Thursday, April 21, 2016


The 1970s were a period of great experimentation and expansion for Marvel Comics. Not content to just publish monthly comic books starring an ever growing roster of super-heroes, Marvel began publishing horror comics (TOMB OF DRACULA, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER, etc.), licensed properties (CONAN THE BARBARIAN, DOC SAVAGE) and adaptations of existing science fiction, horror and fantasy stories in various titles, especially the short lived WORLDS UNKNOWN. The company also branched out into the burgeoning black and white comics magazine field giving established market leader Warren publishing a run for their money with a line of horror mags that included DRACULA LIVES, MONSTERS UNLEASHED, TALES OF THE ZOMBIE and VAMPIRE TALES. More magazine titles would follow, some in black and white while others made the bold jump to full color.

One of Marvel's most interesting experiments was the publication in June, 1973 of the first issue of THE HAUNT OF HORROR, a digest format magazine featuring all prose science fiction, horror and fantasy stories with spot illustrations by current Marvel bullpen artists. Under a terrific Gray Morrow cover there were stories by such names as Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell, R.A Laferty, Robert E. Howard, Dennis O'Neil and Fritz Leiber (among others). There are several things about this line-up that's worth mentioning.

First, the Leiber story is part one of a two-part serialization of his classic horror novel CONJURE WIFE (filmed in Great Britain as BURN, WITCH, BURN! in 1962 and well worth seeing). I have a copy of the novel on my shelf and I really need to get around to reading it one of these days. Dennis O'Neil is an unusual choice to appear in a Marvel publication as he was, at that time, one of DC's best writers. The REH story is one of his minor efforts, USURP THE NIGHT, but hey, any Howard is a good Howard as far as I'm concerned.

The real treasure here is NEON by Harlan Ellison. I was aware of Ellison prior to reading this story as he had written several comics for DC, Marvel and Warren (an AVENGERS-HULK crossover, a Batman Halloween story and ROCK GOD in an issue of CREEPY, illustrated by Neal Adams with a cover by Frank Frazetta). But this was the first time I had actually read a bonafide Harlan Ellison short story and I was blown away. I have a longer tale to tell about the man and his work and its' influence on me but I'll save that for some other time.

I bought this book when it first came out and read it from cover to cover. Ditto the second (and final) issue of the title. I have no idea what happened to my copies except that they are long gone from my collection. While prowling around the eBay store of a dealer I buy men's adventure magazines from the other day, I noticed he was offering both issues of HAUNT (which, by the way, later became a black and white horror comics magazine) for sale. I popped for the first issue without a moment's hesitation and, if luck holds out, I'll purchase number two soon.

This mag is a real blast from the past. It brought back a ton of memories and reminded me of how great comics could be in the 1970s.

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