Saturday, October 09, 2010

Out of the Vault - Vampirella #52

Once when I was a teenager, I walked in my room to find my mom standing in front of my open closet door, reading one of my comics. I was probably thirteen or fourteen by that time, starting to explore my sexual curiosity, as well as thinking about more mature subject matter. So I had decided to try an issue of Vampirella.

After all, who could resist that cover? I mean, look at it. The painting is credited to a guy named Enrich (listed here as Enrique Torres), and it's awesome.

But that was the last thing I was going to say to my mom. And all she had to say was, "Pretty vulgar, isn't it?"

And I had to admit, she was right. Actually, I had been really disappointed in the issue, but I had kept it because a) I keep everything, and 2) LOOK AT THAT COVER! That cover painting really does compensate for a host of ills.

I had, of course, been curious about Vampirella for years. I didn't read much Creepy or Eerie, but I had occasionally read both, as well as Famous Monsters of Filmland, and they all advertised in each other. So I had seen plenty of black-and-white thumbnails of various Vampirella covers, including the early Frazetta ones. I even had the Aurora Snap-Together model of Vampirella at one time. But I had never actually bought an issue.

Until #52. And boy, was I disappointed. Vampirella the character features in the first two stories, and they're both written by Bill DuBay, who is just as bad here as he was later in 1984.

The first story has Vampi and her mentor Pendragon visiting a Gothic mansion in the Rocky Mountains, which serves as a sort of Hogwarts/Xavier's School, only for carnies. Apparently, it is Pendragon's alma mater, and he speaks of it in loving terms in this bit of classic Bill DuBay dialogue.

But all is not well. There is a freak show on the grounds, and the freaks are really disgusting. It turns out that the school has been taken over by a mad scientist named Dr. Wrighter, and the freaks are all the results of his experiments. The big twist is that they have all volunteered to be made freaks in order to make big bucks in the carnival trade. I don't think you can find any more apt illustration of 70's economic malaise than this.

Upon meeting Vampirella, Dr. Wrighter immediately thinks of all the things he could do with her body, and unfortunately, they're none of the things the rest of us would do with her body. Instead, he plans to switch her head with that of his freakish hunchbacked assistant, then try to get the mismatched duo in the movies with the help of a Hollywood friend named Flashman. He drugs Vampi and has her on the operating table when the rest of the freaks discover that he's jumped her to the head of the job line and start beating on Wrighter like a bunch of SEIU thugs at a tea party rally. So Vampi kills them all. It's a mercy, really.

In the second story, Vampi and Pendragon have gone to Hollywood, where they appear on a morning TV show and we learn that Vampi's not just a vampire. She's also a stripper.

It just so happens that the show is seen by an assistant producer who has been tasked with finding a beautiful, innocently evil girl to costar with an actor named Flashman Howell (yes, the same Flashman that Wrighter was going to send Vampi to) and is pitched ideas for two movies. One is a heartwarming story about interstellar love that ends with the hero contracting space VD and being consumed by worms, and the second is a non-stop orgy of torture and rape (which the woman, being an empowered and liberated sort, of course enjoys). Vampi is so creeped out by the pitch that she immediately assumes these dweebs aren't actually moviemakers at all, but servants of the mad god Chaos. So she bites them.

Both stories are awful, filled with crappy dialogue and a non-stop parade of grotesquerie that made them really unsuitable as wank material. And yet, that seems to be the only purpose of the stories. The plots are slivers of nothing, merely excuses to allow Gonzalo Mayo to depict Vampi in a series of erotic poses (see above). If they had a Dictionary of Terms That Hadn't Been Coined Yet in 1976, you would find this issue under "Fan Service."

The remaining stories are unrelated one-shots, mainly aimed at showing women in bras or lingerie, being terrorized and tortured...

Oh, and one story that has neither women nor titillation in it at all, but it does have vampires. I did end up buying another issue a couple of years later, though I don't know why. It was even worse than this one. The lead story was another awful DuBay/Mayo production, and the back-up stories were just as substanceless. But this one didn't even have a hot Vampi cover. I honestly can't remember why I put out a dime for it.

Oh yeah, two other items of interest in issue #52. The very first thing in the issue after the table of contents is a full-page ad asking for information about counterfeit issues of Eerie #1.

And in the back, as in all Warren magazines, was the advertising section, where Warren sold tons of fannish crap. I've spoken before about the way fandom has subdivided and specialized since the 80's. For a fan in the 70's, this type of thing was typical.

Sunday newspaper comics from the 30's, 8mm reels from 60's and 70's films, Burroughs pulp paperbacks (with Frazetta covers!), and recordings of old radio shows from the 40's. Seriously, back in the day, you took what you could get, and you panned through a lot of stuff to get to what you wanted (of course, nowadays, I like all that stuff--I even own those two Flash Gordon books).

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