My Introduction to Horror Comics
For the past several months, I’ve been occupied with an experiment in writing weekly fiction. I did this on a different Substack devoted entirely to that topic. The Substack was called Sketchy Scoops. It was my attempt at creating a modern adaptation of the ideas that I first encountered in Darren McGavin’s old TV show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Last week marked the final issue of that publication. I did this for a couple of reasons, but my primary one was that I wanted to consolidate all of my writing here on Written Ward.
Welcome New Readers
For those of you joining us from Sketchy Scoops, I’m glad you’ve chosen to continue reading my work. Thank you for following us over. Just to remind everyone, in the last issue of Sketchy Scoops I explained that I would be adding everyone who remained subscribed to the mailing list here at Written Ward. If you had meant to unsubscribe but forgot about it, you can manage your subscription options here.
About a month ago, as part of themovement, asked me to do write ups about Bernie Wrightson and the old horror comics that Warren Magazines used to put out. At the time, I was busy writing Sketchy Scoops and that topic didn’t really fit that publication so I had to wait for the right moment. That time has come. So, here is my attempt to explain why I enjoyed (and still enjoy) Creepy so much.
My First Creepy
My introduction to Creepy happened at Kroger’s Grocery Store in Craigsville, West Virginia. My grandmother used to take me grocery shopping with her each week. Invariably, I would wonder off to the magazine rack to look at the limited number of comics they had on display. It was the early 70’s and I hadn’t even started school. I couldn’t read, but I loved monster movies and I could recognize both Dracula and the Wolfman and the epic battle that was about to take place.
I grabbed the magazine and went to find my grandmother. I begged her to buy it in that persistent way that only small children have and finally she relented. Why she thought it was a good idea to buy a horror comic for a four year old is beyond me, but from that moment on I was hooked.
Eventually, I began school and learned to read. That was when I began to understand that Uncle Creepy was a host for each issue. He would guide us through the stories and list off some tantalizing detail to make them more appealing and lure us into reading the lurid tales. The magazine didn’t hesitate to use their mascot to plug issues or sell products.
In fact, you’d see him at the beginning of every story. Frequently, his introductions would involve some type of pun or play on words. He would refer to the readers as Fiends instead of Friends or in other ways that made us sound ghoulish in some manner. We loved it.
Each issue of the story would include letters that readers had sent in and the editors would frequently reply in the voice of Uncle Creepy meaning that the readers would receive some mildly sarcastic remark. Those letters, written in the early to mid-sixties tend to be even more interesting now than they were when I first read them in the mid=seventies.
Each issue featured bits of non-fiction that were devoted to teaching the readers about folklore. It was a fascinating way to present information to young minds.
One thing that may surprise people who haven’t read Creepy is that it frequently included science fiction stories. They tended to slant a bit toward the horror side of the equation, but Creepy did not limit its settings to Gothic castles or fog-covered moors.
One science fiction story that appeared multiple times, but that managed to stay horror-free were the Adam Link stories. They told the tale of a sentient robot. There was a murder in the story— so maybe they weren’t entirely devoid of horror, but they always felt more like a mystery story rather than something meant to scare or shock readers.
Frequently, Creepy’s editor, Archie Goodwin, would adapt classic prose stories to the comic format. In some ways, he was the Mike Flanagan of that generation. He told the story, but would often (but, not always) update elements to make it more palatable to the readers of that day.
One of the big attractions to reading each issue was the ads. Now, they are quaint and charming, but to a six year old in the mid-seventies? Well, what could be more fascinating than contemplating all the many uses one would have for a plastic fly that could really stick on walls and was over 8 inches long?
Want to Read Creepy Comics?
You can find print copies of Creepy in the long-boxes of pretty much any comic store. The magazine sold well in its day which means they printed a lot of copies. If owning a physical copy isn’t important to you, the entire print run is available in digital formats. Those digital versions of the comic have preserved everything. So, you’ll see all of the original ads, the mail bag, and every story. They’ve done a great job at creating a digital artifact of these works.
Thanks for Reading
I hope you’ve enjoyed this issue. Next week, I’ll be back with some thoughts and suggestions about how to improve the fiction ecosystem on Substack.