By Edward Brock
The Warren Chronicles – (Pt.1)
After the runaway success of his previous venture into the world of “Monsters”,
Jim Warren decided to it was time to conquer the comics world as well.
He had found such an audience with Famous Monsters of Filmland, and now
he felt it was time to bring back another treasured concept; Illustrated
Horror. Since Horror in comics had become almost non-existent, Warren
had to find a way to skirt the system escape from under the thumb of censorship
that had nearly destroyed the market.
In 1964, he released Creepy, the first full-blown Horror comic since
the demise of E.C. Comics & the introduction of the Comics Code. Since
the code only applied to “comic books”, Warren published his
comics in magazine form, bypassing the code completely. It was an immediate
Creepy #1 - Cover by Jack Davis
From the beginning, Warren had the business savvy to hire top notch editors,
writers & artists for this venture. Although the editor of the first
issue was credited to Russ Jones, it was actually the combined efforts
of Archie Goodwin, Larry Ivie & Joe Orlando. This issue contained
stories of vampires, voodoo, werewolves & featured the only piece
of comic art to appear inside a Warren Magazine by the legendary Frank
Frazetta (though he would still continue to provide some wonderful covers
for Creepy, Eerie & Vampirella). We were also introduced to “Uncle
Creepy”; caretaker & guide to the stories inside (an obvious
throwback to the Crypt-Keeper of E.C. fame).
There were many wonderful stories in that first issue, but most fans
agree that the best one was titled, “The Success Story.” Written
by Archie Goodwin & drawn by Al Williamson, it told the story of comic
strip creator, Baldo Smudge, who hires 3 individuals for a comic strip.
Baldo tells each of them that he is performing the tasks of the others;
he tells the writer he is the penciller & inker, to the penciller
he is the writer & inker, etc. Eventually, the trio learn of his deception
& are summarily killed for this knowledge. But in true horror-style,
the trio rise from the dead to seek revenge.
What makes this story particularly interesting is a claim by George Evans
that it is based on a true event. According to Evans (from an interview
in The Comics Journal #177)…
“That was based on the guy who “drew” Dan Flagg, Don
Sherwood. The first parts were art swipes from Alex Raymond’s RIP
Kirby, and as the schedule hit him, producing strips seven days a week
plus the story, he began to hire other people to do it. These included
Al Williamson, myself and Wally Wood. He hired a whole slew of people
and it turned out, as we talked to each other, that that’s what
was happening. He was buying the story, buying the art and everything
else, but his name was signed large and clear on all these strips. The
guy was a real pain in the ass.”
Having immediately established the Creepy atmosphere of “gloom,
doom & the unknown”, issue #2 featured art by Reed Crandall,
Gray Morrow and a story of the black arts by former pulp writer, Otto
Binder. Frazetta provided another wonderful cover for issue #2, but his
cover for issue #3 (showcasing a spectral figure in a doorway) practically
defined the look & feel of Creepy.
Creepy #3 (Cover by Frank Frazetta)
Issue #3 possessed the first of Archie Goodwin’s Poe adaptations,
“The Tell-Tale Heart”. Goodwin wrote 5 of the 6 stories inside
& was quickly promoted to Story Editor.
The success of the first 3 issues firmly established the Creepy formula
& issue #4 convinced Warren to make several changes. 8 more pages
were added (though most of them were given to advertising). Frazetta once
again provided a beautiful cover & it was the first issue to be completely
guided by the competent hands of Archie Goodwin (who was now the full-fledged
Editor). Once again Goodwin wrote 5 of the 6 stories, one of which was
the particularly entertaining tale, “Monster Rally”. It was
the story of the birth of the magazine’s mascot, Uncle Creepy.
Issue #5 features the Warren debut of artist Alex Toth, who illustrates
Goodwin’s story “Grave Undertaking.” Frazetta’s
“Gargoyle” cover to #6 is a favorite among readers. #6 also
marks the first appearance of artist Joe Severin. Larry Ivie, who was
instrumental in the early issues, makes his final appearance with the
story “The Thing in The Pit.”
Creepy #6 (Cover by Frank Frazetta)
It was at this time that Archie Goodwin was in the process of bringing
in another “relative” to Warren stable. The girthy Cousin
Eerie would soon become a constant magazine companion to his skeletal
Uncle. But whereas Creepy had a chance to shine from the beginning, Eerie
had to start with controversy.
But that’s a tale for the next segment.
Talk about the first edition of Monster