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.
Adventures into the Unknown #1 (ACG, 1948)
This issue has a good claim to be the first US horror comic, although it’s possible to dispute that, as my next review will explain.
Frank Belknap Long wrote in a letter quoted here that he wrote all the issue’s contents, “including short stories”. Does that last bit refer to the issue’s short pieces, or its text stories?
The issue’s stories are very ACG in style, both in content and scripting. I don’t know whether that’s because Long imitated that style well, or editor Richard Hughes rewrote his work.
The article quotes another letter of Long’s that shows the publisher quickly started having qualms about the title.
The art in this issue mostly falls somewhere between cartoony and realistic. The stories are coloured in a subdued way which fits the subject-matter and the many night scenes, and makes the stories feel similar. The exception is “The Living Ghost”, which is brightly-coloured and drawn in a cartoony style.
According to the GCD Edvard Mortiz did the cover. It reminds me of DC horror covers from the early Bronze Age.
“The Werewolf Strikes”
In Canada trappers capture a vicious wolf with the intention of selling it to a zoo. But the wolf is a werewolf, and can escape the cage whenever he wants...
The GCD attributes the art of this story to Mortiz. He tells the story competently and makes extensive use of shadows. His art isn’t dynamic, but he draws a decent shaggy wolf.
“The Living Ghost”
The Living Ghost is a monster as old as the world with immense strength and great supernatural powers. In each century he embarks a new campaign of murder. He becomes enamoured of a lady reporter and the task of fighting him falls to her boyfriend, a D.A.’s investigator.
This was intended as an ongoing feature. Only two instalments appeared. Possibly that’s because Long was no longer available: the GCD doesn’t list him as having contributed to the title after #2.
This instalment was drawn by Fred Guardineer. Guardineer’s art is cartoony and naïve, but it can be striking. The striking page here - and the most naïve - is p.8, on which all kinds of creatures of the night answer the summons of the ghost. Pappy calls it “one of the greatest horror comics pages ever”.
“It Walked by Night”
In 1750 Squire Aram murdered his romantic rival, and was cursed by him as he died. In 1948 the Aram house has been newly converted into a hotel, and a newlywed couple honeymoon there. A shape is seen at the window…
The GCD attributes this story’s art to Max Elkan. It’s drawn in a clear, clean style.
“The Castle of Otranto”
This is a weak adaptation of the short novel by Hugh Walpole that launched the craze for Gothic fiction. The novel has some good visual images, but the art doesn't make the most of them. The GCD attributes it to Al Ulmer.
A young woman attends the reading of her uncle’s will, ten years after his death. It leaves her a million dollars if she will spend that night in his abandoned mansion, which is reputed to be haunted. Her private detective boyfriend and his partner keep her company…
The partner provides comic relief. Possibly he was included so the couple would have a chaperone.
This story’s art is lively. According to the GCD the artist was King Ward.
There are three short pieces. The first is a one-page “Strange Spirits” item which gives a sensational account of voodoo. It has a good panel of a zombie rising from its grave. Zombies are described as raised from the grave for purposes of murder. “Then--- back to their graves!” The GCD attributes the art to King Ward.
The second is one-page story called “The Cursed Pistol” about a family curse stemming from a duel. The GCD attributes the art to Edvard Moritz.
The third is a two-page instalment of a “True Ghosts of History” series. It retells the story of Lord Tyrone’s Ghost (a.k.a. the Beresford Ghost), and notes Sir Walter Scott was influenced by it.(1) The GCD attributes this item to Moritz too.
The issue opens with a B&W editorial/contents page with art the GCD attributes to Dan Gordon. The editorial emphasises the unreality of ghosts. The GCD tentatively attributes it to Hughes.
There are also two one-page text stories. They’re both told well. The first is a haunted painting story called “The Painted Grave”. The second is “The Horrible Toys”, in which two children look for bottles to redeem in a dead witch's house.
(1) In his poem “The Eve of Saint John” a ghost leaves its mark on a woman’s arm.
I still have the reprint comic and looked at it recently. I "misremembered" the last panel but still appreciate the story. It didn't so much hit me hard as impress me as very imaginative. Thank for pointing out the one-shots section.
Luke Blanchard said:
Tales of the Tomb is, in the Dell one shots section. But you used a spoiler warning, so no harm done.
It's interesting that the last page hit you so hard. I can't judge it's impact, as I saw it before I read the story. I'm worried it might not live up to your memory of it.
Like Charlton's Yellowjacket of 1944-46.
Luke Blanchard said:
Adventures into the Unknown #1 (ACG, 1948)
This issue has a good claim to be the first US horror comic, although it’s possible to dispute that, as my next review will explain.
Thanks, Ron. I'll mention that in my review.
Spook Comics (Baily Publishing Co., undated [1945 or 1946])
How far back does horror in comics go? It depends what you mean. There was a lot of horror in early superhero comics, including supernatural horror. This was partly due to the influence on comics of pulp fiction and weird thrillers, like the Fu Manchu series. Simon and Kirby made a lot of use of horror content when doing “Captain America”(1) and it appears in the work of their imitators. Science fiction stories like the ones in Planet Comics also featured horror in the form of monsters. Horror imagery was used on covers. Gus Ricca’s horror cover for Dynamic Comics #8 (Chesler / Dynamic, undated [1942-44]) is amazingly grotesque.
Some 40s comics had horror features in their line-ups: the one in Yellowjacket Comics, which Ron mentioned, started as “Famous Tales of Terror” and became an original anthology feature, "Tales of Terror", mid-way through. Dick Briefer’s “The New Adventures of Frankenstein” started in Prize Comics v.1 #7 in 1940, and was initially horror themed. The Heap didn’t get his own feature until Airboy Comics v.3 #9 in 1946, but he debuted as early as 1942 in the “Sky Wolf” story in Air Fighters Comics v.1 #3. Gilberton’s Classics Comics (the forerunner of Classics Illustrated) adapted The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1943.
The very earliest supernatural horror feature created for US comics might be Siegel's and Shuster’s “Doctor Occult”, which debuted in More Fun #7 in 1935 (on sale). The only newspaper strip precedent I can think of is “Mandrake the Magician”, which debuted in 1934 and made use of horror imagery and themes, but in which the supernatural menaces were hoaxes or otherwise rationally explained from a very early stage.(2)
Baily’s Spook Comics one-shot is the earliest comic I know that was all supernatural horror-themed. The catch is three of its five stories are bigfoot humour.
The publisher was Bernard Baily. There are comics from Gerona and other outfits that feature similar creator line-ups to the titles he published, so I think he packaged them, but I haven’t read that. I find his titles and these others interesting for their art and for the different things they tried. Their art is stronger than their writing, and that’s the case here.
The cover features “Mister Lucifer” and was signed by John Giunta. The GCD attributes him with the pencils and inks, but I think Frank Frazetta may have inked. It has his fine art look. In the title logo the O’s in “Spook” have eyes.
“Mister Lucifer” in “Up Pops the Devil!”
Two bank-robbers accidentally release Mister Lucifer from his long imprisonment. He summons his evil spirits and spreads death and destruction.
I’ve seen stories by Giunta in different styles. I’ve formerly assumed that was due to the inkers, but it may be he used different styles. This one reminds me of the two “Duke of Darkness” stories Giunta did for Gerona. They’re also supernatural stories, and the style fits such material. It resembles George Roussos’s solo work.
The GCD tentatively attributes the inks to Frazetta. If that’s his hand on the cover I can’t see it here, but I’m not familiar with his work from the period or a great art-spotter. If you told me this is what Giunta’s work looked like when inked by Roussos I’d believe you, but it may be he (or Frazetta) imitated Roussos’s style.
“Gregory the Ghost”
This is a bigfoot story about an incompetent ghost who gets scared. The GCD ascribes the art to Howie Post. Gregory is sent to Earth from Ghostland to haunt something. The task proves too much for him.
Plots like this go back at least as far as Ben Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass. Gregory is not like Casper but Casper may have been the inspiration, as he debuted in 1945.
This is another bigfoot story. The GCD doesn’t have a guess as to the artist. Skate is so cheap he keeps his piggy bank in a safe. During a night storm he takes shelter in a deserted building because he doesn’t want to spend money on a hotel room.
This was the only “‘Cheap’ Skate“ story. I think it was a trial instalment for a comedy feature that was included here because it happened to have a ghost theme.
“Dr. Paul Barer”
This is a parody of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), down to its twist ending. You need to know the movie to get the humour. P.4 parodies the movie’s visual style. The wax museum bit on p.5 might be a parody of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).
“The Obi Makes Jumbee”
An exotic dancer is a Mama Loi who uses real Voodoo dances in her act. Complications ensue.
This is a twisty story drawn in a gag cartoon style, with a lot of panels showing the woman dancing. It’s likeably silly. The GCD attributes the art to Munson Paddock.
The newspaper in the story is the Daily Bugle.
The text story is “Death in the Bathtub” by Clifton Cuthbert. This is a crime story with a twist ending.
(1) I forget where I saw this pointed out. The Red Skull is an example of it. Cap and Bucky even fought zombies created by mad science in All-Winners Comics #1.
(2) The first Mandrake supernatural hoax story was apparently “The Werewolf” from 1935-36. There was some horror content in the very first Mandrake story, but he didn't meet "classic" monsters before this.
"Famous Tales of Terror" and "Tales of Terror", from Yellowjacket Comics (Charlton, 1944-46)
"Famous Tales of Terror" was an adaptation feature that appeared in Yellowjacket Comics #1, #3-#4 and #6. In #7-#10 it was replaced by a series of original stories, “Tales of Terror”.
All four instalments adapted stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
“The Black Cat!”, Yellowjacket Comics #1 (1944)
The adaptation includes the violence of Poe’s story, but visually it’s very plain. The GCD identifies the artist as Bill Allison. Poe’s middle name is misspelled in the opening caption, and an exclamation mark has been added to the title.
“The Pit and the Pendulum”, Yellowjacket Comics #3 (1944)
This adaption is also very faithful, and much livelier. The style is like Jon Blummer’s. The GCD attributes the pencils definitely, and the inks tentatively, to Gus Schrotter. From this point Poe’s middle name is spelled correctly.
“The Fall of the House of Usher”, Yellowjacket Comics #4 (1944)
The original story is told in the first person, so the adaptation treats the narrator as Poe. This is a cute idea, but the art is unexciting and the script quite amazingly flat. The GCD attributes the art to Schrotter, but I’m inclined to think it was Allison again or someone else, as the art of the #3 story shows more imagination.
According to DC Indexes there was a hiatus of nearly a year between #5 and #6.
“The Tell Tale Heart”, Yellowjacket Comics #6 (1945)
The GCD ascribes this one to Rudy Palais. It’s easily the most crudely-drawn of the four adaptations, but also the one with the most zest, and the only one I enjoyed as a story. Full disclosure: it may be I liked this one more because I haven’t read the original story and it had more surprises for me. (I thought I had, but apparently I haven’t.)
These stories are all hosted by an old witch. The use of hosts for anthology stories came from radio. A witch character, Old Nancy, was the host of a show from the 1930s called The Witch’s Tale.
The GCD attributes the art of the four instalments to Alan Mandel, but there’s considerable variation in the art. I think this means more than one hand was at work. The Old Witch seems to be drawn by the same hand throughout, but #9’s splash eclipses the others in quality.
The first story is signed “Mandel”, and the second “Alan Mandel”. The final two are signed “GAM”. The GCD’s current guess is GAM was George and Alan Mandel with George writing and Alan on art. Its pages on #9 and #10 have notes explaining why.
The Witch is well-designed and pleasingly drawn. The art in all the stories has a crude element but the stories other than #8’s are all energetically-told.
“The Avenging Hand”, Yellowjacket Comics #7 (1945 [on sale])
Two men who run a gambling den fall out, and one kills the other. He flees, but can’t escape the man’s ghost; or should that be his guilty conscience?
As in Macbeth only the killer can see the manifestations, so they could be real or figments of his imagination. Which it is we learn at the end. At one point there’s a surreal panel.
“The Third Wish”, Yellowjacket Comics #8 (1945 [on sale])
This is a plagiarism of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs, with the paw replaced by a small idol.
For its last two issues the title apparently went to a bimonthly schedule.
Untitled story, Yellowjacket Comics #9 (1946)
In Tibet four survivors of an expedition are nursed back to health by villagers. The High Priest tells them it is forbidden for outsiders to enter the Temple of Ramor. But the men are ruthless and resolve to rob it.
This instalment has the best art. The story ends in a familiar way but has interesting stuff before that point.
Untitled story, Yellowjacket Comics #10 (1946)
A farmer is a tyrant to his son and daughter, and only cares about his gold.
This story has a strong depiction of domestic tyranny and brutality. But the end is again standard.
He’s a fine one to talk!
Journey into Fear #10 (Superior, 1952)
According to the GCD Superior was a Canadian company that both reprinted US content and published original comics that were sold in the US. This title was a colour comic, and as far as I can tell its contents were all-original.
The title ran for 21 issues from 1951 to 1954 on a bimonthly schedule. The Code was introduced at the start of 1955. The last issue was cover-dated for Sep. 1954. Since comics were often dated ahead that might mean it appeared mid-year. So was the title killed by loss of distribution stemming from the anti-comics agitation? Or had sales declined? Or did the publisher just see the writing on the wall? There’s a small “ANC” on the covers which indicates the distributor was American News Company.
The art uses an approach that combines tight, clear drawing, a slight cartoony look, and depiction of beautiful women. It’s a style I’m familiar with from stories by the earlier Matt Baker, Jack Kamen, and others. The GCD doesn’t have art credits for most of this title’s issues, including this one, but it attributes two stories in #1 to Matt Baker and the stories in #2 and #5 to “Iger Shop”. So I think I now know what to call this style: the Iger Shop style.
The Comic Book Plus scan of this issue is apparently defective. It lacks the text story the GCD lists, which was a regular feature, and the stories appear in a different order. It also has a “True Tales of Unexplained Mystery” one-pager, which was an Ace feature.
The scan at Digital Comic Museum has the text story and lacks the one-pager. Its story-order corresponds to the GCD’s list. It’s possible the GCD’s list was prepared from DCM’s scan, but since the DCM version seems more correct otherwise I’ll follow it.
The cover loosely corresponds to the first story, “Gallery of the Dead”.
“Gallery of the Dead”
A hunchback works at a wax museum in Paris. His boss mistreats him and he hates him. But he has a secret …
This story spices familiar plot elements with abnormal psychology.The lovers' idyll sequence is genuinely strange. The conclusion is more familiar.
“Haven of Terror”
This is a horror hotel story that fritters away its grisly potential.
“Your Head for Mine”
A woman and her lover kill her husband for his insurance.
This is a ghost story with grisly elements at the climax. It’s been reprinted in IDW’s Haunted Horror #12.
An old woman is reputed to be a witch. She teaches her granddaughter to hate men. When she dies the granddaughter, following her directions, finds her book of magic and studies it. Then she embarks on a career as a serial killer.
How she goes about it is nice and twisted. The last three panels are a weak end, but this is the kind of thing that gives pre-Code horror a good name.
The story has been reprinted in IDW’s Haunted Love #1. The antiheroine’s spell is the opening line of the Latin hymn Dies Irae.
The issue’s text story is “Legacy of Horror”. A man obtains an inheritance that his uncle meant to leave to an institute, but later has cause to regret it.
In Adventures into the Unknown #1 the stories have a hero and heroine, the hero fights for her out of love, and they triumph over evil. That's often the case in ACG horror. (But it doesn't hold for that issue's text stories and short pieces.) In three of the stories here we get the opposite: the central characters are antiheroes and come to violent ends. The final story has an element of twisted humour. I hadn't thought about how often this is present in horror before and I'll look for it from now on.
Adventures into the Unknown #2 (ACG, 1948)
The GCD again credits Frank Belknap Long as having written all the long stories. (Is this certain, or an inference from his not saying otherwise in his letter to August Derleth?) As in #1 the scripting is strongly in the ACG style.
It also again ascribes the cover art to Edvard Moritz. The image reminds me of Skull Island from King Kong and its sequel.
Once again there’s an odd man out, “The Old Tower’s Secret”, for which see below. The other stories are not cartoony if by cartoony one means work like Fred Guardineer’s (who’s absent this time); but they are if one means art like the Silver Age Howard Purcell’s as against Neal Adams’s. I’d rather reserve “cartoony” for the Guardineers so I don’t have a word for this approach. (Does anyone have a suggestion?)
The figures and action can be a bit stiff, the faces a bit samey; and the art doesn’t have the cleanly-drawn look of the Silver Age Curt Swan or Murphy Anderson. At its worst it’s mediocre, at its best pretty good.
As in #1 most of the supernatural manifestations take place at night. As in #1 there's only one brightly-coloured story: this time it's “The Old Tower’s Secret”.
Apart from the Living Ghost tale the main stories in this issue all involve a horror that stems from a past century. Three have a prologue showing how it came about.
“Kill, Puppets, Kill!”
In the 16th century a puppeteer somehow brought his puppets to life, and used them to kill. His ghost and his puppets’ ghosts cause trouble in the present.
The GCD attributes the inks to Mortiz and doesn’t have a guess as to the penciller. The opening pages are particularly good and there’s a lot of use of shadows for mood.
In his letter to Derleth Long wrote as follows:
Second issue of Ad. into Un.””Dec.””Jan.””is just about to reach the stands. “Kill Puppets, Kill is probably my best comic book story to date, in the weird genre. It’s as mature as the medium permits at this stage of development.
I think he meant he was able to push the envelope with regard to violence. A strangling attack on a woman is shown in close-up, and the puppets go on a murderous rampage on-panel.
“Out of the Unknown”
This is the issue’s Living Ghost story. The Living Ghost again kidnaps Gail, and Tony obtains the help of another demon-ghost to fight it.
The GCD ascribes the art to Moritz. It's some of the issue's weakest, especially towards its end. Possibly Moritz was trying for a more naïve look, like Guardineer's, or maybe it had to be done in a hurry.
The two ghosts fight by beating each other up. The conclusion promises another instalment next issue, but it didn’t happen.
“The Old Tower’s Secret”
In 1848 the young wife of Henry Masters eloped. He shut up her tower and killed himself. In the present, his ghost is murderous and won’t let anyone enter it. The owners ask ghost-breaker Douglas Drew for help.
This was apparently intended as the start of a series, but the GCD doesn’t record Drew as having appeared again. The story has no series logo, but neither do the Living Ghost stories.
At Fiction House a series about a ghost-breaker called "The Secret Files of Dr. Drew" started in Rangers Comics #54 the next year. Can that be unrelated? The GCD attributes that series's scripts to Marilyn Mercer.
This tale is attractively drawn by Edmond Good, who started out in Canadian comics. I think of his work as like a cartoonier version of the Iger Shop style. It’s particularly cartoony here. The ghost figures on p.5 remind me of Sheldon Moldoff’s Batman work (pre-New Look).
“The Master’s Hand”
The 15th-century artist Kees van Ruyter mysteriously committed suicide by destroying his hands. In the present day a talented lady artist who loves his work is recruited to retouch his paintings. But her sinister employer has a sinister purpose.
I think Kees van Ruyter was modelled after Hieronymus Bosch. (We're told he died in 1495. Bosch lived from c.1450-1516.) It’s a plot point that Van Ruyter painted imps and devils, but this isn’t very clear at the start because we're not shown examples of his art. The tale is more an adventure story than a scary one, and ultimately sweet. The GCD attributes the art to Max Elkan.
“Phantom of the Seas”
In 1821 a cruel captain is murdered, and his spirit imprisoned in a bottle with a model of his ship. In the present a holidaying family buys it, and his angry ghost is released…
This story is signed by Paul Reinman, but it’s so unlike the other work I’ve seen by him I’m wondering if he used a ghost. The tale is attractively-drawn and well-told. In style, content and resolution it’s the issue’s most DC-ish, but I think DC wouldn’t have allowed as much on-panel murder.
There’s only one short item this time, another “True Ghosts of History” two-pager. It’s about the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, and depicts Frederick Marryat’s experience with the ghost and the taking of the Provand picture. (So that Wikipedia article, which covers the same points, is like a commentary on the story.) It opens with a caption emphatically denying the reality of ghosts, like the editorial from the first issue. It has some of the issue’s best art and is signed “K.W.” The GCD says this was King Ward.
The text stories, “The Mermaid Mole” and “The Haunted Hoard”, are both ghost stories. One of the ghosts is kindly, the other vengeful.
The first issue’s long stories are 8, 12, 9, 7 and 6 pages. The second’s are 9, 10, 7, 9 and 8. So three of the slots are the same length and the remaining pages are split 12/6 and 10/9 respectively. The extra page in that second set is in lieu of one of the one-pagers from #1, and the other one-pager and the editorial were succeeded by ads.
Journey into Fear #15 (Superior, 1953)
In Seduction of the Innocent Fredric Wertham alludes to comics stories without saying where they appeared. There’s a site here (adult content) which attempts to identify the stories. It lists Journey into Fear #15 as mentioned on p.389. I wanted to know what Wertham said, so I looked it up. It’s an allusion to a story ending that might refer to “Her Lips Dripped Blood”.
“Return of the Ghoul”
A lightning strike restores life to a rotted corpse.
There’s a lot of humour in this one. The ghoul is murderous at times, but he mainly wants to escape attention. The story’s artist does a particularly good job, and the resolution has an element of sly humour.
“Corpse in Make-Up”
An actor who is making a horror movie with his wife schemes to murder her. The movie has a scene where a woman returns from the dead to take vengeance on her lover-murderer…
The interesting thing here is the story reaches the expected climax with two pages to go. I found those pages quite unexpected, and they perk the story up.
“Her Lips Dripped Blood”
This is a horror mystery tale where the mystery is: who is the werewolf? I self-spoiled the solution, but I doubt it would be likely to keep an adult guessing. There’s a touch of pathos in the resolution.
“Revenge So Evil”
An evil researcher infects his romantic rival with acromegalia.
Acromegaly is a real thing. This story depicts its suffers as becoming like monsters, so it’s in terrible taste. Wikipedia’s article indicates the causes of the disease aren’t of the contagious kind.
The text story is “Strangling Shadows”. A man’s rich wife talks to shadows, and he uses this to have her committed. This turns out to be a mistake. I thought this a good one.
The art (but not the writing) of “Return of the Ghoul” reminds me of Quality. “Revenge So Evil” reminds me of pre-Code Marvel horror, in which evil schemers’ schemes catch up with them and/or some horrible outcome eventuates.
Three of the issue’s stories have a marital dimension. The stuff that happens between husbands and wives in horror tales was a target of Wertham’s criticism.
Ghost Stories #2 (Dell, 1963)
These stories lack the disturbing qualities of the stories from #1.The GCD identifies the artist of all the stories as George McCann, who also did “The Black Stallion” and the one-pagers in #1. It identifies the writer of the long stories as Carl Memling, and doesn’t have a guess for the writer of the one-pagers. (The identification is Martin O’Hearn’s.)
Memling’s stories are solid, discreet versions of familiar kinds of ghost stories. McCann’s art uses the Dell approach and feels realistic and sensitive.
“37 Pounds of Devotion…”
A little girl summons a doctor to save a girl, but the latter’s parents deny they sent anyone.
“Phantom’s Best Friend”
A Confederate captain conceives a hatred of his company’s dog, and extends his hatred to the soldier it’s closest to. Tragedy results.
“The Thousand-Year-Old Bug”
A fortune-hunter steals a jewel from the forehead of an Indian idol and sells it to a multi-millionaire, divided into parts for his wife and two daughters. But the god is not done with it - or him.
A painter visiting a Mediterranean country spots a woman he wants to paint. He follows her, but she disappears or eludes him at a brick wall. In his studio he uses self-hypnosis to mentally summon her likeness, and is so successful she seems to be in the room…
There are one-pagers on the inside front and back pages. The first is the same kind of thing we get in the long stories. So is the second, but it adds a touch of humour.
Mysteries #2 (Superior, 1953)
This is another original title from the Canadian company that published Journey into Fear. It ran for 11 issues from 1953-55 (cover date), and was called Mysteries Weird and Strange on the covers, except on the final issue. The final issues reprinted issues of Journey into Fear and Strange Mysteries behind new covers with new text stories.
An uncouth Louisiana swamp storekeeper shuts his door on an old lady during a rainstorm, not realising she’s his mother. She dies, but mother love is a powerful thing...
This is another story with very detailed art that reminds me of Quality. The story is played straight, but there are elements of caricature and parody in the writing and art. I thought the storekeeper didn’t really have a sticky end coming.
“The Screaming Room”
A strictly-raised man wishes he could sin without paying a price. A spectral visitor gives him a vase into which he can whisper sins and escape their consequences.
This is a road to damnation story with a good premise. It’s a period story, apparently set in the early 20th century. The title is justified in a contrived way in the final panel.
Prospectors in Africa looking for uranium find atomic monsters.
This one is badly written, by a writer who was unconcerned about getting science right. But it’s worth reading for what seem to be changes on the final page.
There’s no cave in the art, so the references to it must have been added after the story was drawn to explain the hero’s and heroine’s survival. What’s up with the final three panels I’m not sure about. My first thought was the story was written as ending happily and the editor added the heroine’s thought balloons because he knew more about radiation. But the pictures look like they were supposed to be larger, which could be the case if the story originally continued for another page.
The title “Monsters Three” may also have been a change. There are three monsters in the story, but their number isn’t important. The name echoes Soldiers Three, the title of a collection of stories by Kipling and 1951 movie partly based on them. My guess is the final words of the opening caption, “The Uranium Beasts”, were originally the title.
“Revenge in Small Form”
A selfish woman who loves dolls rejects her suitor when he loses his money. He commits suicide, but not before preparing a revenge involving a Voodoo doll.
This one proceeds less obviously than it might. I sympathised with the antiheroine: it's not her fault her suitor lost his money.
The splash panel doesn’t fit what happens in the story. I always wonder how that happened.
An expert describes the doll as “a genuine Voodoo doll, as made by the natives of Brazil”. The sources of Voodoo are African, not pre-Columbian. According to Wikipedia using dolls to cause magical harm stems from Europe and is not really a Voodoo practice.
The text story is “Goddess of Vengeance” by John Martin. This is an imaginative Cult of Kali story.
Strange Mysteries #11 (Superior, 1953)
This is Superior again, but I had to do this one next as the cover is irresistible. It turns out it’s a variation on the splash panel of the first story, which is titled-
“Dial ‘C’ for Corpse”
A man subject to cataleptic trances is terrified of being buried alive. Struck by inspiration, he arranges to have a telephone installed in his grave…
This one has a cute title and a good plot idea. I felt the story wasted it. It would be a good basis for an episode of an anthology TV show.
I doubt it’s possible to survive very long in a grave in a trance, as there wouldn’t be enough oxygen. A reduced rate of breathing is not the same thing as not breathing at all.
The cover and splash panel are clearly humorous.
“Recipe for Horror”
A private detective is hired by a blood researcher to find out who’s been stealing his blood.
This is written like a private eye story (“Steve had been around plenty, and thought he knew all the angles”). The identity of the guilty party is obvious and the opening caption gives it away.
This is another case where the writer was having fun.
“If the Coffin Fits…”
A businessman who hates salesmen gets a caller…
This one has a witty premise and amusing lines. The businessman doesn’t know what’s going on, but the reader quickly figures it out.
“Date with the Devil”
A tenor sings in a mask because he was secretly badly disfigured in the war. His abusive manager hires a lovely lady singer...
This is a non-supernatural tragedy.
The text story is “Gift of Doom” by John Martin. A burglar steals a necklace, and the robbery goes wrong in a way I haven’t seen before.