Today I cover three separate stories from Jose Bea. Bea provided among the most bizarre stories and artwork that Warren would feature in its magazines, and these three stories, all of which were written and drawn by him are a perfect representation of his style.
The Picture of Death (Published in Creepy #45, May 1972)
Herbert Wilson, a young painter
makes his way through the Scottish town of Lairg, as he heads back home towards
London. Having difficulty finding a place to sleep due to a monthly celebration
that takes place in the town, Wilson eventually finds an available room at a
small inn. A man at the inn’s bar warns Wilson about the room, claiming nobody
else would take it. Four people who have rented the room have completely disappeared.
The man claims that the disappearances started when a strange man left a
painting as payment for the room. Wilson doesn’t believe him and makes his way
up to the room to sleep that night. He sees the painting, which is elaborately
filled with bizarre creatures and appears influenced by the works of Hieronymus
Bosch. While he doesn’t believe the story about the room, he nonetheless holds
a knife with him as he goes to sleep that night. As he sleeps, the creatures
start making their way out of the painting and towards his bed. Wilson wakes up
with the creatures all around him. The knife he holds has no effect. The
creatures drag the frightened Wilson with them into the painting. Suddenly a
beautiful woman appears before Wilson. The creatures claim she will be his mate
throughout infinity. The woman claims she had also slept in the room. Shortly
afterwards though the woman transforms into a horrible monster, and Wilson
flees. He makes his way past more of the bizarre creatures and begs that they leave
him be. He continues to run until he reaches what seems to be an invisible
barrier, locking him in the world. The next morning a maid goes to the room and
sees it a total mess; believing Wilson to have left early. Spotting the
painting on the wall, slightly crooked, she corrects it, not realizing that
Wilson is now a part of the painting.
Wilson is brought into the painting
to just how bizarre Bea’s work is that I am able to pick other stories that are
as odd as this one is! The story’s initial premise seems quite similar to the
story “Room With A View!” which had appeared in Eerie #3 as drawn by Steve
Ditko and written by Archie Goodwin. Like “The Picture of Death”, that story
features a traveler who stays in a room at an inn for whom no one has lasted
the night. Each time the traveler looks in the large mirror in the room, more
and more creatures start appearing behind him, until there are too many for him
to bear. A really interesting premise that Bea goes with here and takes to even
further extreme as he introduces a wide variety of bizarre creatures, each
looking stranger than the last. As our protagonist puts it, it is like a Hieronymus
Bosch painting. Across 6 pages we see the creatures overwhelm Wilson and drag
him into the painting.
fun is the sequence where the creatures bring Wilson to a normal-looking woman,
who promptly transforms into a creature just as horrifying as the others.
Across 6 panels we see the woman transform from a beauty into a horrifying
monster, its large mouth open as it it’s going to consume him! This sequence
reminds me of the story “The Closed Door”, also written and drawn by Bea, which
had appeared in issue 10 of the Buru Lan publication Dracula. In that story we
see a sequence where the protagonist is attacked by a horrific looking green
monster which transforms into a human-looking boy. Here we are treated to the
Bea did many stories with bizarre creatures, in no other would we see such a
wide number and range as we get in this one. Bea would years later write and
draw the series “Tales of Peter Hypnos” for which Warren would publish three
stories of, in Eerie #72, 73 and 76. These stories would also feature a
protagonist, this time a young boy, brought into a world of bizarre creatures,
although that series has a more fantastical element to it and isn’t as
horrifying as this story is here.
Creatures crawl out of the painting
The Accursed Flower (Published in Creepy #49, November 1972)
This story takes place in the
City of Cataluna in Spain, a rich city where men’s love of money is inordinate.
A farmer, Jordi Valls works all day on his farm, wishing he had more time to
get everything he wanted done. One of his neighbors tells him to find some
Maneiro roots, and that all his problems will be solved. He speaks to a friend
of his, who tells him more of the Maneiro. They are jealously guarded in a cave
by beasts beyond human imagination, and one can only safely obtain them during
the twelve rings of a bell that occurs on the night of San Juan. If one is
unable to keep them busy with tasks, the Maneiro will fling themselves at him
and claw him to pieces. Jordi is able to find the cave and make his way past
the various beasts as a bell rings, signaling the first stroke of twelve. He is
able to find Maneiro seeds and make his way out of the cave in time.
Jordi plants the seeds and after
waiting 24 hours finds thousands of the Maneiro waiting outside for him! The
bizarre tiny creatures claim they are bored and ask for work. Jordi comes up
with various tasks for them to do across the farm, which due to their strong
work ethic and large number, they are able to complete in only a couple of
hours. Jordi provides the Maneiro with more tasks; and he soon finds himself
having to spend his day thinking up new tasks for them. Eventually Jordi has
had enough and claims it’s impossible, everything he can think of has been
done. The Maneiro ask for more work and with Jordi having no possible answer,
they fling themselves at him, killing him.
The Maneiro work on their tasks
Picture of Death” had a wide variety of different strange creatures throughout
the story, “The Accursed Flower” mainly focuses on one, the Maneiro, although
there are thousands of them! I’m not sure if this story is some Spanish
folktale or just something that Bea completely made up, but it provides us with
quite the odd tale. Bea often makes someone like a farmer, fisherman or peasant
the protagonist of his stories, including not just this one, but also stories
such as “The Other Side of Heaven” (see below) or “The Strange, Incurable
Phobia of Mad Pierre Langlois!” from Vampirella #31. Jordi’s greed gets to him,
as his desire to have the Maneiro complete labor for him eventually overwhelms
him. Having these bizarre creatures, who are quite pleased to do any task he
desires seems like quite the benefit at first, but the Maneiro are too good at
what they do. Their numbers are too great. Jordi’s problem becomes not the
various tasks he needs done, but his need to think up new tasks for them to do.
And when he runs out of ideas, the Maneiro find a new task, killing him! I
wonder what becomes of the Maneiro after this story. Do they ravage the
countryside, seeking someone else to give them tasks to do (and eventually
killing that person too when they run out of ideas)? Or do they revert to flowers
or seeds, until another foolish person decides to use them?
The Other Side of Heaven (Published in Vampirella #28, October 1973)
The story begins as we are told
by a being that it exists in an endless world without restrictions, its own
personal heaven. The landscape before us whirls with a variety of bizarre
shapes and masses. Our protagonist says it is difficult to explain its
existence in a way we’d understand, as humans are limited to their five senses.
The being tells us of when he was a human, a fisherman in the village of Fornells.
At that time he was a normal man, named Thomas. Life for Thomas was good and
simple. He was ignorant of the complexities of the world, but happy in his naiveté.
This all changes one day as Thomas comes across a bizarre creature lying on the
beach. The creature appears like an octopus smothered in peanut butter and
jelly. Thomas feels afraid of the creature, which soon crawls towards him. As
Thomas touches the creature he feels a level of ecstasy and the creature seems
thrilled itself. Thomas thinks to himself about how he must share this creature
with his wife and friends and goes to get a wheelbarrow so he can take it home
Once he gets home Thomas puts the
creature on a table and waits for his wife to come home. He wonders why, if the
creature is a gift from heaven as he believes it to be, why it lays there in
silence. Suddenly, the creature speaks, saying they had been communicating only
via touch to this point. The creature claims to be the being that created the
land he walks on, the seas he fishes in, as well as the sun and stars, all
forms of life! It has been called upon, prayed to and mocked. It is what people
would consider to be God! It claims however that despite this it is a living
creature just like Thomas and nothing is immortal, even itself. It will soon
die. The creature claims there isn’t anything Thomas can do for him, but
perhaps it can do something for Thomas. The creature instructs Thomas to go to
a pharmacist to obtain some things. Thomas heads there, his religious beliefs
shattered. As if under the command of the creature, the pharmacist has created
the chemical mixture desired and Thomas returns with it. The creature explains
to Thomas that the solution he has brought is a pain killer, but not for the
creature but rather Thomas himself! In its dying moments, the creature is going
to create a new being who will carry on where it has left off. Thomas is to be
that creature, this world’s new God. Thomas grabs hold of the creature and
immediately starts feeling unbearable pain. He grabs a knife to prevent the
creature from enveloping him, but it has no effect. As the creature absorbs
more of Thomas’ body it tells him that his world will expand and he will fill
the universe with beauty, just as it had. As the story ends we see Thomas as he
currently exists, explaining how he has started creating as a God would and
that he’s got a long way to go and a lot of things ahead of him.
conclude with a story that reduces the strange monsters to just a single one
and rather than being scary or malicious is actually good in nature. In fact
the creature in this story is what we’d consider to be God! Humans often think
that God created humanity in his own image, yet in this story we find that what
we believe to be God actually looks like an octopus smothered in peanut butter
and jelly. Quite the bizarre revelation! As if drawing upon theories of ancient
aliens for inspiration, God claims it is not a divine being, but a living
mortal creature, albeit one with considerably more power and ability than a
human has. Through what may be sheer luck, our protagonist Thomas comes across
the creature and is able to gain such God-like powers for himself!
story seems like an expanded upon version of another story that had appeared in
Buru Lan’s Dracula, a story titled “A Story of the Stars” that had appeared in
the 11th issue. In that story a man who continuously watches the night
sky comes across a bizarre alien being that decides to share the stars with him
and absorbs him into itself.
these stories are my personal highlights of Jose Bea’s work for Warren, he did
just over 30 stories for them, many others of which contain bizarre creatures
and concepts such as these. If you find interest in stories like these as I
have I’d strongly recommend checking out his other Warren stories, as well as
the work he did for Dracula. Among those who worked for Warren, very few are
able to compare with Bea on this front. Alex Nino, who did a considerable
amount of work for Warren in the late 70s and early 80s, I’d put up there, as
well as Bob Morello who had a few stories appear in Eerie in the early 80s.
So interesting and well-written. You've given me a new author/artist to enjoy! Thanks!
Quiddity- when you get a chance could you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org? Thanks!
As you mention, 'The Accursed Flower' was indeed completely invented by Bea. He made up the whole thing claiming it was based on a Castalonian folk-tale. It was also the first story written by a Spanish artist (or a foreign writer) for Warren, although it wouldn't be the only.
Maroto's 'Dax the Warrior' was drawn and written by himself and sold to Warren already finished. At Warren they re-wrote the story or the dialogue on the word balloons, and changed the name of the original hero, Manly, into Dax.
One of the Warren editors loved changing stories from the original, re-writing all the dialogie, to the point that many artists, foreign and American alike, refused to collaborate with them again.
As to Bea, he continued doing bizarre comics, his take on the science-fiction genre, with 'Stories of the Galactic Inn' published in Heavy Metal, and his 'The Spheric Cube' which appeared in the French Métal Hurlant magazine, were some of the weirdest collection of stories.
He even did porn comics under a pseudonym. One of his stories was seized by the government and banned from ever being reprinted again (but it has).
He retired in the 1990s, feeling there was no more future in comics and wrote many juvenile science fiction books, and even participated in the creation of a TV series based on his sci-fi stories. Never seen the series, but I believe it suffered from some very low budget, as it hasn't been seen elsewhere and didn't even make it as a VHS or DVD (but still a curio).
He dabbled in digital art, creating some very surrealistic pieces, and now he mainly plays electronic music.
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