Writer Fred Van Lente doesn't think it's a coincidence that the Creepy comic commemorated 50 years of horror during the same week that marked the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's death.
Creepy #18, released earlier this month, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original Creepy horror comic from Warren Publsihing in 1964. Although the comic has changed publishers since that time, its influence on American horror has been significant.
The new issue features a Poe-inspired story by Van Lente, as well as a retrospective on 50 years of Creepy by Richard Corben. The issue also includes work by other comics creators — from an Itty Bitty Uncle Creepy piece by Art Baltazar to stories by Corinna Bechko and Peter Bagge.
On this 50th anniversary of the comic, Newsarama talked to Van Lente about Creepy, Edgar Allan Poe, and why it's aproPoe that the two would come together for this issue.
Newsarama: Fred, were you aware that Creepy #18 was the 50th anniversary issue when you wrote this story for it?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, they let me know about that, and it's a huge honor that they thought of me. I'm doing a lot of stuff for Dark Horse right now — short stories, and ongoings, and creator-owned, and licensed and all that sort of stuff. But it's definitely awesome to do this story, which is one that I'd had kicking around my head since college. It spent a long time gestating.
Nrama: I talk so often to writers who have all kinds of little ideas in the back of their head or maybe in a file somewhere. It's great that you're getting the chance to bring one of those out. Where did the idea come from?
Van Lente: Yeah, I started out being a filmmaker in college, but I transferred to English later, and Poe was one of my main topics. So I did a whole paper on [Poe's contemporary and frequent adversary, Rufus Wilmot] Griswold and his relationship with Poe. And I was sort of doing the scholarly side of it, I found myself dabbling in a bit of fiction and came up with the idea of linking the Poe stories to all the events in Griswold's life, only a couple of which we were able to get into this 10-page story, that could be explained through sort of supernatural means.
Nrama: So you've taken a story from the "real" world, from history, and explained it through the supernatural?
Van Lente: Exactly.
Nrama: That's fun. Let's talk about the 50th anniversary of Creepy. Were you a fan of the comic at any point when you were young?
Van Lente: You know, I did have some Creepys when I was a kid. Warren [Publishing] was just sort of wrapping up when I came along as a really young kid. The thing that I had the most from Warren was, my dad was a huge Spirit fan. A lot of folks don't remember that Warren republished, reprinted Will Eisner's The Spirit in the big, Creepy-sized newsprint magazines and I had a ton of those.
So I knew about Creepy more through ads in The Spirit than actual copies, because I was probably too young at that point to really appreciate Creepy as Creepy.
Later, our class trip in the '80s went to Spain, for, like, our language class trip, you know? And I got a bunch of Spanish Creepys, and I tried to sort of teach myself Spanish by reading. That didn't work very well. But it was a valiant effort.
Nrama: I don't know if you even realized the comic was being released the week of the anniversary of Poe's death, but it feels like Poe is particularly appropriate for an anniversary of Creepy.
Van Lente: Yeah, I was initially going to do a different story, but I thought that doing a story about Edgar Allan Poe, who was sort of the grandfather of horror, at least in this country, was super-appropriate. And as I did my research, I saw that Creepy, as you might imagine, like a lot of horror comics, adapted a bunch of Poe stories.
And spoiler alert, this Poe character Hop-Frog appears in this story, our Creepy story, and I think Creepy adapted Hop-Frog in the original run, the original Poe story. So the Hop-Frog that Alison draws is the same Hop-Frog from the original Creepy story. So there's a couple cool Creepy DNA things imbedded in this story.
And she got a kick out of drawing Uncle Creepy.
Nrama: Alison Sampson, your artist?
Van Lente: Yeah, she's terrific. She did Genesis for Image, and she's sort of a real up-and-comer, superstar-in-waiting. She's got a real, I guess for lack of a better word, "illustrative" style. So it seemed super-appropriate for the material. So I sent her as much reference as I possibly could.
The story's set in New York City by the time Poe died in 1849, so there's a lot of period stuff going on. A lot of this story is also influenced by Roger Corman's Poe movies, which I'm a huge fan of. Vincent Price starred in many of those. So I told Alison, "Go watch those!" I don't know if she did, though.
Nrama: You're doing a lot for Dark Horse and some creator-owned stuff. For your fans, want to go through a list of what you've got coming out?
Van Lente: Sure! I'll make it a short list.
Nrama: Good luck.
Van Lente: [Laughs] I do a lot.
I'll stick with Dark Horse. In November, I have this new series coming out with Dark Horse, it's creator-owned, called Resurrectionists. And it's about people who can suddenly become their own past lives. It's a crime series that cuts between ancient Egypt and 2015 with the same group of tomb robbers that have been trying to pull off the same heist over and over again for 3,000 years. And now, finally, in the 21st Century, it looks like they're going to be able to do it. It's super fun, and Maurizio Rosenzweig provides the art, and he's just amazing.
Also coming out for Dark Horse, also keeping in the theme of sort of historical comics, this week, Acton Philosophers came out with a $1.00 comic that reprints most of Action Philosophers #1 and it has a preview of Resurrectionists in it.
And then next week, the 10th anniversary hardback of Action Philosophers comes out of Dark Horse. And it's absolutely beautiful. Everything Action Philosophers you've ever seen, ever. All the covers collected, all the back-up materials collected for the first time. And photos from the stage play — there's a 2011 stage adaptation of the comic, so there's photos of that. So it's just absolutely gorgeous. For every Action Philosophers fan, I would highly recommend it.
In the hardcover, there's also a new story that was in last month's Dark Horse Presents #2. So it's not technically new, because it was originally printed in Dark Horse Presents, but if you haven't read it yet, it's new to you.
And then Ivar, Timewalker from Valiant was announced [the week of Comic Con]. I'm super excited about that. It's another sort of historical thing. And of course, I still do Magnus: Robot Fighter at Dynamite, and Howtoons for Image. And Conan The Avenger for Dark Horse.