Monday, May 1, 2023

The Warren Report Issue 109: November/December 1979 + The Wrap-Up


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

It's finally here! The last post we'll ever devote to Warren comic magazines. Yep, we had the best intentions when we took on this (ad)venture more than four years ago; we were going to dissect the entire run of at least the big three of the Warren rags. But reading and re-reading and (worst of all) trying to find something new and constructive to say about a line that provided us with so many thrills and chills (despite that "Dark Age" in the early 70s) for so many years and then fell so quickly off the cliff recently had become a chore. It couldn't have been much fun for our readers to read about how bad this crap was, so we're committing a mercy killing. Will I regret ignoring the last four years of Warren Publishing? Probably, but I'll get over it very quickly, believe me. If you just have to know what kind of lunacy Jim and his unlimited number of editors got up to post-1979, I recommend you visit this here site

What comes next? Well, for a while, we'll be presenting our Batman in the 1980s posts weekly rather than bi-weekly, and then... well, stay tuned for a big announcement in a couple months. I know Jack is very excited about our next project and I'm working up my enthusiasm slowly but surely. 

But now... here's the last of Warren!-Peter

Jack-After more than four years and hundreds of magazines, I have a word of advice to anyone considering reading the entire output of Warren Publishing Co.--don't do it! Instead, use our blog or one of the other blogs or companion books as a guide to what's worth your time and ignore the rest. The bad far outweighs the good. Still, looking back over the stories for the "best of" list, I was surprised that there was a fair amount of quality work, especially since so little of it was published in the latter part of the 1970s. The most fun part of this project was working with Peter, who knows more about horror comics than I'll ever know and who is always up for a challenge. I also loved hearing from our readers, who rarely identified themselves but who often had more interesting observations than I did!

Creepy #113

"The Muck Monster"
(Reprinted from Eerie #68, September 1975)

"The Laughing Man"
(Reprinted from Creepy #95, February 1978)

"The Pepper Lake Monster"
(Reprinted from Eerie #58, July 1974)

(Reprinted from Creepy #77, February 1976)

"Cool Air"
(Reprinted from Eerie #62, January 1975)

"Country Pie"
(Reprinted from Creepy #83, October 1976)

"A Martian Saga"
(Reprinted from Creepy #87, March 1977)

If we have to go out with a reprint issue, there's no better way to do it than with Bernie Wrightson, I says. The man who topped my list of Best Warren Artists of All Time dishes out (with some help from Bruce Jones and HP Lovecraft) seven masterpieces of illustrated nausea and terror. Two of these stories ended up on my Top 20 Favorite Stories List and two more just missed. A gem of an issue.-Peter

Jack-A terrific collection of artwork and some very good stories too! I gave four stars across the board to "The Laughing Man," The Pepper Lake Monster," and "Cool Air" when we first reviewed them, and all seven of the stories have great art, with the most notable exception being "Country Pie," which features Wrightson inking Infantino. It's not bad, it's just not up to the other six tales.

Eerie #106

"An Angel Shy of Hell!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #64, August 1974)

"Kansas City Bomber"
(Reprinted from Eerie #83, May 1977)

"Brass Monkey"
(Reprinted from Eerie #84, June 1977)

"Gonna Nuke Mankind Right Outa My Hair"
(Reprinted from Eerie #85, August 1977)

"The Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #79, May 1976)

According to my (some would say anally) detailed notes, there is only one story here that blew me away and that's "Super-Abnormal," which really doesn't belong. The rest are only so-so and a couple are downright dreadful. Down the road a bit from December 1979, these reprint packages will appear more frequently and sub-par material will get a second life.-Peter 

Jack-Who was clamoring for a collection of the Hard John saga with a dopey Mad parody tacked on at the end? When we first reviewed these stories, I gave none of them more than two and a half stars. Jim Stenstrum did some good work for the Warren mags, but this isn't it.

Vampirella #83

"The God of Blood"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #30, January 1974)

"The Betrothed of the Sun-God!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #31, March 1974)

"Second Childhood"
(Reprinted from Creepy #88, May 1977)

"Yellow Heat"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #58, March 1977)

(Reprinted from Vampirella #32, April 1974)

A much better repackaging of older material than Eerie #106, this Vampirella "Annual" contains the unnerving "Second Childhood" and the fan-fave, "Yellow Heat," by the Jones/Heath team. Looking back at 80+ adventures starring our favorite Drakulonian, there's nothing to recommend, save the usually-consistent art. With long runs of a Marvel or DC character, you can pinpoint certain arcs (Iron Man and his alcohol problems; Batman: Year One; the death of Gwen Stacy, etc.); with Vampirella, I can't tell you one arc or story that remains in my brain. Archie (and later Dube) just could not find that formula to make Vampi anything more than a pin-up.-Peter

Jack-But what a pin-up! The highlight of the Vampirella stories is always the art, and we get two nice examples of Jose Gonzalez's skill here, along with a fine, new cover. The stories are nothing special. "Yellow Heat" is strong but I didn't think much of "Second Childhood" when we reviewed it. "Harry" has nice art by Jeff Jones and little else.

Eerie #107

"The Last Horizon"★1/2
Story by Leopoldo Duranona & Cary Bates
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Bad Company"★1/2
Story by Jim Stenstrum & Alex Sothern
Art by Pepe Moreno

"The Prophecy"
Story by Bill Kelley
Art by Nestor DeLeon

Jesse and Alison, the Horizon Seekers, escape from the giant cockroaches, with Jesse carrying Merlin on his back. After encountering a ruined city where the cockroaches are crawling over everything, the trio are suddenly transported up onto a spaceship, where they meet aliens who resemble haystacks with elephant heads. The aliens give a short summary of world history and claim responsibility for the end of the dinosaurs and the creation and end of mammals. Not understanding why some survived the latest cataclysm, they have been using Jesse, Allison, and Merlin as test subjects and watching their progress. The aliens are baffled by the humans' ability to survive! Merlin leaps onto the ship's power crystal, causing it to explode and kill everyone.

This page had to be reproduced in full.
Suddenly, we are in the home of Leo Duranona, comic artist, who has just drawn the last panel when two guests arrive. They look just like Jesse and Allison! Outside the window, a cloud is descending! What does it all mean?

This is the end of the Horizon Seekers? We read all of those stories in all of those issues to come to this? The adventure ends about as stupidly as it began, with the aliens giving a recap and Merlin jumping on what looks like a pile of plastic blocks. The old bit about the comic book artist drawing himself into the story and having a circular finale puts the bow on this package of cliches. The art is as bad as ever.

On "Beastworld," Ruth thanks Tyler for loving her the way a man should love a woman, while Thomas gets the hots for Monica and orders her to take off her clothes. She gives him a knee to the crotch and then he socks her in the jaw to show her who's boss before forcing himself on her. Ruth and Tyler find a hive of giant bees, torch them, and release a waterfall of honey; Monica knocks Thomas out with a rock and goes searching for Tyler, who is busy giving Ruth what she really wants yet again. Monica is nearly hit by a bolt of lightning!

I wish I'd been hit by a bolt of lightning when I set out to read this dreck. Bruce Jones must have decided to write the worst story he could think of and make the men as offensive as possible. The only thing saving it all is the art by Marcos, which is at least competent.

Spider Andromeda and Mac Tavish hide inside the servicing machine known as Ida Lizer while the election on Rara Avis begins. Gorgo, head of Rainbow Mining Corp., buys the election and orders the murder of Lazard. Mac falls hard for Ida, who reveals that she's really a computer without feelings. Mac tells Spider he should give up on his rebellion; instead, Spider kidnaps Lazard at gunpoint and tells him of Gorgo's treachery. Lazard doesn't believe it and is killed. Gorgo wins the election as planned.

I can see why Jim Stenstrum took his name off "Bad Company" and used a pseudonym. It's warmed-over Star Wars with unappealing art by Moreno. It's hard to know what's going on and even harder to care; so little happens in each chapter that it's difficult to summarize. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly...oh, never mind.

After the annual barbarian invasion, a peasant village is visited by a young, pregnant woman who gives birth to a beautiful daughter. An old hag wonders if "The Prophesy" will be fulfilled as she tosses the blood-soaked birth shroud off of a cliff, wondering if the cry from within was some sort of deviltry. The child's mother dies and the girl grows up into a beautiful young woman named Nyra.

One day, the king appears to pick a bride and his son, the prince, is captivated by Nyra's beauty. Years later, the prince has become the king, and he comes to Nyra's village, proposes marriage, and gains a wife. The old hag hopes the prophesy is coming true. Nyra chides her husband to go into battle and he is quickly killed; suitors come from far and wide to claim the widow's hand and she insists that they fight each other for the privilege. One of the final two combatants embarks on a quest to the outer regions to slay a monster that follows him back to the castle. The prophesy is fulfilled when the monster puts the crown on its head and becomes king.

This story starts out fairly well but doesn't succeed at the end. Is the monster supposed to be the thing in the birth shroud that the old woman tossed over the cliff? If so, it's not made very clear. At least the art is decent--easily the best in the issue. Still, this is a sad way to say goodbye to the Warren mags that we've been dissecting for so long.-Jack

Leo Duranona's art is so weak in "The Last Horizon" that when one of the characters says "See for yourselves--the worst is yet to come--an horizon of black death," I expect one of his traveling companions to answer back: "Dude, all I can see is a white mountain with some sketchy black lines!" Leo's art almost makes his prose (As the first glimmers of dawn filter through night's dark mantle....) his strong suit. Well, that is unless you actually read this dopiness. The whole "it was all just a comic strip... but maybe not" twist ending is eye-rollingly bad.

"Beastworld" continues to be nothing more than soft-core nonsense, with lots of female moaning and big Marcos boobs. Nothing resembling a story here. "Beastworld" will continue for three more numb-skulled installments. It seems like Jim Stenstrum was trying to introduce some PK Dick-ian elements into "Mac Tavish" so I'll give him points for that. Since Stenstrum removed his name from the credits (and replaced it with the Alabaster Redzone pseudo), I assume he was just as exasperated with Star Wars mania as I was (and still am). The art is just awful; there's no flow or unique character visuals (Andromeda sure looks as though he was lifted from a batch of Planet of the Apes stills). Moreno's graphics aren't quite as miserable as Duranona's, but they're hovering right above. By process of elimination, "The Prophesy" is the best story in the last issue of Eerie we will tackle. The twist is a good one but the art suffers from what looks to be a paucity of ink. Everything is so blindingly white. What do they say? What's the first thing that goes when a funny book company is going bankrupt?



 "The Disenfranchised" (Eerie #39, April 1972)
2 "Thrillkill" (Creepy #75, November 1975)
3 "Collector's Edition" (Creepy #10, August 1966)
4 "Jenifer" (Creepy #63, July 1974)
5 "The Christmas Visit" (Creepy #68, January 1975)
6 "The Third Night of Mourning" (Creepy #49, November 1972)
7 "Boxed In" (Creepy #33, June 1970)
8 "Nightfall" (Eerie #60, September 1974)
9 "A Matter of Routine" (Eerie #5, September 1966)
10 "Rescue of the Morning Maid" (Creepy #18, January 1968)
11 "Like a Phone Booth, Long and Narrow" (Creepy #44, March 1972)
12 "Overworked" (Creepy #9, June 1966)
13 "Lycanklutz" (Creepy #56, September 1973)
14 "An Unprovoked Attack on a Hilton Hotel" (Creepy #73, August 1975)
15 "Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit!" (Creepy #79, May 1976)
16 "Tale of a Fox" (Creepy #100, August 1978)
17 "Bless Us, Father" (Creepy #59, January 1974)
18 "Temple of Seilos" (Creepy #88, May 1977)
19 "The Muck Monster" (Eerie #68, September 1975)
20 "A Martian Saga" (Creepy #87, March 1977)

Favorite Writer: Archie Goodwin
Favorite Artist: Bernie Wrightson
Favorite Cover Artist: Frank Frazetta
Favorite Cover:

Jack (in chronological order)

1 "Monster Rally" (Creepy #4, 1965)
2 "Enemy" (Blazing Combat #1, October 1965)
3 "Hot Spell!" (Creepy #7, February 1966)
4 "Collector's Edition!" 
5 "Act, Three!" (Creepy #18, January 1968)
6 "The Fall of the House of Usher" (Eerie #20, March 1969)
7 "The Soft, Sweet Lips of Hell!" (Vampirella #10, March 1971)
8 "Parting is Such Sweet Horror!" (Eerie #34, July 1971)
9 "It" (Creepy #53, May 1973)
10 "Terror Tomb" (Creepy #61, April 1974)
11 "Jenifer"
12 "The Pepper Lake Monster" (Eerie #58, July 1974)
13 "Nightfall"
14 "Cool Air" (Eerie #62, January 1975)
15 "Daddy and the Pie" (Eerie #64, March 1975)
16 "Death's Dark Colors" (Eerie #67, August 1975)
17 "Skimpole's Monsters" (Vampirella #61, July 1977)
18 "The Laughing Man" (Creepy #95, February 1978) 
19 "Professor Duffer and the Insuperable Myron Meek" (Creepy #100, August 1978)
20 "Lair of the Assassins" (Eerie #105, October 1979)

Favorite Writer: Archie Goodwin
Favorite Artist: John Severin
Favorite Cover Artist: Jose Gonzalez
Favorite Cover:

Next Week...
Jack and Peter jump into
a very controversial story!


Anonymous said...

I won’t deny that I’ll miss the every-other-Monday Warren reviews but I certainly understand your decision to throw in the towel, and I thank you both for your heroic efforts to chronicle the Warren Era as far as you did.

I know I haven’t been posting much lately, but I HAVE been lurking and reading along. When you announced that you were going to be calling it quits, I went to the GCD to see if there was anything really worthwhile in the last few years, and the highlights are few and far-between. A handful of stories inked by Toth over pencils by Infantino, Tanghal and Duranona — Vampirella going full-frontal nude in several stories — the first US appearance of Abuli and Bernet’s Torpedo in the ROOK — some nice art in the tacky 1984 /1994 (Maroto, Corben, Thorne etc) — and that’s about it.

Anyhow, it’s been a blast and I look forward to seeing what you guys have up your sleeves going forward.


Peter Enfantino said...

Thanks b.t.-
for showing up and leaving comments. Obviously, the plan was to run all the way DOWN with Warren but, as time went on, it became apparent we didn't have anything to say about nothing.

As for what's up next: we'll be doing Batman in the 1980s on an accelerated weekly schedule until we run out of 1980s and then we're going to tackle something Jack has been wanting to do since he was knee high to a grasshopper -- Batman in the 1960s!

And Jack will also be jumping in to my Atlas/Marvel dissection once the pre-code ends and we'll both be doing story-by-story reviews of the post-code Atlas/Marvel sci-fi/horror comics. Those projects should keep us busy for the next few years.

Jim Stenstrum said...

In the words of Douglas Adams: "So long and thanks for all the fish."

Jack Seabrook said...

Jim, thanks for being a good sport!

Quiddity99 said...

Congrats on the conclusion to your coverage of Warren. It's been fun reading your thoughts every other week for the past 4 years. I'm really going to miss it, especially as I'm not a superhero guy, so the Batman stuff doesn't hold much interest for me. You're at a pretty good spot to wrap it up. Louise Jones quits a few months after this and Warren goes through a cycle of editors that never last that long (including Dubay coming back under a pseudonym) as well as a stretch that is quite obviously them just pumping out all the crappy old inventory stories that they have. And eventually every other issue is a reprint. They also push quite a lot harder in the sci-fi and the superhero direction, which Warren was clearly never suited for. Personally I think Vampirella stands up pretty decently the rest of the run, aside from the stories featuring the titular character. They go on a stretch where we get more long form stories, including several from Bruce Jones and Archie Goodwin that are fairly strong, and at the very least you still have good art from Jose Ortiz, Rafael Auraleon, Esteban Maroto, Luis Bermejo and eventually Jose Gonzalez coming back. As for Creepy and Eerie... yikes. Both magazines become dominated by the Filipino artists who outside of Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala and Noly Panaligan I never particularly cared for. At least when the stories were bad, Warren historically had very strong art. Not anymore. There's very much a "sameness" feel throughout each issue of Creepy. Eerie is all the worse with the superhero crossovers and horribly drawn E.R. Cruz stories dominating the magazine. There's the occasional highlight; Val Lakey delivers some good stories, an artist named Bob Morello shows up for an extremely bizarre three part series in Eerie and while they're all 10 year old reprints of Europoean series, Victor de la Fuente's Haxtur and Haggarth series are pretty good. Still, for Creepy and Eerie maybe only 10 - 15% of what's left is worth reading.

This Berni Wrightson reprint issue was actually my first exposure to all these Warren Wrightson stories and is quite the highlight! The Horizon Seekers finale is totally out of left field, but I'm totally on board with it. His people may be quite ugly looking, but Duranona's ability at drawing extremely bizarre aliens is off the charts. Can't say I have anything good to say about the rest of the issue!

Quiddity99 said...

My Warren highlights:
Favorite Writer: Bruce Jones
Favorite Artist: Luis Garcia
Favorite Cover Artist: Enrich
Favorite Cover: Vampirella #35

Top stories (organizing by title rather than in order of favorite):
The Picture of Death (Creepy #45)
A Scream in the Forest (Creepy #53)
Jenifer (Creepy #63)
Thrillkill (Creepy #75)
In Deep (Creepy #83)
Soul of Horror (Eerie #3)
The Disenfranchised (Eerie #39)
Mordecai Moondog (Eerie #71)
The Other Side of Heaven (Vampirella #28)
Rendezvous (Vampirella #35)
The Wolves At War's End (Vampirella #43)
Magnificent Ephemeral (Vampirella #57)
Yellow Heat (Vampirella #58)
Zooner or Later (Vampirella #78)
The Night Willa Jane Gornley Went Home (Vampirella #82)

Top series:
Night of the Jackass
Dr. Archaeus

Worst content Warren every published? Well most of that comes after this point, but the lower points for me that I can think of include the Climbers of the Tower (Creepy #50), Side Show (Creepy #50), The Clone (Creepy #62), John Donne and the Asteroid Pirates (Vampirella #80) and... the vast majority of The Rook stories. The Rook was good for maybe 8 - 10 stories or so but since then was 20 - 25 extremely overwritten pages per issue filled with stories that carried pretty much no stakes and characters that never developed. Worst Warren writer? It's the ultimate match up between Don McGregor and T. Casey Brennan.

John Scoleri said...

Bummer... I've been waiting all these years to jump in to discuss GOBLIN once you guys got to June 1982!

Grant said...

When it comes to Warren, I can't help liking the "'Dark Age' of the early ' 70s" a lot, but that's one of the few areas where I disagree.

Either way, I've really enjoyed all these reviews.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Grant! We appreciate all of your comments.

Todd Mason said...

Well, alas, I first discovered Warren (an their competitors in b&w large-format comics) in those early '70s as well, and they put me off them PDQ, despite my love at the time even for relatively cheesy Gold Key and Charlton and DC and Marvel horror comics, much less the better examples (particularly '50s reprints at DC and Marvel) that would pop up from each of those lines...I might Just have seen one collection from HELP! in those years, to give me a sense that Warren might once've done something worthwhile...congratulations on your self-liberation.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Todd! Free at last!