Wednesday, April 19, 2023


From the perspective of the 2020s, it might seem as if the 1970s were another Golden Age of comic books. Certainly, there were a lot of great comic books produced during the decade of my childhood, but it's also the case that the '70s were a period of immense economic decline for comics publishers. Part of the reason that this period might appear, in retrospect, more robust than it actually was is that both DC and Marvel were desperately throwing ideas against the wall in hope that some of them might stick. While some of these attempts were financially successful – Marvel's Conan and Star Wars lines come immediately to mind – most were not.

That's why I'm rarely surprised when I discover the existence of a comic from the 1970s of which I've never heard. Consider, for example, Arrgh!, which ran for five issues between December 1974 and September 1975. Each issue of Arrgh! presented humorous horror stories, often parodies of well-known movies or TV shows. In the case of the penultimate issue of the series, the subject of the parody was none other than my beloved Kolchak: The Night Stalker, here dubbed Karl Coalshaft, "the Night Gawker."

As I said, I had no idea this comic existed until recently, so I never read it. Fortunately, there's an excellent blog devoted to "a historical look at various incarnations of classic TV and movie science fiction/fantasy," Secret Sanctum of Captain Video, that has reproduced the entirety of the Kolchak parody here. The comic's not great literature by any definition, but it made me chuckle a couple of times. Take a look yourself!


  1. I've heard of Arrgh! (and Spoof, the one that page links to for a Blacula parody) but never actually seen an issue before. Do not regret missing either.

    Interesting how much acceptable standards have changed. The suicide hanging from a noose in the background of the first page splash would not pass without comment in 2023, although the CCA apparently thought it was fine in 1975. Also can't help but notice the mandate that officers of the law should never be presented as incompetent or the subject of mockery seems to have faded along with the "no monsters" taboo that was removed in the 70s. Those Chicago cops kill a whole lot of innocent civilians there.

    Lot of stuff going on in those street scenes. I thought every single character was white but there appears to be a solitary exception who's about as easy to spot as Waldo. Very representative of mid-70's Chicago, you bet. The "Adenoids of Billy Jack" marquee is a jab at the sequel film that had come out the year before and gotten savaged by the critics. Mona Lisa is obvious but how many people spotted the vulture, the pink bra, the tic-tac-toe game, and the (presumably two year old) re-election sign in the garbage?

    Twist with the editor would actually have worked nicely in the real series. It would explain a lot if Kolchak was actually being monitored to keep him from blowing anyone's (or anything's) cover.

  2. Never had any interest in comics as a kid in the 70s. Saw them on the spin rack at the drug store and wondered why people would buy them, seemed like something from the 1950s. I'm afraid that's what 1e AD&D looks like to young people nowadays, something from twenty years ago!

  3. I had this comic as a kid and loved it! Great to see it again. I was a huge fan of show, which I only managed to see a few times when several episodes were collected and run as a "movie" on my Saturday Creature Feature.

  4. That era was very fecund, as the big two attempted to pivot from superheroes to something else. Some of those something-elses really were "something else."

    It'd be interesting to see you post more about stuff from that era. The short-lived "Stalker" series with art by Steve Ditko & Wally Wood is a particular favorite of mine, if only for the premise.

    1. I actually did a post about Stalker a while ago:

  5. I've been a little frustrated at the fetishization in recent years of the 70's as "comic book golden age", because it's far less influential and impactful than recent writers about the period would have you believe. the biggest reason that era (particularly for Marvel) is coming up so often is the people who read them as kids are now in a position to make movies about them, write about them, etc. A lot of them were pretty terrible.

    1. That's right! Everyone knows the golden age of comics is when I was a kid!

      All joking aside, I think another interesting aspect of 1970s comicbooks was that they were often created by fans who grew up on comicbooks. Sort of like rpgs, after its first wave.

      I was struck that Captain Video wrote, "The art's much looser than the usual hyper-accurate caricatures we've come to expect from Marvel spoofs (like "Blechhula"..."

      But both Blechhula and Nightgawker are inspired by 1950's Mad. Marie Severin is lovingly evoking Will Elder, and Jerry Grandenetti is inspired by Harvey Kurtzman, to great effect!

      Thanks for sharing this lost gem!