Monday, November 30, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 67: December 1964/ Best & Worst of 1964

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Irv Novick
All American Men of War 106

"Death Song for a Battle Hawk!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Battling Tin Can and Wooden Crate!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Win Mortimer

Peter: Johnny Cloud is shot down and sinks to the bottom of the ocean but at least memories of his childhood keep him company. Johnny remembers a hawk who came to his rescue one day when he was being attacked by a grey wolf. Coincidentally, years later, a hawk finds its way into Johnny's cockpit as he's making a run at a remote rocket base situated between two rocky walls. All others have failed but, with help from his winged guardian angel, Cloud rounds third with the winning run. The hawk becomes a mascot to the team and almost seems to show the pilots the way to victory on every mission. Then the unthinkable happens: Swift Hawk flies into the open cowling of a dirty stinking Nazi pilot and sends him to hell but the poor bird can't get out of the ship in time and ends up singing a "Death Song for a Battle Hawk."

The agony of the bird's death snaps Johnny out of his nostalgia just in time for his magnetic torpedoes to fire at a passing enemy ship. The resulting explosion tears the cockpit to bits but Johnny is ejected and sent to the surface, where he is rescued and, presumably, treated for a bad case of the bends. Back at base, Johnny discovers that Swift Hawk has laid an egg and "junior" hatches before the startled pilot's eyes. A flashback within a flashback can sometimes lead to confusion and, of course, that's part and parcel for this series. Things can tend to get murky at times and you have to try to remember which past you're currently in. With all the room afforded this story, it's strange that the finale seems so rushed, as if Bob suddenly remembered this wasn't a two-parter. A sequel of sorts to "The Battle Hawk" (#92, August 1962).

Jack: Another scene where a pilot has to fly through a cleft in a rock? How many of those clefts were there? The bit where Johnny gets back to base and sees all of the other pilots holding their pets is just weird. One guy has a pet monkey and another has a pet squirrel. Are we supposed to think that monkeys and squirrels were running around in the cockpits while Johnny Cloud's air fighters were waging war against Nazi planes? I don't recall seeing fur and feathers before in this series.

Peter: Two competitive chums find their game escalated once they are drafted into the first World War. Pete ends up flying a rattly old Spad and Frank is encased in a deathtrap of a tank. The rickety vehicles don't stop the boys from trying to outdo each other and a twist of fate leaves them relying on each other to survive. "Battling Tin Can and Wooden Crate" is a rickety old carcass with an engine that sputters. The phony bickering and outlandish stunts would never be tolerated in a real war. These guys almost forget they're out there fighting for something; while bazookas are aimed at them, all they can think of is what the other is up to. Unless I've missed something in all the notes I've taken, this is the first time we've seen Win Mortimer illustrate a DC War story. It'll also be the last as he'll soon be busy on superhero strips like Legion of Super-Heroes and Adventure Comics. He'll re-enter our radar with a handful of appearances in the DC horror titles (which, to make things even more confusing, we've already covered thanks to our Monday Morning Quarterbacks status) in the mid-1970s. Mortimer's art on "Battling BlahBlahBlah..." isn't too bad; it's almost got an EC feel to it.

Jack: When I saw Mortimer's name on the credits for this story, I thought "uh oh," but it's half-decent work, much better than the terrible script by Chapman. "Frank shook the boing-boings out of his steel skimmer" is one pearl, and he gets close to an R-rating for "I must flame this fok out of the sky." Worst of all is the sloppy lettering that results in misspelled words like "frauline" and "champage." The bickering between soldiers is about at the level of "you got peanut butter on my chocolate!"

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 149

"Surrender Ticket!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Jackass Patrol!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Sgt. Rock thinks back to 1942 and the events in North Africa that led to Easy Co.'s first battle. Nazi Col. Von Krizt studied air recon photos of U.S. troops marching toward German positions and selected Easy Co. at random, intending to force them to surrender and then use their cowardice as a propaganda victory. Planes launch an air attack and drop "Surrender Ticket!"s on Easy Co.; the first casualty of Rock's group is a handsome soldier nicknamed Prince Charming. Easy marches on and is next fired on by ground artillery; the C.O. leads them through the firestorm but is killed.

The men of Easy Co. began to dehydrate and march toward the next water source, only to find it guarded by German tanks that fire on them, killing a thirst-crazed G.I. who breaks from the group and runs toward the water. The German tanks rumble away, but not before filling in the water hole. Rock and his men press on in search of a water source, the surrender tickets looking more and more inviting. Another air attack results in the death of a G.I. nicknamed Beanpole, and Easy Co. marches on, finally spotting three German tanks sitting quietly, waiting for the American troops to surrender. Rock and his men attack head on, guns and bazookas blazing, defeat the tanks, and take Von Krizt prisoner, handing him one of his own surrender tickets to turn in at a P.O.W. camp.

Kanigher and Kubert are firing on all cylinders in this story, as we fill in another piece of the background story behind Easy Co.

Peter: 1964 was not a banner year for Sgt Rock stories; there have been way too many lightweight scripts for a series that used to claim the lion's share of my Top Ten every year and "Surrender Ticket" puts an end to that drought. This is the best Rock since "Dead Man's Trigger" back in #141 (which, not coincidentally, was also an "early tale of Easy"). The downpour of Surrender Tickets and the waning reserve of the men of Easy make for gripping reading.

Jack: Tired of playing second fiddle to Sgt. Mule, PFC Mulvaney is happy to get a three-day pass, but when an emergency arises he is pulled back to the front and sent on a "Jackass Patrol!" It seems that there are hidden guns about, and only Mule and Mulvaney (sounds like a buddy cop show) can find and destroy them. That they do, earning the mule another medal and Mulvaney another chance to seethe. My expectations for this story were at rock bottom and I was rather pleasantly surprised, though there are a few too many panels of Sgt. Mule laughing at his rider with a big "Hee Haw"! The story follows a familiar pattern established by Bob Kanigher in his Haunted Tank and Johnny Cloud series: the main character is given a vague assignment and passes through a series of trials, each time thinking he's reached the end.

Peter: The third in a series that makes me appreciate Pooch. And, yes, there are more to come. Speaking of which, with all the war crossovers happening at the time, where was the "Pooch and Jackass" team-up?

Joe Kubert
Showcase 53

"The Battlefield Jury"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert and Irv Novick

"Hot Corner"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 59, April 1958)

"Frogman S.O.S.!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 60, May 1958)

"Battle Arithmetic!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 52, Sept. 1957)

Jack: This is the first of two issues of Showcase to feature "G.I. Joe," though the inside of the comic includes only four new pages of story and art wrapped around three reprints. The Kubert cover is striking. The stories were all published before July 1959, where our coverage started.

Peter: Was this, perhaps, DC's way of tying itself to the popular Hasbro action figure, which began its decades-long hold on the toy market only months before?



Best Script: Uncredited, "The Only Survivor" (Our Fighting Forces 87)
Best Art: Gene Colan, "The Only Survivor"
Best All-Around Story"The Only Survivor"
Best Cover: All American Men of War 101 (Russ Heath)

Worst Script: France Herron, "TNT Duds" (GI Combat #103)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Battle of the Empty Helmets" (Our Fighting Forces #82)
Worst All-Around Story: "TNT Duds"


  1 "The Only Survivor"
  2 "Blind Man's Radar" (G.I. Combat #104)
  3 "The Iron Sniper" (Our Army at War #138)
  4 "Surrender Ticket" (Our Army at War #149)
  5 "Prisoners of the Runaway Fort" (Our Fighting Forces #82)
  6 "Battle Seas Hitchhiker!" (Our Fighting Forces #86)
  7 "The Last Target" (All American Men of War #104)
  8 "Dinosaur Sub-Catcher" (Star Spangled War Stories #112)
  9 "Dead Man's Trigger" (Our Army at War #141)
10 "A Firing Squad for Easy" (Our Army at War #139)


Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!" (The Brave and the Bold 52)
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "The Ghost Pipers!" (G.I. Combat 107)
Best All-Around Story: "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!"
Best Cover: G.I. Combat 103 (Russ Heath and Jack Adler)

Worst Script: Hank Chapman, "The Battling Mustaches!" (Our Army at War 139)
Worst Art: Jack Abel, "The Return of Sgt. Mule!" (G.I. Combat 104)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Return of Sgt. Mule!"


  1 "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!"
  2 "Brass Sergeant!" (Our Army at War 140)
  3 "Dead Man's Trigger!"
  4 "Easy's T.N.T. Crop!" (Our Army at War 143)
  5 "The Sparrow and the Tiger!" (Our Army at War 144)
  6 "The Ghost Pipers!"
  7 "Generals Don't Die!" (Book Two) (Our Army at War 148)
  8 "Surrender Ticket!"
  9  "Easy's Lost Sparrow!" (Our Army at War 138)
10 "The Only Survivor!"

Entering the final year of our DC Horror Coverage,
Jack Seabrook (pictured above) 

reminds us all what reading too many
bad horror comics can do to you!
1976 - the final year - begins in one week!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Hitchcock Project-Robert C. Dennis Part Ten: "Crack of Doom" [2.9]

by Jack Seabrook

"Crack of Doom" is based on a short story by Don Marquis called "The Crack of Doom" that was first published in the September 6, 1930 issue of Collier's and later reprinted in the February 1956 issue of Playboy, which is probably where Joan Harrison saw it and decided to buy the television rights.

Marquis (1878-1937) was a popular newspaper columnist in the 1920s who also wrote short stories. Best known for his series of stories featuring Archy and Mehitabel, a cockroach and a cat, there are over two dozen books that collect his work. A couple of movies were made based on a play he wrote and he spent a brief spell in Hollywood in the early 1930s writing dialogue for films; only four TV shows have been made based on his writings. Read more about Marquis at this excellent website.

"The Crack of Doom" begins in the card room at a men's club when several men tire of bridge and decide to play poker. Tom Ackley asks his old friend Mason Bridges to join them, but Bridges surprises him with a strenuous refusal. A week later, Ackley asks Bridges why and Bridges tells the story of the time he stopped being an honest man and, for a few hours, became a crook.

Ten years before, Bridges had been a partner in a firm in a suburb of New York City where, among other things, money was kept in a safe to help local merchants make change after banking hours were over. The partners in the firm felt free to borrow from the safe and leave I.O.U.s. Bridges, a poker fiend in college who now played twice a week in a small game among friends, was unhappy that Sam Clinker, a local politician with a large bank account, had begun to "bull the game," bluffing frequently and making large bets. Bridges did not like Clinker, thinking that the man had turned a friendly game of cards into a high stakes proposition, and was determined to get the best of him.

From the original publication

One night, Bridges realized that losses over the course of his last two games had left him in debt to the firm over $4000. He and his wife Jessie had $9000 in the bank, so he knew that he could pay back the money, but he wanted to win the money back by beating Sam, who had left $10,000 in the firm's safe that day. Borrowing $2000 of Sam's money from the safe, Bridges joined the game and, before he knew it, he had written a check for $2500 and was down a total of $8500. Thankful for the $9000 he had in the bank, he went home and woke Jessie to tell her, but she broke down and told him that she had lost money at bridge and then lost the rest of the $9000 trying to recoup her losses by playing the stock market.

Bridges reassured her and did not tell her about his own problem, but he suddenly realized that, without the $9000 safety net, he was now a crook who would probably lose his standing in the community and go to jail. He went to the office, took a bottle of scotch from the safe, and began to drink; deciding on a plan, he took another $5000 of Sam's money from the safe before returning to the game.

Hope, despair and alcohol drove Bridges to play Clinker's game and to bet big himself: as the night wore on, he won, lost, and won again, his vision blurred, his insides burning. The last hours passed in a haze, but he never forgot the last hand of poker he would ever play. Clinker had three tens and a king showing while Bridges had three queens and a king showing. The pot got bigger and bigger; Bridges raised $4000 and Clinker countered by raising $10,500; Bridges wrote a worthless check for $20,000 and threw it on the pile of money and checks, goading Clinker into calling him. Suddenly, Bridges looked at his hole card and saw that it was a jack--in his drunken, emotional state he had thought it was a queen.

"I waited for the shattering blast of the last trump," he told Ackley, but it never came. Clinker decided to fold rather than to put more money in the pot, and Bridges had won. He knew that he would not have had the nerve to bluff had he known the real card in his hand and decided that he would never again put himself at the mercy of a playing card. Bridges tells Ackley that that night was the reason he will never again play cards for money.

Robert Horton as the older Mason bridges
"The Crack of Doom" is available to read for free online here. It's title is a reference to biblical signs of the end of time and the waking of the dead on the Day of Judgment. In the story, Bridges mentions "the last trump;" this, combined with the story's title, shows the importance he placed on what he thought would be a turning point in his life.

Don Marquis writes a suspenseful tale that contains an interesting ethical question: when is a man a thief? Bridges takes money from his office safe and leaves an I.O.U. As his borrowing mounts, he believes himself to be an honest man because he knows he can repay the money from his savings. Yet when his wife reveals that the savings are gone, he realizes that he cannot repay the debt and is now a thief. Later that night, he wins back all of the money and can repay the debt, so he is no longer a thief. The question is an interesting one that could be debated at length but, happily for Bridges, Clinker does not call his bluff.

Robert Middleton as Sam Clinker
Robert C. Dennis adapted the story for television and it was broadcast on Sunday, November 25, 1956, as his first contribution to season two of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Directed by James Neilson, the show is a success that remains faithful to the story while enhancing it in ways that take advantage of the medium of television.

Though the story by Don Marquis begins in a men's club, Dennis moves the setting to a train racing through the night. Inside a bar car on the train, Bridges tells his story to Ackley. As Bridges, Robert Horton is made up to look like he is in his mid-40s to early 50s, with graying hair at the temples and a small mustache, and his colleagues appear to be of similar age. The story of the poker game is presented in flashbacks, with Horton looking much younger. Using a train setting for the frame sequence puts the men together in a confined space with time to kill; the darkness outside, lit occasionally by passing lights, and the sound of the moving train add a great deal of atmosphere and urgency to the tale.

This shot recalls 1940s private eye films
Dennis sets up the conflict between Bridges and Clinker by adding a scene in Bridges' office on the afternoon before the big card game. Clinker brings money to put in the safe and the two men are shown to be already at odds. That night, the card game is played at a large, octagonal table and Neilson mixes medium shots, close ups and overhead shots of the table.

Horton is wonderful as Bridges; handsome and heroic, he contrasts well with Robert Middleton as Clinker, who is overweight, more than a decade older than Horton, and menacing. Voice over narration by Bridges is used sparingly to convey his thoughts as he borrows more money from the office safe. By switching from the card game to scenes with Bridges alone to scenes in the present, Dennis keeps the story moving. High-contrast lighting is used in the late night office scene, as Bridges takes the last of Clinker's money from the safe. The voice over narration gives this portion of the episode a feeling like a 1940s detective film.

Dayton Lummis as Tom Ackley
Regarding the story's climax, it is important to remember that these shows were filmed to be aired once or twice and not to be studied carefully. The first view of the hold card is blurry and we can't tell what it is. There is a second insert of the card where it is clearly a Queen, though Bridges keeps his fingers over the "Q"s in the corners. In the final shot, the card is clearly a Jack. To someone watching the show without knowing the ending, the shot of the Queen card will pass by unnoticed.

Gail Kobe as Jessie Bridges
Dennis ends the show with a humorous incident after Mason leaves the club car. Ackley is asked if he would like to make a little bet to see who will pay for drinks and he refuses, having learned his lesson from Bridges' story.

"Crack of Doom" is a very entertaining adaptation of a classic story of suspense, where the writer, the director, and the actors all work together to bring to life the words on the page.

Director James Neilson was at the helm for twelve episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the last reviewed here was "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby."

Robert Horton (1924- ) was onscreen from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s and is still alive at age 91. He also had a career on the Broadway stage. He was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents seven times and starred in the series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1962. He maintains a website here.

Horton as the younger Bridges
Playing Sam Clinker is Robert Middleton (1911-1977), who was born Samuel Messer and who was a constant presence on episodic TV from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. He was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times and Thriller twice.

In small roles are Gail Kobe (1932-2013), as Jessie Bridges, and Dayton Lummis (1903-1988) as Tom Ackley. Kobe was also seen in the hour-long episode, "The Black Curtain," and Lummis was in Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956).

"Crack of Doom" is available on DVD here or may be watched for free online here.


"Crack of Doom." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 25 Nov. 1956.
"Don Marquis: Tall Tales and Light Verse." 15 Nov. 2015.
"The FictionMags Index." The FictionMags Index. 15 Nov. 2015.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb. 15 Nov. 2015.
Marquis, Don. "The Crack of Doom." Collier's: 6 Sept. 1930, 7-9, 40, 43. 13 Nov. 2015.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 15 Nov. 2015.

In two weeks: "John Brown's Body," starring Leora Dana, Russell Collins and Hugh Marlowe!

The game

Monday, November 23, 2015

Do You Dare Enter? Part Sixty-Six: December 1975/ Best & Worst of 1975

The DC Mystery Anthologies 1968-1976
by Peter Enfantino and
Jack Seabrook

Luis Dominguez
Unexpected 170

"Flee to Your Grave"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Ernie Chua

"No Sleep for the Dead"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"A Change for the Hearse!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Noly Panaligan

Jack: Professor Travers decides to act as his own guinea pig to test out a new invention that will increase the human body's buoyancy, allowing man to float and potentially reducing pollution by eliminating the need for cars, planes, etc. His partner, Reese, tries to kill Travers with an overdose so that he can claim the invention for himself. UNEXPECTEDLY, the overdose turns Travers into a big, green monster who starts to grow very large and also to float.

Escaping the police and Reese, who wants him to "Flee to Your Grave," Travers hides among the other balloons in the New York City Thanksgiving Day Parade until he is discovered. The cops shoot the big Superman float beneath him and the escaping helium causes Travers to revert back to human form. He becomes the man who fell to Earth and his fall is broken by Reese, who is killed.

It shouldn't work, but it does! This story is so goofy that I couldn't help liking it by the end. There is no explanation for why Travers turns into a big, green monster--he just does! Kashdan and Chua also achieve the rare feat of showing Superman getting shot in a DC comic.

Peter: As dopey as this story is, you could almost believe that George is aiming at parody but I never assume the best when reading a Kashdan story. That's Sam Elliott, by the way, in a final panel cameo as Prof. Travers.

Sam Elliott?

Jack: On her death bed, Abigail makes her husband, Corliss, promise to bury her with her favorite jewelry. As soon as she dies, Corliss grabs the jewels and gives them to his girlfriend Angela to wear on their wedding day a month later. Abigail's ghost knows that there is "No Sleep for the Dead," and comes back to reclaim her jewels. When Corliss heads for the crypt to see if the corpse is bedecked with jewelry, the heavy lid of the coffin falls on his head and kills him. The opening caption tells us that it's April 1897 in Withersborough, England, so this must be a story that was intended for Ghosts, where Dorfman is fond of putting a specific time and place on his tales to add to the sense of reality.

Peter: That's a pretty nasty climax for a script written by Leo Dorfman, a guy known for such Ghosts classics as "The Phantom Lunchbox" and "The Specter Wore Tennis Shoes." Nice to see Leo's got a dark side to him as well and I wish it had come out more often.

Jack: Owing $25,000 to a murderous loan shark named Tully seemed like a death sentence for Lew Duryea until he was thought to be killed in a plane crash. In fact, his face is horribly disfigured, but he's alive and has a bag of money, so he calls his wife and asks her to meet him at a motel. She shows up with her lover Tully in tow and Lew escapes to a nearby Dungeon of Horrors, where his attempt to hide is a fatal failure. In "A Change for the Hearse!" the treacherous lovers discover too late that the suitcase of money was booby trapped with a bomb that goes off in their faces! Whew! A lot can happen in a bad Carl Wessler story. Panaligan's art is very impressive and this story is right up there with the first one this issue in how silly yet entertaining it manages to be.

Peter: The admission, by Joanne, that she'd been in love with Tully for months was a bit random but the explosive climax makes up for it. A good issue for dumb but enjoyable tales.

Bill Draut
House of Secrets 138

"Where Dreams Are Born"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Frank Redondo

"Night Watchman"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Snake Bite!"
Story by Steve Clement
Art by Romy Gamboa

Peter: Danny's got a special gift: when he sleeps, his dreams pull him into the books he reads and allow him to bring back souvenirs, like a giant diamond found in the land of Sinbad. Unfortunately, for our young hero, his foster parents get wind of this amazing gift and want to cash in big time. They demand that Danny take them with him on his next trip to dreamland and, when the boy refuses, they beat him mercilessly. At last, Danny agrees and transports them, not to a land filled with diamonds but to a cave housing a two-headed dragon. The greedy meanies are gobbled up and Danny returns to our world where he's greeted by one of his buddies. Danny tells his compadre the whole story and then opens the book he's been reading, revealing inside the very issue of House of Secrets we're reading! "Where Dreams Are Born" has a clever meta-climax but the story is ruined by abysmal art from the weaker of the Redondos.

Jack: Abysmal? Have you forgotten about Jerry Grandenetti and Sam Glanzman? This is at least the third story by Jack Oleck where an unhappy boy escapes into a dream world. I was taken by surprise by the conclusion. It's like one of those comic covers where the characters are reading a comic and the cover is of them reading the same comic and . . . you get it.

Peter: Chintzy Hiram Higgs refuses to pay for a security system even though his construction yard has been broken into several times. One day, a creepy old codger named Samuel Slitt arrives, offering Hiram an offer he can't refuse: he'll be "Night Watchman" of the yard for half the cost of Hiram's insurance and total privacy at the yard. Hiram, smelling a great deal, agrees but, one night, as he;s driving by the yard, he hears a scream and investigates. He discovers Sammy with a dead body. Slitt tells him to forget about it as long as Hiram is happy with his services. The cheapskate agrees but greed gets the better of Hiram after a while and he decides to fire the old creep. He surprises Sammy, who turns into a giant bat and drains Hiram's blood. Sammy laments that now he'll have to find another job. Pretty predictable plot but at least we get the spare, atmospheric art of Leopoldo Duranona.

Jack: For my money, this art was worse than that of Frank Redondo in the prior story. At least the stranger wasn't the Devil, which was what I was expecting, though the vampire angle was drained of blood long ago.

Peter: Convict Cayle Chapman escapes the chain gang and heads into the swamp, where he's captured momentarily by tiny Indians. Breaking his bonds, he holds the chief hostage and demands food. The little people agree to his demands but it's not long before Chapman gets antsy and attacks the Indians again. He reaches into their cave to grab some more hostages but, instead, grabs hold of a deadly snake. This one's all over the map. In fact, I'd bet it was heavily edited since there are jumps where some exposition may have been. In any event, the story's bad and so's the art; perhaps editor Orlando was doing us a favor by curtailing this loser. An unusually awful issue of HoS.

Jack: A very violent story, as well, since there are four murders in the first two pages! The most interesting thing in this issue is the note in the letters column about a new series starting in two issues featuring a recurring character called the Patchwork Man, written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Nestor Redondo. I presume this is when Conway got mad and quit Marvel. I'm always happy to see work by Nestor.

Luis Dominguez
Ghosts 44

"The Phantom Who Saw His Future"
Story Uncredited
Art by Noly Panaligan

"The Specter Wore a Badge"
Story by Martin Pasko
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"The Case of the Murdering Specters"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Lee Elias

"James Dean's Curse on Wheels"
Story Uncredited
Art by John Calnan

Jack: Lew Ferrara is a U.S. pilot in France in the waning days of the Second World War and he's being haunted by a nightmare in which his plane is shot down and his crew of ten is killed. He tries to get himself and his crew out of the next mission but is instead sent to a shrink, who tells him that it's all in his head. Feeling better, he takes off with his crew, only to be shot down by Nazi tanks. He emerges from the wreckage to tell his pal that he only counted nine bodies on the plane, but as he dissolves in a ghostly fog we realize that he is dead and is "The Phantom Who Saw His Future." The ending is rather subtle and I had to study it a bit to figure out that Lew was a ghost, but this is twice this month that Panaligan has surprised me with above average art.

Peter: "The Phantom Who Saw His Future" has a really dumb title but, make no mistake, this is top-notch in both the script and art department. The final scene, of Lew stepping from the plane and not realizing he's dead, is a real chiller.

Jack: Chicago police officer Pat O'Horgan warns his wife to be careful because they live in a bad neighborhood, but she ventures out anyway to see a movie. On her way home she is held up by two thugs who are scared away by a silent policeman who pulls a gun on them. Sharon goes home to await her husband's return but later learns that he was killed at the very spot where she was accosted. It seems that "The Specter Wore a Badge" and the policeman who saved her life was the ghost of her husband, whose wedding ring she found on the ground at the crime scene. Confusing, yes, but nice art by Rubeny.

Peter: Not much of a wife if Sharon didn't recognize her husband. The expository is a little confusing: so did the hoods actually kill Pat earlier and, if so, did he get revenge against them after his wife's attack? I need to know.

Jack: Looking for a home outside London in 1949, Jason and Hester Randall are taken by a real estate agent to Temple Garden, in whose basement a couple of ghosts put on quite a show: the ghostly man carries the ghostly woman to a waiting grave, they fight, and both are killed by gunfire. In this ghoulish episode of Love it or List It, the Randalls decide not to Love It. The police investigate but find no evidence of a body buried in the basement. Yet "The Case of the Murdering Specters" is recalled a year later at a party, when the Randalls reconnect with a young couple and realize they're dead ringers for the ghosts. Was the basement scene a portent of things to come? The Randalls don't want to be buttinskys and decide to keep their mouths shut, but months later the scene plays out in real life and they realize that they should have spoken up. What they saw was a portent rather than a remembrance. I don't care what Peter says, I like Lee Elias's artwork.

Peter: "Murdering Specters" is a dead ringer for one of those 1950s House of Mystery classics with its "gosh-wow" expository and its retro Lee Elias art (Elias is what Frank Robbins could have been had he learned anything about human anatomy). Thumbs up! Well done, Carl!

Jack: For 13 years after the fatal crash, "James Dean's Curse on Wheels" continues to spell trouble for its subsequent owners. Who cares? I am so over James Dean. If there's one guy who got way more press than he deserved, it's him. I'm not even a fan of his little sausage links.

Peter: To borrow a phrase used in this very story, the plot and script "tax reality" and my patience but, amazingly enough the facts are pretty much on the money according to this (poorly proofread) site. That doesn't make this a good story but it does make you say "Hmmmm."



Best Script: David Michelinie, "Neely's Scarecrow" (Weird Mystery Tales #16)
Best Art: Michael Kaluta, "The Strange Ones" (Weird Mystery Tales #24)
Best All-Around Story: David Michelinie/ Alex Nino "Neely's Scarecrow"

Worst Script: Steve Skeates, "The Last Out" (House of Secrets #134)
Worst Art: Lee Marrs, "Fight" (Weird Mystery Tales #19)
Worst All-Around Story: George Kashdan/ John Calnan "Camp Fear" (The Witching Hour #58)

Best Cover: Unexpected 166, Luis Dominguez


  1 "Neely's Scarecrow"
  2 "The Veil of Death" (Weird Mystery Tales #20)
  3 "The Strange Ones" 
  4 "The Island of Crawling Flesh" (House of Secrets #131)
  5 "Feud with a Phantom" (Ghosts #35)
  6 "The Inheritors" (Tales of Ghost Castle #2)
  7 "The Last Voyage of the Lady Luck" (House of Secrets #136)
  8 "The Doomsday Yarn" (House of Mystery #230)
  9 "One Man's Poison" (Weird Mystery Tales #21)
10 "Killer Instinct" (House of Secrets #132)


Best Script: Maxene Fabe, "The Spawn of the Devil"
Best Art: Arthur Suydam, "The Island of Crawling Flesh"
Best All-Around Story: "The Spawn of the Devil"

Worst Script: George Kashdan, "Camp Fear"
Worst Art: Don Perlin, "The Phantom Hound"
Worst All-Around Story: "Camp Fear"

Best Cover: Weird Mystery Tales 21, Bernie Wrightson


  1 "The Doomsday Yarn" (House of Mystery 230)
  2 "The Island of Crawling Flesh"(House of Secrets 131)
  3 "The Last Tango in Hell" (House of Mystery 232)
  4 "The Bewitchment of Jeremiah Haskins" (House of Mystery 234)
  5 "Wings of Black Death" (House of Mystery 235)
  6 "The Spawn of the Devil" (House of Mystery 235)
  7 "Death Played a Sideshow" (House of Mystery 236)
  8 "Fair Exchange" (Weird Mystery Tales 23)
  9  "Double Exposure" (House of Mystery 237)
10 "Cake!" (House of Mystery 233)

In Our Special Year-End Double Issue of
Star Spangled DC War Stories:
Will Sgt Rock Dominate the Top Ten Again?
Find Out on November 30th!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 66: November 1964

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Joe Kubert
G.I. Combat 108

"The Wounded Won't Wait!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Private War!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Peter: Jeb Stuart (the ghost) warns Jeb Stuart (his namesake) that the Jeb Stuart (the tank) will encounter a "rock that's going to turn steel into ashes." As usual, the Jeb runs into several altercations that lead the Sergeant to suspect the friendly ghost was right, only to have yet another incident occur. When the tank is ambushed by anti-tank guns, all the men except Jeb are injured and the only thing that saves them all is the appearance of Sgt. Rock! Some of Rock's men are wounded as well and the Sarge tells Jeb they should get the guys to the local field hospital pronto. When they arrive, the hospital is under fire and pulling up stakes. Rock blocks the convoy and tells the doctor that "The Wounded Won't Wait!" As the doc is examining the boys, enemy fighters attack but Rock and Jeb are able to ward them off.

The doctor explains that they'll need to go to the new hospital location as some of the men need operations. Along the way, the men are attacked yet again but the convoy eventually reaches the new site and the men of both comic strips get the attention they need. Good tale, but this could just as easily have been a straightforward Rock story; no reason for the Jeb Stuart to be involved other than to continue the war character crossovers. We're not getting much "haunted" out of this tank, are we?

Jack: I was thinking the same thing. The Haunted Tank stories have become repetitive in that we get a prophecy from the ghost at the beginning and then Jeb spends the rest of the story trying to figure out what it means. The appearance of Sgt. Rock on the cover took away any suspense about what the ghost meant when he referred to a "rock," and as soon as our favorite sergeant appears, he takes over the story. Kubert's art looks hurried in spots, which may be because he was drawing a lot of pages every month at this point.

Peter: Joe and Phil are in love with the same dame back home but she'll only marry one of the guys: the one who becomes the "bigger hero." The boys fight a "Private War" in order to log more kills but, in an ironic twist after both become heroes, the gal marries a pencil pusher! I was thinking, right up to the finale, that these guys should call a truce and then look for a girl who isn't so shallow but Hank Chapman soars in and gives us a great climax. Jerry delivers one of his more solid jobs with "Private War," with the exaggerated facial features kept to a minimum.

Jack: It's been awhile since we've been saddled with a story illustrated by Jerry G and, as I started this one, I was determined to try to like it. Well, that lasted till page two. Jerry's geometric faces are hard to like. The panel where he draws eight biplanes is cool, as is the one where the men march wearing gas masks, but any decent spots in the art are overwhelmed by ten bad ones. Hank Chapman's purple prose doesn't help, and clunky phrases like "a bouquet of Fokkers" show us why Bob Kanigher, for all his faults, was the king of DC war comics.

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 148

"Generals Are Sergeants--With Stars!" ("Generals Don't Die!" Book Two)
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"The Sour Milk-Run!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Joe Kubert

Jack: Impersonating the late General Alex Bentley, Sgt. Rock leads Bentley's men to fight off attacks from two Nazi planes by using a destroyed tank as cover. Rock receives a call on the walkie-talkie to alert him that a runner is coming from Easy Co. with news on how soon reinforcements will arrive. Though Rock worries that the runner, Ice Cream Soldier, will blow his cover, a bomb renders the combat happy Joe blind and deaf just in time. Rock leads the men in battle to defeat Nazi tanks before the sergeant/general is knocked out by a blast. His men think he was killed and he slips back into the woods, where he switches stars for stripes with General Bentley's corpse. He carries the body to the aid station, where he gives Bentley's stars to the general's son, whose father is recognized as a hero at last.

Though Kanigher and Kubert spend five pages to recap last issue's events, the final ten pages of "Generals Are Sergeants--With Stars!" deliver the goods. Rock sums up the message of this series when he says, "a G.I.'s best cover is his fighting heart." The maneuver to defeat the Nazi planes is very clever and there is real suspense as Ice Cream Soldier approaches and we wonder if Rock will be found out.

Peter: The conclusion to "Generals..." is just as average as its first chapter but it did contain one standout sequence, when Ice Cream Soldier is blinded and deafened but relaxes a bit at the touch of the Sarge's hand on his shoulder. Ostensibly, he knew it was Rock. I may be asking for too much but I do hold this series to a higher standard than any of the others (for obvious reasons when you consider two of the sister series feature dinosaurs and a pooch who can talk more intelligently than his G.I. masters), but this monster "epic" just seems ho-hum to me.

Jack: A pair of frogmen who can't seem to complete their missions successfully are given an easy task: parachute in near a Nazi sub, blow it up, and swim home. When their plane is attacked en route, they are dropped into the middle of the desert and their easy job becomes "The Sour Milk-Run!" By means of some camels, a stolen tank and a hijacked plane they make it to the sub and blow it up; a life preserver bobs to the surface providing proof of the mission's success. Hank Chapman's writing is as bad as ever but it is more than balanced by spectacular art from Joe Kubert.

Peter: Though it contains all the cliches (two likable dopes who just can't seem to catch a break but who'll be re-christened "heroes" within ten pages) and a bit too much of the Chapman touch (what the hell is a "TNT pretzel" anyway?), I liked this exciting little sea adventure much more than the main attraction. I've added the line "Cut your chute shrouds on the hubba-hubba" to my repertoire of party patter.

Joe Kubert
Our Fighting Forces 88

"Devil Dog Patrol!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jack Abel

"The Last Volunteer!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Gerald McCann

Jack: The wily Col. Hakawa has a new plan--attack the marines on the beach from both sides! While a tank shoots at the beach from inside the jungle, a sub lobs torpedoes onto the beach from the water. Gunner, Sarge and Pooch take to the drink to blow up the sub and then rejoin the other gyrenes to hold off the tank attack.

One day, a kitten washes ashore and Pooch takes to it like a kindly uncle. Unfortunately, Pooch is lost to the enemy after an accident on patrol, and those dastardly Japanese train our favorite pup to attack Marines on sight! At the van of a "Devil Dog Patrol," Pooch leads the enemy right to Gunner and Sarge's hiding place, but when the kitten jumps out to greet the dog and is shot by an enemy soldier, Pooch snaps out of it and, fortunately, the good guys win again. Kitty survives with only a flesh wound.

Peter is going to love this story! We finally have crossed over into full kiddie-land with the addition of a cute kitten to the Gunner, Sarge and Pooch team. What's next? A talking duck?

Peter: To think we were just this close to losing Pooch and that spineless wimp, Gunner, just couldn't lower the boom. I love the "secret pocket airfield" hidden on the other side of the waterfall as if Gunner and Sarge went in and exited into the Land that Time Forgot. How could they not have seen the planes landing right on the other side of the hill? At least Bob realized this series was spinning its wheels and decided to add a dangerous new element: an intelligent kitten! Things are looking up.

Jack: American soldiers must climb the Needle, a steep mountain, to knock off a Nazi sniper at the top. After others fail, Bronson is "The Last Volunteer!" He comes from a family of mountain climbers but fears making the trip upwards due to a traumatic event before the war where a German guide sent his father and brother to their death during a guided climb. After blowing up a Nazi tank and a Nazi plane and nearly falling to his death on the way up, Bronson reaches the top and discovers that the Nazi sniper is none other than the guide who had killed his family! A fight ensues and Bronson survives as the Nazi falls to his death, victim of his own booby-trapped rope.

It looks like this is the only time we'll see pulp/comic artist Gerald McCann, and that's a shame, since his art is really nice and gritty.

Peter: I must say I was taken completely by surprise when the Nazi lookout at the top of The Needle turned out to be Kurt Krieg! My goodness, what a coincidence. And right on top of the coincidence of our hero ending up at the same mountain that killed his family! Imagine that. The graphics soar above the dumb script, however, thanks to newcomer Gerald McCann. A former pulp illustrator, McCann will contribute this single story to the DC War titles.

Joe Kubert
Star Spangled War Stories 117

"Medal for a Dinosaur!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"TNT Eight-Ball!"
Story by Kin Platt
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: The lovable duo of Morgan and Mace (you know, the "Only Suicide Squad members who hate each other more than the enemy"?) are sent to a remote Pacific island to find out why an experimental bomber has gone missing. When the boys arrive, they learn that the island is inhabited by (gasp!) dinosaurs from the terrible Stone Age. M&M are terrorized by several giant creatures until, finally, they're forced off a cliff and onto an enormous egg. The egg hatches and out pops a baby pterodactyl. After some initial bumps in the road, the boys make friends with the winged terror and eventually, it saves their lives. Dropping them off at the beach, little Terry waves bye-bye as the Suicide Squadders set sail with their intel.

When the C.O. tells Morgan and Mace that a top secret experimental bomber has disappeared without a trace and not one soul on Earth can figure it out, I almost raised my hand and said, "Sir, you must have read the report about carnivorous dinosaurs in the Pacific. There's your answer," but the guys stayed quiet so I thought I should, too. I know I'm beating a dead horse by bringing this up but you have to wonder if Bob Kanigher even remembers writing the last installment of this series when Morgan and Mace survived and made it back to their comrades to tell the story of dino-island. Only, dinosaurs must have been so commonplace during World War II that they forgot to mention what they'd been through or assumed their C.O. would be bored by the tale. Even more bizarre is the reaction the dopey duo have when they first spot a dino on their return visit:

Morgan: I'm sweating so much--I'm imagining there's a dinosaur standing like a roadblock in front of us!

Mace: I'm imagining it too!

These two are not only absent-minded but amnesiacs! Mace giving Morgan constant reminders that he's going to shoot him if Morgan even thinks about deserting was a nice touch last issue but Bob does it to death in "Medal for a Dinosaur" and the monotony kills the gimmick real quick.

Jack: Morgan is such a jerk that Mace should let the dinos eat him! A typical Morgan and Mace exchange goes like this:

Morgan: Do what I say or I'll shoot you!

Mace: OK!

Over and over and over. Why doesn't Morgan just do it himself? Why does he hold a gun on Mace and tell Mace to shoot something? Is this a power thing?

Peter: Simmons has it bad. His old college coach is now his Sarge and the guy has it out big time for Simmons, who can't seem to do anything right as far as the older man is concerned. Simmons can't shoot straight, he trips over his own shoe laces, and he throws grenades "like an old lady in a rocking chair." Luckily, Simmons comes up aces when it's needed the most and, suddenly, the Sarge thinks the kid is a "TNT Eight-Ball." This one is pure dreck and formula, with a litany of Don Rickles-esque put-down one-liners that get more stale as the pages turn.

"... and your mother wears army boots!"

Jack: That's two stories in one issue where I think the guy who's being abused should stop putting up with it! If poor Simmons couldn't stand up to Coach, he should have let Sarge get run over by a Nazi tank. I want to start a movement to boost the self-confidence of DC war comics G.I.s.

In the Next Chilling Issue of
Do You Dare Enter?
Jack and Peter Reveal Their Picks for
Best and Worst of 1975!
On Sale Nov. 23rd!