The late 1960s were the Golden Age of horror comics… or rather, “horror newsstand publications”. In order to evade the strict Comics Code, which specifically preyed on censoring horror and violence from comic books, graphic publications like Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella (all products of Warren Publishing) were given a large “magazine” format, and thus did not have to carry the CCA logo. Freedom from the the traditions of comics, as well as their traditional structure, allowed some of the best artists that comics have ever had to experiment and explore their craft, and with the weirdest material possible. These artists include Neal Adams (noted for his amazing contributions to Batman), Will Eisner (The Spirit), Doug Moench (also notable for Batman, and the creation of summer movie villain Bane), and Tom Sutton (noted Vampirella artist).
Dark Horse Comics has undertaken the enormous task of reprinting the entirety of the archives of Creepy and Eerie, letter pages, covers and all. (Dynamite has collected Vampirella, if you prefer your vampires scantily clad.) While many companies reprint older comics with varying success (ahem, Marvel Comics’ slapdash Marvelman Family’s Finest), it’s Dark Horse’s encapsulation of a totally authentic experience that makes these reprints feel like a special event. Dark Horse does the most thorough, collector-friendly job one can imagine by including all of these original elements in one place, and in heavy, hardbound collections which have an iconic place on a comic shelf, and double as deadly weapons in the event of a home invasion.
Eerie Archives #11, published this month (October 2012) collects four issues of the series, from #52 to #55 – but they’re all pretty sizable issues. New readers should be aware that many of these short, graphic stories aren’t one-offs, but serialized stories which are continued from issues past, telling the stories of mummies, monsters, werewolves, and at least one futuristic space adventurer, breaking the Gothic horror genre in more than a few places. Even the included letters columns indicate some reader dissatisfaction at the arrival of science fiction in their beloved Eerie pages, but as a collection of experimental visual fiction, the entire series is completely stimulating. Sure, every line is dripping with over-the-top drama and hyperbole, but it’s this kind of unrepentant excitement which is infectious. Each story is fairly easy to pick up even in the middle of the narrative, but this is the kind of series you want to read from front to back.
Early issues of Eerie can still be purchased for around $20 each, with later issues rarely rising above $5, so these collections are still an economically friendly option for collectors who are interested in story and art over enduring value or investment.