Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Review - Eerie Archives Volume 1 HC

This first volume of the Eerie Archives collects Eerie issues 1 to 5, originally published by Warren Publishing between 1964 and 1965. The first issue of Eerie is much thinner than the others reprinted here, only featuring three short stories, and was originally published with a black and white cover. It resembles an underground / self-published effort, rather than the younger cousin of the already-well-established, well-respected Creepy magazine. It was apparently rushed out just to establish copyright over the name Eerie and utilised material from Creepy’s ‘back-log’ (i.e. stories previously rejected by Creepy). I know all this because it says so in the reprinted letters page to Eerie #3, but it was obvious while reading this issue that these (un-credited) stories were mere cast-offs, because they weren’t really that good. Thankfully, though, subsequent issues are up to the high standards set by Creepy.

The stories here, mostly written by the late Archie Goodwin, are all perfectly good twist-in-the-tail horror yarns. I read this shortly after reading Creepy Archives volume 1, and would probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read it so soon after reading a whole volume of very similar tales, also largely penned by Goodwin. Still, they were all decent – even if they did mostly follow a predictable formula – and didn’t seem half as dated as many superhero comics from the same period do now. To be honest, I read this a couple of weeks ago now and might have had more to say about these stories if I had just finished reading them, but as it is most of these tales have already faded from my memory and I mainly remember thinking that the stories in Creepy were a bit better. The main draw of this book, however, like the Creepy book, is the art.

The Warren horror titles featured art by some of the true greats of the industry – Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Frank Frazetta, Gray Morrow, Angelo Torres (better known for his Mad movie parodies), Al Williamson, John Severin, Alex Toth and more. These guys were (and some still are) proper artists, all working at the top of their game. And the real draw of this volume of Eerie Archives – as opposed to the first Creepy Archives – is that it features art by two of my favourite artists: Gene Colan (here credited as Eugene Colan) and Steve Ditko. Ditko famously produced 16 strips for Eerie and Creepy between leaving Marvel and moving to DC and they are often cited as some of his very best work. It’s easy to see why, based on the three Ditko strips reprinted in this volume. The first, ‘Room With A View’, is drawn in the traditional Ditko style, but the other two, ‘Shrieking Man’ and ‘Black Magic’, are done in a ‘wash’ style that gives his art an eye-popping, almost 3-D look, that is really quite something – still recognisably Ditko but lifted to another level.

Based purely on the stories, I doubt I would feel the need to own any other Eerie or Creepy Archives. However, if I suddenly found myself wealthy, I would certainly try and track down the rest of the volumes reprinting Ditko’s work from this period. As far as I am aware, the rest of Ditko’s Warren strips appear in Eerie Archives Volume 2 (five Ditko strips) and Creepy Archives Volumes 2 (two Ditko strips), 3 (five Ditko strips), and 4 (one Ditko strip). Alternatively, ten of these strips are reprinted in Eerie #135, an all-Ditko issue from 1982, which is hard to find but would be considerably cheaper than buying these Dark Horse hardcover reprints. I’ve been looking out for a copy on eBay for months now and haven’t seen any in the UK, but I could get one from the USA for around £20 (including postage), if I was inclined to spend £20 on one magazine.

As for the price of this book, well, the recommended retail price for Eerie Archives Volume 1 is about £37.99 / $49.95, which is pretty expensive for a 250-page book collecting just five magazines, but you can currently get this from the Book Depository for a more reasonable £21.79. I bought my copy for a bit less than that, about a year ago, but only because I was emailed a 10% discount code.

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