Creepy Archives, volume 1The New York Comic Con Dark Horse panel was attended by legendary artists Gene Colan and Angelo Torres, with Dark Horse editors Dan Braun, Craig Haffner, and Shawna Gore. Braun discussed the germ of Dark Horse's re-release, and the upcoming revamp and release of a Dark Horse's own Creepy anthology.
After seven years of searching and phone calls, last September Dark Horse released the first archive collection of Jim Warren's 1964 Creepy Magazine. Currently there are plans for eleven volumes, but that could go to twenty six if the entire library is collected. As Braun described, the original Creepy and Eerie books grew as an attempted counter-force to the stifling comics' code. Jim Warren knew he could make a mark in the world of horror comics, if not for the code. It was then he realized he could put out a magazine-sized book, and circumvent the oppressive rules and regulations levels against comic books.
As was discussed, under the Code there could be no werewolves, no vampires, no monsters. As the magazine grew, Warren hired less American artists, and brought in the European influence.
Creepy was hard to find when it was initially released, and as a result, the issues collectible as time went on. Despite the opportunities to sell the archives to mainstream publishers, Warren held off - he didn't want just anyone to collect these. As time went on, the reputation grew, and the word spread to fans too young to have encountered the originals that this was the book for die-hard horror comics fans. Harris Comics acquired a license in the ‘80s, and released a 'Best of' with some of Gene Colan's work, but overall there's been very little reprint action on the original stories.
Gore observed that Warren has a notorious reputation, and suggested that he had sat on it like a super-villain.
Each panelist offered their thoughts on the original magazine-
Dan Braun: As a comics fan, Creepy, then later finding EC, was my touchstone of horror, and made a huge imprint on my childhood. One day, Craig mentioned 'Whatever happened to Creepy and Eerie?' It seemed a treasure trove of art was lost. So, with a lot of work, we tracked down Warren, sent him a letter (he's an eccentric recluse), and a 7 year courtship to bring it back from the dead. Meeting Jim, who'd created his own world, we knew he was a real an independent publisher. Thus, it was fated to end up at Dark Horse. He was independent for 25 years.
On coming to Creepy
Gene Colan: During the freelance age, looking for work, I came across Archie Goodwin, who was working for Warren. Samples went to Archie, and I was in right away. It was such a departure from what I'd been doing. I'd been just doing penciling, but then for Warren, I got to ink myself, which made it my own work. I liked the idea of tonal effects, watered down inks - hat gave such great tones. In regular comics there are no tones, you need a brush or a pen. You could do so many things, like a brush, you could do anything. It was a short experience, but I enjoyed it. I still have books for them. I never met warren, only Archie, but it was a great departure from the general work I had done.
Angelo Torres: I haven't done a Creepy job in 40 years. What Warren wanted to do originally was to bring back the EC comics. He planned a dinner with Greg Davis, Gray Morrow, and Frank Frazetta, and told us he wanted new horror line, maybe better than [William] Gaines'. We all agreed. Archie Goodwin was to be the editor, and wrote most of it. We liked the idea of “do whatever you want, any way you want, whatever you want to do with the artwork is fine.” He gave us freedom to draw any way we were comfortable with. Changing styles made it so much more fun, because you could look at a script and approach it a different way. The books speak for themselves. Williamson, Graves, Davis, all of them, it was all incredible. I love the idea of putting these back out because the originals I have are falling apart, so it's a tremendous approach. The thing that got it off the ground was the stable of artists Jim pulled together. John Sevrin, too. I worked there for 5-7 years, but when Gaines called for MAD I couldn't refuse. I've been there for 25 years. But I'm very glad to be getting back to this.
Shawna Gore: The Creepy and Eerie archives will be released 3-5 times a year for the next 7 years. There is also a new Creepy comic coming in July, launching the week of San Diego Comic-Con. Our new approach for creepy is to bring back that style of fun, intelligent stories of horror. It won't be retro, like stories from the ‘60s or ‘70s, but instead will take modern storytelling and giving a classic aesthetic. There is so much emphasis on shock and horror in stories these days, that suspense is neglected. There's plenty of violence in the news, but that doesn't make it scary. I appreciate the scary. Monsters and werewolves will be used, (we're going to avoid zombies). The first 2 Creepy stories have debuted on Myspace.
If you look back, Jack Davis' first original cover was a masterful cartoon. We want to capture that same feel, so we've brought in Eric Powell as the cover artist, doing painted covers. We've tried to give him what we thing would have been Frazetta's art direction - never literal, but grand and imagined. We really wanted Eric because he works in an iconic classic style, but is modern and innovative. The first issue will feature a range of artists and writers, which we will continue.
The format of the new Creepy will be quarterly, at 48 pages. Anthologies are tough in the market, Gore explained, but Creepy has a leg up on trying to get a new horror anthology
Braun: We thought about, past and future, who is our dream scenario? These 2 are in that. We got Angelo to agree to do an original story, we're still working on Gene. In addition, though, Neal Adams has agreed to do a new story for Creepy, and so has Bernie Wrightson.
Gore We want a mix of old and new, contemporary and classic, but staying as strong as Creepy was. Not a 'new modern' future bringing horror's more unfortunate techniques.
Braun (to Torres and Colan): Being there for the Code, when you can back to Warren, did you know there was some freedom from that. Was that a factor for you? Did you have any confrontations with the Code?
Angelo Torres: I did one thing for Gaines when I was in art school that was rejected 4 times by the Code. Told me he'd shelf it, and get it in someday.
When Jim had his new line of horror we were all excited because we missed it so much. So yeah, I was hit by the Code before I even did any work! If it hadn't been for MAD he would have been gone and forgotten. His stuff was okay, but not like the great $.10 and $.15 stuff. We loved the freedom, we didn't do it smutty. We did it as mystery and horror. As an old movie buff, growing up on horror, so it was an ideal fit. My regret is that I never got my originals back. They were there, I just didn't get them. And now they're all gone. I haven't seen any since I gave them to Archie. Davis was a master of horror for Bill, but always with a cartoony fun, too. We had a lot of stuff doing work for Warren because of the freedom. It was always well written, well thought out, and good.
Gene Colan: I never had problem with the Code because I liked what you don't see more than what you do. Its the suspense, the mystery that always did it for me. If there was an axe-murderer, I'd show a sword on the wall. I never really crossed their path because I'd edited it beforehand.
As a freelancer, I would take a story and put my stamp on it.
Here the panel was opened for questions, and the conversation quickly turned to Frank Frazetta
Gore: Frank Frazetta doesn't do interiors anymore, and he's not affordable. I'm not sure if everyone knows Frank's story, he learned to draw with his left had after a stroke, and is just as masterful. He's not producing much now, but we're pleased to have his blessing. We've tried to track down as much as we can. We have to find the right stories for the artist. The other thing is it’s hard to track down these guys, we've talked to Steve Ditko, but we're not sure yet.
The first Creepy archive is available now, and the ongoing anthology series will debut the week before San Diego Comic-Con.