Monday, June 17, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 10: January/February 1967

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

Eerie #7 (January)

"Witches' Tide"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"It That Lurks!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Dan Adkins

"Hitchhike Horror"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Hector Castellon

"The Defense Rests!"
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"The Quest!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Norman Nodel

"Cry Fear, Cry Phantom"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

As the citizens of Grey Cove watch a woman's body burn, they recall recent events that led up to the fire. Miles Curtis thinks back to when he found three fisherman torn to pieces and then saw Sarah Magnus standing nearby, observing. Newspaper editor Avery Summers recalls making a connection with similar events that happened twenty years before; at that time, Sarah's mother was found to be a witch and killed, but villagers stopped short of burning her corpse. Viola Whitby, in whose home Sarah now lives and for whom the young woman acts as housekeeper, recalls hearing strange sounds coming from Sarah's room and sending her husband Clem to investigate. She then found Clem being attacked by fishlike monsters!

"Witches' Tide"
Doc Hasbrook recalls running into Sarah on the edge of town, where her words and a look had him frozen in place as she ran toward the sea. Deputy Lew Hoad recalls leading a pack of torch-carrying villagers to the edge of the sea, where they witnessed Sarah seemingly summoning demonic fish-monsters from the water. A trigger-happy villager shot and killed Sarah, and the villagers then made sure to burn her body, presuming that they had made a mistake two decades ago in failing to burn that of her mother. When the fish monsters approach and eat them up anyway, the villagers realize that Sarah, instead of being a witch summoning them, was the only thing keeping them at bay.

"Witches' Tide" is a fairly evocative tale with art by Colan that is a bit more loose in the line work than we're used to. The fine use of blacks and the inventive panel designs are here, as usual, but the whole thing seems a bit washed out and, as a result, some of the panels that are supposed to shock don't quite do the trick.

I have no complaints about Frazetta's stunning cover, though, which looks like nothing that had come before, as if he's ushering in a new style of cover design.

"It That Lurks!"
Dr. Sernas has discovered a giant dinosaur in a jungle pool and he is determined to capture the monster and gain fame for his discovery. He brings a hunter, Ramsey, along to shoot the beast with a tranquilizer, but when the shot is successfully accomplished the beast sinks into the pool, out of sight. Dr. Sernas leaps into the pool and is sucked down along with the creature. Ramsey then sees a vision of his beautiful wife and is drawn to her. At the last moment he realizes that neither dinosaur nor woman was really there; the pool is a sentient thing that shows men that which they most desire and then draws them in to their deaths.

"It That Lurks!" is even better than the story that preceded it. The art by Dan Adkins is superb, alternately reminding me of Al Williamson's work (the dinosaur closeups) and Wally Wood's (everything else). Goodwin's script is entertaining but the best part is the ending, which I did not see coming. Even Cousin Eerie gets off a good line!

Jack's third-grade scribbling
"Hitchhike Horror!"
Driving alone on a highway at night in the rain, a man picks up a hitchhiker. A radio news report says that someone named Arthur Whitlow escaped from an insane asylum that morning, stabbing two guards on his way out. The driver gets tired, so the passenger takes the wheel and steers the car to a graveyard, where the driver first tries to escape, then turns to reveal himself as the lunatic murderer. The hitchhiker turns out to be the ghost (?) of one of his victims and the nut job ends up in a grave. Or at least I think that's what happens. The art in this story is truly wretched--some of the worst I've seen in a legitimate comic. It reminds me of when I tried to draw comics as a youth. "Hitchhike Horror!" is an automatic entry in the "worst of the year" sweepstakes, and it's only January! Hector Castellon would go on to do a lot of work for Charlton, so maybe he drew this story with his toes.

In the German town of Brudenheim, a pretty singer named Lydia Albritton attracts the attention of the wealthy and powerful mayor, who invites her to a ball being thrown in her honor. The mayor is also forced to invite handsome Andrew Prescott, an old friend of the singer's. At the party, Lydia only has eyes for Andrew, but they are being watched from outside a window by Molok-the-Brute. Later that night, Molok breaks in to Lydia's room and kills her. Andrew rushes to the scene but is knocked out by the brute. When Andrew awakens, he is found by the mayor and accused of murder. A kangaroo court is held and the verdict is never in doubt: Andrew is sentenced to die.

"The Defense Rests!"
The young man escapes and returns several nights later, quickly figuring out what really happened. He kidnaps the mayor and brings him to the courtroom, where the mayor joins the members of the jury, all bound and gagged. It turns out that Molok was wronged years before by the mayor and lives for revenge; Andrew locks Molok in with the judge and jury and leaves them to be destroyed by the brute.

Now THIS is more like it! "The Defense Rests" is a lost EC classic. The first few pages look like something Craig would have drawn for the Picto-Fiction line, but the last several pages are done in the classic Craig style and lead to a conclusion based on the sort of revenge narrative we haven't seen since the '50s. Too bad we don't get a panel of carnage to wrap it all up.

Two decades after the end of WWII, the
Unknown Soldier has fallen on hard times. ("Fly!")
After murdering a key witness, a killer hides out in a ratty apartment, his face wrapped in bandages, an annoying "Fly!" buzzing around his head. A doctor comes to check his face but, after the doc leaves, the buzzing of the fly grows so bad that the man leaps out a window to his death. Someone peels back the bandages and finds that the fly was trapped inside his ear.

Ditko's talents are wasted on this paper-thin story, where six pages fly by and next to nothing happens. At one point, the killer seems to hallucinate that he is the size of a fly and that he is being chased by a giant hand that tries to swat him. It all comes to naught, though.

Things were tough in 15th century Europe, where Baron von Strom was determined to find the secret to eternal life. "The Quest!" for this end consumed him to the point that he ignored the suffering of his people, who fell victim to famine and disease. A witch brews a potion for him, but the baron makes her taste it first and she falls dead. Years pass, and an old man named Fredor begs the baron to help the villagers. The baron promises to do so if Fredor can find a way to grant him eternal life. When Fredor's daughter dies, the old man has had enough. He exacts a promise from the baron to help his people in exchange for the secret he craves. That night, Fredor leads the baron to the graveyard, where he is beset by vampires, thus achieving his goal in a way he never expected.

"The Quest!"
Vampires again? Come on Archie, how many times are you going to use this "surprise" ending? And how is the baron going to help fix the villagers' ails if he's a vampire? Norman Nodel's art is not bad and the story is enjoyable enough till it all comes crashing down at the end.

On a dark and stormy night, Jim brings his girlfriend Edith back to creepy Holloway House, where he lives with his old Uncle Ben. Ben warns Edith to make like a tree and leave, but Jim convinces her to stay. At evening's end, Edith heads up the stairs but is frightened to see the phantom of a blonde woman, horribly mutilated, holding an ax.

Jim tells her to calm down and she goes to bed, but later that night she has to "Cry Fear, Cry Phantom" when the apparition appears again. Edith looks out the window and sees that Ben has dug up the grave of a corpse that looks suspiciously like the phantom Edith has seen twice. Edith races to find her boyfriend, but Jim suddenly appears holding an ax himself! Ben shows up in the nick of time to shoot and kill Jim who, it turns out, had murdered his blonde former girlfriend and was on the verge of repeating the crime.

Jerry Grandenetti lets his hair down in this tepid tale, and I guess you either love or hate his very stylized approach to the art. It's not bad, but I prefer more realistic styles.-Jack

"Cry Fear, Cry Phantom"
Peter-"Witches' Tide" is a nicely atmospheric, superbly-illustrated little chiller despite the obligatory cheats (why doesn't Sarah simply tell someone that she's using her magic to keep the monsters at bay?) and last page explanation that seems to come right out of the blue to all four characters at the same time. "It That Lurks!" could have been pulled whole from an issue of Weird Tales; the twist is original and the set-up flawless. The reveal is nicely handled, subtly rather than the sledgehammer we get sometimes with these short horror tales. Not one aspect of "Hitchhike Horror!" is handled nicely; not its inane plot, nor its utterly baffling reveal, but especially not its crude, amateurish art. This is just gawdawful.  "The Defense Rests!," with its historical setting and fabulous Craig pencils, brings to mind the dialogue-free panels of the EC Picto-Fiction line. "Fly!" comes off as silly but at least it gives Ditko a chance to do a story that doesn't involve wizards or fifth-dimensional lizards.

It would seem, if you'd read most of my past comments regarding his art, that I'm standing firmly in the Grandenetti-detractors' camp. You'd be absolutely correct. It's an obvious observation to say that JG's art is a lot like that of Frank Robbins: exaggerated, squiggly and, for the most part, ugly as hell. And yet I'm softening a bit lately when it comes to Jerry's stuff, especially his work on "Cry Fear, Cry Phantom." The script isn't much, an ode to Poe and Gothic horror, but it allows Grandenetti to really open his (admittedly limited) bag of tricks and unleash some wonders here and there. The Eisner-influenced splash, the weird angles of Holloway House (above), the gorgeous shadows, even the melty-faced characters (an aspect I've found negatively distracting in JG's other work). Perhaps it's just that JG found the perfect home for his eccentric visions or maybe I'm just seeing something in his art I've never taken the time to appreciate. Probably the former (see below).


Creepy #13 

"The Squaw!"  ★1/2
Story by Bram Stoker
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"Early Warning!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Scream Test!" 
Story by John Benson and Bhob Stewart
Art by Angelo Torres

"Madness in the Method!" 
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"Fear in Stone" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Adam Link, Gangbuster!" 
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Joe Orlando

"Second Chance!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"The Squaw!"
While vacationing in Nurnberg, a young British couple meet up with the "exuberant" American, Elias P. Hutcheson, at an ancient castle. The trio spark up a quick friendship and decide to tour the torture chambers together. While strolling outside the dungeon walls, they happen upon a cat and its kitten playing in the grass below them. Hutcheson, thinking it would be a fun bit of silliness to startle the felines, drops a rock but misses his mark. The stone crushes the kitten and its mother looks up at the American with hateful eyes. The trio brush off the incident and head into the castle tower housing the torture chamber. The cat follows them in. The chamber is filled with several diabolical weapons of torture but none so enticing to Hutcheson as the Iron Maiden. The arrogant American bullies the tour guide into allowing him to try the evil casket on for size and, as he lies helpless within the Maiden, the avenging cat hurls itself at the guide and the lid slams shut on Hutcheson.

Not a bad adaptation as these things go (for some reason or another, Archie seems to have had a yen for selecting tame "classics" for the Warrens--possibly because these were public domain stories?); the final panel, of the fearful feline lapping up Hutcheson's blood, is pretty grim. Reed Crandall's line work, as usual, is exquisite; every brick and stone at the tower looks as though Crandall spent hours getting them just right. If there's a complaint, it's that Reed's characters suffer an almost Kamen-esque fate in that they all pretty much look alike. The title of "The Squaw!" refers to a story Hutcheson tells of a war-time experience he had involving a half-breed Indian and the fate that befell him.

"Early Warning!"
A businessman stops overnight in a desolate European town and finds himself without a place to stay. Working his way through the alleyways, he stumbles over the dead body of a woman, blood drained and two suspicious marks on her neck. Just then, a mad crowd assembles behind the man, with the leader pulling out a wooden stake and accusing the astounded traveler of vampirism. As the stake is pounded into his chest, the man awakens on the bus just as it gets to the same town he dreamed of. Sure enough, once he disembarks, his reality follows the dream right up until he finds the dead woman and then the crazed mob assembles. But this time they're the vampires, looking for food. "Early Warning!" is another really dopey, cliched horror story. Even Uncle Creepy, at story's end, wonders why this entire horde of vampires would remain in a deserted town. I heaped cautious praise on Jerry Grandenetti's art above, but here he's in full-JG mode, with lots of grotesque, exaggerated faces and indiscernible lines that prevent you from figuring out just what the hell is happening on these pages. Yeccccccch!

"Scream Test!"
Journalist Susan Street smells a great story in the reports of ghostly organ music rising from the depths of the old Alhambra Theater, once renowned for its beauty but now closed for decades and rotting away. Street nabs an audience with the Alhambra's owner and organist, Ivan Kire, who pooh-poohs the idea of a ghost and explains it's only his nighttime meanderings to blame. Kire paints a picture of the Alhambra as the place to view a silent movie and his musicianship as the finest in the country until the advent of talkies doomed the format. Kire offers to open the Alhambra and play for Street and the reporter quickly agrees. Once there, Kire pops Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera into the projector and leans in to deliver an eerie soundtrack. Just then, Street remembers there had been a fire in the Alhambra and, as the unmasking scene spills onto the screen behind her, she reaches out and pulls the mask from Tire's face.

Here's a case of the set-up being very intriguing with the reveal a complete letdown. That final panel makes no sense whatsoever and seems to come right out of the blue, leaving me with a sense of having been cheated. All the atmosphere is simply an excuse for a shock ending. It only occurs to Street right at that moment that Kire is wearing a mask? And what kind of journalist forgets the most important hook of the story? Angelo Torres's mash-up of art and movie stills works very well here (as opposed to the times when Angelo swipes images for his doodles). Benson and Stewart are names familiar to those who followed our EC coverage, as the two were fans who later became leading historians of the company.

"Madness in the Method!"
Henry Belmond murders his wife and then pleads insanity. He's committed to the Hanneford Asylum but then finds he can't adjust to his surroundings as everyone around him seems to be loony. Belmond complains to the sanitarium officials and is placed in different cells but each one is progressively worse. Finally, at wit's end, Belmond admits he's not really insane but the doctors are skeptical until they remove his brain and find Henry was telling the truth. Huh? Obviously, Archie must have forgotten to send that all-important penultimate page to Rocco; y'know, the one that explains why a group of doctors would crack open Belmond's head. "Madness in the Method!" is just the latest in a long series of Wessler scripts I've had my problems with (scripts written for Warren, as well as for EC and Atlas); Wessler seems to have come from the school of writers who threw everything at the wall to see what stuck and then used the plots and hooks that didn't stick regardless. I had a feeling the reveal would be that the inmates were running the asylum (and perhaps that was what Wessler had in mind), but the published twist is befuddling.

"Fear in Stone"
Sculptor Frederick Holbert has had it up to here with critics who claim his work is secondary to the genius of Stavros Dimitrios, another artist who excels at visions of horror. So Holbert goes to see Dimitrios at his studio, hoping the artists will let him in on the secret behind his mastery. Dimitrios claims only that the blood of Greece flows through him and then shuts the door on his competitor's dream. But the frustrated Holbert follows Dimitrios to a deserted warehouse, where the truth comes out at last: Stavros has the head of Medusa in a box! But didn't the Gorgon lose its power when beheaded? I guess not, but I must say the reveal was no surprise the second Dimitrios mentioned Greece. "Fear in Stone" has a lackluster script  and, truth be told, below-par artwork from Colan; it sure looks rushed to me.

That bumbling bag of bolts, Adam Link, is still trying to get the goods on bad guy Harvey Brigg, a really nasty chap who's pinned two violent murders on Adam's gleaming gal-pal, Eve, who's rotting away in a Federal pen, on a steady diet of three squirts of oil a day, but Adam can't seem to find the smoking gun to save his silvery bum. But, ho-ho, salvation arrives in the form of Adam's latest invention, a bugging device that will transmit messages from Briggs's den to a recorder in Jack's apartment. But... the best laid plans of mice and robots and all... the messages are received with tons of static and deemed unplayable for the D.A. More importantly, Adam is tipped off to the fact that Briggs's hoods will be murdering a woman at five PM sharp. He puts the kibosh on the murder and traps Briggs in his study, forcing the evil genius to pen a confession. Just as Briggs is about to sign the document, one of his hoods interrupts and chops Adam into a zillion pieces (well, actually only five or six) and commences to burning his chrome dome to melted tin. Adam sends one more "radio-telepathy call" to Eve but resigns himself to an afterlife spent as the roof of a shed. To Be Continued...

"Adam Link, Gangbuster!"
If you're expecting me to tell you that this installment of Adam Link is enjoyable and well-illustrated, you've come to the wrong guy. Optimism is more Jack's forte. "Adam Link, Gangbuster!" is like a really bad episode of a really bad 1960s TV show (in fact, Adam Link was the star of a really bad episode of Outer Limits!), perhaps starring Sheldon Leonard as Briggs. By this time, Joe Orlando was blessed to be able to sell what are essentially ink blots as art to Warren, who must have been looking the other way while, at the same time, touting his artists as the best in the business. The most amazing thing, to me, is that Binder was able to stretch one lousy pulp story ("Adam Link, Robot Detective" from Amazing, May 1940) into an equally lousy three-part funny book story.

Edward Nugent (call him Ted for short) makes a deal with the devil for life after death but, as usual, Beelzebub gets a hand up on us mere mortals. After Eddie dies, he pleads with Satan to send him back to Earth and the devil obliges, sending Nugent back into his grave. Fortunately, for our protagonist, a grave robber just happens to be pilfering Nugent's grave but, unfortunately, the grave robber is quickly scared out of his wits and beats Nugent to death in his own grave.

"Second Chance!"
I would love to have been in the Warren cafeteria while Archie and Steve were sharing the same grass and cooking up "Fly!" and this wacky, wild, incoherent, interesting jumble. While not entirely successful, "Second Chance" is a perfect marriage of script with its art or vice versa. Just exactly how much detail Archie gave to the nightmare landscapes of hell and its occupants in the pages he handed over to Ditko is known only to those who have seen the actual script. The prelude, of two cops coming across the white-haired grave digger post-grave opening, segues into a scene of Nugent in hell and, for several pages to come, the reader is excused for not having the foggiest notion what the two scenes have in common. But, eventually, it all makes sense. It's not hyperbole when I state that only Steve Ditko could successfully map out these twisted images (and on page two the images are literally twisted) without the scene coming off as laughable.-Peter

Jack-I think this is a fair to middling issue of Creepy. I like Crandall's work on "The Squaw!," a story I enjoyed when I read it in an anthology, but Goodwin overdoes it with one character's American speech patterns. "Scream Test!" is also fun, mainly due to the felicitous mix of sharp art by Torres and beloved stills from silent films. I thought Colan's work on "Fear in Stone" was nicely shadowy and Ditko goes full "Dr. Strange" in the wacked-out pages of "Second Chance!," despite a so-so story by Goodwin. Grandenetti is back to his usual poor work in "Early Warning!" and the team of Wessler and Mastroserio don't do much to elevate "Madness in the Method!" Worst of all, of course, is "Adam Link, Gangbuster!" I can't tell any more what is and what is not real art by Joe Orlando, though he did sign the first page--I'd swear Grandenetti was ghosting here and trying to tone down his more surreal impulses.

Next Week...
George Evans
Whether we like it or not!

From Creepy 13


Nequam said...

'I like Crandall's work on "The Squaw!," a story I enjoyed when I read it in an anthology, but Goodwin overdoes it with one character's American speech patterns.'

That's as much Stoker's fault as Goodwin's. Go back and read the dialogue of the token American (Quincy Morris) in Dracula and you'll see...

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks for pointing that out! I read the Stoker story long ago but did not pull it out when I read the comic version.

Thomas Miller said...

That Frazetta cover on EERIE #7 is one of my all-time favorite paintings. I may still have a poster size print of it that hung on my wall in the 1970s.

I frequently enjoyed the artwork of Dan Adkins, but he was criticized by fans in those days for swiping the work of other artists. His swipes were often obvious and recognizable, but they were attractive drawings.

Jack Seabrook said...

That cover is a beaut, isn't it? I feel the same way about Adkins and remember the same complaints you mention, similar to fan reactions to Rich Buckler.

Quiddity99 said...

Better late than never, right?

Eerie #7's cover is quite an amazing job by Frazetta. Quite minimalistic, yet it works perfectly. I generally agree with the ratings provided for the stories, Craig's story is the best, but the Adkins story is fairly strong as well. Gene Colan's stories are always of high quality as well. The rest, just not as much. Ditko's stories are usually quite good, but not this time.

Creepy #13's highlights for me would be more from an art perspective than the stories, which are rather eh (none more than Adam Link, the eternal disappointment). Scream Test is unique in that I think it is the first time we see photos interspersed with art in a story for Warren. If I'm remembering correctly this technique gets used occasionally by Ernie Colon, who becomes quite a mainstay during the "dark ages" of Warren after Archie Goodwin leaves. It also gets used a ton by Leo Duranona in the late 70s. I'm pretty sure Scream Test is also the final story we get from Angelo Torres, which is very disappointing! He's got several other amazing artists to contend with from this era such as Craig and Colan, but he may be my personal fave. Fear in Stone will essentially get redone many years later in Vampirella 38's "On Little Cat Feet", a fairly strong comedic story that I like quite a bit. Medusa keeps her head on her body in that story. But then, I recall far, far later in one of the final issues of Vampirella a story called "Perseus" where the titular character chops the head off of Medusa and the head is still able to people to stone, so I don't think it was completely dependent on her head still being attached to her body. Or the writer of that story made the same mistake as Goodwin here.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Q99! I am fortunate (I guess) in that I've never read any of these comics before, so they're all new to me. I read Famous Monsters and The Spirit but they were the extent of my Warren magazine purchases, and that all happened in the '70s.