by: Dr. Boogie
Horror can be tough, particularly when it's serialized. Eerie magazine set out to prove that it could be done, and for a great many years, it worked. As time went on, the magazine tended to shift back and forth between horror, science fiction, and a mix of the two. Thankfully, that odd sort of mixture produced a number of great covers that really get you to thinking. I, for example, looked at a great many of them and thought, "What the hell am I going to see if I open this book?" The answer, according to the cover, was always, "terror and suspense," except for a couple issues where it was "terror and suspence." Good proofreaders are hard to come by.
Thankfully, you won't need to read to enjoy these covers. Of course, you don't know that because you can't read what I'm writing here, but I trust you can sense my intent on a subtle, psychic level. Read on, dummy.
The first issue is off to a rousing start. A cowboy ventures out to save a young woman from a group of vicious beasts. Unfortunately, when the beasts turn up, his surprise leads him to drop gun and hat alike. He had been expecting werewolves, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight of a pack of were-cougars! Given the prevalence of mountain lions in the American Southwest, it stands to reason that there ought to be some strain of lycanthropy that turns a man into an anthropomorphic puma. I like to think he realized that shortly before they bit his head off and confiscated his untorn shirt for when they turn back into humans and have to venture back into town to buy provisions that can't be obtained by marauding werecougars, like horseshoes and sorghum.
By the second issue, they finally figured out they should add color to really draw in the consumer. Not to the rest of the comic, mind you, because then they would have to explain to the Comics Code Authority why they needed to feature so many topless sorceresses/sacrificial virgins/barbarian queens/etc. Here, we've got an evil wizard cooking up demons, but I still can't take him seriously. He can't even afford a podium for his hoary spellbook. He's got to crane his neck to look at it on the floor, and you know as soon as he does that, his black wizard cone is going to drop right off his head. And you can't command legions of the damned when the hulking demon you've summoned calls you a nerd.
Grandpa has put on his finest "hovering around" cardigan and stepped out to address his cadre of well-coiffed monkey men. He's come to warn them about "The Wanderer," a visitor from another world who threatens to take away their pomade. Little do they know: the Wanderer is already on the scene, hiding in one of the many clouds of smoke drifting through the Land of the Slicked-Back Chimp Ghouls. Scary!
This issue was all about stacking the odds. The Warrior of Death fights with death, that's a given. In a shocking turn, we learn that he also fights with horror! Meanwhile, all his opponent brings to the table is his unkempt medieval rattail. Armor? Minimal. Pants? Discarded. Fur cape? Maybe this fight will be closer than I thought.
From his first appearance in the comic, the Mummy turned out to be quite popular with the readers. No surprise there. Here he is strangling the guy who bumped up the price of the magazine from 35 cents to 40 cents. He doesn't even know what a "cent" is, but he can still sense how outrageous an increase it was. Also given some cover space was Eerie's mascot/narrator, Cousin Eerie. He would open and close the stories, punctuating the events with a little horror-themed wordplay a la the Cryptkeeper. The main difference was that as time went on, Cousin Eerie eventually came to resemble a ratty-looking Alfred E. Neumann.
Nobody knows they're here! Nobody! Not a single other person on earth has seen the latest existential threat to humanity: giant zombie gorillas from space! Charlton Heston tried to warn us, but we were too caught up in our meaningless, primate-less lives! Oh, hubris! There's only one hope: if I can get to a radio tower, I can communicate to the rest of the world that these creatures have one major weakness, namely their total lack of thumbs. Interstellar travel may have been a breeze, but let's see them figure out doorknobs!
"In this issue, the towering specter of pharaoh Amontuttethotenthotep has risen to deliver a shocking message:
GIVE ME BACK MY GIGANTIC SPARKLING GONADS!!! Also, time permitting, 'Dressed to Kill'. Only 40 cents."
The adventure is downright pulsing when you read the story of John Smith, a soldier who didn't read the fine print of the GI Bill and wound up a guinea pig for a secret government portal project. Now, he must leave our dimension to single-handedly defeat the space brontos and secure mankind's strategic reserve of flapjack trees. Godspeed, Smith!
Fall to your knees and throw out one arm as you shriek in terror at the site of the Living Prune! The nose knows, and no nose knows more than his. He can smell things most can't even dream about! Some might say his eyes are set too far apart, but they're just close enough... for MURDER! Try to ignore the throbbing that occurs throughout this issue as you read his story. Good luck.
A lone man rows out to a lonely lighthouse in the middle of the crashing tides. He climbs to the top and there, he witnesses something truly shocking: a ghost emerges from the waves and grows until it dwarfs man and lighthouse alike. It crooks its bony finger at the man and leans forward. Then, with breath that stank of the drowned dead of the ocean, it delivered a bone-chilling message to the man: "Eerie is now 50 cents an issue." He recoiled in horror. "Also," the spirit added, "you misspelled 'scavenger.'" No, the man thought, this cannot be true!
But it was.
Eventually, the market for straight horror comics started to dwindle, so Eerie started to branch out into sci-fi. After all, if they wanted it to be a strictly horror publication, they'd have named it "Scary", right? So you turn the page and get to read "I Wouldn't Want to Live There," in which a space pilot looks back on the time he lived in an apartment next door to a family of redneck aliens. He never cared of their habit of taking the landing gear off their ships and putting them on cinder blocks in their front yard, but things got much worse between them when they found out the pilot was a supporter of same-glornax marriage. He finally had to move. Last he heard, his neighbors got evicted after the sheriff busted them for cooking up hypermeth.
Years ago, the warrior ran afoul of a wizard who cursed him to forever have no neck and a head like a giant grey potato. He went on a quest and obtained the legendary Vorpal Sword, but everyone knew he was just overcompensating. He used to command the attentions of scantily-clad men and women of all walks of life. Now, he can't even get a slave girl to stand up when he enters the room. Read his tale of terror and suspense in issue #29!
After the nuclear war, only two species will survive: mankind, and the C.H.U.D. You can tell there's been a nuclear war because the sky is all red and there's wrecked buildings everywhere. You can tell it's the future because the C.H.U.D. all have stylish full-body dreadlocks. Also, Cousin Eerie looks decidedly more Alfred E Neumann-esque.
Wait, 60 cents and issue? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Starvisions: A tale of two earth men and a giant alien bassoon. As they flew through space, astronaut Jim Blue could sense something wrong with their intergalactic woodwind. The keys felt a little sticky, and the giant eye seemed a little dry. Luckily his partner, Agent Orange, had returned with the oversized alien swab. Jim smiled and nodded. They would make it to their orchestra recital after all.
In this issue: The death of Tor Johnson.
RIP, you big, bad, bald sonnuva bitch.
Forget about terror and suspense and all that grade school shit, look at this guy's freakin' hand! The bad moon is causing the worst case the eczema I've ever seen! The whole story within is just about what's happening with his crusty hand. No monsters, no demonic rituals, no violent killers, just one man's skin condition given the kind of attention normally reserved for academic papers and Wikipedia pages about Star Wars.
This February issue is a holiday issue. That's right: in honor of International Condom Day, Eerie presents a heartwarming story about two star-crossed lovers, one a snake equal parts enormous and amorous, the other a hairless man-rilla. See as both their terror and suspense are illustrated in "The Carrier of the Serpent". Happy holidays!
This issue introduced Dax the Warrior, one of Eerie's recurring characters. Technically, he does get top billing, but he's still upstaged by a portrait of evil incarnate, represented here by a seething lizard-man in a trench coat. I'd be upset too if I were the physical embodiment of all things bad, walking the streets looking for the souls of the unrighteous, waiting unleash all of hell's wrath upon a world found wanting, but ultimately barred from entering any McDonald's because of their strict policy of "No shoes, no pants, no service." Laugh all you like, Ronald. Soon I will have my day, and when I do, I'll extend the breakfast menu hours from now until the end of time!
The 51st issue features a number of full color posters. I know I was definitely looking forward to seeing Cousin Eerie as a centerfold. Just look that those black capris. He must be expecting a flood! I would have pegged him for an ankle socks guy, but he's rawdogging it with those buckled shoes. I wonder where I can get a pre-stained vest with... wait a minute. Is that what I think it is? A dollar per issue!? Eerie, I'm not made of money! I can't afford to be shelling out a buck every month to read stories about whatever crap the Mummy is up to!!
The overall eeriness of Eerie decreases slightly with the advent of new recurring character Hunter. There's a lot about this character design that I don't understand: most noticeably, he's supposed to be a half demon, but instead looks more like a renegade Space Ball. Second, he wears a red bodysuit, but still has a loincloth over the bodysuit. Why? Is the suit too tight, to form-fitting in that particular area? Is he wearing the loincloth and the vision-obscuring helmet because he's disgusted by his own nudity? And the helmet says "USAF" on it. Is he in the airforce, too? A lot going on in this guy's life. I can see why they'd need to keep bringing him back.
And now he's got a yellow spot on his uniform. Worse, he's got some wires or something sticking out of that bulky helmet. Part of me thinks that at least some of these questions would be answered by actually reading the stories that Hunter appears in, but on the other hand, I don't think many of the past stories could give a good explanation for giant prunes and floating old people.
All this is distracting me from acknowledging that this cover marks the first and only time I've ever seen the term "hacker" being used literally.
By contrast, here's another recurring character, Coffin. He's an undead cowboy with a messed-up, Jonah Hex-style face. Nothing on him to distract you from all that, apart from the abnormally long fingernails. He's not wearing a foam cheese hat or an "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt, just a cowboy wearing traditional cowboy attire. I'm not saying I know what half demon attire is supposed to look like, but I don't really think of "sci-fi" going together with it.
"I'm Steve-O, and this is 'Orc Hiding in the Rafters.'"
Not that I would belittle the story of the Night of the Jackass. It just seems like yet another case of an author trying to cram too much in his story. It's a killer monster hiding in a church. You don't need to add in the 'drug-crazed' part. It's bad enough that there's a hideous creature hiding out in our church waiting to rip the habits off our exceedingly pale nuns. It's not going to amp up the terror knowing that the monster is also high on crank.
Can you believe we're only halfway done with these amazing Eerie magazine covers? That giant prune and the lizard-man flasher were just the beginning! But that will have to wait for part 2. In the meantime, what are some of YOUR favorite horror magazine covers? Share them in the comments section below!
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