WTs: First of all Mike I want to thank you for taking time from your busy schedule and waste it on this interview. So THANKS!!
Thank you! It’s an honor!
I’m sure that lots of folks are looking forward to you upcoming collection from IDW “The Best Worst of Eerie Publications”. I know that I am!
I have to ask though; wouldn’t a “Best” of collection sell better? Or would that be completely missing the point?
Well, we’re poking a little bit of fun at the fact that for years, everybody thought the Pubs were total crap. Only in the past few years have people started to realize that there is some pretty good stuff to be found in this “garbage”!
WTs: What were your selection criteria for this collection: nuanced writing and outstanding art?
Or did you simply go for the highest sleaze factor?
Both, really. I tried to gather a group of stories that showed off the various artists’ styles and are strong representations of their work. A lot of it happens to be the more gruesome stuff because, hey… I like the blood and guts! Not surprisingly, many of the stories I picked by that criteria are fan favorites!
WTs: How did you discover Eerie pubs?
Would you share your first time with us?
Way back in the day, when these things were on the stands, they were a last resort. I loved my Warrens and Skywalds and DC mystery comics. When there wasn’t much left, I would scrounge for an Eerie Pub. It was probably their cover recycling that turned me off… I wasn’t about to spend my precious 50¢ on something I wasn’t sure if I already had! I had a few of them but my most vivid memory of them from the time was trading an issue of Horror Tales for a Rolling Stones 45.
But back in the mid-80s, I saw Chic Stone’s hippy cover to Weird (May 1969) and my mind and life was changed! Somehow, I hadn’t seen that one back in the day or during subsequent trips to the comic shop. I developed a deep fascination for the magazines and since my Warren and Skywald collections were complete, I gave in to this new obsession.
WTs: Has it always been your dream to become the go to guy /scholar for all things Eerie?
Hah! Hell, no! Not at all! But I’m happy that it seems to have happened! It means I applied myself and did something right! My Mom should be proud!
WTs: What would explain the resurgent popularity in the old Eerie Publications titles?
I’d like to think that my book The Weird World of Eerie Publications has helped bring these magazines to some new fan’s attention, but really it’s just the next phase. Most folks who have had interest in the world of black and white horror mags have, like I did, completed their Warren runs and are looking to branch out.
Do the old Eerie titles actually have any redeeming qualities? I can understand the affectionate nostalgia for those of us who actually bought and read these things all those years ago. And of course there are those who do have a discerning taste in high quality sleaze. But why would a much younger person delight in these titles? Or is it possible there is a certain amount of hipster irony involved here?
I think there is a certain percentage of fans who like it because it is so obviously second rate (in terms of production and editorial quality). They like the audacity and the “danger” and they like being outsiders. I can agree with some of that but I have really grown to appreciate the artwork, particularly that done by the “unknown” South of the Border artists. They brought something to the mags that hadn’t been seen up here. Sometimes cartoonish, sometimes stiff, but they all had a flair for good story-telling. Their styles were in stark contrast to the competition at the time but that is no longer thought of as a fault. Nor should it be!
WTs: As a ten year old there was nothing that I loved more than those three holed neck stumps and ejectile eyeballs. How much of the pre-code artwork did Fass get his artists to sex up with more/better gore for republication?
The first few issues were fairly tame; it was just precode Ajax/ Farrell reprints. Soon, Editor Carl Burgos was splashing extra blood over the original art (ARRGH!) and redrawing some panels. When Ezra Jackson was brought on board, the reprints got even gorier!
When the Eerie crew decided to go with “new” stories (scripts cribbed from various precode horror comics), the instructions given to the artists were to make it gorier and more salacious. And that they did in spades!
WTs: My parents loathed these titles. Should they have?
Hah! Of course! All horror comics should be loathed by parents! Horror comics are BAD for you!!
WTs: Describe the “magic” of the Eerie titles in one sentence!
Multiple monsters caught up in impossible situations that lead to blood-stained results were never more fun than in these dodgy, low-brow comic magazines.
WTs: Do you think that these titles would have been banned if the contents had actually lived up to the covers?
Some of those innards, like a typical Dick Ayers splash page, were just as gruesome if not more so! But either way, I think the books got a little bit of flack back in the day. There is an abrupt change in 1970 where the covers got a bit tamed down; screw, sprockets and gears started to replace entrails bursting from severed sockets. I’ll bet that those heavy-gore covers made a few of the Mom & Pop news dealers a bit reluctant to display the product!
WTs: Two stories will always stand out in my mind. The first one deals with some crazy scientist who locks up a young couple in a cage and then starves them in order to see how far they would go in their fight for survival. I can’t remember how, but he ends up in the cage with them and gets eaten.
The second one deals with a traveler who upon getting caught in a storm spends the night in an abandoned general store and ends up falling asleep in front of an old pot belly stove that he managed to fire up. He dreams that he’s back in the old Salem Witch Trial days and in this dream he gets executed by having a spike driven into his forehead. The next morning he’s discovered dead by the police. It seems that the stove exploded while he was asleep and a piece of shrapnel got driven into his forehead. These two managed to actually get under my skin and stay with me for over 40 years.
Does any story stand out in your mind even after all these years?
Oh, there are many… the swimming pool filled with acid (“The Murder Pool”), the kid cremated in the furnace (“The Thing in the Cellar”) and that panel of the head getting sliced in half in Dick Ayers’ “The Mummy”! Heady stuff! That one panel still blows my mind to this day!
WTs: Mike, before I let you go I want to thank you once again for playing along with this and I would like to ask you if there is anything that you want to share with the readers or warn them about?
I just want to thank everyone who has been so kind and supportive to me! I have made loads of new friends through the Eerie Pubs and it means a lot to me. Hell, I thought I was the only twisted soul out here who liked this kind of stuff but apparently, I am not! Thank goodness there are so many of us out there whose tastes stray from the norm… or at least are open to oddball stuff!
Thank you, Doug! It has been a pleasure and a privilege.
Mike's History of Eerie Publications: The Weird World of Eerie Publications "Comic gore that Warped Millions of young Minds