Panning the murky old print stream for the odd glimmering nugget
Painted Covers: Warren Magazines
Publisher James Warren understood the importance of a strong cover, so he didn’t scrimp in that department. Most famously, he called upon Frank Frazetta, but a host of extremely capable painters displayed their talents over the years: Basil Gogos, Luis Dominguez, Vic Prezio, Ken Kelly, Berni Wrightson, Tom Sutton, Manuel Sanjulian, Kenneth Smith, Gray Morrow, Pat Boyette, Terrance Lindall…
« Naturally there was quite a ruckus when everyone found out who… and what Rah was. But there wasn’t any rules concernin’ the eligibility of a mummy to play ball, so the Jets’ victory stood… » — from Roger McKenzie’s The Return of Rah
Carrying on with our irregular survey of significant Warren cover artists whose names and reputations are somewhat less inextricably linked with the publisher than the usual suspects, and thereby sometimes overlooked. Fresh out of art school, and on his way to a truly remarkable, award-peppered career, Don Maitz (born 1953, Plainville, CT) graced a brace of Warren Mags with some of his earliest professional imaginings, which I’ve gathered here.
« Quodo seemed to be a paradise. It was a lush green planet of peace and solitude. Then the pilot met the blonde… » — Nicola Cuti, “Weird World”
Kenneth Smith (1943-), the fantasy artist, inhabits the same body as Kenneth Smith, the retired philosophy professor and incorrigible obfuscator. Whereas someone like, say, Bertrand Russell would make his point clearly and concisely, Kenneth would just pile it higher and higher, leaving the reader entangled in a maze of syntax and syllogism.
Since you may not be familiar with the man’s infamous column in The Comics Journal, Dramas of the Mind, here’s a typical quotation from the man, where he, er… takes on “obscurantism”:
« In characterizing realities no less than in taking positions on issues, consciousness generalizes, i.e. genericizes: in articulating or formulating, it reduces things, even our own selves, to forms, abstractions, idealizations, types, archetypes, simplisms. “Thinking” is an activity that ultimately grounds or resolves itself in the satisfying, self-certain form of orthodoxies, preconceptions, uncriticized and imperative norms; and it is overwhelmingly inept to recognize just how pathetic, parasitic or placental is its relation to its “own” fundamental norms of understanding and valuation. Rarely if ever does any act of thinking grow so laserlike or iconoclastically intensive as to escape from the dense miasma of what is acceptable. To think what actually is is even more contranatural for humans than to see what actually is: as subjectivizing as “seeing” is, “thinking” is many degrees or magnitudes more saturated with conditioned biases, delusions, self-deceptions. A program of hygiene or asepsis for the sanity, acuity and clarity of syncretic or wholesided thinking—a discipline of orthotics for sobering, grounding and polemicizing of well-formed gnoseonoesis—is needless to say unknown in modernity. Not just language but virtually all of intellect, education, culture, etc. have been adapted into utilities, tools whose very aspectivity militates against the nakedness of “evidence,” which is to say, against candor and against truth: regardless of what it may be called, “evidence,” even the most obvious and blatant, is in actuality not so “evident” to most people, and the modern development of “sophistication” or “education” typically worsens the obscurantism. »
For all that, I’ll take a guy with such an overflowing abundance of vocabulary and ideas that he doesn’t know when to quit… over most of the boneheads frequently passing for writers nowadays. Still, if you don’t mind, we’ll (mostly) stick to his Warren artwork today.
Bonus time: Mr. Smith created this lovely piece to illustrate R.A. Lafferty‘s masterful short story Mr. Hamadryad. I first encountered them* in the anthology Prime Cuts no. 1 (Jan. 1987, Fantagraphics). Hey, any fan of Old Man Lafferty’s is someone I’d happily clink glasses with. Cul sec, Mr. Smith!
*Smith’s illustration first graced Lafferty’s tale in the limited edition (1000 copies) collection Golden Gate and Other Stories (1982, Corroboree Press, MN). However, “Mr. Hamadryad” first turned up in STELLAR I (Judy-Lynn Del Rey, ed., 1974).
« According to statistics, millions of Americans read millions of the most carefully written crime and crime detection stories in the world! Expertly told… and prepared, after exhaustive research — the best of these are, in effect, lessons in crime and criminal psychology!Yet could you, sitting in the trolley or bus or subway at night, pick out the killer sitting opposite you? » — The Killer (Dec. 8, 1946)
Welcome to the fourth entry in our chronicle of the variegated ambulations of the former Denny Colt. Begin if you will, as we did, with his time at Quality, then follow his path through Fiction House, then on to Harvey, Super and Kitchen Sink; at that point, you’ll be all caught up.
Okay, now that we’re all here, let’s pose and answer the next burning question: how did The Spirit come to make landfall at Warren Magazines? Thankfully, we’re spared the motions of idle speculation in this case, since Jim Warren himself revealed all in the course of an interview with Jon B. Cooke, published in The Warren Companion (2001):
JW: « I would have mortgaged everything I owned to publish Will Eisner — to be involved in anything Will Eisner was doing. I called Will and said, ‘Mr. Eisner, I’d like to take you out to lunch.‘
I knew Will was talking to Stan Lee about The Spirit and that DC was interested in his company, American Visuals. I also knew that Harvey Comics had done a couple of Spirit reprints and that they might be interested again. I had to move fast.
So I took him out to lunch, sat him down, and said, ‘There’s no possible way that I’m going to let the great Will Eisner escape. You are someone I have revered since 1940, when I saw the very first Spirit section in the Philadelphia Record with that splash page that changed my life. Do you think I’m going to let you go to Stan Lee, whom I ‘hate’ and ‘despise’ as a competitor? Do you think I’m going to lose you to that unrepentant sociopath? You’re just going to be a computer number to Marvel; they have a factory, where they cookie-cut comics, turning out 400* titles a month!’
And I saw the expression in Will’s face — he had his pipe in his mouth at the time, just like Commissioner Dolan — and I could see that I had him. »
Let’s have a look at some covers. Most of the sixteen (plus the colour Special) are terrific, but I skipped a few of the lesser ones: issue one is a not-quite successful Eisner-Basil Gogos painted collaboration, and issue two is just okay. Issue 11 is another Ken Kelly painting over Eisner pencils, and 12 to 16 are composites using inside panels. Fine, but facultative. And now, on to the gems!
In closing, this final, telling exchange from the Jim Warren interview:
Jon Cooke: Do you recall dealing with Denis Kitchen about The Spirit? Jim Warren:Will had given his word — and his word is his bond — for Denis to reprint The Spirit (this was before Will and I negotiated a deal). Denis had spent money on preparing the reprints. Will said to me, « It would be a nice gesture if you would reimburse Denis, who is a good guy, for the material he’s already prepared. » I think Will looked on me kindly when I said « Absolutely. » (What Will doesn’t know if that if he had asked for me to give Denis a Rolls-Royce, I would have driven it to Wisconsin myself!)
*an exaggeration, of course, but a pointed one. At the time, Marvel *was* doing its worst to flood the market in order to starve its competitors.
« These dreams? Hallucinations… or whatever you call them! It was on a business trip… in the middle of nowhere… I’ll never forget it! » — Alex Colby, who swears he saw them.
When people talk about Warren magazines cover artists, the name of Vic Prezio is rarely brought up. Well, someone has to, and it might as well be me. It doesn’t help that he only painted a handful of covers for Warren, but hell, I love them all in their pulpy glory.
Prezio is better known for his over-the-top men’s adventure magazine covers and, to a lesser extent, his Magnus: Robot Fighter covers for Gold Key. Mostly anonymous work, though. It’s a filthy business.
In Part One, we looked at Prezio’s Creepy Covers. As it’s « age before beauty », Cousin Eerie now gets his turn to bow.
An inspiring reminder of why you shouldn’t let the naysayers drag you down (even six feet under). Be all that you can be, on this side of the grave and beyond!
Prezio’s painting conveys vividly the high paranoia of Archie Goodwin and Alexander Toth‘s The Stalkers, reprinted in this issue from Creepy no. 6, just a couple years old by then. Warren Publications were *not* in good shape at the time, having lost more of their key talent and left to the bare minimum of original material, including, thankfully, the covers. The out-of-left-field success of Vampirella would swoop in and save the enterprise in 1969. Close call!
Another striking (if a bit rushed-looking) Prezio cover, this time representing Slight Miscalculation by writer Bill Parente and artists Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico. The much-maligned Fraccio and Tallarico often worked together under the joint nom de plume of Tony Williamsune (it is said that Tallarico pulled most of the weight.)
The mysterious, but nonetheless well-remembered journeyman pulp illustrator, Vic Prezio, though chiefly associated with the infamous Men’s Sweat adventure magazines (« Weasels Ripped my Flesh! ») also produced notable work for Dell (The Outer Limits, Kona, Naza, Brain Boy, Frogmen…), Gold Key (Magnus, Robot Fighter) and Warren, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I did say he was a journeyman.
In all, Prezio produced, for the Warren Magazine line, six covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland, some of them classics, four for Creepy and six for Eerie. And that’s not all: Prezio painted a pair of covers for FMOF companion title Monster World (no. 2, Jan. 1965, and no. 4, June 1965); these would have been his earliest Warren contributions. Thanks to eagle-eyed Michael Prince for bringing these last to my attention!
Today, we’ll admire Uncle Creepy’s dodgy wares, and reserve Cousin Eerie’s mouldy goodies for part two. The FMOF issues regrettably fall outside our purview, but for the record, these are numbers 35, 36, 38, 39, 67 and 68. Check ’em out.
Greetings, tentacle lovers! I’m here with a new batch of Warren-published tentacles – this time, some he-men macho types get tangled up in them, though damsels predominate as usual. Don’t forget to visit part I: Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles.
One thing that can easily be generalized from tentacular covers is that women frequently have a lot more fun on them than their male counterparts. To wit:
As for poor Vampi, she seems to encounter tentacles wherever she goes.
The cover story, Starpatch Quark & Mother Blitz (scripted by Bill DuBay and illustrated by Jose Gonzalez), contains some spectacular, spiky, nasty tentacles.
The cover story sounds like fun… let’s take a peek.
« You’re worried that little Orphee is thinking of making a meal of that luscious girl…? He’s turned down everything from the choicest prime rib to the slimiest of insects, which leads me to believe that he filters nourishment from the very air! »
So much for scientific theories.
I think I promised you some men fighting tentacles. Sigh, so be it.
I had to know what the hell is “The Holy Warrior” about. “Godless commie heathens”? Oh, very subtle, 1994. Given the mention of kicking the living crud out of ’em, it’s tempting to assume that this is satire… unless the author has an amputated sense of humour. I couldn’t find any scans of the story online, but someone on a Very Creepy Blog kindly summarized it as:
“Third is “The Holy Warrior!” by Delando Niño (art) and John Ellis Sech & Bill DuBay (story). This story takes place in a future where there are Jesus clones. Our hero, the Holy Warrior, is seeking to rescue one, which is just a child, from communist enemies. He is able to do so, but the two of them are so hungry that he ends up killing the clone and eating him! Quite a bizarre and heretical ending for this story.”
And I thought that Vampi story was written by someone on drugs. Same author, mind you (Bill DuBay) – there’s definitely a pattern… of nonsense, balderdash and malarkey.
By the way, you can read a bunch of Warren publications online – for free! – here.
Welcome to Tentacle Tuesday! Today’s edition features beautifully painted covers from series published by Warren, and oh boy oh boy, are there are a lot of tentacles to be found there! To borrow a title from the first cover we’ll be ogling today, “THE SLIMY, CRAWLY SLITHERING GROPIES DO TERRIBLE THINGS TO PRETTY LITTLE GIRLS!” It’s a tad lacking in subtlety, but summarizes the state of things quite nicely.
On with the show…
I wouldn’t expect cephalopods to care for patriarchal, machismo standards of female purity, but apparently Lecherous Groatie (great nickname) wants his maidens virginous (which isn’t even a word, you guys). “Little Beaver!”, you say? Way to go in being offensive to both tentacled creatures *and* Indians. This issue also contains the story “The Russians Are Coming… All Over America!”, a title which I, for one, find hilarious.
Leaving 1994 behind (although technically we’re going back in time), and moving on to Eerie, we get to tentacles that look like worms coming out of a lumpy, squishy brain – the joy of any good anatomical pathologist.
One understands the guy’s desperate attempts to get free, but why is the woman so placid, serenely exposing herself to the creature’s grasp? I guess Tentacle Tuesday doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. Interestingly, Sanjulián seems to have tweaked his art for the cover – here’s his original painting, in which the girl’s face is clearly visible.
Let’s visit good old Vampi and see what sort of cephalopod encounters she’s had.
The tentacled creature in question is the “star-beast” advertised on the cover – an alien (suspiciously similar to an octopus) who, as usual, tries to take over the earth by breeding (which for some reason involves a lot of nude & nubile college students as sacrifices) and is killed when Vampirella crashes a car into it. Starting on an epic, inter-planetary scale and ending it all with a banal road accident is a bit of an anti-climax.
Is this Vampirella’s last encounter with tentacles, you ask? Don’t be silly – of course not. As the Russians say, « and yet again the little hare will go out for a walk. »
« That minuscule ogre on the throne must be the King. What a peculiar little man. »
In 1978-79, the rightly-celebrated English fantasy artist Patrick James Woodroffe (b. Halifax, West Yorkshire, on October 27, 1940; d. May 10, 2014), fresh from his high-profile paperback (much Moorcock!) and album cover assignments (including Judas Priest’s splendid Sad Wings of Destiny), hired out his talented brush with Warren Publishing long enough to produce ten covers, a varied, eye-catching and often unusual lot. Let’s make the rounds, shall we?
As the close of the 1970s neared, James Warren‘s magazine empire was inexorably crumbling. I like to imagine that it was decided, in desperation, that a little fiddling was in order… just a smidgen. Some enlightened soul (my pick is new editor Chris Adames) got the notion to bring on board Terrance Lindall (1944-) to produce some covers for the magazines. He painted a mere five, but made each one memorable, to say the least, evoking justified comparisons to Matt Fox, Lee Brown Coye, sans oublier the venerable Hiëronymus Bosch.
Well, then, let us bask in the comforting, bucolic visions of Terry Lindall at Warren, in their order of publication. Makes you want to pack a picnic lunch and go for a leisurely ramble through the countryside with your faithful Hound of Tindalos.
Oh, how Creepy’s long-time readers must have wailed and moaned at these singular, quease-inducing mise-en-scènes! “Bring back Boris Vallejo!”
« Aww, I bet he wasn’t so tough! Look how skinny he was! »
Egyptian-born (but of Greek descent) Basil Gogos (March 12, 1929 – September 13, 2017), may be most celebrated for his prodigious run of Famous Monsters of Filmland cover paintings. Ah, but that’s hardly all he’s done, and done well: advertising, paperback covers, film posters*, men’s adventure illustration…
His forays into the world of Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie were quite rare, so let’s savour them. This is Eerie no. 30 (November, 1970), depicting a scene from Don Glut and Jack Sparling‘s “The Return of Amen-Tut!”. Read it here.
…and here’s a look at Gogos’ original painting.
Thanks for all the colourful nightmares, Mr. Gogos!
*his Alain Delon looked more like Bob Guccione Sr., which frankly is no compliment. And is that supposed to be Ornella Muti? No cigar, Mr. Gogos. Still, the film (misleadingly) depicted here, « La mort d’un pourri » (1977), is a superior political thriller that anticipates several of the less savoury aspects of globalization. This is the original art from the Spanish poster… « Muerte de un corrupto ».
And here are Mr. Guccione, bon vivant and founder of Penthouse Magazine, and Ms. Muti, the quintessential Italian starlet of the 1970s, as she appears in the film.