By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
Feb. 15, 2011 -- Many retailers wouldn’t sell sexy Vampirella magazine to minors when it debuted in 1969. They believed they were protecting kids, and they were – from terrible stories.
Vampirella Archives Vol. 1 ($49.99) has arrived from Dynamite Entertainment, collecting the first seven issues (1969-70) of Warren Publishing’s third black-and-white horror magazine, after Creepy and Eerie. Like the first issue of Vampirella itself, the cover of the first Archives volume is the famous Frank Frazetta painting which introduced the voluptuous, scantily clad vampire.
That’s pretty much where the quality ends. When Vampirella debuted, Warren Publishing was going through hard financial times. And the once high-quality publisher was using second-rate talents in the late 1960s, and even a core cadre of up-and-comers (Ernie Colon, Tom Sutton, etc.) wasn’t enough to save the book from clichéd stories, amateurish art, poor spelling, malapropisms and erroneous homophones.
I was also looking forward to learning more about the origins of the title character, now a headliner at two different publishers (long story). But it seems Vampi wasn’t originally the star of Vampirella – she was simply the host of a horror anthology, similar to Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie in their magazines. And she poses a lot, theoretically exciting to adolescent boys (although, with the crummy art, I doubt it).
There is a story in the first issue giving her origin, but it isn’t written by a professional author. It is instead by Forrest J. Ackerman, the world’s most famous horror-film fan, who was the nominal editor of Warren’s Famous Monsters of Filmland. And it is painful.
Vampirella (her real name, implausibly) lives on a planet of vampires called (sigh) “Draculon,” where water is made of hemoglobin. U.S. astronauts arrive, whom Vampi promptly sucks dry, then steals their ship and goes to Earth, where, inexplicably, she has an evil, blonde cousin named (sigh, again) “Evily.” They briefly fight, and Vampi is apparently the good guy, albeit a blood-sucker who kills innocent people.
There are a couple more stories like this, each more excruciating than the last. The regular horror stories aren’t much better. I really can’t recommend this book.
Fortunately, Warren’s quality improved in the 1970s, before they went out of business altogether. So later volumes of Vampirella should be better. Also the series, and the character, improved greatly at later publishers, stories which are being reprinted as Crimson Chronicles by Harris Publications, and Vampirella Masters by Dynamite. Those I can recommend.
* DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns can apparently do no wrong these days. He just finished re-imagining Green Lantern to critical and financial success, and now has turned his sights on the Fastest Man Alive, with promising results.
The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues ($19.99) collects the first seven issues of the Scarlet Speedster’s rebooted title, plus two stories from the Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 one-shot. Not only do these stories lay the groundwork for the new series starring the resurrected Flash of 1956-86 (as a superhero forensics expert), not only do they tell you everything you need to know about the major characters, villains, background and milieu of the series, but they tell a whopper of a tale as well. Johns combines the innocent charm of ‘60s Flash stories with the hard-nosed storytelling of today’s CSI franchises in a time-travel whirlwind using most of the Crimson Comet’s rogues gallery. That’s a lot to pack in, but Johns does it effortlessly for a story offering revelation, mystery, thrills and charm. No wonder he’s CCO!
* NBM has released Salvatore Vol. 1: Transports of Love ($14.99), the first in a series of anthropomorphic-animal graphic novels by Nicolas De Crécy (Glacial Period) and … I’m really not sure what to make of it.
Salvatore is a master mechanic dog who steals parts from his clientele to build a Rube Goldbergian vehicle to travel to South America to reach his true love (a well-bred terrier). Inexplicably, he only eats fondue. Meanwhile, Amandine – a pregnant and extremely near-sighted hog – has a Mr. Magoo-like adventure where her car lands on an airplane, where she gives birth, and loses one of her piglets in the sewers of Paris, where it is adopted by a Goth cat. Thus ends volume one.
I know Salvatore is supposed to be funny, but mostly I found myself baffled by this adventure/comedy/travelogue. I am intrigued enough to continue, so maybe the second volume will give me more context.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.