Spot the Difference

Oct 16, 2008

A number of subtle and not so subtle changes to the script (and art) took place between the Rex Havoc stories in the Warren magazine 1984 and their collection in Warren Presents 14 a couple of years later. Here are just a few examples.

Above: Warren’s 1984 #4. Below: Warren Presents #14.

Above: Warren’s 1984 #4. Below: Warren Presents #14.

Above: Warren’s 1984 #4. Below: Warren Presents #14.

If you were producing a mostly futuristic science fiction magazine in 1978 would YOU give it a title that was a date less than six years in the future? Probably. Thanks to the 1948 George Orwell novel the number/year “1984”, although now a lifetime ago in the past, still seems to be a short-cut way of describing the (not altogether pleasant) future. (And the UKs own 2000AD comic is still thriving, unchanged despite the years having overtaken its title.)

The contents of “1984”, as with all of Warren’s output, was variable. Without many continuing characters in Warren comics anything and everything could appear….upcoming artists/writers dipping their first hesitant toe into the murky waters…old established artists/writers wanting an assignment with a little more freedom to let their hair down….or just wanting a job! Mix in a few bought-in stories and some Spanish/South American artwork and you had magazines that seemed more European and less juvenile than many of the others available at the time. (Remember the independent comic “explosion” didn’t really take hold until the mid 1980s).

Issue No 1 sets out its clear mission statement on the inside front cover. I’m sure there are a minority who might take offence at the subject matter of some of these stories (insulting other races/treating women as objects..not to mention the “sex” and “violence”) but I think you have to bear in mind that the 1970s was a different planet! “The Saga of Honeydew Melons” written by Nicola Cuti and well drawn by Estaban Maroto is fairly representative of what you might find within an average issue of “1984”.

There were 10 stories in this premiere issue counting this uncredited one-pager. As Jim Stenstrum is listed in the contents page as both an author AND an illustrator, perhaps this mini-saga can be attributed to him. I believe he painted the cover of Issue No 17 (by which time the magazine had been re-titled “1994”).

With a cover and a “Mutant World” episode by Richard Corben, a quirky “elf” story written and drawn by Wally Wood, a gruesome and bizarre sideways story called “Once Upon Clarissa” by Bill Dubay and Alex Nino and an odd story called “Bugs” this magazine actually contains a large variety of styles.

One of my two favourite stories in the magazine is “Faster than Light” written by Jim Stenstrum with expressive art by Luis Bermejo. A farmer (?) has discovered a new form of propulsion!

The title appears on the second page of the story. I’m not sure why those kids are killing a cat though………………

The “science” behind Elias Newton Zong’s “Zong Drive” seems almost plausible!! The sound effects are good too….

My other favourite story is “Momma can you hear me?” written by Nicola Cuti and beautifully drawn by Alex Nino.

Join me in my time machine as we spin back to the mid 1970s. I was ____ years old and having outgrown most of the current Marvel and DC Comics I had turned my attention to the Black and White Magazine-sized Comicbooks then available.
I already had quantities of Mad Magazine, Cracked, Sick, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Famous Monsters of Filmland and others of that ilk. DC never really pursued this format despite an odd book or two like “In the Days of the Mob”. Marvel tried to push Warren out of the market by swamping the news-stands with their own horror books such as Dracula, Savage Tales, Conan and assorted Zombies. My favourite Marvel Magazines then were the anthology titles such as Marvel Preview/Bizarre Adventures and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. (And later I enjoyed The Hulk and Howard the Duck in glorious black and white adventures.) But I still preferred the Warren magazines.

Alas Warren tended to reprint stories regularly. Eerie 106 collected Hard John’s Nuclear Hit Parade. This was another odd story written by Jim Stenstrum. The nuclear destruct buttons needed two people to press them simultaneously… or an orangutan!!  

Eerie 119 featured Zud Kamish. How can you not want to read a story with a splash page like this?

Or the next two pages featuring the oddest spaceship ever!

In the future the same problems still seem to occur. 

Warren Comicbooks were just that little bit too far ahead of their time. Most of their sales were via regular newsagents/news-stands. Their distribution here was patchy at best. Comic Shops were not yet commonplace. Almost as soon as Warren folded in the 1980s direct distribution became the norm, Comic Shops appeared in every town (or at least in every City in the case of the UK), hundreds of new Comic Publishers unleashed hundreds of (mostly) rubbish comics onto a new generation of collectors/speculators.If Warren had hung on a few more years they would have found an enormous market for their product. Who were these people buying Radioactive Adolescent Teenage Ninja Biker Turtle Mice from Mars? Why hadn’t they bought Vampirella and Eerie? I suddenly felt very old but continued to observe the madness of the 1980s from the sidelines with a knowing smile. 

Joe Guy

Apr 12, 2008

Joe Guy was America’s foremost hero. What, you’ve never heard of him? He appeared in a few issues of “The Rook”. What, you’ve never heard of The Rook? He appeared in Warren’s Eerie as well as in his own self-titled black and white magazine-sized comic book. What, you’ve never heard of Warren ? I must be getting old !

Joe Guy discovers he is the son of Superman and doomed aviatrix Amelia Lockhart. Eventually he arrives at the Fortress of Solitude and meets his father for the first time along with the others living there.

It seems that in 1963 whilst travelling through the time barrier Superman accidently witnessed his own demise at some future date. This so unnerved him that he has never left his Fortress of Solitude since that time. All the heroic feats performed by Superman since then have been performed by Superman robots. Can Joe defeat this approaching menace, change history and prevent his father’s death? Did DC ever notice this story?

This was all set out over four 8 page stories in “The Rook”. There were enough ideas here for an on-going series. In fact, the writer Jim Stenstrum was full of ideas. He wrote “Thrillkill” and “Sherlock Holmes” as well as “Joe Guy” and other “humorous” fare like “Rex Havoc and the Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic” and “The Super Abnormal Phenomena Survical Kit”.



 I rate Jim Stenstrum’s writing up there with Steve Gerber and Alan Moore. Like many other comic book creators he moved into animation directing “Scooby Doo” cartoons amongst other things. I think his Warren work would make fantastic animations. How about it Jim?

Warren produced some of my favourite comics from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Actually I wasn’t really that interested in horror comics, but luckily the Warren  anthology titles also covered other genres like fantasy, science fiction, and sword and sorcery. “Creepy” was mostly horror. “Eerie” also had science fiction. “1984/1994” was “adult” similar to “Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal”. Vampirella was…a sexy female vampire basically. There were a number of one-shot magazines over the years and “Famous Monsters of Filmland” completed the line-up. 


In 1980 you could still purchase those early (very limited animation) Marvel cartoons in glorious black and white or colour in Super 8 (or even Regular) Film reels. Actually, thinking about it I didn’t own a (BetaMax/BetaCord) Sanyo Video Recorder until 1981.   

 It has been said that the only reason for the Warren comic books were for the 20 odd pages at the back advertsing the weird and wonderful (mainly SF and horror related) products Warren sold under the guise of The Captain Company. That is being very unfair. Just look at the talented artists to be found within the pages of Creepy 75 for example.   

How can you go wrong with art by Wally Wood, Alex Toth and Neal Adams? In fact Creepy 75 contains one of the most famous stories ever issued by Warren. “Thrillkill” from 1975 written by Jim Stenstrum and illustrated by Neal Adams was ground-breaking and all too realistic.