Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Number 1963: Halloween eye-candy from Reed Crandall and Neal Adams

Next Monday is Halloween. I need to go to the store for some treats for the trick-or-treaters. I can’t give you a miniature candy bar online, so this week you will have to settle for some spooky stories.

The two stories today are from Creepy #14 (1967), which I missed when it was published, and have not seen until recently. I went into the U.S. Army in late 1966, and did not see most comics published in early '67. Years later I found out what I had missed was Neal Adams’ first story for Warren Publications. Old-timer Crandall had been around since the beginning of the magazine, which is appropriate, since he was around at the beginning of the comic book industry.

In “Castle Carrion,” a sword-and-sorcery* story written by Archie Goodwin (who also wrote the Adams story), Crandall appears to have given Prince Valiant blond hair and taken him to a castle full of the walking dead. “Curse of the Vampire” is drawn in Adams’ dramatic realistic style, with his dynamic page and panel layouts. It followed the Crandall story, so readers got a chance to see the old giving way to the new.

It is hard to describe what impact an artist like Adams had on comic books in the late sixties. There was just no one like him. He had started out drawing comic strips like “Ben Casey, M.D.” and done work for advertising companies before coming to comic books. I have substituted the four pages of original art found on the Heritage Auctions website for the printed versions. Except for re-sizing, I have left them as Heritage presented them. They are pages 1, 3, 4 and 7. The cover, illustrating the Crandall story, is by Gray Morrow.

Crandall had a couple of strokes, and in 1982, after eight years in a nursing home, died at age 65 of a heart attack. David Saunders has an interesting biography of Crandall in his Pulp Artists web site.

*Here are the illustrations Crandall did  in '66-'68 for books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, in Crandall’s best pen-and-ink style, reminiscent of illustrators of the past. Warning: some nudity.


Brian Barnes said...

First off, let me sing the praises of the Dark Horse Creepy/Eerie archives. They are getting with 20 or so issues of the end, and every one of them is beautifully printed and bound. I had a pretty large collection of these magazines but the books are so much better printed and fit on my bookcase.

No, I'm not employed by Dark Horse. Dark Horse has been hitting it out of the park lately (and the EC reprints are just as great.) Highly recommended.

Creepy went though a couple stages (and a lot of reprints, because, well, James Warren!) This was during the early EC lift phase. Crandall draws the hell out of this pretty standard sword & sorcery bit, with pretty predictable ending. Adams also does a great job with a completely out-of-left-field ending.

Goodwin's time at Warren (at least two periods) was really on-and-off. He was a great writer, but always seemed a bit constrained by the EC-ish endings. Regardless, he wrote fun romps and great little short stories. Nothing helps like two great artists along for the ride.

Pappy said...

Brian, I agree about the Warren Archives from Dark Horse. I am really glad that publishers like Dark Horse (and Fantagraphics and IDW) are doing their series of reprints of classic comic books. Thanks to the formats people 200 years from now will be able to access these books and when they read them will know why we were so messed up! (No, that's a bad joke).

These books are what I would have loved to have had when I was a youngster. Unfortunately, I could never afford to own everything I would like to have in such editions, nor would I have the room. I'd have to win the lottery and buy a new house with a specially designed storage area for all my comics. Sigh. I can dream.

Congratulations on your collection. And thanks for your note.