Monday, July 1, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 11: March/April 1967

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

Eerie #8 (March 1967)

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Dark Rider!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by John Severin

"Type Cast!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Day After Doomsday!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Dan Adkins

"The Covered Bridge!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Bob Jenney

"Wolf Bait!"
Story by Buddy Saunders, adapted by Archie Goodwin
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"Demon Sword!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

A private eye named Donovan needs glasses, so he visits kindly optometrist Dr. Bryant, who gives the P.I. a pair of spectacles that reveal the doctor to be a frightening fiend! Donovan rushes out of the office and is relieved that no one else he sees looks unusual, but when he re-encounters Dr. Bryant and the fiendish look is again revealed, Donovan decides to follow the doctor. He trails the man to an old cemetery, where he overhears monsters punishing the doctor for giving out the wrong pair of glasses and blowing their cover. Donovan is discovered but fights off his attacker; later, alone in his apartment, he lets in two policemen who seem safe. They immediately shoot and kill him and Donovan realizes that he picked up the wrong pair of glasses after his special pair fell off during the tussle at the cemetery. He could not see that the cops were demons like the doctor!

"Dark Rider!"
Eerie #8 gets off to a good start with this fast-moving monster tale, well-illustrated by Gentleman Gene Colan in the style he was using around the same time over at Marvel. I am such a fan of his work that I can overlook the somewhat derivative story line of "Oversight!"

Who is the "Dark Rider!" tracking three men on horseback through a snowy mountain range in the Old West? One of the three, named Denver, rides after the stranger but is killed when he falls off his horse on the edge of a cliff. Toby, the second man, races through a dense wood to try to catch the stranger, only to have his neck snapped when it gets caught in the fork of a tree limb. The lone survivor, Rickard, waits in ambush for the stranger and shoots him, only to learn what we readers suspected all along--the rider is Death!

John Severin's artwork is dynamite in this tale, even better than Colan's in the one that preceded it. While the final revelation comes as no surprise, the atmosphere created by Goodwin and Severin is appealing and the narrative proceeds toward its inevitable conclusion with a genuine sense of doom.

"Type Cast!"
After thirty long years, former horror movie star Roland Bryce is released from the insane asylum and encouraged to find meaningful work. Flash back thirty years and Bryce was just getting a foothold in the motion picture business, playing a hunchback in a horror movie. His agent, Manny, recommends doing some research and Roland takes this to heart, visiting a graveyard and murdering the caretaker! Soon he is "Type Cast!" and, with each successful horror picture, his research gets more in-depth and more violent. Finally, having gone off the deep end, he murders Manny and is put away for a long time. Back in the present, the doctor realizes that the wrong man was discharged, and we see a newspaper headline reporting the crimes of a "knife wielding maniac" just as the doc learns that Bryce was hired to act in a Jack the Ripper film!

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm starting to enjoy Grandenetti's extravagant, bizarre work on stories like this. Goodwin's script is very good, with a prologue and epilogue that deliver a punch and a flashback that mixes classic films and horror. Grandenetti's art is so off the charts weird that it appeals to me!

On "The Day After Doomsday!" women's
shoes remain uncomfortable.
On "The Day After Doomsday!" (or thereabouts), Richard Caldwell emerges from his underground shelter to find a world destroyed and seemingly devoid of people. Suddenly, he is attacked by a furry, fanged, humanoid creature, which he manages to fend off with his trusty pistol. He hears a scream and finds a beautiful woman being attacked by more creatures. Caldwell kills them and accompanies the woman back to meet the rest of her tribe. She explains that there's a food problem and the furry guys are mutants trying to wipe her and her people out. Unfortunately for Richard, she bops him over the head and the rest of her tribe proceeds to kill and eat him, since it turns out the food problem is best solved by eating any available person.

I was getting a nice, Reed Crandall vibe from Adkins's art for much of this story, until the blonde showed up and he switched into Wally Wood mode. I'm sure Peter had the same shudder that I did when he read the title, since we associate it with a lousy series of shorts in '70s DC comics, but here Goodwin blows the conclusion by wrapping things up too quickly and with real confusion. Why do the woman's tribal companions suddenly become furry and fanged at the end? And who exactly is eating whom in this post-apocalyptic world? Most important, why is the woman wearing pumps?

"The Covered Bridge!"
During the American Revolution, British Lt. Farnsworth hangs a patriot for insisting that he should march two days to cross a river rather than use "The Covered Bridge!," which is haunted. Farnsworth promptly marches his men to the bridge, but a horse bucks and refuses to enter. Two redcoats are sent in on foot but fail to emerge. Farnsworth decides to show everyone he's not afraid and ties a rope around his waist, instructing his sergeant to pull him out at the first sign of trouble. There is a scream, and the sergeant pulls with all his might, finally dragging out Farnsworth, who is bloodied and dying. With his last breath, the lieutenant reveals that the bridge is a passage between the land of the living and the land of the dead and, after he's gone, the sergeant sees that Farnsworth is gripped tightly in the clutches of the patriot he had hanged!

I really enjoyed this ghostly tale and was looking for the source, but it is credited solely to Archie Goodwin, even though it reads like an adaptation of a classic scary story. Golden Age artist Bob Jenney's career was only about halfway done by this point--the GCD lists credits for him as early as 1936 and as late as the 1980s, if the dates are correct. His art is not stellar, but there's a cool three-panel sequence I've reproduced here where the soldiers disappear into the bridge.

"Wolf Bait!"
A werewolf kills a man named Bruce Darner and then hungrily heads for the home of his girlfriend, who recognizes his torn shirt as that of Thad, the local sheriff. She loved Bruce, the bookish chemistry professor, not Thad, the burly lawman, and it drove Thad nuts. Bruce's father had been one of the werewolf's victims, so Bruce cooks up some poisoned "Wolf Bait!" and injects it into animal carcasses, thinking that the rampaging creature will eat one and die. However, since Thad is the werewolf and knows what Bruce is up to, he has no trouble avoiding the deadly treats. Finally, spurned by Wilma, Thad kills Bruce, not realizing that Bruce had been despondent when he mistakenly thought Wilma and Thad were making out, so he injected himself with the deadly poison! When Thad killed and bit him, he ingested it and it finished him off.

I can't imagine that the short story on which this dud was based is much better, but it can't be much worse. Mastroserio's art is nothing special to look at, either. I think the story might've been better if the identity of the werewolf had been hidden till the end; as it is, the big reveal is telegraphed. The only interesting thing about this one is the fact that the werewolf narrates it in the first person.

"Demon Sword!"
On a museum-sponsored expedition to the Andes, Professor Brace and his disciple, Harcourt, found and brought back a "Demon Sword!" of unknown provenance. Soon, a fearsome soldier emerges from another dimension and uses the sword to kill a museum guard, the museum director, and his chauffeur. Brace realizes that the creature represents the evil side of his nature and arms himself before summoning his good side, as represented by another ghostly soldier, to do battle to the death with the evil soldier. It's a close call, but good wins out; despite this, since part of the professor's nature has been killed, he dies as well. Though he begs Harcourt to dispose of the sword, the disciple hesitates as the story ends.

Whew! Talk about ending the issue with a bang! This is prime Ditko, with more of our beloved Dr. Strange-like creatures from another dimension/astral plane/where-ever battling it out! Goodwin's story is decent enough to give the artist a springboard and he takes off beautifully, rendering page after page in such splendor that I found myself wishing they were in color. All in all, a darn good issue of Eerie!-Jack

Peter: But for Gentleman Gene's snazzy art, "Oversight!" is easy to overlook; it's little more than a variation on Robert Bloch's "The Cheaters." I'm a sucker for a horror western (and who better than John Severin to provide visuals?) but I recognize, after years of reading them, that they usually disappoint. As does "Dark Rider!," which begins nicely enough but falls flat on its cliched behind with the old "I am Death!" reveal. Groan. I must be immune to Jerry Grandenetti's doodles by now (as I eventually became to Frank Robbins's horrendous art after umpteen issues of Batman and Detective), since I'm not throwing the magazine across the room like I used to. It's not an ideal situation, but I guess I'm making the best of it. "Type Cast!" has a nice, tight script (which had been done before and would be done again) and the final image is a winner. "The Day After Doomsday!" has some great art by Dan Adkins but the script has some holes (just how long was this guy in his bomb shelter?) and, great golly, did Archie really have to play the "They're monsters but we're ghouls!" card again? "The Covered Bridge!" has the feel of an Ambrose Bierce adaptation but sputters out and suffers from really bad art. The twist of "Wolf Bait!" might have been a little more effective had it not been given away in the title. The best of a very weak lot is the finale, "Demon Sword!" No surprise there, since Ditko usually wins by at least a nose in most issues where his art is featured.


Creepy #14 (April 1967)

"Where Sorcery Lives!" ★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"Art of Horror" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Snakes Alive!" 
Story by Clark Dimond and John Benson
Art by Hector Castellon

"The Beckoning Beyond!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Dan Adkins and Bill Pearson

"Piece By Piece" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Joe Orlando

"Castle Carrion!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"Curse of the Vampire!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Neal Adams

"Where Sorcery Lives!"
Garth the Barbarian seeks vengeance on the sorcerer Salamand for the destruction of Garth's village and the kidnapping of his love, Tanya, but Salamand is a crafty wizard and throws obstacle after obstacle at the pesky gladiator. After slaying giant scorpions and demons on winged horses, Garth finally reaches the palace of Salamand, only to find Tanya deep in a dastardly spell. Salamand explains that Tanya would never love an evil sorcerer, so he intends to steal the body of Garth, but love wins out when the sorcerer turns his attentions to the barbarian long enough for his spell on Tanya to weaken. The gorgeous gal shows she's more than just a pretty face when she drives a sword into the devil's back, reducing him to ashes. A pretty straightforward sword and sorcery tale, though entertaining nonetheless, "Where Sorcery Lives!" was obviously concocted by Archie to cash in on the success of the reprinting of Robert E. Howard's Conan, which had recently proven quite the success for Lancer paperbacks. As with most of the S&S tales he adorned, Ditko is at the peak of his craft but this certainly could have been stronger in the script department.

"Art of Horror"
Horror writer Langley Duncroft boasts to two of his close friends that he can create real horror out of thin air and, to do so, he takes them to an abandoned, supposedly haunted, mansion and then proceeds to turn on the scares. But the joke's on Duncroft when he discovers that he's accidentally killed himself and he's actually a ghost haunting his friends. "Art of Horror" is a really really dumb story made even worse by Jerry Grandenetti's indecipherable doodles. Seriously, there's no way to tell where one panel ends and the next begins; that's a good thing when you're dealing with craftsmen like Eisner and Toth but, in the hands of a Grandenetti it can lead to catastrophe. Tell me what you see in the scene I've reprinted here; is that two Duncrofts (a clever combination of Dunwich and Lovecraft) in the midst of the drama or two badly-separated panels?

"Snakes Alive!"
Three, like, with-it ding-dong-daddy-o musicians need to find that next big thing before someone else finds it and they miss the boat. Like, gigs are getting harder to find (especially since the beatnik craze ended, what, four or five years before?), and the lads are ready to hang up their gee-tars when they stumble onto a hip hoppin' daddy-o named King Mojo, who strums his gee-tar and produces music to tame his wild reptiles. The boys get the idea to steal King Mojo's tunes and hit the big time, but when they try to reproduce the man's vibe, they transform into way-out lizards. Dig it! I pronounce "Snakes Alive!" the most atrocious gift given to us by Warren Publishing this week. Take your pick as to what's worse: the dopey ding-dong-daddy dialogue that teleports the reader back to a 1962 coffee shop or what appears to be unfinished art by Hector Castellon (who put in equally awful art back in Eerie #7). This is bottom-of-the-barrel drivel.

"The Beckoning Beyond!"
David rushes to the lab of his friend, the brilliant but erratic Everett Hacton, when Hacton announces he's made a major breakthrough in inter-dimensional travel. David fears his college buddy has flipped his lid and tries to talk him out of doing anything foolish, but Hacton will not be coddled; he steps onto a platform and tells David to hold on to his horses. After a switch is thrown, beams of electricity hit Hacton and he begins to disappear; David grabs hold and the pair are teleported into "The Beckoning Beyond!" David is convinced once he sees a parade of gruesome monsters and a sea of celestial stars and asks to return pronto. When the friends are beamed back to the lab, David grabs a mallet and destroys the machine but watches in horror as Hacton begins to rot before his very eyes. With his dying breath, Everett explains that he actually died on his first trip into the Beyond but the trips back and forth kept him animated.

"Piece of S**t"
Just as Steve Ditko was assigned to all the Sword and Sorcery tales, so it seems Dan Adkins was handed all the stories that had to do with loony scientists and their trips into Lovecraftland (in fact, the reveal is vaguely similar to that of HP's "Cool Air"). Archie's script is warmed-up meat loaf with more than a few head scratchers (I'm still trying to figure out how Hacton has been able to get around, even though he's a walking corpse, but when the machinery is destroyed, he's converted to chips 'n' ash), but Dan Adkins is able to cook up a couple of nifty demons to keep our minds from wandering.

"Piece by Piece" is a truly wretched take on Frankenstein, one made even more stultifying by the "talents" of one Joe Orlando. Last time out, my compadre Jack singled out Hector Castellon's art on "Hitchhike Horror" as abysmal, but I'd lay the Crap Crown firmly at Orlando's feet thanks to his work on Adam Link and sub-par groaners like "Piece by Piece." I'm sure I've already said this several times but it bears repeating: garbage like this was standard fare for Eerie Publications and Skywald but Warren's high standards and decent pay should have kept it out of Creepy.

"Castle Carrion!"
Eric of Urien only wishes to be out of the downpour when he halts his steed before the ominous gates of "Castle Carrion!," but what he finds inside would give Conan the Barbarian hesitation. The castle's master, Magnus the Magician, lets Eric in but doesn't seem grateful for the company. Could that be because Eric the Inhospitable quickly shows more than a passing glance at Magnus's gorgeous daughter, Elaine? Soon enough, Magnus is introducing Eric to his army of the undead and, realizing he's outmatched, the would-be swordsman grabs hold of Elaine and makes haste out the bedroom window. Magnus follows, transformed into a huge vulture, but Eric's sword finds his heart and the zombie troops crumble in their tracks. Alas, Eric discovers that Magnus had created his castle of the dead to protect his daughter, who had died years before. The Crandall art is great (but if you have a feeling of deja vu after seeing that final panel--reprinted below--that's because it's a riff on Crandall's last image from "Vampires Fly at Dusk," all the way back in #1), but these ancient castle melodramas are getting awfully moldy.

The final panel from "Castle Carrion!"

"Curse of the Vampire!"
A vampire curses the descendants of Count Veneto to an undeath of vampirism. Dr. Paul Gordon has fallen in love with the latest in a long line of Venetos, Countess Teresa, and her sudden death has him rushing to the castle to see her body in state before the villagers desecrate it. Gordon sends away the family servant, Cesare, and takes responsibility for Teresa's body, but soon discovers the real secret behind the "Curse of the Vampire!" There are a couple of really lame "twists" in the tail of this tale that beg the reader to groan out loud rather than shudder. Still, newcomer Neal Adams can certainly provide stunning visuals to even the stupidest story. Adams's work here is so different from what we're used to seeing in his work on Batman, Green Lantern, or even the DC horror line. It's stunning, almost cinematic in parts, dream-like in some sections. But, oh, Archie, what were you thinking?

The debut of Frank Brunner!
A veritable who's-who of future talent turns up on this issue's "Creepy Fan Club! page. In addition to a long bio on Archie, we get art from a fifteen-year-old Randall Larson (who has since published several scholarly tomes on author Robert Bloch, as well as on genre soundtracks), as well as up-and-comer Frank Brunner, who is only four short years away from seeing his first pro sale to Warren in these very pages. Oh, and if I was writing letters to Uncle Creepy (at the age of six), I'd ask him to hire a proofreader, since this issue is inundated with typos.-Peter

Jack: I had such high hopes for this issue when your preview last time around revealed that it contained a story drawn by Neal Adams, but let's be frank: this issue stinks! "Snakes Alive!" is easily the worst, with art so bad it makes the work of Jerry Grandenetti look good and a premise so dated as to be embarrassing. Not quite as awful is "Piece By Piece," but only better by a hair. We are subjected to two sword and sorcery tales in one issue, and that's one of my least favorite genres, so I tend to doze off when reading examples of it. "Where Sorcery Lives!" at least has decent Ditko visuals, but Steve's weakness always was in trying to draw beautiful gals and the lass here is no exception. Even the great Reed Crandall seems off his game with "Castle Carrion!," though he does contribute a few effective panels. He draws the main character like Prince Valiant, another strip I could never get into.

"Art of Horror" is overwritten and the confusing story makes Grandenetti's freakout art less appealing than it was in Eerie. "The Beckoning Beyond!" is sub-par Adkins and tepid sci-fi by Goodwin. That leaves "Curse of the Vampire!" which, according to the GCD, was one of Adams's earliest full-length stories after he came back to the field following a break from drawing for Archie Comics. Goodwin's script is not very good and he uses the same dopey twist he's used so many times before. I think Adams's art is good, but he's not quite the great Neal Adams of the late 1960s (and he's one of my three favorite comic artists of all time, the others being Barks and Eisner). Still, pretty good Neal is better than anything else this issue.

From Creepy #14

In Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue #159...
Be on the look out for Heath greatness!


Quiddity99 said...

"Oversight" I liked quite a lot (granted I have that opinion about practically any Warren story drawn by Eugene Colan). The whole glasses that lets you see monsters makes me think of the over the top 80's John Carpenter movie "They Live". It is good to see Jack finally starting to like Grandenetti's work; I initially disliked him quite a bit but over time grew to like his weird cartoony style quite a bit. I don't think the Buddy Saunders story was a legit short story adaption; to my knowledge he was creator of a fanzine, and the assumption is he submitted a story to Warren and Goodwin adapted it into this story. He will later write around 20 or so stories for Warren in the late 60's/early 70's if I remember right. Overall a fairly good issue of Eerie in my eyes.

I was never really into the sword and sorcery type stories at Warren, which they will do many of over the years. Dax the Warrior I like but that is a long way off at this point. I think Ditko will get several of such stories over the next few issues before he departs Warren for good. "Piece by Piece" I don't mind so much because Orlando has a chance to go fairly over the top, and most of his stories around this time tend to be those extremely bland Adam Link stories so at least he does something different. I definitely see the HP Lovecraft influence in "The Beckoning Beyond" although I think the story "From Beyond" is more of an influence than "Cool Air". Great to see Neal Adams' debut. A rather iffy story, but he'll do some pretty strong stuff soon.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Q99! I think we're on the same page with these two issues. Adams has a great story in the next Eerie. I'm befuddled by Orlando and his ghost artists and can't tell what he really drew anymore.