Monday, December 1, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Forty-One: November 1973


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


Nick Cardy
Unexpected 152

"Death Wears Many Faces!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Tuska

"Creeping Beauty"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"The Dark Secret of the Swamp"
Story by Michael Fleisher
Art by Alex Nino

Jack: Harry is a scientist who has developed a serum that works in animals to prevent death but he can't find a human willing to try it. He meets a beauty named Angela Todd and they fall in love, but when she is nearly killed in an elevator accident he gives her the serum and she perks right up. Poor Angela seems rather accident prone, but the disasters that kill those around her have no effect on the lass. Harry decides to keep a close eye on her but when they get into a car wreck he staggers to his lab to get more serum to give her while she is taken to the hospital. Near death himself, he finally arrives at her bedside only to learn that "Death Wears Many Faces!" Angela is actually the Angel of Death and she pours out the last of the serum on the floor, allowing Harry to die himself and ensuring that the secret of the serum dies with him. Carl Wessler and George Tuska are not my idea of a Dream Team, but this is an UNEXPECTEDLY entertaining story! Angela's transition from babe to ghoul over a few panels is neat.

"Death Wears Many Faces!"

Peter: The blunt object to my head known as George Tuska lands not with a bang but an Unexpected "eh!" Aside from the laugh-out-loud image of Death with buck teeth (Tuska's trademark), the artist manages to eke out a decent illustration now and then it seems. This strip has great build-up but slips on the banana peel of its silly twist ending.

"Creeping Beauty"
Jack: Blackpool, England, 1774: Beautiful Illona is not satisfied that Edmund killed his friend Alfred in a duel for her love. When she dumps him and flirts with the next guy she meets, he grows furious and vows to destroy her "Creeping Beauty." He chases her into a cave, where she happens on a race of strange creatures that put her in a cage and comment on how ugly she is! Well, I admit I didn't see THAT coming. Paging Susan Oliver and Roddy McDowell in "People Are Alike All Over"!

Peter: That has to be the biggest WTF? ending of the year! Talk about hitting a brick wall. Did Carl Wessler have a dueling story he couldn't finish and soldered it together with that outer space twist he had no story to go with?

"The Dark Secret of the Swamp"
Jack: Escaped convict Frank Mandrill finds a house in the swamp where he can hide out. He is welcomed by the old man and woman who live there but soon begins to have questions about the strange statues outside, one of which is the image of his old prison pal, Chuck, who told him about the swamp in the first place. One night he sneaks out and observes the old couple dipping a dead tramp in quicksand to make another statue--"The Dark Secret of the Swamp." They see him and try to catch him but fall in themselves and are sucked under. That night, a terrible storm causes the house to shift off of its foundation and sink into the swamp, along with Frank, who made it as far as the roof. Later, in an antique store, a couple buys a statute of a man impaled on a weather vane and we realize that it's Frank's body, preserved in the hard quicksand. Alex Nino's art is breathtakingly good but Fleisher's story is not so hot. The strangest thing of all is the final panel, when we see the statute of Frank but it looks like he shrunk quite a bit!

Peter: How do you fish in quicksand? Interesting in that this is one of the few swamp stories that doesn't end up in already heavily-mined territory (Frank doesn't end up a troubled muck monster). It's been way too long since we've had the pleasure of Alex Nino's company. Let's hope he sticks around.

Jack: The letters column is unusually interesting this month, as one reader writes in to complain about "all the foreign artists." The editor first lists all of the American artists who are drawing for DC, then sticks up for the foreign artists, writing that it's talent that matters, not country of origin. Bravo!


Luis Dominguez
The House of Mystery 219

"The Curse of the Crocodile!"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Pledge to Satan"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Nestor Redondo

Peter: Nazi engineer Heinrich Sturm is given orders by higher-ups that a bridge must go up over a lake in Tunisia in order for the Germans to attack a British garrison. The local Arabs warn that the structure will anger the crocodile god and refuse to work. The Nazis murder the Arabs one by one until the survivors have no choice but to give in to the demands. The bridge goes up but, eventually, the Arabs rebel and slaughter the Germans in their sleep. Only Heinrich escapes, heading to Rio. It takes decades but the Tunisian police finally track Heinrich down and chase him into the swamp. There, "The Curse of the Crocodile" finally catches up to Sturm and he's transformed into one of the scaly beasts. The new suit doesn't last long, though, as a couple of poachers come along and crack him across the skull for his scaly skin. A weird tale this one, as it begins promisingly enough but peters out midway and hits a dead end with its unsatisfying climax. No such problem with the art, however. How Alfredo had time to devote to the detail in these panels is anyone's guess. Nothing looks rushed; the backgrounds are detailed and dripping with dread and the human characters (a sore spot with Alcala) are getting more and more refined. Other than in dribs and drabs, we still have yet to see Michael Fleisher's full potential. That will change big time next issue when he and the Master team up yet again to produce what I consider to be the best horror story DC ever printed. Stay tuned.

"The Curse of the Crocodile"

Jack: Right now, I think that Fleisher is writing the best stories in the DC horror books, even if they sometimes miss the mark, as this one does. He really has the vengeance thing down pat and he understands how to build toward a horrific climax. I like that his stories tend to be longer than the usual 7-pagers--this one clocks in at 11 pages. You have whet my appetite for next issue!

Peter: In 1542, Scottish bailiff Walter Fridd knows that the gorgeous Widow Smirly is a witch and, when he confronts her with the information, she promises to teach him a spell that will spin gold from nothing. Once Fridd learns the spell, the rat turns Smirly over to the town for burning and turns his attention to the business of gold. Unfortunately for Walter, Smirly was burned at the stake before she could warn the man about possible side effects. Admiring the art of "Crocodile" and "Pledge to Satan" really hammers home just what this DC bullpen could do when it was firing on all cylinders. Redondo's visuals are fantastic and special attention must be given to the colorist as well (alas uncredited), who does a bang up job in what must have been a very difficult task, adding brightness to intricate pencils and inks. Just look at the scene below; there are several layers of color and shade distinguishing the different layers of the panel, giving the panel almost a three-dimensional feel.

"Pledge to Satan"

Jack: This was a very satisfying issue of House of Mystery, though, as usual, the art edged out the writing. I know you disagree but I prefer Nestor Redondo's art to that of Alfredo Alcala.


Jack Sparling
The House of Secrets 113

"Not So Loud--I'm Blind!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Sekowsky and Nick Cardy

"Spawns of Satan"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Nestor Redondo

Peter: A doctor experiments on vagrants in an effort to create a being who can live in an ultra-polluted world. His rejects are dumped unceremoniously into the swamp but one subject, a blind hobo, refuses to stay dead. Now grotesquely malformed, the creature murders the doctor and his nurse and goes on a rampage through the swamp. Having heightened hearing, any loud noise throws him into a mad rage. Enter the very loud boys who are investigating the swamp.

Yet another variation on The Heap/Swamp Thing/Man-Thing story, "Not So Loud--I'm Blind" is an awful mess capped by one of the most unsatisfying non-endings we've yet encountered. I love how one of the brats thinks the solution to surviving the monster is to stand and shout at it. Why would anyone think that would help when faced with a lumbering pile of excrement? Doug Moench puts on display all the preachiness, pretentiousness, and preciousness so evident in his Marvel black and white work (now being discussed over at Marvel University). No kid, outside of one found in a Moench funny book tale, would name his cat "Gray Mouser" (after Fritz Leiber's sword and sorcery series, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser). Mike Sekowsky reminds us that not all of the DC artist bullpen is on a par with Alcala, Nino, and Redondo. Especially laughable is the panel of the doctor and nurse, ostensibly in amok panic but more likely dancing to one of Marvin Gaye's upbeat eco-tunes. Perhaps the only effective moment Sekowsky allows is the sequence when the boys fish a human skull out of the swamp. Yes, I'm grasping for bright spots in an otherwise soggy bit of landfill.

Jack: The most interesting thing about this story is the question of who drew it. The credit on page one says "Cardy & Sekowsky," yet the Grand Comics Database features a brief discussion of experts who conclude that it's more likely that Sekowsky pencilled and Cardy inked. I agree that Sekowsky's heavy black lines are toned down in most of the panels, but there are panels that are obviously Sekowsky and others that are obviously Cardy, so again I have to wonder who did what. We have seen very little interior art by Cardy in these DC horror comics, though he drew a huge number of covers, so perhaps he was pulled in at the last minute to finish the pages? Sekowsky was known for his speed, though, so it seems unlikely that they would need to pull Cardy in to finish Sekowsky's work at the deadline.

Peter: When the Bakers are attacked and killed by vampires, their five children are raised by the kindly townsfolk. Unfortunately for said kind folk, the vampires responsible were the Baker children themselves. They take their time picking off the town, one by one, until their eldest warns that the village may soon be on to them if they don't change their modus operandi. The five bury their coffins on a nearby hill and climb into a boat to hide in a local cave but the boat overturns and the children sink to the bottom of the icy lake. The frozen water proves to be a sleep-inducer and the kids stay in hibernation until the thaw comes. Once they drag themselves from the lake, they must trek to their coffins pronto or fall victim to the rising sun. Alas, the town has built a concrete playground above the burial ground and marked it with a memorial, ironically to the five Bakers, whom the town considered drowned. The rising sun leaves only ashes.

Here's another instance where I am perplexed and have to give a slight thumbs-up to if only for the nastiness of the whole thing. I like that we're almost thrust into the middle of a story when "Spawns of Satan" (a really dumb title, by the way) opens. The parents have already been dispatched some time before and our first glimpse at the Bakers is of five bloodthirsty  vampires. The concept, obviously derived from  Children of the Damned, is a creepy one that would be further investigated in films like Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) and fiction such as Stephen King's "Children of the Corn." The atmosphere, the viciousness of the children (they really dig being vampires), and the downbeat ending all add up to a worthy read. There are several holes in the story (How did the kids become vampires in the first place? Why did warm water suddenly revive them at the bottom of the lake?) but push them to the side and enjoy "Spawns of Satan" for what it is: a really well-illustrated horror story.

Jack: "Spawns of Satan" will probably make my top ten for 1973. The story is interesting and doesn't just have just one twist--the paved playground--but two: the memorial to the vampire kids! Between this story and "Pledge to Satan" in this month's House of Mystery, I think Nestor Redondo is the closest thing we have to Neal Adams at this point in our journey.

"Spawns of Satan"


Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 36

"When You Wed a Witch!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Romy Gamboa

"Death Held the Goblet"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by ER Cruz

"Any Two Can Die"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Lee Elias

Jack: When Tod Oliver met Maura Hogan, he thought she was just an adorable redhead, but when they fell in love and he proposed marriage, she admitted that she was training to be a witch. No problem, said Tod, I have a secret, too! After they tie the knot, Maura's mother arrives and Tod learns that it's not all fun and games "When You Wed a Witch." She pushes Maura to use her witchcraft to get Tod to help around the house. But when she pushes too far, Maura turns on Mama and makes her take a fall. Surprise! Maura hasn't any powers at all and Tod's secret was that he's a warlock. Mama is sent packing and the two witches settle down happily in front of the TV. I really enjoyed this story, possibly because I read it after reading this month's issue of Ghosts, which is anything but enjoyable.

A typical evening at the Seabrook home
Peter: This is one of those stories that should be a page and a half instead of seven. There's no reason for Tod to hide his secret from Maura. If anything, it would have attracted her even more, so the only reason it takes so long for the truth to be told is so we'll experience the twist (which isn't all that startling). Romy Gamboa's art is pretty bad, with no dynamic or detail.

Jack: Marcello the Mighty Magician is practicing a water escape but it goes horribly wrong when his young assistant Helga makes sure he drowns. She takes over his act and becomes famous in her own right but, on the anniversary of his death, she debuts her new TV show and it features her magic goblet illusion. She did not know beforehand that "Death Held the Goblet," for from it she pulls various items that Marcello was wearing when he died. She snaps and confesses the murder, and from then on the only tricks she performs are in her tortured mind. A mildly interesting script is enhanced with extremely nice art by Cruz, though in one panel Helga looks like a guy.

Tell me that's not a guy holding the saw!
Peter: An atmospheric opening gives way to blandness and familiarity. It's just not a captivating story and Helga's screeching confession is particularly lame.

Jack: A dying old man has invited five people to his mansion to play a game for a great prize, but the participants soon realize that, in this game, "Any Two Can Die." One man is shot to death by another, but there is no escape because the house is booby-trapped. Mr. Platt, a gambler, tries to fix the game so he can win, but when it ends he discovers that his reward is to be locked in a room with the dying old man. Platt must play every board game in the room before he can escape but he rightly estimates that this will take the rest of his life. And the key to the locked door? It's casually tossed aside by the young couple who did not win as they exit the mansion. There's a cool story in here somewhere and I enjoyed Lee Elias's art, though he draws Mordred the witch as if she has Marty Feldman eyes.

A typical evening at the Enfantino home
Peter: The art of Lee Elias is so ugly that it's hard to concentrate on the story, I know, so I'll let you in on a little secret: the script is awful too.


Luis Dominguez
Weird Mystery Tales 8

"Final Take!"
Story by Michael Pellowsky and Robert Kanigher
Art by Tony deZuniga

"Portrait of Terror"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Bernard Baily

"An Evil Pair"
Story by John Albano
Art by Ernesto Patricio

Peter: A horror film director is tired of phony monsters on his set and orders his assistant to get him more realistic creatures. The assistant obliges by taking his director to an alleged haunted house where he is greeted by an assortment of ghoulies and ghosties. Not impressed, the director pulls at faces and hair, only to find the monsters are real and his assistant is their ringleader. "Final Take" has been done several times under different titles (which begs the question: "why would Mike Pellowsky receive a "Story Idea" credit for a cliche?) and once again illustrates the fact that Bob Kanigher should have stuck to war comics. The art by deZuniga is nice to look at but resorts to photo-realism a little too much (our first shot of the director is obviously derived from a still of Bela Lugosi) for my tastes.

"Final Take"

Jack: It's a shame deZuniga's beautiful art was wasted on this one-note story. I can imagine the pitch from Pellowsky: "OK, there's this TV director who's really mean, and he treats his actors badly, so his assistant hire real monsters and they kill him!" Once again, I realize that I could have been a comic book writer.

Peter: An artist can draw a subject and then bring it to life which leads to massive jealousy issues with his shrewish wife. When she orders him to erase his latest pretty creation, he decides he's had enough and erases her instead. "Portrait of Terror" is a rarity among the DC mystery stories of 1973: a really well-written tale with horrible art. Bailey's sketchy, cartoony style (which reminds me of Howard Chaykin's on a bad day) almost screeches at the reader with its annoying amateurishness. If you can get past that, however, you'll find a sly, funny tale with a complete surprise at its finale (at least, I was completely surprised).

"Portrait of Terror"

Jack: I wasn't. I knew by page two that Myra was going to be erased at the end. Bernard Baily was a great comic artist in the Golden Age but by 1973 it looks like his best work was behind him. Like Jerry Grandenetti, he seems to have gone in the wrong direction as time went on, because the art in this story is just plain bad. The only saving grace comes in the last few panels, when just Myra's head and then her mouth are left.

"An Evil Pair"
Peter: In the Old West, Victor and Vincent, truly "An Evil Pair," sell brown sugar and water as a cure-all to folks too ignorant to know better. Riding through a new town, they happen upon Miss Morby parceling out "magic water" to the sick and dying. Unlike their wacky water, this potion does seem to work. Sensing a gold mine, the pair plan to uncover the truth behind Miss Morby's healing powers. Victor tells the young lady that her magic should be spread out through the land so that others can be healed and that he's just the man to help. Naively, the lady agrees and shows Victor to the spring that holds the water. The con man strangles Morby and then heads back to tell Vincent the good news. A sudden case of the extreme greedies envelops Victor and he murders his partner, but not before suffering a mortal wound himself. Knowing he must get back to the spring pronto, he heads out of town but meets up with two well-intentioned men who take him back to Miss Morby's office, where Victor will get the attention he deserves. I liked this one quite a bit in both art and story. The two "V"s quickly accelerate from snake oil salesmen to murderers but the switch doesn't come off forced as it does in a lot of these stories. These guys really are bad dudes.

Jack: For once, I thought the story was better than the art. The twist in the tail was ironic and surprising without having to be ghoulish. I like the Old West setting and, though there were points in the story where I thought I knew where it was going, it kept moving in a different direction than I expected, right up to the end. Nice work! I wasn't very impressed with Patricio's art but it was better than Baily's in the story just before it.


Nick Cardy
Ghosts 20

"The Haunting Hussar of West Point"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Howl of the Black Phantom"
Story Uncredited
Art by Frank Redondo

"The Skulls of Pak Island"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ken Barr

"Specter in the Snow"
Story Uncredited
Art by John Calnan

Seems logical!


Jack: Who is "The Haunting Hussar of West Point," you may ask? The librarian knows! It is probably the ghost of Istvan Coltrin, an Austrian captain who was visiting West Point many years ago. He fell in love with a woman and her boyfriend killed him in a duel. Now, his ghost haunts Room 4714, so the school has declared it off limits. I love the theory that it was a pre-football game prank! That makes a lot of sense.

Peter: This is more like one of those one-page "True Life Ghosts" items you'd have found in the back of Scholastic Magazine when you were a kid. Not so much a story as an idea illustrated with just about the crudest excuse for art we've yet seen. Seriously, work like this from a professional like Glanzman is hard to figure out.

The native's reaction to a tape recorder.
Jack: If you ever visit Kenya, stay away from the swamp or you might hear "The Howl of the Black Phantom." Mark tried to make a recording of it for his old teacher but his friend M'buro was killed in the process when his foot got caught in a poisoned leopard trap. Mark was next to go when he was run over by a truck. Finally, his teacher listened to the howl on tape and ended up the victim of an accidental gunshot wound. I think that the lesson here is to stay far away from Kenyan swamps.

Peter: Professor Strasser looks like a DC funny book editor. This is the easiest kind of story to write. There are no explanations given for the phenomenon; we're not even told what the beast is or where the sound comes from.

Jack: It's 1943 and U.S. soldiers are fleeing from the Japanese on a Pacific island when they come across a ruined house with "The Skulls of Pak Island" guarding the front steps. The soldiers hide and, when the enemy approaches, phantoms scare them off. It seems that the skulls were all that was left of a couple of English settlers who were eaten by local cannibals. It's nice to see that Japanese-American relations haven't progressed much since the DC war comics of the early 1960s.


Peter: Nice Ken Barr art distinguishes the first installment of "Tales of the Haunted and the Damned!"  The series within a series will only last four issues on an erratic schedule perhaps because editor Murray Boltinoff realized that all Ghosts stories are about the haunted and the damned! At least we know from "Pak Island" that the spirits were on the side of the Allies in WWII.

Jack: Barbara and Lee Dickerson are on their honeymoon in the Alps and all Lee wants to do is ski. Barbara keeps seeing a "Specter in the Snow" and worries that her new hubby is in danger. She should have been more careful, because the specter was really warning her--on her first time out in the snow, she falls off the ski lift and is strangled to death when her scarf gets caught on another lift chair. See? I always knew skiing was dangerous.


Peter: So was Barbara Dickinson killed by a phantom spirit or was it a freak accident that tied her scarf around that pole? Hmmm. Gotta love that 1970s sensibility voiced by Lee when Barbara promises to obey her husband's wishes: "That's my girl! If you follow that line of thought, and know who the boss is, our marriage is bound to succeed!" Odd panel of Barbara looking into that bowl of water; either Barbara's got the neck of a giraffe or she's just taken her head off.



Jack Sparling
Secrets of Sinister House 15

"The Claws of the Harpy"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Jack Sparling

"Hunger"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Romy Gamboa

"Mr. Reilly the Derelict!"
Story by John Albano
Art by Jess Jodloman

Jack: When a large eagle attacks and kills a man who is out boating one day, Bruce finds himself promoted to vice president of the ad agency, now that his rival is dead. At home, his wife Janice spends her time training her large eagle to kill small birds of prey. Is Janice responsible for her husband's promotion by way of "The Claws of the Harpy?" She is certainly a shrew, pushing poor Bruce to move up the corporate ladder, something that seems even easier to do when the president of the company is killed on the golf course by a large eagle. The unlucky golfer managed to tear a bell from around the eagle's leg and, when Janice hears this, she suspects that her beloved pet is a killer. To her horror, mild-mannered Bruce has been using the bird to further his own ends, and to make sure she doesn't tell the police he strangles her to death. That night, he hears a commotion in the aviary and goes to investigate. Days later, the police find his body hanging in the giant cage, stripped of flesh by the birds, who have built a nest in one of the hips! Zowie! That last panel made the whole story for me. The funniest line had to be Bruce's: "Whew! I always thought the advertising business was difficult! But digging this grave is the hardest work I ever did in my life!" This, after murdering his wife!

"The Claws of the Harpy"
Peter: That's a real cool EC-inspired final panel so it's too bad there's nothing interesting to work up to that image. How the heck did Bruce train his wife's harpy eagle to kill on command? And how did the bird know whom to kill? Fleisher was probably inspired by the old Bela Lugosi horror flick, The Devil Bat (1940), wherein a scientist trains a giant bat to kill his enemies. In that entertaining flick, we learn how the bat homes in on its prey. No such explanation is given here. And about that climax: who is Bruce talking to when he says "No! Please! I didn't mean it! Stay back!" Is it the ghost of his wife? The eagle? And where's the harpy in the end? I need answers, Mike!

"Hunger"
Jack: Pity the poor vampire, stuck in a lonely cemetery with police guarding the perimeter. He's consumed with "Hunger!" How tasty the new caretaker and his daughter look! But what did they mean when they said they have protection against vampires? Oh, well--time to strike! Uh oh, they're vampires too! And two against one is not good odds. Looks like they'll get dinner instead of you! Sheesh! Vampires don't have blood--everyone knows that. Why would two vampires move into a cemetery just to snack on another vampire? The cops look so much tastier.

Peter: Can a vampire drink another vampire's blood? Interesting concept even if the story is lacking.

Jack: Charlie's face has been horribly disfigured ever since he performed heroically in a fire. His son's wife Peggy treats him like "Mr. Reilly the Derelict" and can't stand to have him around the house. After he is robbed and beaten in an alley one night, he develops severe headaches and finds that his wishes come true. He sees a boy about the fall from a great height and uses his wish to save him, but when he goes home Peggy still treats him badly. How depressing! A decent story with decent art but couldn't we have a better ending?

"Mr. Reilly the Derelict"

Peter: I'm a sucker for stories like this even when they don't make much sense (Why is Mr. Reilly so sure his "gift" is gone? Can't he just sit on his bed and wait for another bout of pain and then make his wish?). Warren used to publish little morality tales like "Mr. Reilly the Derelict" that triumphed over sappiness and presented rays of hope even amidst the crowds of monsters and maniacs. I'm starting to really warm to John Albano as a writer.


Mike Kaluta
Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion 13

"The Man Who Waxed--And Waned!"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"The Eavesdropper"
Story Uncredited
Art by Gil Kane and Wally Wood

Peter: It's a job gone wrong for hit man Brock Marsden when he takes out some competition but gets ventilated in the process. Escaping, he passes out on a country road and is nursed back to health by a wacky old crone who takes a shine to Brock. Little does he know, the old gal is a practicing witch who loves to torture enemies in her basement with the help of her wax voodoo dolls. When Brock picks up on what's been going on under his nose (and feet), he tells the witch he wants the secret so he can take care of some old business, she refuses and Marsden dumps her in a vat of boiling wax. Afraid the police may find what's he's done (and, besides the place gives him the creeps!), he hoofs it, the basement in flames. Unfortunately for Brock, he only makes it to the airport before he spontaneously combusts. The old woman had made a Brock Marsden doll. "The Man Who Waxed--And Waned!" is nothing startling in the story department but the presentation is nice and that's one killer final panel (below)!

Jack: Until I got to the last panel, I was going to write about my confusion as to why the old woman was killing random people in horrible ways. But the last panel confused the heck out of me. Why did Brock turn into a giant penis at the end of the story? And how did DC ever get this one past the Comics Code Authority? The old woman did appear to have an unseemly interest in her houseguest, but turning him into a wax weenie is going a bit far, don't you think? "My Lord" indeed. Kaluta's cover is stunning and its Golden Age/Simon & Kirby vibe makes me wish he'd been involved in the story inside!

Peter: Womanizer Frank Grogan falls in love with neighbor, Pythia, but the relationship can't go anywhere until the girl leaves her husband. Frank develops an obsession for the girl and can't seem to think of anything but winning her love. One night, Frank thinks he hears Pythia's husband beating her so he breaks their door down, only to find the man dead, the victim of a giant snake. With her husband barely cold in the ground, Pythia agrees to marry Frank and the two settle down to (what Frank thinks is) a wild wedding night. Wild isn't the word Frank's thinking of, though, when he discovers that Pythia is the snake that killed her husband and now she'll have Frank to do her bidding.  With a name like Pythia (Python? Get it?) and a suspicious speech impediment ("Ssssave me! Ressscue me!"), where else could this silly story end up? Why does this snake-girl have to marry to find victims? I wonder if inker Wally Wood (one of my favorite artists) is responsible for the worst art I've ever seen from the usually reliable Gil Kane. My teachers taught me in high school math that adding two positives always equal a positive but "The Eavesdropper" proves that theory incorrect.

Frank Grogan comes to the same realization many men do after marriage

Jack: You're not kidding. This story was awful! Little wonder that the writer remains anonymous. I thought Gil Kane was just doing Marvel work at this point so I wonder if he dashed this off a few years before and they pulled it out and gave it to Wood to ink.


Peter: The first issue of Black Magic debuted this month on the stands carrying the slightly misleading label "A New Simon, Kirby Special." True, it was a new title but it was stuffed with reprints of old Jack Kirby/Joe Simon horror stories from the original comic of the same title, published by Prize (50 issues, Nov 1950-Dec 1961) . The reprint lasted nine issues through May 1975.

Jack: For some reason, this cover stuck in my brain and has never left in the past 40+ years. The giant head is just so memorable! I really liked Black Magic at the time and bought at least the first seven issues, judging from a quick look at the covers online. Back in those days, it was exciting to be able to buy comics that reprinted stories from the '40s and '50s, since they were so hard to come by any other way.

Peter: Limited Collectors Edition #C-23 was the fourth LCE (after Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, SHAZAM! and Tarzan of the Apes--bizarre that neither of DC's iconic heroes kicked off the prestigious new format) and included seven stories from the first four years of the revamped House of Mystery. The stories were: "The House of Gargoyles" (from #175), "The Secret of the Egyptian Cat" (#186), "The Widow's Walk" (#179), "His Name is... Kane" (#180), "The Devil's Doorway" (#182), "The Poster Plague!" (#202) and "Nightmare" (#186). Was this the "best that HoM offered" in that first couple dozen issues? Well, according to my notes, I awarded five of the tales four stars when we originally reviewed them so it's pretty close to perfect.

Jack: That's a darn good sampling. "The Poster Plague!" and "Nightmare" were two of the best of the stories we've read so far.



Coming in our next Nazi-infested issue!
On Sale December 8th!

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