As David Horne’s excellent introduction makes abundantly clear, the issues in Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives Vol. 10 come from the start of an era of stability and growth for both the title and Warren Publishing on the whole. While Creepy had formed as a comics anthology magazine in order to avoid dealing with the Comics Code Authority and for its first few years it was a success, showcasing top comics talent like Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Alex Toth and Frank Frazetta. But it fell into disarray, resulting in funding issues that drove away the major talent and forced the magazine to become home to an endless run of reprints until the 1970.
Creepy was able to bounce back thanks to a couple adventurous hiring strategies, the first of which Horne pinpoints as the influx of Spanish artists from the agency Selecciones Illustrada that began prior to this volume but the most major development was the ascent of William DuBay, who received his premier masthead credit with the first issue in this collection and would become managing editor with the final issue gathered here.
As this volume shows, Creepy was going through some identity issues until DuBay took control. DuBay’s direct predecessors Billy Graham and J.R. Cochran left because of their disillusionment with the company and Issue 46, the first in the collection, shows a lack of clear editorial focus. The stories within are all over the place, beginning with a fairly standard, drawn-out vampire story penned by Douglas Moench and illustrated by Esteban Maroto before moving to a goofy alien invader tale and later a different take on the Invisible Man and even cramming in a sword and sorcery offering. The hodgepodge selection of stories makes it difficult to figure out what the intent of Creepy was at this point, as it shifted wildly between tones, settings and whole genres.
Editorial indecision aside, much of the artwork is truly incredible, with the hyperrealism of Spanish masters Jose Bea and Jorge Galvez appearing alongside the weirder inventiveness of Richard Corben and Tom Sutton. Tom Sutton’s work throughout would appear to be a clear influence on the artists at 2000 AD, especially with his post-apocalyptic war story “The Beginning,” which, of all things, features ongoing flashbacks about a character’s history with spoons. That story comes from Issue 47, which also features work by Reed Crandall and has an even odder mix of stories, with a heavier dose of sci-fi including not one but two selections devoted to the way computers could replace humans.
It’s not until Issue 49 (48 was just reprints) that DuBay takes some control and we see some consistency. There’s even a bit of a theme, as the issue seems dedicated to stories where people meet horrific ends as a result of being greedy, from the reunited Moench and Maroto’s nicely twisty pirate tale “Buried Pleasure” to the cover story by James Stenstrum and Jaime Brocal, “The Third Night of Mourning,” which finds a victim of the French Revolution getting his posthumous revenge. The art itself is also more consistent as it’s dominated by the more realistic touches of the Spanish artists and the end result is a much more rewarding experience that looks unique even today.
The final issue collected within is also DuBay’s true debut as the showrunner, as he was given credit here as managing editor rather than left uncredited like last issue. Like the previous offering, it too retains a theme, this time of characters meeting grizzly fates as a result of their egomania, a bit of a pet obsession for the comics published by Warren. Still dominated by the Spanish artists, Issue 50 also showcases one of Reed Crandall’s best stories in the Moench-penned “The Sum of Its Parts,” a true standout in the collection as a whole that lets Crandall show off some horrific anatomy work while Moench has some fun with the detective genre.
These final two issues alone make Creepy Archives Vol. 10 an especially worthwhile collection, especially — as in true Dark Horse fashion — it’s masterfully reproduced, complete with letters and reviews from the issues and even some Creepy ads. But more importantly it gives insight into the exciting direction that DuBay would soon take the Warren line and the well-controlled oversight he brought to a title that was struggling with its identity. This volume isn’t quite on the level of Creepy’s previous peaks but the ensuing archives will show how DuBay built on what came before, turning Creepy into a newly legendary magazine. Considering the excellent talent collected within this archive, including writers and artists who were just starting to hit their stride, this is a work any horror aficionado should be happy to have on their shelf.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.