Monday, May 17, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 59: January 1975


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

Creepy #68

"The Stars My Salvation" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by John Severin

"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"Reflections in a Golden Spike" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Martin Salvador

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Rich Corben

"A Gentle Takeover" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"The Christmas Visit" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Isidro Mones

"The Christmas Gnome of Timothy Brayle!" ★1/2 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

During the Civil War, Union Lt. Plankton refuses an order from his captain to attack a Confederate hospital encampment and is shot in the back for cowardice. Meanwhile, 66 trillion miles away, the same thing is happening aboard an alien ship. Norg gets a stomach full of laser blast from his captain when he refuses to attack a crippled enemy ship but, luckily, he knows where the life-giving Phaedron is located. He crawls to the gizmo and bathes in its regenerating light. 

Back on Earth, the troops race to the hospital tents, only to discover the encampment is a ruse, as Rebs pull back the flaps and mow the troops down with their rifles. The newly-healed Norg escapes death a second time as he escapes in a small pod just as the giant ship is destroyed. The blast sends Norg hurtling towards Earth. His ship lands literally at the feet of the slaughtered Union soldiers. As he prepares to bathe the corpses in the Phaedron's light, he is shot to death by the dying Union captain. Lt. Plankton, also not in great shape and totally oblivious to the ambush, crawls to the hospital tents and crosses through the beam of the Phaedron.
Well, it's certainly odd to begin an issue whose cover promises "Seven Christmas Chillers..." with a tale that contains not one reference to the holiday! Of course, digging deeper (compliments, as usual, of David Horne's Gathering Horror), we discover the truth: "The Stars My Salvation" was never meant for pub in #68 (in fact, eagle-eyed readers would note that it's not even listed on the contents page!). As explained in the letters page of Creepy #70, that seventh Christmas story, "Once Upon a Miracle" by DuBay and Ortiz, arrived a day too late for inclusion. We'll get to it in the second "All-Christmas Issue" next year.

Anyway, Christmas or no, "The Stars My Salvation" is a decent SF tale (though it's hampered by one of my pet peeves, the dual simultaneous and similar occurrences, a trope used to death by Big Bob Kanigher in his DC war comics), unhampered for the most part by Doug Moench's cosmic allusions and poetic similes and greatly benefitting from the John Severin touch. Love the integalactic bulldog-men and their goofy space uniforms. I'm surprised DuBay didn't simply alter some of the dialogue or captions to include the Christmas theme. It would only take a "At some point on Christmas morning, Lt. Plankton knew he was going to die..." or something along those lines. Perhaps Bill was busy conjuring up clever titles for his series characters.

"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" is a decidedly not Creepy story about several lives coming together at just the right time on Christmas Eve. A man who attempts suicide after losing his wife, a man who questions whether marriage and family life are worth it, a cop who must save the day by stopping an armed robbery and then must tell a cop's wife how her husband was killed in the line of duty. Some of this might actually be interesting (as cliched as most of it is), but I question why this isn't in Ed McBain's Crime Comics rather than Creepy. The Alcazar art is very nice to look at while you turn the pages waiting for the axe murderer or UFO alien to come out of hiding.

Runaway orphan Mick and slightly-crazed retired railroad man Claude forge a close bond when Claude invites the youngster to bunk with him in his abandoned rail car. Claude even gives Mick his retirement present, a golden spike, as a Christmas gift. The one night, two thugs jump into Mick and Claude's boxcar, looking for warmth and maybe something they can hock. They come across the two friends and fancy their golden spike, manhandling Claude in the process. Mick whips out his switchblade and kills one of the men but the other grabs a handy shovel and cleaves Mick's head in two. Claude, seeing his dear friend's life taken so callously stabs the killer in the throat with the spike. Then Claude goes bananas and sets the three corpses up in the boxcar as paying riders.

"Reflections in a Golden Spike" is three or four different microwaved plots all rolled up into one unconvincing package. Gerry Boudreau seems to think all the violence at the climax isn't enough "shock," so he throws in the utterly ridiculous coda, which elicits laughs more than goosebumps. Martin Salvador's bland visuals don't help much either.

On Christmas Eve, Reverend Radley is convinced that the Anti-Christ will be born right here in Nazareth, Indiana, and he needs to do everything possible to prevent the thing from aging more than one day. He's right: little Damien is being born, but not in any hospital. Ironically, it's Radley's daughter, Billie Jo, who is the mother of the little devil and she's shacked up in a stable with her (devil-worshipping) boyfriend, Joseph. Her beau has made a deal with Satan to deliver Junior safely to the devil's minions. Meanwhile, Radley is at the local hospital murdering all the newborns.

A tip from a nurse leads Radley to the stable, where he confronts his daughter and the human child who has been substituted for the newborn demon. Radley executes both and then attempts to murder Joseph, only to discover the man is protected by Satan. Joseph explains to the religious nut that, because of all the good work he has done tonight, the reverend is also now under the devil's protection.

Though it can get heavy-handed at times (Joseph?) and a little confusing (we're shown a panel where Joseph is driving off to Illinois with the coven in the backseat and a few panels later he's back in the stable), Gerry Boudreau's "Anti-Christmas" is a chilling and ultra-violent bloodfest, arriving at least two years ahead of The Omen. Boudreau's point, I assume, is that the ultra-religious will go to even more extremes for their beliefs than those who worship the devil. Radley salivates and murders everyone who stands in his way, while the cowled Satanists are calm and calculating. I ain't buying the final confession of Baptiste (Radley's assistant of sorts); he stood by while his friend committed these atrocities and then has the audacity to promise Joseph he'll be hunting him and his comrades down very soon using more moderate methods. Corben's art is fabulous.

In the near future (well, 1999 is the distant past to us), Oliver Cubbins defies the anti-Christmas laws and dresses up like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, attracting the attention of several hundred of his neighbors and lots of police. As Oliver's crowd begins to grow, the police join in on the caroling, dropping their weapons and raising their voices in song. It's a joyous Christmas once again. Yawn. Obviously, my sentiments are with the underlying message of "A Gentle Takeover," but the message is delivered in such a humdrum and unoriginal fashion. Abellan's art is much more tame than his usual ugly scratching, but Budd Lewis's script is just so much cold oatmeal. In the end, are we supposed to be impressed with the bold stance? 

A stranger shows up at Archie's Tavern on Christmas Eve. Now, Archie isn't the most religious guy in the world (in fact, he's one step away from atheism), but this character who wanders in off the street has some kind of magical charisma about him. When Archie closes shop, the two men walk toward Archie's home, discussing the state of the world today. During that walk, Archie might or might not witness to a couple of downright miracles. Just as they break away from each other, Archie asks the man's name and what he's doing here. The man confesses that he hasn't been in the neighborhood for "one thousand seventy some odd years ago" (is my math off or does that make his last visit in 900 AD?) and wishes Archie a Merry Christmas. Moments later, the stranger is mugged and stabbed to death by two thugs in an alley.

I don't give many four-star ratings around here and there are a couple reasons why "The Christmas Visit" merits one in my book. The chief one might just be that material like this can be both preachy and maudlin, but Budd Lewis manages to skirt both those offenses very well. It's a genuinely moving tale with a (literal) stab in the gut climax. I can still recall reading this for the first time at the ripe old age of 13 and being very affected by that final panel. This despite the fact that even then I was not much of a "religious" person. I also think Isidro's art is close to perfect here; it's funny when it needs to be and startling in the right spots. A major triumph for Lewis and Mones.

Timothy Brayle's wife is a superstitious woman, so she leaves a saucer of milk out for the elves and sprites who might make mischief around the house. Making a bit of mischief himself, Timothy supplants the milk with a helping of brandy. That night, Timothy is visited by the Christmas gnome, who wants to thank the man for his alcoholic kindness. An immediate friendship is formed and the two head down to the crick for a bit of fishing. While there, Timothy confesses to the gnome that he hates his wife and would love to leave her but he just doesn't have the guts. If only he had his wife's guts... The pair end their day promising to give the other a special Christmas gift. Christmas morning comes and, sure enough, Timothy Brayle gets a whole bag of guts... his wife's guts!

Despite my snark and the distinct feeling I was actually reading Bradbury on the splash (October had blustered and flustered. The old dark autumn had come to the English countryside, ripping the last clingings of muggy summer away at last. Brown leaves sprinkled in the fall evening winds like dark dappling rain, to go skittering away down the wet cobble streets sounding like rat's feet scratching in dark tombs.), I thoroughly enjoyed "The Christmas Gnome of Timothy Brayle!" It's a good-natured fantasy up until that final shock, which comes with a whole lot of winking from Budd Lewis beforehand. Budd emphasizes the whole "wish I had my wife's guts" over and over so that when the finale comes, we're ready for it. What I liked was Brayle's reaction: glee, rather than the expected "-choke-" or vomit. The conversations between Brayle and the gnome are brilliant and natural, and Sanchez's art is just perfect. Like "Nightfall" back in Eerie #60, "Timothy Brayle" has the feel of a Neal Adams/Joe Orlando team-up from the early days of House of Mystery. Sans the bag of guts, of course. Overall, I would categorize the first (of three) annual Christmas Creepy a success.-Peter

Jack-The art by Sanchez in "The Christmas Gnome of Timothy Broyle!" was, for me, the highlight of this issue. The story was genuinely funny, as well, and I was dreading the final panel, which is as close to an EC ending that Warren ever gets. I liked "The Christmas Visit" quite a bit, but that ending turned me off. "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" is a decent straight crime story, though the scratchy art makes it somewhat hard to follow what's going on.

There's no one better to draw a western than John Severin, but the science fiction parts of "The Stars My Salvation" were not as impressive and left me wishing for a Wood-Severin collaboration. The story is heavy-handed and overly long. "Reflections in a Golden Spike" is too violent for me, and the art by Salvador is mediocre, but I like the brief moment of Creepyness when the old conductor sets up the corpses for a final train ride. "A Gentle Takeover" is not a bad dystopian fantasy, but I'm still not find of Abellan's art. That leaves "Anti-Christmas," which is not my cup of tea. Corben does what Corben does, but the whole thing is too brutal and downbeat for this fan of Christmas.

Eerie #62 

"The War"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Cool Air"
Story by H.P. Lovecraft
Adapted by Bernie Wrightson
Art by Bernie Wrightson

"Crackermeyer's Churchyard"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Rich Corben

"Circus of Pain!"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Death Be Proud!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Joaquin Blazquez

"The War"
Two men discuss the history of "The War" while playing a game of chess. Their conversation follows the development of various technological innovations that made war more brutal and efficient but, in the end, they agree that peace is the best choice.

Jose Ortiz draws beautiful pages, but Budd Lewis's script is little more than a catalogue of man fighting against man throughout the millennia, from cavemen hitting each other with clubs to two knights facing off with swords and armor. The surprise, that one of the knights is a beautiful woman who looks like Red Sonja, doesn't make ten pages of pretty drawings any more meaningful. On the first page, Cousin Eerie introduces this as what looks like the first entry in a four-part series on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hopefully, if it continues, the next three parts will contain actual plots.

"Cool Air"

In 1923, a poor writer takes a room in a cheap Greenwich Village boarding house and discovers that his upstairs neighbor keeps himself cool by means of a gas-powered engine. After the writer suffers a heart attack, he meets Dr. Munoz, the neighbor in question, who explains that he has been fighting a rare disease for almost twenty years and "Cool Air" is a key part of his survival. In the weeks that follow, Dr. Munoz's health begins to decline. The writer helps turn the temperature even further down, but when a piston malfunctions and the engine shuts down, large quantities of ice must be brought to the doctor's rooms to maintain his health. The writer's race against time to get the engine fixed fails to preserve the doctor, and in the end he is found, now only a skeleton. A letter reveals that he died eighteen years before and kept himself going with willpower and lots of chilly temperatures.

"Cool Air" is one of the best Warren stories I've read to date. I love Wrightson's artwork and he does an excellent job of adapting Lovecraft's story in his prose, which complements the pictures. I have only a vague memory of seeing the Night Gallery adaptation of this story, so I don't know how it compared, but this comic version is superb. The seven-page length is just right--neither too long nor too short.

"Crackermeyer's Churchyard"

A black child born in 1815 grows up to become Crackermeyer, the voodoo man. When a white government agent named Ansloc learns that he'll have to pay for land that was willed to the local black residents, he travels deep into Louisiana and violently takes control of the property. A black man is sent into the swamp to find Old Crackermeyer and, when he does, he is surprised that the voodoo man was waiting for him. A poison spider has been prepared for Ansloc, and Crackermeyer is joined by the Spook to enact vengeance. Ansloc and his men are slain and "Crackermeyer's Churchyard" is saved for those who should be buried there.

I really enjoyed this story, despite the frequent use of the "N" word by the bad guy. Leopold Sanchez turns in his second terrific story this month and Budd Lewis writes an engaging tale that avoids needlessly graphic violence. The only false note is the inclusion of the Spook, whose presence seems unnecessary. Crackermeyer could have taken care of the problem all by himself.

"Forgive Us Our Trespasses"

A Mafia gunman confesses to one priest that he has sinned by killing another priest. Three months before, the gunman was one of a trio sent to rub out old Don Carlo Gambino on his deathbed before he could confess to a priest about his sons' misdeeds. The trigger men killed both the priest and the Don and beat up the Don's son, who had hired them, to give him an alibi. The Gambinos blamed a rival gang family, the Pontis, and a mob war began. The trio of killers grow tired of hiding and demand money to leave town. Instead, two are shot and killed by the Butcher, a new killer who wields a sawed-off shotgun. The third runs to a nearby church to confess, only to be shot and killed by the Butcher, who is none other than the priest who was thought dead when old Don Gambino was killed. The priest is now badly scarred and vows revenge on the son who killed Don Gambino.

Another terrific crime story that doesn't have any supernatural elements, "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" appears to be the start of a new series featuring the Butcher. I hope it continues, because this first episode is outstanding! Corben's art is exquisitely detailed and the color is vivid. I love a good crime story and was surprised by the identity of the Butcher at the end. I'm also impressed that Corben is able to tone down some of the weirdness that can mar his work when there's not a good plot to support it.

"Circus of Pain"

After killing the people responsible for transforming him into "This Unholy Creation," a hideous giant wanders until he comes upon the "Circus of Pain." One member of the circus is Kuzzo, an ugly hunchback who laments his unloved state. Kuzzo's only friend is Eloise the elephant. When Kuzzo meets the Unholy Creation he is scared and orders Eloise to kill the monster, but Unholy grabs the pachyderm by the trunk, swings her around, and smashes her against a tree, killing her. Kuzzo is upset and attacks Unholy but, very quickly, the two creatures realize they are made for each other and become friends.

This was shaping up to be a strong issue of Eerie until it came to a screeching halt with the example of Steve Skeates's overwriting. "The dull fuzzy image of a traveling circus registers in my leadened mind. I can sense grumbling discontent from the brightly colored wagons below." Believe me, the grumbling discontent is coming from this reader as well. Even Leopold Sanchez, whose art has been so impressive up to this point in this month's mags, lets us down with some rushed pages and two ugly creatures that are hard to tell apart. If this is another new series, I hope it stops right here.

I have no idea what this page is all about!
("Death Be Proud!")
William Trogmore wakes up in Arthur Lemming's body and murders a black boy to steal a horse. The were-mummy pursues Trogmore/Lemming as T/L robs, fornicates, and kills at will. The were-mummy catches up with T/L and drowns him, having learned from an ancient scroll that drowning will allow him to transfer his mind back into Lemming's body. Meanwhile, the mummy with Jerome Curry's mind keeps looking for the girl with the amulet that will free him. In Boston, the police summon Richard Hunter to track Curry, who murdered nine people there. Lemming transfers his mind into the body he just drowned, but right away he is killed by the angry father of the black boy he murdered for a horse.

Peter, I demand a raise for being forced to read this terrible were-mummy junk! Even the art is bad. I have given up trying to keep track of who is who in this series, since it's so poorly written. Now, it looks like we are back to just one mummy and we're presumably going to meet Hunter, the tracer of lost mummies. I can't wait.

Peter- The kick-off to the new mini-series, "Apocalypse," does nothing for me. I know Boudreau is hoping that this startling thesis on man’s inhumanity to man will somehow change the reader’s views on murder and nuclear war but… nope. If anything, the preaching just puts me to sleep. Hopefully, the remaining three chapters won’t be so pretentious.

Cousin Eerie promises that “Cool Air” is the first installment in “Berni Wrightson’s new series, Classics of Horror.” Alas, this was the only Bernie-penciled “classic” (Maroto will tackle the second and final “classic” next issue), but it’s a hum-dinger. One of Lovecraft’s very best, I remember reading it for the first time back in the early 70s in an Alden Norton collection titled Horror Times Ten (Let me just get off the subject of Eerie for a moment and highly recommend this Norton volume to anyone wanting to read some of the best horror from the pulps — in addition to “Cool Air,” you get chillers like August Derleth’s “The Lonesome Place,” Max Brand’s western horror, “That Receding Brow,” Robert E. Howard’s “The Dead Remember” and, for my money, Ray Bradbury’s most effective crime story, “The Trunk Lady.”). No one wrote “drippy” horror fiction like Lovecraft. Big sigh when I think of what could have been: Wrightson's version of "The Call of Cthulhu."And every time I read the letters from fans taking Jim Warren to task for not assigning Bernie more work, I have to laugh and think of the detail the artist put into his work. I’m sure Warren would have given Wrightson his own zine if it were possible.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the fact that the racist Ansloc uses the word “spook” to describe blacks in “Crackermeyer’s Churchyard” puts to bed the idea that Budd Lewis and Bill DuBay knew nothing of the word as derogatory and hateful. As Jack says, it’s tough to read “Crackermeyer” with the liberal use of the “N” word but it’s also hard to read because it’s boring and confusing. The atmospheric art by Sanchez is its only saving grace.

“The Butcher” is an interesting new character in that DuBay and Corben take the visual of the 1930s pulp heroes (The Spider and The Shadow, in particular) and combine it with the 1970s graphic violence found in men’s adventure novels like The Executioner, The Penetrator and, yep, Stuart Jason’s The Butcher. The priest angle is a nice twist and I like DuBay’s tough guy dialogue. Alas, this promising series will last only two installments, probably due to Corben’s workload. I couldn't make heads or tails of what the hell was going on in "This Unholy Creation," so I won't fake it. This story sucks. Luckily, this was two and done.

Sure enough, just as I thought things couldn't get any worse, I remembered I have the penultimate chapter of the Mummy/Werewolf/Were-Mummy lunacy to wade through. Not only is the dialogue ripe and plot discombobulating, but we also have to contend with Blazquez' seesaw visual contortions. There are some striking images here and there but most of it looks as though Jim W. was saving dough by printing blurry photos of the art. Take a look at the example I have here for you (above). Is our knife-wielding justice-seeker doing pilates before his thrust? That's not your typical stance. 

Vampirella #39

"The Head-Hunter of London" ★1/2
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"The Sultan of 42nd Street" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Felix Mas

"Snow White and the Deadly Dwarfs" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Steve Skeates
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Circus of King Carnival!" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Curse of Castle Vlad!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"The French Coagulation" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Luis Bermejo

Vampirella and her “alcoholic appendage," Pendragon, touch down in London just as the great city is in the grip of terror. There’s a madman running loose, chopping off the heads of unlucky pedestrians. While out sightseeing, Vampi and Pen are approached by Major “Mad” Jack D’Arcy, who offers to take them on a guided tour of London out of the kindness of his heart. Whirlwind tour over, D’Arcy invites his new friends back to his place where he shows off his massive collection of stuffed animal heads. Once Vampirella and her worthless companion have left, D’Arcy flips a switch and a secret panel opens, revealing the second part of the “Mad” man’s collection.

Deciding that Vampi’s head would look fabulous on his wall, D’Arcy stalks the pair the following night, shooting Pendi with a lethal blow dart. Sucking the venom from the wound, Vampirella is overcome with bloodlust and gives chase to the fleeing D’Arcy. The chase goes underground and into the subway, where our vixenish vampiress catches up with her stalker. She drains D’Arcy and disposes of his husk across the subway track, where a train comes along and (ironically) decapitates him.

Not a bad chapter, and the first one in approximately 26 adventures where Vampi did not fall in love. Oh, I thought for sure butterflies would flutter in her stomach at the sight of eye-patched and elderly “Mad” Jack but, alas, my hopes were dashed. “The Head-Hunter of London” is definitely readable but don’t go looking for substance or any kind of continuity. This nonsense about Vampi’s on-again, off-again bloodlust is getting silly.

Michael Mailer enters a pawn shop and buys a cheap painting (“one of a series on the many faces of death”) by the unknown artist, Henri Gaston, with a mind to using the canvas to paint over. Mailer paints a beautiful woman he names Amanda, and suddenly the girl appears before him in the room. Putting two and two together, Mailer deducts that the canvas has magical powers but that and two bits will get him a cup of coffee. Amanda offers to prostitute herself to pay for the rent and comes home the first night with two hundred bucks in her purse. 

Smelling large green, Michael goes back to the pawn shop, buys another batch of Gaston paintings, and whips up a handful more streetwalkers. Meanwhile, across town at the pawn shop, another young painter buys one of Gaston’s canvases and begins painting a man, coincidentally Michael Mailer. She gets as far as the head when it starts talking to her. Back at Mailer’s place, “The Sultan of 42nd Street” finds it difficult to run a brothel without a head.

A very nicely illustrated hunk of rubbish. Not that these things necessarily have to have rules, but I’m lost on what happens at the climax of “Sultan.” Does this mean that the girls Mailer paints actually lived somewhere else in town and disappeared a little at a time as well? Or did it just happen to our “Sultan?” And what’s the story with Henri Gaston and his Faces of Death? Is there a dastardly motive behind this pawn shop owner’s actions? Way too many questions (oh, I got more, believe me!) and not one answer. 

Myra's kept herself coped up in her big house for the last three years and that's putting a strain on the relationship between Myra and her beau, Warren. Add to that the fact that Myra seems to think her house is infested with dwarves and she doesn't believe in pre-marital sex (and possibly post-marital sex as well), and you've got one very frustrated young man. Warren drives over to Myra's to drop the bomb: either Myra gives daddy a little sugar or he's walking. Warren delivers his bombshell and goes in for the kill but, suddenly, he's overwhelmed by little people. They stab him to death but, as we find out as Warren lays dying, it's actually nutty Myra who did the cutting. Sometimes "No!" means "No!"

My only question would be why Warren waited three years to decide enough is enough. Actually, I'd like to know why he was hanging around when he clearly thought she was a loon in the first place. The twist is 100% predictable, which leaves only the Maroto art to complement. It's very good, but a lot of it still has that posed look to it. I'd love to see how much of this was Gerry and how much Steve, cuz it sure doesn't seem like a Skeates script to me.

Cassandra Kiley discovers she has but months to live, so she wants as much joy and happiness in those final days as she can fit in. She talks her husband, Jackson, into taking her to the King Carnival in Choctaw County (just over the Tallahatchie Bridge), where her spirits soar. Jackson is distracted by a tent advertising a shaman. He enters and the magical man tells him he knows exactly why Jackson has stopped by: if he wants to save Cassandra’s life, Jackson must bring him a human heart. So Jackson murders a vagrant but is attacked by the carnival’s mesmerizing “Butterfly Girl.” Attracted by her husband’s screams, Cassandra opens the tent and is attacked by… Dracula! The vampire bites her neck and the two live happily ever after!

Where to start? “The Circus of King Carnival!” smells just like one of those Dax stories that was published first in Spain and trucked over here for one of Warren’s resident hacks to rewrite. The story is a meandering mess, like two or three vignettes stitched together (let’s call the first third “Mean Mr. Mustard,” the second “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and the third…), hoping that the lack of clarity won’t blind too many readers. The climax, where Butterfly Dame kills Jackson and then Cassandra becomes Dracula’s life-long companion gave me a two-dose Excedrin headache. Was Drac in fact the Butterfly Chick or was Jackson absorbed into the circus freak? And what’s with the shaman and his human heart request? I don’t know! 

"Slubber Snik" might actually be Moench's
best written dialogue this issue
"The Curse of Castle Vlad" is twelve pages of sheer Doug Moench absymalia. Director Robert Scortia decides to film his latest low-budget exploitation flick, "Curse of Castle Dracula" at the genuine location in Transylvania. Casting his estranged wife as the lead, Scortia hits snags at every turn, fighting with his wife, discovering she's having an affair with her co-star, and best of all, finding three prop men torn to shreds. Could the curse of Castle Dracula be a real thing? 

Oh boy, does this story stink to the high heavens. The foundation, movie director filming in haunted castle, has been done to death (especially on Scooby-Doo) and Doug adds nothing to the cliches but glorious Moench-isms:

Outside: sound ripped by screaming jets cutting across what once was called the heavens. Inside: sound defiled by voices babbling inanely (those final two words could be applied to Moench's script).

Comes nourishing shadows, driving all to seek rest, relaxation, wherever, however it can be found...!

Scortia resembles Vincent Price's Egghead and the whole plot, while we're on the subject of Mr. Price, is like one of those early-to-mid 1970s Vinnie Price flicks, without the good stuff. The fact that Scortia's star was a vampire (the guy didn't show up on film!) was a surprise to no one (except the dopey director himself) and yet that climax is set up to deliver the big whammy. 

There’s a werewolf stalking the streets of Paris, but a clue has been left on the corpse of the latest victim: an apartment key. Two detectives investigate the department and discover the key belonged to a friend of the deceased. That may explain the key, but the two police hit upon a brilliant scheme: they lock up all the occupants of the apartment and what until the full moon rises to see if one of the tenants is the loup-garou. Sure enough, one of the girls sprouts fangs at the first sight of the moon and she tears apart her cellmate. The werewolf is shot dead and the streets of Paris become safe to walk at night again. Later, one of the detectives confesses to his partner that he knew the woman was a werewolf, and he placed the man in her cell because he was having an affair with the detective’s wife. No, really, that’s what it says in the word balloons!

There’s some fun to be had in the Agatha Christie-esque shenanigans going on in “The French Coagulation” (an absurd title picked, I assume, to capitalize on the success of The French Connection), but there’s also some really dumb stuff as well. That last-second confession makes no sense (why would the cop spill the beans like that?) and the act itself is based on a whopper of a coincidence. I like Bermejo’s stark art but his werewolf is about as cuddly as they come. Can’t a female werewolf be fearsome too? -Peter

Jack-The best things about this issue are Ken Kelly's cover painting and the inside front and back cover art by Jose Gonzalez, the best Vampirella artist. The stories (53 pages of them) go from meh to terrible. Best by default is "The Head-Hunter of London," in which poor, overworked Leopold Sanchez tries his best to draw a sexy Vampirella but is hampered by another blah script by Butterworth. I thought the turnabout, where Vampi goes from hunted to hunter, was not bad, and the final panel was nice.

"The Curse of Castle Vlad!" is way too long (Moench seems to write as if he has a page quota), but at least it gives us a chance to enjoy some art by Auraleon. "The French Coagulation" introduces new artist Luis Bermejo (at least, I think he's new), and he's not bad, though the story is a weak mystery with a werewolf. I gave the other three stories one and a half stars each: "The Sultan of 42nd Street" takes one of those bizarre Wessler twists when Amanda decides to become a hooker to make some quick cash. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" has below-average Maroto art, though I was surprised by the ending (unlike Peter). "The Circus of King Carnival!" is utterly incomprehensible, though Maroto sure can draw a cute butterfly girl. This has to be one of the lesser issues of Vampirella we've read in a while.

Next Week...
A two-parter starring

From Creepy 68


Quiddity99 said...

Warren just can't stop with the production issues it seems, this is the third time in four original issues that they screwed something up, although its at least not as embarrassing as the issue's cover story missing. In either case fairly good story to kick off the issue. "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" just seems too ambitious in my eyes, with all these different storylines going on (and in a rarity, nothing horror or supernatural related). Alcazar continues to provide some strong art though. "Reflections in a Golden Spike" I liked a bit better, it also is featured on the back cover, one of Warren's more violent ones. Strong effort by Boudreau and Corben with "Anti-Christmas", showing us religious zealots can be just as evil as the Satanists they are fighting against. "The Christmas Visit" was my favorite story of the issue as well; always happy to see Mones art and what an ending! The final story's ending I could see coming a mile away and reminds me of the old EC story "A Sock for Christmas". Great art from Sanchez though who provides a whopping 4 stories this month. Overall I too was fairly happy with the Christmas issue; kudos to them for making "A Gentle Takeover" the only story in the issue with Santa and not going with the cliché of littering the issue with killer Santas (sans the cover). Especially since that was the subject of two stories in the previous part Christmas-themed issue (#59).

"The War" kicks off one of Eerie's best series, "The Apocalypse", although this is arguably the weakest segment of the series. Ortiz will provide absolutely amazing art throughout, arguably the best of his Warren career. The next two stories in the series in particular I am very much looking forward to. Always great to see a Lovecraft adaption, and always great to see Berni Wrightson, so very happy to see his adaption of "Cool Air" here, which had also been adapted by EC back in the day with Graham Ingels art. "The Spook" very much comes off like a guest star in his own series this month, but I also enjoyed the story. Doug Moench has handed the series off to Budd Lewis so we'll hopefully see an upswing in quality. A great kickoff to "The Butcher" series, giving us Warren's version of a mob drama. A second amazing art job by Corben for this month. I also wasn't the most impressed with this issue's story for "The Unholy Creation". The series ends here rather abruptly; I've got to assume because Steve Skeates is about to leave Warren, only having a few stories left before his departure. I figure that's probably why he also kills off Arthur Lemming in the Mummy series as he tries to draw it to a close. I was a bit happier with this story as a result (best it has been since he unintentionally killed his wife a number of stories back). The disaster this series has been will finally come to an end next issue.

Quiddity99 said...


Nothing enjoyable about the story, but I did like the chance to see Leopold Sanchez try his hand at drawing Vampi as Jose Gonzalez yet again takes a break from drawing her. Jordi Longaron had painted a cover originally intended for this issue highlighting this story that for whatever reason they withheld from using and would later appear for issue 96. I too struggled to understand the ending of "The Sultan of 42nd Street"; good art as usual by Mas, but it will be his last Warren story. Amazing art by Maroto in the next story as well, albeit a predictable ending. Maroto will draw many horror stories inspired by classic fairy tales (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, etc...), with I think this being the first. Dracula has returned, although there is seemingly no connection to his prior series in Eerie that just stopped partway through. Much like this month's Spook story, he largely comes off as a guest in his own series. I too didn't care much for the story, although Maroto once again provides some strong artwork. "Castle Vlad" went on and on and on forever, beyond that nothing more to add on that one. "The French Coagulation" is notable for being Luis Bermejo's debut; one of the three prolific Spanish artists to join Warren during this era (the other two being Jose Ortiz and Leopold Sanchez). I agree that he doesn't draw a very scary werewolf, although that aside his artwork here is really good. His style seems more attuned for fantasy stories than horror. Alas, like Reed Crandall we will eventually see a massive collapse in the quality of his art, although that is quite a ways off.

andydecker said...

"Cool Air" is such a beautiful work, among Wrightson's best. While I am highly critical of Dubay's work as a rule, "The Butcher" is one of Corben's colour tales where everything works perfectly, from the violent content to the little things. I just love the conversation of the brothers, the expressions. I have read this tale pretty often over the years, now for the first time as digital, and the wealth of nuances in the blown-up panels was a pleasant surprise.

The rest of the stories at least look fantastic. "Apocalypse" is just nonsense, but Ortiz' art is so great, "Unholy Creation" is Skeates running on fumes, but the bit with the elephant is a nice idea. Or ridiculous, your mileage may vary.

Say what you want about Moench, his "Spook" had at least an okay voodoo horror story nicely illustrated. This version is just badly written (or edited, again). Crackermeyer's origin is told twice, but the Spook remains a cipher for new readers. He is called a zombie, but you can't see it on the page. The voodoo is what? The bit with the spider? You don't need a sorcerer to kill a bunch of people at night in the swamp. This is seriously underwhelming and only saved (again) by the art.

The less is said about "The Mummy", the better it is. I thought Blasquez' art the weakest in terms of storytelling, even if he did a few very nice panels.

Vampirella #39 is the usual mixed lot. While "The Head-Hunter of London" is dumb, there is a lot to like. Sanchez is better with action than Gonzalez, and his Vampi as a vampire panels were nice.

"The Sultan of 42nd Street" gets a few points for originality, but the twist is so obvious that it doesn't work well.

Why on earth needed "Snow White" two writers? The dialogue is often just cringe-worthy. But Maroto drew some mean dwarves. He could tell a straight story when he had to.

"Dracula" is hands-down one of the worst Dracula stories I ever read, and I read a lot. This could have been any vampire, what was the point?

13 pages for "The Curse of Castle Vlad"? Why? I mostly (still) love Moench's work, even if his Warren years are too often overwritten and pretentious nonsense. Any decent editor could (and should) have made this so much better. But this tale just falls apart after a few pages.

"The French Coagulation" is absolutly idiotic in parts, aside the art nothing here rings true, and no, it isn't a perfect murder if you don't keep your mouth shut, Pierre.

I like a lot of Kelly's cover work. And this is not a bad fantasy cover in itself. But for Vampirella it is absolutly bland. To deprive this magazine of its major character is not an effort in variety, it is just dumb.

Anonymous said...

#39 was my first issue of VAMPI. This, and the next 4 consecutive issues appeared at the same newsstand, as well as 3 issues of THE SPIRIT, and a few FAMOUS MONSTERS, but no CREEPY or EERIE until Fall of ‘75. Newsstand distribution was so confounding back in the day. On one hand, it all felt random, but then there would be these seeming patterns. Marvel-wise, DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU and PLANET OF THE APES showed up fairly regularly at several different locations in my area, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN once or twice, DOC SAVAGE exactly one time, and all the Horror/ Monster b/w titles (VAMPIRE TALES, MONSTERS UNLEASHED etc) not once. Also, I never saw a Skywald Horror Mood comic out in the wild while they were being published, but those ratty Myron Fass comics were everywhere. Who would make the decisions about which mags would show up in which outlets — some shmoe at the distribution company? Or would the shop-owners themselves pick and choose? It was a constant source of frustration to Teenage Me.

But anyhow!

I wasn’t a big fan of Luis Bermejo’s artwork, but this one is pretty nice. I even like the cuddly Werewolf lady. The letter hacks were always demanding the return of Gonzalez on the Vampi strip, and judging by the monochrome pinups on the inside front and back covers, I could imagine why — GORGEOUS. But meanwhile, I liked Sanchez’ art on the strip just fine.

The Maroto Dracula thing is indeed pretty much a mess, from a coherent narrative standpoint. But story, schmory! 13-year-old Me sure liked it back in the day. 60-year-old Me gets a kick out of the top tier of Page 6 — three blatant Robert McGinnis swipes in a row, two Carter Browns and a Mike Shayne ;)


Peter Enfantino said...

You must not have grown up in San Jose, Cali. My 7-11s were deep stocked with all the Marvels, Warrens, Skywalds, and Eeries (and the Atlas/Seaboard zines as well). Looking back, I was so spoiled. I would make twice-weekly ventures to 7-11 for Marvel comics and any zines they might have and then take the bus downtown to Bob Sidebottom's comic shop weekly for any weirder stuff (Photon, Midnight Marquee, or any of the small press zines). Man, I wish it was like that today!

andydecker said...

top tier of Page 6 — three blatant Robert McGinnis swipes in a row, two Carter Browns and a Mike Shayne ;)"

You are right b.t. The first one could be "Angel", the second one is familiar but I can't place it. I don't know enough Shayne novels to recognize the third one, but the pose is true McGinnis. Great find!

Quiddity99 said...

An unfortunate downside to Esteban Maroto's art; there are many times where he'll swipe another artist, or will use common photo references. When you've read enough of his stories there are certain layouts you will see over and over again. I recall someone out there has a blog or webpage identifying all these instances where he swiped from Jeff Jones' Idyll for example.

So much of Warren's art coming from the same agency of artists (Selecciones Illustrada) means you'll at times even get different artists using the same photo for reference in their art. I recall an old lady in particular that Jose Gonzalez, Fernando Fernandez and Ramon Torrents all use at some point for example.

Anonymous said...

I actually don’t mind Maroto’s use of swipes, at all. He does somehow always manage to subsume the figures (whatever their original source) into his own personal style, so that they end up looking organic. For the record, the mini gallery of McGinnis swipes in the Dracula story are from (left to right): ‘None But The Lethal Heart’ (not ‘Angel’, but the poses ARE very similar), ‘The Dame’ and ‘The Violent World of Michael Shayne’.

And as I’ve said before, Maroto’s frequent use of swipes gives me an added bit of enjoyment in my dotage. Back in the day, I just thought ‘Wow, that guy sure does draw pretty ladies!’ These days I get to amuse myself by also spotting the McGinnis, Maguire, Jeff Jones, et al swipes and Playboy Playmates.

And seriously, EVERYBODY does it. Even Frazetta, who used to boast that all his figures came directly out of his imagination, that he never used photo reference (he absolutely did) or swiped figures from other artists (he did that too, though only VERY rarely).

The only comics our local 7-11 carried were the Marvel Treasuries. I do envy your having access to so much comic-y goodness when you were a kid — but then again, the fact that some things were seemingly out of reach just made them all the more desirable, and thus SO satisfying when I was finally able to track them down years later.


Grant said...

The first part of "The Stars My Salvation" surprises me, because as far as I understand, the Union captain doesn't KNOW the hospital is a ruse. I don't mean to get into a too sensitive area, but a Civil War story with very bad characters on BOTH sides would probably anger a lot of people now. I don't want to use absolutes like "it COULDN'T be made now," but I think it would be tricky.

andydecker said...

" from (left to right): ‘None But The Lethal Heart’ (not ‘Angel’, but the poses ARE very similar), ‘The Dame’ and ‘The Violent World of Michael Shayne’."

Thank you so much for listing them. (I really thought the not used crossed ankles of "Angel" were artistic licence by Maroto :-) ) Especially the first two pictures are so beautiful. While I actually read a lot of Carter Brown (most of it in translated editions, which seldom used the original covers), I tended to skip the Seidlitz books. Too silly for me. I am more of a Rick Holman fan. The Hollywood fixer hero/anti-hero decades before he became popular. For all his shortcomings Brown deserves more credit.

If I see these old covers and compare it with the crap they use nowadays sometimes I despair. Recently I saw one of those new "Spenser" novels which had a open red umbrella on its cover and nothing else. Spenser, the surviving symbol of the P.I. genre. Why do they even bother?

Anonymous said...

I haven’t read many Carter Brown or Mike Shayne books, but I’ve been COLLECTING them for over 35 years. There was a time when every used bookstore in the San Fernando Valley had dozens of titles from each series in their ‘Mystery’ sections (plus other series with magical McGinnis covers on them, Milo March, Shell Scott, Sam Durell, Perry Mason, etc) for just a buck or two apiece. For years I cut the covers off with an Exact-o knife and tossed the books away, but in the mid-90s I started getting interested in hardboiled / suspense fiction and ended up having to hunt down a lot of those books again, but this time with the intent to actually READ ‘em.

So now, in addition to binders full of McGinnis covers (which I consulted to identify the swipes earlier) I also have short stacks of Carter Browns and Mike Shaynes on my overflowing shelves. In addition to the McGinnis covers, I’ve even developed a taste for some of the ones with photo covers — they look SO ‘70s, so gloriously cheesy, i can’t resist ‘em! But yes, I too miss the days of great book cover illustrations.


Anonymous said...

The cover of that first CONAN TREASURY (especially the un-cropped, full-bleed version on the BACK cover) is my single favorite Barry Smith Conan image. It’s breath-taking.

‘Twilight of the Grim Grey God’ in CTB #3 is still my favorite BWS story art (especially as moodily re-colored by BWS himself when reprinted in GIANT-SIZE CONAN #1 and CONAN CLASSIC #3). Yes, even more than ‘Red Nails’ and ‘Song of Red Sonja’.

I also really dig his weird-ass early stuff in that ‘Kirby And Steranko Had A Baby While Tripping Balls’ style.


Anonymous said...

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