1986: World of Wood

World of Wood (1986) #1-5 by Wally Wood et al.

Eclipse’s horror/sf reprint series continues with Wally Wood, and cat ⊕ yronwode for the first time tries to give a reason for these books to exist:

It’s a nice editorial, but it has two problems: yronwode makes it sound like she’s scoured the most obscure publications to find Wood gems for our delectation. As usual for the Eclipse reprints, she is completely schtumm about the actual origins of the comics.

The truth is a bit more boring: The four planned issues of the World of Wood series reprint stuff published in various Warren magazines in the 70s. These aren’t hard to find, and have been reprinted all over the world in any number of formats.

The other thing she neglects to mention is that this isn’t her project at all. As far as I can tell, this project was put together by Tom Yeates for publication by Pacific Comics, announced a couple of years earlier, but not published until now. Eclipse bought the rights from the Pacific estate.

So now that we know what we have, what does it look like? Pretty nice! These were originally published in black-and-white in magazine format, so they’re shrunken here and coloured mostly sensitively by a number of good colourists. There are so many of them, for some reason or other. They all wanted to work on it? They were in a hurry? I don’t know.

But it mostly works pretty well.

(Hm… I think Jaime Hernandez has swiped that panel more than once…)

But these are from Warren magazines (Eerie, Creepy, 1984, Blazing Combat), so they’re pretty basic stories. You have to have the twist ending. There’s a formula. So the fun is in the artwork and how the twist is done. This artist-trapped-in-his-artwork thing has been done more than a few times before, no?

The only non-Warren piece to appear is this one, which is from Heroes Inc. Is that one of Wood’s self-published ventures? In any case, it starts off with a synopsis… so it’s a continuation of a previous story? It’s a truly bizarre tale that makes little sense, but it’s fascinating. Its vagueness makes it seem like there’s so much subtext to the proceedings. But there’s probably just drunkenness.

The most coherent stories are the ones written by Archie Goodwin, like this story about conscientious Nazi pilots.

Oh, so that’s what he looked like? Hm…

The stories Wood wrote himself are mostly scenes of bewildering nonsense nicely drawn. Here we see Queen Arda beset with foreboding. That’s what it looks like when you’re beset with foreboding.

But it goes beyond casual cheesecake to bizarre unexplainable lunacy. That woman following that little man is his friend and lover, who is following him as he goes off on an extremely dangerous adventure, so he attacks her with a knife…

… and then pulls her clothes off? OK? She stops screaming, so they run away… without her clothes? And without most of his own clothes? Were they supposed to start fucking in the ditches with trolls walking past? What? The entire story is such a non-sequitur that I had to do some research. The person running that blog writes about editor Bill DuBay and his 1984 Warren magazine:

Continuing to focus on rewritten stories, the first 2 issues of 1984 feature a butchered Wally Wood story titled “The End” which was split up into 2 heavily rewritten stories titled “Quick Cut” and “One Night, Down on the Funny Farm!” Both rewritten stories are idiotic. Dubay’s obsession with oversized genitalia is a major plot point of the first story which is pretty brutal in its treatment of women. While the second story is not as offensive, it’s just as stupid, featuring a nonsensical story about a network TV writer that appears in a fantasy world. None of which makes sense when you look at the artwork of course. Wally Wood was so upset at what Dubay did that he’d never do any work for Warren again.

So the editor looked at this story, and was apparently as puzzled as I was by the sheer idiocy of it, and split it into two stories and wrote new dialogue and captions to it.

It probably didn’t improve on things, but it might have been hard to make things worse…

Sometimes Wood almost makes his vagueness work. “Something is wrong”. There’s more of a dream logic to his stories than any plot.

On the other hand, he might just be fucking with us. “The gem did it!” Sure!

Nicola Cuti, who worked as Wood’s assistant, writes a nice little remembrance. Which Eclipse runs in both issue 3 and 4.

As he mentions, some of the pieces for Warren were done in gray washes, and adding colour upon wash sometimes makes things muddled indeed.

The aforementioned Bill DuBay wrote one of the stories here, and it’s kinda fascinating. The protagonist is that guy up there, who is apparently a murderous fascist sadist, but thinks of himself as the hero. He’s from Mars (he thinks), which is a pure American planet that takes no immigrants of any kind. It’s kinda timely?

Perhaps the worst piece in the series is Wood’s retelling, I mean recapping, of The Mummy. It’s exactly as exciting as sitting next to somebody telling you the plot of the latest film they’ve seen.

Wood used a lot of assistants, but he drew this story, To Kill a God!, all by himself, and Eclipse elected to print it in sepia tone for some reason, and the results are pretty horrendous.

So that’s the four issue mini series… but then there’s another issue almost three years later.

This one isn’t Warren reprints, but instead reprints early-50s public domain material (this one from Avon). It’s tedious, almost unreadable dreck, and the artwork is rather primitive, too.

The backup feature, drawn by Al Williamson with Wally Wood, is a bit better, but no big shakes.

Of all the Eclipse books I bought for this blog series, these five issues were by far the most expensive pieces. Mile High lists the first four issues at $90 and the final issue at $130. Which means that they sell them at $45, which is pretty steep. You can find them cheaper on Ebay, but some people sell slabbed copies for similar prices there. So collectors really like these books.

And why not? The artwork is gorgeous, so who cares that the stories don’t make much sense?

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