Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WEIRD COMIC BOOK DESTROYS 8 YEAR OLD'S MIND!

One glorious day in the early 1970s: My Mom took me to a movie theater in a suburban strip shopping center in Laurel, Maryland to see the bleak sci-fi flick "Soylent Green". I was no older then 10 years old. If it was the original release of the movie then I would have to have been 8 years old but I can't remember for sure. What I do remember is that film pretty much blew my mind. (Little did I realize that by the time I was 40 this country would, in some ways, be living out "Soylent Green"! But I digest...) After the movie my Mother and I walked across the way and went into a bookstore. Once inside first thing I really noticed were several horror movie books including Dennis Gifford's infamous "A Pictorial History of Horror Movies", a book which a lot of you probably own, especially if you are over 40. I then noticed what appeared to be a large stack of innocent looking magazines on a table. But as I walked over and the top cover came into view, what I saw was not so innocent! What lay before me was the most colorful, lurid and bloody thing I could have ever - and had NEVER - imagined!

As I picked up the top magazine and gazed upon it's gruesomeness, I fell into a stunned silence, a sort of cross between shock and orgasm (at least as far as an 8 year old is concerned). What the hell were these things? I lifted the top magazine off of the pile and then noticed that the magazine underneath was a different issue, indeed an entirely different title altogether, but with that same style of grizzly cover art! As I picked up the second magazine and noticed yet a third similar styled one underneath, I suddenly realized that the entire stack of 50 or 60 mags were all different issues! What a discovery! A huge heaping pile of beasts, blood and babes! "M-m-m-mom..." I muttered. My Mother approached. "PLEASE!! OH, PLEASE!! Can I PLEASE have one? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!" I cried out in my best James Brown impersonation. "For the love of GOD, woman! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!" My mother picked up one of the magazines and looked at it. And in a that moment, a split-second combination of love and dysfunction, a decision was made that would indeed change my life, point me towards the path of sleaze and perversion, and cause Dr. Frederick Wertham 1 more roll in his Godforsaken grave (look it up), she muttered the words which I so longed to hear: "Okay, Brian, you can pick out one." Oh, YEEEEES!! Oh, THANK YOU!!" I cried, "THAAAAAANK YOOOOOU!!". I spent the next 10 minutes going through the entire stack several times, carefully studying each cover like they were some kinds of unearthed ancient artifacts from a lost tribe, rare treasures dug up from the tomb of Tut, some kinds of face-stained shrouds of some exploited Deity... Yes, I had discovered that, indeed, there WAS a God and I had the proof in my own little mits, baby! I took my time since I could, after all, only choose one. And I had to make sure it was THE one! And after studying each cover very, very closely, I decided on...

Yes, that was the fateful day I had discovered the "Picto-Fiction" world of the mysterious "Eerie Publications", some of the shittiest horror comics ever drawn with some of the goriest and most outrageous covers ever painted! Over the following years I'd occasionally but rarely stumble on a few issues here and there, and each time it was like uncovering a wonderful golden turd! With titles like "Weird Vampire Tales", "Tales of Voodoo", "Terror Tales", "Tales from the Tomb", "Witches Tales",... you get the idea. It wasn't until a road trip to New York City circa 1984 that lead me to a small comic book store in the Village where I was able to score about 100 of these things for only around $1 to $2 each! A motherload of monsters!! How lucky I felt to find so many at one time and in one place too! But how could this possibly happen? Why weren't these already snapped up? You see, truth is, back then no one really cared about trash like this. These weren't considered "collectible" comics. These were disposable horrors, the McDonald's of comic books, meant to be consumed quickly and then shat into the toilet of terror turds, flushed away to the sea of unwanted comics along with Archie, Big Boy and all the other non-collectibles. Indeed these were third-rate imitations of classier (I say "classier", not necessarily "classy" mind you) comic mags like Warren Publications "Creepy", "Eerie" and "Vampirella" and Skywald's "Nightmare", "Psycho" and "Scream". All decent rags in their own right. And yet, there was something about these others, these monster mavericks... they were trashier imitations of the trash they tried to copy... like they were saying "Fuck it! We know we're garbage, so let's just crank the shit up!". Having so many at this point I then discovered that the mags were pretty much interchangeable, that the stories were continuously reprinted from issue to issue regardless of the title. In fact some of these stories were already reprinted from 1950s pre-code comic books. Occasionally some of the art would even be touched-up to appear gorier then how it was originally published earlier! And the violence could be outrageous on a surreal level. Many times in these stories, for example, someone would get a knife in the neck or an axe in the back and that would cause their eyeball would fly out! Bet you didn't know that could happen, did you doc? The art itself was usually pretty poor, but a few of them, especially around the late '60s / early '70s, did have their own cool style, but those were few and far between. One memorable tale, "Blood Bath" (seen below), told of the horrors of LSD.


To this day I have yet to try the shit! I mean,... can you blame me? And the story titles... "The Slime Creatures", "A Head Full Of Snakes", "The Skin Crawlers", "The Blood Dripping Head"... I mean, did they just have a board on the wall with 30 or 40 horrific words written on them and throw darts at it? I also noticed that the cover art was very often re-used and re-re-used, sometimes cut-up where just parts of them were re-used, sometimes older parts were combined with parts of other older covers, sometimes they'd be the same monsters but re-drawn entirely! This was nutso! In later issues the cover art seemed to be often re-printed on the inside cover in black and white.

There was no rhyme or reason to it. Even the numbering of the issues made no sense. And there seemed to be this endless array of different covers too! To this day I am still discovering new ones I hadn't seen before! Years later I xeroxed one of my favorite covers (seen below) to make a flyer for my band Date Bait for our first ever gig, Halloween weekend (natch), 1988.

I mean, check it out: You have a mad scientist transplanting a brain into a Frankenstein monster while a vampire and a werewolf grapple with a stacked redhead! What a glorious monster mess! The closest things to rival these excessive cover overloads of famous creatures were a few films by directors Al Adamson, Jess Franco and Paul Naschy. Someone needs to publish a nice full-color book showcasing every cover! Are you listening Taschen? Hey, I can dream, can't I?

In conclusion all I can say is... Thanks Mom!

For more information check out the excellent article and cover gallery on Eerie Publications publisher Myron Fass at the incredible "Bad Mags" website (for the forthcoming book of the same name by Tom Brinkmann). There is also a nice Eerie Publications cover gallery at the Empire of the Claw website. Check 'em out!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

LSD morality tale similar to the stance of Dragnet episodes.

Anonymous said...

lol It was Dracula for me (both D.C. & Marvel). And the copy of the last episode special edition i got at about age 20 (my mom through it out...) late night weekend movies were my only lifelink in my small midwestern town, now i get to watch the uncensored versions! (trashpalace.com customer)

Anonymous said...

i grew up in a small town in upstate new york, and my mom used to take me and my brother with her to work as a part-time librarian. Somebody brought in a copy of Weird,..the one where the Swamp Monsters cut up a man on the run. I thought that the spurting eye ball was the neatest thing ever.

Brian D. Horrorwitz said...

Ha! That's because it IS the neatest thing ever!

Worried Man said...

Hey Ma! Those them magazines that gave me permanent insomnia. Wild and whacky! WOW! Where can I buy some?

Frederick said...

Enjoy them while you can, sooner or later the PC Thought Police will outlaw even possessing the old issues!

I remember taking my first issue to school inthe early 70's and freaking out my buddies with the gore scenes. Nowadays, taking one to school would get you suspended forever! If even drawing a water gun gets you tossed (just happened) then you can imagine the uproar over possessing one of these! Forced therapy for months.

Frederick said...

And when I said drawing, I meant a pencil drawing, not drawing it out of a pocket! Even making a drawing of a gun or, in the kid's case, a water gun, can get you kicked out.

This is pathetic. Give me the good old days when kids could read such violent gory trash! I used to draw pictures of machines that chopped, mashed, ground, and burned human bodies to show around to my pals for a laugh. Now a kid would be hauled off for that. Hello, 1984 world!

Kep up the good work.

oeconomist.com said...

Most of the stories in these Eerie comics that were not modified reprints of pre-code horror stories were actually pre-code stories redrawn. The flying eyeballs are generally the work of Dick Ayers.

BTW, Fredric Wertham actually lived into the '80s. I remember reading a letter-to-the-editor in a 'late '70s issue of TV Guide where he was arguing that, with respect to the effects on children of television, one would be heeded when crying “Fire!” but denounced for crying “Smoke!”