and dead flesh...) and. half way through the story, I've given up the will to live. Maroto's artwork and his skilled manipulation of the panels at least makes "Cross of Blood" a visual delight.

"Behold the Cybernite!"
A space ship piloted by a Cybernite, a brain-like organism, heads for Earth on a reconnaissance mission but, just as the ship gets near our atmosphere, the pilot is ordered to conquer Earth instead. Seems that back on the Cybernite planet, a "power reactor has ruptured" and the only thing that can help is the vast mine of metals beneath the Earth's surface. The UFO is ordered to drop the dreaded Omega bomb (funny how every species in the galaxy has an Omega bomb) on a well-populated city and wait for Earth's surrender. Though the Cybernite is loath to destroy what seems to be a kindly civilization, it readies its missile when, out of the blue, the spaceship is thrown off course by a passing American space capsule. The Cybernite crashes in a junk yard and is compact into a little ball.

"The Ninth Day of Satan"
"Behold the Cybernite!" is goofy fun, certainly better than 90% of the science fiction that fell into Warren's offices, and Tom Sutton's art is appropriate for the dripping-brain alien. What I find amusing is that the downbeat ending actually overshadows what's to come next when the next wave of Cybernites attack Earth. This is Rich Margopoulos's first script for Warren; Rich would go on to script dozens more tales for the three titles, including two full issues of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations (in Creepy #69 and 70) and a strong presence in the Eerie series sweepstakes.

John Corben travels to the village of Weltham, looking for his love, Lesley, but what he finds is a town obsessed with Satan. He is greeted upon exiting his coach by a man named Cerberus (wink wink), who explains that Weltham is in the grip of terror, for tomorrow is "The Ninth Day of Satan," and legend has it the town will be reduced to ashes. Can John Corben get to the bottom of this devilish mess and save his beloved Lesley? It's a deadly dull Gothic that never seems to end and contains all sorts of cliches and flowery dialogue. I'm not enamored with the Felix Mas art in this story, either, so the whole thing is a waste of paper.

"I, Invisible"
Professor P. Miller of the University of Zurich works painfully long hours attempting to craft an invisibility formula. He's right on the brink of a breakthrough but needs a human guinea pig. Worrying the drug might actually be fatal, Miller injects himself with the serum and heads home to bed. The next morning, he awakens to discover he's almost see-through, but "the process didn't take effect over all (his body) at the same time!" In a panic, he heads back to the lab to take the antidote but all the excitement has exhausted him and he falls asleep on a dissecting table (never a good thing, even if you don't look like a sack of meat). Predictably, an intern comes in, complains about the mess, and tosses Miller in the incinerator.  "I, Invisible" is a fairly short tale of horror that adds nothing to the long, long history of "invisibility horror," but Bea's art is creepy and Miller's fate is a sad one, since he was just a decent guy who dabbled in things men should never dabble in. The only thing that really bothered me about Bea's art is that Miller continually changes appearance while he's semi-transparent; I'm not sure if that's intentional or not. Perhaps Bea was going for a snazzier look.

Delmar the Wanderer must infiltrate the castle of two old sorcerers in order to steal a magic box and take it back to his queen, who is under a spell that's left her an ugly old crone. Another issue, another stab at fantasy. More stilted dialogue, more adjective-stuffed sentences, and another confusing, meandering script. Luis Garcia does wonders with his pencils but, at times in "Spellbound," I can't figure out what the heck is going on.

A group of guys down at the old mill, working the "Night Watch," hunt and kill bats to stave off boredom. When one of the men enters a closed off room in the mill tower, he unwittingly walks into the den of a... vampire! "Night Watch" is a real dud, with an unfocused plot and dreadful writing ("From the look of his eyes, I'd say he died a frightening death!"); the art by Galvez is passable but his vampires are anything but frightening. They actually look more like old comedians.

"Friedhelm the Magnificent"
Thousands pay to see "Friedhelm the Magnificent" make his death-defying dives into solid ground and walk away unharmed. How does he do it? With the help of two fellow carnival workers who have nudged Friedhelm into signing a pact with Beelzebub. If the public only knew how selfish and cut-throat Friedhelm really was, his fame would dwindle. Now, on the eve of his end of the bargain coming due, Friedhelm tells the men they still owe him their promise of "the longest jump ever." Friedhelm climbs to the basket of a balloon hundreds of feet in the air and leaps. Amazingly, the ground opens before him as he falls and lands in the hands of Satan!

Corben is back at last! Anything the artist contributes graphics to becomes immediately more readable, even a half-baked devil's pact script like Greg Potter's "Friedhelm the Magnificent" (which borrows a bit from EC's "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone!"). Friedhelm is the cliched sumbitch who loves no one but himself and uses and discards anyone he needs to advance his celebrity. But, oddly enough, like the lead character in the aforementioned "Dig That Cat...," he doesn't seem to be much of a businessman, despite the fact that it's mentioned that Friedhelm is "a super-star of international acclaim." Literally defying death with every leap, you'd think the guy would have his own TV specials (a la Evel Knievel) rather than living out of a carnival tent. Corben's at his best when he deals with ugly people and Friedhelm is one ugly dude. High forehead, a chin that would make Jay Leno proud, and steely eyes. Corben's climactic panel of Satan is a winner as well.-Peter

Jack-This is a below average issue of Creepy. I gave highest marks to "Cross of Blood" due to Maroto's art, but Moench's story is a compendium of vampire cliches that fizzles at the end. "Behold the Cybernite" is ironic and entertaining, but Sutton is looking more and more like an outlier as the Warren mags are taken over by artists from abroad. "On the Ninth Day of Satan" is awfully plodding for a story with such an intriguing premise, while "I, Invisible" seems like a showcase for Jose Bea's ability to depict human anatomy and includes unintentional humor. I like the density of the Mozos art in "Spellbound" but can't get interested in the story, while "Night Watch" makes me cry "enough vampires already!" I never thought I'd be missing werewolves. Corben's weirdness on "Friedhelm" is refreshing but his panels go back and forth between delightful and amateurish and the story's conclusion is dumb.

"Friedhelm the Magnificent"

Vampirella 17

Vampirella 17

Vampirella 17

Eerie 40

Eerie 40

Creepy 46

Creepy 46

Next Week...
The Kitsch Hits the Fan!


Quiddity said...

"Tomb of the Gods" is the start of a series that will run for the next 4-5 issues or so of Vampirella and is actually reprints of stories Maroto had originally done in Europe. Most are as nonsensical plot-wise as this story was, although we do get some nice and very surreal Maroto artwork, especially in issue 20's story. My recollection was the series was quite unpopular so they just stopped it after a while. Garcia continues to impress considerably with "Death in the Shadows", alas for a very weak story. Overall, aside from "A Man's World" which has slightly weaker than usual art from Bea, this is an issue with stark contrasts, some very good art but some very lackluster stories.

The Brain of Frankenstein reminds me a bit of the Frankenstein Book II series in Skywald, which was fairly good at first (being handled by Tom Sutton) and also involved Victor Frankenstein being resurrected within the monster itself. "Impulsive" is the perfect words to describe Dax. Expect to see more such behavior from him in future stories. "Pity the Gravedigger" is another great effort from Auraleon, and a sad reminder that despite him working for Warren for another 10+ years, his art will never look better than it does right now. I'm not particularly a fan of Targos or the Sanho Kim story, but otherwise a strong issue of Eerie.

"Cross of Blood" comes off much more like a Skywald vampire story to me than the typical Warren vampire story; kinda fitting since plenty of art from this story will be swiped by Jesus Martin Sauri for the story "My Flesh Crawls" late in Skywald's run. Rich Margopoulos has a pretty strong debut, and will do some good work for Warren for a while, especially those Poe adaptions, although he is the writer that I recall above any other who does some extremely mediocre work for Warren in its final years, especially in Eerie. That is still many years off though. "I Invisible" is the type of story that has a simple premise and an unsurprising ending, but Jose Bea's artwork is just so out of this world bizarre that it elevates it considerably. No other Warren artist can pull off things as strangely as he can. "Spellbound" I've always been fond of due to Garcia's great artwork on it; it was the first story I can recall reading from him. Warren's fantasy stories don't do much for me either when lesser artists are handling them, but I'm on board if we have someone with the talent of Garcia or Maroto doing them. Very happy to see Corben return as well!

andydecker said...

If you had any doubts Archie is no longer here, after reading Pendragon 's clumsy recap in Vampirella they will be gone. How not to write comics. TCB has arrived. The story is at least 5 pages too long, and do the characters never shut up?

McGregor's statement is good fun. When I read his stuff, Bierce is the first writer which comes to mind. Right. At least the guys had a big ego.

I may have read Corben's "Friedhelm the Magnificient" a dozen times over the years, and I never understood the ending. Also it is terribly overwritten. How often does the text kills the art? Maybe Warren's writers were indeed paid by the word.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, guys! I get such a kick out of the profiles and the explanations from the writers.

Grant said...

I really can't say enough about Eerie # 40, and only partly because it was my first Warren magazine.

"The Prodigy Son" really terrified me. About my only complaint is that first picture of the circus strongman in the final scene. He's given an accidentally funny sort of square-jawed look, almost right out of a COMEDY comic.

It took me a long while to know Medieval mythology outside of King Arthur, and then I realized that "The Paradise Tree" is partly inspired by the "Tannhauser" myth.

And "Deathfall" is the first place I heard the famous "Chuang Tzu dreamed he was a butterfly" story.

Jack Seabrook said...

I thought it was a good issue too!