By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 10/13/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: October 9, 2013 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This hardcover collects Creepy #78-83, including all of the in-house ads, letter pages, and covers!
Creepy Archives vol. 17 begins with an interview between comics historian S.C. Ringgenberg and cover artist extraordinaire Ken Kelly! Kelly and Sanjulian did their best to entice shoppers enough to put the latest Eerie, Creepy, or Vampirella in their shopping carts. The covers are beautifully rendered paintings, and are solid pieces worth more than a few looks. And now….on to the stories!
Creepy #78 starts the archive off with a bang. Originally published in 1976, this issue features story about a centaur during the Great War (go figure, and it’s pretty good!), then an Alex Toth gem set during the early years of Hollywood. This is followed by a pitch-perfect origin of an ordinary man (looking disturbingly like Clark Kent or Rip Kirby) who morphs into a serial killer before our very eyes courtesy of writer Archie Goodwin and art team extraordinaire Al Williamson and Wally Wood. Next is “Lord of Lazarus Castle,” a predictable tale with tasty artwork by Claude Moliterni (one of the founders of Angoulême International Comics Festival). “The Nature of the Beast,” written by Budd Lewis, is a tale reincarnation and memory that is just too ambitious for its 8-page threshold, but a worthy attempt regardless. And finally, “God of Fear,” a nice twist on mummy legends with some incredible pen work and impressive page design by Spanish workhorse Vincent Alcazar. What keeps this one from being a classic is the rushed ending; still, all in all, an enjoyable read!
Issue 79 heralds the promotion of Louise Jones to senior editor, and the change is noticeable from the get-go. The first story, “As Ye Sow,” written by horror stalwart Bruce Jones, is utterly horrifying—gross and macabrely satisfying. This story is scary from the first panel and never lets up. The next story, “Kui,” written and drawn by the great Alex Toth, is a minor masterpiece about claustrophobia and the fear of the unknown. It is easy to take for granted the craft that Toth puts into each page. The next story is the justly-famous “The Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit.” This is a hilarious story that could have easily appeared in Cracked along with John Severin’s other unrated humor pieces. Next up is a real novelty—“Shadow of the Axe,” written by a pre-Aardvark Dave Sim with art by Russ Heath. It is nearly impossible to read any piece by Sim without peeking under the comic shell to mine all the unfathomable depths of insanity that brew below the surface, and this early tale is no exception. Then we have “Visitation at Pliny Marsh,” written by Gerry Boudreau and drawn by Martin Salazar. And following up in the rear position is “The Pit in the Living Room Floor” (aka “where the remote goes…”), by the ubiquitous Budd Lewis and drawn by Joaquin Blazquez (famous for spending 20 years suing Steven Spielberg for the rights to E.T.).
Creepy #80 is one of the very best issues of the comic ever published. First up, an ad for jigsaw puzzles of Warren publication covers (gimme two!), then a group of really well-crafted stories: a Lewis/Bermejo offering, “Benjamin Jones and the Imagineers,” “Second Genesis” by Boudreau and Maroto, and “The Fable of Bald Sheba and Monteback the Rogue” by Bill Dubay and yet another talented Spaniard, Jose Bea. Then comes the not-so-clever-but-gorgeous-to-look-at “Proof Positive,” presented in landscape “photography” by Alex Toth, “Ain’t It Just Like the Night” by Doug Moench and S.I.’s Martin Salvador, “The Axe-Man Cometh” by Boudreau/Wessler and Jorge Galdez (the brother of Modesty Blaise artist Romero), and finally “The Last Chronicle” by Lewis and Ortiz, which is a continuation of “The Escape Chronicle” from Creepy #75 (which is just one issue outside of my jurisdiction). And rounding out a near-perfect issue is an ad for super-deluxe vinyl & rubber Eerie and Creepy masks (I would have much preferred a life sized vinyl & rubber Vampirella—man does live by comics alone!).
The following issue offers five more terrific stories: “Brannigan’s Gremlins” by Dubay and Bermejo, “Wings of Vengeance” by Dubay and Maroto, “War,” a sci-fi horror tale by Roger McKenzie and Paul Neary, “Close Shave” by McKenzie and Salvador (any story in a Warren magazine with the word “shave” in the title can’t be good news for the protagonist), “Battle Rot” by Dubay and Severin, “Billicarr and Molywambles of Glass” by Steve Clement (this guy isn’t even listed on Lambiek!) and a button-down (as compared to the other S.I. artists) Isidro Mones.
With issue 82, Creepy takes the summer off with a book that reprints five stories by Esteban Maroto. In the next issue we get all new stories, but a reprint cover—the classic Frazetta Angry Yeti Army from Creepy #15. Then we move on to “The Strange Incurable Haunting of Phineas Boggs,” “Process of Elimination” by Jones and Heath, “Country Pie” (another cautionary Warren title a la the earlier “Close Shave”) written by Jones with art by Carmine Infantino and Bernie Wrightson, “In Deep” by Jones (he’s a machine!) and Richard Corben (not a machine—he was the guy unable to finish the original cover that went with this issue, hence the Frazetta rerun). Next is “Harvey the Sharp Cookie” by Dubay and Ortiz, “Now You See It” by Jones and Williamson, and the last story in Creepy Archives volume 17, and “The Last Superhero” by Bates and Infantino. Infantino had recently been fired as publisher of DC Comics—see if you can spot the subtext and irony in this one!
For months I’ve been as critical as possible when reviewing these $50.00 hardcover Dark Horse Archives. There is so much available, I want any of you sitting on the fence to choose wisely (in your face, Dr. Schneider!). Creepy vol. 17 is one of the better collections so far. Yes, sometimes I wish DH would just chuck it and publish the Warren material in the creator centered fashion of the Fantagraphics EC books, but if that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, then I must strongly recommend Creepy Archives 17. There is a lot here. Granted, the stories are sometimes formulaic, but the art is an absolute showcase of the best still working in the mid-seventies. These are artists who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) draw like Romita or Swan or ink like Sinnott and Anderson, and they found a home with Warren. Each story looks different, feels different, and can often be used as a textbook in page layout and storytelling—especially the Toth stories.
These are the first issues edited by Louise Jones and, from all indications, future volumes will be even better. Save those pennies—with the Louise Simonson regime coming into full archival flower, you’re going to need them! This is well worth the money!
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.