Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creepy Obsession

I should be drawing.

I'm close to finishing my third page of the 'Haps story Christian and I are working on but I can't get this out of my head. Last week, I picked up Dark Horse's CREEPY ARCHIVES HARDCOVER VOLUME 1 which reprints CREEPY issues 1-5. I read the thing in less than three days. That's impressive for me. With comics, I tend to linger of the artwork, especially if it's drawn by someone I admire. Plus, I usually do my serious reading in bed before I turn in. That usually means I can only read two or three pages before Suzanne ends up putting my book somewhere safe because I've most likely fallen asleep with it on my face. It's why I have three years worth of comics to read and two sets of shelves full of unread novels. It's why, when Christian loans me a book, he doesn't get it back for six months or more.

But this book was different. I described it to Christian as "a tasty little treat" and I think that's true. The artwork is amazing. These pages were lovingly drawn by artists at the top of their game. Al Williamson has always been a favorite artist of mine and this book is a perfect example of why that's the case. There's also a nice Alex Toth story and other stories drawn by guys who looked to be having the time of their lives. Most of the stories are written by Archie Goodwin who was a huge fan of the old E.C. horror comics and it showed. The majority of the stories have twist endings and feature vengeful zombies crawling their way out of the grave to inflict supernatural justice on their killers. To be honest, the stories get a little repetitive when you read them all at once. But they're so much fun you won't care. I breezed through this volume. Suzanne warned me to slow down but I couldn't put it down. I read it in the car on the way to work, while I was eating dinner and while I was supposed to be watching the Olympics with Suzanne. She told me I'd finish it too quickly and be sad. And she was right. When I finished the last story I wanted more. But I'll have to wait until the end of the year for Volume 2.

What surprised me most about this book wasn't really how fast I read it but how utterly inoffensive it is. When I was a kid, Dad used to bring home all these great horror magazines. CREEPY, EERIE, VAMPIRELLA, MONSTERS UNLEASHED, DRACULA LIVES!, VAMPIRE TALES and a bunch of the Skywald books. There were even a whole slew of Warren knockoffs with horrible stories and art but with these terrifically lurid covers. Most of these books were not intended for kids but Dad didn't have any problem with Mike and me reading them. And I absolutely devoured them. I've always been a horror nut. I love that tingly feeling in my spine when I get scared. And the Warren books provided that feeling in spades. It started with the covers and went straight through to the ads in the back. Even the logos were scary. Whenever I wanted to be freaked out, I'd crack open a CREEPY or EERIE and I was never disappointed. That's why I was so surprised at how...sweet...the feeling was that I got while reading the Archive volume. The cumulative effect I got from the book was almost a sense of...cuteness. I know Goodwin would probably be disappointed but there it is. These books were done in the Sixties but they ran through until (I believe) the mid-Eighties. So I suspect as the Archives progress, the stories will get a little darker in tone. I know they eventually introduced harsher language and nudity. More mature themes. But, whatever. Dad didn't have a complete run of these magazines, having missed a few of the early issues. So it was nice to finally see how it all started. (Heck, there was even a story detailing the offbeat, funky origin of Uncle Creepy himself.)

This book was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. I can't wait for the next volume and also for the upcoming EERIE Archives. I wish Marvel would start putting out nicer editions of some of their horror stuff. The TALES OF THE ZOMBIE Essentials was nice but these full-size hardcovers are the bee's knees.


PJ said...

You know I haven’t cracked the shrink-wrap on it yet but I’m looking forward to it. Of course, I am lucky in that if I really wanted to, I could pull all my Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella’s out of their boxes.

It’s funny because I don’t think fans today can appreciate the unique place all the Warren magazines occupied in the market back at that time.

Never mind I still find myself loving some of those old stories. Probably one of the big high points of my life was going up to the Warren offices to show my portfolio back when I was 15 or 16.

I ran into Louise Simonson at last year’s NYCC and thanked her for being so nice way back when.

It’s well and about time these great stories got reprinted and it’s even better they are being put into a hardcover on glossy paper.

You might want to see if you can secure a copy of the TwoMorrows book The Warren Companion because if you’re a fan of those old black and white mags you will really appreciate the book.

Matt Wieringo said...

PJ, I'm with ya, man! I looked all over for that Warren Companion but it's out of print and goes for a mint online. I'll keep my eye on eBay but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Brian said...

Used to read my brother's Creepy and Eerie magazines when I was a kid and, like many anthologies, thought it had it's fair share of hits and misses. Sounds like this one is full of hits. May just have to pick it up.

PJ said...

Matt, John Morrow is just down the road in Raleigh. I’m sure if you called him and explained who you were he could find a copy laying around.

It’s worth a shot.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Matt,

Weren't the art and story lines just brilliant? Yeah after a time things could be looked at as being a little samey, but wow, if only we had has much great consistent stuff nowadays.

I think the reason this stuff along with the work of the Filipino artists is so great is they used the same kind of technique used by Alfred Hitchcock with the before and after shots, never the actual shock shot and for me that works every time.

There were some great stories in the Warren mags and the Werewolf story by Frank Frazetta was my first introduction to seeing his comic work, which for me predated his 50's EC stuff. I was a little older before I was able to get a lot of the EC comics.

If you are into this kind of stuff I have just introduced the Hall of Fame on my website, where I showcase the work of guys in the industry that have influenced me in one way or another in my career in comics, which you can access, through my Blog and there's lots of this kind of quality stuff up there.

I am still waiting to hear back from a few folks so I can add them, but the guys there already are amongst the greatest ever.

I'll have to take a look at these collections, even though I already have a lot of Warren comics. Books like these just sit better on the shelves, don't they?

Hope you are keeping well.

Best as always,

Matt Wieringo said...

PJ, thanks for the suggestion. But I would just hate to trade on the name to get a favor. I feel like I've already gotten more special treatment than I deserve because I'm Mike's brother. Besides, Craig and I were talking via email about the fact that it's more fun to chase something you want than to have someone just give it to you. The thrill of the hunt and all. I recently found a rare series of novels on eBay for a great price that I've been trying to get my hands on for about fifteen or twenty years. I'd found individual copies here and there for outrageous amounts over the years and passed on them. I'm just thrilled that my patience paid off. But now I need a new prize to fill that gap and this just might be that prize. I appreciate the thought, though. Thanks, man.

Tim, I was looking at your site and that Hall of Fame is awesome. Great job on that! I'm going to try and find time to read through all the text in more detail. I just knew Nebres would be in there. He's one of my favorites. You ever see that portfolio of his work in the back of the old HULK! color magazine Marvel put out way back when? Those pieces were just gorgeous. That's why I fell in love with his work. I can't wait until the Warren reprints catch up with the Filipino invasion. All those guys were just phenomenal. As much as I love the simpler-looking work of guys like Cooke, Pulido and TImm, I adore the heavily rendered stuff that Nebres, Alcala and Redondo did. I'd put Wrightson up there with them too. Thanks for the visual treat!

PJ said...

I love it, The Warren Companion as your great white whale! :)

However, I can thoroughly understand the sentiment and the enormous glee in finding that long sought out treasure and getting an deal in the process.

Heywood Jablomie said...

hey matt!

this looks like a great book to pick up, but the coffers have been a little dry lately. maybe down the line i can pick it up when it's come down some in price.

Matt Wieringo said...

Heywood, I know what you mean. I dipped into my DVD fund for mine. I save my pocket change for a while and then cash it in when a movie (or TV series) I really want comes out on DVD. This was a special occasion so I went for it. I'm already saving for Volume 2 in December.

I went ahead and emailed the Two Morrows guys, not for a freebie, but to find out if they were going to reprint the WARREN COMPANION book. Mr. Morrow was nice enough to email me back and I hope I'm not telling stories out of school but he said that it is NOT planned in the near future. However he did say it was not completely out of the question. So if you were thinking of dropping 75-to-200 bucks for an old copy, hold off a while. In a couple of years, maybe we can get ours for cover price.

PJ said...

Geez, if I had known you were going to email him, I would have implored you to ask him about reprinting the Wally Wood book by Bhob Stewart: Against The Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood. I’d love a copy of that but the prices for both the hardcover and the paperback are exhorbitant!

Matt Wieringo said...

I imagine the answer would be the same. They'll do it if they see there's a demand for it. I reached them through their web site. I'll check my LCS for a copy. No promises but if they have one, I'll send it to you.