Friday, December 30, 2005

Let's have another look at Eerie Publications - Part 1

During the 1960's and 70's, American newstands often carried an assorted variety of magazine sized black and white horror comics that used the slight change in format to get around the multitudinous restrictions of the Comics Code. Warren was easily the best and most consistent of the lot, with Skywald also producing a lot of superior material in a short space of time under the Editorial direction of Al Hewetson. Stanley Morse was still reprinting his pre-code material in the black and white format too, such as the Ghoul Tales and Shock as previously posted. There was third, much lesser known publisher of original material in this period.
Starting out, initially Eerie Publications (also like Morse) produced reprint only magazines like this one here. Looks like they had a truckload of old Iger shop pre-code horror material. By the way, all these files have been re-done, and it shows. Reproduction is much better, thank you very much!
WEIRD June 1968 or here too!

One of the many weird things about this publisher is their strange bottom feeding from the Atlas/Marvel talent pool, undoubtably due to the presence of Carl Burgos (creator of the original Human Torch) as Art Director. Anyway, both Chic Stone and Dick Ayers ended up doing work there in the late sixties and early seventies... it's hard to tell, as these guys reprinted stuff so much, often running stories on what amounts to an annual basis.
The feel of these original stories from Eerie (and Warren and Skywald for that matter) is a lot like the vibe you get from, say, "Psycho", "Carnival of Souls", "Daughter of Horror" (the film showing in the movie theater in "The Blob"), many gems from Boris Karloff's "Thriller" ("Pidgeons from Hell" is a good example) and some later shows from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" ("The Jar"), many episodes of "Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits" (especially "Forms of Things Unknown"), Jack Hill's film "Spider Baby" or the Arch Hall film "The Sadist". Some of Dennis Steckler's (Cash Flagg) work, like "The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies" delves into this, as does some of the work of the gore pioneer H. G. Lewis. "Night of the Living Dead" is a prime example. Steve Bissette also taps into this a lot too.
It's this kind of low rent, grimy, post-Addams Family/Manson family continuum that ended in the era just after the Watergate scandal. These were strange days indeed, and the uniquely American medium of comics offered an outlet for all this trauma lodged in the communal unconscious. A catharsis. There's a very primal and immediate feel to this stuff. It has a weird dynamic to it too - when you experience this content, no matter what medium it inhabits. It kind of "comes at you" at a certain point. Hammer films are the opposite let's say... they're kind of laid back, in a stately kind of English way. This American stuff is pretty twitchy and mean, and just lurches out at you at some point, in a malevolent way. Nasty is a good word to use... and sure, a lot of this stuff kinda extreme, but these were traumatic times, and it was, very simply put, just reflected in the media of those times. As Alan Ginsberg wisely said "All that bad karma had to go somewhere".
Now some of these books that come my way are missing the covers, so i put together a little compendium of the best stories from these and called it "The Best of Horror Tales". Starting out with Chic Stone's "Corpse Macabre", the gentleman primarily known as an inker at Marvel in the early 60's (most notably Jack Kirby's earlier Fantastic Four and Thor) shows that he's also has a real talent for the nasty horror strip. "Lashings of the old ultra-violence" as Alex and his droogies would say. This story is just over the top. His work at Eerie is not as prolific as fellow Marvel alumni Dick Ayers, but it's just as memorable. What i really want to know is, who wrote the stories that Stone did. Did he write them himself? i wonder....
"The Monster" is just a re-illustration from "Killer from Saturn" from Web of Evil #3 (Quality 1953) that was posted earlier this month (please go through the archives for December folks... files should still all be up - do advise me of any dead links too and i'll fix 'em!). While Warren and Skywald carried on the spirit of the Pre-Code horror comics, Eerie re-worked and recycled the contents literally. i'm still pretty surpised that not too many people know this, but there you go.
"Witchs' Haunt" is pure Pre-Code Iger shop material, made more over the top by art additions (to make the material even gorier!?!) done by (i assume) staffers Carl Burgos and Ezra Jackson. Poor Tom!

"The Unknown" looks like it could be drawn by Dick Briefer, but if it is, it looks a little like a rushed job. Still interesting though.

Closing out our little sampler, is Dick Ayers "Vampire" - a pretty traditional re-telling of the usual Dracula routine.... but the art is where it's at. Dick shows a real flair for this kind or claustrophobic visceral horror stuff. You can see he got into it. There's a kind of manic glee to his exection of the material (pardon my pun). i honestly think exposing people to this work presented here will hopefully create some kind of re-appraisal of his place as one of the better black and white horror artists of the late 60's.

They also had a very unique take on Science Fiction too, as seen in "Monster from Dimension X" by Dick Ayers in this issue of STRANGE GALAXY.

This is again, a re-cycled Pre-Code story from Web of Evil #19. i mean, just look at these two splash panels... i think they illustrate my point quite well. if you ask my opinion, the Dick Ayers re-make is way superior.

"Island of Demons" also by Ayers is an especially nightmarish tale... and by that i mean that it features the ominous tone of a bad dream. To my mind, impressive and memorable stuff.
STRANGE GALAXY August 1971 or here too!

"Mask of Evil" by Dick Ayers (again!) leads off this issue, and while not as extreme as some of the other work of his featured here, it's theme of facial disfigurement was a recurrent and popular (if queasy) topic of many Pre Code horror tales. i'm not too sure who drew "The Silver Demon" but his stuff looks like Joe Orlando (it's not him though) - but it's still good, in that nasty low-rent kind of way. "Castle of the Dead" is also by another as yet unidentified but recurring talent, and again reads like a typical Pre Code meller. On the other hand,"Vampire Monster Trap" looks to me like the work of Oscar Fraga, who thankfully signed some stories here and there. Like the "best" of the Eerie stories, this one has a certain sense of fatalism, of impeding doom... i dunno, just a very real and tangible gloomy vibe i guess. Closing out the ish is "The Dead Demons" by Ayers, who turns in a beautiful wash job for this story... and that dialogue! "There's a feeling of DEATH tonight! I can almost hear tormented souls calling...."
WITCHES' TALES June 1971 or here too!

"The Vampire Witch" by Oscar Fraga (signed this time) again reads like a typical Pre Code tale, but the art is just as dark and gloomy as anything you've ever seen. Morbidly oppressive would be a good way to put it.

"The Sewer Werewolves" by Ayers (yet again!?!) is an artistic tour de force. Primitive yet powerful... and definitely memorable. Using a literary type metaphor - let's put it this way: on their best days... if Warren was a punch in the guts and Skywald was a kick in the head... then Eerie was a knee to the balls. Not intellectual on any level, but as i've already said, possessing a raw primal quality that cannot be denied. Possibly recyled from this story from Fantastic Fears #8?

"The Blob" by Ezra Jackson could easily play on a double bill with the Ed Wood/Bela Lugosi "classic", "Bride of the Monster... fun and trashy! "Demon" is more typical fare, but again has that grim and grimy feel to it. "Devil Ghouls" by Fraga has an especially nihilistic mood to it, and is quite heavy on the large scale carnage factor. You may have also noticed a strange trend in the titles of many of these stories.. taking two horror archetypes / stereotypes and combining Vampire Witch or Devil Ghouls... "The Witch's House is Haunted" by Darlin' Dick Ayers must have THE most lurid splash panel i've EVER seen... and the rest of the story is also pretty extreme too. "Death Trap" by Fraga (again) closes out the issue in fine Pre Code style, down to the figure of Death illustrated as a skull in top hat and evening attire!
WEIRD Feb. 1970 or here too!

"Space Vampires", "Atomic Monsters", "The Green Horror" and "Terror on Station 1" all have a nice horrific SF feel to them, while "the Corpse" by Dick Ayers is more typical (but also good) horror material. i really worked hard to keep the tonal qualities of the grey scales in the compression, and i think it captures the dark feel of the art a lot better than my previous attempts.
The question still remains though... who wrote the original material? Anyone with any more inside info on these guys.. please drop me a line... i'd love to compare notes!
WEIRD WORLDS Dec. 1970 or here too!

Other websites of interest on this obscure publisher can be found
The Empire of the Claw - THE #1 MOST EXCELLENT site on Myron Fass (publisher) and all thing Eerie!
An incredibly informative article and history of Myron Fass from BAD MAGS!
Nice Cover gallery here
and here too!
There's even a listing in Wikipedia!

Additional information and images from previous datajunkie posts on this topic can be found here and here.

Don't fret! We ain't done yet!
More Eerie grindhouse horror coming at you the soonest!
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