Monday, November 23, 2015

Do You Dare Enter? Part Sixty-Six: December 1975/ Best & Worst of 1975

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

Luis Dominguez
Unexpected 170

"Flee to Your Grave"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Ernie Chua

"No Sleep for the Dead"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"A Change for the Hearse!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Noly Panaligan

Jack: Professor Travers decides to act as his own guinea pig to test out a new invention that will increase the human body's buoyancy, allowing man to float and potentially reducing pollution by eliminating the need for cars, planes, etc. His partner, Reese, tries to kill Travers with an overdose so that he can claim the invention for himself. UNEXPECTEDLY, the overdose turns Travers into a big, green monster who starts to grow very large and also to float.

Escaping the police and Reese, who wants him to "Flee to Your Grave," Travers hides among the other balloons in the New York City Thanksgiving Day Parade until he is discovered. The cops shoot the big Superman float beneath him and the escaping helium causes Travers to revert back to human form. He becomes the man who fell to Earth and his fall is broken by Reese, who is killed.

It shouldn't work, but it does! This story is so goofy that I couldn't help liking it by the end. There is no explanation for why Travers turns into a big, green monster--he just does! Kashdan and Chua also achieve the rare feat of showing Superman getting shot in a DC comic.

Peter: As dopey as this story is, you could almost believe that George is aiming at parody but I never assume the best when reading a Kashdan story. That's Sam Elliott, by the way, in a final panel cameo as Prof. Travers.

Sam Elliott?

Jack: On her death bed, Abigail makes her husband, Corliss, promise to bury her with her favorite jewelry. As soon as she dies, Corliss grabs the jewels and gives them to his girlfriend Angela to wear on their wedding day a month later. Abigail's ghost knows that there is "No Sleep for the Dead," and comes back to reclaim her jewels. When Corliss heads for the crypt to see if the corpse is bedecked with jewelry, the heavy lid of the coffin falls on his head and kills him. The opening caption tells us that it's April 1897 in Withersborough, England, so this must be a story that was intended for Ghosts, where Dorfman is fond of putting a specific time and place on his tales to add to the sense of reality.

Peter: That's a pretty nasty climax for a script written by Leo Dorfman, a guy known for such Ghosts classics as "The Phantom Lunchbox" and "The Specter Wore Tennis Shoes." Nice to see Leo's got a dark side to him as well and I wish it had come out more often.

Jack: Owing $25,000 to a murderous loan shark named Tully seemed like a death sentence for Lew Duryea until he was thought to be killed in a plane crash. In fact, his face is horribly disfigured, but he's alive and has a bag of money, so he calls his wife and asks her to meet him at a motel. She shows up with her lover Tully in tow and Lew escapes to a nearby Dungeon of Horrors, where his attempt to hide is a fatal failure. In "A Change for the Hearse!" the treacherous lovers discover too late that the suitcase of money was booby trapped with a bomb that goes off in their faces! Whew! A lot can happen in a bad Carl Wessler story. Panaligan's art is very impressive and this story is right up there with the first one this issue in how silly yet entertaining it manages to be.

Peter: The admission, by Joanne, that she'd been in love with Tully for months was a bit random but the explosive climax makes up for it. A good issue for dumb but enjoyable tales.

Bill Draut
House of Secrets 138

"Where Dreams Are Born"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Frank Redondo

"Night Watchman"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Snake Bite!"
Story by Steve Clement
Art by Romy Gamboa

Peter: Danny's got a special gift: when he sleeps, his dreams pull him into the books he reads and allow him to bring back souvenirs, like a giant diamond found in the land of Sinbad. Unfortunately, for our young hero, his foster parents get wind of this amazing gift and want to cash in big time. They demand that Danny take them with him on his next trip to dreamland and, when the boy refuses, they beat him mercilessly. At last, Danny agrees and transports them, not to a land filled with diamonds but to a cave housing a two-headed dragon. The greedy meanies are gobbled up and Danny returns to our world where he's greeted by one of his buddies. Danny tells his compadre the whole story and then opens the book he's been reading, revealing inside the very issue of House of Secrets we're reading! "Where Dreams Are Born" has a clever meta-climax but the story is ruined by abysmal art from the weaker of the Redondos.

Jack: Abysmal? Have you forgotten about Jerry Grandenetti and Sam Glanzman? This is at least the third story by Jack Oleck where an unhappy boy escapes into a dream world. I was taken by surprise by the conclusion. It's like one of those comic covers where the characters are reading a comic and the cover is of them reading the same comic and . . . you get it.

Peter: Chintzy Hiram Higgs refuses to pay for a security system even though his construction yard has been broken into several times. One day, a creepy old codger named Samuel Slitt arrives, offering Hiram an offer he can't refuse: he'll be "Night Watchman" of the yard for half the cost of Hiram's insurance and total privacy at the yard. Hiram, smelling a great deal, agrees but, one night, as he;s driving by the yard, he hears a scream and investigates. He discovers Sammy with a dead body. Slitt tells him to forget about it as long as Hiram is happy with his services. The cheapskate agrees but greed gets the better of Hiram after a while and he decides to fire the old creep. He surprises Sammy, who turns into a giant bat and drains Hiram's blood. Sammy laments that now he'll have to find another job. Pretty predictable plot but at least we get the spare, atmospheric art of Leopoldo Duranona.

Jack: For my money, this art was worse than that of Frank Redondo in the prior story. At least the stranger wasn't the Devil, which was what I was expecting, though the vampire angle was drained of blood long ago.

Peter: Convict Cayle Chapman escapes the chain gang and heads into the swamp, where he's captured momentarily by tiny Indians. Breaking his bonds, he holds the chief hostage and demands food. The little people agree to his demands but it's not long before Chapman gets antsy and attacks the Indians again. He reaches into their cave to grab some more hostages but, instead, grabs hold of a deadly snake. This one's all over the map. In fact, I'd bet it was heavily edited since there are jumps where some exposition may have been. In any event, the story's bad and so's the art; perhaps editor Orlando was doing us a favor by curtailing this loser. An unusually awful issue of HoS.

Jack: A very violent story, as well, since there are four murders in the first two pages! The most interesting thing in this issue is the note in the letters column about a new series starting in two issues featuring a recurring character called the Patchwork Man, written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Nestor Redondo. I presume this is when Conway got mad and quit Marvel. I'm always happy to see work by Nestor.

Luis Dominguez
Ghosts 44

"The Phantom Who Saw His Future"
Story Uncredited
Art by Noly Panaligan

"The Specter Wore a Badge"
Story by Martin Pasko
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"The Case of the Murdering Specters"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Lee Elias

"James Dean's Curse on Wheels"
Story Uncredited
Art by John Calnan

Jack: Lew Ferrara is a U.S. pilot in France in the waning days of the Second World War and he's being haunted by a nightmare in which his plane is shot down and his crew of ten is killed. He tries to get himself and his crew out of the next mission but is instead sent to a shrink, who tells him that it's all in his head. Feeling better, he takes off with his crew, only to be shot down by Nazi tanks. He emerges from the wreckage to tell his pal that he only counted nine bodies on the plane, but as he dissolves in a ghostly fog we realize that he is dead and is "The Phantom Who Saw His Future." The ending is rather subtle and I had to study it a bit to figure out that Lew was a ghost, but this is twice this month that Panaligan has surprised me with above average art.

Peter: "The Phantom Who Saw His Future" has a really dumb title but, make no mistake, this is top-notch in both the script and art department. The final scene, of Lew stepping from the plane and not realizing he's dead, is a real chiller.

Jack: Chicago police officer Pat O'Horgan warns his wife to be careful because they live in a bad neighborhood, but she ventures out anyway to see a movie. On her way home she is held up by two thugs who are scared away by a silent policeman who pulls a gun on them. Sharon goes home to await her husband's return but later learns that he was killed at the very spot where she was accosted. It seems that "The Specter Wore a Badge" and the policeman who saved her life was the ghost of her husband, whose wedding ring she found on the ground at the crime scene. Confusing, yes, but nice art by Rubeny.

Peter: Not much of a wife if Sharon didn't recognize her husband. The expository is a little confusing: so did the hoods actually kill Pat earlier and, if so, did he get revenge against them after his wife's attack? I need to know.

Jack: Looking for a home outside London in 1949, Jason and Hester Randall are taken by a real estate agent to Temple Garden, in whose basement a couple of ghosts put on quite a show: the ghostly man carries the ghostly woman to a waiting grave, they fight, and both are killed by gunfire. In this ghoulish episode of Love it or List It, the Randalls decide not to Love It. The police investigate but find no evidence of a body buried in the basement. Yet "The Case of the Murdering Specters" is recalled a year later at a party, when the Randalls reconnect with a young couple and realize they're dead ringers for the ghosts. Was the basement scene a portent of things to come? The Randalls don't want to be buttinskys and decide to keep their mouths shut, but months later the scene plays out in real life and they realize that they should have spoken up. What they saw was a portent rather than a remembrance. I don't care what Peter says, I like Lee Elias's artwork.

Peter: "Murdering Specters" is a dead ringer for one of those 1950s House of Mystery classics with its "gosh-wow" expository and its retro Lee Elias art (Elias is what Frank Robbins could have been had he learned anything about human anatomy). Thumbs up! Well done, Carl!

Jack: For 13 years after the fatal crash, "James Dean's Curse on Wheels" continues to spell trouble for its subsequent owners. Who cares? I am so over James Dean. If there's one guy who got way more press than he deserved, it's him. I'm not even a fan of his little sausage links.

Peter: To borrow a phrase used in this very story, the plot and script "tax reality" and my patience but, amazingly enough the facts are pretty much on the money according to this (poorly proofread) site. That doesn't make this a good story but it does make you say "Hmmmm."



Best Script: David Michelinie, "Neely's Scarecrow" (Weird Mystery Tales #16)
Best Art: Michael Kaluta, "The Strange Ones" (Weird Mystery Tales #24)
Best All-Around Story: David Michelinie/ Alex Nino "Neely's Scarecrow"

Worst Script: Steve Skeates, "The Last Out" (House of Secrets #134)
Worst Art: Lee Marrs, "Fight" (Weird Mystery Tales #19)
Worst All-Around Story: George Kashdan/ John Calnan "Camp Fear" (The Witching Hour #58)

Best Cover: Unexpected 166, Luis Dominguez


  1 "Neely's Scarecrow"
  2 "The Veil of Death" (Weird Mystery Tales #20)
  3 "The Strange Ones" 
  4 "The Island of Crawling Flesh" (House of Secrets #131)
  5 "Feud with a Phantom" (Ghosts #35)
  6 "The Inheritors" (Tales of Ghost Castle #2)
  7 "The Last Voyage of the Lady Luck" (House of Secrets #136)
  8 "The Doomsday Yarn" (House of Mystery #230)
  9 "One Man's Poison" (Weird Mystery Tales #21)
10 "Killer Instinct" (House of Secrets #132)


Best Script: Maxene Fabe, "The Spawn of the Devil"
Best Art: Arthur Suydam, "The Island of Crawling Flesh"
Best All-Around Story: "The Spawn of the Devil"

Worst Script: George Kashdan, "Camp Fear"
Worst Art: Don Perlin, "The Phantom Hound"
Worst All-Around Story: "Camp Fear"

Best Cover: Weird Mystery Tales 21, Bernie Wrightson


  1 "The Doomsday Yarn" (House of Mystery 230)
  2 "The Island of Crawling Flesh"(House of Secrets 131)
  3 "The Last Tango in Hell" (House of Mystery 232)
  4 "The Bewitchment of Jeremiah Haskins" (House of Mystery 234)
  5 "Wings of Black Death" (House of Mystery 235)
  6 "The Spawn of the Devil" (House of Mystery 235)
  7 "Death Played a Sideshow" (House of Mystery 236)
  8 "Fair Exchange" (Weird Mystery Tales 23)
  9  "Double Exposure" (House of Mystery 237)
10 "Cake!" (House of Mystery 233)

In Our Special Year-End Double Issue of
Star Spangled DC War Stories:
Will Sgt Rock Dominate the Top Ten Again?
Find Out on November 30th!


AndyDecker said...

Thanks again for your work. Always interesting to read. Best&Worse of 75 was also interesting. Who was Maxene Fabe? Never stumbled on the name before.

I never tire of Wrightson's and Dominguez' covers. DC's horror books appear to be such throwaway comics. With the war comics you have at least Kubert, but aside from Wrightson and maybe Kaluta you can't pin an artist on them, and even those two never seemed to get much recognition outside this small niche and then even only DC. They deserved more.

Jack Seabrook said...

Maxene Fabe wrote quite a few DC horror and romance comics. We've seen her name pop up many times in the course of reading the DC horror comics from '68-'76. I'm with you on Wrightson but not Dominguez. We don't often comment on the letters columns, but readers at the time did not like Dominguez's covers. I think Peter would agree with me that the highlight of the art on the DC horror books came in the early '70s when Neal Adams was drawing the covers (well, Peter will say Alcala's interior work was the other highlight). The other artist I love is Nick Cardy, who drew a ton of DC covers in the early '70s. I loved Cardy's work without realizing who he was until we started this series.

AndyDecker said...

Thanks about the info about Fabe.

O yes, Cardy. I also never connected a name with his work before reading about him here.

This info about Dominguez surprises me, though. Covers like House of Mystery 125 are very well done and memorable.