Back in the day, I used to do recurring posts here on UM called The Box wherein I would grab some random comics from a huge box my inlaws gave me and give them a read. I thought it would be fun to do something similar, but with a somewhat narrower focus on horror comics from those same boxes (though now they have a special place on my comic shelves). As it turned out, I had a bunch of 70s Marvel horror comics, so I jumped right in with those! Horror had a nice resurgence at this time because the Comics Code loosened some of its restrictions. In these five comics I’ve got Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Son of Satan and all sorts of anthology tales!Enter, if you dare…
Longtime readers might remember a time when I was reading so many books a week that I would simply take pictures of them in a stack and do a quick hit kind of report on them. Well, I’m not knocking down nearly as many books these days, but I did read through a good number from the library and figured I’d return to that form for this post. Let’s hit it! Continue reading The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books
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.
In 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).
I knew I hadn’t been doing very well on the most recent Ambitious Reading List, but then I checked the blog and realized I started it back in November of last year and have only since read three and a half of the books. So, with Halloween in the offing, I figured it was about time to toss that one aside and start a brand new one, this time with more of a focus.
So, I now have nine books that I’m trying to read this month. It probably won’t happen because I’m a damn slow reader, but why not give it a shot, right? Here’s the basic rundown.
The Listeners by Christopher Pike. I was a huge fan of Pike’s young adult books as a kid and figured I’d give one of his adult titles a read. I actually stumbled upon this used book store purchase while looking for the next book in the pile, but it felt appropriate to check out this month.
Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice. This is one of two re-reads on the pile this time around. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, probably late grade school or high school, but I’m curious to get back to it and then give the adaptation another watch.
The Shining by Stephen King. You might not be able to see my Kindle on the pile, but I assure you it’s there. I read this book in high school then lent it to a guy I worked with at the bagel shop when I was 16. He got fired and I never saw him again. So, it’s been quite a while since I’ve given it a read. I will follow this one up by watching all of Kubrick’s film version FOR THE FIRST TIME! By the way, it’s only $4 for Kindle right now!
Vicious Circle by Mike Carey. This is the second Felix Castor novel from Carey. I used to interview him all the time for Wizard and really enjoyed the first installment The Devil You Know. The book explores a world where everyone knows ghosts exist and have to deal with them on a regular basis.
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Since reading The Strain, I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the other two books in the series at Barnes & Noble for less than cover price of one book! I’m really curious to see where this story goes and hope to read all three installments before the TV show premieres.
The Dead Boy Detectives by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Talbot. I read this Sandman spinoff series once before and am a big fan of Brubaker’s. While looking at my trade shelf, it seemed like a good fit for the theme.
Eerie Crime & Horror by Wally Wood. I fell in love with Wally Wood’s artwork after reading Weird Science Volume 2 and have been on the hunt for more of his work since then. I picked this book up earlier this year and figured now’s as good a time as any to finally read it (or possibly just scan it for the pretty pictures depending on how good the writing is).
Creepy Archives Volume 1. Featuring stories by some of the greatest artists in the comics business, I’ve been sitting on this book for years. It’s about darn time I finally sit down and have some fun with it.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke. No kidding, I have a whole shelf filled with coffee table books I’ve never read. This oral history of one of the all-time greatest slasher franchises is one of them and seemed like a good non-fiction entry in the list.
Alright gang, so here goes. Hopefully this stack o’ books will get read more efficiently than the other. I’m already working on two of them right now, so I’m thinking it won’t be too long before the first review goes up.
Weird Science The EC Archives Volume 2 (EC Comics/Gemstone)
Written by Al Feldstein with Bill Gaines, drawn by Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, George Roussos, George Olsen and Joe Orlando
Collects Weird Science #7-12 (1951-1952)
For years, I heard great things about EC Comics. The stories were stunners, the art amazing and all of it way ahead of its time. But, they’re not exactly the easiest comics to get your hands on. Back in college, I got my hands on a Vault of Horror reprint annual from Gemstone, but for various reasons, I’ve never been able to get through it. While listening to the audiobook version of Ten-Cent Plague in my car (which I actually finished quite a while ago and forgot to post about), I actually made a trip to a comic book shop that had much nicer EC reprints for half off. They had this volume and then a couple of the war collections, which I wasn’t as interested in. Man, am I glad I picked this book up!
One of the things you need to know if you’re going to try and jump into the work of EC books is that they are over-written. The comics were written for kids and presumably needed lots of hand holding as far as story progression goes. But, if you can get past that and the relentless twist endings, there are some pretty fantastic stories to check out. One of the problems I’ve had with the Vault collection is that the twists are super obvious 60 years later, but also many of the stories are very similar. Science benefits from a big mix of horror, sci-fi and fantasy as well as stories drawn by some of the best artists in the medium.
I’d say I figured out the twist of about 95% of the stories by the second or third page, so they weren’t super surprising, but like a great philosopher once said, sometimes it’s about the journey not the destination. Knowing what the twist is going to be frees you up to really look at the art by Wood, Kamen, Orlando, Kurtzman and the others. These guys are fantastic. In fact, they’re so good, you can mostly skip those huge boxes of text at the top of the panels (not a single sentence ends in a period, always an exclamation point or an ellipses) and you’ll still understand what’s going on.
One more thing that I couldn’t help thinking of while reading these stories is how much of a direct connection there is in the world of sci-fi and fantasy between these stories and Twilight Zone. Both series had a nice, broad spectrum of stories they would tell. You’re as likely to read a story about a man who goes back in time to become his own dad as you are one about alien women who burst out of the chest of men. You can also see roots for movies and stories that have been made or written since then. I have no idea if James Cameron read that issue I mentioned about the women, but there’s obviously some thematic connections between it and Alien (the story is called “The Maidens Cried” from issue 10 and drawn by the amazing Wally Wood).
So, if you’re a sci-fi fan or just want to experience some historically beloved comics in a format that flatters the line work of some of the absolute masters of the form, do yourself a favor and check out some of these beautiful Gemstone hardcovers. I’d love to get my hands on all of them and might grab those war hardcovers if they’re still at the comic shop (I’m not going to say which one because I don’t want someone to snatch them up!), but they’re actually kind of pricey with $50 cover prices and often times go for more online. But, hey, it’s always nice to have a comic project, right? Time to make a checklist!