Saturday, August 16, 2008

Comic Book Memories: Web of Horror

Wayne and JSam will like this one!

I don't know whether it's because of ComicCon 2008, the zeitgeist of the online world, the furor over The Dark Knight, or mere hyperattention on my part, but I've recently noticed a spate of comics-related postings all over the Intarweb*.

Now, generally speaking, I'm not a comic book kind of guy**; in fact, I make fun of those people*** because, well, they annoy me, but when I was younger... hoo, boy! The funny animals phase, the superheroes phase, the war comics phase, the Mad magazine phase, the Underground comix phase...

...and horror comics.

Oh, sweet Jeebus, yes, the horror comics.

I missed out on the EC comics, which were emasculated with a rusty razor and then sanitized unto death less than a year before I was born (thank you very much, Frederic Wertham, you perverted old prig), but I was just in time for Creepy, its slightly younger companion, Eerie, and the slew of lesser-quality rip-offs spawned by various fly-by-night publishers.

The rip-offs were, not surprisingly, pretty lame--long on gore, short on story, lacking in production value (and printed in Smudge-O-Rama); however, there was one stand-out:

Web of Horror.

It had decent stories by decent writers and was illustrated by decent artists (a young Bernie Wrightson, among others) as far as I can recall, but that statement is a little suspect since it's based on the opinions of my significantly unsophisticated 14-yr. old self and I don't have an issue handy. Why? Because... well, because (and here comes the sad lament of Baby Boomers everywhere)... my mom threw mine away!

I won't go into that; it makes me sniffle****, but the glory of the Intarweb is that nothing is ever completely lost--check out these, uh, borrowed images (click to make 'em big):

Trivia: Web of Horror only lasted three issues and as recounted by Bernie Wrightson here,

"{The publisher} just literally packed up and left overnight. We had to take this incredibly long trip to get there—Bruce {Jones} lived in Flushing at the time and from there we took a train to the end of the line and from there we had to take two buses and then walk about 10 blocks to get to the office! It was an all-day thing and we finally get out to the office. It was on the second floor, and we went upstairs, open the door, and the place was empty. All the desks, all filing cabinets, everything, was gone! There were only scraps of paper blowing across the floor—it was like the Twilight Zone—and we never learned where the guy went and what happened to him. We had all this stuff for the fourth issue and we were planning issues five and six—Bruce and I were going to take over the magazine and make it like Creepy or EC Comics—but they just left! Mysteriously, in the middle of the night."

Which, I guess, is an appropriate ending for a magazine of the mysterious and macabre.

*Two examples (and revel in the obsessiveness!), "The Man Who Laughs," which is a nice piece on why The Joker became who and what he is, and this MetaFilter collection of links about Herbie, probably the most bizarre character in comics history.

**Though I have been sucked into the occasional graphic novel, which I greatly prefer to single issue comics. In 1978 there was Will Eisner's A Contract With God, and Don McGregor's Sabre: Slow Fade of An Endangered Species, then in 1986 it was Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale. Later, there was Neil Gaiman's Signal To Noise, Harvey Pekar & Joyce Brabner's Our Cancer Year, Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan series, Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Daniel Clowes' Ghost World.

Incidently, all of the above come highly recommended by yours truly for whatever that's worth.

***Which, obviously from the above, is pretty damn hypocritical on my part. What can I say? I contain a multitude of contradictions.

****Especially given that I had won my copy at a Boy Scout Christmas party in 1969--a rare instance of a pleasant memory from my scouting days which were otherwise a series of horror stories in and of themselves.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I buy trades and graphic novels now, because when a guy is close to fifty he has bookshelves and not boxes. I never saw the WEB comic you mentioned, but I recall FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE. Sounds like they were similar. As a kid, we often drove to Streator to visit my Auntie Irene (who kept Lucky Strike in business for decades), and I'd walk to Main Street because it was the only place I could find CREEPY and EERIE. I bought them in a pool hall that had nudie mags on the shelf, too. I think Streator explains quite a bit about my formative years.

JSaM said...

Lee, you *%#*!^&! (do you count those characters like I do to see if you can substitute the appropriate profanity?) WEB OF HORROR! I think at the time, that Wayland's news stand had gone kerflooie and I ended up finding this little gem at Drug Fair (excuse me for a bit of past due acknowledgement with a snappy tune)

"Never say drug store,
Say Drug Fair . . .
There's a big difference . . .
Your money makes more sense
when you're shopping there,
so don't say drug store . . .
say Drug Fair!..."

Now that that's out of my system, yes, it was those Wrightson covers that got me. I think there were 3 issues in toto (Dorothy!) and Bernie actually did some of the issues' comic stories(with his jagged drool/fang technique whenever a pro or antagonist appeared slack-jawed or screaming. Great stuff. I always saw Wrightson as a Frazetta wannabe, in fact I can remember after nearly 40 years thinking that Frazetta had done the cover. But either Bernie got more sophisticated, or I did, as now, while similar, I do see he has his own style.
While I dug past Joe's drumset to get at my WOH's I also found such classic drek titles as "Tales of Voodoo", "Terror Tales", "Terrors of Dracula", "Shock (chilling tales of horror and suspense), and others with incredibly lurid (and amateurish)covers, designed to seperate a 14 year old from his 35 cents. I understand that these stories were cribbed from pulp comics of the late 40's and early '50 and they show it! They make Tony Tallarico look good!

G. W. Ferguson said...


I'm gonna assume "*%#*!^&" is super-secret code for "magnificent bastard" and let it go at that.

I think Bernie HAD to start out as a Frazetta wannabe because that's what sold at the time. If you read the interview he has all sorts of stories about working the horror rags.

And speaking of pulps, I've always loved the (possibly apocryphal) story wherein Ray Bradbury wrote to EC complimenting them on their adaptations--unauthorized--of his stories. They responded with a quickly-cut royalty check and, as you know, Bob, these stories were later collected as The Autumn People.