Horror Hosts in Putrid Print: Sabrina Spellman

Spotlight On: Sabrina SpellmanComic Book Creeps

I know what you’re thinking after seeing the title:

Sabrina Spellman? Of Sabrina The Teenage Witch fame? I thought this was a column about comic book HORROR HOSTS!?”

…You are correct.Untitled-2 Untitled-1But believe me, she has every right to be here, and I’ll prove it. Let’s just start at the beginning…

In October of 1962, a new character made an appearance in issue number twenty-two of an anthology humor comic book called Archie’s Madhouse, published by Archie Comics. She was a spunky, freckled; teenage girl with platinum blonde hair in a bob hairdo, who was not too dissimilar to many of the titular redhead’s other teenage friends, except for in the fact that this girl had a spooky secret: she was a witch! Her name was Sabrina, and she was initially supposed to be no more than a one-off character according to her creator, George Gladir. She proved to be so popular with readers, however, that she soon made further appearances in the pages of Archie’s Madhouse and was shortly thereafter given her own self titled comic book, Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

704925The plot of this comic was that Sabrina lived in the town of Greendale (bordering Archie’s hometown of Riverdale) with her aunt’s Hilda and Zelda, who were also witches themselves, as well as her pet cat familiar, Salem.

10720890_10203740040479104_1841813116_n10486452_10203740039399077_148046946_nMost of the humor in the book came from the fact that Sabrina‘s aunts were very old school, traditional type witches (Hilda being a long nosed, scraggly haired crone, and Zelda being a plump, green haired, fairy godmother type) while Sabrina just wanted to do the same things any groovy teen girl in the sixties would want to do, like go to sock hops, or malt shops, or… whatever with her mortal boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle. She wasn’t ashamed of being a witch or anything, she used her powers all the time to do things like help her friends and do her homework (things her aunts very much frowned upon, since they thought a witch should be causing mischief and mayhem with their powers), she just wanted to bring witchcraft into the twentieth century, whereas her aunts, who were her mentors, wanted to keep it firmly in the dark ages with their pointy hats and cauldrons. They saw Sabrina’s cheerful attitude and beautiful appearance as being completely antithetical to what a witch should be like, so Sabrina was the weirdo of the family. Even though her aunts 10723185_10203740039839088_486546158_nsaw her behavior as disgustingly normal, Sabrina actually was a monster at heart, and she loved hanging out around her family’s freaky friends. Vampires, Frankensteins, mummies, etc, were regular guests at the house and almost all the jokes came from Sabrina trying to keep the scary side of her life separate from her life with her normal, mortal friends.

10719406_10203740038239048_1526642162_nKeep in mind; this was two years before The Munsters would be doing the same shtick with their oddly normal family member, Marilyn. And also two years before the show Bewitched brought witchcraft to the suburbs and into the homes of middle class America via their television sets. Sabrina was a pioneer of creepy weirdness at a time that demanded conformity from everyone, especially teenage girls.
Of course the counter culture kids of the time ate it up, and soon Sabrina‘s popularity had her starring in her very own animated series produced by the Filmation company in 1971. This was after she had already made several guest appearances on their Archie show, which aired first.

10717610_10203740036919015_283347564_nThen in October of 1973 came the moment that took Sabrina from mere magic girl prototype into the glamorous spotlight of horror hostess. Chilling Adventures In Sorcery As Told By Sabrina was Archie Comics’ way of jumping on the horror anthology comics bandwagon, and who better to host the tales of terror within it than their very own spooky sorceress? Many of you may be thinking, how scary could an Archie comic actually be? And it is true that the stories that filled this tome were tame compared to, say, anything by EC Comics or Warren Publishing, but for Archie it was actually some pretty dark stuff. Demonic jewelry, freaks, and standard fare like vampires and giant bugs actually killed people and many stories had unhappy endings. This was in sharp contrast to the cartoony style of its artwork by famous Archie artist, Dan DeCarlo. Unfortunately, Sabrina only lasted as hostess of the book for a mere two issues. After that the title was shortened to just, Chilling Adventures In Sorcery, and then it was changed again later after issue six to simply, Red Circle Sorcery. This was due to it being published by Red Circle Comics (Archie’s edgier imprint) by that point.

Sabrina still had her own title to star in, though, and her book ran for many decades as one of the company’s most popular comics. It was only natural, then, that in 1996 the ABC TV network decided to create a live action sitcom about the character and her bewitching family, starring Melissa 10717617_10203740038799062_1371616854_nJoan Hart in the title role. All of Sabrina‘s supporting cast was there: her clueless boyfriend, Harvey, her two aunts (who now looked like average, contemporary women instead of Halloween decorations), and her cat, Salem. Unfortunately the series did not have the rights to any other Archie characters, so all connections to those guys were gone. They even changed Sabrina‘s hometown from Greendale to Westbridge, no doubt so they wouldn’t have to explain why she never ran into fellow Greendale residents like Josie and The Pussycats. The show was a huge hit that ran for many seasons, first on ABC and then later on the WB, and it did a good job of capturing the character’s struggle to reconcile her magical world with her normal teenage world, although much of the Munster style humor regarding her aunts wasn’t present, since they also looked as normal as Sabrina did now. This series added a lot of things to the Sabrina mythos that were later incorporated into the comics, like giving her the last name of Spellman, and explaining where her parents were (Father was a busy warlock, Mother was a mtumblr_mbcg7rD7jl1qfdofto2_250ortal and not allowed to see her daughter while she learned to use her magic from the aunts), but the biggest and most popular addition was giving her cat, Salem, the ability to speak, which he never had had in the comics before. They also gave him the back-story that he was a power hungry warlock who tried to take over the world once and was punished for it by being turned into a cat and forced to live with Hilda (one of his supporters) for a thousand years. I think Harry Potter would have been a very different series if they had done the same to Voldemort and forced Lucius Malfoy to take care of him.

Anyway, this live action series led to an animated spinoff in the year 2000, chronicling the character’s younger days before she was in high school. During this period in time there 10717963_10203740040239098_1754652830_nwas also a new Sabrina The Teenage Witch comic book being published by Archie, but, no doubt trying to appeal to the predominantly tween girls who watched the show, it was much more heavy on romance, drama, and outfits than the original comic ever was. It also featured a very “manga” style of artwork, which was big at the time, and personally, I just never felt that that gelled good with the Archie brand.

Eventually, the live action show, the animated series, and the comic book all fizzled away, as people started to sabrinabecome Sabrina‘d out. Occasionally she would make an appearance in other Archie comics, but those guest spots were few and far between. Then last year in 2013 it was announced that a new animated series would be premiering on the HUB network. It was called, Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, and it was done in the 3D animation style that’s all the rage with the kids these days. It stunk. Sorry, but it did. Does, actually, it’s still airing. Maybe it’s the cheap looking, cheesy animation, maybe it’s just geared to a very young audience, I don’t know, but it’s not Sabrina as I’ve come to know her over the years. So it seemed like all was lost if that was the only Teenage Witch we’d be getting any time soon.

Thankfully, in the fall of 2013, there came a game changer that set in motion events that would change the face of Sabrina completely; the first issue of Afterlife With Archie was published. Having finally been the last company to drop the stale, old comics code, Archie Comics decided to take a shot at something a little bit different from their norm. Based on a variant “what if” cover that artist Francesco Francavilla did for one of their ongoing titles, Life With Archie, Afterlife With Archie was a full on, teen rated, horror comic about the residents of Riverdale being slowly turned into zombies ala Night of The Living Dead. Archie02

It was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, a man who clearly knows his horror genre stuff, because Afterlife features numerous tropes and references to everything from H.P Lovecraft to A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Naturally Sabrina, the Archieverses resident monster expert is involved in the plot, and the people behind the book must have loved seeing her return to her horror roots so much that they decided (in a case of history repeating itself) to spin off Sabrina once again from an Archie book and give her her own title again.

a83d0696-a795-4608-98c0-1cfe9293f265-610x937The book was released this month (seeing a pattern here with October?), and it’s called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, no doubt as a nod to the old anthology title she hosted, and it is said to be a dark, supernatural book like Afterlife With Archie, but with shades of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Cool. So things have finally come full circle (Red circle, ya might say); Sabrina has finally returned to her creepy roots at long last, and I have a very good feeling about this upcoming title since it is also being written by Afterlife’s Aguirre-Sarcassa with art by Robert Hack. Plus, checkout some of these variant covers…

10719536_10203740037559031_607376514_n 10723636_10203740037759036_1876277050_n

This is definitely in good hands.

As Winifred Sanderson once so famously said,

“The witch is back, and there’s Hell to pay.”

Which is why I was the first in line for the premiere issue when Chilling Adventures came out, and I suggest you all give it a chance as well.

So you see, Sabrina is a great character with a long and interesting history related to horror, hosting, and being a monster kid and that is why she deserves a write up here at Horror Hosts & Creature Features and also why Sabrina Spellman is an important part of our horror comic scareitage.

Stay weird, my friends.

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Horror Hosts in Putrid Print

Spotlight on: Forelock the Warlock & Mr. Karswell from Haunted HorrorComic Book Creeps

by Ryan B

For those of you who have not been haunting your local comic book crypt for, like, the last six months and therefore are not in the know about the gloriously gruesome new horror comic title, Haunted Horror, that is currently available, allow your old pal, Ryan B, to clue you in on just what you’re missing out on, and tell you all about the two grooviest new comic book horror hosts to hit the scene.

Haunted Horror #1

Haunted Horror #1

From the depraved minds of Craig Yoe – publisher of the Ghastly Award winning horror comic archive book, Zombies – and Steve Banes – horror comic blogger, and front man for the Missouri based rock band, Sons of Black Mass – comes the bi-monthly horror comic, Haunted Horror, which lovingly reprints stories from such forgotten golden age titles as Weird Chills, Adventures into Darkness, Chamber of Chills, and Worlds of Fear.

“So what?” You may be asking. “Why should I care about musty old horror stories from books I’ve never even heard of?”

You’ve got a lot of attitude, ya know that?

Well, what makes Haunted Horror so great is that all the stories it reprints are from pre-code horror comics. That’s right, before Dr. Wertham came along and ruined everything, these stories were what all the best juvenile delinquents on the block were reading and now you can read them too!

But what’s a story without a storyteller? Ah ha, that’s where Haunted Horror gets original.

Forelock the Warlock

Forelock the Warlock and Mr. Karswell are the masters of scaremonies in this book. Two brand new creepy characters created specifically for Haunted Horror, and in what I’m sure can only be an amazing coincidence they happen to look just like editors Yoe and Banes themselves. *cough, cough, wink, wink*

Speaking of Steve Banes, I recently got a chance to throw some questions his way via Facebook and here’s what he threw back:

RB: How did you and Mr. Yoe meet and decide to collaborate on Haunted Horror?

SB: We met through my blogs, primarily THE HORRORS OF IT ALL, I had been assisting with promotion of his books along with a handful of other great bloggers like Pappy and Mykal Banta… when he went into development of the Bob Powell Terrors collection I actually began donating stories, which led to Craig making me co-editor of the Chilling Horror ZOMBIES book and HAUNTED HORRORS series, with lots more horror projects on the way.

RB: How do you select the stories that appear in Haunted Horror?

SB: We have a huge pile of scans from my collection, Craig’s, and a handful of other contributors… we just try to keep each issue on the varied side with contrasting story plots and an interesting range of art styles, although issue #5 coming later this summer has a fun “sports horror” theme running through half the stories.

RB: What horror comics did you read growing up and were you inspired by them?

SB: My introduction to horror comics was the cool 70’s stuff that Marvel published featuring mostly reprints of their pre-code horror Atlas stories. I was more drawn to the style of the 50’s stuff illustrated by guys like Bill Everett and Joe Maneely… this forever sealed my obsession with Golden Age horror comics. And though I had been reading MAD ever since I was in 2nd grade, I didn’t discover the EC horror stuff until later.

RB: Who is your favorite comic book horror host?

SB: Mr. Karswell of course! haha

Mr. Karswell

Mr. Karswell

RB: Could you tell me a little about Mr. Karswell’s artist, Art Fuentes, and also how you guys got the legendary Angelo Torres to draw Forelock?

SB: I met Art Fuentes at San Diego Comic Con last summer (2012), he was a friend of Craig’s and already helping out with various artistic elements for the Yoe Books on titles and other stuff. He’s a great guy and incredible freelance artist with a huge range of styles. I know he worked at Spumco for a while– he makes these totally rad paper toys you have to see to believe: http://www.uncleghastly.blogspot.com
Craig knows everyone in the comic/entertainment industry, though I believe Angelo Torres‘ involvement with Haunted Horror first came up last year at SDCC too. His illustration of Forelock is mind blowing.

 

There ya have it, folks. Straight from the horrors mouth, as it were.

Now I encourage each and every one of you creeps reading this to drag yourself out of your coffin every other month and pick up this awesome book. Let Forelock the Warlock and Mr. Karswell be the friends you know you don’t have and never really wanted. They‘ll introduce you to all the best horror that the golden age had to offer. And remember, there’s no sghoul like the old sghoul!

Horror Hosts in Putrid Print

SPOTLIGHT ON DRUSILLA, The Lost GhouLunatic         by Dyin‘ Ryan B.

Comic Book Creeps with Ryan B
Ah, yes–Drusilla.

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“Dru-who-lla?”, you may be asking.

Drusilla: the pale and mysterious fourth EC horror host that Time–and even some of the fans–forgot.

In my last article, I talked about how The Vault-Keeper and The Old Witch kind of got the-short-end-of-the-publicity-stick compared to the much more popular Crypt-Keeper. As far as the hosts of the EC comics’ horror magazines went I pretty much said they were the Ringo and Tito of the group. If they got the short end of the stick, however, than poor Drusilla didn’t even get the stick at all.

She was stickless.

Even the most hardcore genre and horror comic fans, that are more than familiar with all three GhouLunatics, might not have any idea who Drusilla is.

It’s pretty simple. In issue #37 of The Vault of Horror (the fourth to last issue of the series, by the way) The Vault-Keeper was suddenly joined by a mysterious “companion“.

image2

For the three issues that followed Drusilla was always there at V.K.’s side during the opening introduction. She was always silent, always staring. Is she a witch? Is she a vampire? Is she just an ordinary human who happens to be mute and have a fetish for creeps?

Who knows?

EC comics went under after Vault of Horror #40, so there’s no telling what was in store for her character. All that is known is that she was designed and created by artist Johnny Craig who was the artist most responsible for The Vault-Keeper’s signature look. Clearly, when designing her, Craig must have drawn inspiration from Vampira, who was herself a pale, raven-haired hostess who was very popular around the time of Drusilla’s creation.

image3

 

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Separated at Death? A suicide-by-side comparison of Maila Nurmi and Drucilla.


Nowadays
it’s not uncommon on sites such as Facebook and Tumblr to see collages people have made combining images of Vampira, Elvira, Morticia Addams, and Lily Munster. I would propose that Drusilla should also be remembered and included in the same group as those other beautiful, Gothic women.

Apparently I’m not the only one.

As of this articles publication, the website www.graphittidesigns.com is selling an awesome Drusilla t-shirt along with several other GhouLunatic products.

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There is a little hope that Dru may not be completely forgotten, not by everybody. And now you, faithful reader, know about her as well. So, go spread the gospel of Drussila! Tell anyone who will listen all about her and her brief, but memorable appearances in the world of EC Comics. She is an important part of our comic book heritage and she needs to be preserved.

And I’m not talking about formaldehyde.

Horror Hosts in Putrid Print

SPOTLIGHT ON THE VAULT-KEEPER & THE OLD WITCH          By Ryan B.
Comic Book Creeps with Ryan B
In almost every group, team, gang, or ensemble, there will always be that one individual who is more popular or stands out from the rest. For one reason or another they get the limelight, while the others are doomed to obscurity. People love Alvin, but forget about “The Chipmunks”. Josie gets the glory, while the others are just simply “The Pussycats”, and if you only know one member of The Rat Pack it’s probably Frank Sinatra, not those other guys.
DoorYou can count The Vault-Keeper and The Old Witch as being a part of this second banana category as well. While The Crypt-Keeper got selected by the fickle finger of fate to go on from the old EC comic books to become a huge television and movie personality, not to mention a marketable horror icon, his two fellow GhouLunatics got left in the dark.
So allow me to shed a little fright on those guys. Continue reading

Ryan B reads Elvira’s Christmas Carol

By Ryan B
Ryan B is wishing all of you a Merry Scary Christmas over at his Blog Comic Book Crud with this special story that he picked out just for you!
Keep an eye out of it socket for a horrifyingly entertaining article about your ol’ EC pals, The Vault-Keeper & The Old Witch in a future  instalment of Ryan B’s Comice Book Creeps right here on Horror Hosts and Creature Features!
“Yay! Christmas day has finally come and Santa brought me everything I asked for… after a little persuasion. Once I let him go and he flew out of sight, he shouted, “Merry Christmas to all!” and then took off in fright.

So since I’m in such a holly jolly mood today I decided to give you all a Christmas treat.
A story featuring many of your favorite horror hosts including Cain, Abel, Destiny, and Elvira! There’s even a special (sort of) appearance by Zacherly.

So here ya go, from Elvira’s House of Mystery Christmas Special, it’s a horrific twist on a classic Dickensian tale.”

Horror Heroes In Putrid Print: Vampirella

SPOTLIGHT ON VAMPIRELLA                                                                        By Ryan B
“In the world of horror comics there are two separate yet equally important groups of main characters. These are their stories.”

I didn’t mean to come across like a episode of LAW & ORDER but whadda-ya-gonna-do?
Anyway, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the two different types are as follows:


Exhibit 1. THE HORROR HOST – In anthology titles we have characters such as THE CRYPT KEEPER, THE VAULT KEEPER, and THE OLD WITCH from E.C. publications or UNCLE CREEPY and COUSIN EERIE from Warren Publishing. There is a guy or ghoul whose sole purpose is to present the reader with a chilling tale or two, but stay mostly behind the scenes of things themselves.


Exhibit 2. THE HORROR HERO – This other type has become more popular in recent decades. Characters like SPAWN, HELLBOY, and THE GOON that do not present the story, but participate in it themselves, getting mixed up in murder plots, zombie apocalypses, and taking on villains more traditionally found in late night Creature Features. They are usually monsters themselves as well.
Continue reading

Horror Hosts in Putrid Print

SPOTLIGHT ON THE CRYPT-KEEPER                                                         By Ryan B.

“Hey, you! Young’un! Do you know who The Crypt-Keeper is?”
“You mean that guy from the old TV show?”
“…Sit down.”

Long ago, in a wondrous time known as the 1950’s, when the world had a certain glow about it (thanks largely to atomic energy), people swooned while Perry Como crooned, tuned in every week to watch the wacky hijacks that June Cleaver’s Beaver got into, and nine out of ten doctors recommended smoking. Amidst this climate, a well established comic book company called EC decided to reinvent itself. The EC in EC Comics started out standing for “Educational Comics” and printed bible stories, animal fables, and stories from history. That was under its founder, Max Gaines. After his death, his son Bill took over the company and changed the name to “Entertaining Comicswhich, no doubt, saved on having to buy new company stationary. After testing the waters with new things like teen and romance comic books, Bill realized that what he had really liked to read himself as a child was horror, crime, and science fiction stories. His editor, Al Feldstein, felt the same way and  soon EC was in the suspense business. Stories of murderers, monsters, and men from Mars became the new trend in comic books and EC led the way with its three top sellers, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and The Crypt of Terror, later retitled Tales from the Crypt.

Continue reading