The Art of Vampirella: The Warren Years

By Frank Frazetta, Enrich, Sanjulián, Ken Kelly Vaughn Bodé & various artists, written by David Roach (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-390-2

Jim Warren originally established himself in the American comics marketplace with monochrome B-Movie fan periodical Famous Monsters of Filmland and satire magazine Help! In 1965 he took his deep admiration of the legendary 1950s EC Comics to its logical conclusion: reviving anthology horror periodicals and pitching them at older fans.

Creepy was stuffed with clever strip chillers illustrated by the top artists in the field (many of them ex-EC stars) and Warren neatly sidestepped the all-powerful Comics Code Authority – which had ended EC’s glory days and eventually their entire comics line – by publishing his new venture as a newsstand magazine.

It was a no-lose proposition. Older readers didn’t care to be associated with “kid’s stuff” comicbooks whilst magazines already held tempting extra cachet (i.e. mild nudity and a little more explicit violence) for readers of a transitional age.

Best of all, the standard monochrome format cost a quarter of what colour periodicals did to print.

Creepy was a huge and influential hit, especially among the increasingly rebellious, Rock ‘n’ Roll crazed teen market; often cited as a source of inspiration for the nascent underground commix movement and now furiously feeding on the growing renewed public interest in the supernatural.

In true Darwinian “Grow or Die” mode, Warren looked around for new projects, following up with companion shocker Eerie and the controversial war title Blazing Combat.

As the decade closed he launched a third horror anthology, but Vampirella was a little bit different. Although it featured the traditional “host” to introduce and comment on stories, this narrator was a sexy starlet who occasionally participated in the stories: eventually becoming hero and crowd-pulling star of her own regular feature.

Another radical variation was that here female characters played a central role. They were still victims and targets but increasingly, whether name stars or bit players, were as likely to be the big menace or save the day. Whatever their role, though, they were still pretty much naked throughout. Some traditions must be protected at all costs…

Another beguiling Warren innovation and staple was the eye-catching painted covers on every issue…

The hidden story behind Warren’s introduction of Vampirella is fully disclosed in David Roach’s incisive history of the magazine whose covers are reprinted in their entirety – spanning September 1969 to March 1983 – in this pictorial treasury.

Accompanied by informative context and commentary, they are presented as both finished newsstand-ready product with all typography and logos and as full-page reproductions of the original artworks, denuded of all distracting text and editorial modification.

This magnificent oversized (234 x 307 mm) hardback proudly displays every cover from the run: 112 issues, the 1972 Annual and the Pantha Special – and even includes a series of photographic entries featuring Barbara Leigh in full costume. She was pegged to play the deliciously Deadly Drakulonne in a sadly-unrealised Hammer Horror movie.

Following a revelatory Introduction from Enric Torres-Prat who as “Enrich” painted dozens of astoundingly eye-catching covers, Roach’s ‘Vampirella: an Introduction’ traces her history and development as well as the company-saving arrival of the Spanish illustrators of Josep Tutain’s European S.I. agency.

The astonishing work of these astounding painters and draughtsmen turned Warren around and made them the most visually unique publisher on the American scene. Moreover this Introduction is illustrated not just with American material but also pages of comics and covers S.I. provided for the British market during the 1960s and 1970s.

The major portion of this beguiling tome is quite rightly all about the art, and the parade of painterly peril and pulchritude includes works by Aslan (Alain Gourdon), Frank Frazetta, Bill Hughes, Vaughn Bodé, Jeff Jones, Larry Todd, Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, Sanjulián (Manuel Pérez Clemente), Pepe Gonzalez, Luis Dominguez, Josep Marti Ripoll, Lluís Ribas, Hank Londoner (photographer for the Leigh covers), Bob Larkin, Kim McQuaite, Jordi Penalva, Esteban Maroto, Steve Harris, Paul Gulacy, Terrance Lindall, Jordi Longaron, Noly Panaligan, Albert Pujolar and Martin Hoffman.

This captivating, vibrant tome is as much a historical assessment as celebration of stellar talent: a beautiful, breathtaking and brilliantly inspirational compendium for the next generation of artists and illustrators.

If you are gripped by the drive to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this luxurious compendium offers all the encouragement you could possibly hope for – and is powerfully intoxicating too.
Vampirella ™ and © 2013 Dynamite Entertainment. All rights reserved.