Relax! Despite what you might think, we will not be discussing the music of the 1980s here today. This edition’s theme is sea creatures, and it’s my week to talk about the magazines of horror. What better concatenation of topics might there be than Frank Frazetta’s cover of the second issue painting for Warren Publication’s classic horror mag, Eerie? I can’t think of one. Can you?
Okay, so the number on the cover is a ‘3’. That’s confusing. Truth is, Warren put out what in the publishing business is called an ashcan issue to establish their trademark on the title without actually distributing it to the nation’s newsstands. This happens occasionally and is why the first appearance of the original Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam!) was in Whiz Comics #2. The first issue of Eerie that was seen by the public was Numero Two-o, as Joe Bob Briggs used to say. The second, Numero Three-o, had the SCUBA diver in the link above confronting the gargantuan aquatic plug-ugly. Clear as mud?
Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) is generally considered by those who know about such things to be the preeminent fantasy and horror illustrator of the second half of the 20th Century. He started out in comic books and worked on newspaper comic strips for some years, including an uncredited run on Al Capp’s Li’l Abner. No, that’s not the title character in the link. That’s Stupefyin’ Jones. Apt name, n’est pas? Julie Newmar, later famous as the first Catwoman in the Batman TV show, played that rather voluptuous young lady both on Broadway and in the 1959 film version of the musical play.
Frazetta left Li’l Abner in 1961 and started painting paperback and magazine covers. He did Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian illustrations that are iconic, as well as a parody of a shampoo ad for Mad Magazine featuring Ringo Starr. It showed the Beatles’ drummer instead of the usual pretty blonde, which led to Frazetta painting more than a dozen movie posters and almost a dozen album covers, including three recycled from earlier works for American southern rock band, Molly Hatchet.
Eerie was published beginning in 1966 as a companion to Warren’s two-years-older Creepy Magazine. Frazetta regularly contributed covers for both titles during their early days, although his production petered out as his book illustration work took over in the last few years of the 1960s. The specific painting under consideration today is entitled, believe it or not, Sea Monster.
So, let’s say you acquire a copy of this issue, either in print or as one of the myriad digital versions floating about the internet, and flip it open to the story referenced in the cover painting. Well, there actually isn’t one. Not exactly, anyhow. There is a story about divers and sea creatures, but the monsters don’t look all that much like the one on the front.
“Full Fathom Fright” is the seventh and last story in the issue, following tales illustrated by industry greats Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Steve Ditko, and Alex Toth. This final yarn was drawn by the legendary Gene Colan (1926-2011), who had begun working in comics in 1944 and was at the time doing the Iron Man and Sub-Mariner features for Marvel, as well as war and romance comics for DC. He later had a long run on Marvel’s Daredevil title and a shorter one on Doctor Strange. He was also the only interior artist for the entire run of Tomb of Dracula, while other artists, usually Gil Kane, contributed covers for the first thirty-seven issues, and occasional later ones.
“Full Fathom Fright” was written by Archie Goodwin (1937-1998), as was the bulk of the Warren output in those days. Goodwin later worked as a writer and editor for both Marvel and DC and was highly regarded by his peers.
Spoiler Alert! Proceed Carefully!
The story itself is a sort-of-Wendigo-of-the-deep type saga, wherein the slayer of the monster becomes the monster themselves. Goodwin was maybe a bit too fond of this kind of yarn, having done a tale very like it in the first issue of Creepy. That one was illustrated by none other than — Frank Frazetta!
Thus we come full circle – a very small, tightly-wound full circle, admittedly. Next time, the circle will widen to include the cinematic manifestation of a genre of music that… well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Join us then, won’t you?
Our lagniappe this time out is a bit of musical fun by my favorite British folk-rock band from the 1970s, Steeleye Span – it’s “Twelve Witches”, from an album that spent a lot of time on my turntable back in the day, Rocket Cottage. Enjoy! And as always, my dear voluptuaries of the vicious…
Be very afraid.