Thursday, September 26, 2013

A 60's rite of passage

Creepy Archives, Vol. 1

Published by Dark Horse Comics


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When I was growing up, anything that smacked of horror was forbidden in my family. The only comic books allowed were Illustrated Classics and Disney. However my lifelong obsession with horror fiction began at the age of 6 when a babysitter allowed me to watch the movie Frankenstein while my parents were out. I was hooked. I was an avid reader even then and I devoured anything I could as I got older including classic horror like Poe and those great paperback Alfred Hitchcock Presents story collections that I could buy for 50 cents and hide under the mattress. As for comic books, I would read my friends' collections although Spiderman was the only one I really got into.

One day on a boy scout camping tip, one of the scouts brought along a couple issues of Creepy. We pored over them by flashlight in our tent. We never saw anything like it. Here were really scary stories perfect for the 14 year old male mentality. The gore was not as excessive as the earlier EC Comics, which we were then unaware of, but certainly more than kids in the mid 60s were familiar with. But what really stood out was the art. This was not Blondie and Dagwood. This was intricate lines and shadows all in black-and-white, perfect to illustrate horror. These magazines, not called comic books in order to get past the strict comic book codes, were not that easy to come by even then. So I have only seen 4 or 5 of them...until now.

Creepy Archives, Vol. 1 features the first five issues. The full run is slowly being republished by Dark Horse. They are not cheap. The Kindle edition went for a ridiculous $29.95! Fortunately for me, I bought the 1st volume sale at Amazon for a much better $3.99. Unfortunately for you, that's no longer the case but the price at the time of writing this is now $16 which is more reasonable than $29. The color covers, mostly by Frank Frazzeta, and the intricate black and white drawings show up beautifully on my Kindle Fire. They are definitely a blast from the past. As for the writing, it was perfect for a teenage boy in the 60s but seem very dated and a bit campy now. At their worse, the stories are hokey but at their best, when coupled with those great drawings, they are wonderfully...well...creepy. Most are original tales written by Archie Goodwin but there are a few renditions of classic tales including Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" and Ambrose Pierce's "The Damned Thing". The tales can get a little formulaic. After all, they had to be delivered in 6 to 7 pages of drawings. Usually the monster twist was very obvious and the bad guy always got his just dessert if usually in a gory way. Yet these were part of the 60s coming-of-age for many of us and no doubt a major influence for later writers, artists and film makers. This is a must for any horror fan.

Method Acquired: Purchased

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