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Friday, January 16, 2009



Well, I made my way through the first two volumes of the CREEPY ARCHIVES and they were exactly what I'd expected them to be, namely an E.C. reunion some ten years after that imprint was effectively stamped out by the Senate. The main differences between the E.C. output and the Warren Publications horror mags were that the latter were magazine-sized and in glorious black & white, and produced with more of a sophisticated audience in mind, but CREEPY still hewed closely to the model for horror and sci-fi established by Warren and thanks to that influence it took a few years to find its own unique voice, both textually and visually.

The first two CREEPY ARCHIVES are packed panel-to-panel with exceptional art from the likes of Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Roy Krenkel, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres (displaying far more versatility than he ever did in his MAD movie satires), Gray Morrow, John Severin and Alex Toth, each turning in top notch material, but since it was still finding its way CREEPY was rather formulaic in its infancy. Each early issue featured a vampire story, a werewolf story, some sort of zombie story, an adaptation of either Edgar Allan Poe or Bram Stoker short stories, and one-pagers illustrating the history of the various legendary horror archetypes, frequent tales of human flesh-eating "ghouls" (cannibalism was apparently a favorite of main writer/editor Archie Goodwin), issue after issue, almost in a set order. Thanks to the quality of the writing and artwork the stories don't necessarily get stale, but as a fan whose familiarity with CREEPY (and its sister publication, EERIE) involves their output from several years down the road, I have to admit that it felt like I was reading what may have happened had the E.C. line not been cancelled, but rather allowed to continue unhindered for another decade, its grim innovations now an accepted and beloved part of the horror comics lexicon, comforting in its very familiarity. Why, even Uncle Creepy, the host for nearly every story, is nothing more than a smart-assed successor to the equally-snarky Crypt-Keeper, Vault-Keeper and Old Witch.


But don't interpret these criticisms as a warning to stay away, in fact I'd suggest exactly the opposite! Almost no great comics series was a classic right out of the gate, not even the E.C. stuff, and it's fun to track the evolution of a classic from its inception through the moment when it blossoms into the object of fan-worship. CREEPY starts off strong and only gets better, plus these two early volumes include the first two of what the Warren books would later come to feature on a regular basis: ongoing serials. The first two are the Joe Orlando-illustrated adaptation of Eando Binder's classic Adam Link robot stories (scripted by Otto Binder, half of the "Eando" pseudonym and scribe of many of the Golden Age Captain Marvel classics) that, while good for what they are, can't hold a candle to their original prose versions, and "The Coffin of Dracula," an early experiment with an original serial. They both work well enough, but wait until you see what eventually claws its way into the light in subsequent volumes...

So the bottom line is: if you're looking for page after page of undisputed masters of the graphic form being allowed to run rampant by an editor with the attitude of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," snap these up immediately. The twist endings are mostly cheesy as hell, but that's part of the fun, so strap yourself onto the slab and witness the ongoing evolution of some of the medium's very best horror comics in five-issue doses.

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