1970s Horror Comics, Old and New: Eerie and Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror
In time for coincidence with Hallowe’en, a friend recently pointed me at Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror, a magazine walking in the path of such 1970s Warren horror magazines as Creepy and Eerie. I picked up a pdf copy just before the etsy store went on a bit of a break while The Bloke (Jason Crawley) moves house and shop. (30 October, 2017: The Bloke’s site is back up and I just bought two more issues at the online shop.)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was really only a superhero guy and a light Marvel horror/monster guy (Son-of-Satan (blogged about here), It, Strange Tales) when I was 10-15 years old, so the Warren style wasn’t really my bag back then.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
But reading Bloke’s Tomb #16 was fun. There were six stories, featuring mortals running into ancient goddesses, witchcraft, a haunted house and the devil, as well as first contact with aliens and carnivorous trees in dark scifi. Obviously none of the stories ended very well for the people making these encounters.
Jason (the editor) writes about half the stories and other writers do the rest. The art is high quality, hewing to the style of Warren’s old magazines.
I’ll buy the earlier issues, but while waiting for Bloke’s shop to start selling the pdfs again, I found some old Eerie magazines (#51-57, 1974).
Eerie billed itself as horror adventure and it was a ton of fun. I found that each anthology issue was a mix of stand-alone stories and lightly-serialized pieces (not as serialized as those in 2000AD (blogged about here and here) – any one of these could be read on its own, but a through-line is clearly there).
Some of the stories from the six issues of Eerie I enjoyed were:
The Mummy Walks: a story about a modern guy with his consciousness trapped in a mummy’s powerful body, but he can’t transfer back to his own body, because thieves stole the amulet that put him there, so he’s a wanderer trying to find the amulet. In the meantime, issue after issue, he runs into magicians, ghouls, grave-robbers, werewolves, murderers, etc.
Curse of the Werewolf: A man is a werewolf and he’s been cursed by a Roma witch to remember all that he does when he is under the influence of the full moon.
In a neat twist I haven’t finished reading, he also gets put into a mummy’s body, so he’s a lycanthrope mummy! I didn’t see that coming, but he sure is destructive to those around him.
The Hacker: This is not the kind of hacker we think of in 2017. In 1974, they meant a guy running around 1880s London dismembering people (hacking them with a cleaver). This is an ongoing police procedural with the early Scotland Yard.
Dax the Warrior: hit its final story in one of my first issues, so I didn’t see what came before, but here an angel of Death comes to take him and he resists her, even turning her from her master, but then Death comes in to punish the angel and send Dax back to the land of the living, where (twist!) he’s laying on the battlefield, his spine hopelessly broken.
A neat one-shot story was The Beheaded, featuring con artists trying to get the location of a hidden treasure in a mansion from a headless ghost. It should surprise no one that the con artists ought probably to have stuck with bank jobs.
The Spook: is about a dead guy who ends up fighting a voodoo priestess who is raising the dead as zombies. And It: The Terror of Foley Mansion is about a haunted mansion and the post-living who protect it from trespassers and thieves.
Some of the stories I’ve brought up are silly, perhaps not in the sense the creators intended, but most are internally cohesive and earnest in their suspension of disbelief, such that more than four decades later, they’re still potent.
I’m going to check out more Eerie magazines, and its heir, Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror. You might want to as well. Happy Hallowe’en!
Derek Künsken writes science fiction, fantasy and horror in Gatineau, Québec. This weekend, he’s in Austin, Texas, for the film festival, and then in San Antonio for the World Fantasy Convention. Then he’s off to Chengdu, China as a writer Guest of Honour at the 4th International Science Fiction Conference. Keep up with his tweets at @derekkunsken.
I love the Magazine format era of comics. It essentially died as soon as I was aware of it. One of my all time favorite comics is the Creepy Magazine “Ressurection” issue which I bought and read and read and read till I’d almost memorized the thing… “Our Uthu becomes a Man – and a Man shall have what he wants – IF…!” Then during a vacation my Dad’s new wife ‘accidentally’ used it for fire kindling and it was like $300 on the collector’s market for ten years so I couldn’t get another one for a while…
The magazines were very popular and for comics stories they skated the comics code to cater to a more adult audience. This is the market Heavy Metal thrived in.
What killed it was really the consolidation of publishers, the monopolization and the overall media “Political Correctness” push. Some elite CEO dryly sitting in a meeting where he has to attent coz he gets paid 10x more than all the lick-up smithers in the room before a vacation and then a trip to sacrifice babies at a “Grove” doesn’t have time or care to read 1984/1994 for the latest “Ghita of Alizzar”… Warren himself had a long bout with cancer and some problem with his accountant, and he was the main train driving it into the 80s.
It’s really nice that years later there are some so appreciative of this memory as to do one themselves, including in print. There’s also “Creeps” another modern publication.
For anyone getting an interest – well certainly support the modern creators – a quick search of the Internet archive can find digitized scans of many Warren magazines (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella) – and there’s newsgroups if anyone tries to CopyWRONG claim them off the archive…Newsgroups can’t be traced for download like a Torrent can, just not as instant. Also ebay is good – lots of people dumping dog-eared copies (reading quality) for $3 + shipping.
I don’t break the bank buying $300 issues (almost did for that Creepy) but lots of ones for a few $ to read – it’s good for the art and the history – you see how things were formatted, how the graphic design worked – the ads and the letters columns… Stuff modern “Digest” cut out. Case in point, modern SJW Marvel comics – try reading when they published stuff that was progressive in a radical way – like Tomb of Dracula when a black character – Blade – yes THAT blade started to run the show – the letters column looked like a flame war on Stormfront… Later in the Star Wars Marvel comics they had Leia getting mad that Luke kept having pretty red skinned ladies continue to hit on him. -from a red skinned, mostly pretty by human standards alien race called “Zeletrons”.. And some letters went “I like Leia a lot – but how can you make her a Bigot!?” coz the kids reading it didn’t get the subtle romantic jealously – Leia wanting both Luke and Han to be ready to fight over her… It was because it was before Empire Strikes back when it was revealed…you know.
The Warren magazines were something I never had the chance to enjoy as a kid too, but the first few volumes of Dark Horse’s bound EERIE and CREEPY releases that I bought turned out to be fairly staid and uninspired. Are there any runs that those in the know would recommend?
The modern collections really are good at messing stuff up. The substance without the spirit. Just a dry collection of stories, often the ones easy to get royalties to, nothing from artists still active (or alive) and none of the gems.
The real way to experience these is through the magazines themselves. I was a bit too young to have read them off the newsstand with few exceptions. (that last Creepy – and due to Marvel the long lived Savage Sword of Conan) However, they were not ‘collectable’ yet, the ‘collector’s’ market still in infancy – so lots of pawn shops and used bookstores had piles at 25c each – so, quite affordably on a young budget I got lots of the magazines, mainly Vampirella.
The history is that these were created by the “Comics Code” – MAD magazine got its start that way – moving to Magazine format to escape the Comics Code. So they had more violence, sexuality, etc. However, Mad being the exception, most were still generic entertainment – Horror stories in the E.C. tradition – modern morality plays of wicked people meeting grisly deaths and the like. Not the whole picture, for even back in the day E.C. branched out into Science Fiction (Ray Bradburry stories!) and Sword and Sorcery (Wally Wood) and these carried into the magazine comics. There was the “Underground” during this time and so when artists/writers wanted to make stories that even these publishers wouldn’t dare touch they did underground press stuff. That’d be a major study and interesting book – tracing underground work of mainstream published writers – and (easier) artists. Corben is – due to art style – the easiest to mention here.
But, again, the experience is through a few good magazines. I recommend buying (not high$ but cheaply) on Ebay… Excellent art, some good stories, some ‘meh’ by modern standards – but then there’s the sub-stories (tiny one/two page things) like “Loathsome Lore” – small outtakes – the personality of the “Ghost Host” – I’ve found some of these literally erased from collections – especially Vampirella now a hot property surviving the “Bad Girl” comic book era that revived her. Secured the rights to a story or two, but didn’t want to pay whoever was feeding off Warren that day “Milleyuns und Milleyuns…” just for Vampi on the top left corner pointing “Here’s a dishonest man, he’s about to get his…insert ironic joke here”
And there are the ADS – pages and pages and pages of advertising… Ads put a window into the times – kind of how lots of ads for products from the 80s got preserved by the increasingly popular VHS machines are now put on YouTube for nostalgia. You’ll find so many pages of Star Wars ads for example – lots of mentions of one shot art books – such as the Roger Dean, Chris Achellios paper tiger brand – warning this will cause an Ebay apocalypse for spending $ if you don’t watch it.
Now, for magazines – well again I think their last defiant shout – the “Resurrection” issue – 146 – ah, I still remember the insert – “I bet you little bastards thought your old uncle Creepy was dead and buried – well you were right! I’m back with a whole bunch of brain rotting filth for you to enjoy! So, get out your Drool cups and read…!” Again, don’t spend $60 or $100 – once in a while its in a collection of reading only or reading copy $10 – $20 – worth it. (I re-bought mine from book dealers when the comics boom crashed for $12 and got a few copies) Good intro.
But then, the rest of the Creepy, and Eerie, and Vampirella and a bunch of other short lived titles…. You can scoop these up for $3 average each, often with suppliers who combine shipping. The goal is not to get a “Print Run” – nobody had that – it was to get a small pile of these stories to go through and enjoy. Eerie is good for sword and sorcery and science fiction. Another publication is 1984, later changed to 1994. Again mostly science fiction, and where Frank Thorne went to make “Ghita of Alizaar” after Marvel cancelled the Red Sonja comic and he was po’d at all the limits.
BTW – I did eagerly buy the collected Ghita – Vol1 and Vol2 – for like $30 each even though I found them scanned on Newsgroups. Totally worth it.
Some issues to look for:
Again – Creepy’s last issue – the Ressurection issue – that is usually pricey due to the Corben cover… The rest are cheap if you just want a reading copy, but still pretty good condition
Creepy 109 – Sword and Sorcery special
Eerie 59 – Dax the Damned – a Clonan but a good one with Esteban Maroto art
Don’t got all day here – but good to get a sampling. Check some of the later issues, again cheap and the stories were better to great.
Also, as in this article – we should support (if we like) modern new publications. I’ll be checking out this one – but there’s also “Creeps” magazine, currently published!
I’ve been tempted to buy the collected Eerie or Vampirella just to have something representing Warren in my varied collections until I remembered I already their Spirit magazines (missing one issue). Back in the day I read Eerie for a short time around the Hunter and Coffin issues and even tried the Rook for a bit but quickly came to the conclusion that here would be no happy endings to be gotten from these. I liked what I read but the same reason I stopped reading Dark Horse Aliens comics–the constant bloodbath was draining. My reading experience was roughly issues 57-70. Hope this helps.
Quick Note: I just say that The Bloke’s site is back up and running and bought 2 more issues as PDFs. I modified the post a bit to reflect that and the link to the etsy store is in the first paragraph.
I’m with Phubarrah on this. I have a ‘Vampirella’ hardback anthology at home, but it doesn’t quite capture the charm of the originals. There was a newspaper kiosk that sold copies of ‘Eerie’, ‘Creepy’ & ‘Vampirella’ on O’Connell Street, all dating from the same period (ie, ’72 – ’73).* I bought them all. I’m guessing the vendor just bought a job lot off somebody? Surprised to hear they’re still affordable, and equally happy to know from Gestalt that you can check out digitised copies online.
And those ads…remember the submarine? And those X-ray glasses?
* This was around 1980.