Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Top Warren Stories

I figured that I would take a break from the standard fare today and rather than review an issue, rank my personal favorite Warren stories. Before going in I will admit my personal biases; my favorite era by far is Bill Dubay's original run as editor, also up high with me is the Louise Jones era and original Archie Goodwin era. The vast majority, if not all these stories are from those time periods. In addition, I will admit going in that a few of these stories are here more due to the artwork than the story; hile the story is usually the driving force with me (Warren certainly had many well drawn stories over the years that from a story standpoint were absolutely horrific), there are a few cases where the art was just so overwhelmingly good to me that I felt it needed to be included here. You will also notice that Eerie and 1984/1994 has barely any entries at all; this is mostly due to the fact that these magazines were dominated by continuing series during the periods at which Warren was at its peak in my opinion (I have excluded all series from this ranking). I'm going to start with a number of honorable mentions in order of magazine and issue (not by how much I like them), followed by more in depth coverage of my top 10 stories. Stories marked with * signify stories that have already been covered on this blog.

Honorable Mentions:

Success Story* - Creepy 1
The Thing in the Pit - Creepy 6
The Mountain* - Creepy 8
Spellbound - Creepy 46
A Scream in the Forest - Creepy 53
Twisted Medicine* - Creepy 61
Mates* - Creepy 64
Excerpts from the Year Five! - Creepy 67
Last Light of the Universe - Creepy 73
Second Genesis* - Creepy 80
Process of Elimination - Creepy 83
Soul of Horror* - Eerie 3
Experiment in Fear* - Eerie 9
The Pepperlake Monster* - Eerie 58
Daddy and the Pie* - Eerie 64
The Muck Monster* - Eerie 68
Mordecai Moondog* - Eerie 71
Eye of the Beholder* - Vampirella 14
Stairway to Heaven - Vampirella 29
The Evil Eye - Vampirella 29
The Truth - Vampirella 31
Top to Bottom - Vampirella 33
The House on the Sea - Vampirella 41
Goodbye My Love, Goodbye - Vampirella 41
Around the Corner... Just Beyond Eternity - Vampirella 42
Love Strip - Vampirella 44
Janis! - Vampirella 45
The Winter of Their Discontent - Vampirella 45
Fallen Angel - Vampirella 60
The Night Willa Jane Gornley Went Home*- Vampirella 82
Scourge of the Spaceways* - 1984 #2

Top 10 stories:

10) Jenifer (Creepy 63, by Bruce Jones & Berni Wrightson) - One of Berni Wrightson's first stories for Warren and Bruce Jones's only story written for Warren during Dubay's original reign as editor. A very horrifying story that got Wrightson off on a great foot to start his Warren career. While hunting, a man rescues a girl from a man about to kill her. The girl has the ugliest face you could imagine, but the man becomes completely obsessed with her, adopting her. The girl is clearly deranged and eventually ends up driving his entire family away. He initially stays with her, then tries to get rid of her, all with disastrous results. Eventually he tries to kill her, only for someone to rescue her and kill him, starting the cycle again.

9) Zooner or Later* (Vampirella 78, by Bruce Jones & Russ Heath) - A terrific, terrific story, with a hilarious ending. A man finds out he is dying of cancer, so he tries desperately to find any way to save himself, from experimental drugs to faith healers to even devil worshippers. All attempts fail. He learns of a tribe called the Zooner from a cook who says hold the power to reincarnate someone with the mind that they had before they died. He heads to Africa where he initially finds it a meaningless lead, but a drunk at a bar tells him how to find them. He finally does find the Zooner, who worship the Hippopotomus and they sacrifice him. He awakens as an embryo, very excited to be soon born again, but when he is born, it is as a baby Hippo! A terrific Bruce Jones/Russ Heath team up, not the last one on this list.

8) In Deep* (Creepy 83, by Bruce Jones & Richard Corben) - This story tells of a couple in the middle of the ocean whose ship sinks, stranding them in the middle of the ocean with only an inner tube to keep them afloat. Over the night the wife drowns in her sleep. The husband, already distraught over her death faces even more terror as seagulls start flying towards them and start eating her corpse. It gets even worse as sharks arrive as well, forcing the man to fight for his life while trying to guard his wife's rapidly deteriorating corpse. By the end of the story he lays comatose in a hospital bed with all that remains of her, her heart. Memorable for many reasons, this story features a terrific color art job by Richard Corben, and is quite horrifying with the sharks arriving. The story also reminds me of a similar story from EC's the Vault of Horror featuring a zombie wife that horrifies her husband as her body starts to decompose and fall apart, so this story does have some nostalgic value to me as well. A sequel story was done in Creepy 101, but wasn't that great a story.

7) Gamal and the Cockatrice (Vampirella 47, by Bruce Bezaire and Auraleon) - Arguably the most clever story ever written for Warren, this features a nomadic tribe and Gamal, a member of the tribe, who claims to have killed a cockatrice. He tells his tribe the story of how he managed to hunt the creature, which will kill anyone who looks at it. He then reveals that he has captured one, and uses it to blackmail the tribe into giving him money and women. The thing is, because looking at the cockatrice will kill you, he is never able to reveal the cockatrice, and infact its never revealed whether he's telling the truth or lying about everything.

6) The Other Side of Heaven (Vampirella 28, by Jose Bea) - Jose Bea was probably the most surreal of any Warren artist with his stories and artwork, and this is one of the better examples. A man walking on the beach one day comes across a bizarre creature that looks like an octopus smuthered with peanut butter. The bizarre creature reveals to the man that he is actually God, and that now near his death, he will make the man a God himself. Quite a story by Bea with some great artwork too.

5) Rendezvous* (Vampirella 35, by Fernando Fernandez) - Fernando Fernandez was one of Warren's best artist and writers, and unfortunately did very little work for them, only about a dozen or so stories that appeared mostly between 1973 to 1975. This story is his best. It features a young woman longing for her husband Hans who has headed off to war and a jealous suitor that desires her. The suitor comes to her house and chases her, concluding with his death in her backyard due being impaled on the sword of a corpse contained within a tree. The corpse is actually Hans, who was murdered by his wife who would rather kill him than let him go to war. Just a terrific, terrific shock ending with great artwork throughout.

4) Magnificent Ephemeral* (Vampirella 57, by Bruce Jones & Ramon Torrents) - One of Warren's best ever stories from my first ever issue of Vampirella. A reporter investigates a Marilyn Monroe-esque actress who disappeared at the peak of her career. When he finally tracks her down the horrific truth is revealed. The big famous actress is actually a bald fat guy. Great art job by Ramon Torrents in his typical very realistic style. The final 2 pages are among the most haunting from any Warren magazine. Surprised that its not ranked at all in the most well known books covering Warren, The Warren Companion or Ghastly Terror (although Ghastly Terror pretty much ignores Vampirella entirely). Louise Jones did mention it as a story she really liked in her WC interview though.

3) The Wolves At War's End (Vampirella 43, by Victor Mora, Budd Lewis & Luis Garcia) During 1975 Warren published five stories from Victor Mora and Luis Garcia that were originally printed in Europe, albeit with some rewritten scripts and revised artwork. All five stories were amazing, with this being the best of them. It features a knight returning after the Crusades to find that the plague has completely ravished his hometown, and his entire family dead except for his sister, who is accused of being a witch. He manages to escape with his sister while under pursuit from the church. He heads to the home of his lover from before the war and miraculously enough finds her still alive. Alas, their pursuers arrive and kill his sister, who was a witch after all, and what was only a vision of his lover vanishes, causing him to realize the truth, that she is dead as well. Just a terrific, terrific story with some absolutely amazing artwork from Luis Garcia. Warren would publish an extremely similar story, "The Winter of Their Discontent" a mere two issues later which was also very good.

2) Thrillkill (Creepy 75, by Jim Stenstrum & Neal Adams) Described as the best story in the history of Warren Publishing in the Warren Companion, its hard to argue with the assessment of how amazing this story is. The panels show us a sniper hiding on a roof, shooting innocent people while the narrative revolves around a priest talking with a reporter about why the person snapped like he did. A terrific art job by Neal Adams in his final Warren story, along with an extremely good and relevant script by Jim Stenstrum, this story is only narrowly defeated by the top ranking story with me which has a better and more shocking ending.

1) Yellow Heat (Vampirella 58, by Bruce Jones & Russ Heath) This story tells of a young african tribesman, who hunts a lion with only a spear in attempt to win a beautiful girl who was captured from an enemy tribe. Doesn't sound like a plot worthy of the number one ranking on this listing, but trust me, the ending to this story is so shocking and horrifying that you will never forget it. In addition Russ Heath provides an extremely good art job, easily his best for Warren, and one of the company's best drawn stories ever published. Just be very careful of reading any interviews with Russ Heath or Bruce Jones discussing their Warren career, as you'll likely be spoiled regarding the ending. I sure as hell won't be spoiling it here.

5 comments:

david said...

great

Matt Thorn said...

I appreciated this piece very much, but I find it remarkable that anyone can read Yellow Heat and not see it as an incredibly racist work, based entirely on the notion that savage black Africans are incapable of ordinary human emotions. Just shockingly, unbelievably offensive. I did not think it was clever or interesting in the least, although of course the artwork is quite good. Sorry, but that's just how that story struck me.

Anonymous said...

They are currently practicing cannibalism in Liberia.

Anonymous said...

Matt Thorne is certainly a "geek" for real, ruled by the rampant "white guilt complex" fostered by the hip-hop community in today's America. Not every historical reference to black men in Africa or on the islands is racist, just because it doesn't portray them in the most glowing light. Facts are facts and if a writer can't use a horrifying, documented practice, as the backdrop to an entertaining tale of terror without a bunch of whining nerd, piping up about their personal "white guilt" issues, we need to seriously consider banishing these hyper P.C. idiots to the islands of the cannibals.

Anonymous said...

Hi I appreciate your blog a lot! Am a big fan of the Vampirella series and your reviews are great. When you do a review of an issue, it would help me a lot to see kind of a rating per story at the end of your summaries (e.g. 3 out of 5 points for the story).

Are you still continuing with this blog?