Monday, September 14, 2015

Do You Dare Enter? Part Sixty-One: July 1975

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

Luis Dominguez
Unexpected 166

"The Evil Eyes of Night"
Story by Al Case (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"The Point of Death"
Story Uncredited
Art by Frank Redondo

"Spirit, Why Do You Haunt Me?"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Franc Reyes

Jack: Young Chris, the gardener's son, tests out his new sleeping bag in a backyard tent but when "The Evil Eyes of Night" scare him he runs back to the main house, where he witnesses a strange scene. Peter, the ne'er do well son of the late, wealthy man who owned the house, holds a tramp at gunpoint and forces him to open the house safe. Peter's elderly stepmother comes in by wheelchair and Peter threatens to kill both the tramp and young Chris. The tramp tries a gun jump and, in the melee, a suit of armor falls over, revealing the decaying corpse of Peter's stepfather, whom he had killed and stuffed in the suit. The old lady rams Peter with her wheelchair and, when the tramp grabs an axe from the dead knight, Peter runs outside. A gunshot follows, and the trio finds Peter dead, having tripped over Chris's tent rope and accidentally shot himself.

Go, Granny, Go!
For once, that was Unexpected! Why doesn't Chris go to his father in the gardener's cottage when he awakens in the night? Why didn't anyone notice the stench of a decaying corpse in the middle of the room? Does a suit of armor hold in the smell ("how long do you stay fresh in that can?" asked the Cowardly Lion of the Tin Man)? How much momentum can a little old lady get in a wheelchair over the course of a few feet? The revelation of the corpse in the suit of armor surprised me, but the surprises in the rest of this tale were more of the dopey variety.

Peter: This reads like two stories sewn together, with a rare rush job by Yandoc. Boltinoff can't seem to figure out if his Charlie Ames is a scared little kid ("I--I never s-saw a dead man before..") or one speaking way beyond his vocabulary (" was my tent... and it seemed to reach out like a vengeful thing..."). That classic cover, by the way, evokes more fear in its one image than "The Evil Eyes..." can muster in its bloated eight pages.

Mother is strangely delighted!
Jack: Cora's mother pays a surprise visit to her daughter but doesn't even try to hide her dislike for her son-in-law, Herbert, mocking his hobby of collecting butterflies. Cora explains that Herbert surprised a thief in his study the night before. The thief stabbed and killed Herbert, so now someone has pinned Herbert to the wall in the midst of his collection of butterflies. "The Point of Death" demonstrates that, at least in this instance, Frank Redondo couldn't hold a candle to his brother Nestor.

Peter: What an idiotic waste of paper. So, was the thief/murderer a butterfly man or simply a burglar who took the time, after killing Herbert, to pin his victim on the wall? Or... are we supposed to believe that his wife, with that last panel smirk as evidence, killed her husband and then had the strength to lift him up onto the wall? We've had more than our fill of obfuscated stories in this journey (deliberate and otherwise) but this must win the First Prize Trophy, no?

Not the best place
to build a home.
Jack: Blair blames phony faith-healer Sarki for the death of his wife Wilma and drives through the night to kill the man when the brakes on his car fail and he suffers a fatal crash. An ambulance crew revives him but he discovers that his ghost escaped from his body while he was dead. The ghost saves his life from malpractice in the hospital yet he asks, "Spirit, Why Do You Haunt Me?" and heads to Sarki's house to confess and apologize. Sarki reveals that he was the one who tried to kill Blair by tampering with his brakes and messing with his medication. Suddenly, Blair's ghost appears, grabs Sarki, crashes through a window, and makes him plummet to his death. Excellent art by Franc Reyes highlights this story, which is about as good as it gets in Unexpected.

Peter: Within the muddle of this weird ghost story is a pretty good tale but, as is, it leaves us with too many questions. Who was the ghost with Blair's face? How did Sarki know that Blair was coming to their meeting place to kill him? Franc Reyes is yet another of the talented Filipino artists DC brought over to punch up their titles, with Reyes also contributing mightily to Joe Kubert's Tarzan at about the same time this issue hit the stands. His art for "Spirit, Why Do You Haunt Me?" is the standout of the issue. There's a tidbit on the letters page hyping William Castle's proposed next thriller, Damon, about a kid who can read minds and kill plants with his touch (even though that sounds like an Unexpected tale, it was actually based on the novel by C. Terry Cline, Jr.). That movie never materialized but Castle thrilled us all with Bug! that summer of 1975. Lost in the tidal wave created by Jaws, Bug! was Castle's last film.

Michael W. Kaluta
The House of Mystery 233

Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Frank Robbins

"It's Hell!"
Story by John Albano
Art by Ruben Sosa

Peter: Tired of getting by on a waiter's salary, Frank is ready for a big score. He convinces his girl friend, the luscious stripper Myrna, that she won't ever have to jump out of a "Cake!" for sleazy old men again if she'll just come in on the plan with him. Together they go up to the empty room of the wealthy old socialite Virginia Van Stanton but, while Myrna stands guard, the old biddy comes back for her umbrella and Frank has to silence her. The couple takes the jewelry and then goes back to work as if nothing ever happened. Unfortunately for Frank, Van Stanton managed to rip his employee badge off during their struggle and the cops are on to him. Just as Frank helps Myrna into a cake, the cops arrive and chase him through the halls, shooting him dead. In a colossal case of mistaken identity, poor Myrna is wheeled into a housewares convention and her cake is sliced into thirty pieces.

Bask in Robbins' dessert!
Not one of Mike Fleisher's shining moments. Oh, the customary dismemberment is present but the build-up is nothing more than a weak heist caper. Frank Robbins, though, seems to be at the top of his game. Other than one panel where Frank holds Myrna's chin with his hand in an impossible angle, we're spared the usual rubbery limbs and sweaty foreheads. It's about the most subdued we've ever seen Robbins.

Jack: Too bad Mike Kaluta didn't illustrate this one! His cover is fabulous. I thought the story was outstanding and the art, as you point out, is about as good as it gets from Robbins. The concluding "wham" of the automatic cake cutter is just brutal. If this were a pre-code comic, we might see blood pouring out of the sides of the cake.

Just you try this arm exercise!

Peter: Tired of living with the perfect wife, Jerome Ellison hires a warlock to conjure demons to dispose of his wife, Margaret. When the deed is done, Jerome calls the police and cops to the murder, claiming he only had her killed so that he wouldn't have to spend eternity with her in Heaven. Bad news comes quick for Jerome though when the police find Margaret's diary, wherein she confesses to having killed her first husband. Now Jerome realizes if his wife is going to go anywhere, "It's Hell!" Not a bad story at all, although Jerome's motives are a stretch... or are they? Ruben Sosa's graphics are perfect for the subject matter, nicely stark. Not detailed like Alfredo, but not scratchy like Calnan. Somewhere right down the middle; his work reminds me of that of the Spanish artists who worked for Warren in the 1970s like Jose Bea and Felix Mas. Trivia: The January 1975 issue of The Comic Reader announced that Steve Ditko and Wally Wood had finished stories for The House of Mystery. While Ditko's stories did indeed make it into the House, Wood's story will be shuffled over to Weird Mystery. Here's hoping the masters still had it.

Jack: Ellison is such a jerk! Decades living with a kind and understanding wife and all he can think about is having her killed so he'll go to Hell. Sosa's art is really nice in spots but in others, his faces seem to fall apart. Weird. On the letters page, Cain admits that the 100-page issues were not all they could have been. We certainly agree!

Ernie Chan
The House of Secrets 133

"The Night of the Leopard Goddess"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"Portraits of Death"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Ernie Chan and Bill Draut

Peter: Cold-hearted hunter Sheldon Hartley is out to bag a leopard in India when he stumbles upon the temple of the Leopard Men. Upon the altar is a statue of the leopard goddess complete with embedded  ruby. Hartley goes slightly mad and cuts the gem out of the statue but his escape is blocked by several natives. No problem to a man with a firearm. Back in the States, Hartley has added the ruby to his vast collection of rarities in his huge mansion and his amazing exploits have drawn the attention of Wide World Magazine. A gorgeous reporter by the name of Phyllis Pardus is dispatched to learn everything about Hartley's exploits and collection. Sheldon becomes wary of the girl, though, and phones World Wide and receives confirmation that Phyllis is not on their payroll. The big-game hunter decides to play along and invites Phyllis to stay the night. Later that evening, Hartley catches the girl stealing the ruby but, when she turns to face him, the truth comes out: Phyllis Pardus is the Leopard Goddess! She strikes a bargain with her enemy: she'll take the ruby and he can keep a huge diamond she's brought along. Sheldon happily agrees but then regrets his decision when the Goddess embeds the gem in his forehead.

Even though it's lower-tier Michael Fleisher, it's still better than just about any story this month. Sure, its foundation is built on bits from several stories already published (and the main protagonist is a member of that very exclusive society, the Heartless Hunters) but "The Night of the Leopard Goddess" succeeds because of its sick humor and Ruben Yandoc's artwork. A tad bittersweet for me, though, since this would have undoubtedly been drawn by Alfredo Alcala had he still been in the DC Mystery Bullpen. I love how, even though the Goddess grows a really big leopard head, she retains those incredible breasts.

Jack: And her luxurious auburn hair! Terrible from start to finish, with run of the mill art and p-perhaps the w-worst (heh heh) story we've seen from Fleisher. The hunter's behavior is so over-the-top obnoxious that it almost seems like a spoof. He reminds me of Donald Trump in the way he arrogantly brags about his wealth and success. Fleisher overuses parenthetical remarks (puff puff) and s-s-stuttering characters to the point that they almost sound like our host, Abel! Just awful.

Peter: Painter Andre Varney has only two loves: his work and his model, Marie. Unknown to Andre, Marie's got a little side job going with Andre's agent, Charles Lescaux: the pair are selling Andre's work for exorbitant prices and only paying the artist pennies on the dollar. One day, at the studio, Marie notices a morbid painting depicting a deadly lightning strike, a scene played out over the morning's newspaper. When pressed about the painting, Andre admits he has no idea where the muse came from for the picture he just painted. The creepy coincidences continue and Marie gets cold feet; she wants out. Charles is convinced that Varney is on to them and murders him. When the conniving con artists get back to the art studio, they find newly painted works, including one of Marie with a dagger in her heart. When she tries to destroy the obscenity, she accidentally stabs herself, just as depicted in the painting. The police arrive but they'll have none of Charles's talk of Marie's suicide. The murderer is resigned to the fate depicted in the last painting Andre worked on: Charles being led to the guillotine.

Though it's a bit long and padded, "Portraits of Death" has a clever twist ending, the kind Jack Oleck became known for. The art, however, is pretty awful. We've seen Ernie Chua (Chan) do much better work than this so it might be chalked up to his inker, Bill Draut. Having said that... check out that panel below where either Andre's got a huge head or Charles has come equipped with a garden spade.

Jack: Peter, I think you've been reading too many issues of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu if you think this is any good. House of Secrets 133 achieves a notable feat: the two best and most consistent writers of DC Horror comics stories turn in two dreadful tales in the same issue! And you're right about Bill Draut savaging Ernie Chua's pencils. It's hard to say which story is worse, but I think the Fleisher one wins because I expect better from him.

Luis Dominguez
The Witching Hour 56

"What Drove Him Bats?"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Fred Carrillo

"Who Rides with Death!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"The Death of an Iron Lady"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art Uncredited

Jack: Ignoring the warnings of local villagers, a spelunker heads into a cave and almost immediately happens upon a coffin containing the corpse of Barocka, a vampire who has been killed by a stake through the heart. Above him hangs a prism in the shape of a giant bat, through which rays of light shine across the spectrum. When the spelunker is frightened by a real bat, he walks into the beams of light and awakens later to find himself transformed into a vampire bat. "What Drove Him Bats?" he wonders as he flies off.

Step 1 of turning into
a vampire bat
Coming upon some villagers gathered around the body of a man who has been killed by a vampire, he barely escapes their thrown stones and flies off to Barocka's castle, hoping to find some answers. A shadowy figure inside cries for help, the villagers run to his aid, and our hero knocks a villager into the shadowy figure, causing a stake to be driven through his heart. The figure changes into a bat as it does and the spelunker resumes human form. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I read that George Kashdan was a great guy but plotting was not his strong suit.

Peter: The 56th issue of The Witching Hour looks as though it will be just as bad as the previous 55 if the lead-off story is any indication. Our spelunker sure accepts his fate (transforming into a bat) pretty quickly without much of a shock.

Jack: Puny Mort Moore sees red when big Buhl Starke gives sexy waitress Angie Hoyt a ride on his motorbike after her shift at the diner. Mort hops on his scooter and chases Buhl right off a cliff. Angie hops on the back of Mort's scooter and checks Buhl off her list. The next name is Mort's. You see, Angie is DEATH! Surprise! And all that in only four pages of "Who Rides With Death!"

Peter: This could be a front-runner for Worst Script of the Year. It makes no sense whatsoever and the "twist" seems randomly tacked-on. Yandoc's pretty panels are wasted.

Cool kitten, indeed!
Jack: Pablo Diez has created a robot named Linda who can type and find her way anywhere. Russian spy Ivan Rujakov pays $1,000,000 to rent her, but Diez says not to send her out at night or in the cold. So what does Ivan do? He sends her out at night and in the cold to steal defense secrets from the Pentagon. When she gets back, Diez is furious that the cold ruined her circuits and he murders Ivan. Turns out Diez was a robot, too, who built himself a female companion and now has to start from scratch. "The Death of an Iron Lady" concludes an absolutely terrible issue of The Witching Hour. Cynthia is at her grooviest, though, which is either grating or amusing, depending on your feelings for Cynthia.

Peter: This one's so twisted and confusing, Cynthia has to pop up at the climax to give us a not-all-that-sensible expository. I suspected Paul was a robot the whole time but I do have to admit that it's a clever curve ball that he himself was created by another robot. At least, I thought it was clever once I worked it out.

Ernie Chan
Weird Mystery Tales 20

"The Friedman's Monster"
Story by Mal Warwick
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"The Veil of Death"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Teny Henson

"Baker's Dozen!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Fred Carrillo

Peter: While their teenage children grow ever more rebellious and dangerous, the Friedmans must deal with the monster they've kept locked away in their clear for years. "The Friedman's (sic) Monster" (aka Ailaumo, the Enforcer) escapes from his dungeon to remind the couple that they themselves were rebels when they were young and nearly murdered a man but got their lives back on track. Now, the monster tells Lara and Will that he must split himself in half and sit upon their shoulders forever more. Meanwhile, across town, the spoiled rotten Friedman kids are creating havoc when Eomaiku, the Reminders, burst in to let the kids know there are consequences to their actions just as the police enter and take the kids in custody.

Back at home, the officers tell the Friedmans that their children have one more chance and then the book will be thrown at them. The suddenly penitent teenagers tell their parents they've learned their lesson and a happy ending is on the horizon. Newcomer Mal Warwick must have taken home a stack of DC mystery funny books and thought there were way too many vampires and nasty explorers and decided he'd make a statement instead. Mal should have stuck to the beasties instead of serving up this lukewarm platter of Bill Mantlo-esque dysfunction. I challenge you not to roll your eyes and groan at that final panel (below).

Jack: Let's give Mal some credit for trying to do something different! This is more adult in theme than we're used to. I did a bit of online searching and, while Mal Warwick only has a handful of credits in DC horror comics around this time, he seems to have gone on to a successful career as an "author, impact investor and activist" who seems to have written a lot of business books and who has been active in fundraising and social causes. He has not followed the typical path of a funny book writer!

Peter: Doctors remove a membrane covering Baby Janet's eyes and the newborn can see the Grim Reaper just outside the operating room window. When she leaves the hospital with her parents, the baby once again sees Death and the car skids in the snow and explodes. Baby Janet is thrown from the wreckage and later raised by her aunt and uncle. Fifteen years later, the now teenaged Janet sees the Reaper again, this time in one of her uncle's bottled ships. Later that day, out on the sea with her uncle, a tidal wave hits the boat and Janet sinks to the bottom of the sea. We learn that the girl's entire life had been lived in the blink of an eye and she had actually died shortly after the doctor had operated. A rare winner from Mr. Kanigher, "The Veil of Death" succeeds in fooling the reader right up to the twist ending, which I never saw coming. I'm literally floored by how well this story worked considering the usually lazy, cliched fare RK served up in the mystery titles. Also outstanding are the visuals by Filipino artist Tenny Henson, a name we won't see too many times on our journey. His depiction of death catching the sinking Janet in his hands is almost dream-like. This one will come in high on the Year-End Report.

Jack: The first DC credit for Henson, "The Veil of Death" is outstanding work with art that reminds me a bit of Nick Cardy's style. We'll see more of Henson soon and I'm looking forward to it!

It's a bomb, baby!
Peter: Felix Tarte, baker, whips up a special order each week for two very special customers. Dressed as hippies, the pair always buy a "Baker's Dozen" of Felix's rye bread and pay five thousand cash. On this occasion, Felix raises the possibility that they may not be paying enough for his baked goods and the two threaten the baker with bodily harm. Once they've driven away and parked, we see that the rolls are filled with counterfeit bills. Something's rotten in the Felix Tarte Bakery! Tarte buys a gun and, the next time the flower children show up, draws a line in the flour. No more freebies! Unfortunately for Felix (and half the town, as it turns out), the hippies are armed as well and they blast the baker, his daughter, and anyone who gets in their way. Outside of town, the dastardly duo stop the car for a look-see at the rolls and discover that Felix had planned ahead: the rolls are filled with explosives.

And... just like that, Bob Kanigher reminds us that he's completely out of touch with not only the mystery genre but maybe the whole world outside his DC office window as well. By 1975, it was tough to see hippies with flower power slogans on their vests anywhere on the street (outside of the Haight, of course). If Felix the Baker was going to go to the trouble of printing off counterfeit bills in his shop, wouldn't he aim a little higher than two stoners in a VW bug? I love how Bob, in his infinite hipness, punctuates everything the couple says with the word, "Baby."

Jack: Is this the same Fred Carrillo who drew the terrible "What Drove Him Bats?" in this month's Witching Hour? The story is nothing special, I grant you, but Carrillo's art looks almost like the work of Adams/Giordano in spots. Perhaps Mr. Giordano inked it?

Luis Domiguez
Ghosts 40

"The Nightmare That Haunted the World"
Story Uncredited
Art by John Calnan

"No Grave Can Hold Me!"
"Galleon of Death"
"Mission Supernatural!"
(reprinted from Ghosts #2, December 1971)

"The Ghost Who Died Twice"
Story Uncredited
Art by Buddy Gernale

"The Roaring Coffin"
Story Uncredited
Art by Rudy Florese

"Eyes From Another World"
Story Uncredited
Art by John Calnan

"The Screaming Skulls"
(reprinted from Ghosts #3, February 1972)

"The Hands From the Grave!"
(reprinted from Ghosts #5, June 1972)

Jack: Since childhood, Mary Godwin has been haunted by terrible dreams. She grows up, marries Percy Shelley, and writes Frankenstein, "The Nightmare That Haunted the World." The act of writing the novel allows her to take control of her inner demons, but this predictable story does nothing to scare or entertain readers of Ghosts!

Peter: Not bad for this sort of thing. I'd not heard this version of events before (that's a bit of sarcasm). I'm going to assume that, even though it's listed as "Uncredited," this is the work of old Ghosts standby scribe, Leo Dorfman. It's got that "semi-true story" vibe to it. The John Calnan art is customarily dreadful no matter what Jack may tell you.

Jack: Moving to Kansas seemed like such a good idea for the Polansky family until an old hag appeared at the door of their new home to warn them that death will come for them if they don't get out now. The troubles begin to mount when Dad is killed in a car crash on his way to work. Mom soldiers on, determined to stay in the (rented) house, despite a series of terrors such as her son nearly drowning, a ghost opening the bedroom door, and so on. Mom seeks out the old hag but finds her dead, so helpful Dr. Brodie explains that her house is haunted by an insane young man who hanged himself.

Not a good day!
But does she take her kids and leave? No way! That night, when smoke fills the house, she and the kids witness a strange sight: Dad's ghost fighting and driving away the ghost of the hanged man. From then on, all is well, and Junior comments that it's like Dad was "The Ghost Who Died Twice." I'm not sure it makes much sense that Dad's ghost was the one terrorizing them all along in order to scare them away from the place, but that's the conclusion reached by Mom.

Peter: Pulp writing at its worst. Most captions are punctuated with "then there was a premonition of evil" or "...only the crone could foresee the dread future..." (my favorite, though, is the superfluous "... if the Polansky family could've foreseen the dread portent"). I have no idea what's happening at the climax but, please, don't take the time to explain it to me, Jack... oh, too late.

Jack: John Luther Jones is riding along comfortably on a train when he is joined by Lucius Tod, coffin salesman. Jones tells Tod he's not interested and the train speeds on through the stormy night. As it makes its way toward a rickety old bridge over a swollen stream, a ghostly train starts up from the other direction. "The Roaring Coffin" is an old iron horse that speeds toward the bridge as well, guided by the ghost of John Luther Jones and reaching the switch just in time to prevent the real train from crossing the bridge as it collapses. Jones reveals that he's really the ghost of Casey Jones and Tod reveals that he is Death. Jones made sure that another train accident did not occur on the 50th anniversary of his death. I had to go to Wikipedia to solve this one. I thought Casey Jones was a Grateful Dead song. It seems he was a real person with a lot of interesting exploits who died in a train crash. My history classes left him out!

Trust Sammy!
Peter: These dopey Ghosts stories used to be so easy to decipher. Now we get "Uncredited" writers who try to make more out of what isn't there, leaving us poor readers to scratch our heads and curse.

Jack: Are flying saucers piloted by beings who watch us with "Eyes From Another World"? According to such celebrities as Sammy Davis, Jr., Muhammad Ali and Arthur Godfrey they are!

Peter: More interesting, to me at least, is the fact that Ghosts #40 suddenly switched from a regular quarter book to the double-sized fifty cent format for one issue only in July 1975. Only four DC titles made this switch (the other three being Action, Brave and the Bold, and The Superman Family) that month but DC tinkered with their experiment for several months afterward with titles such as The Batman Family, Kamandi, and Tarzan before settling into their 80-page dollar comic format in 1977.

Jack: A quick review of DC covers from January 1975 through July 1975 shows that a lot was changing with cover prices and page counts. In January, some DC comics were still 20 cents while others were 25 cents, and the 100-pagers still came in at 60 cents. By February, 20 cent comics were a thing of the past and March saw the first of the 68-page, 50 cent giant comics, while the 100-pagers hung on through April. In May, June and July, DC issued 10 68-page giants, though the only one with more than one issue at this size in this time frame was Superman Family, which was also the only title to move from 100-pagers straight to 68-pagers and stay that way.

Ernie Chan
Secrets of Haunted House 2

"A Dead Man"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by E.R. Cruz

"Two Can Play at Treachery"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Bill Draut

"Burn Witch, Burn!"
Story by Michael Pellowski and Robert Kanigher
Art by Tony DeZuniga

Peter: Hardened convict Kehoe has sworn to his warden that no prison walls will hold him, so the law might just as well strike him down now. The warden tells Kehoe he abhors violence and, if he can help it, Kehoe will live a long, if not fruitful, life behind prison bars. Kehoe does indeed escape but when he gets to a nearby town, he senses something's up. No one in the town will acknowledge him. Slowly, but surely, the man convinces himself that the guards didn't miss when he went over the wall and, in actuality, he's "A Dead Man." For proof, he heads back to the prison and bangs on the door. The warden and his men cheerfully open up and take the convict back into custody. Relief turns to bewilderment for the distraught Kehoe when the warden explains that he told the residents of the neighboring town to ignore the escapee should he show up, knowing the man's imagination would get the better of him and send him back from whence he came. I've read some pretty far-fetched tales in these pages... oh, I've used that one before. By page two, you'll know exactly... whoops, that one too! Let's just say that Jack Oleck was on cruise control that day (yes, I know, another of my favorites) and remember all the classics he did give us. Next!

Well, that really wouldn't be all that hard, would it?

Jack: I was struck by the prison uniforms with horizontal stripes and had to consult Wikipedia again. It seems black and white uniforms with horizontal stripes were exactly what an inmate would've work in in this period in the Old West. Nice work by E.R. Cruz in this story; too bad the writing is so lame and derivative.

Peter: Female gigolo Elsa Von Koenigsburg bounces from one man to another, casting them off as soon as she gets her hands on their money. Elsa finally meets her match, though, when  she "falls" for Igor Bulganov and discovers that "Two Can Play at Treachery." Once Elsa pledges her love for Igor, he drugs her and transfers her brain into a robot so that she'll be just like he is! The best thing to be said about this silliness is that Kashdan was afforded only three pages to tell it. At least it's not padded. I must say, also, that Bill Draut's art did not annoy me. In fact, it's rather good in a crude, 1960s DC sort of way. That's something.

Jack: When I saw that Bill Draut had drawn this story, I was not looking forward to it. But, like you, I thought it was decent. The story is another variant on the theme we've seen before, of a beautiful woman being transformed into an ugly one. Why do the robots have human mouths and hair?

Peter: Little Ruth Tanner loves visiting the old witch, Hepzibah, in her shack in the swamp but her Puritan father does not approve, beating her and forbidding any more nonsense. Hepzibah continues her uncanny whittling, making perfect images of the village folk, including Ruth's father, Caleb. While visiting the village, Hepzibah witnesses Caleb beating on Ruth and decides enough is enough. She uses her black magic to burn Caleb's barn to the ground and, when the enraged bully finds out and pays her a visit, she burns him to the ground as well. Well, I'm marking my calendar: two enjoyable Robert Kanigher horror stories in one month (granted, Big Bob had help from Mike Pellowski on this one, but I'll give him the credit anyway)! This one's no taboo-buster but it's an engaging read despite the fact that we know pretty much how this will come out once the laundry's finished. Tony DeZuniga's vibrant artwork helps immensely.

Jack: Here we go again, I thought, with the old witch who lives on the edge of town, but Tony DeZuniga's strong art and Kanigher's straightforward storytelling combine to make a satisfying tale. The 17th century New England setting doesn't hurt, either.

On the letters page, Arthur Blanchard of Hartford, Conn., complains that DC is putting out too many horror comics: "Right now if one just buys National's mystery line, there's two mags out every week! That's an awful lot of weird stories, and they're beginning to wear thin. If you produced a few less mags, you might be able to get better stories out of your writers and artists." The editor replies that they're "just supplying the readers' needs," and notes that Forbidden Tales and Sinister House were canceled and have now been replaced with two new series. The last issue of Forbidden Tales had a cover date of March 1974 and the last issue of Sinister House had a cover date of July 1974. The first issue of Secrets of Haunted House had a cover date of May 1975 and the first issue of Tales of Ghost Castle came the following month. Perhaps the folks in charge at DC decided to wipe away the memory of the prior two series' Gothic origins and start fresh with series that were more in line with House of Mystery and House of Secrets? There sure were a lot of haunted buildings!

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