Monday, March 6, 2023

The Warren Report Issue 105: July 1979



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


Eerie #102

"Terror of the Spaceways!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Lee Elias

Story by Leopoldo Duranona & Cary Bates
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

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

Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Martin Salvador

Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Pepe Moreno

"Neatness Counts"
Story by Jean Michele Martin
Art by Buz Vaultz

The ability to draw pretty girls is of utmost
importance when working for Warren Publishing.
Restin Dane is angry that Congress is cutting funds for the space program, so Jan suggests that he travel to the future and bring back proof of the program's worth. In the future, a bitter old man complains to his robot companion about the ongoing war between the Reds and the Blues that is wrecking the solar system. He hops into his patched-together spaceship and heads off to create mayhem that he hopes will end the war.

Restin arrives near Jupiter and is impressed to see domed cities on one of its moons. On another moon, a young woman named Chryssie laments the death of her parents and heads into space on a ship to help victims of overrun Martian colonies. Unfortunately, the ship she's on gets blasted by the old man's ship. Restin happens by soon after the attack and, seeing the destroyed ship, boards it in an effort to help and wonders why it was targeted.

What does he want? A new artist!
I'm not sure how Restin travels from the present to the future without using the time castle, but that's not important. What really concerns me is why Jan refers to him as "lover" and receives a passionate smooch when Kate is just standing by. Please don't tell me that Kate is romantically paired off with Bishop! "Terror of the Spaceways!" is yet another result of the post-Star Wars need to have lots of spaceships flying around and blasting each other. I'm intrigued by the art by comics legend Lee Elias; he has an appealing technique that looks like watercolors (in black and white) and his technical skill is well above many of the artists we're used to in the Warren mags.

The castle/fortress where Allison and Jesse have sought refuge is under "Siege" from an army led by a giant! The giant nearly stomps the life out of Merlin before Jesse jabs a spear in its foot. The giant's hand chases Jesse and Allison up a winding staircase until Jesse traps it by wedging a beam through a chain bracelet on its wrist. Suddenly, everyone is captivated by the sound of an approaching army! What could it be?

More ugly panels from Duranona and another nine pages that go nowhere. "The Horizon Seekers" is like "the song that never ends"--each chapter spends a few pages wrapping up the previous chapter's cliffhanger before working up to a new cliffhanger. In a sense, it's like a Marvel comic.

Jammy is a miserable orphan who is regularly beaten by Reverend Estell, who runs the orphanage. His only friend is Rahjay, a reptilian alien from outer space who flies down in his ship whenever Jammy summons him by holding up "The Earthquake Stick." On Rahjay's ship are his hungry babies, so Jammy brings everything he can think of to feed them until he realizes that they love to eat human flesh. Jammy tells Rahjay he knows where plenty of food can be found and points to the orphanage.

Jose Ortiz is one of my favorites among the Spanish artists at Warren and he brings his trademark use of blacks to this story, the conclusion of which any reader will guess halfway through. It's too bad that even the horror stories have to include spaceships in 1979.

Ever since he was a lad, Jeff was troubled by "Ophiophobia," the fear of snakes. His dad called him a sissy and the other boys bullied him. Oddly enough, when Jeff went to a museum and saw a snake behind glass, he stared with fascination at the reptile for hours. Jeff grew up and joined the Green Berets, who sent him to fight in Vietnam. One day, a fellow soldier is killed by a boa constrictor and Jeff just watches. When the Viet Cong capture him, they take him into the jungle and toss him into a pit filled with deadly snakes, where he is killed and lies there rotting.

In spite of the mediocre job by Martin Salvador, this is a rare classic horror comic story in the Warren world of 1979. I had no idea where it was going and, in the end, it didn't really go anywhere, but it did manage to justify a gruesome last panel. This story reminded me of that story I've never been able to track down where the kid has the spider collection and the man pushes him out of the window to take his comfy bed, only to learn in the end that the spiders all live under the covers. Where the heck was that story, anyway?

Trapped in a snowbound cabin in the middle of nowhere, a man vows to kill the scavengers that killed his wife, Marie. All the food ran out when a new Ice Age dawned and the man is desperate for food. He keeps thinking he hears scavengers approaching and has his shotgun ready, but he doesn't realize that the "Tracks" of the scavenger who ate his wife's flesh are all in a big circle leading away from and back to his own cabin.

Pepe Moreno's art is slightly better than that of Leopoldo Duranona, but not by much. Once again, the payoff to this story is obvious well before it comes. Fortunately, the panel displaying Maria's skeletal remains is fairly gruesome and, best of all, there's no sign of a spaceship!

On the moon, an alien picks up all of the mementos left by U.S. astronauts and tosses them in a trash can.

Yep, that's it! Four utterly wasted pages without a word of dialogue. There's a gratuitous caption at the very end that reads: "Too bad, captain, but any race that sloppy just isn't ready for galactic civilization." A very uneven issue of Eerie.-Jack

Peter-The political debate between Restin Dane and his corn-shuckin', beer-swillin' po'-boy Grampa reads like Dube had 60 Minutes on in the background and typed the words he heard coming from the Boob Tube verbatim without giving it much thought. Old arguments without any outcome. Just like real life. Like Jack, I'm intrigued by the addition of Lee Elias (who Joe Brancatelli heralded as one of the greats of comic book artists a few columns ago), but his style looks a lot like Jose Ortiz just the same. Could be these untrained eyes, I guess. Despite my utter disinterest in this series, I have to say the cliffhanger leaves me wondering what's up.

The banal dialogue in the final panel of the latest installment of "The Horizon Seekers" tells you all you need to know about why I dislike this series so much (yes, I know there are NO Eerie series I like, but bear with me). The pace is a snail's and the story is going literally nowhere. Just so that I won't come off as a complete Grumpy Gus, I will say that the art on page 23 (which looks so much different from the surrounding pages that I wonder if someone lent an inking hand) is the best work I've ever seen from Leo Duranona. Well, it's just a big hand and a staircase but you have to take what you're given and try to find the positive, right?

"The Earthquake Stick" is like a 10-page joke that ends with one of the most predictable punchlines of all time, with loathsome, unbelievably nasty characters. I had to check the credits page more than once to remind me this wasn't a Dube script. Its only saving grace is its Ortiz art. Just when you think it's safe to open a Warren comic and trust that it's been marked Salvador-free, along comes Eerie #102. "Ophiophobia" is a deranged monologue with a heck of a lot of buildup and no pay-off. We learn that this poor kid is frightened of snakes but, in the end, he can overcome it just by watching one of the slimy varmints digest a man. Think of all the everyday fears you could dismiss if you only followed Jeffie's example.

"Tracks" is a bit long but the climax is effective (and suitably gruesome) and the Moreno art is not bad. "Neatness Counts" is harmless and silly and, lacking any words, quick and easy to read. Some of the other Warren writers could learn from this Jean Michele cat. For some odd reason, the hosts do not appear in the little boxes on the covers this month.

Jim Laurier
Creepy #109

"Vampire Dawn" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Pepe Moreno

"The Organizer" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"The Ravenscroft Affair" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Paul Neary

"Alien Affair" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Val Mayerik

"Heart of Darkness" ★1/2
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Luis Bermejo

In the Arctic Circle, a huge storm brings up an ancient ship from the depths of the sea. The men of an oil rig board the ship and discover a sealed box. Hoping for treasure, the men unload the box just as an ice floe shifts the ice and the ship returns to its watery grave. Back aboard the rig, the men open the box and are attacked by a vampire, who dispatches half the crew before being set afire. 

With several of the corpses infected, it's only a matter of time before the crew is whittled down to two, brothers Lew and Chuck. They seal themselves inside a small room to wait out the three weeks left of darkness, with the vampires patrolling the upper deck, looking for some way in. A transmission comes in, alerting them that a rescue helicopter is on the way but, before they can warn their saviors, an explosion rips through the rig and the undead pour through the opening. Realizing the rescue crew is at risk, Lew blows up the rig.

Not bad. A good return for Archie Goodwin after a three-year hiatus. The climax is a little confusing thanks to Moreno's so-so art; at times it's hard to figure out exactly what's going on in the panel. There's also way too much soap opera going on. There's a running dialogue about the fact that Lew stole Chuck's girl, Ellie, away and married her (in fact, Ellie, inexplicably, is on the rescue helicopter) that seems integral to the plot but just fizzles away in the end. What's good about the tale is the palpable dread inherent in the situation: these guys are stuck in the middle of nothing with a whole lot of monsters up top trying to get at them. I guess it's lucky they had a big stash of food and water in that room. And the fact that Archie doesn't cook up a lame twist at the end is a breath of fresh air. "Vampire Dawn" is the kind of script that would be green-lit for a Norwegian Netflix mini-series.

Four inmates facing life in prison are offered an unusual assignment in exchange for immunity: they must sneak into mob man Joe Corello's mansion, open his safe, and take pictures of some classified information Corello has acquired. How can four men make it into Corello's well-guarded estate without attracting attention? Easy. Government scientists have discovered a way to transform men into insects! 

The four cons enter Corello's house via their wings. Two of the men are killed but the survivors snap photos of the documents, which are automatically sent to the G-men, and then make their way back to headquarters only to discover they've been double-crossed. That doesn't sit well and their revenge is appropriate. Once you get past the silly concept, "The Organizer" is actually a fun little sci-fi yarn with a very clever final panel. I have the usual complaints about Duranona's art (in one panel, it appears a man is sticking his tongue out at someone but, upon further scrutiny, it becomes apparent it's just the lazy doodles.

When a farmer disappears into thin air, a slightly eccentric inventor named Robert Ravenscroft determines the man entered into another dimension. Ravenscroft fabricates a machine that allows him to visit that other realm but the incident obviously skews his mental state. The machine opens a portal, allowing a creature to enter our dimension. The thing murders Ravenscroft and then sets into London with a few days to kill. 

Obviously inspired by Lovecraft, "The Ravenscroft Affair" seems to be overly familiar territory with not much of a payoff for the reader's involvement. I'd say the prose was purposely written purple but then most of Dube's material is delivered in that shade so who knows if it's homage or just another day at the Warren cafeteria.

One of the enviable side-effects
from alien infection is unlimited
range of head motion.
A deadly growth has affixed itself to the Hermes-7 and, inside the spaceship, tensions run high amongst the three astronauts. After a spacewalk to determine the origin of the fungus, it's discovered that the alien mass has entered the inside of the ship and infected its crew. Obviously borrowing some key elements from Hammer's The Quatermass Xperiment (without any of the intriguing stuff), "Alien Affair" suffers from histrionics and very bad Mayerik art (I've never seen Mayerik this unfocused). There's a romantic triangle sub-plot running through the story and, when it reaches its apex, it elicited the same effect I had the first time I heard one of Yoko Ono's trademarked screeches; my face got almost inhumanly squishy and I had to get some fresh air quick. It's loony and it's stupid. The "twist" reveal is everything you knew it would be. This is really bad trash.

Matty Fargo, supply officer for the Interstellar Zoo Company, is shot down by enemy ships and marooned on a desolate planet. Fargo marches his surviving animals across the planet, searching for safe haven while being hunted by the Breevers, the scurvy space dogs who shot him down. 

Fargo fights off every challenge thrown at him until a tree-tiger gets the better of him. Dying, he vows not to let his "merchandise" fall into the hands of the enemy but, before he can kill the animals, Breevers show up and blast him into atoms. They then take away the "dumb animals" Fargo had captured and reveal that the critters were stolen from Breever breeding corrals. Yep, they're wee Breevers! "Heart of Darkness" is cliched, dreary, and a waste of our time. Why is it that every Warren space adventurer must be a dead ringer for Harrison Ford or (in this case) Mark Hamill? Is there no originality left in the funny book world by 1979? The ending is completely predictable and the art points out the sad fact that, by 1979, Warren had run out of premier illustrators. What we're left with is a bullpen of pencillers who pump out nearly-identical dreck.-Peter

Jack-I have to hand it to Jim Warren for cobbling together an issue of Creepy to try to take advantage of the release of the movie Alien in late May 1979. Slapping the word "Alien" at the top of the cover certainly should have attracted teens who liked the film! "Vampire Dawn" is a very good story, though I wish they'd picked a better artist. The business about a cross only working if the person holding it has faith is taken from Dracula has Risen from the Grave unless it appeared somewhere else prior to that.

"The Organizer" has a far-fetched premise but I enjoyed it and thought it could've been titled "The Dirty Buzzin'." (groan... choke-Peter) Duranona is clearly more comfortable drawing bugs than humans. The depiction of Hell in "The Ravenscroft Affair" wasn't very frightening and this was the third story in a row to have better writing than art, a rarity in a Warren mag. "Alien Affair" is the biggest movie rip-off, with a decent story and more weak art; still, it's better than the awful (and juvenile) cover. The less said about "Heart of Darkness," the better.

Jordi Penalva
Vampirella #79

Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Edward & Griselda"
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Val Mayerik & Joe Rubinstein

"I Think I'll Keep Her"★1/2
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Night of the Squid"★1/2
Story by Michael Fleisher
Art by Jose Ortiz

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Hilda Lizarazu & Leopoldo Duranona

As the police search for the murderous Dragon, Vampirella overhears Belasco and the Dragon Lady planning a big drug deal. Elsewhere, Pantha joins Robbins, who admits he's really a secret agent, on his powerful boat, while Pendragon is "Shanghaied" by a Chinaman. The Van Helsings lead the police to believe something supernatural is afoot, Vampirella confronts Belasco and Pantha's seduction of Robbins is interrupted by an emergency radio call.

As Adam and Conrad lead the police to the Dragon Lady's shop but don't find her there, Vampirella somehow hypnotizes Belasco into thinking he is being menaced by a horrible creature. Vampi transforms into a bat and flies over the water, hoping to rescue Pen and Pantha, who discovers to her horror that Robbins is really giving her and Pendragon to the Dragon Lady in exchange for a shipment of heroin. Vampi grows exhausted from flying too far and returns to her usual, shapely form, at which point she plunges into the sea.

I hope my synopsis of this mess is reasonably accurate, since the combined talents of Bill DuBay and Gonzalo Mayo can't manage to deliver anything resembling a coherent story. Like "The Horizon Seekers," this Vampi saga just keeps going and going but never gets anywhere interesting. Thankfully, the last panel says it will conclude next issue.

An old man lies on the ground, his leg broken when his cart overturned. He beseeches a passing knight for help. Later, a beautiful young woman passes by and finds the old man dead, severed at the waist by a sword. She is suddenly set upon by large lizards but, instead of killing her, they drag her to view the old man's corpse. She realizes he was killed by a knight named Edward.

For his part, Edward sits in a castle, telling an exaggerated version of what happened next. He came upon the woman, whose name is Griselda and, when she ran from him, Edward threatened to cut off her foot. Instead, the lizards set upon him and Griselda took hold of his sword while he lay prostrate on the ground. He does not tell the others around the fire what happened next, but we see that one of his feet has been severed from his leg, so we know who was to blame.

"Edward & Griselda" is a fun story that includes some entertaining contrasts between the narration and the images. Edward exaggerates the dangers he faced but we see the truth. Val Mayerik's pencils benefit a great deal from the inks of Joe Rubinstein and there's nary a spaceship in sight.

Dean Hypes's wife Alisha may be gorgeous, but she's awfully quiet and still. Hypes loses his temper when a waiter brings her salted eggs and, as a storm approaches, Hypes wonders if they should have flown home instead of taking a cruise. He thinks back to their recent experience in Haiti; Alicia was dying and all modern medical treatments had failed, so Dean was determined to try voodoo. Yolunda the voodoo specialist succeeded in bringing Alisha back to life as a zombie, but she needs to stay away from salt at all costs.

On the cruise liner, Alicia tries to get a taste of Dean's salty sweat but he knocks her away. The storm arrives and a wave crashes over the deck, making Alisha realize that she is surrounded by salt water. She leaps into the sea, where the salt will allow her to die, and when Dean leaps in after her she drags him down to his death.

My only knowledge of salt and zombies comes from the climax of the zombie episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, when my favorite reporter has to climb in the back of a hearse and sew a zombie's lips shut around a packet of salt. That scene is so seared into my memory that I knew right away that Alisha was a zombie and that salt was a problem. "I Think I'll Keep Her" is standard fare, with no surprises, and Auraleon's people tend to look the same regardless of what story he's illustrating.

When Dr. Ogilvy throws the switch, Dr. Harrison's mind is transferred into the body of a giant squid for scientific research. Ogilvy must throw the switch again within 24 hours or Harrison will be trapped forever! Suddenly, Ogilvy drops dead of a heart attack! In the morning, Ogilvy and Harrison's bodies are carted off to the morgue. Later that day, pretty Dr. Markson figures out what happened and throws the switch just in time; too bad Harrison's veins are already filled with formaldehyde.

Good old Mike Fleisher! Nothing surprising in "Night of the Squid," but Ortiz draws a nice sea creature and the story hits all of the expected notes.

While staying at a boarding house in Maine, a New York City artist named Stimson is infected by an alien "Fungus" that soon spreads and takes over his entire body. The house was built in 1830 by Corwen Bellock, a wealthy ship master who became a recluse and then disappeared, leaving instructions that his bricked-up attic study should never be reopened. This summer, the study was finally opened to rent to the artist and Bellock's skeleton was found in the room. The fungus spreads from one person to another and turns out to be of alien origin. Everyone is overcome by it and, next summer, the town awaits "the greatest tourist season ever!"

I don't know why Warren decided to run a photo comic like this, but it's a definite improvement over most of the stories featuring art by Duranona. Here he appears as Corwen Bellock and various other people take the rest of the roles. The credits on the first page list Hilda Rodigan, Hilda Lizarazu, and Hilda Duranona; unless there was a surfeit of Hildas, I suspect they were all Leo's wife. The script is by Goodwin, so it must have been gathering dust, and it's similar to this month's "Alien Affair" in that both involve a rapidly spreading alien fungus. All in all, not a terrible month at Warren.-Jack

"Shanghaied" is indeed rotten to the core. I'm not sure why Dube thought readers would be receptive to Vampirella's adventures with heroin runners (although, based on the Warren letters page, perhaps they were) but, more and more, I'm missing the Secret Satanist Society or whatever they were called. Gonzalo Mayo? Coulda fooled me. Looks more like Pablo Marcos with all that exposed rippling, glistening male flesh. The whole softcore boat sequence with "Flash" and Pantha is awkward in script and graphic execution. Robbins looks like his head has been photo shopped in every panel. Continued next issue? Why? Man, am I missing those spaceships <insert winking emoji>.

"Edward & Griselda" is an amusing enough fairy tale but am I the only one who finds Mayerik's pencils lacking of late? He can still draw a comely maiden but the rest looks amateurish. "I Think I'll Keep Her," with its atmospheric Auraleon art, is a visual throwback to the second Golden Age of Warren in the mid-70s. "Fungus" is a failed experiment; Roy Thomas did this kind of silly photo-strip nonsense much more effectively (and a heck of a lot more entertainingly) over at Marvel's Crazy.

"The Night of the Squid" is a hilarious throwback to the Atlas horror comics of the 1950s where scientists would randomly switch the brains of man and termite for some kind of benefit to science that's never really explained. I spit my tequila all over the computer screen when the squid went crazy watching his buddy's corpse hauled out of the room and Dr. Markson hypothesizes that the creature probably developed a fondness for the man who was conducting experiments on it. Or when the female egghead watches as her colleague has his brains bashed in and calmly hands the squid a hunk of chalk so he can confess. Leave it to Michael Fleisher to lift my spirits when all around me are piles of rubbish. This is sheer enchantment. Easily the most entertaining Warren strip I've read in a millennium. Give me more!!!!

Next Week...
The Rat and the Bat!!!

1 comment:

Quiddity99 said...

The Rook story makes me wonder how he would feel if he knew how much space exploration is an afterthought to society 45 years later. Great artwork from Lee Elias, the best we've seen on a Rook story in a long while. The Horizon Seekers continues to get more and more out there, with the writer/artist just throwing in whatever they feel like, but I don't really mind it. Makes me think of the Skywald series "Saga of the Victims" which was just throwing lots of stuff at the heroines to try and make it as unpredictable as possible. Been a while since we've seen a Martin Salvador story making me wonder if Ophiophobia was an inventory story. Alas, despite having read the entirety of EC, Warren and Skywald I can't recall that spider story you're thinking of. Tracks was pretty decent and reminded me of the old Jeff Jones story Cold Cuts. Aside from that stinker at the end, this was overall a fairly good issue of Eerie for me. Somewhat of an oddity with it mostly being stand alone stories though.

That's gotta be one of the all time strangest Creepy covers. Happy to see Archie Goodwin back (he will deliver the best remaining Warren story which hopefully will come up before you call it quits) and the setting was a good one, making me think of The Thing. Alas, Moreno's artwork didn't work out well for me here and I had a hard time telling what was going on or telling people apart most of the time. I too thought very much of Lovecraft with "The Ravenscroft Affair". It doesn't really look like Paul Neary's artwork to me and I wonder if this was a miscrediting. Or perhaps I'm just not used to him drawing in this setting since he seemed to be Warren's go to robot and sci-fi guy. Alien Affair was a decent story for me, Mayerik did a good job at portraying the characters as quite horrifying once the fungus took them over. Heart of Darkness featured absolutely horrible Luis Bermejo art. It's quite a shame to see how far he has fallen.

I'm quite over this Vampi storyline at this point and just flew through the story as fast as I could, being very disappointed at the end to realize that it's going to at least a fourth part. This above any other recent story I've seen from Mayo seemed so obviously drawn based on posed photos to the point where they often didn't really fit the scene. "I think I'll Keep Her" was decent, but the protagonist is quite the idiot to take his zombie wife back across the ocean if salt will make her dead again. "Night of the Squid" had an ending that would typically be quite predictable for a horror tale but I somehow didn't pick up on it. "Fungus" is a brand new Goodwin story, not an old inventory one (for a while here we will have him contributing new stuff). The fumetti approach I thought was interesting, although part of me also wonders if Duranona did it to save time in drawing (or perhaps Jim Warren saved some money with that approach).