Hey… Wanna see something REALLY scary?
Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits.
FAITHFUL SPOILERITES: Please be advised that today’s Retro Review
contains disturbing themes, violence and horror.
Discretion, parental or otherwise, is advised.
Some of the best creators of the 70s at work.
A truly frightening issue.
Jumping at shadows for the next week.
The Anthology Blues.
Writer: Bruce Jones/Rich Margopoulos/T. Casey Brennan/ Larry Herndon/Martin Pasko
Artist: Berni Wrightson/Adolfo Abellan/Vicente Alcazar/Richard Corben/Leo Summers/Jose Gaul
Editor: Bill DuBay/Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Warren Publishing
Cover Price: $1.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00
Previously in Creepy: The 1970s were, by all accounts, a pretty wonderful time to be a comics fan. The influx of “relevance”, for all the bumps in the road, was adding depth and versimilitude to the staidest of heroes, while artists like Neal Adams, Jim Starlin, John Romita and oh so very many more were changing the expectations of what could and couldn’t be done with “funnybooks.” Even the oppressive yoke of the Comics Code Authority was being lifted (thanks in part to Stan Lee’s refusal to cave on the portrayal of Harry Osborn’s drug addiction in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’), and into this brave new world of comics came Warren Publishing. Though founded in the mid-60s, by 1974, Warren’s books (Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella among the most notable) were the go-to for fans looking to get their wits scared out of them, with a little of the classic E.C. black humor to keep things from getting too grim. Case in point? This issue opens with one of the darkest and most frightening comics I’ve ever seen, the story of “Jenifer.” We begin in the woods, as our erstwhile (and certainly doomed) protagonist stumbles on a horrifying tableau…
The realization that things may not be entirely above board dawns slowly, and if you know anything about the tales in ‘Creepy’, you know that there’s more to the situation than it seems. The first two pages of this story are lush in their creepiness, reveling in their Bernie Wrightson madness, as if every surface is wet with gleaming mold or coated in something you don’t know what it is (and don’t want to touch to find out.) As our hero turns to see the the face of woman he has saved, things get even worse…
The narration here (by legendary creep-meister Bruce Jones) makes the story for me, as you can almost hear the quiet desperation in his voice, echoing madly like a Rod Serling monologue in the back of my brain. Things get even weirder after the authorities get called in…
By his wife’s demand, Jim tries to find another home for Jenifer, but is repeatedly compelled to bring her back home. Somehow, the hold that the monstrous girl holds over him is unbreakable, even when he finds the family pet murdered, even when his wife finally makes up her mind to leave…
Oh… That is…
We’re going to move on, here. Jim grows more and more desperate, hiring a man who runs a freakshow to KIDNAP Jenifer from his home, and press-gang her into his carnival. The man ends up gruesomely vivisected in the kitchen. (It’s seriously too disturbing for me to show in any good conscience.) The daily horror of his existence grows too much for Jim, and he is compelled to quit his job, renting a remote farmhouse where Jim surrenders to alcohol. He can’t even go through with suicide, though the urge to kill himself is strong. Even his rare moments of clarity are tinged in horror…
Running away from his horrible… I almost said girlfriend, but it made me throw up in mouth a little. Racing through darkened streets, Jim is compelled to smash a window on the hardware store, stealing an axe, before Jenifer appears before him, her eyes staring, staring…
Gyaah. GYAAAH. I’m gonna tell you right here and now, Faithful Spoilerites, the rest of the book could be Rob Liefeld and Tommy Wiseau farting Rebecca Black’s “Friday” through kazoos while Ishtar plays in Cinerama, and this issue is getting a great rating from me. That may be the most utterly, joyfully, horrifically disturbing thing I’ve read in comics right there…
Meanwhile, the boys at Warren have more for us!
KILLER $#@ING DOLLS! Adolfo Abellan is not a name that I’m familiar with, but I may have to spend some time digging up more of his work, because this is some pretty impressive work. Turns out the night watchman who gets murdered works for Starr Toys, an up-and-coming toy company whose output seems almost TOO real. When Vice President and wunderkind Frank Grogun gets involved, he finds something sinister up with the company’s newest superstar toy, the Nymatoids. Quickly (it’s only a ten-pager), he runs afoul of one of the company’s own execs, who believes that he can control and animate the plastic of the dolls…
He is wrong.
That’s what we call an “Outer Limits Ending”, folks, with the implication that the world is about to end at the mercy of murderous Cabbage Patch Dolls (even if this did take place nearly a decade before those). Story three kicks off with a little narration from Uncle Creepy, the book’s Crypt-Keeper-like narrator…
Scott Murdock, Treasure Hunter, sets off for the abandoned mansion of Baron Lindler, only to be quickly overwhelmed by strange events within. Despite his fiancée’s urging, he delves deeper and deeper into the mansion, only to find that the treasure is a farce, a little bait to drag him into the late Baron Lindler’s clutches…
Kind of a pedestrian tale, what with its “Oh, no, what might have bitten me on the neck?” turning point, but the art more than makes up for it, delivering a seriously creepy experience that overcomes any limitations of the story. Speaking of creepy and expressive art, have you met Richard Corben?
Though Warren Mags were black-and-white as a rule, Creepy (and sister title Eerie) often had color inserts, which in this case are used to showcase a strangely fascinating story wherein the United State government, still mired in the Cold War, experiments with supernatural powers to end-run their weapons treaties with Russia. They successfully manage to invoke and capture an honest-to-Chernobog demonic presence, right before they get hit with the metaphorical stick labeled “Poetic Justice.”
(No, not Janet Jackson.)
Blam. That one’s a little bombastic, but still pretty gorgeous artwork by Corben, and a fun ending that helps to heal the scars from… Jenifer.
GYAAAH. Let’s check in with the nice folks onboard Mark Saunders’ yacht, including his mortal enemy and the girl who Saunders stole from said enemy. There’s no way this could go bad, right? (Cue ship sinking.)
Is it jealousy? Resentment? Heartburn? Perhaps all of these, but most of all, a shiny candy shell of sheer bastardry, with a nice marzipan coating… OF DEATH.
Creepy, like all such anthologies, is powered by the twin engines of schadenfreude and vicious, vicious irony (at least in the Alanis Morissette sense.) Though it’s not the weakest tale in the book, “Fishbait” does have the least attractive art. That’s not to say that Leo Summers isn’t good at his job, but his work comes across as the most traditionally comic-book-style art in this entire volume. The last story in the book leaps forward to the near future, where a new technology has been created, one that might finally overcome disease for good!
With a setup like that, there’s absolutely no way that things could ever go wrong, is there? I mean, in a book where every story has ended with paranormal madness and/or the fickle finger of fate, there’s no possible way that a doctor treating cloned subjects as subhuman is going to have…
Okay, enough of that, we all know what’s coming.
BAM! OUTER LIMITS ENDING!
The black-and-white magazine boom of the 1970s brought with it some storytelling excesses, and an honest assessment would have to address the fact that some of the shock-and-awe of these Warren books has to do with the novelty of the blood-and-gore. That said, this issue starts off with a tale that is subtle, complex and utterly terrifying, in a truly wonderful and twisted way. Creepy #63 is the real deal, refusing to coast on the power of Jenifer, and delivering several dozen pages of scares to leave Count Floyd green with envy, earning a blood-chilling 5 out of 5 stars overall. Just be forewarned: If you get your hands on a copy, you may wanna sleep with the lights on for a few nights…