Saturday, February 14, 2015

Eerie...

Eerie Archives Volume 1 : edited by Archie Goodwin; written by Archie Goodwin and others; illustrated by Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Reed Crandall, Gene Colan, Johnny Craig, Alex Toth, Angelo Torres, and others (1966-67/collected 2009): Warren Publishing's magazine-sized, black-and-white comics anthologies survived from the 1960's to the early 1980's. Their creative heyday came early, however, when a young Archie Goodwin edited and wrote an awful lot of stories for Creepy, Blazing Combat, and Eerie.

One can see the over-worked Goodwin grow as a writer in this collection of the first five issues of Eerie. However, it's the art that's the star here (and throughout the Warren anthology books, at least during the 1960's). 

Eerie was one of the places Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-man and Dr. Strange) landed after he left Marvel in the 1960's. He plays around with washes in his work for Warren, and it's lovely stuff, adding a new dimension to the work of one of the ten finest artists produced by American comic books. 

Veteran artist Reed Crandall also found work at Warren, and his meticulous, fine-lined artwork worked best on period pieces. There's a somewhat silly story about a mummy in Victorian London included here that's elevated by Crandall's artwork to the status of a minor masterpiece. Crandall's work on adaptations of stories by Poe and, perhaps most memorably, Bram Stoker's "The Squaw," is wonderful stuff that merits a Crandall-specific reprint anthology.

Other artists also found ways to express themselves at Warren, free of the choke-hold of super-heroes and lousy colour reproduction. Gene Colan's stories in this collection demonstrate that he was always better when he didn't have to worry about super-heroes but could instead be moody and demotic. Angelo Torres, perhaps unjustly neglected, also did fine work on these short tales of horror.

And as a bonus, Wally Wood produced some one-page bits, while that towering force of paperback covers, Frank Frazetta, produced a number of covers for Eerie. One of the covers in this volume gives away what seems to have been intended to be a surprise in the story it was drawn for. So it goes. 

Eerie and Creepy tried to emulate the great EC horror comics of the 1950's. The writing may not have always been top-notch -- Archie Goodwin and the other writers simply weren't capable of the extraordinary heights of the EC writers, though Goodwin's work on Blazing Combat was far superior to his horror work. The art, though, is terrific. You may not want to pay full list price for this or other Warren horror volumes (I know I didn't), but they're certainly worth a look if you can avoid bankrupting yourself on them. Recommended.

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