A post from my old Marvel blog about the short-lived NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET black and white magazine.
Today’s Bad Comic I Was Associated With wasn’t really all that bad at all–yet the series lasted only two issues.
In the late 1980s, Marvel licensed the rights to do a magazine based on Nightmare on Elm Street, as part of the black and white magazine line which at the time included stuff like SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, SAVAGE TALES, PUNISHER MAGAZINE, THE NAM MAGAZINE and the like. The initial two-part story was written by Steve Gerber, whose off-beat sensibilities worked very well with the property, and drawn by Tony DeZuniga. Future issues were to function in an anthology format, since there wouldn’t be any continuing characters outside of Freddy Krueger, with stories by a variety of creators.
The magazine was in the planning stages long enough that I did the balloon paste-up on NIGHTMARE #2, which was needed immediately for some reason, while I was an intern, but the books didn’t see print until months later, by which time I was the assistant editor in that office.
(Balloon paste-up is a production issue that’s gone away now that we’ve switched over to doing virtually everything with computers. In those days, if a book was running late, rather than having the letterer do the lettering on the actual art boards, to save time you’d send him same-size xerox copies of the art, and he’d letter the story on semi-transparent vellum. This could be done while the artwork was being inked, and so save a few days’ time. But once the pages were lettered and inked, somebody–typically a Bullpen production person, but in this case, me–would have to go through the job, applying opaque white paint to the backs of each balloon, cutting it out from the vellum sheet and rubber cementing it in its proper position on the art board. Now that all of out lettering is done digitally, this step is handled digitally as well.)
As I recall, NIGHTMARE #1 and #2 sold really well, especially through the standard “newsstand” mainstream distribution channels. But the series was killed after two issues when then-Marvel President Terry Stewart got some complaints about the book from parents who felt it glorified a child-murderer, decided they were right, and pulled the plug on the series. It’s too bad in one sense, as I remember there was a really beautiful job by Sam Kieth from a story written by Peter David, a take-off on the then-recent Field of Dreams movie, that never saw print as a consequence.
ADDITION: Tom DeFalco, who was Marvel’s editor in chief during this period, dropped me a note to correct some errors in my original post above:
I noticed a few factual errors about Nightmare On Elm Street. Jim Galton was the president of the company at that time, not Terry Stewart. Jim read the first issue and found it too disturbing to continue. He was a man of conscience and principal and didn’t think Marvel should publish material like Nightmare. Jim’s principal’s were really tested when we learned that Nightmare was one of our better selling b&w magazines. But he valued his responsibility as a publisher over profits and the magazine was canceled.
To my knowledge, we didn’t get a single complaint about the magazine. We might have, but I was unaware of any.
A side note–I was responsible for putting “Illustrated horror for mature readers” on the cover…because the material disturbed me, too. Jim also kicked my butt for that label. He didn’t believe a publisher should ever have to label his material. If he didn’t believe in it, he just shouldn’t publish it. I learned so much about publishing from guys like Jim Galton and Mike Hobson.