Monday, June 8, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 35: April/May 1972

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

Vampirella #16 (April 1972)

"...And Be a Bride of Chaos"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jose Gonzalez

Story & Art by Nebot

"Gorilla My Dreams"★1/2
Story by Gus St. Anthony
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Girl on the Red Asteroid"
Story by Don Glut
Art by Bill DuBay

Story & Art by Pat Boyette

Story by Nick Cuti
Art by Felix Mas

Vampirella joins Pendragon on a jet plane flying to perform at the European retreat of Count Mordante, who is resting in a coffin in the plane's rear compartment. Meanwhile, Adam Van Helsing recovers from his injuries while his father heads for Count Mordante's castle, having noticed that the note that sent Vampirella after Pendragon bears the seal of none other than Count Dracula! Pendragon and Vampirella settle in at the castle where, unbeknownst to them, various bigwigs from the Cult of Chaos have gathered to support Count Dracula/Mordante in his quest to choose the woman who will take part in a ceremony "... And Be a Bride of Chaos," the ancient god who once ruled the earth.

Pendragon and Vampirella perform for the guests and, when our heroine turns into a bat, Mordante has the room sealed and captures her with the intention of giving her to Chaos as a bride, much to the displeasure of a woman named Lucretia, who resembles Vampi and who had hoped for that honor herself. As he lugs Vampirella's unconscious form to an underground chamber, he regales his guests with the origin of Count Dracula. It seems our favorite count was originally from Drakulon, but was banished and ended up on Earth, where he lived through the centuries by taking on various guises.

Mordante straps Vampi to a table, as Dr. Van Helsing quietly arrives at the island where the castle is located. He finds Mordante's coffin and drives a stake into the Count, who yanks it out and reveals that Chaos protected him from this particular injury. Vampirella bursts upon the scene and rescues Van Helsing, telling Mordante that Lucretia was so anxious to wed Chaos that she replaced Vampi on the slab. Too bad for Lucretia--the sight of Chaos causes immediate death and the failure of the plan to supply the god with a bride removes the protection from Mordante, who quickly expires from the hole in his chest. Vampi, Pendragon, and Van Helsing leap into the water as the castle is destroyed by Chaos.

Archie packs a lot of plot into twenty pages here, yet the story is unsatisfying. There's too much Mordante/Dracula and not enough Vampirella. Dracula's origin is a stretch and his temporary immunity to a stake in the chest recalls some of the increasingly ridiculous Hammer Dracula films of the late '60s and early '70s, when just pounding a stake into the heart of the count was no longer sufficient to end his existence. Pendragon makes a nice companion for Vampi, since he is too old for any sexual tension and has a nicely self-deprecating sense of humor.

A beautiful young witch is grabbed by an angry mob, stripped, and tied to a stake for burning, but when the men see how sexy she is they rescue her and set fire to her accusers instead. A three-page strip that seems almost as light as an Aragones one-pager, "Purification" is good for a laugh but that's about it. Nebot's art recalls Wally Wood's somewhat, though it's more comedic and less technically masterful.

"Gorilla My Dreams"
Sailing back to England after exploring the Congo, Mark Evans is troubled by dreams in which he is attacked and killed by a giant gorilla. In the jungle, he was warned of the devil beast, Shagatha and, when a beautiful woman ran into camp pursued by gorillas, Mark fell hard for her. He and she make it back to London, only to have her reveal that she is the "Gorilla My Dreams"--Shagatha in disguise!

I would rate this one higher if the story weren't so transparent. Maroto's art continues to impress me, and I got a real Reed Crandall feeling from some of his panels here. Too bad the ending is a letdown.

Captain Rhodes is the only survivor when his space ship crashes on an asteroid. He thinks himself alone until he sees a surprising sight: a beautiful, naked girl hatching from a great big egg! He teaches her how to love a man but soon she grows into a giant, reptilian creature. He is unable to bring himself to shoot the "Girl on the Red Asteroid," who retains her gorgeous face and lush red tresses.

Just shoot her already!
("Girl on the Red Asteroid")
This issue of Vampirella is fast becoming a real disappointment, breaking a string of several high-quality issues that I had enjoyed. So far, Glut and DuBay's effort is the nadir: a poor story and worse art. Oddly enough, the depiction of the giant reptile on the splash page looks nothing like the one on the last page.

During the French Revolution, young Marquis Jean Rabat gets his kicks by dressing like a beggar and spending his time with the revolutionaries. He especially likes it when women are whipped as punishment. Using the name Mons. Mysterie, he starts killing women and follows his foul deeds with a bloodcurdling scream. Eventually, Rabat is guillotined, but even his severed head emits the horrible shriek!

Pat Boyette's "Lover!" doesn't make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how it starts at the dawn of the French Revolution and continues on (presumably) for a number of years until Napoleon is in power, but the sheer, baroque style of the artwork and page design won me over. Boyette follows predecessors Gene Colan and Jerry Grandenetti in using creative panel sizes and shapes and manages to keep the narrative flowing without too much confusion.

In 1872, the freighter Davey Jones is lost at sea and the only two survivors are cast adrift on a raft. When they finally make it ashore, Captain Spike sets off for England with a mysterious and beautiful companion named "Cilia." The local fishermen become suspicious of Cilia, who only eats fish and who needs to return to the ocean for a dip every so often. They knock the captain out and grab the gal. The captain later explains to the other survivor, Zackery, that Cilia is a cilophyte, a human-octopus hybrid whose top half is hot babe and whose bottom half is all tentacles. She saved Zackery's life on the raft and Spike fell hard for her. The local fisherman leave her near death and, when she begs Spike to finish the job, he does so with a harpoon. The villainous fishermen are later done away with by vengeful members of Cilia's family who lack the human half.

Nick Cuti's haunting story meshes well with Felix Mas's Ernie Colonesque art to make an enjoyable fable. Nothing special, but not a bad end to a weak issue of Vampirella.-Jack

Peter-Aside from the Vampi story and Pat Boyette's unnerving art, this issue is one big smelly pile of nonsense, which is odd since the other two titles we look at this week are above-average. With all the typos riddled through the text, I'm surprised the letterer didn't "accidentally" mis-title the Nebot entry, "PuTrification." Nebot may have had his fans (the same who haunted the comic shops for the latest issue of Elfquest), but I ain't one of them. I like my horror comics to be a little less... sparkly. "Gorilla My Dreams" may be proof that Forry Ackerman liked to sneak into the Warren funny book division now and then and put in his two cents. What an awful story and, again, plagued by typos in the worst places possible (Behind every superstition there is a seed of thruth) and the most utterances of the exclamation "My God!" ever used in one story. But, hey, what a twist, right?

I thought "Girl on the Red Asteroid" and "Cilia" were both pretty dumb (even though the cover screams that "Cilia" is "one of the most beautiful horror stories ever told!"), but Felix Mas still contributes some solid graphics. The script for "Lover!" is a bit standard, but Pat Boyette more than makes up for his shortcomings as a writer with his freakish visuals. Boyette seems to see a world that holds no beauty (other than the one pretty maiden who meets the business end of a whip), and every man is missing an eye or layers of skin.

Then there's the main attraction, "...And Be a Bride of Chaos," which seems to be one of the most popular entries in the Vampirella saga, but I find it to be the weakest of Archie's. Lots of logic problems and a meandering plot. I do like that Archie found a way to tie the Vampirella/Dracula saga into his "Coffin of Dracula" two-parter, but this is his swan-song. I can't say I'm optimistic about the future, given the identity of the writer who now holds the reins.

Eerie #39 (April 1972)

"Head Shop"
Story by Don Glut
Art by Jose Bea

"Just Passing Through"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"The Disenfranchised"
Story by J.R. Cochran
Art by Tom Sutton

"Dax the Warrior"★1/2
Story & Art by Esteban Maroto

"Yesterday is the Day Before Tomorrow"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Dave Cockrum

Story by Kevin Pagan
Art by Jaime Brocal

"Head Shop"
Every day on his way to work, Christopher Ducey walks past a haberdashery that displays hats in its window. One of the hats is perched atop a very realistic head and Chris begins to become obsessed. Noticing that the head is gradually rotting, he works up the courage to go into the store one day and point this out to the proprietor. "You're right!" says he, and chops Chris's head off to replace the one rotting in the window.

When I see a story by Don Glut in a Warren mag, my expectations are low, so anything resembling entertainment surprises me. "Head Shop" features passable art by Jose Bea, who delivers a suitably creepy rotting head in a few stages of decay. This is enough to make six pages not seem overly long. The title's double meaning is cute.

"Just Passing Through"
A young man notices that his clothes don't fit and fears he's shrinking. His mother tells him about his father, who appeared one day as a giant and steadily shrank till he disappeared. One night, when he was normal size, he impregnated a woman he met at a bar. The next morning, he told her he was leaving and that, one day, another man would leave her. It turns out she's the mother of the young man who's now shrinking.

Steve Skeates does Don Glut one better with "Just Passing Through," a story that meanders along for seven pages and then just ends without a real conclusion. Auraleon's art is very nice, but this is not a story--it's a memo.

Harold walks the cold city streets alone, always grinning. He thinks back to how he became "The Disenfranchised." It began when he was a boy, helping out in his father's butcher shop; the neighborhood was razed as part of slum clearance and Harold's father lost his shop, then his apartment, then his life. Now Harold wanders the streets alone, meat cleaver in hand, looking for revenge. He kills a junkie who tries to rob him and he finds shelter with the other poor souls who wander the city streets. Finally, when a city inspector tries to convince him to come to a shelter, Harold snaps and cuts the man to pieces.

Peter has plenty to say about this story, so I'll just note Sutton's chilling art and leave the rest to him.

"Dax the Warrior"
"Dax the Warrior" is returning home from battle when he meets Freya, a super-sexy naked woman who falls for him in the blink of an eye. They frolic happily together until she is snatched away by a flying dragon. Dax gives chase and enters a realm of darkness, ignoring doom-laden warnings from a hooded man. He finds Freya and heads back into the light, but the hooded man points out that if he kisses her, he'll spread leprosy over the earth.

Dax was a Maroto character who had premiered in Spain the year before. In this initial installment, he's basically another Conan, all muscle and never failing. Maroto's artwork is excellent, but the writing is a bit florid for my taste. For example, take this sentence: "I will rip forth your hell spawned entrails, God-forbidden beast!" The GCD puts a question mark next to the writing credit, pointing out the possibility that the original Spanish was translated by someone other than Maroto.

In the 25th century, a thief named Andros Palmer is tired of small-time heists and dreams of one big score that will set him up for life. He murders a scientist who has just invented a time machine and Andros travels 30 years into the future, where he reasons that he can steal the blueprints for new inventions, go back to his own time, and strike it rich. Andros murders a scientist named Gral Tharkos and returns to 2642, where plastic surgery and a new name lead to the realization that he is now Gral Tharkos, destined to be killed by himself three decades' hence.

"Yesterday is the Day Before Tomorrow"

Doug Moench trots out an old science fiction trope and gets confused about how centuries work (2642 is not the 25th century), but more early work from Dave Cockrum makes the confusingly-titled "Yesterday is the Day Before Tomorrow" more enjoyable than it should be. Knowing what Cockrum would do in a few years at Marvel makes it fun to see him develop as an artist at Warren.

On an expedition to the American Southwest to prove that the Aztec race originated there, Adam is haunted by nightmares in which he is an Aztec named Chlan who is sacrificed on an altar and whose heart is cut out by a priest. Seeming possessed, Adam hits a rock with a pickax and a door opens to the old Aztec altar site. In his nightmares, Adam's heart turned into a giant serpent that attacked the priest and drove the people south to Mexico. In the present, he ventures into the cave and again confronts the serpent/monster that grew from his heart. He kills it and saves his fellows, but the effort results in his own death by cardiac arrest.

Adam helpfully tells us that the story's title, "Ortaa!" is the serpent's name and also an anagram for aorta. The story is fairly entertaining and it is helped immensely by Jaime Brocal's art. As is typical in a Warren story, there is a beautiful gal on the expedition and she manages to brighten up the panels.-Jack

"The Disenfranchised"
Peter-"The Disenfranchised" is my favorite Warren story of all time. I realize I have several years of extraordinary material to sift through (well, actually, the pessimist nudges my optimist and insists that, no, I really don't), but I've read all these stories before and this is the one that has stayed with me the longest. I've written pieces on it for magazines and blogs and I've read the damn thing dozens of times and yet I still find it as creepy as the first time I read it nearly fifty years ago. It scared me as a kid like no other comic story would and it still gives me the willies. Writer Cochran tapped into the phobia that America was going through in the early '70s (and goes through to this day): the downsizing of Mom-And-Pop stores and the corporate takeover of the U.S. When the “little market down the street” closed up, it took America’s values with it, leaving behind unemployment and ghettos. Ironically, I first bought Eerie #39 in 1972 at a soda fountain (Pronto Pup on Lincoln Avenue in San Jose, California). That shop’s a Starbuck’s now. Ken Kelly's cover is pretty cool, but it in no way prepares you for Tom Sutton's vision of Harold, the poor, put-upon butcher's son who now roams the streets for a different kind of meat. This is Sutton at his apex; the two-page, 11-panel sequence leading up to Harold's big CHOK! is a virtual guide to building suspense and then releasing tension.

The conclusion of "The Disenfranchised"
In the letters page for Eerie #41, Don Glut says "Head Shop" was inspired by a walk past a Hollywood wig store. "The wigs were displayed in the window on wooden heads. I stopped and did a double take. One of the display heads looked exactly like someone I knew!" More likely, Don got his inspiration from a matinee screening of Amicus's anthology film, The House That Dripped Blood (1971). In the "Waxworks" segment, Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) becomes obsessed with a wax museum dummy that looks like his dead partner. Turns out the proprietor covered his dead wife's body in wax and uses fresh-cut noggins from the men who become obsessed with the dummy. Guess whose head is next? "Waxworks" ends with a sequence very similar to the final panels of "Head Shop." Now, don't get me wrong, I still love the story (it's Glut's best for Warren, regardless of its origin); it's a nasty piece of work that almost begs the question: why the hell would someone go to the trouble of hacking off a man's head to display hats? Aren't those plastic dummy domes pretty cheap? Bea's disintegrating head (especially the last two phases) is the stuff of nightmares for a ten-year-old.

I'm not sure what the hell Steve Skeates is trying to say with "Just Passing Through," but the least Jim Warren could have done is give his writer enough space to finish the damn thing! Seriously, I'd love to hear the story behind this story. "Dax the Warrior," of course, is groundbreaking territory for Warren. Though the company had run a few continuing characters (who here remembers Thane the Barbarian? Me neither), those would run a couple of chapters and that's all. The popularity of "Dax" paved the way for the (eventual) serialization of Eerie (for better or for worse). "Dax" is a dynamite strip visually, with word balloons and captions added here and there for no apparent reason other than to muck up our view of the Maroto art, but even the prose works for the most part. It's a great launch to what would become one of Warren's best series. Aside from the title, Doug Moench lays off the pretension with "Yesterday is the Day Before Tomorrow." That doesn't mean it's anything but a standard SF tale with a standard EC climax. "Ortaa!" is a bit better thanks to Jaime Brocal's art. The climax is pretty dumb. -Peter

Enrich Torres
Creepy #45 (May 1972)

"What Rough Beast" ★1/2
Story by Jan Strnad
Art by Frank Brunner

Story by Jack Katz
Art by Jack Katz & Nebot

"And Horror Crawls... from Out of the Sea!" ★1/2
Story by Kevin Pagan
Art by Tom Sutton

"For the Sake of Your Children!" 
Story by E. A. Fedory
Art by Jaime Brocal

"Dungeons of the Soul" 
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Felix Mas

"The Picture of Death" ★1/2
Story & Art by Jose Bea

Sometime in the future, a giant beast terrorizes a high-rise complex while a woman named Ginny sits on a couch, cradling her baby. Enter Ginny's ex, Michael, who cut out after Ginny found out she was pregnant. Now, Michael has returned, assuring Ginny he's grown up a bit and can handle the situation. It's not that simple, explains Ginny, and she tells him the story of how she became pregnant. Exploring "the lowest levels of the city," Ginny was raped by a giant beast known as the Demogorgon (or maybe it's the Demogorgan, depending on which page you're reading) and their child is the result. As evidence, Ginny pulls back the child's blanket, revealing two little horns atop its otherwise cutely demonic head. At that moment, the child's real pop comes crashing through the window, grabs its kid, and exits stage left.

"What Rough Beast"
"What Rough Beast" is not a bad story, it's just not much of a story. The future tense is random as, aside from a guy in a spacesuit in the intro, there are no futuristic trappings or "inventions" or the like (in fact, Michael wears one of those neato gold chain/medallion combos that went out of fashion soon after the release of Earth Wind and Fire's Greatest Hits), so why the extra effort? Is the Demogorgo(a)n a punishment for our sins, pollution, nuclear war, reality TV? The old man who warns Ginny of the Beast seems a good outlet for Jan Strnad to explain away his demon's existence but perhaps it's better off we don't get some kind of early-1970s pretentious jive. Frank Brunner's art is gorgeous, but that's a given; it's also the last we'll see of him around here as he's off to begin his historic run on Doctor Strange (in Marvel Premiere).

Targos is confident that, when his barbarian days
are over, he can find a job on The Golden Girls
"Targos" is yet another stab at the unreachable: a readable Warren fantasy tale. This one sees Targos of Goofynamia, he of the bouffant, embarking on a quest to free Kirke, loveliest goddess of Sillimoniker, from the chains of father Kronis. Along the way, he battles child-killers of Cholkis and the fierce sea beasts known as Ganoids before defeating the evil (but simply gorgeous) Queen Cybele and returning to his little beach girl, Kirke. Yet another grand fantasy from the brain of Jack Katz, whose The First Kingdom "graphic novel" would be published by Comics & Comix beginning the following year. There's nothing resembling originality here (other than the goofy names), but perhaps visuals by Wally Wood might make it "lookable" (if not readable). As it is, the Katz/Nebot style (lots and lots of white space) does not exactly beg for postering. Targos himself is an obvious Ka-Zar swipe.

"And Horror Crawls... from Out of the Sea!"
A giant blob rises from the depths of the sea and, one by one, absorbs and kills two couples partying on a beach. There's not much more to "And Horror Crawls... from Out of the Sea," but what you get is a hell of a lot of derivative fun. Take one part "Who Goes There," a heaping portion of Theodore Sturgeon's "It," and maybe a slight sprinkling of the old sleaze classic, The Flesh Eaters, and you have some idea of what writer Kevin Pagan was trying to accomplish (you even get the requisite "coincidental explanation of what's going on before it even happens," via the convenient chemist on the beach). But let's not beat around the bush; assign Grandenetti, Cockrum, Maroto, or even Corben, and this doesn't work nearly as well. Sutton's Lovecraftian tentacled blob, rotting carcasses, and even bikini'd babes are stellar visual delights, and we know that no other artist in the '70s did cosmic (and deep, deep sea) horror like Tom.

"For the Sake of Your Children!"
Feared by the peasants of the village, Baron von Norda has free reign to tax and terrorize, but now blood-drained corpses are stacking up like cords of wood and the villagers have had enough. They fire up their torches and storm von Norda's castle, driving a stake in his heart. Buoyed by their relatively easy conquest, the troops then go in the cellar to have a look, and they unwittingly unleash hundreds of vampires, locked up for years and fed by von Norda. The townsfolk return to their wives as hungry vampires. I had a hard time following the script for "For the Sake of Your Children!" as it's adjective-heavy and (choke!) poetic in quite a few spots. Take this passage, for instance, which opens the festivities:

The Vienna woods... weird... majestic... dark with foreboding secrets... riddled with ancient hermetic mysteries... hoary with the dust of countless ages!!! Fresh morning mist lies not within for centuries ago it was ripped asunder by a pall of malevolence that choked the dryad-carpet of ferns, and wrought finality to the divine nuptials of nature!! Of kindred nature, it dwells more within the cloak of night... more beneath the cerements of evil, an unholy place the Earth-mother could never suckle!!!

Huh? By the second act, I really wasn't sure I could read between the bold adjectives and muster a cohesive narrative but, by the climax, I was back on sure footing, despite the flowery verbiage. Well, except for the part about von Norda's parents... I'm still closing one eye and looking to the heavens on that one. Jaime Brocal turns in his best work yet; these vampires are savage but the villagers may just be more savage.

"Dungeons of the Soul"
Modrius keeps a man in an iron mask captive in his cellar until Modrius's lady love, Adrianne, inadvertently frees the prisoner from the "Dungeons of the Soul"! Eventually, the masked man and Modrius square off with swords, but Modrius finds he cannot slay his prisoner. After a very touching monologue ("How many times must our trust be betrayed, before we learn not to trust? How many times must our love be rejected before we learn not to love? How many roads must a man walk down..."), the stranger is unmasked and, surprise surprise surprise, we discover he's the good half of Modrius, waiting for the love of Adrianne to set him free!

As a way to lessen the pain I knew would be inherent upon reading another T. Casey Brennan script, I decided to play a game. I would down a shot of whiskey every time Brennan included an abstract and mystical bit of dialogue. Unfortunately, by the second page I was so (expletive deleted) drunk, I had to begin again the next day. Needless to say, it took me two weeks to read "Dungeons of the Soul" but, oh boy, I had a good time doing it. So many TCB nuggets in this one, but I'll focus on one (as, mercifully for you readers, we don't have the space for all of 'em), when Modrius muses out loud about the exquisite Adrianne:

"I have long been set free from the agonies that sensitivity and gentleness bring! Should I wear my heart on my sleeve, as a target? Should I offer my soul in a drinking cup to all those who would have it? How vulnerable we are in our days of honesty, when we seek to show the love in our unstained souls to a world that wants no part of such things! And how secure we are when we at last surrender, to conceal ourselves within our walls of bone and flesh!"

And who saw that twist climax coming? Raise your hands. No, you didn't!

"The Picture of Death"
In 1750, traveler Herbert Wilson stops at a small pub to stay the night. The drunken patrons warn Wilson not to stay in the room he's offered by the tavern's owner. It's haunted, they say, haunted by a very strange painting on the wall. No one who has stayed in the room was ever seen again. Herbert takes the room anyway and enters, noting the grotesque canvas depicting several ghoulish creatures and hanging on the wall but tabling any alarm until he's rested. But something about the picture nags at the man and he finds himself falling asleep while gazing upon its creepy subject. While Herbert slumbers, the painting's subjects crawl down from within the canvas and pull the terrified man back in with them. Herbert learns that the creatures are actually the lodgers who spent the night in the room and disappeared, trapped inside the nightmarish landscape within. Now, Herbert becomes part of the picture. The story has some logic problems (the tavern mistress seems to be on the up-and-up, so why would she keep renting out this room if it's an abyss?), but its atmosphere of dread (very similar to Poe and Lovecraft) won me over, as did Jose Bea's near-perfect visuals. A little bit of editing (we didn't need to see the chase through the other dimension) and this would have been so much better.

You tell 'em, Don!
Though the tone of the issue's stories is somber, the letters page is full of hilarity. Don McGregor defends his "werewolfry as prejudice" sermon back in #43 known as "The Men Who Called Him Monster." Big Donny Mac allows how he figured there'd be "voices raised in denunciation," but for those of you "who wished (character) Richards had been more of a solid stone cat, all I can tell you, Dude, is that there are only so many things you can do in a 14-page story." The whole diatribe is reprinted to your right, but I'll just remind Mac that perhaps he should leave the deep messages to the Coca-Cola commercial folks and just write a good monster story. Another writer asks if Garcia patterned Richards after actor Sidney Poitier, to which Uncle Creepy answers, "Not really... Richards was described to the artist as "black, in his late twenties and... like one of those classic Dashiell Hammett-school types..." Evidently, Garcia's translator broke it down to Luis in a different fashion.

A reader notes in the letters column of #47 that the cover, by Enrich, looks like it was based on a movie photo. Sure looks like the artist might have got some inspiration from that "Dwight Frye as Renfield" still that popped up every few months in Famous Monsters. I like the new "Coming Attractions" feature on the inside back cover and I'll be monitoring the page for any stories that never showed (there was one if I recall correctly that took years to surface).-Peter

Jack-Big changes at Creepy with the May 1972 issue! The page count jumps from 68 to 76 and the price jumps from 60 cents to 75 cents. Billy Graham is no longer managing editor; in fact, his name is nowhere to be found and now J.R. Cochran is listed as associate editor instead. Three stories stood out for me. The first was the Pagan/Sutton effort, "And Horror Crawls... from Out of the Sea!" Sutton's poses can be awkward at times, and I don't think his art is as good here as it was in last month's Eerie, but for the most part this is a decent horror tale with a satisfying finish. I also enjoyed "For the Sake of Your Children!" but, like Peter, I found it confusing in spots. The first page has a half-page panel that is a real winner and Brocal goes overboard in his gruesome depictions of staking, decapitation, and general mayhem, much as Sutton did in Peter's favorite story above. Overall, it's a Gothic romp.

My third favorite, and perhaps Creepy-est of all, was Brocal's Bosch-influenced "The Picture of Death." His art in the pages that are supposed to depict regular people is weird enough, but the sequence when the creatures start coming out of the paining was most effective. The other three stories were all average. I liked the use of the famous Yeats poem in "What Rough Beast" and Brunner's richly atmospheric art is pleasant, but I don't think his work is as good as that of Gonzalez, Maroto, or Brocal. Still, the art elevates a story that is poorly thought out. "Targos" is ten pages long but seemed like twenty--the line drawings are jarring coming right after Brunner's rich shadows. Here's an example of Katz's prose: "Give up the amulet of power or my sword will taste your soft body." 'Nuff said. Finally, there's our pal T. Casey and "Dungeons of the Soul." It starts out much too wordy but the verbosity calms down and it just becomes obvious, since we all know who the man in the iron mask is long before he stops socially distancing himself. The conclusion is surprisingly schmaltzy for a Warren mag.

From Vampirella 16

From Vampirella 16

From Creepy #45

Next Week...
An early Christmas present
courtesy of Frank Miller!


Quiddity said...

Agreed, this is a disappointing issue of Vampirella for me as well. Gonzalez's art is strong but an iffy story, in particular Dracula. Alas, Archie Goodwin departs Warren again for about 2 years or so we'll now be treated to T. Casey Brennan as the Vampirella writer. Yikes. I don't think Goodwin ever returns to writing Vampirella herself. I had forgotten Nebot did as much art for Warren from this era as he did, perhaps because it was mostly joke work like this story. "Gorilla My Dreams" reminds me of a few things, the EC story of the same title and the final panel being an obvious swipe of a werewolf story by Angelo Torres in Creepy #3. Seeing another Pat Boyette story was a treat, at least art-wise. Alas, this is it from him for Warren until near the very end of Warren's life when he gets a story in a very late issue of Eerie, which was probably an inventory story or one originally intended for another publisher.

Eerie on the other hand has 3 awesome stories! I love Head Shop, it is a rather simple and silly premise but when you've got Bea's artwork on it, it results in a fun and effective story. Dax the Warrior is here, as is the start of the slow transition of Eerie into a continuing serial magazine. I've never been a big fan of the sword and sorcery/barbarian type stories, but Dax is one of the rare exceptions. Maroto does such an excellent job with the artwork and it tends to always have a horror bent to it as well. My understanding is that Maroto was requested by Warren to do the series after seeing his work for the barbarian series "Wolff" which had appeared in the Buru Lan magazine Dracula (Highly recommended if you can ever get it; I own the 12 issues published in English. Great art from Maroto, Jose Bea and Enric Sio in particular). Dax was originally titled "Manly" which is what he was called in the Spanish version, but in English he was renamed Dax. Apparently each story in the series was handed to a different writer at Warren to handle, all of whom were uncredited. I'm not sure if they even really had it professionally translated, or just made up a story to go along with the art (this is eventually something that would become really common at Warren). Years later Warren would assemble all but 2-3 of the stories into a single issue and have Budd Lewis rewrite them all yet again.

"The Disenfranchised" is the highlight of the issue; while I'm not going to go as far as Peter, it is one of the best stories Warren would do from this era and one of the highlights for Tom Sutton's Warren career. And dare I say it, a rare Warren story that has a political message that I'm totally onboard with. Cochran does a good job not coming off as super preachy with it (in stark contrast to Don McGregor) and rather uses it to build an excellent horror story upon. There is still a lot to look forward to; I really do think the best is yet to come. When I did my own ranking of the best Warren stories, The Disenfranchised didn't even crack my top 10. In fact all 10 are stories you've yet to cover.

Quiddity said...


After reading so many Jack Katz stories in my recent read through of Skywald, I had more than enough of him and didn't even bother reading Targos in catching up for this entry. A stark contrast to the excellent art in the rest of the issue. "Dungeons of the Soul" is a great example of why not to read a T. Casey Brennan story. At least we have some good Felix Mas art to look at! "The Picture of Death" displays perfectly just how there just isn't anyone who works for Warren who can pull off the truly over the top bizarre like Jose Bea can. The creatures he draws are just so out of this world, and I love that sequence where the woman transforms into a horrifying beast. The story itself is very similar in nature to a Steve Ditko drawn story early in Warren's run (Eerie #3 I think) and while Ditko is a great artist, there is just such a massive world of difference between that story and this one with how ridiculous Bea makes it. I happily await future absurdist stories of his like "The Other Side of Heaven", "The Accursed Flower" and others that are coming up.

andydecker said...

I have read many Dracula versions and always thought the Warren one to be one of the weakest. It never worked for me. But the accompaning covers are quite iconic.

Thank you, Peter, for suffering for us so much. I can understand that the editors waved T.Casey through - or maybe they didn't, which is a even more disturbing thought -, one can't edit this, you can only send it back.

It would be really interesting to read Dax in its original form. While the art is beautiful, the text is mostly terrible. I can't image that Warren paid for a translation, it sure was easier to write new dialogue.

Peter Enfantino said...

I'm almost as aghast that you don't agree with my assessment of "The Disenfranchised" as I was when I discovered you had completed a reading of the entire Skywald output and only needed three months in rehab. Of course, I'm joking (kinda). I thought long and hard about whether my love for that story was due to nostalgia but when I had another reading just before pumping out my commentary, it hit me just as hard.

I'm here, taking the body blows, so that you don't have to. The TCB Vampire scripts are nowhere near as good as Goodwin's. but then I never thought Archie's were the bees knees. The writers are working with a mediocre concept at best (I'm still not sure exactly what powers this chick has other than filling a one-piece), attempting to fill pages with an interesting story. This is really not a character a series should be built around. But we'll see what the future holds.

Quiddity said...

Vampirella works as a third horror host and is obviously a lot nicer to look at then Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie, but yeah, the overall concept of her headlining a continuing storyline is shaky at best. It wasn't even really the intent at first; we get a couple of stories with her in the early issues which are intended more as parodies and several issues without her starring in a story at all. I wonder if making her a continuing character was done in part to lure/keep Goodwin around, doing more of a longer form storyline instead of individual anthology short stories, then when he departs they just kept it going, especially since they had Gonzalez doing the art by then.

Vampirella's stories are at their best in my eyes from around the late 20's to the early 40's when Mike Butterworth is writing them. Things are simplified a lot, and the stories are a lot more stand alone in nature with Vampi running into different love interests, supernatural entities, etc... The stories are also fewer pages, resulting in some improvements to Gonzalez's art (as well as a few guest appearances from other artists doing her). The continuing storyline aspect returns by the mid 40's and is pretty consistent the rest of the way. Frankly a lot of the times when I pick up these issues I skip the Vampirella story, or just look at the art but not actually read it. Eventually its not even worth looking at the artwork when you've got artists like Pablo Marcos or Rudy Nebres drawing her.

Anonymous said...

VAMPI 16 :

Love that cover.

Yeah, Archie’s Dracula story is kind-of a mess, but i still like it.

I see Quiddity has already called out the Torres swipe at the climax of “Gorilla”. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen lots of negative comments online about Maroto’s swiping habits. Have to say they’ve never bothered me, not in the slightest. For one thing, he always managed to integrate them into his own style so that they seem entirely organic, and don’t jump out at you unless you’re really familiar with the source. It’s actually kind of fun to play “Spot The Swipe” with his stuff now, all these years later with much more life experience under my belt. I’ll be looking at one of his old stories and go,”That’s cool, I never realized that figure was based on a Robert McGinnis painting” or “Oh look, it’s Bridget Bardot!”

Nice little Vampi drawing on the Fan Page from future Award-winning illustrator Thomas Blackshear (you guys might know him best from his Universal Monster postage stamp series).


I don’t think “The Disenfranchised” would make my Warren Top Ten either, but it’s a good little shocker . Again, my reaction to the story was similar to Quiddity’s— to me, it reads kinda like a socially conscious McGregor story without the painful on-the-nose bloviating.

Ah, Dax! I’m pretty sure I’m repeating myself, but the very first Warren mag I ever saw was EERIE 59, the Dax Reprint Special. That heady mix of heroic derring-do, monsters and GORGEOUS nekkid ladies was irresistible to this 13-year-old boy.

Also, I’m aware that there is a sizable faction of Warren Nerds that are still pissed off at EERIE’s focus on series characters — but I’m not one of them. Sure, most of the various series weren’t at the same level of quality as Dax or the first Hunter serial, but for every asinine “Arthur Lemming, the Werewolf Mummy” there was lots of of cool stuff like Dr. Archaeus, Coffin, The Jackassers and Child.


Boy, do I love Brunner’s early stuff! It’s not technically as well-drawn as his later work on Dr. Strange and Howard the Duck, but it’s just so bouncy and fun to look at, full of youthful energy. It’s almost as if he was on his way to being a top tier “Fake Frazetta” like Jeff Jones or Bernie Wrightson but then veered off into Neal Adams territory instead. Which is totally fine, too, of course.

Jack Katz drew a short-lived Tarzan knock-off for Skywald called Zangar, who had a similarly odd swept-back coiffure. I was never a fan of his FIRST KINGDOM stuff, but this story doesn’t look terrible to me.


Peter Enfantino said...

I wrote a (way too long) piece on the Eerie serials for a British zine called From the Tomb years ago. The Werewolf/Mummy was apes**t crazy. NO sense to it whatsoever, which made it all the more entertaining in an Al Adamson sort of way.

As far as swipes go-- I couldn't care less. If I was the swipee, perhaps I'd have some negative comments to make, but these guys aren't stealing my livelihood. And my little brain couldn't spot swipes a mile away (unless they're swipes of movie stills from FM). Oe of my favorite swipers would have to be Howard Nostrand of Harvey fame (subtle plug for our book coming this summer!), who was able to rip off just about every EC artist and make it look cool.

Quiddity said...

Yeah, that Werewolf/Mummy series really goes off the rails eventually, I think most likely because there was so many changes to the people involved. I think they went through 5 different artists and 3 different writers over the course of that series? A lot of craziness there enough so to spice up the series and make it enjoyable for me.

I typically don't mind swipes; I think its interesting to bring up, but I usually don't really hold it against the artist. A lot of times for me it is just fun to identify it. If anything, Esteban Maroto probably does it more than a lot of the other Spanish artists who work for Warren, but that doesn't keep him from being my second favorite out of all of them. Although I will say I got quite frustrated during my recent go through of Skywald as the artist Jesus Martin Sauri is massively swiping Esteban Maroto in several of his stories. A panel or two is one thing, but we're talking like 50% of the artwork if not more.

Anonymous said...

Quiddity :

That reminds me — there was another guy who swiped a ton of Maroto panels and poses, and didn’t even bother to cover his tracks, basically just traced Maroto’s stuff line-for-line. Kinda took that “Sincerest Form of Flattery” thing to the max. Did a handful of stories for Charlton around 1975 or so. “Dimetrio” or something like that...?

- b.t.

Grant said...

As great as many others are, Jose Bea is one Warren artist who can spook me without trying at all.
In a strange way, looking at a given character of his is like seeing a serious version of Marty Feldman in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.