Monday, December 10, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 72









The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
72: January 1956
+ The Best of 1955


Wood
Incredible Science Fiction 33
"Big Moment" ★★
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Wally Wood

"Kaleidoscope" ★★★
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Jack Davis

"One Way Hero" ★★★
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"Judgment Day!"
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando
(Reprinted from Weird Fantasy #18, April 1953)

"An Eye for an Eye" ★★1/2
Story by Jack Oleck?
Art by Angelo Torres

The incredible shrinking men.
A meteor shower mutates all animal life on Earth and leaves men cowering before giant lizards, cats, ant-eaters, fish, and other previously innocuous forms of life. Man becomes the hunted. Generations later, Andrew leads a group of men back to a fabled city named N'Ork where, legend has it, civilization stored all of its weapons after making war illegal. Though the group incurs heavy losses, Andrew finally reaches the pot at the end of the rainbow, only to have his hopes dashed. Evidently, the one detail left out of all the stories of the apocalypse is the fact that it was man who was mutated. Weapons of this size are useless to tiny men. I had a feeling this was the climax we were heading for (the mushrooms on page one were the tip-off), but I kinda wish Jack had gotten us there a little quicker. The reveal is made in a rare 2/3 of a page panel, all the better to show us the really big guns.

"Kaleidoscope"
Venus has conquered Earth but they haven't bent our will. Now, Earthlings work as slaves under Venusian guard, but Andy Davis has a plan. He's found a rocket ship parked in a remote field and he enlists the aid of several friends in an attempt to get the rocket usable again. Andy's plan is to have his friend, Larson, work his magic and create an impenetrable shield around the ship, all the better to blast the Venusian scum to hell! It takes years (and the lives of all of Andy's friends) but, finally, the ship is ready for battle and Andy does his race proud by destroying all the Venusian war ships and making Earth habitable again. Just as Andy is enjoying his moment of victory, his wife calls to him and scolds him for playing in the old hunk-of-junk rocket ship and reminds him that if the guards see him, he'll be in big trouble. I liked "Kaleidoscope" (the title alludes to the gizmo that Andy stares into on board the ship) quite a bit, mostly due to its lead character and its downbeat (while at the same time upbeat) climax. It's hard to pull off a reveal like that without making it maudlin but Oleck succeeds nicely.

"One Way Hero"
In a Martian bar, Mart Sawyer recognizes his little brother, Johnny, but Johnny doesn't recognize him. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Johnny is a "One Way Hero," a spaceman who lost his nerve and was dumped on Mars, never to return to Earth. The shame has caused Johnny to lose a bit of his memory and most of his self-respect, but Mart reminds him that there are plenty of great jobs and hot women on Mars (and a McDonald's coming next month) and there's no shame in becoming one of the new colonists. Mart tells his brother goodbye, he'll have to be leaving, and heads back to the rocket port, where he loads spaceships and performs other jobs. He, like his brother, is a "One Way Hero." Though the ending is way too predictable, "One Way Hero" has the same charm as "Kaleidoscope," in that it introduces kind-hearted and well-meaning protagonists crushed by turns of fate and yet still going on the best they can. Particularly grueling is the scene where we witness Johnny's meltdown on board the rocket ship.

For our very last helping of EC science-fiction, we have an oddity. Originally pulled due to complaints from the (don't get me started) CCA, "An Eye for an Eye" was replaced with a reprinting of the equally-controversial "Judgment Day!" "Eye" sat mouldering in Bill Gaines's vault until it finally saw print in the Horror Comics of the 1950s collection in 1971. When it came time for ISF #33 to be reprinted by Gemstone in 1995, a "Judgment" was made and "An Eye for an Eye" was reprinted instead. Why the CCA would object to something that's as harmless as an Osmonds back-stage pass, I have no idea, but no one ever accused the Comics Code of being rational. Angelo Torres, doing his best Frazetta/Williamson/Krenkel impersonation, illustrates the story of a post-apocalyptic world where mutants run in tribes and one "normal" man and his mate search for a safe place to make their home. The woman is killed by a band of giant Praying Mantises and the man is left to fend on his own. He finds what he considers safe ground but is killed by a tribe of gill-men. As he lays dying in the mud, we see he has a third eye in the back of his neck.

Though, by now, I've had just about enough of the "post-apocalyptic" landscape and its mutant warriors (and will continue to be extremely tired of them when DC uses the trope, ad nauseam, a decade later), "An Eye for an Eye" has some great art and a legitimately surprising final panel. The last couple months of their existence, EC began running a scattershot column in some of their zines called "The Entertainment Box," a mostly-disposable "review" feature that gossiped about new movies and records (one of the columns extolled the virtues of Frank Sinatra's latest LPs!). The column that appeared in ISF #33 made public The Complete EC Checklist by Fred Von Bernewitz, a "pamphlet" that compiled information on story titles and artists from the various EC books. A lousy quarter would buy you the Checklist plus a yearly supplement! Von Bernewitz would publish several small-print runs of the Checklist and then go deluxe with Tales of Terror in 2000. Where has fandom gone? -Peter

Jack-I'll tell you where fandom has gone--right here on the blogs! These are the fanzines of today, just free of charge and delivered immediately. I was looking forward to the last issue of Incredible Science Fiction but I was utterly disappointed. "Big Moment" is a very weak tale with art by Wally Wood that looks rushed. "Kaleidoscope" also looks like a rush job by Jack Davis and I thought it had almost no story at all. "One Way Hero" is just plain dull, but at least Krigstein's art usually looks kind of sloppy and hurried, so it's not a surprise. "An Eye for an Eye" has the best art in the issue but the story is as disappointing as the rest. This issue just seems tired to me, like it was time to be done with the EC experiment.



Craig
MD 5

"Complete Cure" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"Child's Play" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Orlando

"Emergency" ★★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"The Right Diagnosis" ★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by George Evans




"Complete Cure"
Philip Stuart is involved in nasty accident and both his legs are crushed. Though his wife, Anne, is hesitant, she finally consents to a double amputation. Once he awakens, Phil becomes moody and self-pitying, believing himself to be half a man and worthless, but his surgeon, Dr. Fields, refuses to give up on his patient. Phil begins rehab with his prosthetic legs but it's a slow go and his self-confidence reaches an all-time low. One night, Fields calls Phil and asks him to meet him down at his gym, where he introduces Phil to one of his colleagues, Dr. Parks. Phil is polite but sees no reasoning behind the meeting until Parks drops his drawers and... yep, shows off his prosthetic legs. "Normandy, on D-Day," says Parks, and suddenly the light bulb comes on over Phil's eyes. He swears he'll become a doctor and save lives just as Fields saved his.

From simpering wimp to doctor-in-training in one page
Oh brother. Not only is "Complete Cure" tedious, but it's boring and steals the riff from a story published just last issue ("So Others May Walk"). We can only sit and gape in wonder at how stupid Phil acts for six pages, whining and carrying on, ignoring the fact that he's got a babe wife who doesn't mind that he stays home all day and watches Ozzie and Harriet and cooks really bad, but then has a complete turnabout when he sees a doctor with artificial legs! I'm not asking for masterpieces but is it too much to ask for Carl or Jack (or whoever wrote this) to stray from the same formula they were using on City Hospital? And, I have to say, these poor doctors that populate the pages of MD don't seem to be paid very well since they're always wearing the same suits, day in and day out. Gone are the headers at the top of the splash announcing what each story's malady will be. I assume that's to keep the suspense (!).

"Child's Play"
Little Jimmy is going deaf and all the kids think he's stuck up, so Mom feels if he gets the hearing aid his doctor prescribes it just means the other kids will get even nastier to her baby. Dr. Kenyon insists and, eventually, Jimmy's Dad talks Mom into knuckling under and putting the kid under the knife. Jimmy's operation goes swimmingly but Ma is paranoid the neighborhood bullies will spread rumors that Jimmy is pretentious and a freak, so she shuts him in the house for days on end, only leaving him long enough to shop at Macy's every day and have the occasional tea with the girls. One day, Mom comes home to find the house empty. She drops her bags and races out, finding Jimmy at the kids' club house. All the kids are trying out his hearing aid, remarking that Jimmy might still be a pretentious freak, but he sure has a cool toy hooked up to his ear.

Revenge of the Nerds, circa 1956
Sure, once again, an MD story sucks the life from its reader. "Child's Play" is sentimental and as syrupy as that stack of pancakes you're finishing, but it's the visuals that command comment this time out. This could be the worst art ever to appear in an EC comic. I thought, by story's end, we would discover that Jimmy wasn't deaf but, actually, an alien child. Characters are posed in the strangest fashion (Dr. Kenyon is speaking to the family but appears to be looking off at God knows what), Orlando's choice of photo reference is suspect at the very least (Jimmy's Pop looks as though he wants to make love to Mom rather than use the belt on Jimmy), and the whole enchilada has a bland, lifeless look to it. The final panel, of Jimmy and two of his bullying buddies, looks like Joe Orlando stumbled onto Photoshop thirty years before it was invented!

"And the coffee machine isn't giving change..."
We've got one heck of an "Emergency" here! A vicious storm has knocked the power out at a remote hospital but super doctors, Gresham and Halleck, remind their nurses and staff that, seventy-five years before, medicine was performed in the dark. Through a modern miracle of humanity, every single patient is rescued (even the "Contagion" ward patient who lives on a ventilator and must have her lungs worked by hand) and the next morning finds the two exhausted physicians asleep on the waiting room couch. I couldn't help but be swept along by the pinball-like events of "Emergency," with each hallway turn bringing some worse medical mishap to Drs. G+H ("What? The X-Ray machine is down?"). The script is involving (something missing from the previous stories this issue) and humorous at times. Once the sun comes out, the rescue workers finally break through washed-out roads and downed power lines to face an exhausted Dr. G. "How's everything?," asks their leader. Gresham, with cigarette hanging from his mouth, answers "Fine... now! Just fine!" You can take that several ways but I like to think the retort is delivered with spit and sarcasm.

"The Right Diagnosis"
George Gordon has a pain in the stomach but he's become something of a pain in the ass to his doc. As George's family physician for years, Dr. Jerris is only all too familiar with George's hypochondria, so when his patient shows up at the office demanding an appendectomy, Jerris brushes George off and tells him "The Right Diagnosis" is that he's merely depressed. George storms out of the office, promising he'll get that operation if he has to do it himself. Days later, worried that the numbskull will visit a doctor who's not as careful as he, Jerris visits George's home, only to be told that George has checked into an unknown hospital. The doc spends hours on the phone, finally identifying the hospital, and then heads over, where he finds George on a high ledge, despondent after having been given the same diagnosis. Jerris talks George off the ledge and the two have a laugh over how things escalated.

Since when?
Just once. Just once I'd like to see a downer of an ending from an MD story. I know sometimes, in real life, there are unhappy endings to medical treatments but you'd never know it from this title, which ends its insignificant run after only five issues and twenty stories. "The Right Diagnosis" reads as though it's a cross-over between MD and Psychoanalysis (oh lord, the thought of that!) in that Dr. Jerris has to deal with a nut job rather than real medicine. We all know that it was the CCA that killed the New Direction titles (Gaines was sick and tired of buckling to their every demand) but I wonder how long MD, Psychoanalysis, and Extra (the weakest of the new titles) would have lasted had EC merely gone along with the constraints and continued to pump out this weak crap post-January 1956. -Peter

Jack: Maybe my mood at the time I read them has something to do with how much or how little I enjoy these comics, but I thought this one was very good. Reed Crandall demonstrates in "Complete Cure" that he can do anything and is still producing terrific art; the story itself is fairly interesting. I don't like Joe Orlando's EC work much, either, but "Child's Play" got to me and I thought the moment when the boy could finally hear was moving. I also liked the happy ending and thought the good writing made the art bearable. The doctor in "Emergency" is the kind of doctor I want, and the story was thrilling from start to finish, with very nice art by Ghastly. Evans's work on "The Right Diagnosis" seemed rushed, but there was a brief moment of excitement out on the ledge at the end. I thought this last issue of MD was much more enjoyable than the last issue of Incredible Science Fiction.


Davis
Panic 12

"Charlie Chinless"★★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"House Hunting!"★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Davis

"The Heartaches of Joliet's Groans!"★★
Story by Nick Meglin and Al Feldstein
Art by Bill Elder

"'S a Tragic Air Command"★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

Famous detective "Charlie Chinless" investigates the death of a sideshow midget who fell off of a sideshow giant at the circus. Charlie unmasks the dog-faced girl (who is really a spaniel) and the beautiful singer (who is really Number One Son) before the fortune teller reveals--with his dying breath--that the killer is the strong man. No, wait! It's the circus manager! A lion eats him.

"House Hunting!"
Ignore the racist "comedy" and chalk it up to the era; the opening story in the last issue of Panic is about as funny as every other story we've read so far by Jack Mendelsohn, and that means not at all.

John Q. Public and family have a hilarious time "House Hunting!" All sorts of mishaps befall them, and when they finally find the perfect house they realize they already own it. Like Will Elder in the first story, Jack Davis does a competent job, but reading stories like this is just a matter of turning pages and hoping the end will come soon.

Pretty Joliet lives with her sister Eva and their Pop. For some reason, these gorgeous gals can't seem to land husbands, and therein lies the tale of "The Heartaches of Joliet's Groans!" After a series of unsuccessful romances, Eva escapes into the comic strip below and finds love.

"The Heartaches..."
Will Elder could draw just about anything and beautiful girls are no exception. However, when the subject being parodied is as obscure as this one, it's hard to work up any laughs.

Gee, aren't those new wide-screen movies something? For instance, "'S a Tragic Air Command," where Melvin "Ditch" Digger, a baseball player, returns to the Air Force and finds that the planes have gotten a whole lot bigger and faster than they were in WWII. After a thrilling bombing run, he's reunited with his wife. The end.

Like Will Elder and Jack Davis, Wally Wood gives this story his all but the material is so weak that it's just an exercise in patience. That pretty much sums up most of the twelve-issue run of Panic, a comic that should be left on the dust heap of history.-Jack

"Charlie Chinless"
Peter: Yes, "Charlie Chinless" is mindless gunk (like the rest of the contents of Panic over the years) but it's sprinkled with some undeniably funny Chinless proverbs/one-liners guaranteed to raise a smile or two ("When there is beautiful tie between father and son... is usually worn by son!"), but we're far-removed from the laugh-out-loud parodies in MAD. After a respite from laughter (I think I slept through the absolutely horrid "House Hunting!"), my snickering continued again, all through "The Heartaches of Joliet's Groans!," a strip I was prepared to hate and found immensely entertaining. Meglin and Feldstein borrow a can't-miss gimmick from Harvey, the "fourth-wall breaker," when Eva uses an axe to chop her way into the lower newspaper strip. The one-liners are a hoot as well. What is going on here? I'm actually enjoying an issue of Panic! Then "'S a Tragic Air Command" brings me back to Earth. After an amusing prologue, explaining different techniques of film projecting, we're stuck with yet another unfunny film parody. The good news is "The Heartaches..." but the better news is that Panic #12 is the final issue!


THE BEST OF 1955


Peter

  1 "Master Race" (Impact #1)
  2 "In the Bag" (Shock SuspenStories #18)
  3 "Kismet" (Piracy #2)
  4 "The Know-Nothing" (Valor #4)
  5 "Rip-Up's Believe It Or Don't" (MAD #23)
  6 "The Skipper" (Piracy #6)
  "The New C.O." (Aces High #1)
  8 "Mickey Rodent" (MAD #19)
  9 "Chivalry" (Aces High #2)
10 "The Champion" (Valor #2)


Jack

  1 "Blind Alleys" (Tales from the Crypt 46)
  2 "Adaptability" (Weird Science-Fantasy 27)
  3 "Poopeye!" (Mad 21)
  4 "Just Her Speed" (Crime SuspenStories 27)
  5 "Master Race"
  6 "Gopo Gossum!" (Mad 23)
  "Dateline: New York City" (Extra 2)
  8 "The Champion"
  9 "The Rules" (Aces High 3)
10 "Debt of Honor" (Valor 3)

What's more insane...
Killing Da Vinci
or assigning art chores to Frank Robbins?
The boys will answer that question next week!

And in three weeks...
We'll put a capper on our coverage of the EC line
with a three-part look at the Pictos, 

Best of All Time, and lots of surprises!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since I love Krigstein, I expected my top ten list for 1955 would match Peter's more closely than Jack's, and certainly I share Peter's choices for top two, but my list actually has five of Jack's total and only four of Peter's. Here's mine:

1. Master Race (I1)
2. In the Bag (SS 18)
3. The Champion (V 2)
4. Mickey Rodent (M 19)
5. Poetic Justice (V 2)
6. Adaptability (WSF 27)
7. Yellow (TFT 41)
8. Debt of Honor (V 3)
9. The Rules (AH 3)
10. Pirate Master (P 4)

Merry Christmas in advance,
Jim

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Jim, and same to you! Be careful if a Santa shows up at your door. My top ten was slightly difficult since I think I had 15 stories with a 4-star rating and so I had to knock 5 off the list.

andydecker said...

I still don't get it. Did the kids in 1955 really ran home to watch Guiding Light instead of The Lone Ranger? And then desperately wanted to read an issue of MD?

What was Gaines thinking?

On the other Hand EC still had work for their artists after the wrecking ball of the CCA. Which is a nice thought.

Quiddity99 said...

A rather depressing entry as this is it, the very last true comics for EC comics! ISF #33 wraps up what was a fairly decent title in a good way, although it is quite unfortunate what happened with An Eye for an Eye and even more so the ridiculousness that occurred when the CCA tried to censor one of the most powerful stories EC ever published in Judgment Day.

Can't say I have anything to say on M.D., at all. Panic continues to be arguably the worst EC title, although I did enjoy at least "The Heartaches of Joliet's Groans!" and Eva is quite a babe.

1955 is quite the down year for EC; Master Race (Impact 1) is the clear stand out and would be my #1, I'd also rank high up there some of the stuff we got at the tail end of the New Trend, including "Blind Alleys (Crypt 46), "Tattered Up" (Crypt 46) and "The Pit" (Vault 40). Incredible Science Fiction actually is quite enjoyable, "Clean Start", "Conditioned Reflex", (30) "Fulfillment", "Time to Leave", (31) and "Food for Thought" (32) all have strong stories, art or both. "Lost in Space" (WSF 28) I also enjoyed. Piracy and Valor were the cream of the crop for the New Direction titles and had some strong work as well. As for Extra, MD, Panic, Psychoanalysis, etc... hardly anything worth reading.

Very excited for the Pictofictions, I think the art for them is just outstanding, and we get some fairly high quality stories as well (including redos of some classics). "My Brother's Keeper" which I think is from Shock #2 may be my favorite written EC story period (although it has an obvious literally reference). We also get a couple of new cover artists and a new interior artist.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Andy & Q99! I'm intrigued that there is some excitement for the pictos. Our first post covering them will be here in a few weeks!