Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Thirty-Nine: "Final Vow" [8.6]

by Jack Seabrook

What happens when an innocent young woman who has lived a sheltered life suddenly comes face to face with evil in the form of a violent criminal? This is the problem that Henry Slesar addressed in "Final Vow," which aired on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on CBS on Thursday, October 25, 1962.

"Final Vow" is a tale that involves a young nun and her search for guidance. The show opens during a quiet meal at a convent, as Sister Pamela drops a pitcher of milk and it shatters on the floor. The broken vessel foreshadows her own innocence, which will soon be smashed to pieces when she attempts to join the world outside. Unlike the milk, however, her own purity will be maintained. After the accident with the pitcher, much older Sister Jem consoles Sister Pamela, who has been considering leaving the Order. At the request of the Reverend Mother, Sister Pamela visits Sister Lydia in the infirmary. Sister Lydia recalls having been a novice once herself, with doubts similar to those Sister Pamela is now feeling. She tells Sister Pamela of a young student she had named William Michael Downey who grew up to become a criminal. Sister Lydia kept writing to him for thirty years and now he finally has responded with a letter asking her to pay him a visit. She is too ill to make the trip so she asks Sister Pamela to go in her place, to "see what faith and prayer will do."

Carol Lynley as Sister Pamela
Sister Pamela and Sister Jem travel together by train to the home of Mr. Downey, who lives in a penthouse apartment overlooking the city. Sister Jem sits down in a chair on the balcony and immediately dozes off, leaving Sister Pamela alone to speak with her host. He wears an expensive suit but has a rough, confrontational manner and Sister Pamela upbraids him for his remarks about prayer and its success or failure, telling him that "prayers aren't business deals." Yet his questions touch a nerve and he guesses correctly that she has been using the convent as a place to hide from the world. He gives her a small statue of St. Francis to take back to Sister Lydia and comments that it is five centuries old, by the great Italian Renaissance artist Donatello, and that it came from the Medici Palace. Sister Pamela awakens Sister Jem and they decide to take the next train back to the convent right away. "I hope this'll make it up to her," Downey quips, referring to Sister Lydia and his thirty-year silence.

Jimmy offers to help
At the train station, a young man appears out of the crowd and offers to help the sisters by carrying two of their three suitcases, one of which is the small suitcase that holds the priceless statue. He quickly disappears into the crowd ahead of them and they are distraught at the loss of the gift. They go to the police station, where Sister Pamela recognizes the thief in a lineup: he is James Bresson, who says he works at the Gramercy Appliance Co. and who claims to have been with his girlfriend at the time of the theft. Sister Pamela is not sure that he is the man and Sister Jem's kindness persuades her not to identify him if she is uncertain. Sister Pamela returns to the convent and tells the Reverend Mother that she wants to leave the order. She believes that she has hidden herself away from the world for selfish reasons and that the loss of the statue was a sign that she cannot be trusted.

Carmen Phillips as Bess
Pamela applies for a job at the Gramercy Appliance Co in the typing pool and soon runs into Bresson, who works in the shipping department. One day, as she eats lunch alone on the loading dock, Bresson approaches her and invites her to a party that Friday night. She accepts and, at the party, Bresson's girlfriend Bess is jealous of the attention that he pays to the pretty new girl. Pamela refuses to leave the party with him and instead stays behind to comfort Bess. When Bess leaves the room for a minute, Pamela sees a pawn ticket in an open drawer and notes the name and address of the Wormer Pawn Shop, where Bess says Jimmy often conducts business.

Don Hanmer as Wormer
The next day, Pamela visits the pawn shop, looking for a small religious statue. Wormer shows her the stolen statue of St. Francis and asks $20 for it; he grabs and empties her purse, looking for evidence that she's a cop. Jimmy bursts in, having been called by Wormer, who was suspicious of Pamela's behavior. Jimmy manhandles the young woman and suddenly realizes that she is the nun from whom he stole the suitcase. She says that she left the order over a month ago and he deduces that she tracked him down so that she could recover what must be a valuable statue. Though Wormer tells Jimmy that it is "bad luck--robbing a nun," Jimmy puts Pamela in the back room and tells Wormer to call Mike the Broker to find out the real worth of the object.

Don Hanmer and R.G. Armstrong, as Mike the Broker
When Mike arrives, Pamela is shocked to see that Mike is none other than Mr. Downey, the wealthy criminal who gave her the statue. He catches her eye and tells her to "shut up," then he convinces Jimmy and Wormer that the object is a piece of worthless junk and that they should let her go. Mike gives Pamela the statue and ushers her out, then he hands Wormer $20 and tells him and Jimmy not to bother him about such trifles in the future. Pamela rushes out into the street, clutching the statue, and Downey picks her up and drives her back to the convent. He apologizes for what he said to her in his apartment and tells her that he now knows that she is not hiding from anything. He leaves and she heads into the convent with the statue, presumably to resume her life as a nun, having experienced a taste of the outside world and having convinced herself of the certainty of her convictions.

Charity Grace as Sister Jem, waking up to see St. Francis
"Final Vow" is packed with themes involving religion and faith. The central question that it asks is whether Sister Pamela belongs inside or outside the walls of the convent. When she is sent by Sister Lydia on a mission to meet with a criminal, it is a test. The elderly and infirm Sister Lydia sends her in the company of the equally elderly Sister Jem, but Sister Jem falls asleep in an almost magical fashion on arriving at Downey's home, leaving Sister Pamela to face the criminal on her own. Downey's conversation with her recalls that of the Devil tempting Jesus, as he plants the seed of doubt in her mind that she is using the convent as a convenient hideout.

R.G. Armstrong as Downey
One may question whether accepting a gift from a criminal is even appropriate: is the statue of St. Francis truly a priceless art treasure, as Downey tells Sister Pamela, or is it a worthless piece of junk, as he tells Jimmy and Wormer? How did Downey come to possess such an item, if it is real? Did he gain it by dishonest means and, if so, should the convent accept it? None of these questions are answered in the story, but they are certainly worth considering. Downey's speech to Jimmy and Wormer is instructive, as he convinces them that religious people can revere something that has no value in the world of commerce, just because it has been blessed. Is he giving us a clue to the truth about the statue or is he telling them what they need to hear in order to save Pamela? In the end, it really does not matter, since the statue and the events surrounding it serve a higher purpose--that of showing Pamela the path she must follow in life, one of service and contemplation inside the convent walls.

Jimmy inspects Pamela's hand for rings
Sister Pamela learns from her experiences, some of which involve either observing or being the victim of various instances of violence that the men in this story commit on its women. From her first experiences outside the convent, Pamela gets a lesson in how men treat women. During the interview for a job in the typing pool, the man questioning her cautions her not to get married, suggesting that it would be bad for her job and for the company. When she first meets Jimmy on her lunch break, he grabs her lunch bag and inspects it, then he grabs her wrist and checks her hand for rings. He verbally abuses her, mocking her prim and proper attitude, and finally, when she agrees to come to the party, he puts his hand on her shoulder in a suggestive way. At the party, Jimmy and Bess, his girlfriend, come to blows and he ends up shoving her into a chair. Finally, and most dangerously, Jimmy assaults Pamela at the pawnshop, even after he recognizes her as the nun from whom he stole. He yells at her and physically attacks her, threatening to kill her if she tells the police about him. Clearly, Pamela's experiences outside the convent with men would not encourage her to embrace the secular life.

Pamela arrives at the pawn shop
Duality is also a theme in "Final Vow," as Pamela goes from nun to typist, from chaste bride of Jesus to reluctant party girl. Downey also shows two sides--he is the career criminal who seeks forgiveness through a gift to the convent, yet he is also the tough crook who is able to take a dangerous situation in hand and convince the unstable Jimmy to leave Pamela alone. Even in the final scenes in the pawnshop, Downey plays a dual role; he puts on a tough face for the men while subtly communicating with Pamela that he is there to help her. Slesar's teleplay does a competent job of portraying the difference between the world inside the convent and the world outside.

Our first look at Wormer
In a sense, "Final Vow" may be read as Pamela's descent into Hell. After she renounces her vows, she joins the workforce in a low-level job and is almost immediately assaulted by the words and physical actions of Jimmy. She then goes to a party, where she sees him attack his girlfriend. Further down she goes, into the shadowy pawnshop, whose owner is first seen as a monstrous figure with a seemingly deformed eye. The eye turns out to be a magnifier that he wears on his head, a symbolic appendage that allows him to examine things more closely but which does not prevent him from being fooled. Last of all, Pamela bursts out of the pawn shop and into the bright and sunny street, as if she is returning to the world of light from the world of darkness.

It is no coincidence that the statue Downey gives to the convent is a representation of St. Francis. St. Francis was a medieval man who lived a secular life until a vision led him to turn his back on worldly things and found orders devoted to poverty and faith. Sister Pamela spends her time in the world as well and eventually decides to follow the example of the man whose little statue sets the story in motion.

Although the title card for "Final Vow" reads: "Teleplay by Henry Slesar from his own story," the story must have stayed in a drawer for years. The next time this tale would surface was on August 15, 1974, when it was broadcast as an episode of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater under the title "The Final Vow." Perhaps Slesar or his producers had short memories, since E.G. Marshall, the host of the show, says that it was "written especially for the mystery theater by Henry Slesar." This is obviously untrue, because the radio play follows the 12-year-old teleplay closely.

Slesar's story would surface again in March 1976, when it was published as "Hiding Out" in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. This was the first time that the story was published in print and it is an unusually long story for Slesar, running 34 pages in its reprint in the collection, Death on Television. The story follows the televised version closely and has no significant changes. The title was changed back to "Final Vow" when it was reprinted in book form.

"Final Vow" was directed by Norman Lloyd (1914- ), who acted in five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and directed 19 half-hour episodes and three hour-long episodes. Lloyd's direction here is solid, with a nice overhead shot in the train station when the sisters realize their treasure is gone and a jarring introduction to Wormer when Pamela first wanders into the pawnshop.

Carol Lynley in street clothes
Carol Lynley (1942- ) stars as Sister Pamela. Born Carole Ann Jones, she took the stage name of Carolyn Lee early in her career and changed it to the homophone Carol Lynley when she found out that someone else was already using Carolyn Lee. Lynley's TV and movie career began in the mid to late '50s and she appeared in one Hitchcock half-hour in addition to "Final Vow." Her most memorable roles for me both came in 1972, when she appeared in The Night Stalker TV movie and The Poseidon Adventure. Lynley's onscreen presence was always unusual, and "Final Vow" is no exception. Her beauty was unquestionable, however, and she posed nude for Playboy in 1965.

Portraying Jimmy Bresson is Clu Gulager (1928- ). This episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour is notable because its director and co-stars are still alive at the time of this writing! Gulager was born William Martin Gulager and started his TV career in 1956, branching out into movies in 1964. He appeared three times on the Hitchcock series, including "Pen Pal." His performance in "Final Vow" is mannered and strange; he mumbles his lines in several scenes and seems to be trying to engage in method acting. Gulager maintains a website here.

The pawnbroker, Wormer, is played by Don Hanmer (1919-2003), who appeared in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Faith of Aaron Menefee," where he plays injured gangster Vern Byers.

Isobel Elsom as the Reverend Mother
Carmen Phillips (1937-2002) plays Bess, Jimmy's girlfriend. She had a brief career from 1958 to 1969 but managed to pop up in five episodes of the Hitchcock series.

The small role of the Reverend Mother is played by Isobel Elsom (1893-1981), who started in silent film way back in 1915 and appeared in Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, both in 1947. She also was seen in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Back for Christmas," where she played the shrewish wife of John Williams.

Kindly Sister Jem is played by Charity Grace (1884-1965), an actress aptly named for portraying a nun! She was in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Party Line."

John Zaremba interviewing Pamela
John Zaremba (1908-1986), who was the prosecutor in "I Saw the Whole Thing," returns as the man who interviews Pamela for a job at Gramercy Appliance Co. This was one of his eleven roles on the series.

Finally, R.G. Armstrong (1917-2012) is seen as William Michael Downey, the criminal and former pupil of Sister Lydia. Armstrong was on four Hitchcock shows and had a long career, spanning the years from 1954-2001. He was in many westerns. Online sources report that he grew up in a family of fundamentalists and that his mother wanted him to be a pastor, but he became an actor instead and his onscreen roles sometimes played off the tension between his upbringing and his profession. His character in "Final Vow" faces a similar question between his youth in a religious setting and his criminal career.

Finally, the musical score for "Final Vow" is worth a mention. It was composed by Lynn Murray (1909-1989), who was born Lionel Breeze and who composed music for film and TV from the '40s to the '80s, including the scores for Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) and The Twilight Zone episode, "A Passage for Trumpet." He scored 35 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

"Final Vow" may be viewed online for free here. The radio adaptation may be heard online for free here.

Sources:
"Final Vow." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 25 Oct. 1962. Television.
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <http://philsp.com/>.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/>.
Slesar, Henry. "Final Vow." Ed. Francis M. Nevins and Martin Harry. Greenberg. Death on Television: The Best of Henry Slesar's Alfred Hitchcock Stories. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989. 146-79. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <http://www.wikipedia.org/>.

  • Antenna TV is airing back to back episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents nightly and will host a 28-hour marathon this "Hitch-O-Ween"! Check out the daily schedule here.
  • ME TV is airing The Alfred Hitchcock Hour every Saturday night! Find out this week's episode here.
  • Coming in two weeks: "House Guest," starring Macdonald Carey and Robert Sterling!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 38: July 1962


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


Russ Heath & Jack Adler
GI Combat 94

"The Haunted Tank vs. Killer Tank!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"No-Gun Crew!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick


Peter: How is it that an unseen force is picking off Allied tanks without leaving a trace of its origin? The Haunted Tank finds itself on the menu for destruction when a voice over the com informs the men they will be destroyed in order of the number on their vehicle. The Jeb Stuart is No. 4 and the first three have blown sky high. It's only when a Nazi tank is discovered in a village with human shields and the No. 5 tank swivels its turret and prepares to fire that the Jeb catches on: the No. 5 had been hijacked by Nazis! The Jeb puts an end to the German trickery with a well-placed shell. The ghost of Jeb Stuart must have asked for a pay raise since he's only visible for a few panels this time out. The present day Jeb Stuart (since both human incarnations of the soldier and the tank itself are named Jeb Stuart, this can get confusing at times) has to rely on his wits and military training alone but the result is an exciting and, of course, beautifully drawn thriller. Yep, you guessed half way through "The Haunted Tank vs. Killer Tank" what was going on (it was pretty evident when the No. 5 went missing for a bit and then all this hell started breaking lose after she'd come back) but it didn't put a crimp in the fun, did it? This could have easily been a non-Haunted Tank story.


Jack: As usual, you're smarter than I am, since I did not guess what was going on until Jeb figured it out. I prefer Joe Kubert's art over Russ Heath's, but I'll admit that Heath's work is nearly always excellent, and this story is no exception. I did not miss seeing more of the ghost at all. I'm glad modern-day Jeb didn't have to pass out this time, though telling straightforward stories kind of takes the "haunted" out of the Haunted Tank.

Peter: Three graduates from Naval gunnery school have quite the reputation as sharpshooters. Nicknamed "Kaintucky," "Texas," and "Brooklyn," the trio must fight aversion from their comrades at sea until an attack on their ship from sea and air forces them to show how good they really are. The first couple pages of "No-Gun Crew" resemble nothing we've seen before on our journey. It's almost as though these two pages were reprinted from a 1940s war comic; the art is unrecognizable. Then it starts to settle down a bit (although I still would not have been able to identify Novick as the culprit) and it rests itself comfortably alongside dozens of other mediocre "war buddy" stories. The problem I have with stories like this (and I'll pull a 180 with my feelings about these kinds of stories when we get to "Stars and Stripes and Swastikas" in this month's Star Spangled so you're allowed to snicker at me if you like) is that, at no point do I feel that any one of the trio is in any danger despite strafings from Zeros and direct hits from torpedoes. The battleship they're traveling on is engulfed in flames and yet they nonchalantly climb back aboard to man their weapon. A rare all-Kanigher issue finds Bob batting .500. Not too bad.

"No-Gun Crew!"

Jack: The weird art lasts exactly one panel, as Novick seems to be drawing likenesses of real people from photographs. I have no idea if they are old movie stars, but that's what I thought when I saw it. After that, it looks like all-Novick to me. This story was entertaining but run of the mill, and I always wonder how these soldiers can fire guns at oncoming planes and not get killed. Wouldn't the plane reach them in a matter of seconds if it was close enough to shoot at?


Jerry Grandenetti
Our Army at War 120

"Battle Tags for Easy Co.!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"The Fort Had a Heart!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath

Jack: Easy Co. is under heavy enemy fire while trying to take Hill 13, so named because 12 other companies died trying to conquer it. Rock is minding a new recruit who is on the verge of panicking, and the veteran knows that if one man panics it could spread throughout the entire company. Our favorite sergeant starts to tell the young man about the secret origins of some of the "Battle Tags for Easy Co.!" and explains how three soldiers got their nicknames. Ice Cream Soldier joined in North Africa and hated the heat but was as cool as ice cream when he used a bazooka to destroy an enemy tank on a frozen lake after a freak snowstorm. Wild Man spent so long lying in bed reading that he grew a long beard, but when he first went after the enemy he surprised everyone by fighting like a wild man. Bulldozer was an over sized gent whose clothes never fit but who barreled into the enemy like a bulldozer. Sgt. Rock's tales keep the new recruit distracted until the shelling stops and, when the young man single handedly destroys an enemy tank, he is nicknamed Green Apple because he gave the enemy indigestion! Little by little, Easy Co. is becoming more than just Sgt. Rock and a bunch of interchangeable soldiers. The development of a team of war heroes is probably a reflection of the popularity of DC's Justice League series, where superheroes were joined together to form a team.

"Battle Tags for Easy Co.!"

Peter: Though it only clocks in at 14.5 pages, this entry has the feel of an epic full-issue size story. There's a lot of interesting backstory packed into its brief length and I'm hoping its a tease of things to come. I love the mini-origins of some of the Easy boys, something I've been requesting for quite a while. Kanigher got smart, it seems, and realized that this squad needs personality rather than blurred faces in the background. The eye-opener here is that, if we're to believe the hints dropped, Rock is not the Sarge's surname but a "tag." One question that plagued me during the sequence when Green Apple truly becomes a member of Easy: wouldn't Rock have riddled him with machine-gun rounds when the kid ran right in front of his spray?

Jack: The U.S. fliers love the Saucy Lady, a flying fort that seems to have a mind of its own and saves them from Nazi planes time and again. After a bombing run, the Lady is forced to land in Nazi territory and the crew makes its escape, leaving the plane to the enemy. Soon, the Lady is back in the air, but this time it's being flown by Nazis and the U.S. fighters are hesitant to attack their favorite plane, thinking that "The Fort Had a Heart!" No attack is necessary, though, since the Lady remains faithful to the Allied cause and dive-bombs into some Nazi fighter planes just in the nick of time, destroying them and itself in the process. Russ Heath's art is the highlight of this lightweight story, where there are no surprises.

"The Fort Had a Heart!"

Peter: This is the format we need: 2 tales of longer length rather than three short stories. There's more room for our war writers to play with their characters, to actually give them a history and make the reader interested in them. Luckily, three out of four of our titles this month follow this strategy. The Heath art is gorgeous as always and "The Fort Had a Heart" is one of those quasi-supernatural stories I really dig (especially that eerie last panel--reprinted above). Kudos to Haney for not explaining the mystery and leaving it up to us to decide.


Jerry Grandenetti
Our Fighting Forces 69

"Destination Doom!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Last Chance for a Frogman!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"T.N.T. Mailman!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Joe Kubert

Jack: Gunner, Sarge and Pooch survive an attack on their assault boat and destroy a Japanese mini sub and an attacking zero before holding off multiple Banzai charges on the beach. Colonel Hakawa tells his men that they must first distract the Marines and then attack. Unfortunately, his men tend to jump the gun and yell "Banzai" in excitement before he finishes explaining his plans. The Colonel's planes drop messages to the Marines and the papers burst into flames, singing the Marines's hands and making it difficult for them to fire their machine guns during another Banzai attack. Gunner's foot gets caught in a rope trailing from a Japanese plane and he is dragged through air and sea before destroying the aircraft. He requisitions a Japanese boat and returns safely to base. It seems like Jerry Grandenetti's art rises or falls to the occasion depending on the story he's illustrating. In "Destination Doom!" he's at his stylized worst (for 1962), unlike his story in this month's Star Spangled War Stories.

Colonel Hakawa's men are so much fun!
Peter: "Destination: Dumb" is more like it. What we learned from this one:

1/ Pooch is so smart he can shut a submarine hatch just like that!
2/ Sniff--Sniff = "We're about to be attacked, boys!"
3/ Arf--Arf--Arfff! = "We're about to be attacked from the sea, boys!"
4/ Arf--Arf-- = " I got me a feeling that's Gunner manning that Jap ship, Sarge, don't shoot!"
5/ Jerry Grandenetti's art is the pits.
6/ The same colorist that dumped all kinds of red on Johnny Cloud bought into that Yellow Peril myth big time.
7/ We're wasting time reading this tripe.

"Last Chance for a Frogman!"
Jack: The commander of the Japanese ship Tagawa is wanted by the Allied Forces because he has destroyed so many subs. When a frogman discovers his ship, he reads a message painted on the hull telling him that there are American POWs aboard. Loath to destroy the ship and kill his fellow soldiers, the frogman figures out a way to lure the boat over a sunken sub, thus ripping a hole in its hull and allowing the prisoners to swim to freedom. He then plants a depth charge inside the ship and, when the pressure mounts, the ship is destroyed. A tense and exciting little story with above-average art from Jack Abel, "Last Chance for a Frogman!" succeeds in five and a half pages where Gunner and Sarge failed in twelve and a half.

Peter: The art's not great but the story's a nail-biter and I loved the ingenuity the frogman used to rip a hole in the Tagawa.

Example #1 of why we love Kubert
Jack: Charlie Company is pinned down in the snow by Von Krull's men, but the captain sits writing a letter instead of giving orders! Little does Von Krull know that the captain will be a "T.N.T. Mailman!" by the time the fight is over. The letter tells the story of the first time these two met, when Von Krull used a sandstorm as cover to dig up mines and attack Charlie Co. To Von Krull's surprise, Charlie learned a lesson and pulls the same trick under cover of snow. In the end, Von Krull is captured and the captain's letter is delivered in person. Wow! What a great story. This is as good as Joe Kubert's art gets inside a comic book and there are panels that could be collected in a "best of" collection.

Peter: This one's a big-time winner from first panel to last. I'd have loved to see "T.N.T. Mailman" benefit from a 14-page length (and Kanigher wasted twelve and a half on Pooch and Hakawa) but maybe it's the brevity that pushes this one into Top Ten of the Year status; there's nothing wasted on its lean bones. A classic showdown between Von Krull and a Captain who could easily be Sgt. Rock's little brother. I want a rematch!

Example #2

Example #3


Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
Star Spangled War Stories 103

"Doom at Dinosaur Island!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"Stars and Stripes Against Swastikas!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Peter: With a giant Japanese robot chasing them, Mac and his robot buddy Joe must face "Doom at Dinosaur Island!" The boys dodge flying reptiles and rockets from the giant's metal fingers before Joe saves the day by blinding the gargantuan with machine gun bursts. Well, there's not really much to say about this other than it's the first story in the history of "The War That Time Forgot" to carry over a story line from one issue to the next. That's something, ain't it? I haven't peeked ahead so I don't know how long the Mac and Joe series lasts but it needs a new hook fast.

Jack: I liked the giant robot and, especially, its machine-gun fingers! This series is bringing out the kid in me. The Andru-Esposito art looks like all other Andru-Esposito art and the stories are repetitive, but there is something about the relationship between Mac and Joe, his robot buddy, that appeals to me. I like the way Joe is starting to seem like a sentient being.

"Doom at Dinosaur Island!"

"Stars and Stripes Against Swastikas!"
Peter: In the 1938 Olympics, the Nazis demolish the Americans in a downhill skiing competition (and they don't do it with grace, we hasten to add). Flash forward five years and a German plane carrying top secret World War II-winning documents to Hitler is shot down on the same German mountain slopes where America suffered its most bitter defeat. Now, the same two teams that skied against each other in 1938 are once more bitter enemies as they race to the downed plane to salvage the black satchel bearing the secrets to total world domination. A game of see-saw commences as the papers pass from Good Guys (Us) to Bad Guys (Them) until a Nazi trick backfires and the Allies retrieve the black bag. I'm one to scream "Yeah right!" at the silly coincidences thrown at us in these war stories (and this one has possibly the biggest "Yeah Right" of them all) but I enjoyed "Stars and Stripes Against Swastikas" for what it is: mindless entertainment. Exciting and brainless like a James Bond film, and with an equally high body count. I would like to know how our last man standing survived point blank machine gun fire.

Jack: Yeah! Very cool snow scenes and action from Jerry Grandenetti! The black bag's contents don't matter--it's the back and forth between soldiers that counts in this action-packed tale. I am slowly starting to revise my opinion of Jerry Grandenetti's art. I nominate Bob Haney as author of this uncredited story--it seems like his work rather than that of Kanigher or Chapman.

IN OUR NEXT FLESH-FREEZING ISSUE!





Thursday, October 9, 2014

Voices in the Dark: The Horrors of Dark Fantasy (1941-1942), Part Four


by Jose Cruz


14. A Delicate Case of Murder

Original Broadcast: February 20, 1942

Cast: Georgianna Cook (Laura Winsted), Ben Morris (Harvey Winsted), Eleanor Naylor Caughron (Frederica Keaton), Muir Hite (Rogers), and Fred Wayne (Doctor). 

After a fresh dose of piercing organ music is served up to our ears, we’re guided into the home of the Winsted’s one very late night/early morning. The present group is there to witness a séance held by medium wife Laura. Husband Harvey is a surly sourpuss who tut-tuts the proceedings, calling the spiritual writing his spouse performs as “hair-brained messages” and generally warning the other two members of the party against indulging Laura’s foolishness. Both of them, Miss Frederica Keaton and her acquaintance Rogers, take Mrs. Winsted’s purported powers very seriously, recalling that it was she who was able to communicate with the spirits via Ouija board even when mighty mystic Quentin Ramsay could not.

Laura has apparently been studying the spiritual arts and has now gained the ability of materialization, so the lady promises her guests that tonight “There’ll be more than mere rappings.” The four gather at table and join hands after Roger has doused the lights. “No one is to break the contact,” Laura says. “No one!” The medium then asks the spirits to make themselves known, requesting that they knock upon the boards twice for “No” and thrice for “Yes.”

A phantom starts speaking to Laura, telling the psychic that she has a message to give to Miss Keaton. When the ghost tells Frederica that she is hovering over her (!), Miss Keaton looks up and recognizes the old face of her late mother. The spirit tells Frederica that she has nothing to worry about before splitting it back to Bogey Land, effectively bringing the séance to an end. Not wanting to publicize these awesome abilities of hers, Laura asks that Frederica keep what she’s seen to herself.

Harvey then volunteers to take the young lady home, but the only thing he is interested in driving is his lips towards hers! For Harvey and Frederica are secret lovers, you see. The relationship between Harvey and his wife has dissolved over the years into bitterness and resentment, and his repeated requests for a divorce are met with stubbornness by Laura at every turn. “I used to love her immensely,” he tells Frederica, but now the old ball and chain has grown “indifferent, overbearing, and sharp-tongued.” 

Harvey also shows the young woman that Laura is a fraud to boot, displaying the papier-mâché figure that was used to masquerade as Frederica’s dead mother. Laura storms in at that moment, claiming that the vision was indeed fake but that the unearthly voice was genuine. Laura says “There are many things between earth and heaven that none of us know,” a tin-eared rendition of Shakespeare’s sentiment if there ever was one. She swears to her husband that she will convince him of this one day.

Harvey and Laura argue the next day about their marriage. Even knowing that her husband is a philanderer, Laura will still not release her hold on him, telling him that it’s “convenient being married to your income.” Later in town, Laura drives up to the curb and invites Frederica for a ride. The automobile is soon involved in a terrible crash, the precise details of which are conveniently relayed to us by a ballyhooing newsie who apparently lives in a town where auto accidents are a hot broadcast item.

Laura herself has been killed, while Frederica lies in critical condition at the hospital. The doctors report to the grieving Harvey—who asks nothing of his smashed wife—that Frederica’s nerve centers have been damaged and that she cannot use her voice. Harvey agrees to pay whatever sum is necessary to ensure his lover’s recovery and, once the operation is performed, he gets the good news that Frederica is back to her old self. The couple wed immediately, but upon carrying his new bride across the threshold, Harvey is a little alarmed by the spiteful sting Frederica’s voice has adopted. And as the wicked woman mocks her new husband’s stupidity, Harvey realizes with horror that the deceased Laura has now gained possession of Frederica!

“A Delicate Case of Murder” is a bit stupider than it needs to be, not to mention its trading on some very old narrative tropes in its attempt to startle and shock the audience. Among the other bizarre contrivances, the biggest one seems to be that not a single murder is to be found in this episode! It’s just barely hinted that Laura invites Frederica for a ride with the intention of crashing the car, but not is that only “A Vague Case of Murder,” it makes no sense whatsoever. How could Laura have known that she would die in the crash and, more importantly, that Frederica would survive for her to later possess? Aren’t there more direct ways to ensure the type of outcome Laura was hoping for?

There’s not much else to comment on for this entry. We may have reached the bottom of Dark Fantasy’s cobwebbed barrel. 





15. Spawn of the Subhuman

Original Broadcast: February 27, 1942

Cast: Ben Morris (Michael Brock), Eleanor Naylor Caughron (Adelaide Rhodes), Garland Moss (Dr. Luther), and Muir Hite (The Gorilla). 

Michael Brock and renowned soprano Adelaide Rhodes are aboard a plane to Mexico during a stretch of her extensive national tour. Though Adelaide has been gaining acclaim and accolades during her musical stint, she can’t help but feel an overwhelming pall of “impending danger” hanging over her. 

The source of her trepidation goes back to when she was involved in an auto accident that resulted in the disappearance of her famous tenor colleague, Stephan Wilder. Driving late one night with Wilder, Adelaide felt as if “100,000 evil spirits” were racing after her. Trying to make a curve, she crashes the auto, proving that the only thing deadlier than the demons of Hell is a woman behind the wheel of a car. Upon recovering, Adelaide discovers that her friend has seemingly vanished into thin air. 

Adelaide notices that outside the plane the sky is darkening as a storm approaches, just as it had those four long years ago. Awakening from a nap, Adelaide is told by Michael that they stopped the plane to fuel up in Monterrey before heading toward their destination. But when Adelaide sees they’re flying over water, she realizes that they’ve strayed off course. Michael goes to the pilot’s cabin to inquire. The door is locked but Michael is able to peer through the porthole, and what he sees shocks him to his core. “That’s not our pilot at the controls,” he gasps. “That’s a monkey!”

Wait. It gets better.

Adelaide joins Michael and they both marvel at the large gorilla sitting in the pilot’s chair. They grimace at the weird, “human-like” expression the simian possesses. It’s then that Michael realizes that he never saw their original pilot re-enter the aircraft after fueling up and surmises that the gorilla shanghaied their vessel. The plane is lowered onto a remote island, Michael commenting in awe on the “absolutely perfect landing” that the ape managed to conduct. When the gorilla comes out of the cabin, he speaks to the couple in perfect English and informs them that he will be guiding them to his master, Dr. Luther.

Wait.

Meeting the physician, Michael and Adelaide are told forebodingly by the loopy doc “You may be interested in… what I have planned.” And who wouldn’t be? For Luther has set up a secret laboratory retreat where he has been able to practice his revolutionary theories far away from the small-minded medical community of the civilized world. Luther explains that he captured the gorilla and trained it for five years to adopt the mannerisms of its Homo Sapien brothers. Then, in order to demonstrate the full extent of his work, Luther commands the ape to sing, showing off the animal’s robust, operatic tones for the benefit of his guests. 

And there it is.

Luther reveals in short order that he grafted the vocal chords of none other than the missing Stephan Wilder into the body of the gorilla when the singer made an appointment to meet with Luther. Luther apparently saw the car accident as his open window and whisked the tenor away for his dark experimentations. He lets the gorilla, whom he has appropriately “named” Stephan, to practice his scales. “Doesn’t he have an excellent voice?” Luther gushes of his project. 

It seems that Luther has big ideas in his head and big dollar signs in his eyes. He plans on making bank for exhibiting his singing primate to the world. And when he displays the female ape he has in captivity, his intentions to make his act a double bill become all too clear. Stephan asks that Adelaide comply with the mad doctor’s demands, but the songbird has her own surprises stuffed up her sleeve. She tells Luther that the reason Stephan Wilder scheduled that appointment with him in the first place was because he was losing his voice.

Luther is flabbergasted and thinks the lady is lying so he commands Stephan to sing again. He raves at the sumptuous notes. “A beautiful quality!” he rants. “Beautiful tones!” But his victory is short-lived when Stephan’s voice starts to catch and screech like a bad motor. Luther has a meltdown, genuinely shocked that all of his research and money has been wasted in a scheme to create a gorilla that could sing opera. The doc takes out his revolver to gun the miserable failure down but finds out the hard way that bullets only make Stephan very, very angry. Michael and Adelaide can only look on in horror as the snarling beast tears his master apart.

Now that’s entertainment. 

Nothing in the preceding fourteen episodes of Dark Fantasy could possibly have prepared the listener for the lunacy that is delivered in “Spawn of the Subhuman,” which also manages to have an even weirder, completely unrelated title than “A Delicate Case of Murder”! But that’s just part of the episode’s uproarious quality.

The most surprising thing here is that there is hardly a flicker of a tongue-in-cheek attitude during the duration of the drama. “Drama” is exactly what it’s played as; Caughron and Morris especially are particularly grim-toned as they’re exposed to one rib-tickling revelation after another. If anybody was smiling while reading out the script, you’d be hard-pressed to put a finger on it!

The exception to this is Garland Moss, who was apparently asked to channel Tod Slaughter in his performance of Dr. Luther. Moss is a joy to listen to, punctuating his dialogue with theatrical flair. You can practically see him tearing his hair out by the fistfuls the second Stephan’s voice starts to falter. It’s the one role that ever seems to be played for laughs and Moss wrings enough frills out of it for the rest of the cast.

It certainly helps that “Spawn of the Subhuman” boasts the best audio we’ve heard in Dark Fantasy’s run so far. The sound effects and dialogue come through with crystal-clear clarity, giving the already snappy story an aural crispness that ensures we hear every last crazy detail that Scott Bishop includes in his nutty script. This episode delivers the pulpy goods and brings the whole opera to an end right as Luther meets his monkey maker. “Spawn of the Subhuman” is canny enough to know that anything else that occurred afterward could never match up with what came before it. 





16. The Man with the Scarlet Satchel

Original Broadcast: March 6, 1942

Cast: Ben Morris (Sam Willard), Fred Wayne (Peter Craig), Georgianna Cook (Rose Esther), and Muir Hite (Professor White). 

“Scarlet is my favorite color because it reminds me so very much of blood.” 

These are the words that open Dark Fantasy’s sixteenth episode. They’re spoken by elderly scientist Peter Craig in regards to the eponymous satchel that he owns. We first hear of Craig through his lawyer Sam Willard and live-in nurse Rose Esther. Their exchange is not exactly kind and caring: Rose is worried that Craig may be starting to suspect their scheme to influence him to sign over a cool hundred grand to the nurse in his will, to later be split between Rose and Sam. The dastardly duo have been accomplishing their plan by feeding Craig dope mixed into his drinks, keeping him in a sleepy, disoriented state so as to best prey on his mind.  

Sam advises that Rose disappear for a while in order to extricate herself of any involvement in the plot. The greedy nurse demands that Sam deliver her share of the money upon the completion of their plan. Craig is tinkering around in his lab later when he gets his “medicine” and Sam comes to him under the pretension of getting his property deed in order. Craig is so discombobulated that he willingly signs the dotted line on the form, little realizing just what he is doing. Craig naps in his lab but, upon awakening, he is overwrought with paranoia and fear (perhaps from the drugs) and collapses to the floor in a panic, thinking he has been left for dead.

After the funeral, Sam reads the will to Craig’s other servants. They do not question Craig’s leaving the bulk of his estate to Rose… perhaps because they themselves have been left some compensation as orchestrated by Sam. Craig has left a sealed envelope in Sam’s care that includes some funerary provisions that the lawyer is to carry out upon his client’s death. The letter specifies that Craig is to be buried with a small box from his laboratory that contains a handful of modeling clay. 

Afterward, Sam speaks to Professor White, one of Craig’s old colleagues. The instructor goes on about Craig’s genius in the field of electrical engineering. Indeed, the late man’s quarters are filled with panels and tubes galore, along with copper wire hooked up to bits of the same clay from the parcel. Certain things about the place cause the crooked lawyer to become a bit wary. The wax seal that currently held the only door into the lab is broken and both the clay and a hand towel are damp as if recently used. The clincher is that Sam notices the small parcel in the lab: “The very same box I put into the casket!”

Meanwhile, Rose is holed up in a hotel when she gets a call from the front desk that the “man with the scarlet satchel” is waiting to talk to her. Rose’s dismissal of the call does little good when she sees the undead Craig standing right before her in the room. He tells her that he’ll be leaving the satchel behind for her before bidding her good night and disappearing. Rose quickly discovers that the contents of the bag are not exactly dormant. “Something is opening that satchel from the inside” she gasps. The naughty nurse lets out a wail of terror as the unnameable thing shambles forth to claim its victim. 

Sam reads through a newspaper account of the incident with Professor White. Rose was found with both of her hands clasped tightly to her face, “eyes… staring blankly,” the result of a massive and sudden fright. She could only mutter “Scarlet satchel” over and over before finally passing away. The thing that unnerves Sam the most is that no sign of the satchel could be found in Rose’s room. He resolves to break into Craig’s crypt with the professor to settle the matter once and for all.

Their find doesn’t exactly placate their nerves: the vault door is open and Craig’s body is gone. That’s because it’s currently standing in the darkness of the crypt, greeting the two interlopers. Craig explains in no uncertain terms that “those who are murdered never rest easily within their graves until they have wrought their full and perfect vengeance,” making it clear the fate he has in mind for Sam. He goes on to explain that he used the modeling clay, originally purchased for him as a joke, to mold a pygmy figure which he has brought to life with electricity to use as his agent of punishment. Opening the satchel, Craig looks on approvingly as Sam screams to the heavens and the little Frankenstein wreaks its master’s revenge. 

As opposed to “Spawn of the Subhuman,” this episode delivers some genuine thrills and chills based on a premise that may seem risible at first glance. The idea of a little clay-man (showing echoes of Robert Bloch’s famous “Mannikins of Horror”) killing full-grown humans might have been laughable had Bishop attempted to approach it directly and straight-facedly as he had done with his opera-singing gorilla, but the final horror of “The Man with the Scarlet Satchel” is kept in the shadows for the most part, the little clues found in Craig’s laboratory gradually leading up to the satisfying payoff.

The central image of the scarlet satchel being opened up from within—a sequence that is reminiscent of the moving stones in the floor from “The Headless Dead”—is a wonderfully dreadful moment that Bishop wrings for its maximum, tingling effect. In opposition to the descriptive language that is typically used to “sell” radio drama (think the lurid appearance of the monstrous mermaid in “The Thing from the Sea”), Bishop leaves off any real details about the clay-figure, giving the audience the chance to envision the animated monstrosity with their worst imaginings.

The cast and direction is really rather spritely for this vignette too, with even the usually weary-voiced Casey getting the opportunity to inject some energy into his performance via some choice lines from the script. Take his grim remark about exiting his resting place (“That lid was heavy…”) or his grand, melodramatic stinger in explaining Sam’s horrible fate: “I have created with it your damnation!” Morris too is surprising as Sam, showing an acidity and coolness that we haven’t heard since his philandering playboy villain from “The Man Who Came Back.”

Bishop, as in the previous episode, knows right where to end things. He knows that after the final screams of the guilty wring out as judgment is met, there’s just nothing else that needs to be said. 




17. Superstition Be Hanged

Original Broadcast: March 13, 1942

Cast: Ben Morris (Barker), Mae Ray (Ruby), Garland Moss (The Fortune-Teller), and Murillo Schofield (Detective Kurt Gilfoil). 

A ringmaster announces the final attraction of the circus showcase to an anxious audience: “Flyer” Samson, the renowned and daring trapeze artist, will be performing his act on the “Gigantic, Colossal, Giant Flying Swing Set,” without the aid of a net to boot. Ruby Brooks and her husband Jeff “Barker” Kilby stand in the sidelines as Samson readies himself for flight. Ruby says that Samson is pressing his luck by not using a safety net… especially since he isn’t wearing his lucky token of the single white feather dotted with blood. 

It seems that Samson’s luck has run out. In the middle of the act, Samson gets wound in the trapeze rope, breaking his neck. Ari Jala, the circus swami, is there to offer his ominous words of warning that those who do not carry the magical feather will meet their death.

Detective Kurt Gilfoil is on the investigation, and he grills Ruby and Barker of their involvement with Samson. Ruby shows her true colors when she drops her classy inflection for a street-smart attitude. Gilfoil thinks it’s strange that Samson should forfeit using a net on the first night of his newly proposed stunt, while Ruby herself, a fellow trapeze artist, would use a net during her own act. 

Gilfoil asks Ruby about the mysterious feather. What he doesn’t know is that Ruby and Barker carry identical tokens with them at all times. Gilfoil thinks the combination of the absent net and the superstition of the feather point to foul play. The detective tells the couple that he’ll be hanging around should anything else happen. Ruby is anxious for her part, telling Barker that she couldn’t find the feather anywhere on Samson’s body or in his dressing room. Samson had always scoffed at the idea as foolishness.

On cue, Ari Jala suddenly appears in the room. The old fortuneteller tells the couple that “the white feather of a baby swan spotted with the blood of a dove” is their only protection from harm. The swami then reveals that it was he who removed Samson’s feather, a retaliation against the trapeze artist’s insults against the mystic powers. Barker is overcome with anger at the old man’s treachery. Ruby tries to stop him, but Barker strangles Ari Jala to death. The police on the grounds are alerted and the couple flees into the night. 

Ruby and Barker take a plane to San Francisco with only three hundred dollars left to their names. The tension is starting to get them, as Ruby grows hopeless while Barker gets more irritated and desperate by the minute. When Gilfoil is spotted waiting for the couple at the airport, Barker holds the pilot at gunpoint and forces him to take to the skies again. Their attempt to hole up in a hotel for six months is similarly foiled and, with the coppers closing in on them, they make their exit by the fire escape. 

Running across the rooftops, Ruby realizes that she left her feather back in the room but Barker just orders her to keep going. Coming to a gap in the roofs, Barker makes it to the other side. Ruby isn’t so lucky. She stumbles during her leap, and she is given an impromptu hanging by a series of suspended wires over the alleyway. 

Later in some unnamed city, Barker enters his hovel and finds that it’s been searched. The law’s breathing down his neck, so he takes to hopping a train to elude his would-be captors. From the darkness of the boxcar, Barker hears the unearthly voice of Ari Jala calling out to him. Barker fires his gun, but bullets are no use on a ghost. The spirit asks Barker to give him the white feather. Barker complies and Ari Jala is appeased. “Now… I have all three of them” he purrs. In his nervousness, Barker goes to jump off the boxcar. But the train has picked up speed and Barker didn’t count on one obstruction getting in his way. “And how pretty you look,” Ari Jala observes, “hanging from that mail hook.” 

“Superstition Be Hanged” is a continuation of Scott Bishop’s run of snappier Grand Guignol stories for Dark Fantasy that he penned after some of the more syrupy supernatural antics of “Debt from the Past” and dusty campfire yarns like “The Sea Phantom.” This episode blends the uncomplicated, driven narrative of “The Man Who Came Back” with the blackly ironic climax of “The Headless Dead” to construct a solid twenty minutes of entertainment. 

Bishop shows a moderate flair for noir with this playlet, detailing the flight of his convicts-on-the-lam with flavorings of tough dialogue concerning “dirty coppers” and the like. The best bit occurs when Ruby tries to convince Barker that he’ll regret murdering Ari Jala, to which he fiercely responds “I’ve never regretted killing a snake in my life!” 


Newcomer to the show Mae Ray performs admirably in her role, showing a nice range of sassiness and fear within the short amount of time before her character’s untimely demise. Everyone else eases into their characterizations with the familiarity they’ve accumulated from their stints on the shows, with Garland Moss essaying his patented “voice from beyond” for the story’s final moments.



Be here in two weeks for Part Five of Jose Cruz' continuing study of Dark Fantasy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Thirty-Seven: July 1973


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


Nick Cardy
Unexpected 148

"Baby Wants Me Dead!"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Lee Elias

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Morgue"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Rico Rival

"A Night in a Madhouse"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Bernard Bailey

Jack: Borden has been fooling around with Elaine, his baby's nurse, but when she says she plans to tell his wife about their affair, Borden takes matters in hand and kills her with his hammer, right in front of Baby Peter! Borden buries Elaine's body in the tool shed but when his wife Tina comes home the baby has helpfully spelled out "Elaine is Dead" with his blocks. Tina is not the brightest bulb and blames Elaine for her sick idea of how to play with the baby! Next morning, Baby spells out "Daddy Killed Her," but Tina still does not get the hint. Lucky for Tina, just as Borden is about to brain her with a milk bottle, the cops show up asking about the missing nurse. Tina may be too dumb to catch on but Baby points the cops in the right direction by spelling out "See Tool Shed." Borden is justified in wondering if "Baby Wants Me Dead" as the men in blue head outside to do some digging. The central idea of this story is pretty good, but the wife is too dumb to be believed, even if it was the '70s.

15 years later, he had a perfect SAT score
Peter: Ludicrosity! Kashdan can try to fool us into thinking that brainless Elaine manipulated those letter blocks the first couple times but surely we're not going to swallow that she spelled out "SEE TOOL SHED" when she was with us all the time. As dumb as this story is, Kashdan should have just played the "supernatural baby" card in the end.

"A Funny Thing . . ."


Jack: For all his money, J.P. Mullens can't buy health or longevity, so when his doctor tells him he has a bum ticker and needs a heart transplant, he approaches 29-year-old Tod Horton with an offer of $2 million dollars for his healthy heart. Tod turns him down so he has one of his executives, a man named Carter Bellows, poison young Tod. He then bribes the ambulance driver into putting Tod's dying body into his car and it's transplant time! J.P. feels great until Tod shows up six months later, demanding his heart back! It seems that the doctor had given Tod J.P.'s unhealthy heart in return for his healthy one. Bellows drives off with Mullens and crashes his car; Tod finds the wreck and rips his heart out of Mullens's body. Okay, Peter, say it with me--"Poetic Justice." You can take it from here.

Peter: "You were mean and cruel right from the start. Now you have no -- " Yep, took the thoughts right out of my twisted brain, Jack. Poor Carl Wessler. Most times, if you throw enough crap (or typewriter ribbons) at the wall, something eventually sticks. Not so with Carl. The most important rule of reading horror comic stories is that you have to be able to suspend disbelief but if you spend half your energy shaking your head at the idiotic events (and dialogue) the battle is over before it's begun.

"What's wrong? My nose is splitting!"
Jack: Emile Gompers is sick of dealing with his wife's emotional problems but he never thought he'd spend "A Night in a Madhouse!" He stomps out into the night and sees a spooky face, then believes he's being chased by a monster. He goes home and tries to protect his wife from the monster. Finally, the cops show up and helpfully explain that he saw his own reflection in a funhouse mirror and then passed out and had a nightmare. Inexplicably, this leads Emile to realize that he really does care for his wife and they live happily ever after. Not one of Bernard Baily's better efforts, this story suffers from the fatal flaw of making no sense!

Peter: Emile Gompers? Really? Bailey's art is atrocious. In one panel (reprinted to the right), it appears that Emile may have a serious cocaine addiction. How else to explain the decay of his nostril? None of the three stories are vile or insipid enough to top my "Worst Story of the Year" category (they commit the sin of being boring) but, in both the art and script departments, this is just about the worst single issue I've encountered in the 37 weeks of our journey.

Not the scariest monster we've seen!


Luis Dominguez
The House of Mystery 215

"The Man Who Wanted Power Over Women"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Maxene Fabe
Art by Rico Rival

"Your Corpse Shall I Carve!"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Gerry Talaoc

"Brain Food"
Story by Maxene Fabe
Art by Fred Carrillo

Peter: Walter only wants gorgeous workmate Gloria to dig him but there's not much chance of that since Walter looks closer to Mickey Mouse than a good-looking guy. There's only one option left open to our rodent-like protagonist and that's the local fortune teller. Crazy Madame Sybil agrees to help Walter as an opening shot against all the beautiful people in the world, rallying our hero with chants like "the meek and the fearful will have their revenge!" She gives the man a sample vial and he downs it, becoming a Romeo in no time flat, with Gloria eating out of his hands. Conquest firmly in hand, Walter sets up his love pad for a quiet evening in with the love of his life but mishandles the love potion and his cat, Tiger, laps it up. The tame tabby lives up to his given name and Walter can't face Gloria when she comes a' knockin'. His shot at love wasted, Walter returns to work a humbled rodent. What starts off as the typical revenge fantasy (with "DC Horror Cliche #12: The Fortune-Teller" thrown in for good measure) ends humorously and (more or less) non-violently. Michael Fleisher would prove himself something of a sadist when it came to his comic book characters (one need only look at his work on Jonah Hex and The Spectre for proof) but, even though the events were liberally spiced with violence, you always detected the writer's tongue firmly planted in his cheek. That quality shows through the horror trappings in "The Man Who Wanted Power Over Women" nicely; Fleisher seems to be winking at us in several panels, almost goading us to ask: why the hell Walter would visit a fortune teller for help and could a human being really look so much like a rat? Rico Rival's pencils are also very good here, much better than they've been in his last few outings.

"The Man Who Wanted Power Over Women"

Jack: This story gives new meaning to the phrase, "not enough room to swing a cat"! I thought we were heading into John Collier territory with a twist like "The Chaser," where the first dose is free and the second costs a mint, but no such luck. The ending seemed a bit rushed.

Peter: Famed sculptor Lazlo Borck can't bear to have his beautiful subjects sitting for artists below his standard so after each work of art has been completed, he murders his models and buries them in a secret graveyard. At last the tables are turned when Lazlo falls for a veiled admirer who agrees to sit for him, a woman who may be hiding more than a pretty face under that veil. George Kashdan scales new heights of ludicrosity with "Your Corpse Shall I Carve." Has this town no police? Several models go missing right after posing for Lazlo and no one puts two and two together. And how about that "secret graveyard?" You know, the one that Lazlo is thoughtful enough to mark with tombstones etched with each victim's name?! I'll credit Kashdan with the surprise reveal (the veiled model is actually Medusa) but I still have to wonder what an ancient mythological deity would be doing slumming in Borck's village. Had she somehow guessed the fate of her colleagues and come to strike a blow for sisterhood? Artist Gerry Talaoc must have felt really proud when he was awarded the rare honor of placement above the writer's credit but a bit perturbed that his name was spelled incorrectly!

Jack: Some of the nude statues were a little racy for a DC comic. I saw the ending coming a mile away, since the cover gave it away and the woman whose head was veiled said her name was Sumeda, which even I can figure out is an anagram for Medusa. Nice art, though.

Peter: Evil aliens hide themselves in chewing gum and manipulate children in their plan for world domination. A one-note joke that actually works for the most part (the art is not all that great) and climaxes with the rare death of a child (CCA says no vampires but kids can die? Hmmm.). I'm not saying "Brain Food" is a winner but I've certainly read worse this month.

Jack: I haven't. The art bounces back and forth from mediocre to awful but the story is dreadful, like something I might've written in junior high. And just when I went out on a limb and said I thought Maxene Fabe was writing some pretty good stories, too.

"Brain Food"


Nick Cardy
The House of Secrets 109

"Museum of Nightmares"
Story by Michael Pellowsky and Maxene Fabe
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"...And in Death There Is No Escape!"
Story by John Albano
Art by Alex Nino

Peter: Even though he himself shot and killed the notorious murderer Cardoti, Inspector Krupou has his doubts when a series of similar murders plagues Paris. Could Louis Gordou, curator of the "Museum of Nightmares," have something to do with the killings or is Krupou losing his marbles? To catch the killer, the detective cross dresses and lures the murderer into an alleyway. Sure enough, Krupou recognizes Cardoti and chases him back to the Chamber of Horrors. The two battle and the fiend is decapitated, revealing a body of wood and wax. Befuddled, Krupou follows a voice into the cellar and discovers the famed wax man, garbed in sorcerer's robe, commanding a beauty to rise from a table. When the detective threatens the old man with jail time, Gordou confesses that the entire scenario has been a game, populated by wax figures, with no real blood spilled. When the inspector scoffs, the wizard reveals that his greatest creation is Krupou himself. This is a fun little yarn that, no doubt, holds no weight when dissected (either everyone in the cast is made of wax or the real flesh and blood characters are dimwits and can't tell the difference) so I won't try. Again, you can accuse me of playing favorites with stories illustrated by The Master but this is actually not one of his better works so far (too many panels with figures in the foreground and nothing but a single color shade in the back). It left me with a smile on my face and sometimes that's all I ask for.

Not the best that Alcala had to offer in 1973

Jack: I went back over the story carefully and they never identify the location, though I think it's Paris, since that's where the murders had occurred. In any case, it's hard to believe that someone had to think up this story idea and then someone else had to write it--it seems like just another version of "he was dead all along," a plot device we've seen many times. I agree that Alcala is not at his best here, but even second-tier Alfredo is worth a look, and I always love a story involving a wax museum!

Peter: Heartless Hannibal Hangle, star of too many stage hits to name here, has gone through wives like many men go through razors. All have met with sad endings but police could never prove mischief on Hannibal's part. When Hangle receives the news that financial backers have pulled out of his latest play, the thespian goes mad and swears he'll fund his next project himself. On the way back to his estate one day, he loses himself in a strange fog and comes across an old man telling a tale of Doctor Mystik and an incantation that grants immortality. Though skeptical, Hannibal travels to Mystik's mansion and confronts the old wizard. Immortality is granted but, in the end, that eternal life becomes a curse when Hannibal is burned to a crisp in a house fire and must suffer incredible agony for the rest of his "life." I've left out quite a few details in my synopsis as this tale seems to meander and stumble down several alleyways during its record-breaking 15-page run. I usually complain that the DC horror stories aren't given enough room to "breathe" so they often come off as incomplete and rushed but, if this is what happens when a writer is granted more than double the usual script pages, I promise I will never complain again. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's not horrible, it's just a jumbled mess. 15 pages to play with and, arguably, the most important act of the play, the pay-off, occurs "off screen" and is dealt with in a hasty word balloon. Bizarre that. What I won't complain about is giving Alex Nino free rein over the multitude of pages. Nino's work here is stunning, almost like a huge abstract painting.


Jack: I had a hard time paying attention to the story, since I was dazzled by Nino's art. His panels and pages are truly outstanding and--I'm afraid to say this--he blows Alcala's art out of the water in this issue. Too bad the story meanders around and never really gets going. The art is wonderful and will likely be in my top ten for the year.


Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 32

"What Evil Taunts This House?"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Flor Dery and Romy Gamboa

"Too Young to Die!"
Story by Bill Dennehy (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Francisco Redondo

"Name Your Poison"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Artie Saaf

Jack: Tomkins thinks he scored big when he sold a million dollar life insurance policy to Uriah Sorge, especially because it contains a double indemnity clause in case of death from supernatural causes. His boss is not impressed and tells him to investigate. Tomkins visits the home of Uriah and his elderly mother, wondering "What Evil Taunts This House?" only to learn the hard way that Uriah turns into a werewolf when the moon is full. In a desperate attempt to save himself, Tomkins slashes Uriah with a silver letter opener and kills him. Too bad he loses his job when the company pays old Mrs. Sorge a cool two million bucks! A dreadful start to this issue, with a corny story and art that looks like warmed over Grandenetti.

A pointless exercise in forced perspective in
"What Evil Taunts This House?"

Peter: Wow! What a startling twist ending! You mean Uriah was a werewolf the whole time? I never guessed. I had to laugh when the scientist studying the tuft of fur from Uriah's house says "If I didn't know any better I'd say this is hair from a werewolf!" Oh, heck, that was a clue, wasn't it? I am so dense. As far as the "forced perspective" (seen above), I thought Tomkins was coming out of that woman's ear and Kashdan was shifting gears mid-story.

At least he didn't have to read "Too Young to Die"
Jack: Yuko Katayama kills an old Japanese scientist to gain a potion that restores his youth. He enjoys his new lease on life and joins the Japanese Army in WWII, only to be dispatched by a U.S. Marine--"Too Young to Die." Barely qualifying for a place in a horror comic, this reads as if Murray took a vacation to Japan and wanted to share some things he saw. At least the art is in capable hands.

Peter: You're much too charitable, Jack. This one barely qualifies as a story.

Our monthly "Ngyaa"
Jack: Max Oliver is a drifter who stops at the door of farmer Elwood Wilkes for a meal. Wilkes hires him on and insists on leaving the property to Oliver in his will. Oliver schemes to kill the old man and collect his inheritance early, especially after he learns a highway is to be built right through the property and the government will pay a nice price for it. The only problem is that, every time Max thinks he's killed Elwood, the old fella comes back, claiming he's OK. Eventually, Max manages to die in one of his attempts and learns that his first try had been a success and Wilkes was thereafter a ghost, bent on revenge. "Name Your Poison" is another awful story and wraps up one of the worst issues of The Witching Hour that I can recall. Art (credited here as Artie) Saaf does his best George Tuska impression in this story, and that's not a welcome sight.

Peter: You called it, Jack; Saaf's art is a dead ringer for the "work" George Tuska was doing for Marvel at about the same time. The really bad month that began with Unexpected #148 carries over to The Witching Hour #32 (and I don't hold out much hope for Ghosts #16 either). Carl Wessler and George Kashdan were, simply put, two of the worst horror comic writers I've run across. The only saving grace of "Name Your Poison" was the triple-whammy of a climax, fooling me into thinking we were going to get the old "I'm not dead, you are" chestnut and turning that one on its head. Hey, I'm looking for any light at the end of the tunnel.


Jack Sparling
Weird Mystery Tales 6

"The Chosen One"
Story Uncredited
Art by Romy Gamboa and Rico Rival

"Even the Dead Shall Laugh"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Alex Nino

"Third Eye"
Story by John Jacobson and Bill Reilly (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Ruben Yandoc

Peter: Security guard Frank Harper tires of patrolling a stockpile of uranium and decides to steal it with a helping paw from his loyal dog, Nero. While tussling with a fellow worker, the child safety cap on the uranium becomes unfastened and Frank and Nero are exposed to the deadly element. When the inevitable police posse catches up, Franks waves his hand and tells them to go. The cops fly through the air as if blown away by a tornado. Rather than join the Justice League, Frank Harper takes his uranium and his new power into the desert, cops right behind him. When Nero becomes too much to lug around, the heartless bastard shoots him and continues on. Without food and water, Frank becomes easy prey for the police and, when he tries to use his super powers once again, the truth comes out. It was trustworthy Nero who should have joined the JLA. Not a very good story, "The Chosen One" begins with Frank getting zapped and then spends the rest of the drama wandering the desert. When you think about it, though, Frank must have gotten super powers as well since he shows no ill effects from being exposed to uranium. The art by Gamboa and Rival looks like generic mid-70s DC rather than the offbeat and exciting stuff we've been getting used to in this title.

"The Chosen One"

Jack: With great power comes a real bad attitude! This is the dark side of all of those 1960s Marvel stories we read where an ordinary guy gets exposed to radiation and gets super powers. I just knew it was a bad idea to shoot that dog. At least this time the pet didn't turn on him and rip out his tongue.

Peter: Lemuel has always favored Sara Sue but his best friend, Joshua, done stole her heart and left Lemuel empty-handed. Not one to let love die, Lemuel murders Joshua with an axe and pins the deed on witchy woman, Hepzibah. The town folk use mountain law to enact justice and stone the old crone, who uses her dying breath to curse the man. After the funeral, Lemuel and Sara Sue get right cozy and, eventually, tie the knot but happiness doesn't last long. Sara Sue dies in childbirth and leaves Lemuel alone to bring up their daughter, the precocious Billie Belle. Years go by and Billie Belle is courted by mountain hick, Ezra, a boy that Lemuel does not cotton to. When he orders Billie Belle to end it with Ezra, the young tart puts an axe in her beau and pins it on pop. As the town circles Lemuel with their bags of rocks, Billie Belle lets on that she's not the girl her dad thought she was. Well, we knew that there would be retribution meted out to Lemuel in the end but, I must say, the revelation that his daughter was the old witch the whole time threw me for a loop. "Even the Dead Shall Laugh," despite a dopey title, is a real surprise from George Kashdan (whose work I've not been fond of) and provides more proof that Alex Nino was a force to be reckoned with.

Nino!

Jack: The surprise ending caught me off guard, too, but Kashdan's story was like a L'il Abner knockoff. The story had an EC vibe to it and was more violent than we're used to seeing in DC comics, what with the two ax murders and the stoning of the witch. Nino's art is perfect, but as good as he is, he stumbles when he tries to draw a pretty girl. His people are just too freaky!

And more Nino!

Gnat finds love at the County Fair
despite dressing as a lumberjack
Peter: Career criminal Gnat Norbet is sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison for armed robbery but the news isn’t all bad. Gnat’s new cellmate, Rand, has perfected the art of  “astral travel,” the ability to send your spirit out into another body. Smelling lots of money, Gnat convinces Rand to teach him how to project. Despite Rand’s misgivings about whether Gnat is ready or not, the excited con lifts off and lands in an old man walking down the street. Unfortunately for Gnat, the new body belongs to a blind man. Startled by his sudden blindness, Gnat steps off the curb and into the path of an oncoming car. “The Third Eye” (the title alludes to the gem Gnat decides to steal in his new body) is an entertaining bit of fluff with another nice outing by Ruben Yandoc. Yep, thanks to Rand’s warnings, we can see the climax coming but it’s effective nonetheless. A very good issue of Weird Mystery Tales.

Jack: Not a bad story! I wished it went on longer and was sorry for the sudden ending. Destiny is turning into a cool host and this is a consistently entertaining comic, a good addition to the DC horror line.



Nick Cardy
Ghosts 16

"Death's Grinning Face"
Story Uncredited
Art by Rico Rival

"The Mothball Ghost"
Story Uncredited
Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Haunted Hero of St. Helena!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Gerry Talaoc

Jack: In a cave outside Granada, Spain, a beautiful gypsy named Felipa has the ability to see "Death's Grinning Face" and foretell the death of those for whom she reads fortunes. She predicts the deaths of FDR and Adolf Hitler but wisely refuses to look in a mirror for fear that she will see her own coming demise. After the war, she falls for handsome Ramay and rushes off to meet him. She forgets herself and glances at her reflection in a puddle of water, only to see her own death, which happens soon after that as she accidentally runs in front of Ramay's car and is killed. Even though Hitler gets trotted out for the umpteenth time in a DC horror story, I liked this one. The art wasn't bad and the story was interesting.

"Death's Grinning Face"
Peter: I thought this was better than the average Ripley's rip-off this magazine seems to be chock full of but two things made me scratch my head: 1/ why would Felipa fall for a race car driver, a guy who cheats death every day and 2/ why would she stop and look in a pool of water if she refuses to look in a mirror? Not much sense in either of those choices. Rival's art is very cool.

"The Mothball Ghost"
Jack: John Cowles is out fishing on a river with an old man when the mist parts and he sees three old battleships from WWII, one of which he served on. He thinks back 25 years to when he murdered Chief Taggert, his commanding officer, and covered his body with preservative so that it was never found when the ship was put into mothballs. Back in the present, Cowles hooks Old Lunker, a giant bass, and is pulled into the river by the fish and by his own line, which is tangled in his belt buckle. John ends up next to "The Mothball Ghost" at the bottom of the abandoned ship, dead and drowned alongside the remains of the man he murdered. Sam Glanzman has been one of our favorite punching bags, but now we know that he should have been drawing fish stories all along. He draws a mean bass!

Peter: Glanzman's art is really something else. It would fit in with the underground comix movement of the 1970s, that grungy, half-finished look, but here it just stands out as amateurish when compared to the bullpen's Filipino artists. Funny that the Navy wouldn't even bother looking for Taggert and even funnier is the reaction of "the old man" to Cowles' death. Nothing more than a sigh and a shrug really. If you take nothing else from "The Mothball Ghost," at least you've learned that "a clap of doom" sounds like KAPLOPP!

"The Haunted Hero of St. Helena!"
Jack: After Napolean Bonaparte died, his ghost vowed to return to France if its people should ever need him. Along comes WWII and resistance fighter Jacques Malon and his young son Michel benefit from the advice and encouragement of "The Haunted Hero of St. Helena!" Napolean's ghost decides that France is in good hands and no longer has need of him. Gerry Talaoc's art is always welcome, even in a weak story like this one. Hey, in a single issue of Ghosts we get FDR, Hitler and Napolean! It's like a spooky history lesson!

Peter: These "history lesson" stories always get a near-pass for me as I think they're more creative than most of the crappy "wife rises from the dead" stories that populate Ghosts. Talaoc is a cherry on top.


Luis Dominguez
Secrets of Sinister House 12

"A Very Cold Guy"
Story Uncredited
Art by Mike Sekowsky and Wayne Howard

"The Ultimate Horror"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Alex Nino

"August Heat"
Story by W.F. Harvey
Adaptation by E. Nelson Bridwell
Art by Alfredo Alcala

Jack: Poor wee Boris Ivanovitch has the bad luck to have both his parents die in 1911. He is put in an orphanage and vows never to be cold, to be rich, and to conquer death. He starts his career off right by murdering a fellow orphan so he can take his job as a furrier's apprentice and stay warm in the nice coats. He grows up to be a rich and successful furrier who always walks around in a big fur coat and likes the temperature warm. When he sees a story in the paper about scientists having conquered death, he sets up a meeting and learns all about cryogenics. He's not big on the being frozen part but, what the heck, he won't feel a thing when he's dead. Too bad he falls down a flight of stairs and is paralyzed. Thought to be dead, he is put in the freezing chamber to become "A Very Cold Guy" for the next hundred years. I am a devoted fan of the Justice League of America and plan to buy all of the DC Archives books but, I tell you, Mike Sekowsky can wear me out. I'm not sure Wayne Howard's blocky style is the best choice for inks, either.

Peter: If I didn't know better I'd say (judging from the art) that this was the origin of The Penguin. If Boris never took that coat off (and he never changed his suit either!) he must have stunk to high heaven. Like this story, actually. Again, the DC Mystery Universe doctors are asleep at the wheel. How many of these poor guys are declared dead without a once-over? That last panel expository from our witchy host rates a huge "YEESH!" from these quarters.

Some kids just ask for a pony!

"The Ultimate Horror"
or
"Honey, You Didn't Have to Take Off Your Makeup"
Jack: "The Ultimate Horror" begins for Frank Davison one day when he notices that everyone around him is a one-eyed, green-haired, ugly monster! The only problem is that no one else can see them. His wife finally brings a doctor in but the doctor is a monster, too. Things really get out of hand when the wife is a monster, so Frank runs for the hills until he is caught and thrown in the loony bin, where shock therapy brings him back to normal. Everyone looks OK now, but what Frank doesn't realize is that he was right all along and they were all monsters. He just can't see them anymore. A riff on "Eye of the Beholder" from The Twilight Zone, the highlight of this story is the freaky art by Alex Nino. More and more, I think I'd read just about anything he drew!

Peter: It's also a riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You can see that climax coming at least six pages away but at least there's pretty pitchers to look at before you get there.

"August Heat"
Jack: An artist named James Withencroft is compelled to draw a picture of a man who has just been sentenced by a judge in a courtroom. Pocketing the picture, he takes a long walk in the "August Heat" and meets the man in his sketch. The man happens to be a mason who has just carved a tombstone with James's name and correct date of birth. The date of death is that same day! Neither man has seen the other before and they don't know what's going on. As the day draws to a close, James agrees to stay overnight with the mason and writes his tale down an hour before midnight, not noticing that the mason has just sharpened his chisel and has an evil gleam in his eye. Alcala's art is flawless, as usual, but what's more interesting here is the use of an old horror tale as the basis for a comic story. Maybe we've found a solution to the problem of so many lame stories?

Peter: I believe this is the first adaptation to grace a DC Mystery Line title and a good choice at that. I've said several times that The Master needs the outdoors for his pencils to "breathe" but, even though this is basically a two-man stage play, I think his art here is fabulous. The radio show, Suspense, did a bang-up job of adapting "August Heat" (broadcast on May 31, 1945), with Ronald Colman as Withencroft. I can remember very vividly hearing this play for the first time in the mid-1970s on KSFO's prime time OTR show and loving the unexpected twist. You can hear it here.


Jack Sparling
Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion 11

"A Demon at the Door"
Story by Michael Pellowski and Jeff Rovin
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Bum Wrap"
Story and Art by Pete Morisi

"Generation Gap!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Win Mortimer

Peter: During a late night black mass, Cyderek opens a hole leading to hell, allowing Satan to come collecting souls. First up on Lucifer's list: Cyderek and his three companions. When there's a knock, the quartet realize there's "A Demon at the Door." Alfredo Alcala's usual stylish and detailed work (check out the shadows in that panel below) is wasted by a cliched and abruptly climaxed script. There's one effectively staged fatality (one which reminded me a lot of the horror film, Equinox) but then the pages seemingly run out for Pellowski and Rovin.

Alcala

Jack: I liked both story and art this time around. Mike's last name is spelled "Pelloswky" in this month's House of Secrets but "Pellowski" here. Jeff Rovin was 22 at the time this came out and he has written a lot of books in the 40 years since. This was a spooky little story that felt like it could be a movie and reminded me a little of The Devil Rides Out.

Peter: Augustus Chervil has been hired by some very bad people to steal the tiara of King Tut (from a high profile museum with little to no security) but a centuries-old curse leaves Augustus with a "Bum Wrap."  A complete waste of paper, a mummy tale that steals from all the mummy tales that came before it and adds nothing to the mythos. Pete Morisi's heavily-inked art is awful, resembling the tracings of a grade schooler (or Alex Toth without talent).  There's no atmosphere to speak of and a dopey expository from "The Mystery Lady of Dark Mansion" (so dubbed by the editor) resembling one of Hitchcock's worst TV wrap-ups.

The bottom of the barrel has been spotted again

Jack: I recognized Pete Morisi's work right away after not having seen it since the '70s. He was a big name at Charlton but I don't recall seeing him at DC before this. He drew Vengeance Squad in the mid-'70s, which was a pretty good comic.

Peter: After his ship is wrecked, sailor Scott Damon is fished out of the sea by a gaggle of gorgeous girls living on an uncharted desert island. Seems Scott is the only young man on the island and the girls do battle for the right to walk down the aisle with the new kid in town. Lara wins that right and the two spend years of wedded bliss together until Scott realizes he's growing older but the girls are not. When the sailor learns the secret is the obligatory fountain of youth, he attempts to rejuvenate himself. Things don't go swimmingly for Scott. Forget all the horrible things I said about Peter Morisi's art; Win Mortimer's doodles on "Generation Gap" are the worst we've seen in months. Men's fashions have come a long way from 1858 (when the story is set) when a sailor could get away with wearing a black cardigan and purple trousers. I will say, though, that the tailors certainly made their clothes to last since Scott never does get himself a second pair of pants all the years he's on the island.

Just when you thought Morisi's was the worst art this month...

Jack: It just goes from bad to worse! Win Mortimer was never one of my favorite artists, though his style would work perfectly well on something like Archie comics. Here, he manages to make an entire island of young, scantily-clad women look about as alluring as Betty and Veronica. The twist ending was OK, though--the fountain of youth has the opposite effect on men.

Peter: There's an interesting discussion on the letters page as the editor answers a protest from a reader who wants full-length tales back in this title. No deal, cries said editor, the readers won't buy them.

Mike Kaluta's exquisite splash for Dark Mansion #11

IN OUR NEXT BATTLE-SCARRED ISSUE!