Creepy was light years away from the comics I was used to reading.
I stumbled upon Creepy, with its sister publication Eerie and a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland, at a baseball card and comic book show at the Crossroads Mall in Waterloo, Iowa. My friend’s family went for sports cards. Along for the ride, I had no interest in baseball cards and no money to spend. My friend’s dad took pity on me and gave me a few bucks. To stretch the money out, I went to the discount cardboard box under one of the tables and found the magazines.
Through my older brothers, I had already been introduced to Wolverine, X-Men, and Doctor Strange. I loved comic books and, when I had $.75 saved up, I would bike the mile into the town drug store to buy a new title, which I would read cover to cover at least three times.
Comics were safe. No amount of punching or smashing led to graphic gore or anguish. No preposterously-clothed lady would ever do more than chastely kiss a lover. No dialogue repeated out loud would lead to grounding. I didn’t realize it then, but I was being protected by the Comics Code.
Know what else I didn’t realize? Creepy published in black-and-white and in magazine format to AVOID being subject to the Comics Code.
The victims-to-be in Creepy were petty, filthy creatures. When they got what they deserved, it was dirty and gory. The artwork was detailed and realistic, so you couldn’t just pretend a mutant with superpowers would save the day in the next issue. If you were in Creepy, things usually ended very badly for you. I remember one comic where a double-timing acrobat falls to his death, straight into the waiting palms of Satan himself. I don’t know which issue this was in, so if anyone does, I’d love to be enlightened.
The magazines were so upsetting to me I couldn’t stop reading them. They’ve begun re-releasing the issues in hardcover compilations, and I’d love to spend an afternoon or ten staring at the art and breathing in that fresh nihilism smell.
In my post-Creepy world, it’s hard to get frightened of any big screen superheroes arch-nemesis. The Comics Code may not have the power it once did, but I know the moral universe most superheroes live in stays a pretty safe place. They can flail all the want to in their tights; we all know how the story ends.
Unless they start taking trips to the Creepy side of the street. Who knows what kind of trouble they’ll fall into there.
(Thanks to Philip Lenssen and http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/creepy/ for helping me track down old Creepy covers)