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Top Monsters

The Warren Chronicles - Part 1

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Monster Mag-ness

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 success.

Creepy 1
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 Mag-ness!


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