March 22, 2013

Creepy The Classic Years [1991]

After Warren stopped publishing around 1983 their titles were next seen after a gap of a few years from publisher Harris Comics. While Harris published about a million new and reprint Vampirella comics (approximate number, may be higher) they made far less use of the CREEPY and EERIE brands, with only a few new CREEPY comics and one reprint book of 1960s material for each title.

CREEPY THE CLASSIC YEARS [1991] came first.  Editor Richard Howell provides the introduction, which includes a few notes on each artist, including Ditko, and also the page header seen here which I'm still looking for information on. In the book are two Ditko reprints, both written by Archie Goodwin.

The 6-page "Second Chance" from CREEPY #13 [1967] has a spectacular splash page, and it's no surprise that Dark Horse is using a cropped and colourized version of that page for their upcoming reprint of Ditko's Warren stories. Trust me, the full page in the original black and white is even better. Featuring Edward Norton's descent into Hell, where he confronts Beelzebub and demands their bargain to give Nugent a second shot at life after his death. Ditko really lets his imagination run wild in the land of the damned, using similar concepts to his famous fantasy landscapes in Doctor Strange, but rendered in ways the Comics Code probably would have objected to. There's also an earthbound component to the story, set in a graveyard, which allows for a few more macabre backgrounds and looks of sheer terror that Ditko excelled in. The plot itself is pretty routine, but Goodwin keeps it moving along and lets the artwork do the heavy lifting on this one.

The book concludes with the 8-page "Collector's Edition" from CREEPY #10 [1966], which is, for those of you familiar with it, an appropriate story to finish a book. Howell's introduction mentions that some consider it "the single finest story Ditko ever turned out", and it's definitely a contender. The story features Colin Danforth, a collector of obscure and forbidden occult books, an obsession which forces him to do business with the unsavory Murch, who dangles the possibility of the rarest of artifacts, the Marquis LeMode's "Dark Visions". One of Goodwin's best, and Ditko was the perfect artistic partner for the story, rendering it in a detailed style, with some key parts using some very unusual technique that I can't quite figure out. I think it's some sort of mechanical tone, but used very delicate way, creating almost a wood-cut effect. And to top it all off, his detailed rendering never gets in the way of the storytelling.

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