Horror once ruled the roost when it came to comics. Back in the '40s and '50s EC Comics dominated the market with books like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror, but after the hysteria whipped up by Freric Wertham lead to the Comics Code, rules were specifically written to kill horror comics. That didn't stop Warren Publishing from coming along in the mid '60s and resurrecting the genre with anthology magazines like Creepy and Eerie.
Creepy combined many elements found in its predecessor's works, like a pun-loving host in Uncle Creepy and fantastic artists, but avoided EC's near obsession with endings that were sometimes too clever for their own good. The stories were drawn in moody black and white by legends like Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres, Joe Orlando, Gray Morrow and Alex Toth and mostly written by legendary editor and writer Archie Goodwin with a few other folks along for the ride.
Several years ago, Dark Horse started an ambitious reprint project, presenting hardcover collections of Creepy in five issue chunks. Here's a look at the legendary horror comic's first five issues from 1964 and the ten best, scariest, weirdest and most innovative stories that still give us the willies five decades after they were originally published, presented in chronological order.
10. "Voodoo" (Creepy #1)
Creepy kicked off with a stellar tale called "Voodoo" written by Russ Jones and Bill Pearson with art by Joe Orlando that features a drunk husband and a bored wife living in Haiti, dark and atmospheric looks at voodoo and not one but two shrunken heads.
Frank's inattentiveness leads Sylvia into the arms of the mystic religion of the island nation to the point where she brings home shrunken heads. When Frank hears his wife calling for him in the middle of the night after a big fight, he goes in search of her, only to lose his recently shrunken head in the process. We don't know about you, but that seems like a really long way to go to get a little head, Sylvia.
9. "Werewolf" (Creepy #1)
Frank Frazetta also got in on the action for the first issue of Creepy. "Werewolf," which was penned by Larry Ivie, doesn't necessarily break new ground when it comes to storytelling, but it sure gave Frazetta a lot of great visuals to work with. Demmon, a great white hunter in Africa and a grade-A asshat, is tasked with hunting down the seemingly mythical werewolf. Of course, when Demmon finally fells his furry opponent, he gets turned into a werewolf himself!
Sure, you've probably heard or seen a story like this before - it's the origin of Marvel's Gorilla Man, for one - but the real beauty of this piece is seeing Frazetta get to do his craggy, ugly, horrific thing. He made Demmon just as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside, but even he can't hold a candle to some of the werewolf images conveyed in ths six-page story. We might not have seen them directly on display, but Frazetta's wolfman had more nards than most other versions seen before and after it.
8. "Bewitched" (Creepy #1)
One of the great things about these old school horror anthology collections is seeing all these great artists back-to-back. Frank Frazetta's "Werewolf" is immediately followed in the first issue of Creepy by another Larry Ivie story, this one drawn by Gray Morrow, who co-created Man-Thing. "Bewitched" mixes a bonkers story about a guy messing around with witches with Morrow's insanely good pencils - which drafted witches, specters, a ridiculously trippy dream sequence and, as you'd expect, a dinosaur.
The story's lead finds a book in his house about witches. While reading, he discovers that burning holly leaves on a certain hill will kill a witch. Instead of just chuckling at this like a normal person, he goes to a florist, grabs a bundle of holly sticks and treks to the hill. After lighting one, he hears a disembodied howl that sends him running. Back at his house, he has a crazy dream where he tries to find a bomb and face off against a dinosaur.
After waking up he discovers that the witches gave his daughter and every other girl in town a voodoo doll of him along with a batch of gigantic pins. It's as crazy and awesome and beautiful as it sounds, but clearly, the moral of the story is to set all of your holly on fire at the same time to take care of these vindictive witches once and for all.
7. "Fun & Games" (Creepy #2)
The second issue of Creepy starts much the same as the first with a story depicting a husband and wife who hate each other (a running theme in these books, really). In the case of "Fun & Games," though, Harry and Phyllis live in your average city. You know, the kind of city with a Penny Arcade run by a top hat-wearing hunchback, with a secret shooting game where the target looks like whoever you're mad at.
A real mind-bender from writer Archie Goodwin and artist Joe Orlando, this story goes where you might expect: Harry goes all Scarface on what he thinks is a dummy of his wife only to return home and find her bullet-riddled body on the living room floor. But that's not the end. Harry returns to the arcade where the hunchback sends him through a doorway that leads him onto the shooting gallery...where Phyllis stands ready to blow him away. It's the kind of ending that would make David Lynch scratch his head, but that's what makes it rad!
6. "Wardrobe Of Monsters" (Creepy #2)
"Wardrobe of Monsters" - from Creepy #2 - starts off a little dubiously with a group of museum workers checking out sarcophagi from Pharaoh Ank-Ummem's tomb that housed strange, lifeless synthetic creatures resembling a winged vampire, a wolfman, a devilment and a Frankenstein's monster. Which is crazy considering they were buried thousands of years before most of those characters were thought up.
Anyway, eventually Arnold Baxter figures out what they really were: bodies ready for a consciousness to jump into. Using each one of the monster forms, Baxter bumps off his fellow discoverers in an attempt to retain all the power for himself. It's a pretty unique idea from Captain Marvel chronicler Otto Binder and artist Gray Morrow, featuring a different monster attack on each page. But the real kicker comes at the end when Ank-Ummem takes over Baxter's body, leaving him the Wardrobe of Monsters to wear for eternity! That might not seem so bad at first, except that from the looks of things, they're about as anatomically correct as a Ken doll.