Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'The Zombie Factory', edited by Patrick O'Donnell

Like me, you may have had your childhood warped by the black and white comic magazines produced by Eerie Publications. 'Terror Tales', 'Witche's Tales', 'Horror Tales', and other titles sported garish, tasteless covers, and comics heavy on mutilated corpses and severed heads.

The Eerie magazines were the brainchild of schlock publisher and gun nut Myron Fass, and Carl Burgos (creator of the Human Torch), of Countrywide publications . Fass created the Eerie line in the mid-60s as a way to capitalize on the success of the Warren horror titles. Most of the stories appearing in the Eerie magazines were re-workings of 50s horror comics, the original sheets of which Fass had purchased en masse at a discounted price.

However crude and mercenary Fass's marketing philosophy may have been, the Eerie books were the most hard-hitting horror material on the shelves from the mid 60s to the early 80s.

Unfortunately, getting one's hands on the Eerie comics nowadays is expensive. Copies of 'Terror Tales', etc. in good condition sell for more than $15 each at eBay.

It's not clear who (if anyone ) now owns the reprint rights to the Eerie comics. According to Mike Howlett's comprehensive overview of the Fass publishing empire, in 1976, increasing acrimony between Myron Fass and Countrywide co-executive Stanley R. Harris (Fass actually fired a bullet through the wall of his office and into Harris's) led to the latter man's departure to form Harris Publications. Harris took with him the rights to publish the horror titles.

No one knows if Stanley Harris and Harris Publications, which is still in operation ('Vampirella' is one of its more well-known titles), intends to release the Eerie equivalent of the affordable softcover compilations for Old School comics, as the Marvel 'Essentials' series or the DC 'Showcase' series have done. 

Until something develops on that front, the best that fans of the Fass and Burgos comics can do is to pick up 'The Zombie Factory'.

'Zombie' is available for $18.99 from; the book is published by Idea Men Productions, a small independent publisher whose titles are primarily issued in a print-on-demand (POD) format (i.e., no physical copies of the books are maintained in inventory, but once an order is received, a special printing press is used to produce the book in softcover format within minutes). 

[Presumably the Eerie comics presented in 'Zombie' are in the Public Domain, but I'm not one to quibble over licensing rights.]

'Zombie' contains 27 strips that appeared in the Eerie pubs from 1970 to 1978. Unfortunately, detailed information on the artist and writer for each comic is not provided, but some of the artists represented include Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Ezra Jackson, and Oscar Fraga. 

Most of the strips are not among the goriest from the Eerie archives, although 'The Slimy Mummy' (Jackson) and 'Voodoo Terror' (Stone) are present and accounted for. 

I've excerpted a classic from Dick Ayers: 'A Corpse for the Coffin', which features Ayers' artistic trademark: popping eyeballs......

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