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.
By "he sends some braves" I meant the chief sends them, not the vampire.
Ghost Comics #4
In the original version the Germans were the villains
One soldier is definitely wearing a German helmet.
Adventures into Darkness #9 (Standard, 1953)
The other covers from this series seek to evoke a shiver. Half of them use skeleton imagery; #11’s has bones and is grisly in its implications, but you have to figure it out; #7’s has a drooling monster. #6’s, #8’s and #13’s have elements of humour or absurdity. The skeleton covers are very much 70s DC ones.
The present cover is variation on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde images. The GCD doesn’t have a guess as to the artist. The monster’s shocked expression makes it almost goofy, but without it the cover idea wouldn’t come across.
There’s a “We dare you to take these” banner above the logo. The story blurbed on the cover is “Flowers on Deborah’s Grave”, probably because this was thought the most commercial of the story-titles.
Two of the issue’s stories involve the supernatural, and the other two don’t. The stories have shock endings, but they’re not twist endings exactly; they’re coming from the start. The opening story was pencilled by Alex Toth. According to Alter Ego #108 Standard's art director Mike Peppe encouraged artists to imitate Toth's style, and the policy is apparent here.
The GCD lists this publisher as Pines (after publisher Ned Pines).
“The Hands of Don José”
A great Spanish matador is struck by the beauty of a lady spectator, who is being courted by a powerful general she hates. Tragedy follows.
I appreciate Toth’s work to an extent, but I often don’t really enjoy it. I think he takes minimalism too far and has a maddening way of hiding the image by his use of silhouettes and framing.
This is the best Toth story I know. It has a striking splash panel and an eerie climax. Minimalism isn’t taken too far, which might mean Toth hadn’t gone that way yet, or might be due to Peppe, who inked.
The story has a minimalist scripting in portions, which makes me wonder if Toth rewrote the dialogue so it would be the art that conveyed the story. Perhaps not, as “Flowers on Deborah’s Grave” also has silent panels; but it wouldn’t surprise me. The use of this dialogue style at the climax contributes much to its eeriness.
“The Three Monkeys”
An expert on myths finds evidence the idea of the three monkeys derives from an Indian cult, and travels to India to find its shrine. There...
The story's moral is familiar, but the story does something slightly different with it. According to the GCD the artist was Rafael Astarita. The style is quite different to that of his story from Wings Comics #73 / Ghost Stories #4 and I would never have guessed it. It’s good, though: less arty, but detailed, with clear images and storytelling. The final image is visually striking.
“Flowers on Deborah’s Grave”
A crone loves a New Orleans sexton who recurringly visits a grave. Jealousy turns her against him, and she takes revenge.
The GCD attributes the art of this story to Mike Sekowsky and Peppe. One can see it's Sekowsky pencilling but the story's style is a fairly close imitation of Toth’s. The crone's revenge at the climax is a good horror idea (and well-drawn); but I think the final panels fall flat.
“Nothing Can Save Her”
Driving at night in the rain, a man accidentally hits a woman. He takes her to a hospital, which has been locked and bolted. The doctor tells him they have no blood: “All our available supply has been used-- trying to save the lives of villages who fell victim to--the vampire!”
According to the GCD this story was by Bill Woolfolk and Nick Cardy. It’s well-drawn in a non-sensational way. I didn’t recognise the art as Cardy’s, but I can see his style now. There’s a clear Toth influence in the art, but it doesn’t swamp his realistic approach.
Woolfolk wrote some very good stories, but this one is ordinary. There’s a creepy panel near the end.
There are two one-pagers, and a half-page maze. The one-pagers are both ghost stories. I used to assume one-page stories like these were just made up, but the second one is another version of Frederick Marryat’s encounter with the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (see p.2). So is the first one, about a doctor’s eerie experience in Flushing, a “true” story too? It has some specific details: the events happened 60 years previously, to a Dr Eliza Watkins. There’s nothing to indicate one of the stories is original, and the other lore. But Google hasn’t found it for me.
The text story is “Call for Claws” by Lewis Island. An unpleasant old man uses witchcraft to get rid of the neighbourhood boys. But...
Did anyone read Scott Snyder and Jock's Wytches?
I thought this book was worse than scary--it was unsettling.
Eerie Comics #1 (Avon, 1947)
This is another horror one-shot that preceded Adventures into the Unknown. It’s numbered, so I suppose Avon was testing the waters for a series. Avon later published a series called Eerie, but it didn’t start until 1951.
Spook Comics, which I reviewed p.2, isn’t much like the horror boom titles. This issue has three stories - “The Eyes of the Tiger”, “Dead Man’s Tale”, and “The Strange Case of Henpecked Harry” - with plots right out of them.
The GCD credits the cover to Bob Fujitani. Fujitani’s early work has a distorted look. He was one of the wartime Air Fighters Comics artists and drew a number of “Hangman” stories. He later drew in a Dan Barry style, and was the original artist of Doctor Solar and Barry’s assistant on Flash Gordon. The elements on the cover - a man in a cassock with fangs and a knife, a captured woman - are similar to the horror imagery used by the early Simon and Kirby; but their covers had a superhero coming to save the day.
Most of the stories were reprinted by Avon in later issues.
“The Eyes of the Tiger”
A man wants insurance so he can leave the money to his pet tiger.
The bit where things start going wrong for the antihero is a good horror sequence. The GCD attributes the art to Fujitani.
“Dead Man’s Tale”
A bum has a bottle that can make wishes come true.
This is a "The Devil and Daniel Webster" type of story. It’s well-written and very well-drawn in a style like Expressionist cinema. The GCD attributes the art to Jon Small and George Roussos.
“The Man-Eating Lizards!”
A bomber crashes in the Pacific. Three of the crew survive, but their trials have just begun.
This is an adventure/horror story. It was drawn by Joe Kubert and is signed in the splash panel. According to the GCD the writer was Edward Bellin. Kubert’s art at this point was like a musclebound variation on Caniff’s, but already striking.
The story was reprinted in The Art of Joe Kubert (2011).
“Mystery of Murder Manor”
In Louisiana two boys investigate a haunted house.
Two boys have an adventure. The GCD doesn’t have a guess as to the artist. The sheet thing wouldn't work.
“The Strange Case of Henpecked Harry”
A husband with an abusive wife - henpecked doesn’t cover it - decides to murder her.
This is an OK version of a common horror/crime plot. The husband’s decision is influenced by a movie called Battle starring Hector Beggory. This is a play on Conflict starring Humphrey Bogart, from 1945. The art is by Fred Kida. (The splash panel is signed on the lower right.)
The story was reprinted in Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s (2010).
The issue has a two-page bigfoot item called “Goofy Ghost” which has a similar joke to “Gregory the Ghost” from Spook Comics.
The text story is a three-page story called “Proof!” which steals the plot of “The Open Window” by Saki and throws away the joke (so read that before this).
This post displaced the thread "Pick of the Week" - What's Yours? from the homepage.
Interesting it took them so long to get a series going. That first issue must not have sold very well. Horror comics only seem to work when superheroes are having trouble.
Star Comics has gotten a lot of bad publicity for filling their horror comics with old jungle tales, but they weren't the only company doing this.
Black Magic #27 (Prize, 1953)
This series was a production of the Simon and Kirby studio. It’s much wordier than I’m used to seeing from them; three of the stories are partly told in the first person, using long captions. To my surprise the issue left me rather cold.
The second two stories are more uncanny stories than horror ones; they could certainly have appeared under the Code. The first two are similar in approach but have intense scenes of violence.
The indicia names the comic as Black Magic Magazine v.4 #3. There’s a small “magazine” below the logo on the cover, but it didn’t appear on all issues. The GCD lists the title as Black Magic.
The cover was pencilled by Jack Kirby. The GCD tentatively credits the inks to Kirby or Joe Simon.
“The Cat People”
A man recovering from a harrowing experience in Spain visits a friend and relates it to him after he freaks out when he sees the man’s children playing Cat’s Cradle.
This is the cover story. It was pencilled by Kirby, or Simon and Kirby, and inked in a muddy style. It’s memorable for the use it makes of the folklore idea that string figures can be used to cast spells.
“A Hole in his Head”, set apart by its violence and violent emotion.
This is a violent version of a standard time travel story, drawn by Steve Ditko. He was good at drawing unpleasant people, and shows the characters in extreme emotional states.
“The Merry Ghosts of Campbell Castle”
This is a ghost story. Two friends visit Scotland, and hear a sound like bagpipes coming from an old castle. But it's just a sound made by the wind... or is it?
The GCD credits the pencils and inks of this story and the first one to “Joe Simon; Jack Kirby”, which I take to be purposefully vague. When I read the tale I assumed it was by someone else from their studio working in Kirby’s style. It’s a very restrained story for Kirby, but I suppose the ghosts are unmistakably his p.3 panel 6 and p.4 panel 5. Harry Meydrick attributes the art to Kirby here and I respect his judgement.
“Don’t Call on the Dead!”
A trainee medium is warned by his master that it is dangerous to call the dead without a purpose, but his impulse to explore his emerging powers leads him to do it.
This is a tepid story that wastes an original plot idea. The GCD credits the pencils (and tentatively, inks) to Bob McCarty. His work is well-drawn and reminds me of John Prentice's.
The issue’s one pager is concerned with ghost images in photographs. The GCD attributes the art to Harry Lazarus. I don’t recognise his style here, but I haven’t read much of his work.
There are two text stories, both non-supernatural tales with sting endings. The first is about a man who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the second about a man who has memory problems.
Untitled story, “Plastic Man”, Police Comics #26 (Quality, 1944)
Plastic Man’s chief in the FBI has found out he used to be Eel O’Brian. He tells Plas he’ll let him off it he proves himself by handling three tough jobs...
The instalment is light and mildly anarchic. The cover led me to expect a very strange story. Instead, it’s made up of two crime cases and a horror one. The reference to "body, mind and soul" on the cover is a characterisation of the three cases. The horror ("soul") case takes up the last 5 pages (out of 15) and uses one of the classic horror monsters. The GCD says what kind. The story, art and cover were by Jack Cole.
The “Spirit” instalment is a bit horror-ish. It’s a 1940 Will Eisner one about killer robots. The Spirit has to get a promise of safe conduct from Commissioner Dolan to bring in the villain, but they’re friendly when they meet. The instalment is placed last, but that was often the second-top slot in Golden Age comics.
The other features are
“Flatfoot Burns” This is a bigfoot humour strip about an incompetent detective, drawn by Harvey Kurtzman. I didn’t recognise his hand at all, but as the GCD notes the instalment is signed “H.K.” The instalment involves a gorilla.
“Destiny” The hero is a man with psychic powers who solves crimes. This instalment is a light mystery. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Jack Keller.
“Manhunter” This is the closest thing the issue has to a standard superhero story, except there’s no fight. The Quality Manhunter was a policeman who also fought crime in a tight blue costume with his dog, Thor. The villain is a Chameleon-like disguise artist. The GCD gives the art to Al Bryant.
“The Human Bomb” The Human Bomb and his comic relief sidekick Throckmorton investigate a secretive inventor - for no good reason - and destroy his work. The GCD gives the art to Mort Leav.
There are two “Dewey Drip” service humour one-pagers. The GCD attributes them to different hands, but they look pretty much the same. There’s also a “Berp the Twerp” one-pager about an incompetent superman with a walrus moustache whose costume is a bathing suit. The GCD says this was done by Cole. The back cover has a Captain Tootsie ad.
The text story is set in wartime China. An American airman investigates a series of mysterious disappearances in the temples of Hunan Province
Cole, Eisner and Kurtzman in one comic book - that is quite a line up.
Luke Blanchard said:
Untitled story, “Plastic Man”, Police Comics #26 (Quality, 1944)
Adventures into Darkness #5 (Standard, 1953)
This was the first issue of the series.
The cover shows a witch abducting the corpse of a hanged man for use in magic. It makes me wonder how many readers had the background knowledge to figure it out. The GCD tentatively attributes it to George Roussos.
After murdering a man a criminal couple named Dan and Helen Nash hide out in an abandoned townhouse. Dan finds a Latin book on the floor and reads a sentence from it. A demon called Teneshad appears and offers to grant their desires…
This story is genuinely creepy. It invites the reader to imagine its worst horrors instead of showing them. It was drawn by Alex Toth and Mike Peppe, and is my other favourite piece by Toth.
Dan tells Helen he “took care” of the watchman. I assume he means he paid him off.
Peppe placed his name is on the side of a car p.2.
“Death Follows Orders”
Digging a well, a Frenchman accidentally opens a cellar sealed during WWII by a shell. Inside he finds a dead German unit. They come to undead life, and proceed to carry out their orders to take the village…
There’s nothing wrong with the story, but I feel it should have gotten more out of the idea. It’s only 5 pages; maybe it needed to be longer. The art is by Jerry Grandenetti, using a Dan Barry-ish style. (The GCD points out the splash panel is signed J.G.)
“Horror’s Little Acre”
A couple mean to spend their honeymoon at a cabin of the groom’s. There is a tradition that the grounds of the property are cursed at night due to the dying curse of a murder victim...
This is a DC-ish killer plants story. The title is a play on God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell. The art is by Ruben Moreira, using a Dan Barry style. He did a lot of work for DC, including the Roy Raymond series, and drew the Tarzan Sundays in 1945-47 as Rubimor.
“Day of Reckoning”
A singer has a husband who openly doesn’t love her. A horrible accident disfigures her so she looks like a bird. She becomes a recluse who wears a feather dress and spends all her time with her pet birds…
This one isn’t as disturbing as it might be given the content. It’s another story drawn in a Barry-ish realistic style. The GCD attributes the art to John Celardo, who drew the Tarzan dailies and Sundays from 1954-68.
There are three one-pagers. The first purports to be a true story of a premonitory dream, but it might be made up; I couldn't find another version of the story using Google. The GCD ascribes its art to Art Saaf. The second is about phantom hounds which are an omen of death, and has art the GCD attributes to Toth and Peppe. The third, “The Phantom Warning”, is based on a true story. Most of the details have been changed, but not the name of the ship, the Usk. The real captain was Henry Mathias, the year 1862, and he was heading from Newport to Chile. Mathias's account was that he was warned to turn back by God rather than a phantom. Possibly the other details were changed since that bit had to be. The GCD doesn’t identify the artist.
The text story is “The Chimes of Doom” by Irwin Shapiro, and is about a man with an unquiet conscience.
I was going to review that last one since I actually own the comic. Tales Too Terrible To Tell described Standard's output as being exactly that, just standard, not good, not bad. It's a fair description. The ending of the bird woman story made no sense. Why would looking like a bird give her those powers? Was she bitten by a radioactive bird?
Birds-in-horror-fiction-wise, there's an article on precursors to The Birds here. It's surprising how many there are. (Potential spoilers.)