February 27, 2009

The Covers of Frankenstein : Weird, Dec. 1971
The Myron Fass Story

Struck by lightning, carrying off a swooned damsel, the Frankenstein Monster is pursued by torch-bearing villagers on a December ’71 Weird cover illustration cobbled together from two other Eerie Publications titles.

The main Frankenstein image was first used less than a year earlier on Horror Tales, December 1970, and the reclining red dress victim in the foreground is a screeching vampire lady lifted from an April 1970 issue of Tales from the Tomb.

Eerie Publications and its collection of schlocky horror titles are indelibly associated with publisher Myron Fass, but the line actually began in 1966 with Robert Farrell, a one-time comic book writer turned publisher. Farrell specialized in cheap magazines, notably a Mad knockoff called Panic produced in collaboration with Fass and Carl Burgos, the man who created The Human Torch character. Myron Fass also came from the comics, first as an artist, then publisher of his own early Mad copy called Lunatickle. The details of the relationship are sketchy, Farrell and Fass operated a bewildering labyrinth of criss-crossing imprints, often keeping their names off mastheads, but Fass was apparently partnered with Farrell through part of the Eerie Pubs adventure, eventually to buy him out and continue alone.

Myron Fass was the ultimate exploitation publisher, literally flooding the newsstands with countless magazine titles. There were skin mags like Jaguar, Poorboy and FLICK (its title in caps reading like certain four-letter word), true crime, hot rod and gun magazines, Famous Monsters knockoffs like Thriller and 3-D Monsters, pop music and gossip titles, TV Photo Story, and a slew of wild paranormal offerings like ESP and Official UFO. Writers were hired out of college and encouraged to make everything up. Al Goldstein, who would go on to publish Screw, learned the ropes as one of Fass’ writers. Contents were slapped together, printed on the cheapest newsprint available and rushed out to the stands. A title’s survival was predicated on a single, simple rule: It had to sell at least 20,000 copies.

A Fass specialty was the instant magazine, a one-shot deal capitalizing on a news event or a suddenly hot subject, literally written and assembled overnight, hand-delivered to the printing plant and on the street within days. Fass claimed he made millions off an instant title exploiting the Kennedy Assassination. Other subjects included The Beatles invasion, the Son of Sam murders, the death of Elvis Presley and the shooting of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

In 1966, Weird was Eerie Publications’ downmarket entry into the black and white horror comic magazine field pioneered by James Warren’s Eerie and Creepy. It was soon joined by Terror Tales, Horror Tales, Witches’ Tales, Tales of Voodoo, Terrors of Dracula and Tales from the Tomb, all basically the same magazine with different titles and interchangeable covers and contents. Early issues carried reprints of lowbrow horror comics from the Fifties, spruced up with ink washes or upgraded with extra grue.

As new material was phased in, the sleaze and gore scores were jacked up, making the Eerie titles synonymous with bad taste and stomach-churning violence. Black ink blood spurted across the pages and severed heads, for some reason, became a signature image, nearly ubiquitous on the covers, either hanging by their hair, strewn about the dungeon, lined up on laboratory tables or kept in bell jars. Unsurprisingly, the most notorious story published in the Eerie tiles was Dick Ayers’ 1972 ‘I Chopped Her Head Off!’.

Covers were unsigned and though names have been suggested, nobody agrees on who might have painted the lurid, disturbing images of gleeful torture, bloody impalement, cannibalism and other indignities visited equally on semi-clad, bound females (often fanged vampiresses) and various drooling monsters.

The classic flat-headed, bolt-neck Frankenstein Monster appeared on several Eerie Publications covers through the years, though he was just another creature in the company’s mix and match gallery of bloodthirsty ghouls, mummies and axe murderers.

By the late Seventies, the horror comic market was played out, with the Eerie Pubs titles among the last to let go. Fass would keep going a while with UFO titles, the often hilarious Ancient Astronauts, and a number of poorly done scifi movie magazines that cashed in on Star Wars mania. After quitting the business, Fass moved to Florida where he changed his name and ran a gun shop. He passed away in 2006.

As pop culture historians try to piece together the Myron Fass story, amusing and sometimes hair-raising tales emerge. Follow the links below to read more about one of the most colorful and controversial figures in magazine publishing.

‘Myron Fass, Demon God of Pulp’, with a cover gallery, on Bad Mags.

‘Myron Fass, Man of Mystery’ on The Empire of the Claw, and another Eerie Publications cover gallery.

Various Myron Fass titles can be sampled in the Datajunkie archives.

With thanks to Karswell of The Horrors of It All and Keith Smith for providing information. Additional material gleaned from an article by David A. Roach in The Warren Companion (Twomorrows Publishing, 2001).


filo said...

great post ! thx !

Pierre Fournier said...

Thanks, Filo!

rob! said...

Wow, that's a hell of a cover. Maybe Frederic Wertham was right...

John said...

These were the only books my mom ever threw away when she found them. I cherish the memory of these hideous rags!

Matt Bradshaw said...

Eerie Publications messed with my head from an early age. I was wondering if you might know if this material is currently in the public domain. I began wondering this a few years ago when a company called Video Asia started using Eerie Pubs' cover art for a line of trashy exploitation DVD double features under the titles Tales of Voodoo and Tales of Terror (for an example check this out: (http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Tales-Vol-1/dp/B000A1INBM/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1235875705&sr=1-8)

Pierre Fournier said...

Very interesting, Matt. Those DVD illustrations could have been licensed, or simply “lifted”. The material may not be PD yet (see Wiki for “public domain”) but I have no idea who, if anyone, owns the rights to Eerie Pubs or any of Fass’ imprints.

wich2 said...

Horror fans, if you crave more repackaged, unclear-rights reprints of old color comics in b & w magazine format, look no further than Ray Ferry's "new" FREAKY!

-Craig W.

P.S. - only thing missing is a shlocky original cover; it lifts an old one by Neal Adams


God hated these book.I used see in old discount magazine stores,near by comics.Yuck