Greetings and Happy New Year comic book enthusiasts! Today we will be embarking together on a very special edition of Back to the Bookshelves, where we will be taking a look at issue #114 of Warren Publishing’s Eerie! That’s right, Sata- I mean Santa left a bunch of rad “new” old comics under the tree for yours truly so I thought why not share some of them with our friends here at AP2HYC? Funny, I don’t remember being particularly “good” this year, but we all know what not to do with gift horses, eh?
Now the reason why I say this is a special day for us is that many old comics are like doorways into the past, and Eerie struck me as an excellent example of just that. We will be traveling back in time (not literally…put that exploding hoverboard down, McFly) to September 1980; a time where even I had not yet been born (how old do you think I am?). Before we begin, I’d like to provide some background on Eerie magazine as well as Warren Publishing. In 1957 James Warren founded Warren Publishing which became well known for its horror, fantasy, and science-fiction themed stories. Some of you might be familiar with Creepy or Vampirella, which also got their start at Warren Publishing in the 1960s. It is interesting to note that some of the industry’s most influential artists have graced the pages of Eerie, such as Neal Adams and Steve Ditko. Nevertheless, financial problems and a host of other complications plagued Warren Publishing, causing it to close its doors in the early 1980s. Thank Galactus for the secondary market!
Like other magazines of its type Eerie contains more than one story, so I figured we’d take a short look at each one. First up is Star Warrior by David Jacobs with art by A.L. Sanchez. In Star Warrior we meet Lamar Templeton, who has traveled to Plutonia in search of his soon-to-be-wife’s killer to exact ye olde revenge. Plutonia isn’t exactly the most hospitable place in the galaxy, and is lovingly referred to as a “colony of sin, murder and mayhem,” which for us readers sounds just great! Along the way we meet “the Brain,” an all knowing, child-like creature with an enormous head- almost like Hector Hammond- as well as Lamar’s old friend Quade and a woman named Ingrid who may or may not be some kind of…slave, if you will.
Truth be told, there are a couple hints and nudges at adult…activities in Star Warrior which was somewhat typical at the time, especially since magazines like Eerie were published outside of the Comics Code Authority’s regulations and therefore did pretty much whatever they wanted. If that’s not your cup of tea don’t worry, since these instances are not intrusive to the story and we still get a fair amount of sci-fi/fantasy action involving flying death cars, space ninjas, and at least one photon blaster that packs quite a wallop.
Next up there’s The Executioners with words and artwork by Carlos Gimenez. Now this story is the exact reason why I absolutely love this era of comics. It’s sick, twisted and depraved, and we’ll be lucky if anyone makes it out alive (2016 strike one). In a story that can be considered sci-fi/horror, The Executioners is about the crew of the Francis Spaigth, a cargo ship that has been stranded in deep space. By the time of the story’s events, everyone is starving and the food supply has run out. With no chance of rescue in sight, “Captain” suggests that one of the teenaged crew members be killed “so that others might eat!” Yes that’s right kids, this story is all about cannibalism and desperation; two things that often go quite well together, with the former almost always following the latter (except in some rare cases). The entire story is pretty vicious, I must say, and the ending is one devoid of any hope or decency. Just the kind of thing for the holiday season!
Lastly there is Haxtur, written and illustrated by Victor de la Fuente. Haxtur serves as this issue if Eerie‘s fantasy story, and has a more “sword and sorcery” feel to it in contrast to the previous science-fiction type entries. “Haxtur” is a displaced warrior who wanders a strange land working as a mercenary, where he meets a mysterious woman and her panther “Gaah” (not even surprised by the cats anymore). The woman explains that Haxtur must help her find the “Black Stone” which will help her free her people from the slavery of the treacherous “Raans.” This all goes swimmingly, with Haxtur and Gaah slashing and mauling their way to victory rather quickly while the mysterious woman leads on towards the Black Stone. Like the true loner he is, Haxtur wanders off as soon as the stone is found and kills a bunch of werewolves. You know, just because. We get a “to be continued” at the end since Haxtur was an ongoing series in Eerie, which tells me I’m going to need to hunt down a lot more of these things.
The artwork for each story in Eerie is black and white, and there is a distinct difference in the overall aesthetic of comics from this time period when compared to more modern stories. Most of it, I believe, can be attributed to the use of computers, and while I certainly don’t think that the quality of artwork in modern comics has diminished, there is just something magical about books like this. Take for example the artwork in Star Warrior, which really reminded me of something out of older issues of Mad Magazine…and as odd as this might sound that is a compliment, and it gave me a feeling of familiarity while reading it. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, except that something was just so much less “corporate” and sterile, and each panel was full of life. Oh well, let’s get down to one of my favorite parts of this book.
That’s right, commercials! I’m a sucker for old comics and magazines; it’s partly the stories, but it also has a lot to do with the advertisements that one might find in any older comic book. This is where the whole “time capsule” thing usually comes into play, but I was shocked to see an enormous amount of Star Wars related material in this issue of Eerie! I probably shouldn’t have been surprised considering this issue was released mere months after the ground breaking Empire Strikes Back, but it was really funny to me that things haven’t really changed all that much. For example, the inside cover has ads for Star Wars sleeping bags, iron-on patches, blankets, beach towels, a toothbrush,…and my personal favorite, a poster featuring Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes from the Mos Eisley Cantina! Happily, no one cut out any of the order forms from this issue of Eerie, so uh,…I’ll be ordering that…soon. It will go nicely with my R2-D2 “desk vacuum” and R2-D2 humidifier! And yes, I have those things.
Well that was long winded! Stay tuned for future segments of Back to the Bookshelves where we will be taking a look at some more unregulated comic books, and where I will continue to make “good” on my New Year’s resolutions (writer will not be held accountable for any actions)!
What do you think about vintage comic books and magazines? We’d especially love to hear from newer comic book fans on the matter, so let us know in the comments section or on our Twitter page!