I thought from now to Halloween I'd do brief reviews of horror comics at random. Please feel free to join me.
I'll avoid giving away big twists and endings. This being horror that means I won't always be able to say what the stories' key ideas are.
An index to this thread can be found here.
This Magazine is Haunted #1 (Fawcett, 1951)
I chose this issue because I've never read an issue of This Magazine is Haunted. The title was created by Sheldon Moldoff. He talked about it in his Alter Ego interview. The stories are hosted by a corpse-like figure called Dr Death. The GCD ascribes the cover to Moldoff.
"The Curse of Carnoc Castle"
The Duke of Allister was buried two hundred years ago. He left a goblet in a grotto below an inscription saying that drinking from it confers immortality, and ordering his grave to be disinterred in two hundred years. A beautiful woman travels to be present at the disinterment. The coffin is opened and the Duke returns to life...
I didn't know how this story was going to end, as it twists in unexpected ways. However, I didn't find it chilling. The GCD ascribes the art to George Evans. It's competent but unexciting.
"Stand-in for Death"
A criminal robs his honest former business partner as an act of revenge. He leaves the man and his wife tied up, although he knows the former has just had a heart attack. Having taking his victim's coat he finds a ticket in his pocket for the 89th Street ferry, and uses it to make his escape. Only...
The story comes to a mildly surreal climax. It's like a 50s DC story and has a good premise. It's a better-told story than the first one. The GCD ascribes the art to Bernard Baily.
"The Coffin Maker!"
A young woman marries a rich, elderly undertaker. He has a reputation for being always the first person at death scenes. He tells her to never go down into the basement, where he prepares the bodies for burial. But she thinks she hears him talking with someone, and sneaks into the basement to see...
This is a story of the supernatural like the others, but the menace at the climax is the undertaker, who hunts his wife with a knife. (This is shown in the splash panel.) Stylistically the three stories aren't all that different, but this one has the best art. The GCD attributes it to Sheldon Moldoff. The stiff cartooniness of his "Moon Girl" and "Batman" stories is quite absent.
The text story is "Dr MacCready's Little Men" by Al Schutzer. It has a wacky premise and a sting ending. A reporter is assigned to report on the new therapy being used at a local asylum. Dr MacCready explains his therapy consists of giving his patients an injection that shrinks them to miniature size...
The stories aren't all that scary. The latter two have extended climaxes, but they're not very intense for an adult reader. The second story has more to offer than the others imaginatively.
The first story has the goriest imagery, but it's not too gory. The images of the husband hunting his wife to kill her are the issue's most disturbing content.
This post displaced the thread So, What Are You Reading These Days? (besides comics) from the homepage.
Chamber of Darkness#3 (Art by John Buscema based on his story in this issue, inks by possibly by John Verpoorten, letters by Sam Rosen) (February 1970)
"The Warlock Tree!" (Story by Gerry Conway, at by Barry Smith, inks by Syd Shores, letters by Sam Rosen) (7 pages)
Seven hundred years ago, Moorg the warlock was killed by a knight. As he died, he swore the knight's family would be cursed and so would anyone that wrote their name on the tree where he was killed, the knight's sword passing through him and pinning him to the tree. The story is being told by a girl to her fiancée, who think's it's all silly nonsense. To prove it, he starts to carve their names on the tree. She stops him from carving his name but he's already finished carving her name. As they leave he thinks he hears a scream. That night, he wakes from a nightmare of hands reaching for him. He looks out his window to see the girl walking towards the tree, paying no attention to him calling to her to stop. He races out to stop her but a branch grabs him. The wizard's voice tells the girl to pull the sword, left in the tree all those centuries, loose, freeing his spirit. Just before she touches the sword, lightning hits it, destroying the tree. The girl comes to her senses and they leave, certain the warlock is dead now forever. Neither notices the tiny bud growing up from the remains of the tree. This story has no host.
"The Tell Tale Heart" (Story by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Denny O'Neil, art by Tom Palmer, letters by Artie Simek) (7 pages)
This takes a lot of liberties with the original story. Instead of just working for the old man, main character is his nephew, asking for money to leave England and go back home to America. He's told he's squandered his inheritance and if he wants any money he'll have to work for it. The old man's eye, blind with a film over it in the original, is a glass eye here. In the original he decides to kill the old man so he won't have to look at the eye anymore, while here he just plans to scare him by shining his lantern on the old man's eye and waiting for him to wake up. The old man is terrified when he wakes and his nephew hears it beating louder and louder, until he snaps and kills him to stop the beating. As in the original story, the police arrive, and he welcomes them, placing his chair over the boards where he's buried the old man. As they talk he hears the old man's heart beating and finally admits his crime. As the cops walk away they note it's funny how he confessed, since they didn't suspect anything, and didn't hear any heartbeat. This story is told by Gravely.
"Something Lurks on Shadow Mountain!" (Story Roy Thomas, pencils by John Buscema, inks by John Verpoorten, letters by Sam Rosen) (7 pages)
A depressed man goes hiking in the mountains, trying unsuccessfully to forget the girl he loves who died recently. He suddenly realizes he's walking up Shadow Mountain. He didn't intend to go there, there are too many old wives tales about it. A voice tells him they should be left to old wives. He sees a beautiful woman in a weird dress, who he realizes looks exactly like his girlfriend. She knows his name somehow, but not who he's talking about. She asks him however if, for the sake of the girl he's just mentioned, will he do her a favor? Will he open a large box nearby? He puts down his back and the frying pans he's been carrying. Seeing them she reacts in horror. He tries to show her they're just harmless pans for cooking, but she screams for him to take them away and again asks him to open the box. He notices it looks like a coffin and asks her why she can't open it since it's so light. Then to his horror he sees a hideous monster climb out of the box. It ignores him and starts to walk towards the nearby village. It brushes against a vine, which immediately dies. The woman says every living thing it touches will die the same way. She says she and the creature have waited many centuries for it to be released, but the elder gods (whoever they are) forbid her, Pandora, from opening it so she had to wait for someone else. He decides he has to try to stop it somehow, but she laughs and says if he touches it he'll die too, there's nothing he can do. But he remembers how terrified she was of his frying pans. He holds one up to her, showing her reflection. She's a hideous, centuries old hag. She screams and begs him to take it away, she can't stand to see herself like that. He agrees only if she makes the thing come back and get back in her box. She summons it back, and the lid closes when it climbs in. He's surprised she kept her word, but she says she doesn't lie, she has no need to. She tells him to leave, saying her meaning will soon become clear to him. As he returns to town he thinks it's not likely anyone else will go up there and open her box, since all of the stories about it keep people away. But in town he sees a lot of construction equipment. He asks about it and a construction worker tells him they're putting up a model community. Already knowing the answer, he asks where they're building it, and is told on Shadow Mountain. The story is told by Digger.
In the letters page, Chaff from the Chamber!, someone says get rid of Gravely, he makes the series seem like a comic book. Another letter says Chamber of Darkness scared him about as much as Boris Karloff does. Another mistakenly typed Chamber of Darkness 21, which sadly does not exist since the series will be gone after #8.
Thanks for reviewing these issues, Ron. I've never seen most of these stories.
"Doctor Horror", Capt. Battle Comics #2 (Lev Gleason, 1941)
Three witches mean to create a monster of evil and destruction. They summon the world's evil spirits to watch, and mix a brew in a cauldron while chanting. At a witch's command the figure of Dr Horror emerges from the fumes. He is a naked giant with fangs and wild hair.
Dr Horror sets forth to cause destruction. He spreads catastrophic havoc all over the world with his supernatural power. But nature itself turns its power to destroying him: "The elements commence to gather in their fury!/ From hidden caves, the winds marshal their strength!"...
This story was written and drawn by Don Rico. It has energy, sensation and spectacle but is crudely written and drawn. At times the art isn't up to depicting what the narration describes.
The witches seem to be the three witches from Macbeth. They chant "Double...double! Toil and trouble! Fire burn and cauldron bubble!!" when creating Dr Horror.
Dr Horror's rampage is like the one from the "Mister Lucifer" story in Spook Comics (p.2), but much more apocalyptic. I think both rampages metaphorically represent the war. In this story when the evil spirits congregate the lead witch congratulates them on the trouble currently sweeping the Earth: "Men kill... cities burn!" The conclusion refers to the perishing of "all enemies of mankind...all things of evil...all masters of destruction".
The issue is primarily taken up by a five-chapter Captain Battle story. For an account of this character seem my review of "Capt. Battle": "The Mummy Master!", Silver Streak Comics #15 (p.11).
The story has the overall title "Captain Battle and the Modern Thief of Bagdad!" A giant diamond called the Konoor (named after the Koh-i-Noor) has been put on display in a museum in America. Thieves murder the guards to steal it. Their leader is Ali Hassan, who signs himself "the Modern Thief of Bagdad", Captain Battle and Hale see the robbery in progress on the curvoscope and intervene, but the thieves escape with the jewel. The heroes befriend its guardian, a woman named Olyra, and pursue Ali Hassan all over the world to recover it.
The remaining part of the opening chapter takes them to Chinatown. The second one takes them to the Sargasso Sea, where they fight a glorious sea serpent. Next they have adventures in the African jungle and in an underground world with subterranean monsters. Then they are captured by Ali Hassan in Tibet and temporarily miniaturised. The climax takes place in Bagdad, which in this story is represented as under the rule of Ali Hassan's patron, "Emperor Pasha Golu". ("Pasha" is a rank, not a name.) At the conclusion they learn Olyra's real identity and mission.
The story is bylined "by Jack and Otto Binder". The plotting approach - a villain launches a scheme, the heroes have sub-adventures in which they face setbacks and get placed in deathtraps before finally defeating it - reminds me of stories Otto Binder wrote for The Marvel Family. But I guess the JSA stories from All-Star Comics were also plotted like this.
The remaining comics story in the issue is “Harland Holland Master Detective”. This is a mystery story with a challenge to the reader ahead of the conclusion. (I got the verbal clue but not the visual one.) This is the only instalment listed at the GCD. It says it was also done by Don Rico.
The text story is a Captain Battle story by “Red” Nibo, which happens to be “O. Binder” backwards. Captain Battle and Hale foil an attempted kidnapping.
Tense Suspense #1 (Fago, 1958)
This is a Code issue, so all the stories are of the strange story type. According to the GCD the stories were all pencilled and inked by Dick Ayers. (Also the stories in the second issue, the only other one.) The cover is the splash panel of "The Curse of Smallness!"
The issue reads well. The premises and twists are like those in early Silver Age Marvel stories. "Man Walking!" and "Those Eyes are Evil!" have strong premises they don't make the most of.
"The Curse of Smallness!"
A man spends his life searching for a jungle lost city. He runs out of money, so he tries to get backing from a museum, but it turns him down. So he resorts to stealing a gold idol and selling it. The buyer tells him the idol has an inscription that says the body of whoever steals it "shall shrink until it matches the smallness of his wretched soul!"...
The twist ending of this one is particularly Marvel-ish. I think he would've gotten a pardon.
"Lord Rampion's Rages"
This story is set back in time, in the Victorian or Edwardian periods. Lord Rampion was given to violent rages, until someone beat him up. Who - and why? The conclusion of the story reveals the answer.
This story is only two pages, and a sweet tale.
"A Cry for Help"
A psychiatrist interviews a patient who used to be a top biochemist. For the umpteenth time he tells his story: he invented a shrinking formula in order to enslave the world...
This story is partly a variation on Fitz James O'Brien's "The Diamond Lens". The long dialogue explanation at the end, and its content, are very Marvel-like.
A man is released from prison. The parole board believes he's reformed, but as he leaves a glazed look comes over his eyes. Because that morning his cell-mate hypnotised him, and ordered him to commit a murder...
I like this plot idea, but I wonder if it's plausible the cell-mate was able to entrance him. He was about to be released; I expect he was distracted!
"He Must Be Stopped!"
A chrononaut is sent into the past to prevent the creation of a destructive invention. Will he succeed?...
The time travel project in this story reminds me of the one in Seven Days. The twist revelation is dotty.
"Those Eyes are Evil!"
Tom's hears a sound, and turns to see his fiancée lunging for his throat...
The middle part of the story fills in the background. Tom always loved Alice. She fell ill just before their wedding, and went to Haiti for a rest. In Haiti she attended Voodoo rites and was introduced to a high sorceress. Which doesn't sound all that restful, but maybe she has relatives there.
The issue has three one-pagers, on the inside covers and back cover. In "Night Fear!" a driver has picked up a hitchhiker. As the radio begins describing an escaped maniac, the passenger turns it off... In "Conscience!" a man drawn like Peter Lorre plots to poison his brother. He poisoned himself non-fatally on previous occasion to create an alibi. In "Blind Spot!" a man being questioned by the police sweats over whether a witness he shot will be able to identify him.
In the text story a captured monarch turns the tables on his bandit captors with the help of a sagacious parrot and another of their victims.
Tower of Shadows#4 (Cover pencils by Marie Severin, inks by Herb Trimpe, letters by Sam Rosen) (March 1970)
"Evil Is a Baaaaaad Scene!!" (Script by Allyn Brodsky, pencils and inks by Don Heck, letters by Sam Rosen) (7 pages)
Digger and Gravely are gone at this point, which I've always felt was an error. This story is told by Don Heck, who says he's telling the story instead of Allyn Brodsky because he lost the toss.
In East Greenwich Village, Gary tells sweet Sue sure he's glad she's come to see him, but Brother Alistar will be there any minute. Sue complains he gives her bad vibrations and complains he's into black magic. Gary says black, green, it's all relative isn't it? They see Alistar, wearing a monk's robe, approaching. He enters and tells them that finally his plans will succeed because the planets are in the right alignment and Gary's pad is in the exact right spot. Sue pokes fun of him. Gary says he might not be all together, but sure does his thing in style. Alistar complains people have mocked him for years but tonight will come Alistar's revenge. Gary tells him to get on with it and cast a spell already. Alistar says he needs to make a pentagram first. Gary says don't they use those in Dark Shadows? (This is interesting since in #2 a show meant to be Dark Shadows was mentioned while here the real show is mentioned. While the stories had different writers both were drawn by Don Heck, so perhaps he watched the show.) Alistar warns if the ritual isn't performed perfectly, or if something breaks the pentagram, they will face grave peril. Sue doesn't want to go through with it but Gary gave his word. Alistar casts his spell and a demon appears. The demon demands to be released but Alistar refuses until he gives him the ultimate power for revenge. But suddenly Sue's cat, who's been hissing at the demon since it appeared, breaks the pentagram. The demon, free, grabs Alistar, who fades away. He suddenly finds himself in Hell being greeted by horned figure with a tail that doesn't look too different from Mephisto. Alistar cries the stars said he'd win his revenge. The demon says he's won a place there, revenge is so popular. The demon then grabs Gary and Sue, telling them that he's going to give them the punishment they most fear. They can feel their minds changing and the years flying by. Suddenly Gary is in a business suit, getting off a train carrying a briefcase. Sue, struggling to keep their son from running wild, angrily complains that he's late from the office the third time this week, and he never buys her any new clothes. Heck, taking out the trash, says he'd like to meet that demon and ask if he's got a spell to go the other way and make him younger.
"One Little Indian!" (Script by Marv Wolfman, pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Dan Adkins, letters by Sam Rosen) (7 pages)
The storyteller is a blond guy smoking a pipe. I'm not familiar enough with Wolfman or Colan to know which it is. Wolfman had a beard when the story was retold in Giant-Size Chillers#3 in August 1975 but that's five and half years away.
A heartless businessman is ruining an old friend of his who financed him when he was broke. He asks why he's trying to destroy his business and is told he's not trying, he is destroying his business, but it's nothing personal, so please no hysterics! A Gypsy passes by in the club they're in and offers to read their futures. Mike Royal tells her he already knows his future. She starts to read it anyway, telling him correctly that he was born on the cusp of Scorpio. She says he's mean and would hurt her best friend for a buck. He asks what else she can see in his palm and she says death. Soon. He will die in the presence of an Indian. He mocks her and she works off, furious. He decides to leave, telling his old buddy he's ruining that he can always get a job from him so he won't starve. As he walks down the street, mocking the Gypsy, he sees a cigar store Indian statue. He jumps, but thinks it doesn't mean anything. Suddenly a huge granite block falls from the top of the building and almost hits him. He goes to his office, trying to convince himself it's a coincidence, and calls his secretary. She comes in and asks him how he likes her new Indian dress. He backs away in terror and she has to stop him from falling out his window. He leaves the office and is hurrying home, planning to get out of town, when he comes across kids playing cowboys and Indians. He leaps out of the way as a car races past, almost hitting him. He decides he has to go back and try to get that Gypsy to remove the curse. But the elevator stops a few floors from the top where she works, and a man wearing a turban asks him to hold an urn for him while he gets his luggage. He can't resist asking what's in the urn. The man says ashes, the ashes of his late father, who was ambassador from India. Mike has just enough time to realize someone from India would be an Indian when the elevator cable snaps and he falls to his death.
"To Sneak...Perchance to Scream!" (Plot and art by Tom Sutton, script by Denny O'Neil, letters by Jean Izzo) (7 pages)
Tom Sutton tells us he's going to tell the sequel to #1's "Mr. Craven Buys His Dream House". On a stormy night, a car approaches the house, containing a big stupid guy and a little crazy looking guy. They are spies, using the old house to hide their equipment. When the little guy goes upstairs to explore the house causes the floor to collapse. The big guy catches his boss, only to be slapped for dropping his genuine plastic suitcase. "Smek! Smek!" The big guy says he feels someone is watching them but his leader says it's nonsense. The big guy asks "is perhaps house itself?" and is told "such talk is unbecoming to a master spy." They hook up their equipment and see a nearby plutonium plant on their view-screen. Their booster ray will cause the plant to explode like an atomic bomb. The big guy asks "will not explosion explode us?" His leader says a colleague is coming in a rescue plane, and some risks must be taken for the billions they will be paid for their mission. The plane arrives and they hurry to it, the big guy dragging his boss along the ground. They get in the plane and take off. The house angrily calls up a big wind. Sensing their dread as they're tossed about makes it angrier. It calls upon lightning. A bolt hits the plane and destroys it. Lightning also destroys the house. The clouds clear, showing the government building, a sign of a time that has no place for haunted houses. The spies act pretty goofy.
In the letters page, Tomes From the Tower!, someone says it's a pity Jim Steranko is leaving Marvel. Stan says where did you get that idea from? He's working on another horror story and a romance story of his will be appearing soon. Of course the horror story doesn't happen. Another letter asks why Johnny Craig's story looks like John Romita. Stan says Romita felt some of the faces needed to be changed and he lived a lot closer than Craig so it was easier for him to redraw them than send them to Craig. He says Craig is working on another horror story. This will turn up in Chamber of Darkness#5.
Forgot to mention in The Warlock Tree that the knight that killed Moorg's entire family was killed soon after he ran Moorg through. It would have been interesting if one of the two people had been his descendent and therefore cursed to free him and/or die, but they chose to go with the whoever has their name carved on the tree being drawn to him instead.
Chamber of Darkness#4 (Cover art by Marie Severin, inks by Bill Everett, letters by Sam Rosen) (April 1970) (This is based on Jack Kirby's story, so it's odd he doesn't draw the cover. However we're only months away from him leaving Marvel, and he didn't draw the covers for either his last Thor or his last Fantastic Four either.)
"The Monster" (Story and art by Jack Kirby, inks by John Verpoorten, letters by Artie Simek) (7 pages)
On a mountain we see two witches, the Sisters of Destiny we're told, stirring their cauldron, which is supposed to represent the hatred of men. They laugh as they summon an image of a hideously disfigured man with one eye, who will be their pawn in the game they play. People in a small village react in horror as a very rich but extremely ugly man comes into town. He's lived in the castle on the hill for years and this is only the second time he's come into town, but they quickly start gossiping that he's in league with the devil and causing their crops to fail. A woman asks if he might harm her children and a man says there are many tales about him. He chases them off for talking about him, then goes into a store and asks if his music box is ready. The owner says it is, and his wife says it plays a very strange melody. The ugly man says it's not for the likes of common people to hear its music. He gets in his wagon and rides out of town with the villagers yelling for him not to come back. They keep calling him Monster. As he hurries away from them, they become even angrier, deciding he tried to have his horse run them over. They decide to go to the castle and get deal with the Monster for good. In the castle, he walks up to a beautiful woman and plays the music box, asking her if she likes it. There's no answer but he seems to hear her ask him to read one of her favorite sonnets. He picks up a book and starts reading romantic poetry to her. But the villagers outside can't hear what he's reading and decide he's reading a book of black magic. Noticing the girl, they think he's putting a spell on her and start to break the door down to save her. He grabs a gun to defend her, but they break in and shoot him. As he dies he gasps "Maria...Maria..." They turn to check on the girl and find that she's a life sized doll. Too late they realize he made himself someone so he wouldn't be alone, and they were the ones that were the monsters. Up on the hill, the evil sisters are gone, the fire under their cauldron has gone out. Untill they play their next game. There's no host unless you count the sisters.
I've read this story elsewhere, but Kirby does it better.
"The Man Who Owned the World" (Script Denny O'Neil, plot, pencils and inks Tom Sutton, letters Jean Izzo) (7 pages)
Tom Sutton is the host. An extremely rich old man discovers a scientist is on the verge of being able to freeze people and revive them in the future. He offers him one hundred million dollars to complete it and freeze him for one hundred years. The scientist says he's much more concerned with the oxygen running out and finding a way to save the human race when that happens and only came up with the freezing gas solution by accident. However, he needs the money to continue his research, so he agrees. He builds a cryonics chamber, and the old man sells all of his holdings, figuring he'll be so rich after a hundred years of interest he'll rule the world. (He of course has no idea interest will drop to zero, and a hundred dollars will make a few cents in a year by our time.) Since he's so rich, selling everything causes the stock market to crash. Millions panic, but he doesn't care. The freezing chamber is ready, and he gets inside and dreams of the power he'll have. When he wakes up he realizes it's difficult to breath. He comes out into a dead world. The oxygen did give out, and, it turns out, the scientist used his money to build a faster than light drive that successfully carried everyone in the world to another planet. The old man now rules the Earth--for all the good it will do him.
"The Sword and the Sorcerers!" (Story by Roy Thomas, art by Barry Smith, letters by Jean Izzo) (7 pages)
A warrior is fighting a dragon monster. He defeats it but discovers it was summoned by his old enemy, Trull the sorcerer. He starts to attack Trull. Just then a man in the normal world awakes, crying he's just come up with the plot for his next story, but it will be his last. Despite his editor's and fans' complaints, he's going to kill off Starr because writing his stories is giving him ulcers. But suddenly Starr appears and attacks him, calling him murderer. The writer says he can't kill him, he's not real. Yet he does kill him. Suddenly Starr wakes up and is told he's only been asleep a few minutes. He says he dreamed of a strange world of glass and metal.
Starr looks exactly like Smith's Conan, complete with the same helmet and necklace, although both are green here.
“Satanas”, instalments from Red Band Comics #1 (Rural Home, 1944) and Zoom Comics (Carlton, 1945)
This was a villain strip. Satanas was a Plutonian with a single, centrally-placed eye. He had green skin, pointed ears and fangs, and wore red robes and a wide-brimmed hat.
These were the only instalments, but Red Band Comics #1 was reprinted as #2, cover and all, and its contents also appeared in Great Comics #1.(1) The Red Band Comics #1/#2 cover featured Satanas and Bogey Man, the star of the lead feature. Inside Satanas's feature was placed last, so the cover implies this was a case where the last slot was considered the second-most important.
The two characters also appeared on the cover of Red Band Comics #3, but not inside. That issue was reprinted, cover and all, as Red Band Comics #4.
Red Band Comics had the quirk that many of its pages had colour bands below or above and below the art. In #1/#2 these are red, but in #3/#4 they're yellow. The Zoom Comics story has these, so it's likely the story was originally intended for Red Circle Comics #2, the cover of which appeared on #3/#4.(2)
I don't know what the arrangements were, but there were creator overlaps between the Rural Home titles and titles published by Bernard Baily, and the GCD attributes the art of a couple of Red Band Comics stories to Baily. Baily had recurringly used a supervillain called the Gorrah in "Tex Thompson" in Action Comics, who was a cyclopean version of Fu Manchu. So it seems likely to me he was the character's creator, and Satanas was conceived as a variation on the Gorrah. Baily also used the cyclopean villain idea on the cover of Stanley Morse's Weird Mysteries #9.
The article here quotes Baily as having told Ron Goulart that DC ran a contest that asked readers to send in the names of their favourite characters, and the Gorrah polled so closely to Superman DC made him stop using him. DC apparently took a decision to keep its line very kid-friendly in the early 1940s, so my guess is DC's concern was the Gorrah was too horrific.
The GCD attributes the art of the first "Satanas" instalment to Sam Cooper, and the second to Baily. The second instalment does look a bit different to the first, but not all that different. I don't recognise Baily's hand in the second instalment, but his art changed over time and it may be I'm just not familiar with this phase of his work.
"Satanas The Most Evil Man in the Universe!", untitled story, Red Band Comics #1
The story opens with Satanas's exile from Pluto a thousand years ago. The Plutonians were not a high-minded race, but Satanas was too evil even for them. So they exiled him to space in a rocket ship with no controls. (This reminds me of Eldrad's exile in the Doctor Who story "The Hand of Fear".) When the rocket finally failed he took control of the ship using an atomic motor and tried to return to Pluto. But he couldn't find it, and came upon Earth instead.
That brings the story to the present day. Having mastered Earth's languages Satanas crashes a radio show and announces his intention of robbing Fort Knox. The story becomes a contest between the authorities and Satanas's super-technology.
"Satanas", untitled story, Zoom Comics
Satanas builds a violin-like device he can use to produce destructive vibrations. He tests it out by destroying a building. Then he uses a super-radio to interrupt all radio programmes and announces he's going to destroy "your newest bridge". The story again becomes a contest between Satanas and the authorities.
Both stories have comic touches. In the first Satanas interrupts a crooner singing "Mairzie Doats". The words come out "lambsie divy... Awk! Ulp! Gling!" and there's a shot of a bobby soxer who thinks these are new words. In the second one there's a panel where a jitterbugging couple doesn't realise their building is being shaken apart.
In the first story the shot of Satanas drawing his cape around him p.2 panel 4 looks like a copy of a Batman image. He doesn't consistently wear a cape, but he does at times in both stories.
The splash panel of the second one closely imitates parts of the two-page splash of "Horror Plays the Scales" from Captain America Comics #7.
Satanas doesn't do anything too evil in the first instalment, but in the second he commits mass murder. The story doesn't say his destruction of the building caused massive casualties, but it must have. He commits a further act of mass murder later that the art depicts discreetly.
(1) The GCD lists this one-shot as published by Jubilee Comics. The cover was by L. B. Cole, but the GCD says it appeared "on several different comics in this time period".
(2) The Zoom Comics one-shot also has a "Captain Milksop" instalment with a red band, and a "Bogeyman" (spelt thus) text story, as Red Circle Comics #1/#2 do.
"Bogey Man" was a plagiaristic imitation of "The Spirit". A second instalment, using the spelling "Bogeyman", appeared in Carlton's Merry Comics (which had a "Captain Milksop" cover, but no story with the character). In the first story he's differentiated from the Spirit by a moustache and his demeanour is grimmer, but in the second he doesn't have one and grins like the Spirit does.
I think the style of the "Bogeyman" text story in Red Band Comics #1 is an imitation of Damon Runyon.
I read Sabrina #5 today. What hit me was that at the end, the next issue was supposed to be about Salem (the cat). I read that issue this summer. Is it possible that I've been sitting on #5 since way before that? It wouldn't be surprising.
I also read The October Faction #1 by Steve Niles, and it was pretty good, about a supergroup of ghouls and monsters. It was entertaining, but I probably won't read the next issue.
Weird Mysteries #9 (Stanley Morse, 1954)
The cover shows a cyclopean monster looming over a lady scientist. It was drawn by Bernard Baily, and isn't related to one of the stories.
The inset images on the left are redrawn details from the two stories featured. The lower one is a detail from its story's symbolic splash panel. The "Epitaph!" one depicts a moment from the story which reminds me of the cover of the same publisher's Weird Tales of the Future #3.
Three of the stories - the ones other than Petrizza's - have images of a witch host character by or below their titles, but the story's introductions aren't written in a distinctive voice.
A man relates a terrible experience he had, which he knows to have been a dream.
The story takes its narrator through a series of worsening tortures. The art is dark in a moody way and slightly stiff. The handling of the climax underplays the horrors being depicted.
The artist signs himself/herself "Petrizza". The GCD doesn't list Petrizza as having done anything other than this story and "Out of Focus" from later in the issue.
A hungry couple go out to eat. It's a popular place and they're kept waiting for a table. After an hour the husband bribes the maître d'hôtel and they get a table. But then they have to wait and wait for a waiter...
This is a jokey, sick story with cartoony art, really a parody of EC. It was drawn by Gerald Altman.
"Out of Focus"
Scientists developing a system of teleportation risk their own lives to check if the system is safe.
Petrizza's art gives this story an appropriate sober mood. The artist's style isn't like Al Williamson's, but his/her work here put me in mind of how he might've approached the story.
A newlywed man loses his wife when she falls from a cliff. After the funeral he can't bear to return to their cottage, and instead goes to the graveyard to spend the night by her grave. In the dark he can't find her gravestone, and he trips and hits his head on another. When he wakes...
I originally wrote this story was based around "a gem of an original idea". However, the GCD points out it's based on Guy de Maupassant's story "La Morte", which was translated as "Was It a Dream?" The GCD calls it "Inspired" by Maupassant's story, but that's too weak: it's an unacknowledged adaptation.
The art is signed by Sal Trapani, and Iger Shop-ish.
"Destiny's Double Deal!"
A writer named Henry Greene brings three chapters of a novel to his publisher. The publisher says he likes it, but he just received three identical chapters from a mysterious Mr Verde...
This belongs to the class of horror story about inexplicable happenings. One wonders if it was inspired by an experience of bringing an idea to an editor and being told someone else had just suggested something similar. The GCD doesn't have guesses as to the creators. "Verde" is Spanish for "green".
In the text story a man hires a hit-man to murder his wife. This has a different twist leading into the climax to the one I expected.
Tower of Shadows#5 (Cover by Marie Severin, inked by Bill Everett, letters by Sam Rosen (May 1970)
"The Demon that Devoured Hollywood!" (Story by Roy Thomas, art by Barry Smith, inks by Dan Adkins, letters by Sam Rosen) (6 pages) (This is the first time these two titles didn't have three stories of 7 pages each.)
Jason Roland has become famous starring in horror movies. His monsters look so realistic people wonder what the secret of his makeup is. The truth is, while he's always claimed that he applies his own makeup, he's really made up by a strange man that has never taken any pay, just says eventually he'll collect what he wants from him. He finally asks him what he wants and the guy says his soul. He throws him out. Since without him he can't be realistic looking monsters, he announces he's giving up horror films for more serious work. Someone asks is it true that he doesn't do his own makeup, and he furiously insists he does. He goes to his dressing room, thinking he'll remove half of his makeup, then fake an explanation of how it works, since he's never going to be a monster again. But nothing he uses will take off the monster "makeup." He realizes it was never makeup, the weird guy really did turn him into all of the monsters he played. People start knocking on his door, wondering if he's okay. The only sounds he can make are monster noises. By now the artists are all telling the stories. I miss Digger and Gravely.
Many years later Jason Roland turned up in West Coast Avengers, saying that he'd finally been changed back to human form, and he needed souls to save himself from the weird guy, who I believe was Mephisto in that story.
"Flight into Fear!" (Story and art by Wally Wood, letters by Sam Rosen (7 pages)
Johnny has become a recluse after the injury that makes him walk with crutches. Walking along his campus one day he sees a large stone gargoyle. He used to climb on them when he was a kid, and decides to do it again. He falls asleep and wakes up when he feels movement. The gargoyle has come to life and is flying off with him! Far below, he sees a skeletal figure gesturing at a walled city. Lightning fills the air, striking the city. One hits the gargoyle, shattering it. He falls to the ground. He awakens to find a little old man that says he's a doctor and has used his healing skills to fix his injuries. To Johnny's shock, that includes the injury that crippled him. He's now able to walk normally. He meets the townspeople, who are all little more than four feet tall or so. He's told that he was brought there to fulfil a prophecy that a giant would come and free them from the evil sorcerer Xzar, the skeletal figure he saw. He's given a magic sword that he's told will protect him from sorcery, and the beautiful Princess Yrill will guide him. He asks her why she's risking her life leading him. She says she doesn't want to, but Xzar killed her father and stole a powerful magic item called The Eye of Eternity, and someone has to try to stop him. Xzar appears and shoots lightning at them, but the sword protects them. Xzar disappears and as they continue they see eyes come up out of the ground, connected to monstrous beings Johnny has to fight. Then Johnny feels pain and is turned into a reptilian monster. The princess' face stretches and her teeth become huge and crooked. She runs off screaming she'd rather die than look like that. Suddenly Xzar, now with wings, swoops down and carries her off. Johnny chases after them. A bolt hits a stone bridge and it collapses. Seeing him drop the princess from a great height, Johnny takes a chance that the collapsed bridge is an illusion and runs across it. He manages to catch her, and she holds up the Eye of Eternity, telling him without it Xzar is mortal and can be killed. Johnny throws his sword at the fleeing sorcerer and he shatters into bones. With his death Johnny and Yrill become normal again. They return to the city where they find the king is alive. Xzar hadn't killed him but put him under a spell, which is now broken. The king and princess both ask him to stay and be their hero, but Johnny tells them he's lonesome for his world. The king gets him to stay and celebrate with them, then has a gargoyle take him home. He falls asleep during the long trip, awakening to find it morning. He climbs off the gargoyle, thinking he's had a really weird dream, and doesn't notice he's walking without his crutches. Wood notes that nobody noticed the gargoyle on campus that day was the same one the day before (the horns are different) "But then...who really looks at gargoyles?"
This story will be retold again and again by Wood with slight differences. In most of them the villain is skeletal, the hero is turned into a reptilian man, and the eyes come up out of the ground. This would have made an interesting series. Wally Wood's stories in Tower of Shadows shows he would have done a great Conan. I would guess Barry Smith was willing to work for less than Wood, who of course was a long established artist, working long ago for EC Comics.
"Time Out!" (Story by Gerry Conway, art by Syd Shores, letters by Artie Simek) (7 pages)
A couple who argue constantly about everything are going to her uncle's place to have a séance. They thinks they've both changed, and whatever love they might have once felt for each other has died.They get lost in the storm and come across an old house the wife insists was never there before. She points out her uncle said if they didn't show up that day he'd write them out of the will. There's no furniture in the house, but a mystic circle, similar to the kind of things her uncle dabbles in. They hear laughter, which the man says must be just the wind, but maybe they should leave anyway. Except the door won't open. They go to the windows, but they have bars on them. Again they hear the laughter. They notice he has no reflection in a large mirror, and a suit of armor suddenly drops its arm, nearly killing the woman with its ax. Terrified, they hold each other all night. Finally in the morning the door opens and they leave. But when they get to her uncle's home they learn it's been seven years since then went into that house, her uncle died that very night, they were declared legally dead, and another niece has inherited everything. She remembers that her uncle always used to say he wished he could give them something more important than money, and somehow he has. While they've lost his money, not to mention seven years of their lives, they've found each other and the love they'd lost.
On the letters page they're again told to get rid of Digger and Gravely, and point out they already have. Another letter says they're surprised they printed the names of their competition, and asks if they misspelled Charlton on purpose. The editor (Stan?) says the misspelling was an error and they've never avoided saying the names of other companies, except when a letter was too insulting about one.