You don’t get much more nostalgic than Eerie. When it first appeared in 1947, it essentially established the horror comics scene, pushing the envelope of good taste and good sense for its entire checkered life . (Check out the first cover! Remember, this was published in 1947.) By 1975, when the comics collected in this volume were first published, it had blossomed into a visually ornate sampler of the most classic kind comic-book eye candy: beasts, babes, and bare-chested battle. Issues 70 – 74, collected in this volume, cover the adventures of a futuristic goblin-hunter, a demonic sorcerer in the Old West, the questionably historic adventures of El Cid, and much more. Artistic and storytelling styles range wildly between tales but a certain over-the-top charm prevails. Granted, the writing isn’t exactly brilliant. There’s nothing in this book that didn’t debut in a Roger Corman film. From hokey history to dumb demons, the presiding themes are all pretty silly and turn out in predictable ways. Puns and sly names imply exactly how seriously the creators took the subject matter (Buck Blaster and Thelma Starbust, anyone?) but somehow this goofiness makes Eerie incredibly likeable. Reading through this volume was a lot like going though a visual map of my adolescence featuring all the B-grade horror movies, secret magazine stashes, and fantasies of sword-wielding heroism that marked that time.
In keeping with the tone of many of the stories in this compilation, the art is often openly ironic. For the most part in grayscale and black and white, the art is hectic and sometimes so ornate that it is difficult to decipher but there’s rarely a complete loss of visual narrative. Characterization comes through very powerfully in the visual medium but there are only a few basic types; the heroes are as stoic and static-faced as their women are lissome and open-mouthed and villains are basically heroes with sneers. Though this pattern is sometimes played for laughs, it’s also a sign of its age. Little of this content would receive critical acclaim today, if for no other reason than the unapologetic sexism rampant in almost every story.
As an anthology, Eerie is a smorgasbord of horror mixed with fantasy, science fiction, and history. There’s something for every taste and the primary running theme is that every story includes some kind of supernatural element. Certain tales, including “Father Creator” and “The Adventures of Peter Hypnos”, are hardly horrific at all, instead playing up other elements of their sub genres. Some particularly charismatic stories stretch over several issues, particularly the popular “Karas: Hunter II,” providing an incentive to plow through stories that prove tougher to love than the average.
Modern teenagers, born into a post-feminist world and unfamiliar with the dramatic tropes of the mid-century horror film, might not find as much to love here as their parents did. In fact, many modern parents of teenagers might object to the prevalent female nudity and violence that dot Eerie but at least some of those same parents may well savor for themselves the nostalgia that saturates every page of this enjoyable relic. This compilation’s vintage ads are the final flourish for readers old enough to remember the original Dark Shadows and the films of Boris Karloff. This definitely isn’t one I’d give to anyone under the age of seventeen, though I would readily loan it to an older comic book fan.
Eerie Archives, vol. #15
by Jose Bea, Gerry Boudreau, Bill DuBay, Robert Evans, Budd Lewis, Richard Margopoulos, Doug Moench, Carl Wessler
Art by Auraleon, Jose Bea, Luis Bermejo, Howard Chaykin, Jose Gual, Ken Kelly, Esteban Maroto, Gonzalo Mayo, Paul Neary, Jose Ortiz, Leopold Sanchez, Sanjulian, Bernie Wrightson
Dark Horse Books, 2014