Abyss Publications, November 1970
If you like the great EC comics of the past, or the similar publications that came later, you will love Abyss!
Abyss is composed of stories that were originally intended for the short lived Skywald publication, Web of Horror. The contributor’s list is a virtual who’s who of fantasy/horror artists, including Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, Bruce Jones, and Berni Wrightson. Irony and dark humor are the modes of operandi here, and there really isn’t much I can supply that you won’t get from reading the stories and looking at the gorgeous art with your own eyes.
What you will see when you view the whole fanzine, is a story and a full-page illustration by Jeff Jones, two stories by Michael Kaluta, a very EC-like story by Bruce Jones (right down to the typed captions, modular layouts, and twist ending), and a group of nursery rhymes done as only Berni Wrightson can (as well as a dynamic and well designed cover). You will also see a fine and minimalist back cover by Kaluta (lower left), and a cheesecake pin up by Bruce Jones.
Attention was also paid to the visual sequence of the stories. The dense and zip-a-tone filled work of Bruce Jones and Wrightson are sandwiched around the spare and elegant galactic tale by Jeff Jones. Also, the serious tone of the other stories is softened by the grotesque humor in Wrightson’s “Revolting Rhymes.”
Though I am pretty sure all the artists involved would say their work was still in their respective formative stages, all the stories are beautifully illustrated in and exhibit the style each artist became known for.
Kaluta’s meticulous line work is especially evident in “Apprenticeship,” a story that shows the influence of illustrators of the past such as Arthur Rackham and the Robinson brothers. You would also see their (and Kaluta’s) influence on later fantasy artists, such as Charles Vess. See a few pages of this story below.
Jeff Jones’s incredible sense of composition, serene subject matter, and out of the ordinary gestures and body positions (including his command of the female figure) are all on display in his “Union,” seen below.
Bruce Jones’s love of lush forests, impossibly complex Wally Wood inspired machinery, busty women, and the dense vistas that zip-a-tone helped to provide are all on display in “Specimen.” I think he falls a bit short in the payoff panel, with the alien looking a bit less confidently drawn than the other elements. But before that, we are treated to a contrast of the claustrophobic atmosphere in the ship and the flirty beauty of the woman prisoner, seen below.
Finally, Berni Wrightson shows the skills that made him the best horror artist of his time in “Revolting Rhymes.” Also, his deft juxtaposition of horror and humor make what are simple juvenile rhymes take on a whole new meaning. He somehow manages to keep the story light, despite all the gruesome goings-on. You may gag at the shenanigans, but you will marvel (or in his case, DC) at his brushwork, his command of rendering fabric, and his ability to see and depict complex shadow patterns. Even back then, his art was truly something to behold.
Abyss lasted only one issue, but what an issue it was! If you liked this material, search out Web of Horror, and of course the fanzines that all these skilled draftsmen worked on…several that will be coming up soon in a further installment of Ink Stains! Please download the pdf, so you can see Michael Kaluta’s other story, “The Hunter,” as well as the complete stories from which you have only seen excerpts.
Thanks this time go out to Richard Arndt, who has a fanzine collection far better than mine, and who very graciously supplied the scans for this installment. Props to you, Rich! Thanks to him, you will also see Hot Stuf’ number one in the next installment of Ink Stains!
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