A cover I can’t forget
In the summer of 1969 when I was 11, I bought an issue of Eerie Publications’ Weird magazine with a cover I’ll never forget. It wasn’t great art, like those Frank Frazetta Creepy covers. It was garish, cartoony and unabashedly gory. (The artist wasn’t identified … maybe it was Bill Alexander, Eerie Pubs’ go-to cover guy?) I distinctly remember one warm summer night when I set the magazine up on the kitchen table as I drew my own horror comics with a Bic pen. The sound of crickets wafted through the screen door. I remember two songs that played on the our boxy, beige AM radio that night: “One” by Three Dog Night and “Windmills of Your Mind” by Henry Mancini (the flip-side of “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet”).
The cover showed a scarred, hunchbacked, one-eyed mad scientist with a bowl cut (this guy had nothing going for him) lowering a naked young woman into a large glass canister of acid. Behind her are two more canister denizens: a sort of werewolf/goblin hybrid and a skeleton. (This magazine was sold to children. I bought mine at the Berlin Farmers Market.) If the cover of a horror comic book is akin to a single panel from an interior story, this image begged the question: What could possibly be the circumstances of this moment?
I’m reminiscing about the Weird cover because I have an eBay bid in for the issue; the auction ends on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Wish me luck!
Eerie Publications aficionados note that cover art was often recycled, and sometimes even “cannibalized,” for later editions. For the Weird cover, this happened the following year, when the Nov. 1970 issue of Horror Tales used only the acid-bath girl on its cover, with a battered, blood-stained robot in the foreground.
Some time in the ’90s, we were covering a Chiller Theatre expo, when I came across the original art for that Horror Tales cover. And there, right in front of me, was the original art of Acid Bath Girl! But only Acid Bath Girl.
Dude, she had been cut out with an X-Acto knife! And she wasn’t even glued to the board … she was taped from the top, so you could lift her off! Like, whoever committed this atrocity had no respect for the original art! I asked my Kathy to photograph my hand holding Acid Bath Girl up (with the vendor’s permission, of course). As I held it, I felt a rush of memories of my 11-year-old self drawing those horror comics while immersed in, not a Frazetta masterpiece, but this crude and gruesome tableau vivant.
Fast-forward to 2015. I silhouetted Acid Bath Girl for page 165 of “Monster Mash,” in a four-page section on Eerie Publications. (Though I scanned her from the 1970 Horror Tales cover, she is identified as being from the 1969 Weird cover, as it should be.) Considering how gory the images were, I designed an alternate version of the four-page section with tamer art. I presented both to my publisher, and left the choice up to him: Gory, or Gory Lite? (I explained that I’d rather run the grislier art, since one of the points of my piece was that this horrible imagery was marketed to kids, which was the height of irony considering the Fredric Wertham-led reforms of the previous decade. That said, I would understand if the publisher didn’t want to limit the audience for “Monster Mash,” which can be called child-friendly except for the Eerie Pubs section.) In the end, the publisher OK’d the grislier art.
Anyway, I’m psyched for Sunday’s auction. I can’t remember the interior stories of that Weird issue, except for one, though I’m shaky on it. It’s about a young couple traveling to a tropical island? To stay at a resort hotel? There’s a pudgy rich guy with jet-black eyes (no whites or “sclera”)? He’s in uniform with a sash, like a South American politician? And he’s telling the couple how great this place is? But his workforce is zombies? Or voodoo victims? And the art is reprinted from Myron Fass‘ 1950s backlog, not the new art he sifted into most every issue to make them seem contemporary? (As if.)
If I’m correct about any of this, I must have subconsciously recycled the premise for “Club Undead,” a five-page comic I wrote and drew for Toxic Horror magazine, a short-lived Fangoria spin-off. But I’m rambling.
VIDEO: I wanted to close this thing with a video that was kind of evocative of the Weird cover, and my feelings toward it. If the axiom “first-thought-best-thought” holds any validity, this trailer for the 1963 Mexi-monster movie “Curse of the Crying Woman” will do the trick. Why? I dunno … style-wise, the Eerie Pub mags often reminded me of the (not-so-hot) horror flicks of the 1950s. (I now realize it’s because of the reprinted ’50s art.) But vibe-wise, I think of the Mexi-monster movies. These often had a no-holds-barred, logic-be-damned, throw-it-all-on-the-screen approach, much like Eerie Pubs. Dig it …