In part two of this series, we examined DC’s response to the change in the Comic Code in 1971. While Marvel and DC hurriedly rushed to capitalize on these changes, one publisher didn’t have to change one thing. They had been getting around the code by publishing horror comics stories in magazines since 1964. That publisher was Warren Publishing.
The Dawn of Warren Publishing
Warren Publishing, the brainchild of James Warren, began in 1957 with the magazines Monster World and Famous Monsters of Filmland. These focused on horror, fantasy, and science fiction movies. After a few monster comics in Monster World, Warren launched Creepy in 1964 and Eerie in 1966. Both would be filled with comic stories that circumvented the code by being published in magazine format. They were geared toward an older audience than comic books.
If any comic is the descendant of the late lamented EC Comics, it would be Creepy. Among the early artists on the magazine were such EC luminaries as Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and Johnny Craig. Mainstream super-hero artists that also contributed included, among others, Neal Adams, Steve Ditko, and Dan Adkins. Russ Jones was the founding editor of Creepy, followed soon after by Archie Goodwin.
The iconic Uncle Creepy made his first appearance in Creepy #1, fully drawn by Jack Davis based on a sketch by Jones. For collectors, Creepy #1 is the key issue. There are very few copies in the CGC census in the highest grades. There’s one at a 9.8 grade and three at 9.6. That rarity at the high grades makes these much sought-after books.
The 9.8 copy is not listed as ever being sold. Of the 9.6 copies, there was a sale in 2005 in a Heritage Auction for $2,990. The price then dropped to $1,673 in a late 2007 Heritage Auction. It would be many years until one was up for sale again – October 2019, to be exact – and the price jumped back up to $2,500 in a fixed price eBay sale. None have been put up for sale since. It will be interesting to see how collectors respond when one is listed for sale again.
Eerie, the sister magazine to Creepy, launched in 1966. A first rushed issue was an ashcan edition with only a 200 copy print run. It was hastily put together to protect the title, Eerie, from a rival publisher. There are no known copies of Eerie #1 in the CGC census.
Eerie #2 is the true first issue of the series. It features a Frazetta cover and includes artwork by the aforementioned Davis and Craig, as well as Gene Colan, John Severin, and Alex Toth, among others. As with Creepy #1, there are very few high-grade copies of Eerie #2 in the CGC census – two at a 9.8 grade and nine at 9.6. While the 9.8 copies have not been listed for sale, the sales of 9.6 copies follow a similar, although lower, trajectory to Creepy #1 – a 2005 Heritage Auction sale for $920, followed by a 2014 eBay fixed price sale for $350, and then a rise to $700 in a 2018 fixed price eBay sale.
Warren muddled their way through the mid to late 1960s with a pair of good comic magazines that saw very poor sales. Editors, writers, and artists would often jump ship due to a lack of pay. Things didn’t really take off for Warren until 1969 with their singular creation, Vampirella.
Vampirella was the creation of Forrest J. Ackerman and Trina Robbins, and the first issue, with artwork from Neal Adams, Billy Graham, Tom Sutton, and others. It was a hit that likely saved Warren Publishing from going under. The character’s popularity lifted the sales of Creepy and Eerie and would keep the publisher going until 1983, past the point when horror comics had faded from DC and Marvel.
Vampirella #1, another Warren first with a Frazetta cover, is the queen of Warren Publishing, as far as collectors are concerned. As with other Warren first issues, the CGC census records a small number of high-grade copies. There is a 9.8, which has never been put up for sale, and eight 9.6 copies. Again, we see a similar sales trajectory for the 9.6 copies. $10,157.50 in a 2011 Heritage auction, $2,500 in a 2015 fixed price eBay sale, and then a rebound to $7,877.77 in a 2019 eBay auction. Vampirella has proven to be quite resilient in her popularity. There’s no reason to think that, in the midst of this comic book boom, her first appearance couldn’t reach higher amounts.
Join Us for Part Four
In our final part of this series, we’ll focus on Marvel’s blending of horror and super-hero elements to create characters who have proven to be the most popular and enduring heroes to emerge from the 1970s horror comics boom.