Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Top 10 Defunct Comic Book Publishers: Warren Publishing

Blazing Combat #3 (Apr.1966)
After first introducing what he called "Monster Comics" in Monster World, James Warren expanded his magazine line in 1964 with horror-comics stories in the magazines Creepy and Eerie. Offered in a larger black-and-white magazine format, rather than standard comic-book size, and selling for 35 cents as opposed to the regular comic-book price of 12 cents. This format allowed Warren to avoid the restrictions of the comic-book industry's self-censorship body, The Comics Code Authority. By publishing graphic adult stories in a magazine format to which the Code did not apply, Warren paved the way for such later graphic-story magazines as the American version of Heavy Metal; Marvel Comics' Epic Illustrated; Psycho and other Skywald Publications.

Russ Jones was the founding editor of Creepy in 1964, but a year later, Archie Goodwin succeeded him, with Joe Orlando acting as a behind-the-scenes story editor. Goodwin, who would become one of comics' foremost and most influential writers, helped to establish the company as a major force in its field. From 1965 to 1966, Warren published the highly controversial four-issue series, Blazing Combat, a war-comics magazine with anti-war themes.

Originally based in Philadelphia, the company relocated to New York City in 1965 and experienced a slate of difficulties. Editor Goodwin resigned, plus a change in distributors combined with a downturn in the market imposed a real cash flow problem on Warren resulting in the loss of many of their established artists. Things started picking back up over the next two-and-a-half years, aided by the premiere of its third horror magazine, Vampirella, and the return of many of their original artists; even Goodwin returned later on. An infusion of Spanish and international artists such as Esteban Maroto, José Ortiz, Alex Niño, Rudy Nebres, Alfredo Alcala, Gonzalo Mayo, Pablo Marcos and Leo Duranona, would also dominate the magazines roster during these years.

New editor Bill DuBay transformed Warren's magazines to create a uniform style and he also increased the frequency of Warren's magazines to nine issues a year. Warrens many innovative magazines included Creepy, Eerie, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Help, The Spirit, The Rook and Vampirella.

Their regular stable of top artists included Orlando, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Angelo Torres, Roy G. Krenkel, Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Alex Toth, John Severin, Russ Heath, Wally Wood, plus emerging talents like Dan Adkins, Frank Brunner, Rich Buckler, Dave Cockrum, Nicola Cuti, Richard Corben, Ken Kelly, Pepe Moreno, Mike Royer, Tom Sutton and Bernie Wrightson. Writers whose byline figured prominently at Warren included Goodwin, Cuti, Dubay, Bruce Jones, Doug Moench, Budd Lewis, Don McGregor and Steve Skeates.

 James Warren's declining health and personal business problems eventually led to internal conflict and personnel turnover. Sadly, Warren Communications suspended publishing in late 1981 and declared bankruptcy in 1983.

Famous Monsters of Filmland #110


Joe Jusko said...

Great post on one of my favorite magazine lines of all time, though one glaring omission from your artist list is the incredible Jose Gonzales, who to this day is considered the ultimate Vampirella artist.

Chuck Wells said...

Totally agree with you, Joe. Thought that I "had" included his name. (sorry)

matt said...

Wanted to know the worth of these, I have a healthy collection of Warren stuff, especially the Frazetta covers. Must be worth something now that he's passed away (RIP)

Chuck Wells said...

These titles are highly regarded, and tend to go for big bucks in higher grades, but affordable copies can still be found on eBay in the $10-30 range in nicer condition. Worth the effort too!