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.


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"
"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.


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


1 comment:

mikeandraph87 said...

Talked to the guys at DCU Guide and linked your blog. They would love for either of you to host a thread about Hitchcock and/or DC Horror-Mystery comics.