When I look back on the many and varied Traumafessions I have made lo these past few years, I notice two things: 1) I must have been a weird little kid; 2) they are not of your standard issue ghost/monster/haunted house variety. They’re often caused by something fairly innocuous, or more accurately, the effect my mind superimposes over something harmless. (I’m reminded of how Stephen King was massively creeped out as a child by mis-hearing the movie line “It feels like living tissue!” as “It feels like tissue paper!”) Although this one sure has its spooky roots, my brain ran with something else altogether. But first, some background…
Comic books were my gateway drug, and although I read more than my share of funny animal books, it was the horror titles of the late 1960s that were closest to my heart. Every Wednesday afternoon my dad would drive me over to Dean’s Red Owl, the supermarket across the river, that I could pore over the new releases as they sat in a shopping cart, waiting to be placed upon the stand, but only after I got first dibs. The market’s owner, Dean Farrier, was a kindly guy who wanted to make his little customer happy, even going as far as to contact his distributors to secure back issues that I may have missed – and in those days, that was not an easy feat. Thank you, Mr. Farrier!
The Red Owl also carried magazines, but since those were a bit more expensive, I would gaze at them lovingly and didn’t ask my parents for the additional money until a few years later. Famous Monsters of Filmland was always in stock, and occasionally the store would get the Warren comic mags as well – Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella – but it was not on a consistent basis, and old issues would remain on the rack for months beyond their sale date, waiting for a haphazardly shipped follow-up. Now, if you know the Warren magazines of this time, they were in a notoriously bad stretch (the Frank Frazetta glory days were behind them), scraping by on a mixture of reprints and markedly substandard material.
Which brings us to Creepy #24, the December 1968 issue. The cover art is attributed to Gutenberg Montiero, who did but a few pieces for the company, and shares some elements with the uncredited cover to the Berkley paperback anthology Masters of Horror – also from 1968, but I’m unsure which came first. But Creepy‘s juxtaposition of two images, presumably in two difference places, was a common design for horror comics of the period; we have a man, profoundly distressed, seemingly driven mad by this resurrecting corpse.
What got to me? The wristwatch.
Why was this guy wearing a shattered wristwatch? What did it have to do with the hand coming out of a grave? And why was he sweating like a farm animal in August? And then I thought – what if he put it on, broken? What if he was so insane as to not care that his timepiece was incapable of telling time? My mind was blown, and the issue seemed to remain on the stand for months thereafter, freaking me out too much to ever purchase it, but having ample time to make its impression.
I still think there is a fantastic story to be told in the intersection of these two images; maybe a Kinderpal shall be inspired!