San Diego is known for its sunny days but a crawling darkness came to Comic-Con International with the panel discussion for the legendary “Creepy” magazine. New Comic Company has acquired the rights to the original “Creepy” series, along with its companion title “Eerie,” and has allied with Dark Horse Comics to publish new stories in an anthology format. A wicked group had assembled to discuss the comics’ scary past, frightening present, and terrifying future.
On the panel were New Comic Company’s founders Dan Braun and Craig Haffner, the new “Creepy’s” cover artist Eric Powell, interior artist Hilary Barta, original “Creepy” legend Nick Cuti, and current series editor Shawna Gore.
The presentation began, appropriately, with how the new and re-presented “Creepy” material came to be. Braun and Haffner, who were big fans of “Creepy,” which ran from 1964 to 1983, asked why they couldn’t bring back the series they loved so much. They went about pursuing Jim Warren, the publisher and founder of Warren Publishing, who put out “Creepy” years ago. Warren, they said, is a bit of a luddite so modern means of contacting him came to nothing but he finally responded one day to a letter they had sent him. He laughed at their initial offers but, after five years, he called them in the middle of the night and proposed a meeting. The pair were told to meet him at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia, and they soon found themselves in an empty parking lot in the early hours before dawn’s light. There, across the parking lot, appeared a taxi cab. The car approached them and a seemingly displaced hand came from inside, motioning them to follow.
The taxi went to a high-rise in a suburb and from it came Warren, who ushered Braun and Haffner into the building. They sat in the lobby and Braun and Haffner found themselves deep in conversation about World War II, fielding probing questions from Warren, which was fortunate since the topic was a specialty for the pair. After 45 minutes of this, Warren abruptly rose to leave and said the deal was made. It was still three years before documents were signed but finally, in 2007, they could proceed with bringing “Creepy” back. They cold-called Mike Richardson of Dark Horse and asked if the company might be interested in publishing the “Creepy” material and, with no hesitation, he agreed.
The “Creepy Archives” began publication in 2008 and four volumes that are out so far. Reprints in the same format of its sister series “Eerie” are also planned, with one volume already available. Dark Horse hopes to publish three volumes a year. Since the two series ran for 20 years with 284 issues between them, there are still years and many editions to go. Also, there are plans to produce separate volumes focusing on the work of individual creators, most notably that of Berni Wrightson, Neal Adams and Steve Ditko.
Dark Horse is presently publishing a new “Creepy” series, the first issue of which appeared last month. The series, in a comic book format, is set to be published quarterly, with 48 pages in each issue and a cover price of $5.00 but with only one advertisement, on the back page. Gore said the first issue sold quite well and that Dark Horse is committed for at least another two issues but hopes the series goes well past that point. “Creepy” #2 is planned for October. In six months they will know if the series will go beyond #4.
Eric Powell took the spotlight for a while, explaining the cover of the first issue is an homage to the Wrightson and Richard Corben work of the original “Creepy.” His cover for the second issue presents the family characters from both series, “Creepy” and “Eerie.” There has long been an Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie but, when New Comic began working with Powell on the series, they had a family tree with the other relatives and they plan to do lots more with those characters. The publishers believe presenting the family on other platforms and media will bring more readers to the comics, and to that end, the new “Creepy” launched as a one-page strip last year on Dark Horse’s MySpace Dark Horse Presents site as a way to introduce both new and old readers to the “Creepy” and “Eerie” franchise.
A bit of trivia that came out during the panel was that Warren had originally made “Creepy” and “Eerie” in the magazine format to get around the strict Comics Code of yesteryear. The material he wanted to publish, which was appropriately gory and grotesque, would not be allowed in a comic book format but as a magazine there was no problem.
Angelo Torres, one of the legendary artists of the original series, has work in the first new issue and will draw a story in issue #3, written by Doug Moench. The admiration and love for the older material was palpable by the members of the panel, especially Gore, who said she had read the series since she was six. Gore is actively pursuing the original “Creepy” writers and artists to produce new work for the new series. Of course, it was asked if Corben and John Severin would contribute new work and Gore said that those creators have already been approached and when they are done with their other commitments, they would be on the new “Creepy.”
Cuti, a writer for the original Warren Publications books, discussed his love/hate relationship with Jim Warren. He said that at one point, he had to sue for money owed for work done for Warren but that at some point after that Warren approached him and give him work when no one else would. Cuti said that back then, he would write original stories but there were also times when Warren would give him a picture of a cover and ask him to write a story around that image. He also said he may do work for the new series.
The presentation was then opened to audience questions. The first one concerned if the purchase of the “Creepy” and “Eerie” license included the original art and, indeed, it does.
Could there be a movie or TV show coming from the property? It’s a possibility but they’re taking a careful approach in developing it.
A fan asked about Dark Horse’s intentions to bring in new readers to the new series. There is certainly an effort to do so, Gore said, but that fans of contemporary horror are more used to graphic violence and the grotesque, and that’s not always what “Creepy” is about. Contemporary horror is usually the-bloodier-the-better but “Creepy” is more subtle and has to do with psychological scares. She also admitted a resistance by readers for both horror and anthologies, which are hard sells for today’s readers.
The last discussion of the panel concerned mass media and taking the “Creepy” and “Eerie” properties to different outlets, to bring fans to the printed versions. Part of this, the panelists said, could be an animation project. They ended the panel with a 30-second clip created by the Chiodo Brothers, with Uncle Creepy in a graveyard produced in stop-motion animation. They said that this clip will appear at creepyuniverse.com.