As well as reprinting classic issues of Creepy (and Eerie) in fancy hardcovers, Dark Horse is also publishing a new, quarterly, Creepy comic. I have bought copies of all three issues released so far, lured in by the promise of the Creepy brand. However, I’m really not sure why I’ve stuck it out for so long, because I was disappointed with the first issue and it hasn’t improved since.
This particular issue contains five new strips and one ‘classic’ Creepy tale. Two of the five new strips here are continuing stories – one (‘The Curse’) is the third part of a three part story and one (‘X-Change’) is the first part of a story of unspecified length – which is my first major beef with this comic. I mean, dragging a 24-page story out over three issues of a quarterly comic just seems dumb. I certainly can’t remember what happened in the first two parts of ‘The Curse’ now and I can’t quite be bothered to go back and re-read them as I don’t remember them being that great anyway. What I mostly remember is being quite surprised when I got to the end of the first part (six months ago!) and realised that a quarterly anthology, which I had bought on a whim with no real intention of coming back for the second issue, was printing ‘to be continued’ stories. I’m also pretty sure that this story could have been told just as effectively – perhaps even more effectively – in eight pages. ‘X-Change’, which is about Hitler escaping Germany at the end of WWII by having a sex change, or something like that, also seems like a story that didn’t need more than eight pages. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what is going to happen in future instalments but at the moment it seems fairly obvious where this is headed and it, too, is nothing special. Which leads me to my second major beef with this comic: the stories just aren’t that good, which has been the case with all three issues. I guess the stories in the old Creepy weren’t exactly great works of literature, but they were better than this. In fact, the classic tale in this issue – ‘The Disintegrator’ by Nicola Cuti and Ken Barr – is probably the best story in it, and even that isn’t particularly good.
I’m not quite sure what the selection criteria for these classic tales is, as they are certainly not picking the best tales the Creepy back-catalogue has to offer. The classic tale in the first issue was at least drawn by Alex Toth but was a sci-fi tale, not a horror story, and seemed a bit out of place in the first issue of a horror anthology, while the classic tale in the last issue was most notable for being written by Dave Sim (wrongly credited as Dave Sims). This issue’s classic tale is just a bit dated, but then it was first published in the 1960s, so I suppose it has every right to be dated. I’m not entirely sure why they need to print a classic tale at all, really, when they are already doing so in the Creepy and Eerie Archives – and I can’t imagine that these stories are going to boost sales of those (pricey) volumes. My best guess is that Dark Horse just don’t have enough talent available to fill a whole horror comic every quarter, or else are trying to save money.
Lending a much-needed touch of class to the art in all three issues has been Angelo Torres, a Creepy veteran, now better known for his Mad movie parodies, whose instantly recognisable style is the best thing in this particular issue, even if his style is perhaps better suited to humour comics these days. We also get a nice frontispiece by Gene Colan, but alas no strips by ‘the dean’. The rest of the art here is reasonably good, even if it is a bit unclear exactly what is going on in most stories, just nowhere near as good as the art in the original Creepy comics. Not by a long way.
Unfortunately for Dark Horse, it takes more than buying the rights to a property to recapture what made that property special in the first place, and what made the original Creepy comics special, as with most comics, was its creators, most of whom – Archie Goodwin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, etc. – are now dead. I suppose I would sound like a miserable old sod if I said that they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. I’m sure there are plenty of great modern writers and artists out there who could have put together a horror anthology as good as (or better than) an old issue of Creepy or Eerie. The crucial difference between this incarnation of Creepy and the old Creepy, I think, is that the old Creepy was put together by some of the finest creators around at the time, while this just isn’t. I had never heard of most of these creators before. In short: It says Creepy on the cover but this ain’t Creepy. I won’t make the mistake of buying issue four and the issues I have bought will be going on eBay sometime soon.
Note: I paid full price for this (whatever $4.99 works out to in pounds these days) but I bought it before I joined this blog and swore a solemn oath not to pay more than £1.20 for a single comic published by any company with a Diamond exclusivity deal. No rules have been broken.