"The Pie" was an unusual series for EERIE, as well as being one of the most fondly remembered to ever appear in its pages (at least, in regards to the first of the two Pie stories Warren published). For one thing, it wasn't truly a horror series at all, but strictly in the mold of sci-fi, and even bordered (but never quite crossed into) super-hero territory. In fact, had Warren chose to delve into standard super-hero material prior to its final days at the beginning of the '80s, the Pie could have been their prime candidate, and their heroic line's "heavy-hitter," much as Superman is for DC (assuming they changed the former's code name, that is!). Nevertheless, as both of the Pie's stories made clear, Warren was apparently determined not to let him go in that direction, despite keeping the character as benevolent as could be. In fact, other than the wondrous themes of prejudice and acceptance of those who are different that this series adroitly addressed (particularly the first story by Bill DuBay, one of Warren's top scripters and editors), there was nothing eminently creepy about this series…unless you consider humanity's irrational hatred for anything and anyone who happens to differ from the mainstream.
"The Pie" may seem out of place in EERIE, but since Warren had not yet published a sci-fi title, all of its sci-fi themed stories and characters were relegated to its horror mags. Though 1984/1994 followed some years later [the original mag title of "1984" was later changed to "1994" after the Orwell estate complained], finally giving Warren a medium for strictly sci-fi stories and series (not that CREEPY, EERIE, or VAMPIRELLA ever dropped them from their respective line-ups), the Pie wouldn't have seemed to fit in that mag either, considering its devotion to ultra-violent, sex-starved characters and stories, and its focus on sadism and barbarism. The Pie was the equivalent of a "class act" character for Warren, and many argue that he provided the mold for the classic Spielberg film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," which was still several years away from the big screen when the Pie's first story appeared in the March, 1975 issue of EERIE.
The first story in the short-lived series (running but two entries) is considered one of the best stories that Warren ever published, bar none, and the fact that it was drawn by the legendary artist Alex Toth, a master of newspaper strips who also tried his hand at comics during the '70s, certainly didn't hurt. In fact, so much did the Pie captivate readers of Warren Comics that an honorable and fantastic final fate for the character was delivered to the readers in the book-length Vampirella and the Time Force story many years later in EERIE #130, shortly before the Warren empire vanished from the scene, leaving horror and comic book fandom much the poorer.
For anyone who happen to be fans of the heroic extraterrestrial genre, or the sci-fi genre in general, and are not put off by the illustrated story (i.e., "comic book") medium, will likely want to seek this story out. It's also a fine read for anyone who may sometimes tire of the anti-hero motifs of most of the EERIE heroes prior to the Rook coming on the scene, and who would prefer to see a charming if tragic tale about a character that is truly a hero, and who is actually a worthy role model for people of all ages to follow. Ignore the self-righteous whiners who complain that every story with a message is guilty of being "preachy"…stories with heart and meaning are needed in this world, and they provide an important reminder that the written medium can do far much more for the world than simply providing mindless entertainment.
This series also provides some compelling material for creative mythographers with an interest in the various advanced alien races of the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], and to us (since I, too, am a creative mythographer), the tragic but heroic saga of the Pie is more than worth a look for that reason alone.
"Daddy and the Pie"
Story: Bill DuBay
Art: Alex Toth
The story begins with narration from Richard Harris Jr. [his forename was revealed in EERIE #130] with the evocative words "Every kid needs a hero! Every kid needs someone he can look up to…pattern his life after…"
It was a snowy day in the winter of 1934, just outside the small town of Stillwater, Maine near the Penobscott River, when Harris, then a young boy of about ten years of age, was driving in a car with his father on a road passing through a wooded area when a small triangular spacecraft crashed several hundred yards ahead of them.
Rushing to the burning craft, Rich's father, Dick Harris Sr., pulled the sole occupant out of the wreckage, who was unconscious and seriously injured. This obviously alien though humanoid occupant was male, very lanky in build, much taller than a human (about eight feet tall), with no body hair, blue-ish skin, large black eyes with small blue irises and vertical pupils within, small and seemingly underdeveloped ears, five slightly long fingers with a vertical cleft in place of visible fingernails, no apparent nose but simply two vertical nostrils, and a slit-like mouth that was about the same size as a human mouth. He was dressed in a full body black tunic, included what looked like boots, gloves, and lower area that boasted a grayish hue, and the tunic covered his head but not his face. Around his neck was a necklace holding a green-hued, smooth surfaced orb that appeared about the size of a golf ball [in fact, his appearance was much like the 'Orions,' the taller versions of the 'Grays,' the popular image of the 'aliens' who dominate the UFO lore of late 20th century America in the Real Universe (RU); see the Comments and WNU Connections sections following this synopsis].
Despite his large size, this alien appeared rather light, since Dick Harris carried him over his shoulder with no apparent difficulty.
Upon dragging the badly hurt and bleeding giant alien over to the car, both Rich and Dick Harris realized that he wasn't human. Seconds later, the strange craft that crashed to the Earth exploded, and the narrating elder Rich mused that the craft looked like no airplane that he or his dad had ever seen before. Being a man with strong Christian convictions, Dick Harris told his son that despite the alien nature of this being, they still had a moral obligation to help him if they could. They thus drove him back to their rural home, where they were met by Dick's rather terrified wife, Dorothy. Nevertheless, sharing the same kindly convictions as her husband, Dorothy Harris agreed to help the strange being who had suddenly come into their lives. Laying the alien upon the bed in their guest room in the farmhouse, Dorothy tended to the alien's cuts and burns that were visible through the tattered parts of his uniform.
Two days later, the alien was healed enough that he finally regained consciousness. Looking up at his saviors, the big blue giant smiled at them benignly…and as the narrating Rich joyfully recalled, "…right then was born a loving, close friendship that would last until the grave!"
Over the next few weeks, as the alien healed thanks to the tender ministrations of the Harris's, who realized that since the alien obviously didn't speak English or any other Earthly language, they needed to do their best to teach him at least the basics of their lingo [I guess his universal translator was smashed in the wreckage, since thanks to these nifty devices invented by many star-faring races, the language problem was rarely a hindrance to humans and other advanced civilizations in the Star Trek future, at least from the 23rd century onwards, though an early version of the universal translator appeared in "Star Trek: Enterprise," which took place in the mid-22nd century]. They began their lessons by teaching the alien what the names of his hosts were.
The intelligent alien learned the rudiments of the English language quite fast, but the Harris's found themselves entirely incapable of comprehending his language, including the pronunciation of his name. Upon writing his name down on a piece of paper at the Harris's request in the alien's indigenous written language, Dick noted that he could neither read nor pronounce that name upon seeing it scribed on the paper. However, he did note that the first three symbols of his name, as they appeared on the paper, resembled numbers in the English numerical system (actually, the first four of them, as one symbol resembled a hyphen or a dot), and appeared to Dick Harris as "3.14" [actually, the other two symbols comprising the alien's name in his own otherworldly language likewise resembled numbers in the English numerical system, specifically a "7" complete with the bar some people like to put through the middle, and a zero with a vertical line going from the middle of the "0" to outside the bottom part of the circle…don't ask me how Dick managed to overlook this!].
Upon further thought, Dorothy recalled that in the English numerical system, 3.14 describes Pi, this Greek letter representing the mathematical equation that describes the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Dick noted to his wife, "Pi? Pie? You're right! Lord, I forgot that almost as soon as I learned it, years ago!" [Don't feel bad about that, Dick…you're far from alone in that regard!] Dorothy then wrote the word on the paper and told their kind alien guest, "Well, I think we've come upon a nice and short Americanized form of your name, big Pi!" Dick replied [with a bit of laughter], "From now on, you are to be called…the Pie!" Their alien friend returned the chuckle, and in good spirits, pointed to himself and referred to his person as "Pie," seeming to like his new nickname [thankfully, the poor alien schmuck couldn't comprehend the silliness of it by human cultural standards].
By the time the Pie had healed enough to walk, Rich noted (via his narrative) that the alien had learned enough of the English language to be able to speak and understand "short, terse sentences." After Dorothy made some Earthly clothing tailored to the alien's size, the first thing the Pie requested of his new friends was to be brought to the remains of his spacecraft. Upon seeing that his craft was smashed far beyond the possibility of repair, the kindly alien realized he would be trapped on Earth, a very primitive world to him, for the rest of his life, and was greatly saddened by this realization. As Rich noted in his narration, "Dad said he looked like a big lost child! I didn't really know what Dad meant by that until, one night, Pie told me that he 'could never go home again'--! I wept…I think he did, too!" [Sound familiar, E.T. fans? See Comments below].
Over the subsequent months, Pie became a very good friend of the Harris family, and one evening Dick brought home a large star map from the town library. Upon looking at the stellar map, Pie pointed out to them that his star-faring race's homeworld was in the star system that the people of Earth referred to as Cassiopeiae [this is actually a constellation of stars], thereby identifying his particular alien race as the Cassiopians (the Harris family, of course, found themselves unable to pronounce the name that Pie's people had for their star system and homeworld).
Pie told the Harris's that the Cassiopians were a highly benevolent race of star-faring beings with extraordinary technology, and their civilization had long ago dispensed with war, poverty, and all other social ills all too familiar to the people of contemporary Earth, a much less advanced civilization (both technologically and socially). His people didn't intervene or interfere with the civilizations of primitive worlds, and instead peacefully explored the universe in pursuit of knowledge. The Pie himself was an explorer who piloted a small craft to observe the primitive civilization of Earth out of curiosity and in the interest of learning from the vantage point of the upper stratosphere, and never had any intention of ever landing there. Though it was never revealed how his spacecraft ended up crash landing on Earth [after all, it's not like it was designed by NASA!], this nevertheless ended up destroying his ship, and stranding him upon the archaic world he was observing forever [I guess he never bothered to mention to any of his people where he was going].
The Pie told the Harris family about the incredible science and inventions of the Cassiopians, including the fact that their starships were capable of carrying entire cities into deep space. Pie reminded his adopted family that he would never see these marvels of science again, since he lost everything in the crash…save for the green orb around his neck that Rich simply referred to as his "gadget." The amazing capabilities of Pie's gadget were displayed one day when one of the Harris's neighbors, an elderly man by the name of Thatcher, was accidentally shot in the leg by overzealous hunters in the woods [ah, the joys of the hunting season! I guess Mr. Thatcher forgot to wear orange clothing that day]. The regretful hunters carried Mr. Thatcher to the Harris house, which was the closest home from that area of the woods, and when Dick noted that the leg wound looked 'bad,' Pie told him that he could use the gadget to "fix it." As the Pie held the small spherical object and concentrated, it began emitting a greenish glow, and the bullet was painlessly removed from Thatcher's leg…and those energies then proceeded to close and completely heal his wound. To quote Rich's narration from this point: "Pie said the 'gadget' could do almost anything--that it amplified thoughts--and made them a reality!" [Not a bad thing to be left with when you're stranded on a primitive alien world, as it sure as hell beats a pocket knife!]
Unfortunately, the Pie's kind heart was destined to work against him after that incident, since word got around about how he healed old man Thatcher in nearby Stillwater, and the townsfolk were "spooked." Dick didn't listen to their hostile comments, however, and the Pie ended up becoming a major asset to the Harris family in regards to helping them run their farm. Pie showed them many ways of improving their farming yield, and due to his familiarity with extremely advanced technology, he showed them how to make their comparatively primitive early 20th century Earth ground vehicles…and other machinery… "run more efficiently" [here we see the large lanky alien dressed in tailored attire common to blue collar folks in the 1930s, including a hat, and it was a riot to behold].
One day, however, the Pie asked Dick if he could accompany him into Stillwater when the farmer drove there to purchase some supplies, since the alien had never seen what an Earthly town looked like up close before…and Dick unwisely agreed. Upon seeing the benign but strange-looking alien in their midst, particularly after hearing about the way he quickly healed Thatcher's gunshot wound, the townspeople of Stillwater reacted with extreme mob hostility [one of them even shouted, "We heard about his sorcery!"…this sounded like a literal inquisitional fear of what appeared to be magick, and it sounded a bit odd coming from someone so far north in America even during the 1930s]. Finally, a particularly irate man grabbed a pitchfork from a nearby storage barrel and physically attacked the Pie, who displayed great strength and reflexes by grabbing the descending weapon with both of his hands before it could pierce his skin, and hurling his attacker to the ground while depriving him of his weapon. As Rich noted from his narrative, "Pie was a man of peace--but nobody could get close to him--unless he wanted 'em to--like then!" The Pie, along with Dick and Rich Harris, dejectedly left the town and its still protesting citizens.
Upon returning to the Harris farm, Pie was entirely incredulous about why he was attacked when he had harmed nobody, and Dick couldn't get the alien from a highly sophisticated civilization to understand ("Dad tried to explain to the puzzled Pie about prejudice, fear and hatred--but Pie just shook his head…").
A few months later, spring had arrived, and Dick and the Pie were busy working long hours on tending to the farm. Pie learned that he enjoyed farming, and Dick enjoyed working with his kind alien friend and hearing about the wonders of space. Periodically, however, Thatcher would come to the farm and tell Dick and the Pie that the townspeople were continuing to make underhanded threats, including the prospect of rushing the Harris farm and lynching the alien in their midst. Dick simply replied that the family would be "ready for them if they did."
In the meantime, whenever Dick went to town to buy the seed and grain that the farm needed, the Pie would teach young Rich how to work the gadget. As he noted, "Like Aladdin's magic lamp, it healed wounds and created things in thin air--!" the latter of which Pie demonstrated by using the gadget to create a tiny energy construct of a car in front of them [which resembles the similar ability of Green Lantern's power ring to do the same, the greenish glow accompanying both of their energy manifestations being another intriguing similarity; see WNU Connections below]. As Rich was practicing using the gadget himself, he cautiously mused, "If the user wasn't careful, his thoughts could destroy!" This occurred when Rich, while practicing, inadvertently caused the gadget to fire a beam of pure force that blasted a tree in half, thus showing that the device could be used as a devestatingly powerful weapon. The Pie simply laughed at his young friend's folly, and told him that in time, he would learn to focus his thoughts to use the gadget in a safe and productive manner, since it was never intended to be utilized as a weapon.
One evening, serious tragedy struck the family.
Dick was very late in returning home from his run to the store in town, and Dorothy mentioned that this was unlike her husband. So she, her son, and the Pie sat outside waiting with great concern. Soon afterwards, a hysterical Mr. Thatcher approached the trio, and told them that a large group of men in Stillwater surrounded and began brutally beating Dick Harris for harboring his alien friend. As Rich described in his narration, "Pie didn't understand--but, as tears welled up in his eyes, he said he knew what he had to do! He'd help his friend--my dad…"
Immediately afterwards, the Pie donned his now repaired uniform that he wore while piloting the spacecraft, gathered his gadget in hand, and set out for the town to save Dick Harris. The three people he left behind stood there in fear for the safety of both Dick and their alien friend.
Upon arriving in Stillwater, the Pie began asking the townsfolk who had attacked Dick Harris, but nobody was willing to tell the large alien anything. Becoming angry--an emotion rarely experienced by his uber-civilized people--the Pie gave in to his "last resort" and used his gadget to destroy the town's saloon, pharmacy, and its town hall (albeit without killing or injuring anyone). Intimidated into compliance with his request, some people finally revealed to the Pie who had beaten his human friend. Exploding in a rage, the Pie destroyed the home of every man who had hurt Dick because of their unreasoning hatred and bigotry, and a large number of the townsfolk took up shot guns and assaulted the Pie. Dorothy and Rich Harris stood at their farm in utter terror as they heard the sounds of explosions and gunshots in the nearby town, along with seeing smoke and flames.
Just before morning, the Pie finally returned to the Harris farm with the badly injured Dick Harris in his arms…as Rich described this tableau in his narration: "…he looked like the strongest an' bravest hero anyone had ever seen…"
As Dorothy and Rich rushed towards the Pie, the large alien suddenly collapsed to the ground, and they realized that he had been shot numerous times and was mortally wounded. Though he had saved the life of his beloved human friend, the heroic Pie quickly expired before the weeping people in front of him.
Two weeks later, Dick Harris recovered enough that he was able to speak and sit up in his bed. Upon asking where his best friend was, his wife and son sadly informed him that the Pie sacrificed his own life to save Dick from the brutal hate crime he was subjected to, and that they had buried him. All three members of the family cried and mourned the loss of their friend, the giant blue alien with a heart of gold, who sacrificed everything for the friend who saved his life and took him in.
As Rich's narration concluded, "What I did with Pie's 'gadget,' in later years, is quite another story…"
Comments: This terrific and heartwarming story, one of the most fondly remembered in the annals of Warren Comics, seemed somewhat out of place in EERIE, but so deserved to be published that none of the readers seemed to care. They probably needed to read about a real hero in this mag, since they were used to settling for the violence-laden, anti-heroic exploits of Dax the Warrior, Hunter, the Butcher, the Werewolf, the Mummy, Exterminator One, Coffin, and many others. In fact, the violence of this story was kept to a bare minimum, almost as if it was intended for a small four-color comic…the major violence encompassing the last part of the story took place entirely off-panel, and was described to the reader solely through Rich Harris's narrative panels. The Pie seemed as if he would have been much more at home debuting in an issue of DC's SHOWCASE, ADVENTURE COMICS, or in a revived MYSTERY IN SPACE, rather than a horror b&w mag like Warren's EERIE. Further, the "house style" of this tale by prolific Warren author and editor Bill DuBay was much more in line with what DC Comics was publishing during the '70s, rather than Warren's typical output.
Moreover, Alex Toth's talented pencils gave the story more of a newspaper strip look, like something you would also expect to see in a four-color comic rather than a b&w mag, and Toth's artwork looked visibly out of place for a story that wasn't rendered in color (not that this in any way detracted from his talent or the enjoyment of the story, however).
Is it possible that DuBay originally wrote this story, and that Toth may have penciled it, with the idea of selling it to DC (or another four-color publisher at the time)? But since Jim Warren was notoriously harsh on his staff for doing work for his competitors, might DuBay have thought better of his initial idea, and instead submitted the script (and possibly Toth's artwork) to Warren in the hope of avoiding Jim Warren's wrath? After all, the story was all but guaranteed to be published by Warren, since DuBay was editing EERIE at the time. I would opine that we may never know the answer to this question, but it's an interesting one to ask. For now, however, we should be thankful that this story was published, period…and that its appearance here brought it into the Warrenverse (and therefore, into the WNU, as would be revealed in EERIE #130).
The bulk of this story was told in a first person narrative by an elder Rich Harris Jr. (albeit talking in slang colloquialisms that belie the later revelation, in EERIE #130, that he grew up to become a renowned astronomer), though dialogue was also featured intermittently.
The themes of prejudice and bigotry weren't given center stage in this story, but they eventually became the major culprit of the tragedy suffered by the Harris family and their adopted alien friend…and they were quite well-handled by DuBay. The scenes of the Pie's interactions with the family were also very touching and heartwarming, and one gets the feeling that this would have made a good story to read around Christmas time. It also displayed the positive side of Christian values (currently not very visible under eight years of the junior Bush regime) that the Harris family represented. So many could learn from this. The story explored the popular but important theme of accepting those who are different as long as they stand for the public good, how ignorance can quickly segue into hatred and intolerance for those who happen to deviate from the norm, and how so many people have closed minds when it comes to dealing productively with the unfamiliar. The end of this tale was more depressing than inspiring, I must admit (at least, IMO)…but the heroic sacrifice of the Pie made it inspiring nevertheless.
Something also worthy of mention here is how this story of alien contact ran in the face of many clichés that I clearly recall annoying me during my younger days while watching sci-fi and horror films (of particular note in this regard is the very good B-film about an unpleasant alien contact titled "Night Beast"), or read in the comics. I understand that advanced aliens with hostile intent are necessary for the purposes of adventure and suspense, but it always seemed to me that extraterrestrials were almost invariably depicted in literature and film as being hostile to lesser races, if not outright monstrous. It forced me to wonder why so many members of ultra-advanced civilizations, who would likely (even if not necessarily) advance socially and ethically along with their technology, were often so fascistic, hostile, and stand-ins for monsters (again, try to locate and rent a copy of "Night Beast" for an admittedly entertaining example of my critique here). Wouldn't any advanced sentient alien who crash-landed on Earth be from a civilization who had dispensed with war, and used their great technology to supercede poverty and a competitive market system entirely? Don't get me wrong, I like the Klingons and the Romulans from the Star Trek Universe (which also happens to be an alternate future of the WNU) as much as the next sci-fi fan, but it always seemed rather illogical to me that the universe was depicted as being full of imperialist rather than enlightened civilizations. Of course, in the world of Star Trek, there are indeed many peaceful and enlightened civilizations (who make up the bulk of the United Federation of Planets), but the presence of the more warlike advanced races (e.g., the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Dominion, the Tholians, etc.) must be played up to the viewers for the purposes of dramatic suspense.
The Pie was a very welcome alternative to the above cliché. For once, we got to see humanity's bigotry examined rather than portraying the advanced alien as the savage, and this time the alien was the hero rather than the humans. How many times do we cheer the aliens in any of the Star Trek series, unless they serve on the Enterprise? And I'm asking this as a major Trekker. This is perhaps another reason that this story resonated with the readers so much, and stood out from much of the rest of the sci-fi being published at the time (though the Green Lantern Corps over at DC had their share of benevolent alien heroes, of course, and some may argue that the Pie was quite derivative of Green Lantern in certain ways).
I was forced to wonder, however, how the Pie could possibly have been killed by the townsfolk with a device as powerful as his 'gadget' at his side. Granted, the Pie wasn't used to utilizing the gadget as a weapon, but his subsequent battle with the American military in EERIE #130 (see the section of this site for "Vampirella and the Time Force"), a battle that made the incredible power of that Cassiopian device very clear, does force one to shake their head with incredulity when a mere bunch of Northern hicks with shot guns manage to take him down. Nevertheless, we didn't actually see the battle, merely its aftermath, so who is to say what factors may have been present at the time…and the fatal injury of the Pie was necessary for the plot of the story to have its full impact on the reader, of course.
Also, the advanced Cassiopian technology was utterly unearthly, and seemed very much what one would expect of an alien race whose technological progress was many centuries ahead of Earth.
Interestingly, as noted in the synopsis, the appearance of the Pie greatly resembled that of the 'Orions' of RU American ufological lore of the late 20th century, the 'Orions' being a taller version of the ubiquitous 'Grays' (supposedly from the Zeta Reticuli star system) who inhabit the same lore. One need only look at a drawing of the Pie, and then at one of the "aliens" who appears on the cover of one of the many popular ufology books of the '80s and '90s (including Whitley Strieber's COMMUNION and its sequels, including TRANSFORMATION, BREAKTHROUGH, and the fictionalized MAJESTIC, and Bud Hopkins's MISSING TIME, INTRUDERS, and WITNESSED) to see exactly what I mean. In fact, the marvelous technology displayed by the Cassiopians in this story appears somewhat analogous to the "miraculous" technology attributed to the 'Orions' in various ufological accounts, described as being so advanced that it resembles "magic," particularly in Raymond Fowler's trio of books beginning with THE ANDREASSON AFFAIR and its two sequels, THE ANDREASSON AFFAIR--PHASE 2, THE WATCHERS and THE ANDREASSON LEGACY (luckily for the Harris family, however, the Pie wasn't intent on taking sperm samples or conducting rectal probes, as his RU counterparts are alleged to do according to the written lore).
Additionally, though a diverse variety of shapes are attributed to the alleged spacecraft appearing in the vast ufological lore, including disk-like shapes, cylindrical shapes, shapes resembling boxes or overturned coffee cups, and the legendary saucer shapes (though the latter much less frequently than generally believed), triangular ships are also frequently reported...the same shape held by the Pie's exploratory craft.
It should be noted that the two Pie stories were written and drawn a few years before the popular image of the Grays first entered the pop culture consciousness, with the 1979 publication of Hopkins's MISSING TIME, though the latter book hardly put their faces on the pop cultural map…it wasn't until the 1986 publication of Strieber's COMMUNION that the 'Gray' alien phenotype officially entered pop cultural conceptions in major form. However, the Betty and Barney Hill case, and the Betty Andreasson case, were recorded in the early '60s and early '70s, respectively, though the popular image of these "aliens" didn't seem to gain any prominence during that time, since they were then lost among the myriad bizarre and often contradictory accounts of "alien" sightings in the ufological lore of that time period, before American sightings of the 'Gray' type "alien" began superceding all other "alien" sightings by the mid-'80s. The "Grays'" time in the ufological and pop cultural spotlight came thanks to Strieber, with a bit of help from Hopkins, and not really before that.
Could DuBay and/or Toth have read John G. Fuller's THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY (describing the Betty and Barney Hill encounter, and featuring the first significant account of the 'Grays') or THE ANDREASSON AFFAIR, and gotten their visual inspiration of the Pie from there? I'm not sure, and if not, this seems mighty interesting. And yes, I will point out (before someone else does) that while the Pie's appearance may mirror that of the 'Grays' (specifically, the 'Orion' sub-category, since the "Zeta Reticulan" 'Grays' are short rather than large in stature), his personality certainly doesn't…rather, it more resembles the seemingly benevolent, "brotherly" attitude of the Nordic category of "aliens," who appear largely (though not exclusively) in the late 20th century British and Germanic ufological lore, with American precursors seen in the 'Venusian' "space brothers" allegedly encountered by UFO contactee George Adamski during the 1950s and early '60s, which he wrote about extensively. The Nordic (a.k.a., 'Venusian') phenotype and their messages of peace and brotherhood were popular in general ufological lore before the 'Grays' largely took over the scene, and replaced a stated agenda of peace and spiritual enlightenment with physical rectal probes, alleged alien implants, and an apparent genetic hybridization plan.
This is interesting both to buffs of the paranormal exploring the true nature of the UFO phenomenon in the RU, as well as to creative mythographers for reasons that will be mentioned in the WNU Connections section below.
The great reader response to this story spawned a sequel a short time later, though it was helmed by an entirely different creative team, and it hardly measured up to the quality of this one…though it did serve to reveal the actual fate of the Pie after this story, and provided an important lead-in to his final fate in EERIE #130.
It should be noted that "Daddy and the Pie" was the first classic Warren story to be reprinted from Uncle Creepy's archive vaults in Dark Horse's CREEPY #1 from 2009.
WNU Connections: Due to the Pie's appearance alongside several other Warren characters in the Vampirella and the Time Force story in EERIE #130, where he directly crossed over with Vampirella and the Rook (along with their respective supporting casts), both of whom are established inhabitants of the WNU, that crossover officially brings the Pie and the Cassiopians into the "consensus" WNU, despite the fact that many would argue that he would seem to be more at home in the Marvel or DC Universes (particularly the latter).
Further, the appearance of the Pie, particularly his blue skin, his people's vast technology, and the similarity of his spherical gadget in terms of purpose to that of Green Lantern's power ring (including having a greenish glow!), especially the ability to allow those holding the gadget to defy gravity and create functional energy constructs of at least inanimate objects, may go a long way towards wolding Green Lantern. The Cassiopians may possibly represent the WNU version of the Guardians of the Universe, and their green spherical gadgets may be the latter reality's counterpart to the Green Lantern Corps.' power rings.
Creative mythographer Dennis Power has already composed an article to wold Green Lantern, and I would like to direct your attention there [there is a link to Dennis's site on the home page]. I would like to think that the Pie and the Cassiopians' presence in the WNU may provide further hints towards the wolding of Green Lantern and other elements connected to his backstory, such as the aforementioned Guardians of the Universe. Hopefully, Dennis and other creative mythographers will further explore this intriguing possibility in the future.
It should be noted that very early in the story, Rich Harris Jr. mentioned various WNU personages, following the initial narrative statement that I quoted in the above synopsis: "We had lots of heroes back in 1934…Buck Jones, Tommix, Tarzan, Capt. Easy, Max Bear, Jack Armstrong, the Shadow, Lone Ranger and Green Hornet…"
Granted, these could have been intended as references to the characters' various old time radio shows and pulp magazines appearing during that time period, but in the WNU, the Shadow and the original Green Hornet were active vigilantes in the '30s, and Tarzan's exploits were reported in a series of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs's WNU counterpart, just as a few examples. The Lone Ranger was obviously active during the Old West of the WNU, several decades prior to this story, though his legend was recorded and was likely widely read in various tomes during the 1930s in the WNU. Thus, it's quite possible that the younger Harris was referring to news reports of these characters' activities in the WNU, while also making reference to the various books then being published that chronicled the previous adventures of the Lone Ranger, rather than simply citing what he heard or read on the radio shows and fictional literature of the time (though in the WNU, Tarzan was widely believed to be fictitious, and it's possible that the Lone Ranger may have been believed to be fictional, also, though the Green Hornet was his descendant).
Hence, because the Pie's stories took place in the WNU, it's quite possible that Rich Harris Jr. wasn't entirely referring to radio shows and prose literature.
Moreover, the appearance of the Pie, and his surprisingly great similarity in appearance to the 'Orions' and 'Grays' of American ufological lore, may provide a further framework to creative mythographers for wolding the 'Grays' and their kin. Of course, various versions of the 'Grays' have appeared in other WNU sources, such as episodes of "The X-Files," "Dark Skies," and "Stargate SG-1," thus strongly suggesting that the 'Gray' phenotype is shared by many different alien races of various temperments, sizes, agendas, and levels of technological advancement in the WNU, much as the humanoid phenotype also appears to be a recurring physiological phenomena across the expanse of that universe. Creative mythographers who specialize in the alien races of the greater WNU may be particularly interested in exploring this idea further.
Since Rich Harris Jr.'s narrative described this tale as the "true story of my daddy…and the big blue giant who we came to know as The Pie!", it can be inferred, as I have speculated elsewhere, that in the WNU Harris eventually told this story to the Bill DuBay and Alex Toth of that reality, who then adapted his narrative into the EERIE mag being published in the WNU.
It has already been established that Warren Comics published the "true" stories of Vampirella after the she-vamp approached (and sort of seduced) the Archie Goodwin of the WNU, so this phenomenon was likely widespread. Further, the stories published in Warren Comics about these various WNU characters probably had much more "truth" to them than the stories about various characters published in Marvels and DC Comics in the Newtonian universe.
Time Frame: This story was specifically stated to have begun in the winter of 1934, and it obviously continued into the spring of 1935.
"The Pie and I"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Luis Bermejo
Eight years after the previous story, Rich Harris Jr. was now ready to enter college. He frequently reflected upon the wonderful memories he had of his life on the farm his parents owned outside of Stillwater, Maine (right beside the Penobscott River)…including his close relationship with his father, and their departed friend, the kindly blue alien giant they nicknamed the Pie ("It was my memory of that gentle giant that allowed me to find him again…long after death took him away").
As it was now 1942, World War II was raging on, and many patriotic young men Rich's age were boastfully eager to sign up for the Armed Forces. As Rich ruefully noted, "I'd heard the speeches about a 'needful war' to 'stop the spread of a hideous disease.' I'd listen to it all…and watched solemnly as boys marched off to become men! But after spending part of my life at the knee of a spaceman named Pie, I had no place in my heart for war" [the fact that Pie represented peace was well played here…though the quality of the story didn't last much beyond this point, unfortunately].
Many people in the town of Stillwater considered Rich a coward for refusing to sign up to fight in the war [gotta love those hawks], including a teen ruffian named Buck Thackery, who enjoyed proving his machismo by being quick to get into a fist fight, and who frequently bullied Rich, referring back to years earlier when he and his parents had Pie as a guest, and calling the peaceful alien a "giant Nazi."
As Rich continued his narrative, he recalled watching Thackery sign up and march off to battle the Japanese at Gudalcanal…and to soon return home in a flag-draped coffin [this was a genuinely powerful moment in the story, and reminds contemporary readers of the currently ongoing tragedy that is the Iraq War].
Shortly afterwards, Rich set off for Bearbridge University outside of Stillwater to study astronomy, revealing the goal to one day journey to the stars to inform the Cassiopians of Pie's unfortunate fate [this type of thinking wasn't overly fanciful, since in the early '40s many people likely believed that space travel may be possible a few decades in the future]. There, Rich would study hard and return to his home at the farm at night. When he did so, he would notice his father stargazing, and he realized that Dick Harris still missed his good friend, the Pie.
However, whenever Rich would drive through Stillwater to go to school, he was harassed by the townsfolk, who still blamed his family for the Pie destroying portions of the town years earlier, never seeming to acknowledge the fact that they began the conflict themselves, and thus forced the peace-loving alien's hand. Among those who engaged in this harassment was Buck Thackery's father, who blamed Rich for his son's recent death while fighting in the war [don't ask me how old man Thackery managed to rationalize this one…I simply think that most of the people in Stillwater were loony]. Though Rich never told his father about these incidents so as not to get him upset, he did confide this info to his mother Dorothy [her name was never mentioned in this story, so new writer Budd Lewis probably forgot it], and she told her son that she regretted their friendship with the deceased Pie, since all of their problems with the town began with the alien's inadvertent arrival eight years before.
Heeding his mother's prediction that things were likely to get worse, Rich searched his room and retrieved the 'gadget' that the Pie had given him after his death, an object of power invented by the ultra-advanced Cassiopians. He recalled its extraordinary properties, this time revealing other things the Pie had done with it in addition to healing injuries and creating energy constructs out of "thin air," such as the time his alien friend used the device to chop and stack two entire cords of wood in only 30 seconds. He again marveled at the fact that this gadget turned the power of thought into physical manifestation. Rich declined using it himself after Pie's death, because he was unable to control it adequately, and accidentally destroyed a tree when attempting to do so years earlier. Pie told him that he would train him in its use, something the alien said that Rich could accomplish if he filled his psyche with feelings of love, though this project was obviously aborted with the alien's untimely death.
Rich placed the gadget in a small metal box the night Pie had died, and simply owning this device made him feel closer to his old friend's memory.
Soon after this, however, the situation between the Harris family and the townspeople of Stillwater became absolutely incendiary.
Rich drove into town one Saturday to pick up wood at his father's behest to build his mother a fence [don't ask me why they didn't simply acquire this wood from the forest around their farmhouse…are the Harris's gluttons for punishment, or something?]…and found himself assaulted by several townsfolk again. Now using topical invectives by referring to Rich as a "Nazi lover" [i.e., anyone who is 'different' can be a "Nazi" in their eyes], as well as calling him a coward for refusing to sign up in the Armed Forces, the situation quickly became violent. Rich Harris was brutally beaten by several of the men in the town [which author Lewis had Harris describe in loving detail: "I kept hearing that nerve shattering crunch as rib bones busted, fingers snapped, my nose smashed"], and his truck was overturned and set afire [didn't the county Stillwater was in have any cops, for cripe's sakes?].
Managing to get up and hoof it back to his home (albeit barely), Rich's parents were horrified at the sight of their son's condition. Now filled with extreme rage, Dick Harris grabbed his loaded Winchester rifle and headed towards the town to seek retribution for what they had done to his son; the memories of the beating they gave him years ago, not to mention the fact that his friend the Pie died saving him from them, was still an open wound in his mind. Despite his wife's impassioned protestations, the enraged Dick still headed into Stillwater.
Though badly injured and barely able to walk, Rich was determined to help his father, and he began limping towards the town…with Pie's gadget in hand. Long before the injured boy reached Stillwater, he heard numerous shots fired, and realized that his father had officially declared war on the townsfolk. Upon finally arriving in Stillwater, Rich came across a traumatic discovery…in addition to numerous bullet holes in practically every building he could see, his father's dead body was laying against the wreckage of his truck with his shotgun still in his hands [don't ask me why this weapon was just left lying there by the townspeople…and again, weren't there any lawmen around there? I guess not, since no law enforcement officer appeared in either story!]. Rich discovered that his father had been shot through one of his eyes [which Lewis also had Harris describe in succinct but wonderfully gory detail: "The bullet had gone in there. Where it come out the back of his head…there wasn't no back of his head."].
Now entirely consumed by rage, Rich Harris called upon the power of the Pie's gadget, and used its capacity for projecting beams of pure destructive force to lay waste to the entire town of Stillwater, Maine [once again, off-panel], and his grieving mother stood on their front porch dejectedly listening to the sounds of chaos and watching the smoke and flames from the horizon [mirroring the scene near the end of the previous story].
Cradling his father's body in his arms, Rich looked at the terrified masses of townsfolk before him and exclaimed his intention of turning the power of the gadget directly upon them next. Suddenly, however, a voice coming from within the gadget itself stilled Rich's hand…this voice belonging to the Pie himself. It turned out that when the Pie had died, his life-force didn't pass beyond the physical plane, but was instead absorbed into the gadget, where it had resided within for the past eight years. Startled by his discovery that the Pie was still with him, the kindly alien told his human friend that he would be with him always, as his life essence would remain within the crystal matrices of the Cassiopian gadget indefinitely. His alien friend then told him, "You hold the powers of the crystal within the palm of your hand. Just as you hold the lives of these people there. Will you murder them all?" The grief-stricken boy reminded his friend that they had just killed his father, but the Pie retorted that they had killed him also, lamenting, "but, if they had not…would you still require their deaths in vengeance? You must forgive them, Richard! Leave them to the mercy of God…and trust in his wisdom!" [Now, are we to believe that the Pie embraced the more benevolent tenets of Christianity during his short time on Earth, that worship in a monotheistic male consciousness of the universe was also revered by the Cassiopians, or that the Pie was simply speaking to his human friend with theological jargon that he would be readily familiar with? Take your pick.]
Acceding to the ways of peace embraced by his friend, Richard Harris Jr. spared the townspeople's lives, and carried his father's body home, where he and his mother buried the fallen man beneath the oak tree in their yard, "where he could rest forever, gaze up at the stars…and somehow be a little closer to Heaven…and Pie."
Comments: This story, by an entirely different creative team than the first, appears to have been scripted with a good degree of haste. Budd Lewis was one of Warren's top writers during the '70s, yet this story had awkward dialogue, and Lewis appeared to be trying to bring it more in "tone" with the other series in EERIE, by upping the violence level several notches from the previous story, but at the same time (to his credit) being sure to stay true to the peace-loving nature of the Pie. This story was also told largely in a first person narrative by the future Richard Harris, though despite a few shining moments (pointed out by this author in the synopsis), both the narrative and the dialogue were tedious to read, and the pace of the story left something to be desired. In other words, unlike the first story, this second (and final) entry in the series was (IMHO) boring to read.
The artwork by Luis Bermejo was adequate, but certainly a far cry from the work of Alex Toth in the previous entry.
Oddly, on the cover of this issue of EERIE, this story was referred to as "The Pie and Eye" (spelled precisely that way!). Then again, since this issue was edited by Bill DuBay, a great writer but a king of editorial flubs, perhaps it's not so surprising after all.
Since fan response to this second entry was wanting, it appears that the Warren staff decided to let the first story rest on its own merits and discontinue the series. However, the final fate of the Pie would be told several years later in the book-length Vampirella and the Time Force story that appeared in EERIE #130 (indexed elsewhere on this site).
Both of the Pie stories were reprinted in WARREN PRESENTS #1, theme-titled UFO AND ALIEN COMIX. It also includes several stand-alone stories with sci-fi and alien themes reprinted from various issues of CREEPY, EERIE, and VAMPIRELLA from the '60s and early '70s. I cannot attest to the quality of the stand-alone stories, but those looking for a single book to find both Pie stories should seek out a copy of this mag for that reason alone.
"Daddy and the Pie" was also reprinted in CREEPY #139, which was an issue of EERIE's sister mag entirely devoted to reprints of Alex Toth's work for Warren.
Time Frame: This story takes place in the autumn months of 1942.
Note: To see the final fate of the Pie, go to my Index's entry on Vampirella and the Time Force from EERIE #130.