"Mask of the Red Fox"
Story by Bob Kanigher
Art by Alex Toth
"Appointment Beyond the Grave!"
Art by Wayne Howard
"An Aura of Death!"
Art by John Celardo and Mike Peppe
Peter: Well, let's just get it out of the way now. Save The Witching Hour, none of the titles display the quality this time out that they showed last so you may just want to skip down to the bottom of the page. I would. "Mask of the Red Fox" tells the tale of Sylvia, cursed by an old hag jealous of her beauty, whose fate is intertwined with a red fox. When the fox dies, Sylvia dies. The girl is fated to marry the greatest fox hunter in the country, a man obsessed with finding the red fox and mounting its head in his mansion. The fox manages to elude the hunter for quite a while but, inevitably, the man gets his prize. Returning to his estate to crow about his kill to his wife, he finds her dead. Yep, that's the climax. Quite a surprise if you didn't read the opening where the rules are very carefully laid out. When the outcome is this inevitable, the only emotion a reader can have upon completion of the tale is a shrug. At times during the story, Kanigher almost infers that the girl is the fox but the reveal at the finish contradicts that. Alex Toth's art is as gorgeous as ever. I'm amazed an artist who produced work so offbeat was able to find a job in mainstream comic books. His style is almost the antithesis of that of every other artist working in comics at the time.
Jack: I thought this story had a lyrical quality that made it haunting and enjoyable. As you say, the art is outstanding, even though it's far from the naturalistic style of Adams that we love. Cain once again interacts with the characters in the story, helping to hide the girl and to put the hunter off the trail. The hunter even threatens Cain--whom he knows by name--and Cain stands up to him, something Abel would never do! I was hoping that the girl's head would be mounted on the wall at the end instead of the fox's head, but maybe that was too gruesome for this comic.
Jack: Wayne Howard's art--now that I realize it's not a bad job by Wally Wood--always looks like a throwback to the 1950s to me. The second story, which he illustrates, looks like it was pulled from the files of 1950s filler, but we know Howard was working in the early '70s. I thought "An Aura of Death" was funny because it was so bad. Why is it set in Bavaria in the 19th century? I'm guessing at the time and place based on the clothes and goofy speech patterns. I don't know much about John Celardo, but he has quite an impressive resume, including drawing the Tarzan dailies for 14 years!
|"An Aura of Death!"|
"Death Has Marble Lips!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
"The Coming of Ghaglan"
Story by Raymond Marais
Art by Mike Kaluta
Peter: "Death Has Marble Lips" has a good set-up but a weak finish. Peter is a sculptor obsessed with his latest work of art, a stone woman he calls Eve, and makes a deal with the devil to bring her to life. Unfortunately, her kiss turns him to stone. Why? I don't know. Like many of these mystery tales, we're not privy to some of the more important details like motive. It's not made clear that the devil has actually made the deal but Eve gains her life as the vow is made so we're naturally supposed to assume Lucifer's somewhere around the corner and yet he never makes an appearance. Eve is the vehicle of the deadly kiss and yet she has no idea she's about to turn Peter to stone. She seems genuinely upset by the turn of events. Dick Giordano could always make a lesser artist into something special and he does so with Dick Dillin, better known for his DC hero work.
Jack: I'm a little fuzzy on when this story is supposed to be set, since Peter's poor fiance, Ava, wears a bonnet that makes it look like she's auditioning for Oklahoma! Eve, the statue who comes to life, looks more than a little bit like Ava, except she wears fewer clothes. When Peter first carves her, she comes alive almost immediately and then says she's been waiting an eternity for him to free her. This turns out to be a dream, but soon after Peter calls on every demon he can think of and bang--she's alive. The whole thing is kind of scatterbrained but I was glad to see Dick Dillin's art because I always liked the Justice League, which he drew forever.
Peter: "The Man" has nothing to do with cops but instead concerns the day Art Nero walked into town. Art hooks up with Candy Baker, who falls for him immediately, but the guy just isn't biting. All he wants is to find his father's house. After a brief but heartbreaking trip to the river, Candy finally gets Art to his pop's house. It's there that the senior Nero, a professor, explains why Art's testosterone level remained at low levels while Candy was putting the moves on him: the guy's a robot! A predictable plot and cruddy art sink this one pages before the unsurprising reveal. This one should have been relegated to DC's romance line.
Jack: Why didn't I ever meet girls like Candy? Art walks around saying next to nothing, so she sits him down by the river, plants a kiss on him, and announces that she loves him! Candy is what used to be referred to as "fast." By the way, like this month's House of Mystery, Neal Adams picks a scene from one of the stories to illustrate for the cover and inexplicably sticks some children in the middle of it. Why did he always put kids on the cover? Do they represent the target audience?
Peter: Future superstar Mike Kaluta illustrates a tale of ancient Egyptian terror in "The Coming of Ghaglan." Sir Otis Rexford has found a hidden tomb which holds a scroll that contains the missing chapter from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. When Sir Otis begins to read a chant from the scroll, he collapses and his spirit leaves his body, journeying across dimensions to a strange planet of undead slaves, all waiting for a being called Ghaglan to release them upon mankind. When Sir Otis returns to his body, he discovers the scroll missing, now in the hands of an archaeologist named Ghaglan. Kaluta uses black and white to illustrate the dead world Sir Otis visits and, when he awakens, the return of color is almost shocking to the reader. By 1970, there was no such thing as an original story about hidden Egyptian tombs so a writer would have to invent some new hooks to entertain the jaded horror reader. While not exactly reinventing the wheel, Raymond Marais does a decent enough job telling a story in six pages. Marais wrote one of the greatest stories ever published by Warren, "The Rescue of the Morning Maid" (Creepy #18, January 1968), a tale that gave this impressionable lad nightmares for years (and I ain't exaggerating).
Jack: As the resident lifelong DC fan, whenever I see a character reading enchanted words I fall back on my Zatanna/Zatara training and read the words backwards to see if they make sense. "Tehfu Khaman" backwards is "Ufhet Namahk." Not very helpful.
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Tuska
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
"Once a Killer!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Tuska
"House Haunted, Do Not Disturb"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Jerry Grandenetti
Peter: Our opener stars JoJo Rambeau, born unattractive and taunted all his life. One day, JoJo goes to see a Houngan in the local swamp, who teaches him about the use of voodoo dolls. JoJo immediately puts his new skill to work, crafting dolls of all his tormentors and then distorting their features until they're uglier than he is. Wessler's WTF? climax has JoJo set the dolls on fire when the townspeople come calling, only to find their looks restored and his own face erased. An incredibly stupid, nonsensical tale kamikazied by the truly ugly art of George Tuska. You literally cannot tell which characters are supposed to be unattractive when George handles the penciling chores. Is it physically possible to have buck teeth that long? And hilarious that, despite having no mouth or any features at all, JoJo can exclaim "I suddenly can't see!" in the final panel. Amateur hour at the DC bullpen.
Jack: I think you missed the sensitive message here, Peter. JoJo needs to learn the lesson that we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. Maybe I've been watching too much TV for the last 50 years, but this story reminded me of "The Masks" from The Twilight Zone, even down to the Louisiana setting. Tuska's art is actually perfect for this story, since the people he usually draws are on the ugly side. His proclivity for drawing every character with a great big set of choppers means that he has to go overboard to draw ugly teeth, making them huge and out sized. I kind of liked the tale until the dopey finish.
Jack: This last story has such bizarre art by Jerry G. that it makes me wonder if I'm missing the boat entirely and he is taking a stab at Picasso-like illustration in comic-book form. There's one panel where a woman's eyes are practically sliding off her face! Maybe Grandenetti is an under appreciated genius whose work will find its way to a museum some day. Maybe I should start looking for original artwork on eBay to get in on the ground floor!
|"House Haunted, Do Not Disturb"|
The Witching Hour 10 (September 1970)
"A Warp in Time ... Loses Everything!"
Art by Gray Morrow
"hold softly, hand of Death!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Alex Toth
Peter: "A Warp in Time" is a confusing story anchored by fabulous art. A psychiatrist sees a man who claims to have been stuck in a time warp. The shrink has the man committed and then heads out of his office, musing that his other doctor pals will get a kick out of his story. A few minutes later, the doc realizes he's in a time warp as well, witnessing famous disappearances (missing trains, the Flying Dutchman, etc.) and feeling a desperate sense of unreality and displacement. When he comes to his senses, he finds he's back home, about to be committed and unable to convince anyone where he's been. His doctor laughs to himself and opens the door, about to step into the time warp. The art on this strip is fabulous. Gray Morrow perfectly conveys the sense of being in another dimension by using different mediums of art (it reminded me a lot of what Kirby would do now and then in the 1960s Marvels) and distorting angles. The story's a bit confusing, though. Are we to assume that anyone who finds out about this time warp will then be sent there? Still, I'll give it a passing grade for Morrow's art alone.
Peter: Pierre LeBas has spent his life treating women like dogs but now he's met a woman who steals his heart. The only problem is that she may be a spectre. LeBas chases the girl to a cliff where she falls, never to be seen again. LeBas spends the rest of his lonely life sitting by the beach, waiting for the girl to come back. One year away from taking over writing chores on nearly half of the major Marvel titles, Gerry Conway shows he's a genuine storyteller with "hold softly." His bookends, of LeBas in his wheelchair, waiting at the cliff for his long-lost love, tug at the heart strings despite the knowledge that this guy was a Grade-A jerk.
Deliberate (or accidental) ambiguity drives me nuts. I can't stand it, and there's some of that here (Is the mysterious girl a spectre before she falls from the cliffs? Why do the other guests forget the girl exists?) but, since Conway's writing is so strong, it doesn't bother me. The inconsistencies that come of reading dozens of funny books a week, I guess. The image of LeBas in his wheelchair, like an illustration in a French graphic novel rather than a DC mystery title, will stay with me a while.
Jack: I have to disagree with you on this one, Peter. I thought that the writing was muddled and the denouement disappointing. Alex Toth's art is strong, as always, but this story really goes nowhere. The fact that the old man simply disappears at the end deprives the reader of a satisfying conclusion. Having followed the early work of Gerry Conway over at Marvel University, I'd say that it was a good bit more than a year before he started writing quality stories.