Friday, October 30, 2015

Number 1807: Hooray for Halloween Horror: While the Cat’s Away

Here is the third posting in our Halloween week offerings. Today, a tale from Jack Davis and Al Feldstein, published originally in The Vault of Horror #34 (1953).

Let us get one thing straight: this story is a joke; it is what I consider a shaggy dog story. It builds and builds and then...the end. I don’t want anyone writing and asking me how these two dolts could hide out in the tunnels under an old house, all the while being chased by vampires, werewolves and zombies, and eventually escape. It’s a joke!

Jack Davis had the ability to draw horror comics, and also draw some of the funniest stuff ever published in comic books. It is a gift.

More Davis horror, featuring the infamous “Foul Play,” which was represented by an illustration in Seduction of the Innocent. Just click on the thumbnail.

IT WILL BE HALLOWEEN IN JANUARY with the release of Craig Yoe’s latest Chilling Archives of Horror Comics: Devil Tales, edited by Mr. Karswell himself, Steve Banes!

Stories of Satan from obscure issues of horror comics of the early 1950s. Wild and weird tales served up at His Satanic Majesty’s Request, featuring art by Gene Colan, the team of Brown and Gantz, Dick Ayers, Ken Rice, among other lost souls, including the infamous Iger Shop, the original “little shop of horrors”!  These artists and creators worked in the hellish pages of America’s shame, the cheap and often sleazy (it’s why we love ’em!) 10¢ comic books of an otherwise more innocent and conservative age. And while they brought joy to hundreds of thousands of readers in their time, oh, the terrors these horror comics wrought with parents and teachers... also a certain psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham, M.D., who led the crusade to strike the comic book scourge from the land. They were even investigated by the United States Senate!

But now these stories have been conjured from the fiery pit where they had been consigned over 60 years ago. We have Steve “Karswell” Banes (of The Horrors of it All blog to thank (or curse) for bringing back these forgotten stories from the mouldering mounds of horror comics, published in that time before they were exorcised from the American newsstands by the Comics Code.

I have seen an advance of this book, and it gets my highest recommendation. Release date is January 14, 2016, and the retail price is $24.99.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Number 1806: Hooray for Halloween Horror: Dying for love, and a head for murder

Here is the second of our Halloween Week offerings, two tales from consecutive issues of Forbidden Worlds. “Love Me Forever” is from issue #24 (1953), and “Hannahan’s Head” is from #25 (1954).

The look on the face of the guy from the splash panel of the first story is familiar to me.

It is the look I present when puzzling over what to say about stories like these.

Here goes. What I can say about “Love Me Forever” is found in the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” The second story is about greed, and revenge from beyond death. Oh, and a head swimming in the ocean, no less. In their pre-Comics Code days, ACG published horror comics that were a bit lighter in tone than most horror comics. In a good percentage of them the main characters would be a young couple in love who are threatened by some supernatural menace. The guy fights it off, and the couple walks off arm-in-arm in a Hollywood ending. At a later point, as other comic book companies started going more for gore and visceral thrills, ACG tried for an edgier approach. I believe that was the intent here with both of these offerings. Did they succeed? At best I give them credit for effort.

Both stories were drawn by Kenneth Landau. I have shown some ACG stories from Landau before. Just check out the link below for an example. Covers are credited by the Grand Comics Database to Ken Bald.

One topsy-turvy story by Landau, published pre-Code, then Comics Code approved a few years later. Just click on the thumbnail:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Number 1805: Hooray for Halloween Horror: The Body Maker

Halloween is Saturday, so we have a week of Halloween stories ahead of us. First up is a story from Black Cat Mystery #39 (1952), about a Frankenstein type who is creating his perfect woman. Personally, I think I could make it easier just to kidnap Sofia Vergara (or substitute your own choice) for a perfect woman, but this guy does it the hard way.

The artist is Warren Kremer, who does a marvelous job with what is actually kind of a silly story. (She’s not a natural blonde? Well, just keep kidnapping and killing 'em until you find one!) Kremer (born 1921) had a long career as a comic book artist, starting in the 1940s, and going until his death in 2003. He is probably most famous for drawing Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch, Richie Rich, etc., for Harvey Comics. But his work for Harvey goes back to their pre-Code horror comics. He designed covers, and he did occasional horror stories. If nothing else, he might be one of the most versatile comic artists ever.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Number 1804: Men in Space: Maneely and Romita

Our final post from our Men in Space theme week: a double treat from two of Atlas Comics’ top artists, Joe Maneely and John Romita.

Romita became one of Stan Lee’s top Marvel Age artists when he took over Spider-Man from Ditko, but he was good from the beginning of his career. His work at Atlas shows he was already a top-notch talent long before he made his bones drawing a wall-crawling superhero.

Joe Maneely, though (sigh)...I have spoken of him several times, and always with the wish that he could have lived (he died in an accident at a very young age).

Both stories are from Speed Carter, Spaceman #1 (1953).

 More Atlas Maneely and Romita. Just click on the thumbnails.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Number 1803: Men in Space: Secret of the Flying Saucers!

This is the second of our Men in Space theme week. In this case the story is about a man who is taken aboard a flying saucer.

In the sixties there were UFO flaps around the United States. UFO sightings made the news, fueling further speculation about a flying saucer “mystery” that had been going on at that time for 20 years. When I was in the U.S. Army in '67 and '68 there were a lot of paperback books about flying saucers circulating around the barracks, several of them promising an answer to the mystery. I read some of them, and the cover of each one promised the real, true, amazing answer to the riddle of the flying saucers. Yet each book presented a different real, true, amazing answer. I love stories about UFO/flying saucers, but I am a true skeptic. Land a flying saucer in front of me, have the aliens come out and talk to me, tell me what the “secret of the flying saucers” is, and I might believe it. Of course, I would never make the mistake of Captain Martin Croft, in this tale from Strange Adventures #2 (1950). I would not tell anyone about my experience. Marty was not believed. With a wild tale like that the only thing anyone would believe is the teller is in need of some strong medication.

This issue of Strange Adventures had one other story about aliens concerned with the human history of violence. “Endless War” can be found at Pappy's #1683. It is written by David Vern. “Secret of the Flying Saucers” is written by David V. Reed, who is actually David Vern, who is actually David Levine. The Grand Comics Database credits Jim Mooney for the artwork.

From 2011: Two more flying saucer tales. Just click on the thumbnail.