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Look Back: Vampirella Makes Her Comic Book Debut

This is "Look Back," a brand-new feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first week of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second week looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third week looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth week looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

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As July ends, I'm doing all of the Look Backs together.

Next up is a spotlight on July 1969's Vampirella #1, the debut of the title character!

Warren Publishing was an inventive concept by James Warren that would do black and white comic book magazines. Mad Magazine famously got a way with a whole lot more than a comic book could ever do because it was a black and white magazine and not an "official" comic book, which were stuck either adhering to the Comics Code Authority or being so prim and proper (like Dell Comics) that the Comics Code Authority wasn't even necessary! Therefore, Warren's black and white comic magazines could do dark horror stories in the style of the classic EC Comics, even employing a number of the artists who had worked for EC back in the day. Warren's magazines like Creepy and Eerie were a bit of a sensation in the mid-1960s, but by the end of the decade, Warren had taken a bit of a sales hit.

While hanging out with famous science fiction writer, editor and fan Forest J. Auckerman, Auckerman convinced Warren to try our a new character named Vampirella (likely a mix between two then-recent science fiction films, Barbarella and Queen of Blood). The legendary Trina Robbins is credited with designing the actual costume and hair style for Vampirella.

The European artist, Aslan, did the initial cover for #1 that Warren then rejected (using it three years later for an Annual cover)...

Then the great Frank Frazetta was hired to do the new, breathtaking cover for the first issue...

Frazetta also did an intro image, where Vampi introduces herself to the readers as the new host of this new horror series....

However, unlike the other Warren Publishing horror hosts (Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie), Vampi starred in her own stories!

Auckerman and Tom Sutton did the story, which is almost entirely just cheesecake puns about an alien who lives on a planet where everyone drinks blood...

She encounters some aliens (humans) and off we go...

Again, she was the host, so she introduces the other stories, mostly written by Don Glut, with art by some legendary artists like Billy Graham...

Reed Crandall...

and Neal Adams...

Vampirella was a bit of a flop at first, and she even lost her own feature in the magazine, but Archie Goodwin took over the series with Vampirella #7 and he revamped Vampirella with Spanish artist, Jose Gonzalez, and the series became a major hit, with the book now starring Vampirella (I might spotlight that issue when Look Back hits 1970).

Vampirella has been a hit character ever since, with the series running for as long as Warren Publishing stayed in business and it has popped up at a number of comic book companies since, most recently at Dynamite, where Christopher Priest just launched a new Vampirella series the other week.

If you have any suggestions for August (or any other later months) 2009, 1994, 1969 and 1944 comic books for me to spotlight, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com! Here is the guide, though, for the cover dates of books so that you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional amount of time between the cover date and the release date of a comic book throughout most of comic history has been two months (it was three months at times, but not during the times we're discussing here). So the comic books will have a cover date that is two months ahead of the actual release date (so October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago was released, since there was internet coverage of books back then.

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