Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Anyone that knows their comics history knows who Alex Toth is. Toth was one of comicdom’s greatest comic artists. He was a master in the form of sequential storytelling. His skills with composition, layout, and form made him one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen. He was an artist with a dedicated work ethic and he was one of the most respected cartoonists of his era. Unfortunately, much of his actual comic book work can be a bit hard to come by in collected volumes so when something like this book gets released it really is an occasion for fans of comic art to sit up and take notice.
Toth’s genius is evident on every page of this collection of his horror stories. Creepy and Eeerie were both black and white magazines so Toth’s expertise with inking is in full effect in this book. His use of stark blacks in juxtaposition with pure whites is beyond impressive. Toth is able to use the dark shadows that emerge from his brush work to set a perfectly appropriate spooky mood for each story in this collection. Every panel in every story is perfectly composed and each page moves with a life and vibrancy that only the very best comic artists can achieve in their work. There is a sense of movement not only in the characters that Toth renders but in the flow of each page. Toth’s proficiency with storytelling is profound and the horror comics in this book are the perfect showcase for it. Each tale is different and Toth utilizes his talent with different approaches every time. Reading through the stories in this edition of Creepy Presents I was awestruck with how much experimentation Toth would employ. This book is a master class in the craft of sequential art and no fan of comic art, no student of making comics should be without it.
Most of the stories in this volume are wholly created by Toth himself but there are a few in which Toth seems to have only inked over another artist’s pencils. These entries aren’t as impressive as the others that Toth crafted on his own but his inking style is so strong that it overpowers the work of the penciller he’s working over. It almost makes these stories indiscernible from the ones that Toth rendered but there’s obviously a difference in the visual style of these stories than the majority of the others in this book. Thankfully, there’s only about three or four of these entries in this hardcover collection.
The reason to buy this book is obviously to see Toth’s artwork. Unfortunately, I can’t say much for the writing in some of the stories. Despite being written by luminaries in the comics field such as Archie Goodwin, most of the stories here really come across as warmed over Twilight Zone episodes. Despite the impressive illustrative style in which they are drawn, many of the stories don’t pack as much a of gut punch as you’d expect a horror comic to. It’s odd really because Creepy and Eerie magazines were supposed to exist outside of the purview of the Comics Code Authority yet none of the narratives in here seem to push the past the limits of its restrictions. I’m sure that compared to the stuff that was being done in mainstream comics much of what writers and artists were doing in those two magazines may have been somewhat on the edge but for a modern sensibility this anthology of tales seems somewhat restrained. I’m sure much of the restraint has to do with the limitations given the storytellers (each story is only several pages long) as well as what the comics community considered good taste at the time.
Despite the somewhat reserved nature of the stories in this edition of Creepy Presents, it still is a terrific book…mostly due to the display of Toth’s talent. The writing does have a sort of silver age quality to it which many readers will appreciate but the bigger draw is the dramatic illustrative style of Alex Toth. He is a masterful storyteller and the work of his that is showcased in this book helps make this a perfect Halloween read for those looking for comic book yarns filled with a chilling atmosphere that will suck you in and give you the heebie jeebies this October 31st.