Monday, May 6, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 7: July/August 1966

The Critical Guide to 
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Gray Morrow
Eerie #4 (July 1966)

"House of Evil!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti and Joe Orlando

"Hatchet Man" ★★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Gnawing Fear!" 
Story by Ron Parker
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"Shrieking Man!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"Undying Love!" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Norman Nodel

"Island at World's End!" ★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"House of Evil!"
Lee Hargraves heads to his brother's moldy estate, answering an urgent telegram from Richard, but finds nothing but dust, cobwebs, and rot when he enters the huge house. Luckily, Richard had begun using the tape recorder Lee had sent him and, once the tape begins, Lee hears his brother's voice relate the macabre story behind the cursed house. The previous owners, the Japes, were a "barbarous clan of maniacs" who robbed and murdered until the nearby villagers tired of their shenanigans and did the full-out mob scene. The Japes were wiped out but the house survived. Richard's voice takes on a tone of panic as he admits that the Japes still hold court in this house. Just then, a rotting creature shambles through the door and Lee beats it to a pulp. At that point, the tape explains that anyone entering the house will develop rot. The creature, Richard, melts into a pool of muck and, as Lee looks at the mold developing on his hands, he knows he will meet the same fate soon.

"House of Evil!" sure feels like a story that needed to breathe; it's rushed and we only get bits of the information we need to set up a satisfactory conclusion (for instance, was there an occupant in the Japes house just before Richard took hold?). According to the GCD, Jerry Grandenetti ghosted this one for Joe Orlando (who receives credit and signed it). Truth be told, both artists are so awful by this time that either could have been responsible, but I suspect Grandenetti penciled and Orlando inked (or maybe vice versa), as it doesn't totally look like a Grandenetti job. It's a moot point, though, because the art here is truly dreadful, about as moldy and rotten as Richard himself.

There's a "Hatchet Man" terrorizing the city, slicing up women and leaving a bloody message for the cops to decipher: "Harry did it stop him before he kills more," but all Phyllis's husband Harvey can worry about is the missing button on his shirt. Phyllis scolds Harvey before he heads to work and this gets the guy thinking (as guys will do sometimes), "Why couldn't the Hatchet Man take care of Phyllis?" So, Harvey clocks into work, stops at the store to buy gloves and a hatchet, and heads home to sort things out with Phyllis. Once Phyllis is sorted into different pieces on the floor, Harvey leaves the telltale message on the wall and walks back to work. The next morning, Harvey comes home to a house full of police. Unfortunately, the detectives are liking Harvey for this and the other Hatchet Man murders. It doesn't help when they find a suitcase containing a blood-stained hatchet. As Harvey is hauled away, he tries to plead his case but then his other personality, Harry, materializes and gives away the show.

A fabulously layered script and dazzling illustrations propel "Hatchet Man" into the stratosphere of Eerie classics. Gene Colan never struck me as a "Warren artist," perhaps because of his crowning achievements at DC and Marvel (not to mention his incredible work in the pre-code Atlas bullpen). "Hatchet Man" is so cinematic you could mistake it for a set of storyboards. And that splash is a marvel. Archie outdoes himself here with twists and double-twists (when the hatchet surfaced in Harry's bedroom closet, I assumed we were going to get a groaner reveal like "Phyllis did it!") that trick the reader at every turn. Perhaps it's already a cliche and we should stop comparing the Warren work to EC, but this really does feel like a story that could have fit nicely in Shock SuspenStories!

"Gnawing Fear!"
With the aid of his assistant, Edward, Dr. Hahn has been working on and perfecting a serum that would wipe out the rodent population on Earth and make mankind safe again. One night, after a particularly grueling session in the lab, Edward is awakened by screams from the den. When he races downstairs, he finds Hahn missing, with bloodstains leading to the cellar. A huge hole in the wall leads to a series of vast tunnels under the house and Edward heads in to look for the missing professor. Over a mile in, he discovers the chewed and mutilated body of Professor Hahn, covered with rats. He empties his revolver into the vermin but the shots set off a cave-in and Edward is buried up to his neck. The commotion attracts hordes of rats, who make a quick meal of the unlucky assistant. Ron Parker's script for "Gnawing Fear!," like his first published story ("A Vested Interest" in Creepy #8), is nothing more than an EC rip-off (or homage, if you want to be polite). It's got the requisite obsessed professor, animal hatred, and ironic climax, but it's missing logic. Why are these huge caverns under Hahn's house? Surely these normal-sized rodents didn't dig tunnels large enough for a man to walk through. And is Ron Parker suggesting that these same normal-sized rodents carried the professor off to his doom? What's missing here are the equally illogical giant rats, a solution that would tie up all the loose ends. Al Feldstein would never let such a sloppy script see print.

"Shrieking Man!"
Colbert has been assisting Dr. Mandrell at the insane asylum, but the old man doesn't seem to listen to much Colbert has to say. For instance, there's that "Shrieking Man!" in the padded cell who just won't shut up. Surely, the new experimental LSH-90 drug will help ease the mind of the disturbed inmate, but Mandrell insists he's tried everything. When Mandrell takes a night off and heads down into the nearby village, Colbert takes it upon himself to experiment on the Shrieking Man and it doesn't turn out well. Unnecessarily complicated and wordy, "Shrieking Man!" is a boring dirge redeemed only by the chaotic art of Steve Ditko, who always could work wonders with bad scripting. It's revealed that Mandrell has been experimenting on corpses, resurrecting them from the other side, but motivation is not provided and the hoped-for twist in the climax never materializes. Yep, this one ends with a whimper, not a "shriek."

Count Renaldo is in love with the beautiful Esmerellda, but the comely maiden won't give the nobleman the time of day, so Renaldo does what any smitten man would do: he pays a sorcerer to enchant Esmerellda. The wizard assures Renaldo that Esmerellda will love him to the end of time and the Count rides away, happy as a clam at high water. It's only when he gets to Esmerellda's place that the bad side of black magic rears its ugly head; the beautiful girl is dead, murdered by a vampire, and now she rises from her grave to sup on local villagers. At first, the revelation shocks and sickens Renaldo but, soon, he realizes that his love will never age or wrinkle and he settles into wedded bliss with a bloodsucker. That bliss doesn't last, though, since sleeping with a woman as cold as a fish (literally) is not Renaldo's cup of tea, so he drives a stake in her heart and cuts her head off as she lies in her casket. Unfortunately, the wizard's magic works too well. "Undying Love!" is a pretty silly story with a predictable wrap-up and sluggish, by-the-numbers art by Classics Illustrated mainstay Norman Nodel (as by Donald Norman). This would be the first of five contributions to Eerie and Creepy by Nodel.

"Island at World's End!"
The Celtic, a whaling ship, rescues a man named Sturgis, set adrift for months and barely alive, who tells an amazing story of how he came to be stranded at sea. Sturgis was a victim of mutiny who managed to escape the ship he was on and make it to an uncharted "Island at World's End!" There, Sturgis is set upon by half-human creatures who take him to a volcano, ostensibly to be sacrificed to their god. Up from the depths of the volcano comes a gorgeous woman by the name of Cthylla, borne on the hand of a hideous giant, the God known as Shoggath. The goddess deems that Sturgis should be her mate and she saves him from certain death, but Sturgis can't stand idly by when the God demands sacrifices. He pulls a gun and fires at Shoggath but hits Cthylla instead, killing her. Sturgis escapes the island in a small boat, destined to be rescued by the crew of the Celtic, but he can't escape the ire of Shoggath, who rises from the sea for his revenge. "Island at World's End!" is a weird one; it's very much in the Jules Verne adventure vein with more than a dash of Lovecraft thrown in (makes you wonder why Archie didn't go whole hog and adapt an HPL story or two, but maybe the rights were cost-prohibitive). I like it, it's never boring, and Gray Morrow's art is perfect for this sort of thing. Oh, and about Gray Morrow: he's no Frazetta but I gotta say that his covers are pretty darned atmospheric. -Peter

Jack: I'll agree with you about the cover, but my dislike for Lovecraft made me yawn as I read "Island at the World's End!" I assumed it was an adaptation from HPL, what with all of the "y" and "h" names (Cthylla and Shoggath), but I guess it's just a warmed-over imitation. I thought the main character in "Undying Love!" proved himself to be a "glass half full" kind of guy when he looked at the bright side of his gal pal becoming a vampire and reasoned that at least she'll always be hot. "Shrieking Man!" has prime Ditko art and I thought the whole story was original and creative, though no classic. "Gnawing Fear!" was not bad, and the finish reminded me of "Blind Alley," but the art was only so-so. "House of Evil!" was a weak story with the usual mediocre art by Jerry G, though one three-panel sequence--the one where the camera gets closer with each panel until there's just an eye and a nose in the frame--reminded me of Grandenetti's early mentor, Will Eisner. Best in show has to be Gene Colan's "Hatchet Man"; Colan's page designs and panel layouts are like no one else's, and his shadowy work here already looks ahead to the fantastic job he'd later do in Tomb of Dracula. I did not see the end coming and found the story thoroughly enjoyable.

Blazing Combat #4 (July 1966)

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"How It Began!"★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by George Evans

"The Edge!"★★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Alex Toth

"Give and Take"★★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Russ Heath

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Wally Wood, Ralph Reese, and Dan Adkins

"The Trench!"★★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by John Severin

Story by Archie Goodwin and Reed Crandall
Art by Reed Crandall

"Night Drop!"★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

A Black medic in Vietnam stops to aid a wounded Viet Cong soldier. A white racist named Remick asks why he bothered and complains that the Black medic is uppity. Land mines tear up the squad and the medic rescues Remick, who is completely unappreciative and who later complains that the medic nearly killed him. When asked why he risked his life to save such a man, the medic responds that it's his job and he doesn't differentiate by skin color.

Once again, Gene Colan turns in excellent work and elevates what could have been a run of the mill lesson in tolerance from Goodwin. It's interesting that Warren was confronting issues of racism in Vietnam in a 1966 comic book; "Conflict!" is a more adult treatment of war than we saw around the same time over at DC, where the war comics--even the good ones--were aimed at a younger audience.

"How it Began!"
"How it Began!" is a two-page quickie in which Goodwin and Evans explain how the first fighting planes were developed during the Great War. It's interesting stuff and Evans is at his best when drawing aircraft.

In the Korean skies in 1952, Major Lowell Tucker, pushing forty and still flying combat missions, leads a squadron of four planes into MiG Alley, where the U.S. fighters encounter Chinese jets. Thrilling battle action follows and Major Tucker's years of experience allow him to anticipate enemy movements, giving him "The Edge!" he needs to avoid being shot down, destroy the Chinese jets, and return home safely with his squadron.

It's no surprise that Alex Toth can do anything, and here he demonstrates how to make a story about high-speed jet fighting both exciting and instructive. Goodwin shows plane mechanics commenting that Tucker is "pushing forty" at the start of the story and remarking that flying jets is a young man's game; at the end of the tale, those same mechanics boast that it is Tucker's experience that helps him defeat the enemy. As a person who has been working in the same field for a quarter century, I empathize with the worry about keeping up with young folks and welcome the conclusion that experience is valuable.

Pushing forty? ("The Edge!")

During the Allied push up through Italy in the spring of 1944, American soldiers watch a farmhouse being destroyed by mortar shells and then inspect it to see what's left. One of the Italian-American soldiers finds a bottle of high quality wine intact in the cellar, but before he can get away safely, Nazi soldiers appear and there is a gun battle. The German troops are too numerous, so the Americans are forced to race for their own ditch, but the wine-loving soldier realizes he forgot his precious bottle of wine and races back to the farmhouse to retrieve it. Despite covering fire provided by his fellows, he is shot down on the way back to safety. American mortars once again provide cover, but before he heads back to the farmhouse one more time, the dead soldier's friend smashes the wine bottle on the ground, angry at the loss of life it caused.

"Give and Take"

Four stories in, and this is shaping up to be a stunning issue of Blazing Combat with one of the finest group of War Comic artists ever assembled. Russ Heath, who was a mainstay in the DC War books, provides gorgeous art in "Give and Take," using a highly realistic technique whose name I don't know. Of course, the soldier was going to get killed retrieving that bottle of wine, but the art is just so darn good that any cliches in the story can be overlooked.

Early May 1945, and the end is near for the Third Reich, with the Russians approaching Berlin from the east and the Americans closing in from the west. One slim hope remains: the "ME-262!" is a new fighter jet much faster than anything the Allies are flying. Going back as early as 1938, the German government did not put a priority on jets, insisting that bombers were more necessary to the war effort. Even in 1943, when the tide was turning against the Germans, Hitler insisted that the planes be developed as bombers rather than fighters. Finally, in 1945, there are but a few of the jets available, and they are wiped out by the superior Allied air numbers.

More great work by Wood, Reese, and Adkins marks yet another terrific tale of air war, only this time the historical aspects are more interesting than the human aspects. It's fascinating to look back at wars and see the bad decisions that seem to have made victory or defeat almost inevitable; reasonable minds surely differed at the time, but hindsight is always 20-20.

"The Trench!"
During WWI, "The Trench!" was a place where soldiers waited and waited and slowly went mad. One man grows tired of waiting and climbs out, only to be shot dead by German bullets. His friend is assigned to a night patrol to find a German listening post. A flare goes up and a sergeant is shot, but the man and another soldier survive and find the German hideout, at which point brutal hand to hand combat erupts. The other man is wounded and, despite our hero's best efforts at keeping the injured man quiet, moans of pain alert nearby German soldiers. The Allied soldier shoots and runs, barely making it back to the trench, alive but now gripping the sides of the beloved, safe gash in the earth.

Wow! The soldier may love the trench, but I have grown to love John Severin's war stories! In a tremendous issue, I vote this story the best so far. The tale is thrilling and the art matches it perfectly, demonstrating humanity, brutality, fear, and relief in black and white.

Just one of Crandall's terrific
pages from "Thermopylae!"
In 1941, as Allied soldiers fight a delaying action at "Thermopylae!," one soldier tells another the story of King Leonidas and his 300 men, who guarded the same pass against the superior army of Persian king Xerxes in Ancient Greece. Just as Leonidas and his men delayed the Persian advance long enough to buy time for the rest of Greece to prepare for invasion, so do the soldiers in WWII hold off advancing Nazis in order to allow for Athens to be evacuated.

Reed Crandall is given co-writing credit along with credit for the art, and this story is stirring and instructive, with nary a rippling abdominal muscle in sight. Crandall must have done a fair bit of research for this tale, as his depictions of the ancient forces are brilliant. I really liked how the modern battle was compared to the ancient one.

A group of American paratroopers are dropped from a plane over Nazi-occupied France and soon, the Americans who survive the initial landing are huddled in a farmhouse, surrounded by German soldiers. After some grenades are thrown, only one soldier remains alive, but when the Nazis are summoned elsewhere in a hurry the prisoner of war is quickly executed by an enemy soldier who hates his job but reasons that he is just doing his duty.

"Night Drop!" is exciting but seems to end abruptly and doesn't quite get it's message across as successfully as it might. I think Archie is trying to tell us that soldiers on both sides are capable of evil deeds in the name of duty, but he doesn't accomplish this in the short space allotted to him. On the other hand, Angelo Torres ends the issue with more superb art, capping off one of the most consistently excellent comic mags we're likely to see.-Jack

"Night Drop!"
Peter: There's no warning to dedicated Blazing Combat readers that the fourth issue would be the last. In fact, Archie ends a response to a letter from a member of the West Virginia Comic-Collectors Association (who had informed Goodwin that Creepy had won the group's Best Regularly Published Fantasy Comic Award and Blazing Combat had finished in the top five), "Hope our efforts this year will produce something to represent us in next year's awards." Jim Warren had been able to continue publishing BC for four issues despite a staggering drop in circulation, thanks to the continuing success of Famous Monsters and the initial strong numbers for Creepy. The bottom finally dropped out and Warren was forced to axe his favorite child. There's some decent stuff here, but perhaps Archie was running out of steam. "Give and Take" and "The Trench!" fit in with those ironic little ditties Harvey used to pump out for Frontline; "ME-262!" and "Thermopylae!" could pass as two of Harvey's Two-Fisted history lessons; and "Conflict!" is well-meaning but a bit forced (certainly not as forced as Big Bob's 1970s takes on Ebony and Ivory Go To War). I think the most powerful story in the final batch is "Night Drop!," even though it seems oddly incomplete thanks to a very abrupt ending. Angelo Torres's work has never looked so good. Though Blazing Combat lasted a mere four issues, its reputation grew through the subsequent decades. Warren would publish a compendium of 17 of the best BC tales in 1978, and further reprintings would occur in 1993 and 2009 (by Apple Press and Fantagraphics).

Creepy #10 (August 1966)

"Brain Trust!"★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Into the Tomb!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Joe Orlando

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"Midnight Sail"★★
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Thing of Darkness!"★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Collector's Edition!"★★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"Brain Trust!"
Dr. Elliot just wants to help, so why won't Chester Holcomb let the doc enter his home? Elliot thinks back to when he first met Holcomb, at the funeral of the prior town doctor. Holcomb was unshaven yet drenched in shaving lotion. Soon, Holcomb smelled so bad that the town grocer refused to serve him. A week before the old doctor had died, Holcomb was hit by a truck and thought dead, yet he surprised everyone when he survived. Soon, a very smelly someone is stealing food all over town and Elliot rushes to the Holcomb house, determined to help Chester before a mob takes matters into its own hands. Elliot is turned away and goes back to the old medical files and diaries, where he learns the horrible truth. Returning to Chester's house, Elliot insists on switching on the light, but before he can do so Holcomb shoots himself. The light reveals what the doctor had learned from the diaries: Chester was a twin, the other twin was a giant head whose massive brain controlled both bodies, and the body that stunk had been dead and decaying for some time.

"Brain Trust!" is one of those, "there's something weirdly wrong here and I'm gonna find out what it is!" stories that horror comic writers love so well. The storytelling is rather convoluted, and it took me a little thinkin' to figure out what happened, but what really struck me was the (to me) obvious swipe of at least the last panel's imagery from a 1954 story by Jack Kirby called "The Head of the Family!" I read it when it was reprinted in Black Magic #1 by DC in 1973 and it's one of those gross images that always stuck in my head, even 46 years later. I don't think Goodwin and Torres came up with the idea all on their own. Uncle Creepy even refers to Chester as "head of the family" in his closing comments.

The shading around the eyes is classic Grandenetti, but
we can't be sure..."Into the Tomb!"
On an archaeological dig in Egypt in 1908, Professor Peters disappears! His daughter Laura and another archaeologist named Armand had gone to Cairo to fetch Laura's fiance Alan, but when they got back to the site of the dig Professor Peters was gone. Armand leads them down ancient stone steps into the long-hidden burial chamber of Pharaoh Amen-Thet, where they find Professor Peters dead and installed in a sarcophagus. Armand reveals that he is the reincarnation of the pharaoh, but when he tells his faithful servant Horuta (a shambling, bandaged mummy himself) to kill Laura and Alan, Horuta instead turns on Armand, ensuring that the reincarnated pharaoh is once again sealed "Into the Tomb!" for eternity.

Whew! This moldy bit of mummy nonsense stinks worse than Chester Holcomb did in the story before it! I guess this must really be Joe Orlando's art, since it's not obviously ghosted by Grandenetti, but the art is no treat. The story makes very little sense and I only gave it one and a half stars rather than one star because I always liked mummies.

A "Monster!" emerges from his hiding place in the sewers, anxious to learn what awaits him above. He wanders through the streets of a deserted village and comes to the cemetery, where he hears a couple discussing how he murdered a man named Paul. The monster's memory is jogged and he recalls carrying Paul's corpse and being chased and attacked by villagers. One man helps him hide in the sewers and he recalls that the man had created him in a lab. That same man, a scientist, had used him to murder and dispose of Paul's body. The monster grabs the scientist and carries him to a bog, where they both sink in quicksand. The scientist's last words reveal that Paul was fatally injured in a lab accident and his brain was transferred into the monster's body, so the monster is actually Paul, the man everyone thinks he killed.

Got that? If I mixed anything up, please forgive me. The story is somewhat convoluted and it doesn't help that the pages appear to have been printed out of order! The scientist--or at least I think it's the scientist--at one point wears a hat with a buckle, like something out of the 1600s, but later seems more like Victor Frankenstein. The whole thing doesn't make much sense and the twist is pretty weak. Mastroserio's art is in the lower end of the middle of the pack of Warren artists.

"Midnight Sail"
Some young folks can't seem to get their sailboat going until a salty old sea dog happens along and is more than willing to take the helm and head out on the water. He relates a tale of when he was on the good ship Kilgore, where all but a handful of crew members had died mysteriously. Felton (the old sea dog) insisted on keeping hold of the ship's wheel and when the captain tried to take it from him, Felton killed the man by tearing out his throat with his own teeth! With just a cabin boy and a woman left alive, Felton steered the ship off the end of the Earth and was killed. Luckily, the other two jumped overboard in time to safety. It turns out that, in the present, the old sea dog steered the ship over some falls and was killed, while the young folks survived.

"Midnight Sail" is hardly Johnny Craig's best work, but it's pretty cool when the ship seems to sail off the end of the Earth. It's too bad that the story as a whole makes little sense and the time shifting back and forth from the present to the past of the story is so clumsily handled. Did the storyteller really kill everyone on the other ship? Was he a vampire or a ghoul? And what happened to the other two people on the sailboat?

In the Old West, gunfighter John Terrell rides into a town and enters a saloon, where an old man tells him that a trial is about to begin in the back room as soon as the twelfth juror arrives. There are 11 notches on Terrell's gun for the 11 men he's killed, but he reveals that he just killed the twelfth--a young plowboy--in a nearby town. A funeral coach pulls up and disgorges the final juror, who is the dead plowboy. The jury of 12 ghosts sentences Terrell to death and carries out the sentence with gunfire. Terrell again rides into town, thinking he had a nightmare, but soon learns that the sentence will be carried out a dozen times.

One of Colan's great pages from
"Thing of Darkness!"
At least "Backfire!" makes sense from start to finish, something I can't say about the two stories that came before it. Morrow's art is fairly good but not up to his usual standard. The story yields no surprises but gets an extra half star for being coherent.

A "Thing of Darkness!" frightens New York City subway worker Sid Avery one day while he's below the city inspecting the tracks. The creature turns Sid's hair white and he barely avoids being run over by a train. After spending a month in the hospital, Sid goes home, afraid of the dark and certain that light is the only thing that will keep the monster away. Unfortunately, the lights start to flicker, the monster pushes at his door, and everything goes dark in the big blackout of 1965.

Once again, Gene Colan's spooky art and dynamic page layouts take a run of the mill story and make it a page-turner, at least until the fizzle of a finish, where we have to assume that the monster got Sid. Goodwin was so pleased with himself for using the blackout as a twist ending that he forgot to show or tell us what happened to his main character.

Danforth is an obsessive collector of strange books, and Murch is the dealer in rare items who usually finds what he needs. When Murch mentions that he might have a lead on a volume called Dark Visions by the Marquis Lemode, Danforth can think of nothing else. Lemode was an artist and devil-worshiper in the 17th century who collected all of his knowledge in one book before being executed at the guillotine. All copies of his book were meant to be destroyed but a few survived, and Danforth will pay any price to get his hands on one. He takes all the money from his wife's emergency fund and is shocked to learn that Ramsey, the man whom Murch suggested might possess the rare book, has been murdered.

"Collector's Edition!"
Danforth rushes to Murch's shop and forces his way in, killing the dealer when Murch refuses to part with the book. Danforth races home to peruse his new treasure and is in for a surprise--the pages show recent events, such as Murch killing Ramsey, Danforth killing Murch and, a few moments hence, Mrs. Danforth cleaving her husband's skull with an axe. Sometimes the collecting bug is unhealthy!

A tepid issue of Creepy ends with classic work by Goodwin and Ditko. The story is gripping, especially to those of us who tend to collect rare items, and Ditko's art is at its best. Not only does he propel the story along, but he also adds little horizontal panels (reproduced below) with closeups of eyes, and I think they're meant to show the deteriorating mental status of Danforth. Bravo!-Jack

Peter: I think this must have been the very first issue I picked up on the newsstands (or rather my dad picked it up, since I would have been about five), and I have several fond memories, but nostalgia can be a double-edged sword when you look at something fifty years later. "Brain Trust!," for instance, has an expository so detailed and complicated that I'm still trying to wrap my head around all the "nuances." So, Chester was a walking corpse who smelled funny but, otherwise, showed no signs of decay until the second he pulled that trigger? And there must have been a disconnect between Archie and Angelo, since Archie's prose clearly pronounces Doc Elliot a "young man" on page one. "Into the Tomb!" and  "Monster! are equally unimpressive. "Tomb" suffers from a banal plot and awful Orlando art, while "Monster" is insufferably confusing (and not only because its pages were published out of order). I'm going to start sounding like a parrot but Johnny Craig's "Midnight Sail" confounded me, since there doesn't seem to be any transition from flashback to present during Felton's monologue. As with past Craig contributions to Warren, I find no fault with his penciling. The Creepy Fan Page serves up an early illo by future Warren contributor, Frank Brunner.

"Backfire!" is an okay "weird western," and "Thing of Darkness!" has fabulous Gene Colan art (and thank goodness for that, because Archie's script is thread-bare), but Creepy #10 really only offers up one masterpiece this issue and that's "Collector's Edition!" I've probably read Archie's story of an obsessed occult book collector dozens of times over the last half-century and it never gets old. Goodwin is in full-on Lovecraft mode here (a speed I wish he'd have shifted into more regularly at Warren), crafting two very oily and cutthroat bibliophiles and a whopper of a climax. All through the story, we're treated to Ditko's prescient bottom-page panels, and we wonder what's up with this guy. A little too much brandy? Up late reading his forbidden tomes? When Steve delivers that reveal, the reader can't fail to smile and whisper: "Got me!"

Next Issue...
Our picks for
Best DC War Stories of 1974

From Creepy 10


andydecker said...

I am not a fan of Eerie #4. Reading it a couple of years ago for the first time in one of the Dark Horse reprints - same goes for the Creepy issue - nostalgia couldn't sway me. "Hatchet Man" looks good - even if it is kind of surprising how bloodless this is -, but the end is too much pulled out of nowhere to work for me. True, there is a line at the begining that the police thinks the murder a schizophrenic, still it gets a meh from me. The best art for me is Morrow again.

Creepy #10 has more nice art. "Midnight Sail" looks good even if the story doesn't make a lot of sense. I like "Backfire" a lot more than you guys, it is a competent weird western tale and again I like Morrow's work here. "Thing of Darkness" loses because the monster is so incredibly lame. Ditko is hit or miss for me, never was a fan. But I have to confess that "Collector's Edition" must have been difficult to tell visually and is very well done. Even if there is a lot Doctor Strange on the page. One wonders that Lee didn't complain.

Glowworm said...

I actually like "Backfire" quite a bit myself. The story is told competently without getting confusing like "Midnight Sail" where the flashback makes everything confusing to the point where it suddenly goes back to the present and the one female character states that the old man tore out the throats of the other two people on the boat besides them. Was he just really getting into telling his story?
The funny part about "Monster" is that even back then, readers sent letters complaining about the mixed up pages--in the next issue of Creepy, someone actually mentions this boo boo--and Uncle Creepy provides advice on how to read the last three pages, which should be read in the order of 29, 28, and 27.

Oh, but if you think "Monster" had an editing mistake--wait until issue 67--get this--the feature comic on the cover is for a story called "Bowser" It's mentioned in the table of contents inside--even Uncle Creepy mentions it through an introduction. Guess what story is glaringly absent from the issue with a completely different story--a rendition of Poe's "The Raven" instead? Yep, "Bowser." Don't worry, it pops up a few issues later-but not as the featured comic on the cover this time.

Quiddity99 said...

"Gnawing Fear" appears to be a ripoff of an EC story "Rats Have Sharp Teeth" from Vault of Horror #14, which itself was a ripoff of Henry Kuttner's "The Graveyard Rats". Or at the very least I think there was some clear inspiration there.

I think "Give and Take" is Russ Heath's only Warren story for many years. He will eventually come back in the late 70's and do some more amazing stuff, including my pick for best Warren story. For this story he purposely acted as the model for all the soldiers in the story.

"Collectors Edition" really is a masterpiece (I prefer "Spirit of the Thing" as a story, but art is better here). Frazetta's cover is also great too, although the out of order story of it inside is rather "eh".

Glowworm - Regarding "Bowser", I think the story is that they had already gotten together a color story of "The Raven" by Richard Corben intended for issue #69 or #70 which were all Poe issues, but somehow things got screwed up at the printer and it got thrown in issue #67 by mistake. Corben still ends up getting 2 more Poe stories in those issues, but no color stories appeared. I actually think it was quite a while before they used "Bowser", it would appear in Vampirella #54 if I remember correctly, which I think was 1-2 years later.

Grant said...

"Bowser" is a piece of trivia for me for the same reason. Unfortunately, I've never read the later issue that it DOES appear in, but maybe I'll find it online.

Peter Enfantino said...

Evidence that we have the most knowledgeable readers on the net.

HassoBenSoba said...

LET'S BE REALISTIC---With all of the stuff these guys were churning out, how can we possibly expect top-quality in every story? We're EXTREMELY lucky that Goodwin and Ditko were able to achieve anything CLOSE to what they did in "Collector's Edition"--a true masterpiece that sucks you in every time you read through it. Fascinating, intriguing and totally brilliant---Ditko ON FIRE!

I think Grey Morrow's artwork in "Backfire" is SUPERB--beautifully rendered, with great sense of character and movement--and the plot is just fine. Gene Colan's art in "Thing of Darkness" is so cool that you can excuse the story's flaws. The ending was a clever way to cash in on the recent Big Blackout (the real one, not the dreadful Jack Carson "Thriller" episode--OR the Joan Crawford/Spielberg "Night Gallery" pilot).

Which brings me to "BRAIN TRUST" which, IMHO, is one of Warren's absolute BEST of its early years. I never had any trouble following the plot, and I love the intensity at the point when the doctor discovers the old medical records and unravels the mystery.

Sure, there are some crazy things, loose ends, etc-- but it's FANTASY/HORROR! The doctor wants to help Chester, but he's a friggin' SKELETON, for Pete's sake (no pun)---why WOULDN'T Chet tell the doctor to get lost? The only real problem for me is the opening panel, fabulously drawn as it is, which shows a full, healthy, fleshy hand (Chester's), when in fact, we soon find out that he's got creepy skeleton hands! Just a little oversight there. But the final reveal is outstanding----Angelo Torres at his best (and I love that big wicker chair).

Creepy #10 is certainly one of the best, with Ditko, Colan, Morrow and Torres turning (or churning, due to the tight deadline) 4 great stories within a single volume (the other 3 are downright bad, unfortunately). LR

Peter Enfantino said...

One man's treasure... It's all relative. I can't speak for Jack but when I read these things I neither hold them up to the best of all time (EC) nor cut them slack because Warren wanted to make a lot of money and pumped the material out. I can only say how I feel about the story. Warren published a lot of crap in the late 60s but I think he more than made up for it in the mid-70s. Take our opinions for what they are... opinions.