Ambitious Halloween Reading List: Creepy Archives Vol. 1

creepy volume 1 Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.

I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.

The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.

ambitious halloween reading list 2013In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.

But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).

Halloween Scene: Creepshow 2 (1987)

As a big fan of both George Romero and Stephen King, I’m not quite sure why I haven’t seen the two installments of Creepshow the horror duo worked on (neither had anything to do with Creepshow 3). I remember my pal Rickey Purdin had a copy of the first Creepshow hanging around our apartment when we lived together and I think I tried watching it once, but either got bored or fell asleep and haven’t revisited since. When I decided to check the sequel out on Netflix Instant last night I had forgotten this fact, confusing this King-based horror anthology for another, Cat’s Eye. It’s not like it really matters, though, as they are both anthologies and don’t have anything but casual references to one another in common.

Creepshow 2 features three stories. The first is about a killer cigar store Indian (“Old Chief Wooden Head”), the second about a water monster in a lake (“The Raft”) and the third about a woman being terrorized by the man who shit hit with her car (“The Hitchhiker”). There’s also a wraparound story featuring a kid who loves the EC Comics-like Creepshow comic book buying beans to take care of the bullies who mess with him.

“Old Chief” might feature great actors George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour who are excellent, but the three guys they got to rob the country store owners gave pretty boring, cartoonish, one-note performances and kind of killed the whole thing for me. Plus, the idea of a cigar store Indian coming together and killing dudes — most of which we see via shadows — isn’t super interesting or original.

On the other hand, I really liked “The Raft.” It’s a very Stephen King kind of story with a quartet of friends swimming in a remote lake that has an oily monster patrolling the surface. This is the kind of story that works perfectly in the anthology format. It’s a small story as far as who’s involved and the danger present, but for those people, it’s a very terrifying thing. It doesn’t really matter if you’re trapped in the arctic or on a diving raft in the middle of a lake, you’re still trapped and probably going to die. That’s encapsulated very well in this segment.

“The Hitchhiker” was less interesting to me and felt like an episode of Tales From The Crypt (yeah, I know the show came after these movies, but I experienced it first). Even though the story of the woman getting hounded by the dead man is eerie, it felt familiar and not in the way that “Raft” did where familiar elements were done on a different scale, this one just felt tired.  I actually thought the wraparound stuff with the kid and the Creep were more interesting than this particular story.

I think another reason I haven’t gotten around to watching the Creepshow movies is that I’m just not that into horror anthology  movies. They sound great in theory — more stories, possibly more creative talent for your buck — but most wind up feeling like this movie where there’s one great story surrounded by mediocre ones. Maybe I just haven’t seen the right horror anthologies. I think I might check the original Creepshow out today, but are there other ones that do a really great job? I’m also thinking of looking at Twice Told Tales and/or Tales Of Terror from my Vincent Price box set, but I might just be horror-ed out for a while after this month.

Anthology Rotation

At some point while burning through Stephen King’s gigantic Under The Dome, I thought it would be fun to switch gears for my next reading endeavor. It won’t be a tonal shift, necessarily, but more of a format one. Instead of hopping hack into the world of novels, I think I’ll tackle some of the short story and anthology books I’ve had filling up my to-read piles for ages. I don’t know about you guys, but I have a tendency to jump in and out of short story books at my leisure because I don’t feel that compulsion to finish them (unless there’s a theme or recurring characters or something along those lines).

Anyway, I dug through some of my boxes and assembled a pretty good line-up, if I do say so myself. I’ve got Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things (I read his Smoke & Mirrors over YEARS, but American Gods in a relatively short period of time), Elmore Leonard’s western collection Moment of Vengeance & Other Stories (big Leonard fan, but I’ve never read any of his westerns or any westerns for that matter), Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew (which I’ve delved into a bit), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button & Other Stories (also dipped into a little) and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts (which I just got from Amazon).

The basic idea is to read a short story from each book and then move on to the next (to the right, in reference to the picture). I arranged them so the genres wouldn’t be back to back and will offer up a good deal of variety, though I’m sure the Gaiman book will be varied in and of itself. I’m excited because this not only will help me get through some books that have been sitting in piles for years, but also hopefully help me explore the short story genre better, something I haven’t really done since college and that was all stuff I was told to read. Anyone else forced to buy an anthology with their professor’s published story in it? Yeah, I’ve got a couple of those back home.

Anyway, it should be fun. I know with Christmas and New Year’s coming up, I won’t have a ton of time to read, so this will probably work out pretty well for me. It’ll be nice to feel some reading accomplishment while also attending to all my other duties. I think I’ll do a post on Fridays about what stories I read that week. That’s the plan at least. Anyone want to join me?