Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / heat hater Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Dang, Denizens, with the heatpocalypse going on around the country, my puppy executive team and I are ever thankful for the June gloom that has been keeping things on the cooler side, and we also appreciate the concrete flooring of the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) helping things stay bearable. This week, we only had one comic in our pull and we were unable to make it down to the ol’ LCS in time for this post. So, what better time than to revisit “Keeping Up with the Trades” for a book I have been sitting on for at least the past two years. So, brew up some mint-flavored sweet tea (don’t overdo it on the sugar), put on some chill tunes, and check out some great comic books. Thank you for reading!
*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
***Possible Spoilers Below***
Keeping Up with the Trades
I read a lot of comic books, Denizens, and not just the Wednesday new releases. Actually, I have tons of older comics, trades, rereads, and digital comics I read every week. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to mention some of these awesome titles, but no longer. In “Keeping Up with the Trades,” I will pick a selection of heavenly titles I recently read, love, and that you all need to know about. I hope you enjoy them.
Predominantly written by Archie Goodwin, T. Casey Brennan, Steve Englehart, and Flaxman Loew; mostly illustrated by Tom Sutton, Jose Ortiz, and José Gonzalez; published by Dynamite Entertainment. I’ve mentioned the store Click (now called Acme) a few times over the course of Donist World’s existence and how it was fundamental to nourishing not only my love of sci-fi and horror but to my love and adoration of the comic book medium as a whole. But in order to properly talk about this beautiful yet flawed (more on that later) collection of the first 37 issues of the Vampirella magazine by Warren, I need to hop in the Way-Back Machine and transport you to Akron, OH in the late '70s.
Long before Lebron James moved onto the property where I used to live (he’s still there), and during the time that a young Jeffrey Dahmer (he lived less than two miles away) might very well have crossed my brother and my paths while we played in creek across the road, I was solidifying my deep love of sequential storytelling. I had already become enchanted by Bernie Wrightson’s masterful storytelling and his uncanny understanding of anatomy and horror with Swamp Thing #10, and I would soon learn what it meant to be a comic book collector with my introduction to the heavenly The Micronauts series, but it was my first trip to Click where I first fell in love with the Warren magazines.
Now, you have to remember this was the ’70s and it was perfectly normal for my mom to drop my brother and me in the magazine section while she went off to do the days shopping. Jeff and I would then comb through the magazines for a bit, roam to the toy aisle, head upstairs near the front to the pet section to have a look at the scorpions and reptiles and wonder who it was who bought “Monkey Chow.” This is usually where Mom found us before we began begging for her to buy us one of the various treasures we had found along the way. Anyhow, we spent most of our time in the magazine section where I would move counter-clockwise from the sci-fi and horror section where I would peruse the Famous Monsters, Starlog, and somewhat unsettling Fangoria magazines before completing the rounds at the illustrated section which featured the likes of Creepy, Eerie, Heavy Metal, and — blessed be — Vampirella. These oversized, black and white comics had everything a boy could ever want: there were monsters, robots, spaceships, stunning art, battles, and mayhem as far as the eye could see. But they also had something else, something new, something my superhero comics didn’t have: beautifully illustrated and oftentimes naked women.
N-A-U-G-H-T-Y. Naughty. By golly, those magazines could be naughty. Yes, Marvel had Red Sonja in her chainmail bikini slaying marauders and demons alike, but Vampirella – and some of those other Warren mags at Click — offered even more for a young, impressionable mind to see. I was still very much interested in the monsters and aliens, but…yeah…nekkid ladies. Of course, there was no way my mom would buy the book for me given the covers, so when we moved out to California, my time with Vampirella came to an end. That is, until last year.
Vampirella tells the story of, well, Vampirella, a woman from the planet Drakulon who is forced to flee her world when the rivers of blood run dry. She comes to Earth and quickly finds herself plagued with the choice of feasting upon humans or dying of starvation. Her adventures lead her to friendship (Pendragon), to love (Adam Van Helsing), enemies (the Cult of Chaos), and the discovery of a special serum that slakes her eternal hunger for 24 hours. Most all of the chapters are done-in-ones with an overarching story running throughout. There are madmen, witches, demons, gods, and ghosts to send chills and thrills on every page. The thing about reading this 450+ page book, is that most all of it is exceptionally well-crafted, especially when it comes to the Goodwin segments. Each of his chapters, as well as that of many of the others, have that Warren tone, that unexpected twist that longtime fans of these magazines love so dearly.
The art at the beginning of the collection is fine, but when Gonzalez’s art first appears, there is a shocking, glorious shift in the visual style that forever changed the course of the book. When I think of Vampirella, it’s Gonzalez’s fine lines, character acting, and superb storytelling that comes to mind. It’s also the drop-dead sexy way he portrays not just Vampirella, but both the other women in the story and, come to think of it, some of the men as well. His use of quick, yet delicate lines for the curve of a hip, or the intricacies in the frills of a ruffled shirt, or the details found in a mansion’s decor lead me to think that Gonzalez had worked in advertising or the fashion industry to some degree before applying his skills to sequential storytelling. What affected me most were each of the introductory splash pages which I would love to blow up to triple size and frame to hang throughout the house like a movie poster. His illustrations are lovely and I am now eager to find what other work he has out there waiting for me to discover.
One thing you will not find in this collection, however, is full-on nudity. Vampi’s…ummm, battle outfit…may not leave much to the imagination, but it’s what you don’t see that makes her so sexy. I’m reminded of the joke that men used to say in regard to Playboy magazine: “I read it for the articles.” With Vampirella: The Essential Warren Years, it’s safe to say the articles, or rather the stories, are almost as great as the art and they mostly stand up to the test of time. My only two complaints are that there is no second volume, and the first printing is missing four pages in one of the stories to the point that I have no idea what happened. Despite those two quibbles, I greatly enjoyed reading this fantastic blast from the past.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!