Another aspect of illustrated fantasy, horror and science fiction magazines and comic books of the seventies worth noting, would be the advertisements. In the traditional comics, they were placed between every two or three pages like commercial breaks. While in the large format Warren magazines, there would be a plethora of them all crammed into the last twenty pages or so.
At the time, the ads that ran through the Marvel or DC titles were more of an annoyance to me. That is unless they were about some toy I was interested in…
or promoted a brand new title or the next issue of a comic I was into.
Many were entertaining in their own right and mimicked the comics they were placed in. What better way to sell an action figure than to have it featured in it’s own comic book adventure.
For some odd reason, Hostess Cakes used this same tactic. There wasn’t many a hero from either camp that wasn enlisted by them to sell their various products.
There were entrepreneurial and educational opportunities as well.
If you were inspired by the exploits of your favorite heroes and impressed by their battle prowess, you too could learn the same ancient fighting skills they possessed.
Perhaps you also desired the physique?
Then all you needed was something to wear…
to the Comic Con…
and some home décor.
After all, what home would be complete without its own monster…
and other assorted odds and ends.
The advertisements found in the Warren magazines were a different beast altogether. The best way to describe them would be to say that the stories that preceded them were the main course and they were the desert. More than just a bunch of ads, this was a cavalcade of fun for all ages. Like browsing in a magical shop or sifting through a treasure trove of classic goodies you found in the musty attic of a haunted house. A year round Halloween/Christmas wonderland where anything was possible – filled with adventure, beauty, horrors, secrets, and dreams. They were an all out assault on the cerebral cortex, a mystery grab bag. You never knew what to expect from page to page. With that being said, let us revisit for a spell –
Finally, there were the masks. Being a young special effects aficionado, I always looked forward to any page featuring them. I pined after the full head Frankenstein for years, but was never able to scrape up enough dough to get it.
It’s strange how these vintage advertisements have become as interesting to me now as the comics themselves. They act as time capsules, giving youth a glimpse into long-gone days and stirring memories in those of us that were there. As a current student of graphic design I see them now as very early lessons. I never did get that rubber full head Frankenstein monster mask when I was a kid, but I did stumble upon one in a supermarket when I was thirty something and was finally able to purchase it. Made my day.
Below is the first “Vampi” story I ever read, from Vampirella #56 December 1976. It featured the amazing artwork of award winning artist Jose Gonzalez who is credited with establishing the direction of the title. I was only nine years old at the time, and yet I still remember being mesmerized by the realism and style of his work. Click on any pic to view in full size and enjoy. Cover by Enrich
None other than Mr. Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, created the character of Vampirella, with artist Trina Robbins designing her costume. Produced by Warren Publishing and debuting in September1969 with a cover by Frank Frazetta, this black and white horror title featured its sultry namesake introducing stories as well as starring in her own adventure.
Vampirella is a superheroine from the planet Drakulon who, much like a certain blue and red tights wearing icon, came to Earth to escape her own dying world. Once here, she devotes her life to fighting evil. By the seventies, the magazine had finally hit it’s stride and I remember her often accompanied by a bumbling sorcerer named Pendragon. Other supporting characters included, Conrad Van Helsing, the blind psychic vampire hunter and his son Adam Van Helsing, who eventually became romantically involved with her. She is able to stay alive and keeps her blood thirst at bay by taking a serum, without which she would become a danger to all around her, including her friends.
Every issue featured different artists such as, Jose Gonzalez, Gonzalo Mayo, Leopold Sanchez, Esteban Maroto, José Ortiz, Escolano, Rudy Nebres, Ramon Torrents, Pablo Marcos, Jim Janes, John Lakey, Val Lakey, and Louis Small, Jr. Each contributed their own unique style to the whole, while collectively maintaining a mysterious vibe that ran throughout the entire magazine. Every story was magnificently illustrated and fantastically written at a level unheard of and rarely seen these days. All were masterfully rendered symphonies of mood, light and shadow. While the illustrators of this time seem to dole out their talent in small increments and only for the right price, these artists had a job to do and they did it well. Perhaps it was the current zeitgeist or just the way of the industry at the time. Whatever the case, there is no denying the passion and pride reflected in these works.
Before Schwarzenegger ‘s blockbuster movie version, there was “The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian” comic magazine. First published in 1974 by Curtis Magazines, an imprint of Marvel Comics, it was a monthly black and white trip through Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian age and beyond.
A legendary lineup of artists contributed to its pages, such as Neal Adams, Pablo Marcos, Dick Giordano and Ernie Chan, to name a few, with most of the early covers painted by Boris Vallejo. But for me, the one artist I associate the most with this title is John Buscema. His interpretation of the character Conan and the look and vibe he created for the book truly set it apart from any of the other black and white titles available at the time. His drawings themselves were a feast for the eyes and consistently rendered with exquisite detail. Anyone familiar with monthly comics would know that this is no easy feat. Every one of his pages looked as if it they had been labored over for months.
Besides the magazine’s namesake, we were also introduced to other Robert E. Howard creations such as Solomon Kane, a Puritan adventurer and vanquisher of all things evil, and Bran Mak Morn, the last king of the tribal race of Picts. As a child, these characters and their renderings inspired not only play but also a desire to create my own and they remain a great influence on my drawings till this day.
While the conventional comics were mesmerizing displays of forms and color, these were all about lines, light and shadow. Because of the absence of color, you could very well emulate the style to produce your own epic scenes with only pencil and paper. They also didn’t have to conform to the Comic Code Authority so they were able to offer more explicit and exciting content.
Every month, “The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian” delivered thrilling adventures, unforgettable characters and amazing artwork…all for only one dollar. A bygone era indeed.
One of my favorite artists and a founder of Les Humanoïdes Associés, publishing house of the magazine Métal Hurlant (better known as Heavy Metal in the United States). Here are some examples of his work from the latter half of the 1970s. Click on any pic to view in full size and enjoy.
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