FOR THE LOVE OF WARREN: HOW I DISCOVERED REALLY GOOD HORROR COMICS, AND SOME FERVENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEGINNERS

I’ve always appreciated good illustration and contained in the pages of that comic was art the likes of which I had never seen. No superheroes were present, but that perceived oversight was made up for with an abundance of ultra-violent b&w gore and mayhem, a knockout color section that turned out to be my first exposure to Richard Corben (whose art I immediately fell madly in love with) and the non-MAD work of Wally Wood (illustrating the Gerry Boudreau-scripted “The Man Hunters”, the story upon which the painted cover was based), and the icing on the cake, the first installment of the classic “Night of the Jackass” serial which contained the holy grail for young lads: pictures of nekkid women! I treasured that issue of Eerie and read it until it fell apart.

Over the next seven years I got hooked on not just Eerie, but its companion publication CREEPY, and even the HEAVY METAL-inspired (read “rip-off”) 1984 (later retitled 1994), yet the only member of the Warren family that I never was able to find much love for was VAMPIRELLA; excellent art notwithstanding, the main character’s stories smacked too much of mainstream comics for my growing tastes (if I wanted super heroic soap opera, I had Marvel for that, thank you very much), although the unrelated backup stories were frequently incredible. Featuring art by mostly South American talent, these books boasted visuals of such a high standard that there is perhaps no equal to the Warren talent roster other than that which spawned the classic E.C. line in the early 1950’s; in fact several alumni of the E.C. years would go on to contribute to the Warren line (Alex Toth, Reed Crandall and Frank Frazetta spring instantly to mind).

The writers also had a scabrous claw firmly wrapped around the throats of readers, regularly doling out heaping helpings of demons, man-made monsters, anti-social psycho killers, the dangers of time travel and anything else their evil little imaginations could vomit up. My personal favorite was (and still is) the disgracefully under-appreciated Bruce Jones; perhaps best known to comics readers for his terrific recent run on THE HULK, Jones’s stories had intelligence and creepiness to burn, with a number of shock endings that would have had Rod Serling kicking himself for not coming up with anything even half as good. Looked at now, his stories haven’t aged a day.

There are too many Warren stories and serials worth reading to attempt an in-depth analysis here, but the bottom line is that they raised my standards of expectation for horror in general; in fact, if I had to give Warren a motto it would be “If you’re gonna go there,¬†go there. Don’t pussy around.” That said, what follows is a list of the Warren tales that will stay with me until the day I give up the ghost. You can’t go wrong with any of these, and they are well worth the sometimes-steep back issue prices.

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