Monday, August 3, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 39: December 1972 /January 1973 + The Best of 1968-1972

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

Enrich Torres
Vampirella #21 (December 1972)

"Slitherers of the Sand!"
Story by T. Casey Brennan & Steve Englehart
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"A Legend: The Tomb of the Gods"★1/2
Story and Art by Esteban Maroto

Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Luis Garcia

"The Vampiress Stalks the Castle This Night!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Felix Mas

Vampirella is sitting around brooding about Dracula when the Conjuress pops in to transport her to the distant world where Drac is hanging out. Chaos senses what's happening and tries to trap Vampi in transit; instead, she, Dracula, the Scooby Gang Van Helsings, and Pendragon all end up on a desolate planet that is covered in sand. Seeking food and shelter, the group sets out across the desert and finds a road made of glass that leads them to one of the "Slitherers of the Sand!" Chased by the giant, sand-eating (and glass-excreting) slug, the bunch look doomed until Vampi changes into bat form and attacks the creature without much success.

"Slitherers of the Sand!"
After hours in the hot sun, the humans are terribly thirsty for water and the vampires are thirsty for blood. Dracula just can't handle being a good guy and decides it's time for a drink, so Vampi and he both change into bat form and fight it out. Eventually, Vampi is back in human form and entices the slug to chase her onto the glass road, where it accidentally eats its own excrement and dies. The Conjuress returns, sends Vampi and her human pals home, and takes Dracula off to parts unknown.

"Chad Archer"s debut writing Vampirella stories is not auspicious, but Jose Gonzalez is such a good artist and storyteller that the pages turn swiftly. The subplot involving the Conjuress and Dracula already seems to have run its course and I hope we don't see Drac again for a while. I've never read this series before, so I don't know if that's the case. Pendragon remains the most fun character of the group, while Gonzalez draws such a gorgeous Vampi that it makes up for a lot of sins and plot holes. I'll never get used to those spiked high heels on her boots. How exactly do those work in sand?

"A Legend"
Altik the Warrior meets a beautiful woman named Farla, whose husband isn't too happy to come home to find his new male guest. Farla murders her husband that night so she can stay with Altik, but soon Woden comes along and takes her away.

There's a whole lot more nonsense in the interminable eight pages that make up "A Legend," Maroto's latest incomprehensible entry in the "Tomb of the Gods" series, but it's not worth explaining. The art is pretty but without a coherent narrative it ends up being a chore to plow through.

A man runs through city streets, paralyzed by fear. Suddenly, godlike creatures transform him into a caveman for their sport, and he is attacked by dinosaurs. Back in the present, he suffers from "Paranoia" regarding what next will befall him. He opens the door and sees a trolley car racing toward him.

After a Tomb of the Gods story, any hint of coherence is welcome. Unfortunately, in "Paranoia," that's all we get--a hint of coherence. The story is as good as something I (or anyone reading this) might have written at about age twelve, and Luis Garcia's scratchy art doesn't serve to clarify matters.

A couple of seventeen year olds named Donald and Sandralee drive through the night, having left home after telling her father that she's pregnant. Their car gets a flat tire and they end up at a creepy building seeking help, unaware that "The Vampiress Stalks the Castle This Night." Well, not unaware for long, since said vampiress quickly makes a play for Sandralee's neck, but Sandy holds her off with what appears to be either a couple of paper clips or a hair barrette. The vampiress turns into a bat and attacks Don, but he also succeeds in defeating her and drives a broken piece of wood through her heart. Don and Sandy leave the castle, still searching for a good mechanic.

Sometimes my opinion of a story can be influenced by what has come before it. The Maroto mess was such a pain in the neck to read (not to mention summarize) that the Skeates story seemed better in comparison. This one, by McGregor and Mas, unfolds leisurely over the course of ten pages and, while I didn't love the art and while McGregor's overwriting is quite evident, I ended up liking it, mainly because he didn't try some stupid twist ending. Overall, a sub-par issue of Vampirella, though that cover is a winner.-Jack

Peter-If I were British, I would say that Steve Englehart (who, for my money, is the greatest comic book writer of all time, so sue me) is taking the piss out of us with "Slitherers of the Sand," which is easily the worst Vampirella story I have yet to read. There's no sense whatsoever to this mess (and don't blame TCB for that, since he only wrote the intro); the dialogue is atrocious (Adam: "Now, Dad. I've told you: we're in love), and the Dracula flip/flop (he's a good guy... he's a bad guy... he's a good guy...) is just as annoying as Vampi's blood formula, which has rule changes every issue, it seems. Steve Englehart, the guy responsible for the single greatest comic story arc in history, wrote this crap? I need a drink.

"It's like a slug. But not really like a slug. Maybe a banana slug?
No, more like a caterpillar... No, wait..."

No better is the latest in the irritatingly confusing "The Tomb of the Gods" series. I'm not sure why the heck I keep reading the little boxes in this series; you'd think I would have learnt my lesson by now but no... I am Woden. Clothed thus so you may not see my death-rotting features. Through Ragnarok claims the flesh of all the Aesir. Our spirits wander across unendingness. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Even the pretty pitchers are starting to annoy me. All the nekkid chicks lie on their backs; how is the story supposed to advance if they're always lying on their backs?

"Paranoia" is awful, a head-scratching mess, and contains one of the most glaring typos we've seen in a Warren yet (and we've seen some doozies!), right on the splash yet!

"The Vampiress Stalks Her Wardrobe This Night"
The only proper way to approach a Don McGregor-scripted story is to put that whisky bottle somewhere near your easy chair and take a shot every time Donny makes you giggle. By the time the strip is over, you're not feeling so bad. "The Vampiress Does Whatever Blahblahblah" is ripe with McGregorisms:

On nights when the elements of nature turn chaotic, the echo is magnified, and stillness becomes more than ever a symbol of its patience. There is an odd feeling that pervades the area and defines the nature of the waiting as anticipation.

Perhaps if her past were not so vividly with her as she gazes about, she would have been aware of the forbidding atmosphere of Greystone Castle.

Does it matter what size the symbol or is it the symbol itself which is important? Does it matter of what the symbol is made, polished silver or gold-plated bronze, or is it the form that is important?

Mas's art is high and low here, excellent when he's drawing women with very few clothes on but not so on-the-money with "seventeen-year-old" boys like Don. And extra credit points for the little arrows on page 63 to show us that Don's got a flat. Or was it the arrow that gave Don the flat? Hmmmm. The more I drink, the more I think.

While Don listens to Sandra Dee drone on about David Cassidy
and Don's groovy bell-bottoms, he inadvertently runs over an
arrow in the middle of the road.

From Vampirella 21

Eerie #44 (December 1972)

"Crazy Mazie"★1/2
Story by J. R. Cochran
Art by Tom Sutton

"Everlasting Mortality"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Thrill of the Hunt"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Martin Salvador

"Hand of the Discarnate"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Bill DuBay

"Mervin's Dead Ringer!"★1/2
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Luis Dominguez

"Tiller of the Soul"
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Jose Rubio

"Lake of Gold!"★1/2
Story and Art by Esteban Maroto

Sturnam Banks, a faded cowboy movie star, takes his wife Estelle to see one of his old pictures, but their good time is ruined when they are harassed by members of a motorcycle gang on the ride home. A cop writes up the incident but has never heard of Banks, to the old actor's dismay. Back home at the Morris Trailer Park, Estelle pesters Sturnam to sell his old, stuffed horse, Mazie, but he tires of her badgering and hits her across the face with his old six-shooter.

"Crazy Mazie"
The next day, Sturnam's wild ride is written up in the papers and a distinguished gentleman comes calling, inquiring if he'd like to sell Mazie. Sturnam shoots and kills the "horse thief" and soon realizes that his beloved Estelle is also deceased. Climbing aboard Mazie, he recalls his old exploits as he waves his gun around. A young boy playing nearby hears gunshots and peeks through the trailer window to see a scene of carnage: Estelle is dead in her bed, the visitor is dead on the floor, and Sturnam is dead, sitting atop "Crazy Mazie," his head blown completely off.

I know Peter will love this Cochran/Sutton tale and I agree it's not bad, but it rambles a bit and seems like it needed more pages to be told properly. The sixth page, in particular, is much too crowded, with ten small panels, all of equal size, and so many word balloons that it's hard to tell what's going on. Still, a decent Sutton story is something to be valued in this Warren era of wacky Maroto art portfolios masquerading as fiction.

"Everlasting Mortality"
After yet another bitter fight with his wife, wealthy Ron Lasner looks for a way out and finds it in the form of a vampire prostitute, whom he lets drink his blood. His wife arranges for his funeral, but he claws his way out of the coffin at midnight, only to be destroyed by the shadow of a cross erected as his headstone.

"Everlasting Mortality" is a five-page stinker, with unmemorable art by Grandenetti and a silly "surprise" ending. The oddest thing about this story is the fact that almost all of the captions and dialogue are enclosed in quotation marks for no apparent reason.

When a couple of men from the power company come to ask Oliver Willis to trim some branches that are growing too close to the lines, he misunderstands, shooting and killing one of the men and going on the run. He manages to survive in the woods for an extended period of time by relying on his wits, but eventually he is killed when he touches a live wire while hiding in a treetop.

"The Thrill of the Hunt"
"The Thrill of the Hunt" reads like an EC story and Martin Salvador's art looks remarkably like the work of Reed Crandall. In fact, as I started reading the story, I thought it was by Crandall until I saw the credits. Moench narrates the whole thing in the second person ("You sense the circle tightening...") and, while Oliver's confusion about who is trying to catch or kill him is a bit hard to accept, the whole package is well done.

Chik and Harry, two brothers whose father has recently died and left them a large inheritance, visit a gypsy fortune teller at a carnival and get more than they bargained for. Her cards seem to tell their personal story and predict immediate and horrible death for them both. Next comes a seance and a ghostly apparition of their father, whose revelations lead to them shoot each other fatally.

"Hand of the Discarnate"
New managing editor Bill DuBay draws "Hand of the Discarnate" under the pseudonym of "Dube," and it's not a bad effort, just nothing special. We've seen the whole tarot card/seance plot before, and the fact that the brothers kill each other and thus fulfill a prediction isn't particularly noteworthy or surprising. Moench has an unfortunate tendency to try to dull the effect of the obvious influences in his stories by having a character point them out, as in Harry's rude comment to the fortune teller that she looks like she's "'had plastic surgery modeled on an old Maria Ouspenskya movie still.'"

"Mervin's Dead Ringer!"

Mervin Sniddle gets pushed around by his boss at work and by his wife at home. His only friend is his alarm clock, which he calls Alan and which he chats with. Klutzy Mervin knocks the clock off its table and it smashes on the ground, but when he thinks he hears it ringing incessantly as if chastising him, Mervin drops dead of a heart attack. His wife hollers down to tell him to answer the phone.

Luis Dominguez's clean lines make this four-pager not a complete waste of space, and the title--"Mervin's Dead Ringer!"--is kind of clever, when you think about it. Still, the story is filler in an issue that's not looking good.

"Tiller of the Soul"
An old Louisiana farmer by the name of Phinneas Taylor Brook is out tilling the soil one day when he sees hands sticking up from below and hears a voice. The lonely dead man calls himself Mr. Dunnfore and Phinneas enjoys whiling the day away, chatting with his new friend. At day's end, Phinneas insists on digging up his pal, only to find that the dead man is himself.

Another story that is adequate and nothing more in both writing and art. Potter trots out the Wordsworthian concept of the child being father to the man at one point in "Tiller of the Soul," but I suspect he was more familiar with the album by Blood, Sweat and Tears than with the Romantic poem. In any case, the story comes across like an attempt to mix folksy wisdom with pretentious, Brennan/McGregor-like writing. Rubio's art is nothing special.

A brutal warrior named Sarko lands his ship on an island where Dax the Warrior lives as a god, the only man ruling over a bevy of beautiful women. Sarko announces that he will enslave them all, but when Dax tells him of a nearby cave filled with treasure, Sarko can't resist a peek. Dax and his ladies board Sarko's ship and lead him to the cave of treasure, where Dax and the babes dive overboard and Dax cuts a big hole in the bottom of Sarko's vessel. Dax's beauties turn into sirens and wipe out Sarko and his crew.

"Lake of Gold!"
"Lake of Gold!" seems mistitled, since Sarko ends up in Ruby Lake, seeking riches but finding death. I haven't a clue whether Maroto is plotting or writing any of these stories attributed to him, but the Dax series seems more tightly wound than the Tomb of the Gods series, which just meanders about from issue to issue. The only problem I have with the Dax stories is that they don't seem to follow one another in any kind of sequence. Dax is here, Dax is there, and I very much doubt that next issue we'll see him leading a bunch of sirens on an island.-Jack

Peter-The team that gave us the classic "The Disenfranchised" returns to give us something slightly different, but still more than memorable. "Crazy Mazie" is like a low-budget horror flick penned by two writers who had no idea what the other was whipping up. It starts as a whimsical nostalgia piece, then seems to veer into "the old folks bothered by the bikers" genre, then wraps up with... God knows what. Estelle's constant goading is hilarious. I'll allow how Sturnam's fate seems a bit random, but then so does the whole story. I have a feeling I'm in the minority on this one, but I loved it. Unfortunately, "Crazy Mazie" is all the quality you'll receive in this issue.

Question: When is it a real chore to read a Warren story? Answer: When it's written by Doug (Ar-teest) Moench. "Everlasting Mortality," the opening salvo of a Moench triple-schlock-feature (quartet, if you count the prose fiction short, "The Parade"), is stuffed full of Moench-isms (On a chill, drizzle-splattered night in a squalid midnight-slimed alley, with only the wide round eyes of scrawney (sic) alley cats to witness the paradox...) and sub-par Grandenetti, and that ain't good. I'm wondering if we've seen the apex of JG and now we're witness to the slide. A lot of his work here looks unfinished. From the frying pan into the...

You lurch back from the bullet's splash, like a curious kitten who has singed its whiskers on a flame...

"The Thrill of the Hunt" is a verbose and meandering tale that finally winds up exactly where we thought it would. I like Martin Salvador's art but it seems to suffer the same fate as Grandenetti's. It looks rushed. Moench's dialogue in the awful "Hand of the Discarnate" is like that in a dubbed Mexican horror flick ("You shall writhe and shriek in ineffable torment, suffering the mystic and merciless retribution which is your due! The consummate punishment of raging conflagration...!"), the characters and events an assembly line of cliches. Dubay (I refuse to call him "Dube") seems to be trying on a new style one might call Garcia-lite (half the effect). And where are the Cousin Eerie intros and outros?

Safely exiting Moenchworld, we come to "Mervin's Dead Ringer!" and discover that Doug Moench isn't the only writer at the Warren compound pumping out dumb stories. There's no sense to the thing but maybe that's the point. At least we can be thankful it's only four pages long. Then, with "Tiller of the Soul," we discover what Greg Potter can do with more space. I like the four-page concept more. "Tiller of the Soul" is pretentious gobbledygook, a tale that would make T. Casey Brennan proud. Please... someone decipher the whole "child is the father to the man" nonsense for me while I enjoy Esteban's art for Dax. If not for "Crazy Mazie," Eerie #44 could have gone down as one of the Worst Issues Ever!!!

From Eerie 44

Creepy #50 (January 1973)

"Forgive Us Our Debts" 
Story by James Stenstrum
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Frog God!!" ★1/2
Story by E. A. Fedory
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"Side-Show" ★1/2
Story by Fred Ott
Art by Jose Bea

"The Sum of Its Parts" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Climbers of the Tower" 
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Felix Mas

"Forgive Us Our Debts"
After losing his arm to a crocodile in the Amazon, Hunter searches for the man who left him to die. Finding him masquerading as a doctor in a small village, Hunter forces Manning to head back into the jungle to search for the plane they were flying on, the plane carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of heroin that crashed in the swamp. Accompanying the two men is Manning's nurse, the gorgeous Sharon. As they make their way through the dense forest in Manning's jeep, they are attacked by half-human, half-lizard men but manage to escape.

They find the plane, but the safe containing the heroin is gone and the jeep is totaled, so they make their way on foot, stumbling across the village of the creatures while cutting through the bushes. Within the village stands a huge temple and Hunter believes their heroin is within the walls of the building. Hoping the creatures won't attack (why would they?!), Hunter makes his way to the temple, but Manning shoots him in the back, explaining to Sharon that his partner would have eventually done the same to him. Manning now makes the same trek through the cannibals, who are munching on the body of Hunter, and discovers not only the heroin but a huge cache of gold. Grabbing as much as he can hold, Manning heads back to Sharon but the monsters, who didn't quite get their fill of flesh with Hunter, start advancing on the man. He screams to Sharon but discovers, too late, that she's abandoned him.

For the most part, "Forgive Us Our Debts" is an exciting and well-told horror story with a great macho man lead character (one-armed but still full of piss and vinegar) and some dynamite graphics from Esteban. The cannibal things are never really explained and that's for the best, as we don't need another three pages of mythology to slow the pace. Stenstrum falls prey to Moench/McGregor Syndrome (I couldn't even stomach typing out all that nonsense, so I just cut and pasted it for your viewing pleasure) at times but manages to keep most of the road apples locked deep inside (perhaps some industrious scientist should have concocted some sort of a sleeve a la compression socks for those writers who just couldn't keep the BS from busting out) and sticks to the adventure of the saga rather than the underlying themes of homosexuality and class warfare. One of the rare longer stories (18 pages) that actually justifies its extra space.

"Frog God!!"
While digging in South American ruins, an archaeologist discovers that the legends of the "Frog God" were real. Hoping to find the legendary "Magical Stone of Zophyl," which will grant the owner incredible power, the paleographer opens a small monument he and his workers have excavated and finds... the stone. But the treasure turns him into a frog. The End. Though I thought the art here was okay (Abellan, in his Warren debut), the story is more than a bit foggy. The little monuments the digger finds are not really explained all that well (even though our protagonist reacts to the tiny statues as though he were watching a cow give birth to a German Shepherd) and, oddly enough, we don't even see what is perhaps the most important event of all, the uncovering of the stone. We see only the man's back! And the "twist" is about as predictable as can be.

Ralph's convinced his wife, Melanie, is having an affair with his best friend, Burt Turner, but the brainless babe stands firm on her assertion that she's going to her bridge club meeting. Ralph follows her one night and catches Melanie and Burt entering a jewelry store, where he watches Burt buy what appears to be an engagement ring. Furious, Ralph does what any jilted husband would do: he visits a carnival! While there, Ralph witnesses a magician do a dazzling display of magic (including exhibiting what appears to be a tiny man in a jar) and wonders if this guy could make Ralph's wife disappear. Professor Mephisto agrees to make both Melanie and Burt vanish from Earth once Ralph signs a contract and pays one thousand dollars.


Exiting the carnival, Ralph is amazed to see Burt's car wrapped around a phone pole and a lack of bodies at the scene. Lying on the ground is the ring he witnessed Burt buy at the jewelry shop; attached to the ring is a note from Melanie and Burt, wishing Ralph a happy birthday. Oops! Ralph beats a path back to the Great Mephisto's tent and begs the man to undo what he's done. Pissed, Mephisto gives Ralph the same treatment he gave Melanie and Burt: he shrinks him and puts him in a jar. Oh boy, not even creepy Bea can save this one from its own utter stupidity. That reveal, of Melanie and Burt actually being sweetie-pies, has been done to death (and better) but my favorite scene would have to be Ralph visiting the carnival; the light bulb going on over his head for some strange reason. "Hang on, this guy, who I think is a total charlatan, could be the answer to my problems! I don't know how but what can it hurt?"

"The Sum of Its Parts"
At the very least (the very least), you can take away from "The Sum of Its Parts" the fact that Doug Moench ends his consecutive streak of condescending scripts. Although, as stupid as the plot is, he may have been trying to tell us something about his stand on kids who buy Warren magazines. Pieces of a human corpse are turning up in some very strange places. When they're all assembled at police headquarters, they make up a sailor's body (you can tell from the "Yo Ho Ho!" tattoo on one of the arms), and it doesn't take Detective Barlow very long to add two and two and come up with a suspect. Years before, sailor John Moon was arrested for the murder of his wife and beheaded for his crime. The parties responsible for putting Moon to death are the lucky recipients of the body lottery and Barlow suddenly remembers that Moon was a practitioner in voodoo. The only thing missing is a head, and Barlow learns eventually that it's his own head that Moon covets. You almost want to hope that Moench was having one over on us as the script smells faintly of parody. Or it might have been Moench's public statement on the death penalty. In either case, this sucks big time. The art is bottom-of-the-barrel Crandall, garish and gory, nothing like the Reed of old.

Peter wonders aloud once again why he didn't pitch
a blog on THE BEST OF WARREN to Jack.
All my years of funny book reading have been building up to TCB's "The Climbers of the Tower," a brilliant, apocalyptic vision of solitude and partnership and the problems inherent in spending a life climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower. At least that's what I want our readers to think I think. Otherwise, you might think I'm clueless. What I really think is "just another hunk of indecipherable crap from the TCB Pretension Factory." I had to wade through seven pages to discover that the big message is that man never knows what lies at the end of his journey. You make of life what you can. I'd like to teach the world to sing. I think Bob Dylan said it best, though: I've got looks/I've got brains/ and I'm breakin' these chains. The Mas art makes me want to say "No Mas!" There's virtually no atmosphere or electricity going on here, two aspects we usually encounter in Mas's work. Could be a disconnect with the script. Tell me why our two travelers happen upon a giant near the top of the tower (see below). So, to recap, for Creepy's 50th Birthday we got one really cool present and a whole lot of empty sardine tins. -Peter

Jack happens upon Peter...

Jack-The best thing about this issue of Creepy is the delightful cover by Sanjulian. The insides are at best mediocre and at worst confounding. "Forgive Us Our Debts" is a pretty good long story that suffers from Maroto's chronic difficulties in telling a narrative sequentially. "Side-Show" benefits from more weird art by Bea, though the tale is run of the mill. I liked "The Sum of Its Parts" more than you did, Peter, completely due to Crandall's art. The whole package is rather disgusting and seems like Moench was aiming at an EC-type of story without any self-censorship. "Frog God!!" is a confusing tale with an absurd climax, while "The Climbers of the Tower" is heavy-handed and unsatisfying. I wonder if it will win an award?



Best Script: J. R. Cochran, "The Disenfranchised" (Eerie #39)
Best Art: Tom Sutton, "The Disenfranchised"
Best All-Around Story: "The Disenfranchised"
Best Cover: Vampirella #17 >
Worst Story: Parente/Tallarico & Fraccio, "Cat-Nipped" (Creepy #23)

The Ten Best Stories

1 "The Disenfranchised"
2 "The Third Night of Mourning" (Creepy #49)
3 "Boxed In" (Creepy #33)
4 "Like A Phone Booth, Long and Narrow..." (Creepy #44)
5 "The Accursed Flower" (Creepy #49)
6 "And Horror Crawls... From Out of the Sea!" (Creepy #45)
7 "Mad Jack's Girl" (Creepy #39)
8 "Crazy Mazie" (Eerie #44)
9 "Something To Remember Me By" (Creepy #44)
10 "Superhero" (Eerie #32)


Best Script: Tom Sutton, "Parting is Such Sweet Horror!" (Eerie 34)
Best Art: Neal Adams, "The Soft, Sweet Lips of Hell!" (Vampirella 10)
Best All-Around Story: Tom Sutton, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (Eerie 20)
Best Cover: Eerie #23>
Worst Story: R. Michael Rosen, Bill Fraccio & Tony Tallarico, "Terror Test!" (Vampirella 7)

The Ten Best Stories

1 "Act Three!" (Creepy 18)
2 "No Fair!" (Creepy 22)
3 "The Fall of the House of Usher"
4 "The Soft, Sweet Lips of Hell!"
5 "Bookworm" (Eerie 32)
6 "Carnival of the Damned!" (Vampirella 11)
7 "Parting is Such Sweet Horror!"
8 "The Lurker in the Deep!" (Vampirella 13)
9 "Isle of the Huntress!" (Vampirella 14)
10 "The Resurrection of Papa Voudo!" (Vampirella 15)

Next Week...
Return of an old friend!


Anonymous said...

Luis Dominguez certainly had some lovely covers on EERIE, didn’t he? This one is especially nice. Shame he only has one or two more after this before he heads elsewhere — but with Sanjulian, Enrich and Ken Kelly doing the majority of the Warren covers for the next few years, I really can’t complain. And at least we get Dominguez’ upcoming batch of terrific painted covers for DRACULA LIVES and other Marvel b/w mags (also, I think he doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for the dozens of excellent covers he did for DC’s Mystery/Horror books).

Poor Martin Salvador! Of all the new Spanish artists, he stands out as being the most ‘ordinary’. Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with his work, it’s never less than solid. But mentally, I always slot him in that ‘‘Absolutely Competent but Utterly Unremarkable’ category, along with Jack Kamen, Frank Bolle, Bill Draut and others. It’s not his fault he isn’t as Ultra-stylish as Maroto or Garcia or Auraleon.


Quiddity said...

My recollection is that your wishes are granted and Dracula exits the Vampirella storyline at this point. Dracula will get his own short-lived series in both Eerie and Vampirella, but I can't recall if it is this version of Dracula or if they started over. Sadly, "Paranoia" is Luis Garcia's final original story for Warren. My personal favorite artist to ever work with Warren and he was only there a year. :( A couple of years later we will get some reprinted/rewritten version of stories he did in Europe though, so I still have that to look forward to. "The Vampiress Stalks the Castle This Night" turned up on the best Warren stories of all time list in the Warren Companion and they used quite a few panels from the story in that book. Arguably Felix Mas' best art job for Warren, and a rare McGregor script that doesn't make me want to jump out a window. My favorite in what is an overall mediocre issue.

"Crazy Mazie" is a fun story right up Tom Sutton's alley. I think Grandenetti's story in this issue is his last for Warren, which is quite unfortunate! At least we don't have to see a further slide in his artwork. While I'm not a fan of the story "Hand of the Discarnate", Bill Dubay has stepped up his game art-wise, which looks a lot better than his earlier stories. This issue Dax kind of comes off like a guest in his own story! Except for the finale all the Dax stories will come off as anthology in nature and can be read in any order. I do think around this time we get some improvements for it though as this was a pretty good story, as is the one in the next issue.

Creepy #50 starts out on a high note with some amazing Maroto art in "Forgive Us Our Debts", and an effective ending. The story could have been a bit shorter, but some extra pages of Maroto art are never a bad thing in my eyes. Alas, after this the issue collapses considerably. Adolpho Abellan makes his Warren debut with "Frog God" and while he'll get a lot of stories in Creepy over the next couple of years he always paled in comparison to nearly all the other Spanish artists working for Warren. "Side Show" is a horrifically bad story that relies on our main character and the reader to be complete idiots in order for it to be effective. Aside from a few panels of bizarre Jose Bea creations, nothing worth reading here. "Sum of Its Parts" has really poor Reed Crandall artwork, although the story was at least half-way decent. "The Climbers of the Tower" is the quintessential T. Casey Brennan story in my eyes. I say that in a bad way. No other story better encapsulates how bad his stories are than this one. Totally comes off as if he was high on drugs when he wrote this. How in the world does this story that has no horror-element in it whatsoever get approved? How is it that a story that has no point to it whatsoever get approved? Total mystery to me. A top 10 worst story ever for Warren in my eyes.

As for my opinions on the top work from this era, I'd go with these as my top 10 stories (in no particular order)

Degeneration Gap - Vampirella #10
Eye of the Beholder - Vampirella #13
Royal Guest - Creepy #33
The Picture of Death - Creepy #45
The Beginning - Creepy #47
The Third Night of Mourning - Creepy #49
The Accursed Flower - Creepy #49
Spiders are Revolting - Eerie #23
The Disenfranchised - Eerie #39
Head Shop - Eerie #39

Top art I'd give to Luis Garcia, with either "The Men Who Called Him Monster" or "Song of a Sad Eyed Sorceress". I'm leaning towards Vampirella #18 for my top cover.

andydecker said...

Sorry, but no! The best typo in Vampirella #21 is in the Vampi story: "A Bath with a human plan".

I agree that the Englehart story is a bad joke. Still it is more readable than CTB overwrought prose - even if I have to say that I found his conversation between Vampi and Pendragon at the beginning kind of well done -, and this is no worse than much of his dialogue in The Defenders.

But the art is soo good. I want to have this splash page! Obviously Gonzalez knew what a dumb story he had to illustrate and decided to have fun. The slug seems to pout in every panel, and his Dracula in shirt sleeves is hilarious. Never seen the king of vampires in shirt sleeves.

The less said about the rest of the stories the better.

Eerie #44 is another mess. I liked the Dax story for once as it had a plot. It wasn't great, but it told a story. And while I am a staunch Moench defender, I can't this time. "Everlasting Mortality" wouldn't have made the cut over at the House of Mystery, "Hand of the Discarnate" is unreadable and visually boring, and "The Thrill" is the best of the bunch. It is not very good, paranoid redneck is hunted by paranoid rednecks, how timeless. But without the art it wouldn't work.

Best of the issue was the store. An Eerie cover puzzle with 300 pieces, a Creepy and Eerie mask? Even better is the mystery-man mask, which looks like a prop from a serial-killer movie.

Peter Enfantino said...

As usual, my favorite part of Monday morning/afternoon is reading the comments on the Warren blog. But... qt and andy... no top ten lists? I can't let you get away that easily!

andydecker said...

No real top ten list, I fear. While I have a complete set of Vampirella reprints and a lot of later Eerie, I own only a few Creepy. So I don't feel qualified to give a fair voting.

Best cover is a tie. Vampirella #17 and Eerie #23.

As far as Vampirella is concerned, best artwork is difficult. Since his beginning Gonzalez maintains a quality which is remarkable. Issue for issue is on the same level. A pity that the stories are so mediocre.

So best story and art goes to Wally Wood's To kill a God in Vampirella #12.

Grant said...

I'm not usually good at spotting similarities between artists (and maybe I'm wrong about this one), but that panel of "Mervin's Dead Ringer" makes Dominguez's Mervin look like some Jack Rickard character in Mad Magazine.

Jim Stenstrum said...

I have dedicated my life to apologizing personally to every person on earth who has had the misfortune to read FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS. I believe I have contacted most of these miserable souls, but there still may be thousands I have not reached.
My only excuse is that this was my very first comic script and I was only 19 years old at the time I wrote it. Honest to god, I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and if I’ve harmed any of you with this mindless dreck I apologize to the depths of my soul.

Peter Enfantino said...


Not sure how that makes me look but I kinda sorta liked "Forgive Us Our Debts," but I'll accept your heartfelt apology! Looking at my notes for the next couple years of Warren, it's clear you are one of the two or three best writers on the staff. "An Angel Shy of Hell"... "Unprovoked Attack"... "Thrillkill"... those stories made me the fan of Warren I am today.To have a pretty good script like "Forgive Us Our Debts" be your foot in the door is outstanding. I hope you'll stick around and offer up your commentary as an "inside man."