Friday, April 15, 2011

Eerie #3: "The Lighthouse!" (Al Williamson art)

Download Eerie #3

Comic book fans, and specifically EC fanatics, must have lost their minds when the first issues of Creepy and Eerie appeared on the newsstands. Not only were they the first real attempts to do an EC-like horror anthology in ages, their pedigrees were simply beyond dispute. Warren hired the best of the best, the most talented comics artists (many of whom had worked for EC before its unfortunate end) and the most brilliant of writers.

One writer in particular set the tone for the magazine: the late, lamented Archie Goodwin. Archie is still spoken of with the quiet tones one uses when speaking of saints, but beyond being an extraordinary editor, he had this format down cold. In those first issues, we see again and again how he manages to give a literary quality to even the most galloping bit of shaggy-monster goings-on. He knew how to deliver the punch line to a story like few ever learn these days, with shotgun volume, but sniper-rifle accuracy. And above all, he had taste.

His artists rose to the occasion. You could see the incredible line work of Reed Crandall, the inimitable curves and shadows of Gene Colan, and a who's who of the best, most tasteful, and most accomplished artists the industry had to offer. Adams, Toth, Ditko, on and on... these people must have been delighted at the macabre delicacies offered in Creepy and Eerie. Breaking the censoring shackles of the Comics Code Authority must have been a bloody pleasure.

Then everything went to hell, somehow. The money dried up, Archie had to leave as editor, and the company was forced to rely, after issue #11, on lesser-known creative talents and reprints until regaining their funding and reputation in their salad days, a few years later.

I'm told this is called Warren's "dark period."

And I think it's apt, but not in the way most collectors mean. I don't find this period to be without merit. To the contrary, I think this is one of the most entertaining periods in the magazine's history.

Story after story by artists who either left comics or never really managed to get a proper toehold. Writers whose names I do not recognize. Lacking Archie Goodwin's experience and discernment, these people had to use the tools they had to tell their stories... a little grubbier, a little grittier, and a little... shall I say it?

A little eerier.


Cover painting: Frank Frazetta
Script: Archie Goodwin
Pencils: Al Williamson
Inks: Al Williamson
Letters: Ben Oda

  • in Eerie Greatest Hits (Harris Comics, 1994 series) #[nn]
  • in Eerie (K. G. Murray, 1974 series) #5

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