I was quite excited when I finished reading the 1st issue of the recently revived horror anthology mag CREEPY, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. This classic from Warren Publishing couldn't stay down forever, and after over 25 years of silence--save for two brief and aborted attempts by Harris to re-launch the franchise in 1985 and 1992-93--it's finally back. And Uncle Creepy is not only back with his horror host antics, but this time he brought along an entire Creepy Family of horror hosts whom the letters column said would be assisting their good old Uncle in narrating these tales of terror, and they are certainly a bizarre family who lives up to their name. The only one we know from before other than Unc himself is Cousin Eerie, and it's nice to see him back, too (though he seems a bit irritated at no longer having an entire mag of his own to present horror tales to willing readers, and being forced to share space not only with Uncle Creepy, but also with a plethora of new additions to their "family").
Prominent among the several new members of the Creepy Family is Sister Creepy, who actually looks like a young and cute goth girl (if you love goth girls as I do, that is), albeit one gone horribly wrong. Sister Creepy seems to be a recent recruit to the ranks of the horror hosts that are connected to this particular "family" of tale-telling entities, perhaps recruited by Uncle Creepy himself. Who or what she may have been before being recruited, and what type of monstrous origin she had (Uncle Creepy's origin was revealed in the classic story from the Warren run of CREEPY called "Monster Rally") can only be guessed at right now until when or if the new CREEPY sees fit to reveal it in full.
In fact, not only did Sister Creepy appear alongside Uncle Creepy in the inside front cover of the first issue of this long-awaited return, but she also had the honor of hosting the re-installment of a fondly remembered old recurring featurette in the 1960s issues of this title's original run, "Creepy's Loathsome Lore." But more on that in a bit.
The recruits to the ranks of the Wold Newton Universe's [WNU] horror hosts appear to be getting stranger than ever, as we not only have a "Grandma" Creepy now, but we also have such oddities as a shape-shifting imp named Eepy (where was he recruited from??), and even animal recruits in the personages of Eerie Hound and Creepy Kat. What does this all mean? Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie certainly have been busy since we last saw them in the early 1990s for the Harris/Dark Horse crossover VAMPIRELLA'S SUMMER NIGHTS, followed by CREEPY: THE LIMITED SERIES a year later, and the CREEPY 1993 FEARBOOK a year after that. If this expanded "family" of theirs is any indication, recruitment has been one of the major activities they have been up to during their "missing" years. If the size of this grotesque "family" is taken into account, the ranks of the horror hosts in the WNU are steadily growing, and I will speculate on what this apparent large recruitment drive might mean in my planned future update of my article on Horror Hosts that is posted on Dennis Power's site The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe.
But enough about the horror hosts right now. Let's get to the part of my review that discusses the quality of the stories within.
You get five stories for your bucks in this first issue, plus a new installment of "Creepy's Loathsome Lore." Four of the stories are entirely original tales of terror that Uncle Creepy has released from his vault, while the fifth is a classic tale from the original Warren horror mags that was released from Uncle Creepy's archives (actually, this one first appeared in EERIE, not CREEPY, but who cares, right?).
The lead tale of this first issue, "The Curse," is certainly the best of the new stories. It's a well conceived tale about a young man named Jude who is working a dead end job when, in his frustration over his meaningless and tedious life, suddenly discovers that he has what he first believes to be a tremendous gift: the ability to compell anyone to do whatever he asks them to do. The problem is, the people who follow his commands always seem to hurt themselves in painful and horrific ways in the course of carrying out these orders. This is what prompts Jude to ask his mother about this dubious "gift," and he finds out that what he has is actually not a gift, but a curse. A bit surprisingly, this story is actually going to be told in three parts, and continued stories weren't usual in the original run of CREEPY.
The second of the new tales is entitled, "Hell Hound Blues," and it could have been an interesting story--especially since it features a rather cool monster (who appears on the cover of this first issue)--but it was unfortunately marred by a totally predictable ending that couldn't turn out any way other than what you expect from the very beginning. Let's just say it's about two obnoxious vinyl record collectors who are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to locate the sole remaining copy of an extremely valuable blues record...a quest that leads them straight to hell, literally.
The third new tale, called "Chemical 13," would be of particular interest to anyone in the field of creative mythography who are attempting to wold stories featuring zombies. This very interesting tale--which is the most disturbing in the book so far, and that's saying something--takes place in a Nazi concentration camp during the dark days of WW2. In this particular concentration camp, a new, experimental form of gaseous compound is used to test its effectiveness on killing the hapless prisoners of the camp in one of the Nazi's infamous "shower houses." However, this new chemical has a particularly horrific effect on its intended victims...instead of killing them completely, it transforms them into mindless zombies that ravage and kill. Though considering who their victims are, you certainly won't feel sorry for them.
The fourth new tale, "All The Help You Need," is a rather revolting spoof on both the diet mania in America and the reality "survival" game genre that has been so big on American TV over the last decade. This story is about a group of dieters who enter a special training camp to take off the pounds...only to find out that they are about to lose a lot more than just some weight.
The fifth tale from the Creepy Archives is one of the most fondly remembered
stories from Warren's creative heyday of the 1970s, "Daddy and the Pie." This
was the introductory story of an alien stranded on Earth in 1930s rural Maine
who ultimately pays a heavy price for defending the kindly human family who
takes him in and nurses him back to health when the family is threatened by
bigots from the local town who don't like this unearthly being in their midst.
[For those who may be interested in reading about the entire saga of the Pie, check out my detailed index of the character elsewhere on this site, along with my index to "Vampirella and the Time Force" to see the Pie's final fate.]
As for this issue's installement of "Creepy's Loathsome Lore," the focus is on "Faustian Deals," where Sister Creepy gives us a look at various real life celebrities who supposedly made literal deals with the Devil in order to achieve their fame and fortune...for the obvious price, of course. You would be surprised at all the well known real life celebrities whom Sister Creepy claims sold their most prized possession to gain material wealth and renown on the physical plane that we all (currently) call home. You won't find stories like that in the NATIONAL ENQUIRER, at least not until that notorious rumor and scandal rag adds strange urban legends to its repertoire.
Oh yea, we have one little bonus on the inside back cover of this issue: a truly disgusting interview between Shawna Gore, the editor of New Comic Company, who is the current owner of Warren's characters--which they have licensed to Dark Horse to publish--and Uncle Creepy himself. In this interview Ms. Gore attempts to find out what old Unc has been up to during his 25+ year hiatus (other than his aforementioned recruitment drive of new horror hosts into his ever-growing "family," that is), and ends up regretting that attempt--as will anyone else without an iron stomach who reads it. This one page interview gives you a look into the repugnant and twisted personality of the chief patriarch of the Creepy Family, but word of advice...don't read this interview if you plan to eat within the next two hours.
Okay, so what is my overall assessment of Dark Horse's inaugeral revival of CREEPY?
It's a good step in the right direction, and the expansion of Uncle Creepy's "family" is an interesting one. This first issue wasn't perfect, but it did manage to capture much of the terror and tone of the Warren days. Fans of horror anthology titles in general should probably give this title a look, as there aren't too many other books like it on the market today, and this initial revival of the Warren characters who left us two and a half decades ago deserves a chance to succeed.
Hence, I do recommend that we give this fairly noble effort our support. The editorial staff of this mag are clearly trying hard to bring back the old Warren magick in a new era, and I give them an "A" for effort. This mag has every possibility of improving further, but that won't happen if readers refuse to give it the chance it needs to do so. The latter editorial staff are taking things cautiously, which is why they revived CREEPY in standard comic book format (though retaining its stories in traditional black and white) rather than in its original magazine format to keep the price down, and has decided to publish the mag quarterly rather than monthly. Both of these moves are designed to save readers money and not to push the new CREEPY too strongly on them in a way that affects their bank books too negatively. This idea made a few of the Warren purists a bit miffed at first, but in hindsight it was probably a wise move, since the original run of the title occurred mostly during two decades where comic books in general were a considerably more affordable hobby than they are today.
The final verdict? The comic is just a penny shy of $5, and as high as that seems, it isn't that much higher than the average comic book published today. It's worth that $5 if you are a fan of the horror anthology genre of comics, and I think it's worth it overall to give this revival of an old friend a chance to succeed, improve, and lead to a new era of the old Warren greatness.
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