Thursday, November 15, 2018

Journey Into Strange Tales! Atlas/ Marvel Horror Issue 21




The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part Six
March-April 1951





Sol Brodsky
 Suspense #7 (March 1951)

"I Was Locked in a Mansion with... Murder!" 
(a: Gene Colan) ★ 
"Behind the Mask"  (a: Don Rico) ★1/2
"The Web" 
"Terror in the Tent!" 
"The Phantom!  (a: Murphy Anderson) 
"Dracula Lives!" 

John Morgan, banker, has been threatened with death and the only man that can help him is famous criminologist Harvey Keats, who answers Morgan's plea for help with speed and understanding. Morgan has been sent a letter claiming he will be murdered at precisely 11 PM so Keats has the banker shut himself in and stay away from the doors and windows. But a wacky cast of characters keeps intruding on the scene of the impending murder. Could one of these newcomers be the murderer in disguise? Is it lovely Cora, niece of banker Morgan? Or his ominous butler, Louis? What about the neighbors, the Smiths, and their impromptu drop-in visit?

No sh*t, Sherlock!
The lights go out, screams are emitted, goosebumps raised. In the end, we discover that it's Harvey Keats, himself, who is the madman responsible for the note. Possibly too much criminology? Who knows? No valid reason is given but "I Was Locked..." is a loony bit of fun that doesn't quite wear out its welcome; it's Agatha Christie performed by the cast of Petticoat Junction. The dialogue is priceless ("John, we have to face facts! Someone intends to kill you tonight! Perhaps someone in this very room! Or perhaps some unknown party!") and the characters so deadly serious, you can't help but smile and go along with the joke.

Martha Stokes believes all the cards are stacked against her and if you consider her husband's fiery car crash, she might just have a point. Joe Stokes is burnt beyond recognition and must face life "Behind the Mask" and Martha tries to behave for as long as she can but a woman simply has to have lovin'. Enter old boyfriend Bob Masters, who has a foolproof plan to make Martha a happy woman: he'll knock off Joe and assume his identity (after all, who'd know any better if Bob wore the mask?). Since this is an Atlas crime story, things don't go as planned and Martha's left holding the mask. Some nice, atmospheric Don Rico art here; the plot is nothing new but the twist is a clever one.

Murder in the jungle and mistaken identity are the plot threads of "The Web," a crudely-drawn but ironic and effective chiller with a killer of a final panel (left). "Terror in the Tent"is yet another awful big top tale, this one concerning a nutty hypnotist and the spell he holds over his daughter. "Tent" switches gears so many times, engages in the rare "flashback within a flashback," and gives no explanations for its oddities. It also sinks under the weight of its amateurish art, some of which is just above stick-figure level.

Alice Carter is a sleep-walker and her evil husband, Henry, is capitalizing on that shortcoming by planting clues all around that his wife is "The Phantom!," a serial arsonist who's been terrorizing the area. Lucky for Alice that ace cop Frank Cooper is on the case since the detective manages to add one plus one and divide it by five, multiply that by twelve, and add three cups of sugar and deduce that the Phantom is no woman but a man who's setting up his wife! As with "Terror in the Tent," the art here is professional but hardly exhilarating.

The unknown artist of "Dracula Lives!," on the other hand, might well be someone who usually worked on funny animal strips; the guy certainly didn't know how to work up suspense. But then he wasn't given much to work with either. Horror author Sandor Xaviar is approached by a man named Tartoff who claims Dracula is alive and searching for him. His entire family has been hunted and fed on by the legendary Count and now Tartoff is appealing to the writer to help him survive. After spending several pages wandering around the city searching for coffins and bats, it comes as no surprise to the reader (especially after reading the similarly baffling reveal of  "I Was Locked in a Mansion...") that Xaviar is actually Dracula. There's no explanation for the previous five pages but Stan (or whoever wrote this drivel) obviously decided all that was needed was that final panel reveal of fangs and the kiddies would smile. "Dracula Lives!" might be a great title for a black and white zine but, as a 1951 Atlas horror story, it bites.

The puzzling (to put it mildly) denouement
of "Dracula Lives!"




Bill Everett
 Venus #13 (April 1951)

"Invasion from Mars!" (a: Dave Berg) ★ 

Our girl, Venus, faces the deadly challenge of the King of the Living Dead, quashes an armageddon initiated by the mad Major Dark, and gets a little help from Thor (not the version we've come to know) battling a creeping death that oozes from a giant clam. But we're really interested in is --

Movie promotion man Skip Richards stumbles onto a faux-hoax; Martians have really landed during the heavy advertising blitz for a new sci-fi flick. Now Skip can’t get anyone to believe his story. Not a well-written quickie (“I have here in my hands the most startling news ever printed in my newspaper! Yet I don’t know whether to print it or not —“ Huh? Make up your mind!), “Invasion from Mars!” is illustrated by Dave Berg, who would go on to become one of MAD’s most popular satirists.

The inane "Invasion from Mars!"



Bill Everett
 Astonishing #3 (April 1951)
"Fright!" (a: Bill LaCava) 


The first two issues of Marvel Boy were illustrated by Russ Heath and Bill Everett, two of the greatest Golden Age artists in comics. So what led to the retitling to Astonishing?  It wasn't a spur of the moment decision as every page of MB #2 came with reminders at the top notifying readers that the next issue would be titled Astonishing. "Les Daniels, in Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades... (Abrams, 1991) believes that American kids weren't ready for the deep subjects (including atomic annihilation) explored in Marvel Boy. "All things considered," Daniels writes, "it's no surprise that the Marvel Boy comic book lasted only two issues." Well, to be fair, Marvel Boy limped along for another 4 issues, all lovingly illustrated by Everett, before being nudged out of his zine and into hibernation (he had, in fact, lost his appearance on the cover by issue #6). MB would be rebooted by Roy Thomas as The Crusader in Fantastic Four #164 (November 1975).

The one non-Marvel Boy short story this issue is "Fright!," a fairly effective thriller about a newspaperman who spends the night in “Murderers’ Row," a popular feature at the local wax museum. There, he is attacked by a maniac, who has replaced his own wax figure in order to hide from the police. The reporter’s throat is slashed but, oddly, the next morning the maniac is found in little wax pieces on the museum floor. So, was it really the murderer or just the reporter’s nerves?

The head-scratching finale of "Fright!"




Adventures into Terror #3 (April 1951)

"I Stalk by Night"  (a: Mike Sekowsky) 
"House of Horror" ★ 
"Murder at Midnight!" ★ 
"The Living Dead" (a: Jay Scott Pike) ★1/2 


In “I Stalk by Night!,” a judge dismisses the testimony of a man who claims a pair of gloves made him kill, but then has to admit the man may be right when he tries on the gloves and kills his own dog. Barely readable and not helped at all by some truly awful Sekowsky graphics. “House of Horror” is a snoozer about a young American tourist who stumbles into a house full of werewolves on a dark stormy night. The protagonist of "The Living Dead," Lydia, falls under the spell of the evil Dr. Bornich, who must replenish his supply of blood and hormones every few years in order to maintain his eternal youth. Luckily, boyfriend Roger is on the case.

The very bad "I Stalk by Night"
"The Living Dead"
Willie is walking down the street one night when he’s accosted by a skeleton wearing a robe; the man of bones insists that Willie is the gravedigger he’s been looking for and offers the man the job. Jumping at the chance to earn a hundred bucks for doing grunt work, Willie gets down to business at the cemetery but quickly finds that there are some strange goings-on afoot. Turns out Willie has been a bit of a womanizer and the three girls he most recently womanized have all killed themselves and seek revenge. What better way than to grab Willie while he’s working? A wretchedly awful script (written by future DC war scribe Hank Chapman) paired with equally dreadful artwork, “Murder at Midnight” has some gloriously bad dialogue and some startling plot twists as its only saving grace. Halfway through the story we find out that not only has Willie been using these women and discarding them, but he had a hand in their fate (“I never showed the letter that Flo wrote me because she took her dive, so nobody knew it was because of me and nobody’ll ever find out! I had enough trouble the time I gave my German Luger to that Hartley dame when I left her! An’ when I ditched that Mary Burns babe they almost traced those poisoned pills to me! All dames are suckers for a smooth line of chatter… an’ good looks like mine!”). Ironically, Willie is digging his latest conquest’s grave and thinks, “That’s a laugh… me havin’ to dig a hole for Flo! I’ll make it nice and deep so her trip’ll be shorter!” If you're saving up to buy a pre-code Atlas and you care about the quality of the stories more than the grade, avoid this issue like the plague.

The gleefully moronic "Murder at Midnight!"



In only fourteen days...
We'll open The Black Dungeon!

































Monday, November 12, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 70









The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
70: November 1955


Evans
Piracy 7

"Partners"★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"Up the River"★★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"John's Reward"★★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Temptation"★★★
Story Uncredited
Art by George Evans

"Partners"
Tired of fighting all the time, pirate captains Valez and Kemp decide to join forces, though each knows the other intends to break the deal at the first opportunity. One night aboard ship, after amassing quite a fortune in stolen loot, the captains plan each other's doom, but Kemp gets the better of Valez and sends him and a couple of his men off in a rowboat. Months later, Valez and his men run into Kemp's mate and threaten him; the mate says he wants to join them and shows them a spot on an island where Kemp supposedly buried his fortune. Valez and his men dig for two months and only find treasure chests with the bones of their former colleagues. Kemp stands at the top of the hole and starts to have his men bury his rival, but Valez has his own men knock out the support beams holding up the sides of the hole, causing Kemp and his men to fall in and join Valez and his men in the grave.

Despite Reed Crandall's fine work, I did not think much of "Partners." The cliche of the fighting captains pretending to join forces was not very well handled and that hole they dig over the course of two months is ridiculously large. I would think such a shrewd pirate captain as Valez would realize he'd been tricked long before digging down sixty feet. Sixty feet! Think of it.

"Up the River"
In the late summer of 1777, the British troops at Saratoga are in desperate need of reinforcements but ships far down river cannot get up the Hudson to them because the colonists have stretched chains across the water. An American spy who is nearly captured escapes but leaves behind a map that gives the British admiral an idea--why not sail up a parallel waterway and surprise the troops? He tries to do this but his ship runs aground in the shallow Bronx River and he is captured by a ragtag band of Americans in canoes!

Bernie Krigstein is not in experimental mode in "Up the River," so the art is fairly run of the mill, but Wessler's script is fun and the little history lesson is appreciated. It's always nice to see the underdog trick the man in power! It really stretches a point to call this a pirate story, though.

"John's Reward"
John Tabori is an honest fisherman whose wife constantly berates him for not making enough money. He needs one big catch to keep from losing his boat and one night he gets it--more fish than he could ever have dreamed of. He then sees a vessel sinking nearby and chooses to jettison his valuable catch in order to save the people aboard the liner from drowning. He returns home and loses his boat but is happy. What is "John's Reward"? His wife left him!

I let out a guffaw at the end of this one which, admittedly, has nothing whatsoever to do with pirates. Ingels's art is nothing special and I was expecting someone that John rescued to turn out to be rich, but instead he lost everything and the twist was that he finally lost his wife as well and was delighted. Very clever and unexpected.

"Temptation"
Captain Dover, skipper of the Mimosa, is not happy when Chief Mate Childers bursts into his cabin and sees that the ship is secretly transporting $2,000,000 in gold and gems. Worried that the "Temptation" to steal the fortune might be too great, Dover keeps an eye on Childers through the succeeding voyage, which is married by a series of unfortunate accidents. Finally, the ship crashes and Dover orders everyone to abandon ship; Childers wants to stay and save the treasure so he has to be knocked out. A month later, Childers asks Dover if they can salvage the ship and collect the treasure, since insurance has already paid for the loss. Dover declines but Childers finds a backer and goes through with the salvage operation. He returns to Dover a week later with a startling revelation: the treasure is gone! Childers tells Dover that he knows the captain hid the money and then sank the ship on purpose; Dover tries to make a deal but an insurance man hiding nearby has heard all he needs to hear.

The last issue of Piracy goes out on a high note with this tale illustrated by the wonderful George Evans. Once again, I fell for the misdirection and thought Childers was a crook; I also fell for the cover, which suggests a scene from this story that never happened!-Jack

Exactly the way Enfantino-Seabrook
Blogging Inc. began!
Peter: I'm being completely sincere when I say I'm going to miss the hell out of Piracy. It could be that it died at just the right time, but we don't have the proof that eventually the quality would tail off. Call me crazy but I firmly believe that Wessler, Oleck, Evans, Krigstein, Crandall, and company all reveled in the freedom this book gave them. Sure, they had to involve the sea somehow but quite a few of its 28 tales push the boundaries of the word piracy. The final issue is just as good as the previous six, with the high point, for me, being "Partners," a darkly humorous bit of swashbuckling. The dialogue between Kemp and Valez crackles (a lot of it sounded like the e-mails Jack and I send back and forth) and all the twists and turns left a wide grin on my face. Most husbands in the 1950s shook their heads after reading "John's Reward" and thought, "If only it was that easy!" "Up the River" was a bit too historical for my tastes but "Temptation" unfurled a fabulous twist in its tail I never saw coming.



Panic 11

"Mary Worthless!" ★★★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"Shaggy Dog Stories!" 0 stars
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Sunday at the Beach!" 1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea" ★★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Wally Wood



"Mary Worthless!"
Since making people happy and solving their problems is the life blood of "Mary Worthless!," the new boarding house (in the Okefenokee) is just the ticket for the old dame. She takes a tour of the little shack (which actually looks huge on the inside) and meets the disturbed boarders, one by one, from the failed ballerina, Miss Leotard, who suffers from severe ballet-ache, to Constance and Lee Bickering, who are pitching plates at one another when Mary enters, but are smothering each other when she leaves. It's all in good fun until Mary gets to the end of the strip and realizes she could have stretched all these problems out for "sevens months of continuity," but solved it all in one day! Well, now we know where Forry Ackerman got all his puns.

More hilarity from "Mary Worthless!"
As dopey as this parody is, it's also the funniest thing Panic has ever run and the closest Jack Mendelsohn will ever come to the level of quality MAD reached in every issue. There's a lot to laugh at (and, yes, a lot to grimace at), including some of Mary's dialogue ("Remember, my child, money can't buy you happiness, but it'll pay for a snazzy Cadillac so you can drive around and look for it") and the painful puns (the really bad cellist who yells at the goats up above, "Hey, you kids! Get offa that roof!") but the star, without doubt, is the chameleonic Will Elder, who not only manages to ape several different styles within the same strip but manages to sprinkle some great sight gags in as well. Outside of Howard Nostrand, I can't think of a comic book artist so adept at copying others' styles (well, I mean, on purpose) as Elder, who just seems to flow from one aping to another. Of course, Elder's trademark was the marginal and background "noise," but his funny bone seems to have been on vacation for the last several months. Not being a Mary Worth follower, I googled the original strip (originally drawn by Ken Ernst and, incredibly, being published to this day!) and, ironically, every set of images that popped up contained one of those goofy close-ups Elder makes fun of throughout (a gorgeous and anonymous woman's lips, a redhead's ear, etc.). For one brief seven-page stretch, you can almost believe MAD is back!

"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea"
"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea" is a mildly amusing parody of Disney's 1954 production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, starring James Mason and Kirk Douglas. I'll begrudgingly admit a few half-smiles cracked my otherwise-unmoving lips (well, they move when I read--does that count?), thanks to Wally Wood's version of the Nautilus and a few funny sight gags (two characters run across a chest full of "pieces of eight" on the sea floor and Wally's next panel reveals a chest full of broken number eights), but Mendelsohn still hasn't learned from Harvey that it takes more than changing character names (Nemo becomes Meno) to elicit guffaws.

Inane crap like "Shaggy Dog Stories!" and "Sunday at the Beach!" remind me why I hate this title so much. The former consists of six achingly unfunny jokes stretched out across six very long pages (not even Jack Davis's silly doodles could put a smile on my face while trying to get through this bilge), while the latter is another of Mendelsohn's family day trip diaries that no one besides Mendelsohn and Feldstein finished to the last panel (looks like Bill Elder gave up on it halfway through as well). I could have written this nonsense in my sleep and I'm one of the world's unfunniest guys. Bright side: only one issue left. -Peter

Stop! You're killing me!
Seriously!

Jack: You're right about Bill Elder, but I liked the Wally Wood story best, perhaps because I'm more familiar with the subject being parodied. This is not the worst issue of Panic ever, though it was still a chore to read. Like you, I never read Mary Worth and found the jokes slightly amusing. Jack Davis is perfect for something like the shaggy dog gags, and I admit I chuckled a few times. The beach story's art style reminded me of the work of Syd Hoff and I wonder if Elder was thinking of him when he drew this.


Craig
MD 4

"So That Others May Walk" ★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Reed Crandall

"New Outlook" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Orlando

"Point of View" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Worried Sick" ★★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans




Even though her son lay dying upstairs, Mrs. Hoyt
knew there were ways to shave a few bucks off the bill.
Mrs. Hoyt is beside herself because son Danny has polio and has been placed in an iron lung. She has no one to turn to so she goes down to Dr. Wolack's office, but the doc is discussing some unimportant details with his wife on the phone and--CAN YOU PLEASE GET OFF THE PHONE YOU INCONSIDERATE QUACK MY SON IS DYING AND YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT TOYS YOU HAVE TO BUY FOR YOUR BRATS--she's getting a bit testy. Once off the phone, Dr. Wolack tries to answer Mrs. Hoyt's questions with as much patience as he can muster ("Will my son ever walk again?" "Will he be in an iron lung forever?" "Just how much is this going to cost me?" "Where the hell is that SOB husband of mine?"), before he launches into a story of a boy named Jimmy who had polio but still managed to swim and play baseball and do all those keen things kids do and then grew up to be a really good doctor named . . . Jimmy Wolack. The doctor stands and walks out of the office, with aid of canes, and Mrs. Hoyt suddenly realizes she's in good hands. Ahhhhhh . . . I never saw that ending coming! The kid in the flashback was our hero, the doc!? What are the odds? And, seriously, where is Mr. Hoyt? I gotta say that the usually reliable Reed Crandall looks as though he was as bored as I was by "So That Others May Walk." Aside from the hot Mrs. Hoyt, the rest of the panels look unfinished. Can someone tell me how it is that I always lose the coin toss and get assigned MD and Panic?

Deep down inside, Chuck is relieved he held
on to his frat pin.
Nineteen year-old Marian has everything to live for. She's pretty, she's a straight-A student, mom and dad pay her bills, and handsome Chuck is about to pin her . . . with his frat pin! Out for a joy ride with Chuck, Sandy, and Harry, Marian has never felt so alive, until Harry floors it around a sharp bend and wraps his jalopy around a tree. Harry and Sandy are killed, Chuck is thrown clear and fractures his right arm, but Marian, oh, Marian. The poor girl has a compound comminuted bilateral fracture of the mandible, a deviated septum, a depression of the Malar-Process of the Zygoma in the infra-orbital region, and a fragment of bone missing from her right mandible. No amount of Max Factor is gonna clear this up. She needs several surgeries and she needs them pronto. Chuck comes to see her but she turns him away, not wanting her beau to make Quasimodo jokes. The doctors make no promises but three plastic surgeries later and the process of healing begins. After a mere two or three panels, Doctor Wilson proudly shoves a mirror in Marian's face (along with a bill for $3,000,000.00) and shows her what a little rebar, chicken wire, and chewing gum can do in the 20th Century. Our girl is all healed and just as pretty as ever and, on cue, Chuck enters the room after eight months of abstinence and pins Marian . . . with his frat pin!

"New Outlook" is dumber than a box of rocks and twice as much fun. Even in 1955, you'd think it would come across as offensive and mean-spirited that a doctor would tell Chuck not to ask to see Marian because of "her face!" Or the traffic cop who discovers the badly-damaged girl and tells the ambulance driver, "The other girl is still alive . . . but maybe she'd be better off the other way! Her face . . .!" The uncredited writer (Wessler, I assume) loaded this one up with so much medical jargon, you can't help but be impressed even when you're not involved. Joe Orlando does his best with what's essentially oodles of panels of talking faces (or talking bandaged faces) but I almost feel cheated we didn't get to see Marian sans gauze with cameo Ghastly art!

Marian auditions for Les Yeux Sans Visage

Beth auditions for Les Visages Sans Yeux
Donald Archer awakens in a hospital bed to discover he's in bad shape after a car accident. Worse, though, is the news his wife, Ellen, is in a coma and his daughter, Beth, is badly hurt. Doctor Seldon delivers the final blow the next day with word that Ellen has died, but that some good can come from Mrs. Archer's passing. Seldon explains that a colleague has dire need of Mrs. Archer's eyes for another patient; Archer tells the doc he's a ghoul and to let him be. But, overnight, Donald changes his mind and agrees to the donation. The next day, Seldon wheels him into the patient's room and Archer recognizes the bandaged face of his daughter, resting comfortably after her Corneal Transplant.

"Point of View" was heading for a rare-as-hen's-teeth (for MD, that is) two-star rating until it came to the inane climax and the even dopier explanation from Seldon that he couldn't risk the shock to Archer if he revealed the true identity of the donee. What nonsense be this? Still, I can dream of the sequel appearing in Vault of Horror #41, "My Mother's Eyes!," where little Beth metes out vengeance for mommy (seems Donald was lit when he got behind the wheel and he was having an affair and had taken out a huge insurance policy on Ellen) by tearing daddy's eyes out and placing them in her mother's sockets (after digging up her grave). Gotta be better than this pap.

If only there had been room for one more panel!
Marty Cooper has built his business up from ten thousand a year to millions in profits, but the toll on his body has finally caught up with him. Yes, Marty has a Duodenal Ulcer which, if not properly cared for, may escalate into the Jejunal variety. From there, it's just a couple steps away from milk, soggy bread, and Carol Burnett reruns every night. Worse than the ulcer though is the fact that Marty has an EC wife, one of those selfish and ambitious ice queens who always get what they want, despite the cost. Ilene needs her furs and her big social parties and her expensive house and multiple cars and ugly (but doubtless) expensive brown culottes and Marty's health be hanged. Even when the Doc tells Marty he has to stop eating that crappy catered food at the parties, Ilene tells Marty to grow a new set and get on with life. Of course, this leads to the inevitable hemorrhage and ambulance ride to the hospital, where a skilled surgeon and team have been prepped for Marty for over two weeks. The operation is a success but Dr. Keaton warns Ilene that her husband needs complete and total relaxation and a vacation from stress and parties. Ilene agrees and explains that she'll be a better, more caring wife, and Keaton buys it. When she gets home, she brings Marty into the drawing room where a crowd of sycophants jump out and scream, "Surprise!"

Honestly, my generous rating for "Worried Sick" is mostly for that final panel (complete with a patented EC "choke . . ." from Marty), which flies in the face of what I was expecting from a story appearing in this awful title, but overall the yarn is not that bad. Marty is a likable character, your typical EC husband caught up in the web of an overbearing and demanding wife. Evans and Wessler both manage to stray from the usual six-eight panels per page of talking heads and medical mumbo-jumbo and offer us up what will doubtless go down as the best story ever to appear in the pages of MD. -Peter

Jack: Ilene Cooper should meet John Tabori's wife from this month's issue of Piracy. I think they'd have a lot to talk about. Like you, Peter, I dug that last panel in "Worried Sick." I thought "So That Others May Walk" was inspiring and find the polio epidemic endlessly fascinating. Those were some amazing plastic surgeons in "New Outlook," but poor Chuck should have come across with something better than a frat pin at the finish. "Point of View" is ridiculous and the doctor should have told the patient that the corneas were for his daughter. But then where would the drama come from?

Next Week in Star Spangled #143 . . .
The war just keeps getting Weirder!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Bernard C. Schoenfeld Part Seven: Listen, Listen . . . . . ! [3.32]

by Jack Seabrook

R.E. Kendall was born in Chicago and was 39 years old when her first published short story, "Listen, Listen!" won a prize in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine's second annual contest—another new author to win that year was Jack Finney, for his story "Widow's Walk." Kendall had been an editor at Good Housekeeping and, according to my research, she only published two more stories after this one: "The Phases of Arthur Beal," a long story published in two parts in the July and August 1949 issues of Good Housekeeping, and "Let's Pretend It's Spring," in the June 1952 issue of Redbook.

"Listen, Listen!" is a story that deserved to win an award. It begins as a small, meek man appears at the police station wanting to talk about the Jamieson stocking murder case and is sent to see Sergeant Oliver. The man says his name is Jasper F. Smith and that he is a bookkeeper; he suggests that the murder, the third in a series, could have been committed by someone copying the pattern of the first two in order to avoid detection. Oliver tells him that the case has been solved and sends him to see Lieutenant King at the East 51st Street station.

"Listen, Listen!" was first published here
The man calls himself Morgan when he sees Lieutenant King. They discuss the murders, which involve three young women, each one found naked and dead, strangled with a stocking and with a letter A drawn on her forehead in red lipstick. When the man suggests his theory, King tells him that he has been reading too many detective stories. The meek man walks to the Times Building on Broadway, where a clerk tells him that he can find reporters at a bar named Joe's on Eighth near Forty-Third. The man enters the bar and says that his name is Ralph Reid. He speaks to a reporter named Beekman, who mocks him.

The little fellow walks the city sidewalks in the rain until he comes to St. Patrick's, where he speaks to a priest. He admits that his real name is Herbert Johnson and tells the priest about the murders, adding that the third girl left home at seventeen and went on stage with a new name "'but hardly ever saw her family because they were always scolding.'" The priest tries to send Johnson back to Lieutenant King and finally tells him to go home to bed. Johnson leaves and thinks of returning home to his wife, who has lipstick and a stocking hidden in a drawer.

Edgar Stehli as Johnson
Kendall's story was first published in the June 1947 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and the editor provides biographical information before the story and comments afterward, noting that the tale is beautifully written and subtle, with clues carefully planted along the way to misdirect the reader into a growing belief that Johnson murdered his own daughter. Only in the last sentence is his wife revealed as the real killer. The situation is horrible because the man is so afraid of his spouse that he changes his name each time he speaks to someone, only revealing his true identity when he talks to the priest. Johnson will not tell anyone what his wife has done—instead, he couches his knowledge in the guise of a theory, hoping to spur the authorities on to investigate the murder of his own daughter.

Edith Evanson as Mrs. Johnson
Such a terrible tale with such a sharp and surprising ending was a perfect choice for adaptation as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and writer Bernard C. Schoenfeld wrote the teleplay for the show that was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, May 11, 1958. Directed by Don Taylor, the short film is a brilliant translation of Kendall's tale from the printed page to the small screen. Schoenfeld's script follows the source story closely with some minor changes to comply with censorship requirements and two significant additions that deepen the story's effect on the viewer. The little man's visits to Sergeant Oliver and Lieutenant King occur as they do in the story, but the dead girls are described as having been found in pajamas and a bathrobe, not naked. The location of the tale is changed from New York City to an unnamed city and the man visits the offices of a newspaper named the Chronicle rather than the Times. The first significant addition comes in the scene where the man visits the bar. In the story, the man sees his own face in the mirror behind the bar and imagines he sees the face of a dead girl. In the TV show, there is a beautiful woman sitting at the bar and she joins in the little man's conversation with the reporter. She says her name is "Slats," a nickname perhaps referring to her long legs, and when the little man feels dizzy from drinking sherry he sits down at a table and observes the woman. There is a close-up of her putting on lipstick and then the camera travels down her body as she runs a hand over her stockinged leg. The man becomes rattled and this series of shots suggests that Slats reminds him of the murdered girls.

Jackie Loughery as Slats
After the little man leaves the bar, he sees a cop on the beat and hurries away, an action suggesting guilt. The scene with the priest then follows, though it is set in the rectory of an unspecified church rather than the nave of St. Patrick's, and the line, "'I am not a Catholic'" in the story is scrubbed to become "I'm not of your faith" for the TV show. When the priest suggests that he see Lieutenant King, Johnson laughs in horror. This sets the stage for the final scene, which replaces the last paragraph of the story with something even more terrible. After Johnson leaves the rectory, there is a dissolve and he is shown entering his home. His wife, who does not appear in the story, scolds him for being late for dinner and he says that he "'tried to tell them,'" to which she responds that he should not talk about it. He says that he "'even went to the police'" and she again says not to talk about it. His wife is calm and rather cheerful, treating her husband somewhat like a recalcitrant child. There is then a close-up of her washing her hands in the kitchen sink. She reaches for a dish towel to dry them but finds none, so she walks to a dresser, opens a drawer, and takes out a fresh towel. When she lifts the towel, it reveals a stocking and a tube of lipstick that had been hidden beneath it. Johnson remarks that he will never have the courage to try again and the episode ends on a close-up of his wife's smiling face as Johnson's voice says, "'They wouldn't believe that a mother could do such a thing.'"

Dayton Lummis as Sergeant Oliver
The effect of this interpretation of the story's ending is chilling. Seeing the murderess on screen amplifies the horror of Johnson's situation, and the close-up of her washing her hands, which seemed incongruous at the time, takes on a new meaning; perhaps it is intended to remind the viewer of the murderous Lady Macbeth, trying but failing to wash invisible blood from her hands. Yet Mrs. Johnson, who murdered her own daughter in a manner coldly calculated to avoid detection, appears to have no feelings of guilt; instead, she smiles to herself and seems unconcerned by her husband's efforts to redirect the authorities in their investigation to point her way.

Schoenfeld found a clever way to dramatize the story's last paragraph, which details Johnson's thoughts, and in doing so he shows the viewer the face of a mother who killed her own daughter and who terrorizes her husband so thoroughly that he cannot reveal her guilt. Don Taylor's direction is effective, moving gradually from the early scenes in the police stations, where light streams though the windows despite the old man's raincoat being soaking wet from rain, to the bar scene, where the new character of Slats represents the type of scarlet woman that Mrs. Johnson would not find worthy of letting live. There is a beautifully lit shot when Johnson arrives at the church, with light streaming through a tall window and illuminating what appears to be a courtyard, and the final scene is chilling in what it gradually reveals, with the last close-up of Mrs. Johnson showing the horror of the situation.

Adams Williams as Lieutenant King
Don Taylor (1920-1988) was in the Air Force in World War Two and was an actor, first in film and later on TV, from 1943 to 1969. He acted in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Silent Witness." In 1956, Taylor started directing TV shows, and he continued directing, mostly for the small screen, until 1980. He directed seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents between 1957 and 1959, including "The Deadly," and he later directed two episodes of Night Gallery.

"Listen, Listen . . . . . !" (the five periods are added for the TV show's title) would not work nearly as well were it not for the terrific performance by Edgar Stehli (1884-1973) as Herbert Johnson. He is meek and fearful and his terror grows as the show goes on and one person after another dismisses him without listening, until he finally has to return home to the wife who murdered his little girl. Born in France, Stehli was a fixture on Broadway from 1916 to 1966. He acted on radio in the thirties and forties and was seen on screen from 1947 to 1970. He was in the original Broadway cast of Arsenic and Old Lace with Boris Karloff and only appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents once; he was also in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Rusty Lane as Father Rafferty
Everyone else in the show has a small role, as Johnson moves from person to person. The most powerful part is one of the shortest: Edith Evanson (1896-1980) as his wife. She appeared in films from 1940 to 1971 and on TV from 1953 to 1974. She was in Hitchcock's Rope (1948) and Marnie (1964) as well as Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953), and she was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In a part quite different than that of Evanson is Jackie Loughery (1930- ) as Slats, the beautiful girl at the bar. Loughery won the title of Miss USA in 1952, the first year of that beauty pageant, and was awarded a movie contract. She was seen on TV from 1951 to 1969 and on film from 1953 to 1962. Married to Jack Webb from 1958 to 1964, this was her only role on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Among the other players:
  • Dayton Lummis (1903-1988) as Sergeant Oliver; he was on screen from 1946 to 1975 and appeared in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Crack of Doom." He was also on Thriller twice.
  • Adam Williams (1922-2006) as Lieutenant King; a Navy pilot in World War Two, he was on screen from 1951 to 1978. Like Edith Evanson, he was in The Big Heat; he also had a memorable role in Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959). He was in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller.
  • Rusty Lane (1899-1986) as Father Rafferty; he was on screen from 1945 to 1973 and appeared in nine episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "I Saw the Whole Thing."
Kendall's story was reprinted in The Queen's Awards (1947) and in a British collection called Murder Mixture (1963); consequently, it is hard to find today and certainly deserves reprinting. The TV version is available on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here. Once again, thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the story.

Sources:
The FictionMags Index, www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central, philsp.com/.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/.

Kendall, R.E. "Listen, Listen!" Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 1947, pp. 117–127.
"Listen, Listen . . . . . !" Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 3, episode 32, CBS, 11 May 1958.

Wikipedia, 28 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia.

In two weeks: The Jokester, starring Albert Salmi!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 142: October 1973


The DC War Comics
1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook




George Evans
Weird War Tales 18

"Captain Dracula"
Story by Arnold Drake
Art by Tony DeZuniga

"Whim of a Phantom!"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Gerry Talaoc

Peter: Captain Paul Black rolls his tank right up to the steps of Castle Nero and meets the lovely Angela, "mistress of the castle," who bids him welcome. Strangely, Paul feels as though he's seen the castle before, even though he'd never been to Italy until the war broke out. Angela asks Paul to stay at the castle with her and he agrees but then has second thoughts after a visit from the local priest. The padre enters the mansion but is rebuffed by Angela, who throws up her hands to ward off the sight of the priest's crucifix. Shortly after, a nice dinner between Angela and Paul is interrupted by Colonel Schlosser, the dirty Nazi who was stationed in the castle before the Allies arrived.

Hammer time!
Schlosser reveals himself to be a vampire but is dispatched with a wooden arrow shot by Angela. The beauty then turns her attentions back to Paul, who seems to be under the girl's spell. Angela bites Paul and turns him into one of the Undead; Paul then drives a wooden stake through the mistress's heart. Even though he's now a vampire, Paul realizes he's got it made, with a battlefield ripe with prey. He takes advantage of the German blood until Patton orders the night patrols ceased, which drives the G.I. vampire into a frenzy. He kills one of his own men and, fleeing, falls upon a giant wooden cross. The terror of "Captain Dracula" has ended. Typical shudder pulp nonsense from writer Arnold Drake, "Captain Dracula" pinballs from scene to scene without much cohesion or logic and is at least five or six pages too long. Tony DeZuniga's art is nice enough but he relies a tad too much on "inspiration" from Hammer movie stills.

Paging Christopher Lee!

"Whim of a Phantom!"
A German colonel can't stand his general and makes plans to blow him to kingdom come when they roll into a small French village, but a ghost materializes before him and convinces the colonel of a far better plan. Unfortunately for our not-so-bright colonel, the spirit ends up being the ghost of Napoleon and the loser is the colonel. The bottom-half of the double-bill really is the bottom, an almost indecipherable script made tolerable only by Gerry Talaoc's creepy graphics. Eighteen issues in and we're starting to see a dearth of original ideas.

Jack: Arnold Drake's clunky and obvious "Captain Dracula" is brought to life by DeZuniga's gorgeous art, using shadows and what look like movie still swipes to create visual excitement. As for "Whim of a Phantom!," I like Gerry Talaoc's style but dragging out Napoleon again is one time too many.


Kubert
Star Spangled War Stories 174

"Operation Snafu!"
Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Jack Sparling

"King of the Hill"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

The Unknown Soldier receives his latest mission orders from none other than Gen. Omar Bradley himself; US is to fly in to Antwerp with his crack demolition team, infiltrate and impersonate the Ratzis, and destroy a huge cache of weapons stashed in a castle there. The Opposition forces are to be notified of the deception so there are no cases of mistaken identity, but "Brussels Sprout," the Opposition's ear, is taken prisoner by the Nazis before she can get word out on "Mission Scuttle." After the Soldier and his team steal a German tank and roll it into Antwerp, they come up against a band of resistance fighters who open fire on them. US manages to evade the attack without any casualties and the tank rolls up to the castle. Unbeknownst to both our hero and the resistance, "Sprout" (aka Yvette) has been stretched on the rack by Nazi scum deep in the bowels of the castle and the rest of the resistance has entered the catacombs below and rigged it with TNT Popsicles, assuming Yvette to have gone to her grave without uttering a word. Far above, the Unknown Soldier and his men have found the weapon stash and set their own TNT cigars. What will become of poor "Brussels Sprout?" Tune in to Part 2 next issue!


I've had nothing but bad stuff to say about story and art on this title since Joe Kubert headed for the hills twelve issues ago. I'm happy to say "Operation Snafu!" is the best chapter in the saga of the Unknown Soldier since the new regime took over. It's an exciting and multi-layered story, one that rushes to a climax right out of a serial: girl on the rack, explosives above, explosives below, Nazis everywhere! Who would have thought Frank Robbins could conjure up a story so fast-moving, you never have a chance to slow down and look at the ugly art? Well, okay, I should be a little more fair; it's only ugly when Sparling has to tackle something that walks erect. The machines and backgrounds are just fine. Anyway, for the first time in a looooong time, I can't wait to see how our bandaged die-hard manages to save the girl and still blow the big guns to hell.

"Operation Snafu!"

"King of the Hill"
We also get a longer-than-usual USS Stevens installment (5 rather than the usual 4 pages), "King of the Hill," which starts out as a comedy but turns very dark before story's end. The USS Stevens stops in Borneo for some repair work and restocking of ammo. The boys are accused by the base's supply sergeant of stealing crates of food but the real culprit turns out to be an ape. One of the base's Marines catches the monkey red-pawed and decides to have some fun with the animal, but the chimp turns vicious and kills the man. Sam Glanzman has a way of defying expectations with his USS Stevens serial, and "King of the Hill" is one of the most audacious yet.

Jack: I'm glad you enjoyed these stories because I thought they were pretty bad. I had a hard time caring what happened in "Operation Snafu!" with all of the ugly art, but I'll admit things did perk up a bit when we got to the panel with the Fraulein stretched out on the rack. I have so had it with the USS Stevens saga and Sam Glanzman's poor art that I found myself rooting for the ape. I think the soldier got what he deserved.


Kubert
Our Army at War 261

"The Medal That Nobody Wanted!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Our Army at War 178, March 1967)

"Today is Tomorrow"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: This issue starts off with a reprint of "Only 1 Medal for Easy!" from 1967. The original story was drawn by Russ Heath, but editor Joe Kubert drew two new half-pages to fill in the spaces where DC used to run house ads at the end of part one and part two of the lead stories--the new Kubert half-pages are reproduced below and don't match the circa-1967 Heath art on the rest of the story.

Kubert's first new half-page ends what had been part one.

Kubert's second new half-page ends the story.

Hiroi Keise was one of the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor and, almost four years later, he is still flying bombing missions. Two of his friends are sacrificed on a Kamikaze mission but he gets a two-day pass and goes home to his family in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

"Today is Tomorrow"
Sam Glanzman's art is never going to impress me but once in a while he writes a decent vignette. "Today is Tomorrow" is one of those times. It has a humanistic message that respects the dignity of an enemy fighter and the ironic ending is in keeping with DC's message to "Make War No More."

Peter: "The Medal That Nobody Wanted!" is about as predictable and lightweight as they come; it's almost like a variation on an Abbott and Costello routine that we've seen countless times before. There's nothing lightweight about Sam Glanzman's latest USS Stevens installment, which is pretty darn good. Is that really the Stevens we see sunk by the Japanese pilot and will we see the follow-up of this event?


Kubert
G.I. Combat 165

"The Waiting Game"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Truce!"
Story by Don Karr
Art by Adolfo Buylla

"Pathfinder"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ken Barr

With the Jeb Stuart stuck just off shore, Commander Jeb Stuart and his boys must play "The Waiting Game" until the tide rolls out and exposes the tin can. While they're bored and waiting, they recall another time, in Belgium, when they had to wait out a Tiger in a bombed-out village. Luck was with them that day as the Tiger rolled over a land mine that the Jeb would have encountered had they not waited. Those of you who feel I'm being skimpy on my synopsis this week may be surprised to learn that "The Waiting Game" runs a mere six pages, giving Archie only enough time to get the boys out of their beach predicament. Archie explains on the letters page that an illness prevented him from getting the script to Sam in time. He also apologizes for Kubert's cover, which has nothing to do with the script inside.

"The Waiting Game"

"Truce!"
Four years into the Civil War and just about everyone was ready to go home. A small band of Rebs come across an equally small group of Yankees, both sides gutted by war, and decide to declare a "Truce!" Each side swears they won't fire upon until fired upon and the truce holds until the higher-ups arrive and declare truces to be tantamount to treason. A nicely told, ironic short story (with maybe one coincidence that makes you roll your eyes) with sharp dialogue and eye-catching art by newcomer Adolfo Buylla. If "Truce!" is the consequence of a shorter Haunted Tank story this issue, then I says give us more Haunted Tank vignettes.

The "Pathfinder" performed a very important (and dangerous) task in WWII: to mark targets for the bombers. Neal feels as though he'll never grow into a great pathfinder like his brother, John, but is it because the siblings work so closely together? The pair are summoned to high command and given a thankless mission: French Underground leaders have been captured by the Nazis and taken to an SS interrogation building, The men must be killed before they can leak vital information. Neal and John volunteer for the mission and head for the skies but John is killed before he can mark the building. Without their pathfinder, the bombers are helpless but, when the bomber Neal is flying is shot down, he uses himself as a marker.


"Pathfinder"
A supremely stirring piece of story-telling, with an absolute shocker of a climax, "Pathfinder" is bound to be my Best Story of 1973. I've said it before and I'll say it again, aside from a few stray turkeys, Bob Kanigher's Gallery of War is the best series of war stories published since the EC days and deserves to be bound between hard covers. It's not just the writing that's stellar; Ken Barr is the best artist of the month not named Russ. There's a crackling authenticity and reality to Barr's work (very reminiscent of Heath, by the way) that grips you and keeps you turning those pages. This is the good stuff!

Jack: I agree 100%! I thought the Haunted Tank story was a real cheat, though six pages of Glanzman is better than 13 pages of Glanzman. "Truce!" has slightly better art and is a decent tale of men on the front lines trying to avoid needless killing. I really enjoyed "Pathfinder" and was worried that it was just looking good in comparison to the stories that preceded it, but I think you're right--this is one of the best stories we've seen lately. Barr's art is refreshing and Kanigher does not shy away from a very dark finale.


Grandenetti
(from Our Army at War 57, April 1957)
Four Star Battle Tales 4

"Silent Gun!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #57, April 1957)

"Patrol to Nowhere!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #79, February 1959)

"Frogman's Treasure!"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #30, January 1955)

Jack: Sam and Vic are all that's left of B Company and they have to hold Hornet's Hill in Korea! They hold off the oncoming Chinese soldiers with bullets from a .50 caliber until it runs out and is the "Silent Gun!" They hold off the next assault with their rifles but, when those also run out of ammo, Sam leads Vic down the hill where they use Chinese grenades to wreak havoc and grab enough belts of ammo to return to their position and start firing again with the .50!

"Silent Gun!"
After a very weak month of new stories, it sure was refreshing to read a classic by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert and remember what made the DC War comics good in the first place. No worries about making war no more in this reprint from 1957--it's all shooting, all the time in the Korean War and there are no shades of grey. Heck, that's a really sharp cover by Jerry Grandenetti, too!

A soldier new to desert warfare finds himself on a "Patrol to Nowhere!" He shoots at a mirage and is chewed out by his sergeant, but subsequent sights that include marching Nazis, a Nazi car, and a Nazi tank are no mirage, and the soldier succeeds in destroying one and all.

"Patrol to Nowhere!"
Mort Drucker's gritty art is always welcome in our treehouse, and this six-pager from '59 is a delight from start to finish.

A phantom Nazi sub is sinking Allied merchant ships and a frogman is sent down into the deep to see what's going on. He finds "Frogman's Treasure!" in the form of a sunken galleon but has to work hard to destroy not one but two Nazi subs that are being guided through underwater mines by their own frogmen. Sadly, the treasure is buried beyond recovery when the subs are destroyed.

"Frogman's Treasure!"
Peter will be thrilled to see vintage Russ Heath in this fast-moving six-pager from '55. The art is superb and this issue is a better value than any of the new DC War comics issued with a cover date of October 1973.

Peter: Though all three oldies contain great art, only "Frogman's Treasure!" had a story that kept my interest. The problem, I think, with so many of these reprints is that they tell, basically, the same story over and over. A guy (or in the case of "Silent Gun!," two guys) beats insurmountable odds to walk out of the TNT smoke the victor. At least with "Frogman," you get a bit of a twist in the end when the treasure hunter does the right thing but buries his treasure forever. I'd certainly consider re-titling this book, Two Star Battle Tales.

Next Week . . .
The Boys Mourn the Loss of Piracy!