Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #194 by Drew Barth

Creep Along

I hate the comics code. You hate the comics code. We all hate the comics code. Beside the general sanitization of comics in the 50s and Fredric Wertham clutching his pearls so hard his face turned purple, the code caused the cancellation of some of the most innovative comics of the century. Books like Tales from the CryptVault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear were wiped from the comics market as the Comics Code Authority came down like a guillotine on anything more gruesome than a bird eating a worm. But that’s where Warren Publishing’s Creepy stepped in to dodge around the CCA.

Originally published in 1964, Creepy was one of the books that would side-step the censorship of the comics code by changing its formatting. No longer a comic book, the comic magazine didn’t need to carry the Comics Code Authority stamp of approval. Because of this and its black-and-white print pages, it was allowed to return to the horror of EC Comics (with many of the EC creators along) and publish a wide variety of horror comics in that same Tales from the Crypt vein. While the original life of the magazine ended in the mid-80s (and its short-live relaunch also ending in 2016), the publication of its archives via Dark Horse has unlocked a trove of some of the best horror to grace the medium with names like Archie Goodwin, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, and Alex Toth conjuring up iconic creeps.

More than anything, a tome like the Creepy Archives helps to preserve some of the best parts of comics history—defiance in the face of McCarthyism and the moral panic against anything that may tempt the youth of America from, I don’t know, Perry Como? But it’s this kind of preservation that also gives us a look at the classic comic horror that prevailed for so long in the US. While Tales from the Crypt was the more iconic, magazines like Creepy and Eerie were carrying the torch and provided a pivotal place for horror comics to really develop a look and feel that would remain consistent and is still being emulated today in more contemporary horror anthologies—albeit with more gore than would have been allowed even outside of the CCA then. These archival works just show how much comic history is really out there and how much is largely ignored to make room for more cape stories.

Creepy, and Warren Publishing, really did show what horror anthologies could do in the era of the comics code. While they weren’t under threat from the code, they were still skirting by with their own brand of horror comics with iconic talent bolstering their pages to a near legendary status. It’s a marvel that we can still flip through Frazetta’s “Werewolf” before he switched away from sequential work or Archie Goodwin’s creepiest scripts as though we were picking them up for the first time in the 60s. It’s one of the reasons much of this archival work is so important. 

Get excited. Get Creepy. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.