Sunday, January 8, 2017

...Welcome To This Wretched Awful Place...

In the early 1970s a small New York Publishing company produced the most frightening, gruesome and ghastliest horror stories in the history of illustrated horror -- Nightmare, Psycho and Scream... This blog is dedicated to that trilogy of magazines, which under editor “Archaic” Al Hewetson's creative reign, were taken into unparalleled realms of extreme, festering (almost spiritually sickening) horror... With many enduring characters and stories -- such as THE HUMAN GARGOYLES, THE SAGA OF THE VICTIMS, THE HEAP, THE SHOGGOTH SERIES, LADY SATAN, NOSFERATU and MONSTER MONSTER -- Skywald continues to stand the ravages of time more than forty years later... Now original Skywald artist Macabre Maelo Cintron and Skywald writer Awkward Augustine Funnell, along with newly minted talent George E Warner, Richard J Arndt and John Gallagher usher The Skywald Horror-Mood back into print for a new generation of readers under the banner of Horror-Mood Magazine Publications in conjunction with Bleeding Moon Comics, Gus Funnell Books and Chimera Arts... Offerings from the publisher will include but not be limited to The Human Gargoyles, the complete Monster Monster collection (featuring the never published final two chapters), The Horror-Mood (an ongoing anthology of Skywald's greatest stories), the Tom Sutton collection, the Edgar Allan Poe collection, The Saga Of The Victims collection (with the original concluding chapter), the Nosferatu collection, The Complete Illustrated Skywald Horror-Mood Index and an all new original graphic novel THE GREAT ANTI-SHOGGOTH CRUSADE... ...Miss Them Not... welcome to the "asylum" and check in from time to time as the "horrors" are just beginning...

...An Interview With “Archaic” Al Hewetson...

Alan Hewetson, known to hundreds of thousands of readers as Archaic Al, was the instigator of the Skywald Horror-Mood when he took over from the first editor, Sol Brodsky. With three other writers, Ed Fedory, Augustine Funnell, and Jane Lynch, Al Hewetson writes each issue of Psycho and Nightmare featuring stories in the very distinct Horror-Mood style – a combination of Lovecraft and Poe-style dialogue and description mixed with modern and gothic settings drawn by illustrators handpicked by editor Archaic Al. Scream, the latest addition to the Horror-Mood line, had not been released as of May 26, 1973, when Dave Sim and John Balge journeyed to St. Catherines, Ontario, and the home of Al and Julie Hewetson where this interview took place.

Q: Where and when were you born?

Al: You must be kidding. That’s a question I never answer – it’s supposed to be a big secret. Okay, I’ll give you a scoop, August 30, 1946, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Q: When did you come to Canada?

Al: When I was nine years old.

Q: How much education did you have here?

Al: None at all, fortunately. I quit school when they opened the doors, which was in Grade 4, I think. I left during recess and never came back.

Q: What writing did you do professionally before you went into comics?

Al: I started at the Sudbury Star where I was a darkroom technician. I was always very interested in writing so when I’d do my photographs for the newspaper – or even when another photographer would bring in a photograph – I’d write a little caption and send it along to the editor of the newspaper and that’s really where my first writings were published. I was, of course, doing writing as an adolescent – little short stories, some of which I’ve since adapted to Skywald. And after I left the Sudbury Star I went to the Ottawa Journal where I worked for about a year and then I went to Montreal where I worked for the Gazette and then during ’66 and ’67 I worked for Expo. In the middle of ’67, I started my own advertising and photographic studio In Ottawa, which is where I got very involved in writing because I was doing promotion for rock groups, record jackets and things like that. That’s where I really began to take writing seriously. About a year after I started the studio, I don’t know if you know the recent history of rock music but in ’67 and ’68, things went downhill very quickly. In ’67 when I started the studio there was something like fifty-five rock groups just in Ottawa alone and in ’68, when I stopped, there were four. So that heralded the quick demise of my studio, because I was geared for that kind of work and that kind of work alone. Then I picked up the telephone and talked with Stan Lee whom I had met once for an interview, and with whom I’d corresponded for about a year, and asked him for a position and within a few weeks I had the position. That’s how I got into writing professionally. Before writing comics, the only writing I had actually done was miscellaneous small newspaper reports. One other thing, in 1966 I took a course in television announcing and I did a fifteen minute television program which was an interview/portrait with Yousuf Karsh. Being a photographer and being situated right across the street from his studio, I knew him a little bit and so I wrote a program around this man and I submitted it. It was so well-received by the people who were running this course that it went all the way to CBC and they were actually going to do a production of it until CTV beat them to the punch by about two weeks.

Q: How about “The Satirists”, the feature you had going with Syd Shores, how did that come about?

Al: Well, that came about when, in 1970, Syd and I were trying to do a magazine for National. Carmine Infantino had announced at an ACBA meeting that he was looking for new concepts in magazines. So Syd and I came up with a concept  which was about a long-haired freak about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old who was elected to the United States senate. It was to be produced as a colour magazine, the size of Psycho and Nightmare, with very adult and very sophisticated artwork and obviously with very adult writing. Syd and I became quite friendly at the time we were preparing this, so we decided to work out a newspaper strip together called “Tales Of The Macabre,” which was for American syndication, as well as another strip which was a humourous strip called “Dirty Soks.” Being a Canadian and living in Ottawa, I was interested in releasing something for Canada if I could do so. So, we worked out the thing called “The Satirists” which was a parody of Canadian news items as they appeared. It was sort of like a satirical Front Page Challenge. It was to be accompanied by a political cartoon which was to be a cross between a Macpherson-type cartoon and Arthur Hoppe-type writing. We sent it around with a promotion to all the Canadian newspapers – there’s one hundred and fifteen of them, I think. A number of them replied, but not enough to make it financially worthwhile to go ahead with it.

Q: So this left you at Marvel Comics?

Al: No, this was quite after Marvel. I left Marvel in 1969. I went down to Marvel for only three or four months and wound up staying seven months. When I came back from New York to live in Ottawa, I did writing for Warren and National and Cracked and Sick and just about everybody except Marvel.

Q: Had Sol Brodsky left Marvel at that time?

Al: Sol Brodsky left Marvel when I left and he went over to produce some magazines for Israel Waldman. Israel had been producing comics by the millions back in the fifties. He was a very well known and established publisher back in the fifties. That’s how he got to know Sol because Sol was doing production work and I think a little bit of artwork for him during that period. They ran into each other and Israel approached Sol to produce some magazines for him which Sol did in the early part of 1970 when the company was formed.

Q: How did you get in contact with them?

Al: I started work with Marvel in February of 1969 and I left Marvel in September. Sometime during 1970, Sol was looking for writers for Skywald, so he asked Herschel Waldman, the co-publisher, to drop me a note, which he did, asking for a story. I sent it along – it was accepted and from then on I did work for Skywald. In early 1972, the person who was assisting Sol in the editing of the magazines left the company and Sol asked me to become associate editor and I accepted. In a couple of months, Sol left the company to return to Marvel and I took over the editorship.

Q: You mention the “Senator” book you had planned to do with Syd Shores – are you aware of DC’s Prez?

Al: Yes, I am aware of it.

Q: Is it anything like your concept?

Al: Well, I saw the cover and I had a heart attack. But when I read the story I saw very little resemblance.

Q: You’ve been writing horror stories for many years now. What are the essential components of a good Horror story?

Al: The most essential component of a good horror story is, first and foremost, that it be horror. There are many things which are being produced these days which are labelled horror and certainly aren’t. Since it is the comics medium that we’re talking about, the writer must take full advantage of the artwork. It is an artist’s medium and not a writer’s medium. Something I’ve learned only recently is that brevity, which I never fully understood before, is important. I would get carried away with the fact that I was a writer. I would go on at great lengths in very flowery prose, describing that which did not really have to be described. A lousy story can be carried by good artwork sometimes, but if you have a good story and lousy artwork, you wind up losing all around. We have, Skywald that is, in the last few months, solved, I feel, our problems with all story material. We have selected what we now feel are the best writers in the horror medium – people who understand horror and who understand the editorial premise of Skywald, which is the Horror-Mood, which is a very real thing. We now have writing for us, Augustine Funnell, Jane Lynch, Ed Fedory and myself as regulars and occasionally other writers that we feel fit the editorial criteria. With respect to our artists, we’ve weeded out those – about fifty per cent – who are questionable, who are poor, or are unpopular.We have enlarged our art staff in these last few months to include some rather excellent and new young artists from various parts of the world – people we feel are very interesting and will become popular in a very short time.

Q: Who inspires your writing?

Al: I am very inspired, even to this day, by two comic book writers in particular. Harvey Kurtzman and Al Feldstein. Harvey Kurtzman was my original inspiration for comics because I thought that his style of comics writing was incredibly natural and “honestly funny” as opposed to “pretentious funny” and contrived which I think most humour comics are. Al Feldstein I’ve only come to love recently, as I explore the old EC horror books, and I think he is a source of inspiration to everybody who is now writing for Skywald, as much as EC as a whole is an inspiration for everybody who does work for Skywald.

Q: Why are you mainly interested in writing horror comics?

Al: The first question was “What are the essential components of a good horror story?” and I said that the essential component of a good horror story is horror. We publish horror magazines and that is why we are so wrapped up in horror. Without trying to demean or harshly criticise anyone else in this medium, we take the word “horror” very seriously at Skywald. When we use the word “horror” we mean it. We don’t mean science fiction, or sword and sorcery or fantasy, we mean “horror.” Now, of course, the word “horror’ is interpreted differently by different people, but we think that we are interpreting it pretty basically.

Q: Why do you personally prefer horror?

Al: Humour is really my first love. As I said, I’m more inspired by Harvey Kurtzman than by anybody and Harvey is first and foremost a satirical writer. Within a few months, it is my firm belief that we’ll be releasing a magazine which we hope to be the first in a series of Skywald “Humor-Mood” Publications. And it will be a cut above the other humour magazines which have been appearing recently. We hope that in the next few years we will release other magazines, not only of the humour sort or the horror sort but of many sorts.

Q: For many years, rumours and predictions have been appearing in fanzines to the effect that Skywald is out of business. How secure is the company?

Al: Skywald is very secure. We have, essentially, only one problem at the moment and that is distribution. We are distributed well in large metropolitan centres, but we cannot seem to make it into little towns like Kitchener and St. Catherines. I mean, we are not well distributed within little towns. We only make it to two or three very large newsstands. We produced, when this company began, a production called “The Judy Garland Book” which is the most threatening thing which ever happened to our company. We printed far too many copies and we sold maybe four or five. We lost a lot of money. The colour comics, more or less, broke even. I think we could’ve continued with them to try and establish a colour comics area, except for the fact that, at the very same time as Skywald began the colour comics, National and Marvel were engaged in a price war which hurt just about everybody. Skywald’s future is very secure. We have many projects planned in different areas of publishing – not only black and white comic art books, but with magazines and soft and hardcovers and pocketbooks.

Q: What is the relationship, if any, between television programs like Night Gallery and magazines like Psycho, Creepy and Nightmare?

Al: Night Gallery is much closer to Warren’s publications than Skywald’s – that is to say, “macabre” stories. Our stories, I would say, are much closer to Poe and Lovecraft’s hard horror.

Q: How does it happen that the editor of the Skywald  books lives in Canada? That seems impractical from a business standpoint.

Al: It’s not impractical. I commute. I operate editorial ends from my home by mail and telephone while business and financial ends are operated from New York. Once a month New York and I get together.

Q: In New York or St. Catherines?

Al: On the French Riviera!

Q: What are the fan and reader reactions to the Skywald books besides the already mentioned rumours in fanzines?

Al: There is a very pronounced distinction between fans and readers. First of all, in terms of percentages, fans – as I’m sure fans themselves realise – number perhaps five per cent of the total circulation of a magazine. Obviously we are going to cater to readers’ demands more than fan demands. When I took over the editorial end of these magazines, I don’t think I received very complimentary reviews from fans. But it becomes clear at this date, which is a year after I began my editorship, that they’re coming around. The readers are not so discerning in terms of the individuals who produce comics. Since we are selling an entertainment package under the horror label, we therefore try to produce exactly that. We are criticised because of the precedence of Warren in publishing sword and sorcery, science fiction and fantasy tales, for not following suit. It is not Skywald’s intention to emulate Warren. We are producing straight horror. We appreciate that Warren is producing macabre magazines which are more liberal and which encompass other areas of comics. To specifically answer your question, the fans are beginning to come around so I think they’re beginning to understand that our criteria is horror and that Skywald is, in fact, an entity. The readers, through such surveys as we conduct on our letters and editorial pages, give us nothing but pats on the back. The readers are virtually unanimous in their congratulations for the work that we do.

Q: I notice that you try to answer letters in your letter columns in a very humourous fashion and also persist in using Marvel-style tongue-in-cheek promotional slogans along the edges of panels.

Al: That plug idea probably wasn’t a good one and I’ve stopped it. I don’t think it accomplished anything. And as to why I started it in the first place, I can’t remember and I don’t want to remember. As for the humourous outlook that we have on the editorial pages, when fans and readers correspond with us, they have their tongues in their cheeks. So we respond in kind. I can’t think of any publishing house who is an exception to this “rule.”

Q: What is the average age of your artists and writers?

Al: I don’t know that there is such a thing as an average age for anybody in the comics medium. Our youngest contributor is probably Augustine Funnell who’s around twenty or twenty-one and our oldest is maybe forty. Gual, who is one of our favourite illustrators, I believe is thirty-six. I can’t think of anybody older than that that we have. So, an average age would be somewhere in the late twenties or early thirties if you can make such an assumption.

Q: Do you take your comics writing seriously? Some of your stories seem to have an almost “campy” approach with unrealistic dialogue and situations.

Al: Yes, I do take my writing and the stories and the magazines seriously. Vincent Price maintains that humour is very close to horror and I think that most readers honestly believe that. I think that you can do a funny horror story and a straight horror story, but you only run into danger when you do a straight horror story in a funny way, which is a distinction I try to make.

Q: What advantages or disadvantages are there in competing with the colour comic books?

Al: Well, you’re undoubtedly dealing with an older market. You’re dealing with finer and more precise and more sophisticated artwork because you’re dealing with artwork which is not, essentially, holding lines. For colour you’re dealing with artwork which is finished artwork, and so you’re really dealing not so much with comics but with illustrations. The disadvantages are, essentially, that comics have a reserved place on the rack or the newsstand. Almost every newsstand has either a rack or a certain area specifically reserved for colour comics whers black and white magazines have to be mingled with millions of others on every newsstand and so we often get lost. Not only that, but s a direct result of the millions of magazines which are distributed, we have to compete with Swing Monthly and other magazines which I don’t think is entirely fair. Coloured comics don’t have to compete like that.

Q: Do you see Marvel’s entry into the black and white field as stiff competition for your own books?

Al: Well, in terms of their being on the newsstands and cluttering up said newsstands with rubbish, yes, they can hurt us. There are actually several ways they can help us. But although I in no way “resent” their competition, I would say Marvel should stick to making colour comics, which they do very well. The Marvel black and whites are, as an opinion, almost as shoddy as Fass Publications’, at least on a whole. Why a company can pay so much money for such atrocious, muddy artwork is beyond me. The package is, in a word, wretched, and a rather poor imitation of Warren and Skywald. But that’s obvious.

Q: How well do your staff artists interpret your ideas as a writer, of how a scene should look?

Al: This varies from artist to artist. Many of our artists do not speak English, therefore the script has to be translated. Depending on the quality of the translator this can hinder the artist somewhat. With respect to our English-speaking artists, we seem to have narrowed our art staff down to artists who not only understand horror and understand comics, but who also understand the very abstract Horror-Mood style that we write in.

Q: Are you speaking about a house style, then?

Al: Yes, we’re trying to develop a house style and I think that in the next few months you’ll see it develop very strongly. We certainly have not had one. We might have had a package style, our books might have had a certain air or look about them, but certainly our artwork and our stories have not had a house style which I think is the most important thing for any publishing house to have and which the most successful publishing houses have worked very hard to acquire. Marvel’s house style is very pronounced. The EC house style is recognisable to anyone. While I don’t say I am emulating their style, I am definitely adopting the philosophy that a house style is something to acquire.

Q: In recent years, three figures that are “…soft, living piles of sludge” have sprung up out of their respective swamps – Marvel’s “Man Thing,” DC’s “Swamp Thing” and Skywald’s “Heap.” What is the appeal of this creature to both the comic book writer and reader?

Al: I don’t know how a pile of sludge can appeal to anyone. It certainly doesn’t appeal to me, and in my writing of the Heap I certainly have not understood the character or understood the appeal of a pile of sludge and that’s why I cancelled it. I think that characters in themselves, irrespective of what they are, are very popular to the average reader. We have done a few things over the years where we’ve done one story and said, “This is a potential character – what do you think?” and we get unanimous “yes” votes to make it a continued character. For example, the one we did about Darkkos Mansion which is a decrepit old swamp mansion in the American south, we got letters demanding that we make this into a continued series, which we have done. I am also taking up where Lovecraft left off in the Shoggoth series, and that’s been immensely popular. Readers have been writing in and demanding that we continue this as a series. No matter what an editor at any company thinks of a particular character, you almost don’t have to worry about the character himself. All you have to do is write the word “character” or “series” next to the story and you automatically have an audience which goes crazy. But you know, we ran a “Yes-Heap, No-Heap Vote” a few months ago and the reaction was without a percentage of exaggeration 99% yes. I actually have no objection to doing the Heap as a continued character. But let me say this, I will not be doing it the way I’ve been doing it in the past. The artwork must be done by just about the best artist we have. The story I write must be really exceptional, which I’m the first to admit they’ve not been to date. The character’s physical appearance must be very changed and the whole resultant product must be very adult and sophisticated. If the character is revived, he will be revived, or rather reborn, according to a very high criteria to make his origins almost unrecognisable.

Q: Are there any continued characters coming up in the Skywald books?

Al: We have Lady Satan, The Human Gargoyles, Monster Monster by Gus Funnell, Nosferatu in Scream, the Shoggoth series, and various other new series starting up. I am adapting every single horror story that Edgar Allan Poe ever wrote. And at the moment, I’m creating a new vampire series which may be called The Vampire, and also a series involving a mummy character – interesting little things all which will comprise 50% of all published material in Skywald’s Horror-Mood titles.

Q: What are your inspirations?

Al: I’m very inspired by people. I don’t do most of my writing in this room. I do most of my writing in restaurants and on park benches and while sitting in a car at a street corner. I don’t know what it is about people, but they inspire me to write. Also, other people in this field who are successful and who I am very fortunate to be friends with, inspire me by their own tremendous styles.

Q: Do you get inspiration from the horror-style books you have here, such as Poe and Lovecraft?

Al: I’m very inspired by both Edgar Allan Poe and by Howard Lovecraft because I think that those two gentlemen, though of different centuries, define horror in the twentieth century. We are presently producing every single horror story Edgar Allan Poe ever wrote and adapting them literally. And I hope that this will be a series which will be very popular because we’re putting a lot of work into it.

Q: What sort of mental environment is best suited to writing horror?

Al: An environment which is introverted and depressing and atmospheric in terms of mood and inspiration which may well be defined by my adding to my former answer the suggestion that I also write in graveyards at four o’clock in the morning.

Q: Is that true?

Al: Yeah, that’s true. There’s a story in Scream #1 called “This Archaic Breeding Ground…” which was written in a graveyard in Providence at four o’clock in the morning. And that graveyard is about two blocks from where Lovecraft was born and where he lived most of his life. He used to haunt that graveyard and write his stories there at that time in the morning. And in the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe was in that graveyard and proposed to Sarah Whitman on the park bench where I sat and wrote that story. Not at four o’clock in the morning though.

Q: Do you suggest that for other writers, too?

Al: I don’t know. Different strokes for different writers.

Q: Have you met all of your artists and writers personally?

Al: Yeah, I think all of them. We have a couple of new artists who work over in Spain and other countries who I haven’t met yet. We’ve acquired them over the last couple of months as we weeded out other artists and I only know them by their work.

Q: I suppose the other artists you’re talking about make sabbaticals to New York to see you. Do you need a translator?

Al: Yeah, some of them speak English, some of them speak English very well. Some of them speak English to a little extent and we get along. For example, Pablo Marcos and I, when he was with Skywald, related very easily, but Pablo speaks as much English as I do Spanish which is about eight words.

Q: What do you think of the work of Gahan Wilson in Playboy and National Lampoon since you were saying that humour is very close to horror?

Al: You’ve raised a very interesting question, apart from my answer regarding Gahan Wilson who I’ll speak about first. I think that Gahan Wilson, more than anyone, defines black or macabre humour, which is, in his style, expressed beautifully. What I was referring to earlier when I spoke of the humour in horror was black or macabre humour, or sick humour, depending on how you wish to define it. This is what I’m aiming for, if you ever read a story in Skywald, or elsewhere, which is horror and also humour. I have a great aversion to, although I quoted it earlier, Vincent Price’s kind of horror which is taking a straight horror idea and then making fun of it. I try very hard not to do this. If I write a horror story which is humourous, it is either one of two things. It is either an attempt at macabre humour, or is an attempt at parodying life.

Q: What were your intentions when you took over Skywald in the way of improvement and how many have been fulfilled to date?

Al: My first and most important editorial improvement at Skywald is almost a negative one. And that is to, first, eliminate that which I did not like or approve of. It has taken me a long time to do that, not because of any obstructions caused by the publishers who have agreed with me all the way, but because the obstructions are based on two things. They are based on economics. You see, first of all, the type of package I produce is very expensive relative to the newsstand return. Since we are in the business of making money, we can’t spend more money than we take in, obviously. So there are very, very definite financial restrictions which have an obvious limiting effect on material for the product. Because, whether I care to like it or not, artists in general relate money to work. This is a mad turn of affairs but it’s true, although I think it’s evident more in comics than in other areas of so-called commercial art. Second, I wish I had all the people who work for us in a little room. Or, at least, I wish they lived within a fifty to one hundred mile radius of New York or of me. But they don’t. They live all over the world – in Canada, in Spain, in Chicago, in South America, in Mexico. It is virtually impossible to maintain or even establish the kind of control that EC had and which I would desire. So these are two restrictions which are breaking my back. I can’t do anything about them. I have to work as best I can, and I do. And the product is almost the best I can produce. When I say almost, it’s because of course I’m never satisfied with anything. I am to a degree satisfied that Scream #1 was a pretty good product for a first issue. But there are still a million changes I will make in the future, slowly, surely. But I’ll make them, until maybe one day I’ll be 100% satisfied.

Q: Is there any potential to the super-hero concept which you have already expressed distaste for?

Al: First of all, Skywald has no intention of producing any super-hero material. Outside of Skywald I would say that I used to be very romanced with the idea of super-heroes, particularly Stan Lee’s super-hero concepts of realistically-speaking people in realistic situations. I think that this can be taken one step further and written in a more adult style and format. People in this medium, writers and artists and fans, are forever talking about doing adult material and yet it’s never been done. We, Skywald, hope to do adult material – by “adult” I in no way infer sexual material – before too long.

Q: Who would you say is the artist best suited to the Horror-Mood? Who is the best working for you now and who would be the best working for you in the future?

Al: Well, I’m very pleased to say that, with only one or two exceptions, everybody who I would like to work with in the Horror-Mood presently is. I think the person who defines it best is Maelo Cintron with his Human Gargoyles series. My favourite artists outside of the Skywald artists include Jack Davis, first and foremost, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman – the artist, Will Elder, Frank Frazetta, Berni Wrightson and Ralph Reese. The latter two are the exceptions who are not presently working for Skywald, who I would like to see on our art staff, but which for certain reasons will not happen.

Q: Have you ever had any feed back from concerned parents on the horror material which you publish?

Al: I have not received a single letter.

Q/S: That’s hard to believe.

Al: Not a one, or a single phone call, or any feedback at all. None. Primarily because I think we’re living in 1973 and the hysteria towards comics which pervaded the early 1950’s, inspired by Wertham, was agitated by the paranoic fever of McCarthyism and the times which were very conservative. These early 1970’s are not so conservative and are not so restrictive and I think that we, all of us in the comic medium whether in horror or in any other area, can do pretty well what we want.

Q: Can you give us any details on the printing of the Skywald books, particularly that they’re printed in Canada?

Al: Details?

Q: For example, does New York get to see the original art and scripts, or do you, first?

Al: I write my stories, and edit others’ stories, and send them directly to the various artists. The art is sent to New York, when finished, where I collate it. I produce all the editorial production here at home, and when I visit New York I package the entire magazine and do the production for it. And then, in an incredible fat bundle, I mail the thing off to our printers who have nothing to do but perhaps add the occasional, miscellaneous screen and make the negatives for the magazine. Blueprint proofs of those negatives are sent to me which I proof editorially and I make certain changes and approve the package. And the magazine is then printed in Canada and then shipped to Connecticut and from there to various distribution centres, including back to Canada.

Q: How many magazines do you think you could handle under the Horror-Mood with the present staff and method of handling?

Al: I would like, as most editors would, to write a little less and edit a little more, which in terms of Skywald will come when we do more magazines. We would like to do more horror magazines and within a few months we would like to produce humour magazines and several other ventures. Skywald has the potential to grow very large, because both editorially and from a publisher’s view everybody at Skywald is excited by what we do and about the future.

Q: What about the French translations of the Skywald books?

Al: I’ve seen them. And, inasmuch as I consider myself a Canadian, unfortunately I cannot speak French. The appearance of the package leaves much to be desired but I’ve been told by friends who do speak French fluently that the translations themselves are really very good.

Q: What about royalties from the books?

Al: Skywald does make quite a bit of money selling the syndicated rights to these things. We have almost all of our material appearing in French and in Spanish and Scandanavian. We hope to move into Germany and maybe Japan next year. We’ve just made a deal for syndicated rights to Italy, which means that now we officially appear in five launguages.

Q: What about your double-page format that you use in your magazine quite frequently, how successful is it as an innovation?

Al: They’re probably the most disappointing thing I ever did. I tried a couple of things immediately when I became editor. One of them was to make the entire magazine this double-page style and also bleeding off the edges of pages which I thought was tremedous visually, and the readers responded to this very favourably, and I was really very happy. And all of a sudden I am informed by our foreign syndicators that it is impossible to pick up and to reproduce material which is printed in this style and so forth, so we had to cancel the whole thing for such a stupid reason.

Q: Considering the fact that you have the chance to see the scripts and the original artwork nd the blueprints and the proofs before you see the finished product, are you usually happy with the end result?

Al: I’m usually disappointed, because I’m a perfectionist and I’m never happy with anything. I’m occasionally happy with certain things. I was very happy with the Nightmare Winter Special. I was very happy with Scream #1. And I’m learning from my disappointment. It’s getting to be that I’m not as disappointed these days as I was in days gone by.

Q: Do you remember a story you did that featured a female reporter and a first person outlook for the hero of the story, the reader seeing the story through his eyes…?

Al: It was called “Asylum Of Frozen Hell” and the art was by Pablo Marcos.

Q: Do you get objections from female readers that the women are not given a strong enough role, rather taking on the traditional horror role of the damsel-in-distress?

Al: I’m as guilty of that as any writer who doesn’t think about it. Recently I’ve thought about it and women have an increased and proportionate role in our magazines. They are now as equal as the men and they are now appearing as often as the men are. Jane Lynch, our newest writer, is obviously a female and the most attractive member of the Horror-Mood team. When I write our Lady Satan character, I give her an according amount of respect that I would a male. Writers fall into unconscious parodies of life, and life is such that until these last few years women have had a secondary role. In these early 1970’s this is changing and therefore so is their role in Skywald.

Q: And yet, in the drawings you showed us for an upcoming series of female characters, you told us that the artist had been advised to make the breasts fuller, presumably to make the character a more appealing “object” to the reader.

Al: That was the new series we have coming up called The Saga Of The Victims. In the sketches which the artist presented, I thought that the women were not normal. They were too flat-chested and so we merely indicated a correction. And if you believe that, you can believe anything!!

Q: Do you keep in mind when you write your stories the exploitation of sex? The women in the Skywald books seem to have a frightful tendency of getting their blouses ripped to shreds, whether they’re going on a safari or down to the supermarket.

Al: No, consciously I’m not aware of that kind of thing. The artists add a lot of things into stories which, you know, the writer or editor glances over and doesn’t consciously realise is there. It is obviously more commercial to introduce sexual characters in the black and white market, because we are appealing to older readers, which is a predominantly male market. We do have female readers and we do have a much more recognisable percentage than colour comics do. I think that our major competitor has exploited this matter to the fullest and if we have done so in Skywald I’m afraid it’s been unconscious. As to the future, we certainly have no intention of exploiting sex.

Q: What is the average age of your readers?

Al: There is not a specific average age. The average reader of comics is between the ages of seven and fifteen. The average age of readers of the black and white magazines is between the ages of twelve and around twenty-one or twenty-two. For some reason or other, we are blessed with a twenty per cent readership which is over twenty and some in their early thirties. We have a few readers which are under the age of fourteen, but they are definitely in the minority.

Q: Would you say there are any examples of relevant horror stories or are horror stories, by their nature, irrelevant?

Al: I think that most horror stories are mostly escapist. I think there are a few relevant horror stories which are being used these days. The most excellent example of which I can give you is the continuing series The Human Gargoyles which many people say is not horror and which many people don’t quite know how to define. Well, if I was to try to define it, I would say that it is a parody of life.

Q: Skywald features a great deal of blood and particularly graphic examples of killing brutally. Will Eisner has said that there is more horror created by a well placed trickle of blood than by a whole gushing fountain. Do you think the graphic violence that a number of your stories contain is necessary in order to sell the books?

Al: No, but what I do think Will Eisner is talking about is relevant when you are speaking about subtle people and I don’t consider that the average reader of Skywald is a subtle person. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty you are not terribly subtle. By the same token, I honestly feel that you exaggerate when you talk about all the blood and gore in Skywald because I don’t think it amounts to fifty per cent and I certainly don’t think it amounts to even twenty-five per cent. Although we do have an occasional story like “Limb From Limb From Death” which was pronounced by some people as the most ghastly thing ever done, I don’t think that it is reflective of everything. I think that we do stories which determine horror in many ways.

Q: What do you think of the underground comics?

Al: I think that a few undergrounds are being produced which are very worthy of note, specifically, in terms of the individuals who produce them rather than in the titles of the magazines: Bob Crumb, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman and a couple of others. For the most part, and by “the most part” I mean upwards of ninety per cent, I think that the underground medium is an affront to both the reader’s intelligence and to the comic medium. As I understand the underground, by it’s most flattering definition, it is the comics of the ‘40s in a 1970s launguage. By this definition, undergrounds are not 100% but 200% pointless except in terms of entertainment. By that definition, they are supposed to be 100% entertainment. Well, you know, thaat’s a jolly good idea and who can criticise it? However, the comics of the ‘40s were very entertaining by any standards. And the underground comix of the ‘70s are not entertaining by any standards. I listened to Harvey (Kurtzman) tell me for two hours how comix were the roots of tomorrow and the nihilistic premise of pure entertainment. All this sounds great as a theory for tomorrow. But no one has put any of these ideas into practise. My opinion is that 90% of underground comix is puerile, worthless, and very ugly trash, and the most horrible, and I’m serious, horrible, barbaric excuse for murdering a living, breathing tree that I’ve ever heard!

Q: Are there any kind of fans that you don’t like – fans that you meet at conventions and the Skywald offices?

Al: Yes, there is a particular kind of fan who walks into the office or who walks up to you with his finger in his nose and who doesn’t know who you are and who says, “Can I have your autograph?” or, “Can I have a piece of artwork?” without knowing who you are. I figure that if you are going to talk to people or, especially, ask them for a favour you should know what the hell they do.

Q: You’ve had people ask you for artwork?

Al: Yes, a lot of people ask me for artwork. People come up to me at the con and say, “Would you add to this page?” Then they give me a big piece of artwork that has fifty signatures and little sketches by Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson and Jeff Jones and Kaluta and pther people and then ask me to do a little piece of artwork. And I say, “I don’t do artwork, would you like my signature?” And they say, “Oh, jeez, okay, sign it.” And so I sign it and they go away grumbling. It’s because this is an artist’s medium, it really is. Fans don’t pay too much attention to stories, whether they say they do or not. They like a story or dislike a story for one reason or other, but spend hours studying a panel of art. As a writer it’s disheartening in that light. But apart from that, most comic writers don’t realise it’s an artists medium, and fight it right to the end. I’ve only just begun to realise that the best comic story is one that’s just that, a comic story, not a story that was illustrated, nor by the same token am I saying a piece of art that has words. I’m saying a comic story. The writer must tell his story through the art, not instead of the art or as well as the art, but as the art. Well, like I said, I’ve only just realised this and personally am finding it more enjoyable to write art and stories now. For the most part, I think that fans are intelligent people who understand artwork. I don’t think they understand the commercial aspects of publishing. I don’t think they try to understand, although I do think they pretend to understand. And if they are ever to be criticised for anything, they should be criticised for their laack of initiative in finding out any publisher’s necessary commercial aspects.

Q: Are there any particular riters you do, or don’t, like?

Al: There is a group of writers that I don’t like in particular – that group which is defined as being artist-writer. Very few of them can write and a lot of them fool themselves that they can draw. This is particularly evident in daily newspaper strips which, for all its being acclaimed as the adult aspect of comics, are, on a whole, the worst produced collection of childish and obscure ideas in the medium. In the 1940s, newspaper strips were something to be respected and perhaps during the 1930s and 1940s they gained their reputation. It is unfortunate that they did not lose their reputation during the 1950s and sixties and certainly the seventies during which time they deteriorated awfully. There are, in the comic book medium also, several writer-artists. The only one I have any respect for is Berni Wrightson who should be writing Swamp Thing.

Q: How many professionals did you get to know as a fan and how many do you still know and how have they helped you?

Al: The first question flabbergasts me. How many? I don’t know how many, but I certainly met an awful lot – like, Stan Lee I met as a fan, Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Smythe, Gahan Wilson, Charles Schulz, Arnold Roth, Basil Wolverton, as a few. I didn’t meet all of them, but I corresponded for years and years and often talked on the phone. When I was accepted professionally, I maintained a friendship with these people and made new friendships with a lot of people in this field such as Wally Wood, Syd Shores, writers like Gary Friedrich, and many more writers and artists. And, of course, I’m as friendly s an editor can be with my own staff people. A lot of them have helped me merely by their being, by their friendship and by inspiring me. A lot of them have helped me through specific criticism. One of the most favourite criticisms of Hewetson is that he is flowery and that he is long-winded, which makes for a damned good interview but which makes for a lousy story. For example, Harvey Kurtzman I’ve always considered to be responsible for getting me into this field. Like many mentors to people who are now involved in this field, I don’t think that he really gave a damn about me, but yet he inspired me by his so utterly realistic sense of nihilistic parody, by his work, by his just being. My favourite stories are my black humour stories and this is kind of my attitude about Kurtzman carried over into the horror medium. It’s a parody of life which is really horror.

Q: Is Al Hewetson doing anything now besides horror in the comics?

Al: I’ve done quite a bit of humour writing. A lot of people don’t consider that Cracked and Sick and such humour is comics. They consider it to be something else quite undefinable. But I’ve done a lot of that work. Also I’ve done quite a bit of work with a nightclub comic. I do all of his writing and work out routines with him. I do occasional prose stories on a non-fictional level, such as a recent one I did called “Comics In The Cinema,” which was printed in Cinema magazine, which was as the title suggests a review of comic book characters serialised in the nineteen-forties into the movie medium. Also, I’m continuing to do a certain amount of photographic work. Recently, I did quite a bit of work on John Diefenbaker’s memoirs which I photo-edited. I’m doing a book for Prentice-Hall which is about management, which I’ve been working on for quite some time.

Q: Is Skywald the end of the road for Al Hewetson?

Al: There is almost nothing in the various fields of writing and entertainment that I wouldn’t like to do and don’t plan to do, as well as my future work with Skywald.

...Thus concludes your horrible “choke” hosts representation of the Archaic Ones interview with Dave Sim and John Balge as it originally appeared in the fanzine Now And Then Times Vol.1 No. 2 October 1973. Seek out a copy if you can find one (it’s extremely rare). You “shudder” won’t regret it...        

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

...More Musings From Your Miserable Master Of Mayhem...

Your “Maniacal Master Of Menace” returns once again to this “Horrible House Of Horror” called …The Horror-Mood… for yet another “Evil Entry” in this “Black Necronomicon” of a blog. 

This time around I am both pleased and horrified to unleash the following “Noxious News And Notes”… The recently created The Mood-Team Rap facebook group page has been added to the links section so by all means stop by and join and while you are at it if you already haven’t liked or visited The Human Gargoyles facebook page in the links section please stop by for a visit… 

Sightings of copies of “The Complete Illustrated History Of The Skywald Horror-Mood” book for sale are to be found at Augustine Funnell Books so stop by and grab yourself a copy of this now long out of print, highly valuable and much sought after “Tome Of Terror”… Augustine is quite possibly the only source left to purchase this book and he’ll even sign it for you!… You can find Augustine and his online bookstore in the links section as well…

The Human Gargoyles is back in preproduction mode as I need to add and correct some aspects of the publication before putting it into print... 

The book however was spotlighted in Comic Book Creator magazine which you can find and order here • and there is a bonus PDF available absolutely FREE which gives you a behind the scenes look at the creation of the first issue at the following link •

The “Monster Monster” Collection is finished and is currently in print as a limited edition of sixty copies (includes a signed and numbered certificate • an accurate reproduction of the Shoggoth Crusade certificate and a baseball card sized collector sticker)… John Gallagher has painted a brand new cover for the collection which will literally BLOW your mind!!!!… Visit my The Mood-Team Rap facebook page (in the links section) to find out how to order it (only a handful of copies remain) and... …Miss It Not…

Monday, November 21, 2016

...A Horror-Mood Horror Book Review... “Unsung Horrors”

Your “Mad Maniacal Mocking Marauder Of All Things Horror-Mood” returns once again to this “Dungeon Of Depravity” called …The Horror-Mood… for yet another “Diabolical Diatribe” in the form of yet another “Horror-Mood Horror Book Review”…

This time around we are presented for your enjoyment a “Terrible Tome” focused on the “Unsung Horrors” of the horror film industry…

“Unsung Horrors” are best described as neglected, unappreciated or otherwise forgotten horror or fantasy films from the Silents to the 70’s, at least according to publisher Eric McNaughton (he of We Belong Dead magazine and this past years sold out “70’s Monster Memories” “Tome Of Terror” (which I previously reviewed)…

Eric McNaughton’s heartfelt introduction and editorship is once again near flawless and seamless throughout, with an excellent foreword from Joe Dante (he of Gremlins and The Howling directorial fame)…

This is a massive and beautiful 440 page softcover book with full color throughout (packed with stills, posters and lobby cards) covering more than 200 of these deservedly or undeservedly forgotten and unsung horrors!

Titles that are thoroughly covered by editor McNaughton’s stable of reviewers in this publication are as follows:

Seven Dead In The Cat’s Eye, Goke Body Snatcher From Hell, Bug, Craze, The Asphyx, Orca, And Soon The Darkness, “SSSSSSS”, Baron Blood, Lévres De Sang, Lake Of Dracula, The Black Cat (1966), All The Colours Of The Dark, Matango, IT, Caltiki The Immortal Monster, The Lodger (1944), The 7th Victim, Blood And Roses, The Monkey’s Paw (1948), The Lost Continent (1968), Kongo, Doctor X, Death Line, The Black Panther, The Crazies, Onibaba, Grizzly (one of my personal favorites), Inquisition, Curse Of The Faceless Man, Chosen Survivors, The Face At The Window, Murders In The Zoo, The Long Hair Of Death (I Lunghi Capetti Della Morte), The Deathmaster, The Living Skeleton, Frogs, Behemoth The Sea Monster, Dark Places, The Green Slime (another personal favorite), The Projected Man, The Clairvoyant, Sugar Hill, Diary Of A Madman, The Golem (1920), Nightmare Castle, The Curse Of The Fly, Doomwatch, Willard, Equinox, Damned In Venice, The Face Of Fu Manchu, Werewolf Shadow, House Of Mystery, Frankenstein 1970, Deathdream, The Frozen Dead, The Ghost Of Frankenstein, Seven Footprints To Satan, Devil Doll, Dracula Pére Et Fils, Jonathan, Les Raisins Dela Mort, The Haunted House Of Horror (looooved this when I saw it first run at a Drive-In Theater), Crypt Of The Living Dead, Il Demonio, VIY, Shock Waves, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, The House That Screamed, The Sphinx, Jack The Ripper (1958), Curse Of The Devil, The Manster, Black Zoo, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, In Search Of Dracula, Le Golem, Kill Baby Kill, The Return Of Dracula, Children Of The Damned, Lady Frankenstein, The Beast With Five Fingers, Tintorerera: Killer Shark, A Study In Terror, Jaws 2, Legend Of The Werewolf, Doctor Blood’s Coffin, The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, Day Of The Animals, The Pack, Dark Intruder, The Shuttered Room, Lorna The Exorcist, Castle Of The Walking Dead, Man-Made Monster, The Black Scorpion, The Werewolf, Castle Of The Living Dead, Kuroneko. Mother Reily Meets The Vampire, The Tell-Tale Heart (1960), The Vampire Bat, The Dark Eyes Of London, Mystery Of The Mary Celeste, La Noches De Las Gavlotas (Night Of The Seagulls), Atom Age Vampire, Race With The Devil, Cry Of The Werewolf, Werewolf Of London (a must see!), The Unknown, The Perfume Of The Lady In Black, An Angel For Satan, The Devil Bat, The Black Belly Of The Tarantula, The Bat Whispers, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times, Kingdom Of The Spiders, Revenge Of The Blood Beast (legendary director Michael Reeves first feature film), Trog, The Secret Of Dorian Gray, Horror Rises From The Tomb, The Loreley’s Grasp, The Snake Girl And The Silver-Haired Witch, Nothing But The Night, The Strange Door, The Virgin Of Nuremburg, The Legend Of Blood Castle, Devils Of Darkness, Supernatural, Murders In The Rue Morgue (Lugosi 1931), The House With Laughing Windows, Who Can Kill A Child, The Alligator People, The Comeback, Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mask Of Fu Manchu, The House In Nightmare Park, Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (a Lucio Fulci Classic!), The Psychopath, Terror-Creatures From The Grave, Pharaoh’s Curse, The Last Man On Earth, The Devil Commands, Tormented, The Legend Of Hell House, Castle Sinister, Scream And Scream Again, Twice Told Tales, The Undying Monster, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, Der Student Von Prag (The Student Of Prague), The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, Mill Of The Stone Women, Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory, The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1948), Squirm, Dr. Pyckle And Mr. Pryde, Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier, The Dunwich Horror, Witchcraft, Son Of Kong, The Queen Of Spades, Macbeth (1971), The Hands Of Orlac, Tower Of Evil, Bloodstained Butterfly, Three Cases Of Murder, Murders In The Rue Morgue (1971), The Cremator, What Have You Done To Solange?, The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Nightmare In Wax, Where Has Poor Mickey Gone?, The Face Behind The Mask, The Naked Prey, Phantom Of The Paradise, Devil’s Nightmare, Scream Blacula Scream, The Mummy’s Hand, El Barón Del Terror (Braniac), The Curse Of The Living Corpse, Ben, The Incredible Melting Man, Tentacles, And Now The Screaming Starts, Damien Omen II, The Naked Jungle, House Of Horrors, The Four Skulls Of Jonathan Drake, The Man From Nowhere, Tombs Of The Blind Dead, Fährmann Maria (Ferryboat Maria) and The Return Of The Vampire…

Now That Is A Bucket List Of Movies To Watch, Eh?

Once again, Steve Kirkham’s Tree Frog Communications provides you with a plethora of eye popping visuals to guide you on your visual journey through this oft forgotten landscape of filmic delights…

Out now and again a must have tome for any discerning horror movie buff, ‘Unsung Horrors’ will prove indispensable as an informing and entertaining read and reference publication…

To order “Unsung Horrors” direct from the publisher please use the ordering link in the links section...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

...My Days In Horror Comics... ...A Skywald Horror-Mood Special Feature...

With all the fly-by-night publishers in the history of comic books, it’s sometimes hard to imagine the individuals behind them, and what they do and think. Skywald was one such publisher. It paid poorly, published a few famous old talents on their way down and a few young talents on their way up. As small publishers go, it went. But for a few people, these companies represented a serious investment of time and effort, and I present a rare glimpse into the career of one such…

It was about 20 years ago. Skywald was born when Israel Waldman and Sol Brodsky formed a small publishing company to produce color comics and black-and-white magazines for the American and International markets. The colored titles included The Heap, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a number of westerns. Crime Machine and Hell-Rider were two early black and white comics magazines. But the Horror-Mood titles – Nightmare, Psycho, and Scream – became the mainstays of the company through 1975, when the doors of the archaic vault finally creaked shut forever. Today, many of the stories and magazines remain in syndication throughout the world in several launguages. When Skywald’s doors opened in 1970, the newsstands bore Warren’s titles and no others. By 1975, those same newsstands were glutted with 23 competitive magazines. Working with a strangulation budget from the very beginning (and that is fair to say), Skywald’s writers and artists produced some of the best artwork and stories published in comics in the early ‘70s (and a re-examination of much of this work makes that fair to say, too). Skywald was never grand in it its design or scope, but it might be recalled as the little company that tried – and very hard, despite fierce competition from the publishing giants, who thwarted newsstand distribution and regularly pillaged Skywald’s bullpen staff. The following is reconstructed from notes and correspondence made at that time, though no real diary was ever kept. The recollections are those of “Archaic Al,” while the editorial notes are mine. This journal reflects the mood of Skywald during my years as writer-through-editorial director for the Skywald Publishing Corporation. In writing this piece, each memory brought another, and for the most part every memory brought a fond smile. These were the best and worst of times, and Skywald’s story was born out of these times. – Alan Hewetson (August 1988)

September 29, 1970
Received this letter today: “Dear Mr. Hewetson – Sol Brodsky, who is now working with me on a new horror magazine venture, suggested I write to you since he has knowledge of your ability in the horror field. I would appreciate hearing from you and perhaps we can acquire the benefits of your talents. Sincerely, Herschel Waldman.”

September 30, 1970
Drove 500 miles to show up at the new Skywald offices in response to letter received yesterday from publisher of Nightmare and Psycho. Pretty horrid looking, with awful titles. They certainly appear to have lots of potential. Sol says he’s hired some great young people to bring the company to life. They are also coming out with a line of colored comics and Gary Friedrich is doing something called Hell-Rider, another black-and-white. Nice seeing Sol, Bill Everett from Marvel days, and meeting Herschel Waldman. Pleasant, no-nonsense fellow about my age, tall, and aristocratic-looking, well-groomed, well-educated, the son of an experienced comics publisher who is behind the venture. Boris Vallejo, Ken Kelly, Jeff Jones are doing covers. On Herschel’s office wall above his desk hangs a framed painting of a bookshelf, bearing books and fruit. This has the unnerving effect of looking like there is a bookshelf above his desk when in fact there is no bookshelf. Herschel advises me with a straight face they are going to publish important stories about important ecological concerns, like “The Pollution Monsters” in Nightmare #1. I kept from laughing out loud by imagining a horrible story about a heap of pollution with a human personality. Herschel buys “Vault Of A Vampire,” my first Skywald story. He and Sol have asked for more stories, so I will hang around town another couple of days and work some up.

October 3, 1970
Wrote a couple of interesting stories and came into the office to type them up. The noise and atmosphere reminded me of what I’d always figured the early EC offices were like, but which I’m told weren’t. It did remind me of the Marvel offices, at least in 1969 – many people crowded into various small spaces, one a production area where artists listened to loud radios and yelled over them, and laughed and joked constantly. Here at Skywald, the office suite consists of four rooms. One is a big, executive office, occupied by Israel Waaldman. Another is Herschel’s office, where he generally sits with the door wide open to all visitors. Another is Sol’s, where he’s generally on the phone with an artist or writer or in conference or involved in physical production over an art desk. Another is the production/editorial office, a small room with two art deks, a couple of typewriters, and various supplies. Always full of people – too many people for such a small room. There are several other rooms and offices in the suite, all to do with Waldman Publishing (publishers of school workbooks, coloring and children’s books, and pocket books). In the production office where I typed up my stories, I was joined during the day by Chuck McNaughton, Serg Moren, Bob Kanigher, Tom Sutton, Gary Friedrich, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Syd Shores, Dick Ayers, Jean Izzo, and Bill Everett. Industrious lot, cheery. Many familiar faces from Marvel. This might turn out to be a nice place to work.

March 11, 1971 (9 a.m.)
For a gag, I got a phony newspaper headline printed up reading NIGHTMARE WINS TOP MAG OF YEAR AWARD and pinned it up on Sol’s bulletin board early in the morning. When Sol walked in, it took five seconds for him to spot it and another ten to stare at it uncomprehendingly trying to grasp its meaning. Then he jumped right off the floor in surprise! He gasped and walked over to the newspaper and read the page for what seemed like an eternity before he realized it was only a gag.

March 11, 1971 (9:05 a.m.)
Was assigned the scripting chores (the correct word) for a heap-like character called The Heap, which apparently is some sort of heap of atomic pollution with a human personality!

August 21, 1971
Was lying at home in bed watching TV at nine o’clock at night when I received a long distance phone call from Sol in New York to advise me of (Jeff) Rovin’s unceremonius departure. Sol offered me the job of assistant editor. I said, “Yes, sir. Make it associate editor and we’ve got a deal.” We’ve got a deal.

September 15, 1971
Going over Skywald’s fan mail in the office, I discovered several interesting facts: 1) there isn’t much; 2) many of the fans seem to really confuse our magazines with those of Marvel and Warren and demand we put the Silver Surfer into a horror story or team up Cousin Eerie and Uncle Creepy in an adventure together; 3) everybody likes characters. Horror characters are easily the most popular stories. And everybody seems to like this Heap thing, especially our color comic (written by Bob Kanigher with art byTom Sutton and Jack Abel), and everybody wants to see more of him! Few fan letters mention any writer by name. Few fan letters fail to mention artists by name. This is surely an artist’s medium! What else is new.

March 15, 1972 
Warren’s stories are beginning to confuse me. I bought his magazines today and methodically, over a long lunch, attempted to read the stories. I simply do not understand them anymore. Does anybody else? Is it only me? Sol has asssigned me to write all the photo features. I have come up with interesting themes to present old classics. I’d rather review contemporary movies. Got approval to do a nice review with bits of EC art for Tales From The Crypt, an Amicus English production using old Gaines and Feldstein stories. Not much of a movie!

March 26, 1972
Because of my productivity, I have been asked to use pen names. This will deflate my inflated ego! Came up with Howie Anderson, Jay Wood, Jacob Harvey. Dear Diary, I want it noted for posterity that this is Sol’s idea and not mine. I don’t think this is going to fool too many people and if there are too many stories in the magazine by me I’d rather take no credit line at all than make up names. Then again, will anybody notice? Will anybody care? We get very little fan mail.

Sol Brodsky

April 15, 1972
Sol quit today. Sol Brodsky was a nice guy. At Marvel he’d been production editor while I’d been editorial assistant to Stan Lee, actually a gopher or intern. I didn’t have all that much to do with Sol at Marvel in a continuous, direct way, although he’d send me on errands and tell me what letters pages needed doing and what schedules to work up for writers and artists and so on. But at Skywald (his name and Waldman’s made up the corporate name “Skywald” when the company was founded), our communication has been constant. He was a guy who never wasted any time. Always busy, always industrious, and always pleasant and emotionally uncluttered. His background has always been in comics (he was founding editor of Cracked in 1958). Editorially, the picture in his mind of how he wanted the magazines to be was well-focused. He was always open to ideas, and always prepared for changes – as with various contents page designs I pushed through. Loved full page poster art and movie imagery and photo features and non-story pieces he figured balanced out the product for both readability and graphics. A clear idea of stories too: simply told and logical (I agree), lots of splash art and bold graphics (I agree!). Although I think it would be fair to say we think differently as men, we certainly got along well and I don’t recall any arguments or angry words (even when I dropped an entire jar of rubber cement all over his new carpet, smeared an elaborate pencil layout he’d spent an hour laboring over, bought an entire package of horror movie photographs we’d already published!); we were evenly tempered. On Friday, Sol asked me if I wanted to stay over the weekend because on Monday he’d have some important news.Today is Monday and the news is important all right! He’s going to return to Marvel to develop their overseas syndication – should be pretty lucrative – and he’s recommended me to take over the editorship of Skywald. Gave me some good advice about business and relations with the Waldman’s, which I’ll keep under my hat and put to good use. (Some time later, the Archaic One received a note from his fomer boss, which included the line, “It’s been five months since I left Skywald to return to Magazine Management and I’m proud to say my judgement in recommending you to take over the task of editing the magazines has proved to be 100 percent correct.”) I will always have nice memories of this man.

April 21, 1972
An artist by the name of Maelo Cintron showed up today looking for work. Seems creative, inventive in his artwork. Might possibly be suitable for new characters The Human Gargoyles. He’s doing Zoo For The Beasts Of The Universe as a sampler.

May 25, 1972
Wow! This guy Cintron is extraordinary! His work on the double-pager as a sampler was so first rate that I have assigned him to my pet project, The Human Gargoyles. He’s a native born New Yorker living in the Bronx with his wife, should be O.K. for constant one-on-one communication as we develop the characters.

May 28, 1972
Found some black-and-white stats of very old Waldman comics, circa early 1950’s, in the artwork vaults. Asked Herschel if we had printed copies around and he said he didn’t recall ever seeing them. Ever? I said: “Didn’t your father ever bring comics home for you to read?” And he replied: “Oh, no, never. I never read comics as a kid. I don’t remember ever wanting to read a comic. I don’t think I was ever aware of what my father did for a living until I was 15 or 16. He was in business, I knew he was a publisher, but he never brought his wwork home or discussed it.” Amazed, I asked him to recount for me the history of Waldman comics, since I didn’t know myself, and he replied vaguely he’d never been inclined to ask his father and didn’t really know. I asked Israel himself and he said, very simply, that he had published color comics for a while but had stopped “around the time of the Wertham trouble,” but not because of Wertham directly – because the distributor was having trouble getting comics on newsstands. I looked at the black and white stats of the original artwork again and lost interest.

July something, 1972
Went to the comics convention last night and ran into Woody (Wallace Wood, whom the Archaic One had known for some years and had worked for – in Woody’s Valley Stream studio with Syd Shores and Nick Cuti, scripting Wood’s highly successful Sally Forth for the U.S. Army newspaper Overseas Weekly). He was excited and happy, having just signed a separation agreement with his wife, and he felt free. We went out boozing together and got pissed and complained about life in general and comics in particular and decided a) to open a bar on Long Island, then b) to open an art supply store and school. I would manage the store and Woody would teach little old ladies how to letter in Old English and draw little people in tiny airplanes and itty-bitty, strange-looking monsters with profound personalities. He’s going to borrow $50,000 from Bill Gaines so we can open the doors. Inasmuch as this is the fourth time we have had this same conversation in as many years, we are probably kidding, though we never admit it to each other. Real nice night. (And the last. Never saw Woody again.)

August 11, 1972
Had lunch with Maelo today and discussed for over two hours the probable texture and color of the Gargoyle’s flesh. We decided it was very light, like polished marble, and felt like hard rubber. Or possibly soft rubber.

November 16, 1972
A young guy from Canada who regularly sends me scripts, three or four at a shot every two weeks or so, sent me a nice little four-pager today: “Monster, Monster On The Wall.” Bought it and assigned it to Pablo. Might make a nice one shot story.

November 20, 1972
Another all-nighter in the office putting the package together, this one Nightmare #11. Pablo and I did all the mechanical production in a marathon editorial session. Personally, I thrive on this sort of creative work-tank and am almost inclined to set them up because they are so rewarding, but Pablo was exhausted from the start since he’d been working all day and by the time 7 a.m. rolled around he couldn’t keep his eyes open and fell asleep on top of the art desk, smudging the wet ink on the artwork, the contents page splash he’d spent hours working to complete. This idea of of the cover matching the contents page artwork is great, I think, although I have to admit the dialogue of the character is not right. It’s too infantile and if it’s annoying me I imagine it must be annoying everybody else. Also, the character isn’t right, the so-called reader. Just doesn’t work. Maybe a match up of the character on the cover to him/her/it introducing the stories on the contents page.

December 1, 1972
It’s official. Science Fiction Odyssey is cancelled.  (Science Fiction Odyssey, featuring artwork by Rich Buckler, Bruce Jones, Jeff Jones, Jack Katz, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, and stories by Gardner Fox, Terry Carr, Harry Harrison, Larry Niven, Charles McNaughton, and Don Thompson, was packaged by editor Sol Brodsky, but a market survey convinced the publisher to discontinue the project before publication. In those days it was commonly believed that a) comics and science fiction didn’t mix well and, b) science fiction didn’t sell in magazines.) Will use the excellent Jeff Jones cover as cover for Psycho #12 and will schedule use of all the stories in various issues of Nightmare and Psycho. Seems to me that if we are going to plan any new magazines at this stage of the game I’d rather do a humor magazine and call it The Great American Joke. Not like MAD and not like The National Lampoon, but satire and parody in a mature vein; comic-style humor not unlike the early Kurtzman-gang MAD, stuff that would genuinely appeal to resonably intelligent adults (as opposed to the sophomoric, vulgar National Lampoon). Herschel says yes, I can do it, right after we get another couple of horror magazines out there. Came up with Scream and Tomb Of Horror. I’d like Scream to develop into a theme-issue vehicle, each issue planned out from cover to cover six months in advance, with each contributor being aware of what everybody else is doing. (That notion did not work, though on paper it seemed like a great concept!) I would also like Scream to be our showcase magazine, introducing new writers and artists not only to Skywald but possibly to comics. Tomb Of Horror should be classical horror, very traditional stories, atmospheric artwork, creative twists on familiar themes. A collective exercise of imagination. (Scream was published successfully for 11 issues while Tomb Of Horror made its debut as a one-issue takeover of Nightmare (#22). Needless to note, The Great American Joke was never published).

January 1, 1973
New editorial pages concept seems to have worked, upon reflection. Will permanently scrap traditional letters-and-answers-style in favor of continuous column which will include editorial writer/artist notes, Skywald plugs, future news, and actual letters and answers, brief and to the point. Basic reason for this is: I’ll be damned if I will a) make up letters like every other publisher because we didn’t get enough literate letters to print, b) print letters from the same people all the time. In this way I can also make the two pages seem like something worth reading with news and views and upcoming stuff and reader feedback. Worth a try. Mail picking up anyway. Gargoyles are liked. Also continuing Lovecraft’s shoggoths seems to be popular. Contemporary movie reviews are working. On the right track now, I think. The only problem I foresee is the continuing popularity of that awful Heap character, which seems to be taking on a personality of its own!

February 14, 1973
Bunch Of Questions in the editorial/letters pages requesting reader input, are starting to come in. A very healthy response! Did a random sampling of the first 30 received. Two readers were 11 years old, four were 13, six were 14, four were 15, two were 16, one was 18, one was 21, two were 22, three were 23, one was 24, three were 30, one was 35, and one was 49. Twenty-seven were replies from males and three from females. Some of the comments: “Trolls have been ignored in most of the black and white horror books. Why not have a beastly troll wreck and heap havoc on a modern-day Danish village? Follow up with an investigation by some American (possibly a police worker), and reveal the horrid existence of the troll menace. Have several stories like this” … ”I would like to see more sex, dismemberment, devouring, degradation, inhumanity, torture, sex, immorality, the future, dimensional transitions, emasculation, sexuality, non-conformity, cannibalism, possessed people” … “More semi-dressed broads starting out with clothes like Eerie #38, page 26, good art easy to look at, lust, monsters devouring people” … ”Make the covers lifelike” … ”Add at least two more stories” … ”Hire Berni Wrightson, hire Mike Kaluta, fire all your present writers” …”My favorite writer is Hewetson because he’s just not another blood and guts writer” … ”Have a contest where you give away free art” … ”Publish the cover of Psycho #9 as a poster” … ”More horror and super-heroes and more Silver Surfer and Conan, and why not make Psycho the first X-rated horror magazine using these characters? Let Sol Brodsky out of the dungeon and put Archaic Al into one (a dungeon)!!” … “Please don’t have advertising like the others because we don’t want to have to pay for junk advertising, only stories and art” … “Don’t waste space for cover art. Just start the first story on the cover and continue it on the inside cover and then keep going. Eliminate all advertising and pin-up pages and letters type pages. Stories only!” … “The town I live in is very small and the people here actually believe it is evil to read stories like yours and they only let one magazine go onto the newsstands and I buy it.”
    Many of the letters are quite literate, many funny, and some unpublishable, like “My husband wants to see more broads with heels” … “My title for a story? ‘A Day In The Life Of Archaic Al.’ “ Whew! Couldn’t get much scarier than that!
    Question: What is the best story ever published and why? Answers: “ ‘Night Of The Mutant Eaters’ is the best that I have yet to see. I enjoyed seeing such a well-done story that blended science fiction with the horror mood. I admire Fujitake’s art over nearly any other horror-mood contributor. His style is a beautiful blend of art styles ranging from the mysterious Ditko to the crisp Kirby. Revive Hell-Rider into a supernatural setting as a one-shot feature in one of the regular horror moodbooks” … “How about a story about a guy or gal who is really dead, does not come back to life, and nothing actually happens at all except he rots in his coffin?”

March 2, 1973
A note from Herschel gives me an idea: “Al – In ‘Archaic Breeding Ground,’ your publisher’s note at the end of the story gave me an idea. I suggest that we/the mag have some kind of contact with the reader. You, Al Hewetson, can account for your experiences within the story. Let’s discuss this further next time you are in town. You can tell about trips you and artists have taken to fight shoggoths (of course all made up) (or maybe not). Think about it. Signed, Homicidal.

March 16, 1973
‘Monster, Monster’ creation of Canadian Gus Funnell is getting a lot of fan mail for a four page one-shot character. Better figure out how to bring Vincent Crayne back to life and make him a regular character, and welcome Augustine Funnell to the bullpen.

March 30, 1973
Warren called me up at home last night and asked me to edit the Warren line. A job offer. Eerie, Creepy, and all that. I said no. Today, Herschel asked me how much he had offered. I said I hadn’t bothered to ask

April 6, 1973
Chull Sanho Kim is an excellent artist, as I suspected from the first moment he walked into the office. Great attention to detail and anatomical accuracy. (Kim was a well-known newspaper strip artist in South Korea before emigrating to the U.S. and continuing his work with Warren Publications and Skywald.) Unfortunately, at this point he appears unable to draw caucasian eyes. Everybody looks oriental! Will have to come up with characters or a story series in which absolutely nobody is caucasian! (I did, called ‘The Fiend Of Changsha,’ one of Skywald’s more successful later characters set in turn of the century China.)

April 15, 1973
Created the Mood-Team Rap today. Though only a few people will ever get to see this “periodical,” it’s going to be a total pleasure producing and publishing this journal. This is only for the Skywald contributors who constitute the bullpen, those writers and artists who I deal with on a very personal level like Gus and Maelo and Ed and some others, and a few who will join the bullpen to become regulars over the years; to provide news and inside business bulletins, and with humor to provide a network for communications. In short, a Skywald Bullpen magazine. (Three Raps were published in all. The first was 7 pages, the second 24 pages, and number three 52 pages.) This is intended to be unique, personal, and humorous: “Welcome to Jaundiced Jane Lynch, newest member of the Mood Team, who lives in Chicago and who was once an editor for some medical magazines with McGraw-Hill, and who is a commercial writer (under a pseudonym) for various other magazines. Until recently, she published Little Ladies, a journal put out by and for the wives and sweethearts of top underground cartoonists (not being a top underground cartoonist, it is not clear why my own wife Julie was a contributor). She is married to top underground cartoonist Jay Lynch, the prolific creator of Bijou Funnies and Nard N’ Pat. Jane is interested in wimmen’s liberation, and the Chicago telephone directory lists private telephones under each of their names, though inside their home the two telephones are actually right beside each other. Despite this, Jane is attractive and intelligent. Her first story, ‘The Lunatic Class Of ’64,’ is bought and scheduled for Psycho.” Some Rap is intended to be informative: “Visited Gene Day in Gananoque the other day. This small Ontario town shares the distinction of having two Mood Team members live there. The other, of course, is Awkward Augustine. However, the two men have never met, and, as Gruesome Gene puts it, ‘From what I know of him, I don’t have any intentions of ever meeting him either!’ Gene is working up some poster-like montages and pin-ups based on famous creatures for the inside covers of the various magazines.” The Rap also includes interviews and bits of information about Skywald and the Mood Team members published in other magazines, including all fanzine reports.

June 10,1973
Went to see Moench in Chicago (the Archaic Editor personally visited all contributors east of the Mississippi since an in-house bullpen was impracticable and he insisted on one-on-one relationships with the Skywald staff whenever possible) and visited a couple of days. Drove Doug to work at the Chicago Sun-Times near midnight and made an illegal right turn and was pulled over by a fat motorcycle cop who demanded to see my license. It had expired two days before (the license bureau had not yet mailed me my new one – an honest oversight)! I politely explained this to the officer who was about to forget the whole matter when Moench starts to yell at him, demanding to know ‘what his expletive deleted problem was.’ The cop got mad and he and Moench became very aggressive and I was about to be arrested and jailed. I took the cop outside the car and away from Doug and calmed him down. He let me go with the specific instruction to ‘get out of town before dawn.’ As I was driving off, Moench asked me if I bribed him. All Chicago cops were apparently sworn enemies of all Chicago Sun-Times employees ever since the paper had reported extensively about the corruption of the Chicago Police Force. Anyway, I flaunted the law by staying in Dodge another couple of days.

July 2, 1973
Enjoyed another visit with Ed Fedory in Coxackie, New York.Went hunting for gargoyle eggs to give away on the editorial/letters pages “Great Gargoyle Egg Contest.”  After talking to Fedory 16 hours non-stop, went out to nearby waterhole, bleary-eyed but remarkably sober after a bottle and a half of Jack Daniels, to seek out large, round pebbles. We found 11. This is completely inconsistent with the story in which Mina gives normal human birth to Andy. I certainly hope nobody mentions this because I don’t have an answer!
    Emotionally-disturbed Ed doesn’t want a character! He wants to continue individual stories and one-shot plots. Fine by me, but how unusual for a comic book writer not to want a continuing character.Ed’s a nice guy to hang around with – one of the few people in this business who don’t need to talk bout comics all the time.

July 25, 1973
Asked Christopher Lee if he’d like to play Edward Sartyros, the Human Gargoyle, in a movie. This was intended to be a lightweight, humorous, offhanded question for my interview with him scheduled for Nightmare #17 but he took the question seriously. He said: “No. I don’t think this is a person. This is more of a ‘thing.’ The limit is bound to be reached in special effects and various things that are needed in the construction of this kind of character and it reaches a point where it becomes totally unbelieveable. My whole career in this area has been devoted to making the unbelieveable believeable. Take Superman for example: effective in a script, but negligable as a screen character.”

August 19, 1973
I want a stable bullpen! House artists, writers, living in or around New York and commuting for conferences and one-on-one story and character development. This # $ % & @ foreign artwork invasion is making it more impossible each passing day! There is nothing I can do about it! Now we have even fewer American artists than before! We’ve now made an official deal with a European art agency, Selecciones Illustradas of Barcelona, Spain (the same studio which provides Warren with 90 percent of his art) to produce art for most of our stories. This really cuts me deep! I personally don’t believe most American/Canadian readers will like or buy such an excess of obviously foreign art and I also don’t think there is any way it can or should be disguised. Plus our staff artists in New York, Pablo Marcos, Ricardo Villamonte, and Maelo Cintron all have foreign sounding names – this company is going to look like its magazines are packaged overseas and drop-shipped to the States, which is antithetical to every precept of American magazine packaging! The deal is remarkable and most of the artists are great. Some of them are certainly not! But the deal: we get automatic syndication throughout all of Europe and much of South America in a wide variety of different foreign launguage magazines. Every story! Can’t argue with that. In many ways this really underwrites us. Certainly provides great exposure with every story automatically published in five launguages in countries around the world! Will have to work to keep a tight reign on the quality of the art, though! (Indeed, from that date much of the art was very,very good. And a lot of it was perfectly dreadful and should never have been published and made the Archaic Editor cringe. Under normal publishing practices the art would never have been accepted but the syndication procedure was not normal publishing practice! There was thereafter a constant turnover of artists for this very reason, while many of the better artists, receiving exposure in the Skywald magazines, were offered a better price for their work and went elsewhere, including to Warren. Unfortunately, it was overseas syndication which both aided Skywald financially and yet brought an end to many of the more interesting experiments which Skywald frequently offered up – like the double-page stories reading over two pages from side to side like widescreen comics. Foreign syndicators of Skywald demanded this be stopped when they couldn’t line up their own periodicals. The syndication continues today, and likely will for years. The wife of the Archaic Editor visited Australia in 1984 and discovered a current date on an edition of Nightmare #11 on an Australian newsstand. The original cover date on the American edition was February 1973.)

October 1, 1973
Fred Wertham autographed my copy of Seduction Of The Innocent today with this inscription: For Alan Hewetson, who put this book to much good practical use. With good wishes, Fredric Wertham. He returned it through the mail with a nice letter and a question: “I want to check that you are the Alan Hewetson who in Graphic Story Magazine #13, p. 15, used my book so well to prop up the leg of his desk and to put out his cigars.” A double meaning, therefore, on the inscription. The other is obvious. Think I’ll send him a copy of Scream #1 with the story “The Comics Macabre” (in which a Wertham-like character and a Leonard Darvin-like character visited the Skywald offices to battle the Archaic Menace who was corrupting young minds with all those horrible, wretched stories.) I’d send one to Darvin at the Code but it’d only aggravate him. The last time I sent him anything was when I just started at Marvel and wrote to him asking for a copy of the official Comics Code. I was, after all, curious, and there didn’t appear to be a copy around the Marvel offices. He replied he was astonished that Marvel didn’t have a copy of the thing, considering they had to send him every story for approval. I told Stan about it and he just laughed.

November 10, 1973
Fredric Wertham sent me a note saying he didn’t understand my story “The Comics Macabre,” so I wrote back suggesting we get together and he wrote back and I wrote back and he wrote back and we got together a chilly November afternoon at his farmhouse in Pennsylvania. To prepare for the meeting, I reread my now-inscribed edition of Seduction Of The Innocent and a lot of stuff written about Wertham and I prepared copious notes. As I drove up to the house I realized I’d forgotten my notes somewhere. Wertham was guarded at first, quiet and unsure of me, accompanied by his wife. (This is an old practice by veterans of interviews to make sure they aren’t misquoted, or badgered by insistent questions they don’t want to aswer.) He wore a corduroy jacket, no tie though his shirt was buttoned at the neck, and hush puppies. He is quite old but very strong and continues to work as a consulting psychiatrist at Queen’s Hospital Center in New York City. He continues to write books too, mostly concerning the subject of violence and the media. He works in what appears to be a converted barn/studio, a large room walled by books and paper. There’s a framed Steve Canyon autographed by Milton Caniff on his wall near his desk. I took some photographs with my trusty Nikon and chatted. Gradually he warmed. I got all the awkward dialogue out of the way first. He said he was opposed to censorship of any kind and was angered and hurt by everybody claiming he was a censor throughout the years of controversy. He said all he did was scientifically report the existence of material, which in his experience as a clinical psychiatrist was evidently in the hands of every juvenile criminal and nut case he’d ever examined. He felt certain comics were harmful and that anybody who was in “his position” would come to the same conclusion. He claimed he had never differentiated between the EC comics and any other comics group or title and answered, when specifically questioned, that it was “irrelevant whether they were well-done or not.” Spent another four hours (much longer than planned) in the kitchen of his pleasant home drinking tea and eating chocolates and after a while I got to believe that a) he is not a miserable, narrow-minded, censor type as he has always been caricatured in the comics media, b) he believed that, acting as a scientist, he had delivered an accurate scientific report on an important subject and that he feels he conducted himself in a thoroughly professional way and has no regrets, and c) he personally does not like comic books, or understand them – of that I am totally convinced. A typical scientist, he deals extensively with semantics and chooses his words as carefully as any man I have ever known, suspecting perhaps that one day his words will see print. He does like comic strips. I asked him if he still had any of the old comics from his researches (hoping he’d lead me to giant boxes in his basement filled to capacity with every EC ever published!) but his wife replied it was the happiest day of her life when he finished his work on Seduction Of The Innocent, because that was the day she took all the comics into the yard and heaped them up and burned them. (The meeting between Hewetson and Wertham was dutifully recorded in Hewetson’s notes at the time and the two men continued their communication for some time in lengthy correspondence, on the subject of violence in the media, comics, and a number of other topics. These previously unpublished dialogues will appear in The Horror-Mood blog sometime in the future.)

November 30, 1973
A fellow by the name of Stephen King, evidently a would-be horror writer, did a piece in Writer’s Digest about the horror market. He was very kind to Skywald, noting that we were “the most vital in the field – constantly moving ahead, breaking new ground, using consistently innovative stories – a strong bullpen staff.” What an astute guy! I should drop him a line and offer him work as a scriptwriter. He’s probably a starving young writer if he’s trying to break into the horror market!

December 31, 1973
Fan mail is up. Great. Competition is becoming more fierce. Wish sales were better. We’re buried on the newsstands in the crush of immitators. Many local distributors are refusing to handle us at all because of the pressures brought to bear on them by our largest competitor, who by sheer volume is playing financial politics and is forcing us off the stands. This is hardball. The big boys, the conglomerates don’t want the lion’s share of the market, they want it all.

January 16, 1974
Received a note from Superman creator Joe Shuster, looking for work as a scriptwriter. Denied work for years by the company he made famous and wealthy, he advises me he is a postal worker in California and in need of work as a writer. (After a public outcry years later, Shuster and Siegal were awarded a financial settlement by the new owners of Superman comics.)
  Received a letter from Carl Wessler, an ex-EC writer, wanting to work for Skywald.
  Bill Gaines dropped me a note to confirm that in the latter days of the company when he and Feldstein thought they were personally drying up and repeating themselves they hired a few new writers to bring in new – choke – blood, so to speak. I’ve deliberately avoided copying EC because they were unparalleled and original. Especially the bullpen. The Skywald nicknames were inspired by Ghastly Graham’s nickname, Stan Lee’s Mighty Marvel-type alliteration, and my own recollections that as a fan I’d always wanted to know more about artists and writers of my favorite comics, and wanted one-on-one relationships with them. I wanted pictures and anecdotes and behind the scenes things. I remember paying great attention to who wrote and drew each story, and thinking how that stuff was as interesting as the stories. (Given the times, the early ‘70s, the only publishers who had notably, conciously worked to develop writer/artist personalities, were the original EC horror comics, Marvel during the late ’60s and Warren to a degree, along with Skywald.) I recall very clearly how I thought a comic book should look. I remember being really angry at publishers who were always pushing junk and trying to sell you crappy merchandise. I remember as a kid liking how EC would try – they obviously tried! They packaged good art and good stories and never tried to rip you off! But the others did. That was only one of the differences obvious to me even as a kid. At Skywald, I will always try to make the stories readable and purely enjoyable, reader oriented (unlike Warren these days which, is becoming totally unreadable). I also used to like the  way EC would poke fun at itself, pre-McLuhan, like the way they’d promote the fan club with self-depracating suggestions about its lack of value. They never really had poster pages either, which I hate. The imagery and moodiness, the atmosphere of decay was consistent from cover to cover too. And they never appeared to compromise with the story they wanted to tell. If they wanted to show an eyeball hanging out, well, they did, without the restrictions of the # @ ! $ % Comics Code! Innovative art and artists too, like Krigstein and Kurtzman. I have tried stories with no dialogue at all, played some games with layouts, other ideas. Some good and some bad. Which leads me to note there was a reasonable amount of mail this month. It’s getting better all the time.

March 2, 1974
Tomb Of Horror debut is pretty well lined up for debut in Nightmare #33 with the hosts. Figured out a way to incorporate good host idea. About time, after that disastrous kid host on the contents pages a while back. New idea is for writers, artists, and occasionally story characters, to introduce the stories. If this is well received, I might try it with all stories in all magazines. (It was well received, along with Tomb Of Horror, which was planned as Skywald’s fourth horror title.)

March 14, 1974
Got together with Harvey Kurtzman (at the less-than-archaic age of 12, the future Skywald editor met Kurtzman for the first time and was in turn introduced to Jack Davis and Willy Elder. He thereafter looked upon Harvey as his mentor.) and long-time pal Jay Lynch at a speaking engagement at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Rapped after. In a coffee shop at 2 a.m. eating breakfast, he asked: ‘What kind of fan mail do you get?” Misunderstanding the question, I replied that it was poor. We got plenty of supportive mail from “average readers” but very little from “fandom proper.” I mentioned that comics fanatics did not appear to like us, for a variety of possible reasons, not the least of which was my deliberately, obviously ignoring them. He told me I was making a serious error in judgment, that it was the fans who had “made” EC. I argued that EC did not cater to the fans. He said, oh, yes, they certainly did! The fan club and reader/editorial correspondence was very real and honest and paid attention to, and, further, helped to promote the comics, and everybody on staff knew it. I said I wouldn’t care to cater to the modern day fanatic who was really a collector with a vested interest in collecting runs of certain titles, more than somebody who liked to read comics and collect his favorites. He told me to recognize the importance of fans to sales and to pay attention to what the fans wrote in their letters because it was the lifeblood of every magazine company. I replied that this totally contradicted what I’d learned on staff at Marvel in 1969. That it was the titles that didn’t sell that got the bags of serious fanatic mail, and that it was the titles that did sell well that got the childish letters, and that to my personal knowledge few editors paid attention to fanatics other than to use their letters on the letters pages because they were generally more literate than the bulk of mail and so looked better in print. The reason for all this being, serious fans were in the extreme minority and it did not “pay” to listen to them. Harvey said he had never made a distinction between a reader who wrote a fan letter and the serious fan I talked about, and asked me to explain. I told him the depressing tale that Jay Lynch had recounted to me of being in a comics store in Chicago and overhearing two fanatics express excitement at a just-published title with a Mike Kaluta cover. They had raved about the quality of the artwork, each picked up two copies and gone to the counter where they were informed the artwork was not in fact by Kaluta but by another artist. The fans lost interest immediately and returned the comics to the shelf. The beautiful artwork was suddenly valueless and that, I declared to Harvey, was symptomatic of a fanatic, not ever to be confused with a fan. Again, he asked me what mail Skywald received, and I said: “Just mail from readers who like us.” And he said: “That was the kind of fan we had at EC and MAD. Just readers who liked us.”

October 2, 1974
This is getting to be a real joy on several fronts. Introducing new people to the field, publishing talent for the first time. We’ve actually published more than 139 writers, artists, and production people including Jones, Palmer, Reese, Shores, McNaughton, Fedory, Kaluta, Wolfman, Sutton, and Everett, who put together the early issues. And I’ve introduced in these pages Jesus Suso Rego, Cesar Lopez, Ferran Sostres, Pablo Marcos, Jose Gual, Ricardo Villamonte, Chull Sanho Kim, Segrelles, Ken Kelly, Miralles, and the never-before-professionally-published young talents Maelo Cintron, Augustine Funnell, Gene Day, Jane Lynch, Joan Cintron, Dave Sim, Duffy Vohland. Yes, therein lies the hope that this company will be remembered.

‘Macabre’ Maelo Cintron
The Human Gargoyles
    ‘Master Artist-Illustrator-Co-Creator’

December 6, 1974
I have now adapted every possible story written by Edgar Allan Poe for the Skywald magazines. I have tried to be respectful and literally adapt the narratives as best as possible. Visited Poe’s Richmond and his gravesite in Baltimore for a biography, and Lovecraft’s beloved Providence and his gravesite for a biography. It is most interesting to see these features translated and published in the Spanish, Italian, French and German launguages. I wonder what Poe would think of these comics if he were alive today. Wonder what Lovecraft would think about my continuing the C’thulu mythos?
  Wish I’d met Serling, the great genre writer of my time. There really aren’t  any great horror writers around today. There isn’t really a horror market today. People aren’t reading the Skywald magazines because they are horror magazines; they are reading them because they are comics.

January 11, 1975
Certainly wish Berni Wrightson could be a Skywald artist. He certainly has the moody, atmospheric style for it. We obviously don’t have the budget around here to even think about it. I once asked Kaluta if he’d work for us and he said not until our rates went way, way up. Kirby said the same thing. Several others, too, said no over the years because of our tiny budget. Now, the newsstands are so glutted by Marvel’s assault, nobody will survive. They’ll ruin the market for years. Rovin’s short-lived empire is reportedly already crumbling (see The Comics Journal #114 for Jeff Rovin’s account of the rise and fall of Atlas Comics). Warren is wholly supported by his foreign sales and syndication. Don’t think there’s much hope…

March 25, 1975
Today is the day. I sent everybody this letter:
     To all Horror Mood contributors
Today the Skywald Publishing Corporation announces the cancellation of  Nightmare, Psycho, and Scream magazines. This is due to the exorbitant production increases, rising printing and distribution costs, and a glutted magazine market. I hope Skywald has been as rewarding for you as it has been for me. In its five-year existence, Skywald has introduced a healthy number of new, unpublished writers and artists into the medium. We have experimented and often been successful, with new storytelling techniques and innovations. We have published more than 67 magazines, more than 50 under my editorship, and in every one of those issues there is a little bit of love and a little bit of pride. The Horror-Mood Team is disbanded, but we will all remember fondly a time of editorial freedom, and consequently literary and artistic accomplishment. It has been a pleasure working with you. The publishers and I wish you the very best luck and good fortune in all your endeavors. We hope you will be successful. We hope to see your name up in lights. That’s all folks.
          - (Archaic) Alan Hewetson
                        Editorial Director


...Thus concludes your horrible “choke” hosts representation of the Archaic Ones memoirs as they originally appeared in The Comics Journal #127, March 1989. Seek out a copy. You “shudder” won’t regret it...