Vampirella Archives Volume Six
Dynamite, $49.99, B&W and color, 392 pages
Writers and Artists: Various
Reprinting Vampirella #36-42 (Sep 74-May 75)
The issues of Vampirella reprinted here by Dynamite were coming out at roughly the same time (mid-1970s) as the issues currently being reprinted in Dark Horse's Creepy and Eerie Archives -- which is really convenient! The letters page, for example, discusses Vampirella's new policy on series in the context of what it's doing concurrently in Creepy (no series) and Eerie (entirely series). That new policy is to feature Vampi's three series -- Dracula, Fleur and Pantha -- in three-issue stories on a rotating basis, along with the ongoing Vampirella series that leads each issue, and the one-shot horror/SF stories that are the bulk of the magazine.
Also, this period was a second high point for Warren magazines, after its EC-like issues in the mid-1960s, so the quality is very high. Most of the artists were Spanish, and had a more old-school illustrative approach than U.S. artists, then or now. And they were very, very good, and stuck around for a while, so the quality of Warren magazines during the mid-1970s was not only pretty high, but was very stable. So currently the Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella magazines being reprinted right now are all very pretty.
There's also the nostalgia factor, if -- like me -- you were alive and aware in the '70s. The loud clothes, the cultural experimentation, the ubiquitous facial hair, the painfully lame slang -- these things are seared in my memory, and I enjoy seeing them here as history, knowing I'll never have to wear bell-bottoms or or paisley shirts again!
Unfortunately, the stories reflect the experimentation mentioned above. This was a time when all conventions were being called into question, not just in politics and culture but also the arts. From movies to TV to comics, creators were experimenting with non-linear, psychedelic and otherwise unconventional ways to tell stories, most of which don't really work. Some familiar names appear here, like Archie Goodwin and Doug Moench, writing in those unconventional ways. But with Goodwin and Moench, you can be pretty sure that no matter how odd the structure, you'll get some kind of serviceable story. Not so some of the no-names, including the guy writing the Vampirella strip (Flaxman Loew, an obvious pseudonym). And whoever copy edited the books allowed way too many misspellings, subject/verb disagreements and homonyms. That's not experimental; that's just incompetent.
But the worst part, which I have to comment on, is "Pantha." As a boy reading these stories for the first time I didn't care for Pantha, but couldn't remember why. Her premiere stories in the last Archives and the one story in this one remind me why: She's really a lousy person!
In my review of Vampirella Archives Volume Five, I mentioned that Pantha was slutty, bigoted, self-involved and casually cruel. She is no better here. Once again, anyone who tries to help Pantha ends up dead, which bothers her not a whit. Once again she demonstrates bigotry, by reacting to a come-on from a lesbian with a slap and a slur. Honestly, this is not a likeable person, and I genuinely don't like her. By the end of her one story in this issue, I was rooting for her to get killed. But that's not gonna happen, so I'm not looking forward to her continuing adventures in Vampirella Archives Volume Seven.
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'll re-iterate that the Warren books are at an artistic peak at this period, and I am looking forward to each Archive release. Except for Pantha. Don't like Pantha. Like everything else.