Monday, August 12, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 14: September/ October 1967

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

Eerie #11 (September 1967)

"Witch Hunt!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Joe Orlando

"To Slay a Dragon!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jeff Jones

"The Mummy"
Based on the Universal Film
Adapted by Russ Jones
Art by Dan Adkins & Wally Wood
(Reprinted from Monster World #1, November 1964)

Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Blood Fruit!"
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

"The Monster From One Billion B.C."★1/2
Story and Art by Tom Sutton

"Big Change!"★1/2
Story by Ron Whyte (White?)
Art by Larry Woromay

"First Blood"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Witch Hunt!"
Three friends find their friend Glover dead in a swamp, surrounded by poisonous snakes, and they hear the laughter of the swamp witch who has killed every able-bodied man in the nearby village. The survivors have brought in Styron, a witch hunter, to help, but the witch tricks them into splitting up and Bates nearly drowns in quicksand. A flaming cross is fashioned but when the witch appears she summons up a giant swamp thing. Bates is knocked out and, when he awakens, he sees Styron using his powers to destroy the witch. Styron tells Bates that he's a warlock and, now that the witch is out of the way, he's taking over the neighborhood.

Eerie 11 is not off to a great start with a terrible cover by Joe Orlando and an opening story by the same artist who, despite his years of experience at EC, continues to disappoint readers with sloppy pages and nearly incomprehensible attempts at storytelling--when he is actually drawing the pages attributed to him and not letting ghosts do the work. Goodwin's story for "Witch Hunt!" is also confusing, as if he felt the need to throw as much swamp muck against a rotten tree to see what would stick. The surprise ending, where a seemingly good character turns out the be worse than the villain who was just defeated, is wearing thin.

"To Slay a Dragon!"
A knight and his grumpy squire seek "To Slay a Dragon!" It is said that if one bathes in a dragon's blood, one becomes invulnerable, and the knight is determined to test this out. They find the dragon and the knight attacks; after a long battle, the knight succeeds in killing the beast with a sword in its eye. The squire kills the knight and takes his place, bathing in the dragon's blood in order to become invulnerable, but what he didn't reckon was that said bath also makes one transform into a dragon!

I am not overly familiar with the work of Jeff Jones, but this story is well told and pleasing to look at. I have said before that I like spare panels with white backgrounds, and Jones makes good use of the technique here, though some of his humans are a bit lacking in detail. The story would be trite in the hands of a less creative artist.

"The Mummy!"
When "The Mummy" comes to life and finds a beautiful young woman who strongly resembles his lover from thousands of years ago, he plans to kill and mummify her, but when she prays to a statue of Isis, the statue vaporizes her attacker before he can carry out the deed.

I know it's a reprint, but I've not read it before and I loved it, probably because I love the movie. Adkins and Wood use stills to draw from the classic film and the pages look gorgeous. In six pages, they capture the essence of the film, especially those piercing Karloff eyes. Reading this adaptation makes me want to see the film again!

A moody man named Egaeus has a beautiful and carefree cousin named "Berenice!" who is suddenly stricken with epilepsy. She awakens from her trance but Egaeus begins to fixate on inanimate objects. One day, her visit to him causes her to smile and Egaeus finds himself obsessing about her white teeth. Berenice dies and is buried, but Egaeus opens her grave and extracts all of her teeth. Unfortunately for Berenice, she was not dead, but only suffering another epileptic fit.

Leave it to good old Edgar Allan Poe to deliver a story that really is horrible! I haven't read the original (at least, not that I remember), so the ending did come as something of a shock. Once again, I find myself enjoying Grandenetti's surreal, almost Pop Art approach to storytelling. His bizarre panels and lines mesh perfectly with Poe's examination of a tortured mind.

"The Blood Fruit!"
Four grad students travel with Professor Thomas Breen to a South Sea island to gather data for their masters theses. The first night, a student named Jerry snacks on "The Blood Fruit!" that he found while out on a hike, and the sight of the berry reminds Professor Breen that he's visited this island before. Breen digs out his notes and finds reference to the fruit in rituals performed long ago by the now-extinct islanders; it was said that a taste of the berry allowed the high priest to control the people who were sacrificed to a cave god. Better yet, when they ran out of human sacrifices, the islanders began plying the god with treasure!

Breen eats a berry and wishes Jerry dead. In the morning, Jerry is found dead of a heart attack, and the professor believes in the power of the berries. He locates a cave near where Jerry found the blood fruit and sends another student named George in to explore it; a scream soon comes from inside the cave, and Breen and the two remaining students rush in to find Jerry's severed arm floating in a pool of water. Never one to be deterred from his goal, Breen thinks he's found the treasure and tells Jim and Tess, the two students, of his awful plan. They deem him insane and flee the cave, while Breen discovers that the treasure is junk and the cave god is real. Outside, Tess eats a berry and says that she wishes Breen were dead--a scream from inside suggests that her wish has been granted.

Johnny Craig packs a few stories' worth of plot into eight pages and illustrates it with his classic flair, but it's all a bit much to digest. The whole business with the blood fruit being used to control other peoples' destinies is a little shaky, and it's never clear if the deaths are caused by the fruit or just coincidental. Still, it's another enjoyable story in what (so far) is an above-average issue of Eerie.

"The Monster from One Billion B.C."
The rushes for C.B. Goodheart's latest horror flick, "The Monster from One Billion B.C.," are not satisfying the producer, who complains that special effects wizard Fenster isn't on his game and needs to do better. Fenster reasons that it's impossible to be more accurate about a T-Rex, seeing as they've been extinct for "a billion years," but Goodheart demands realism. Little wonder, since Fenster has spent decades providing very realistic monsters for Goodheart's films, creatures he's found or dug up and reanimated. Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man--all the real deal, and all revived by FX wizard Fenster.

Goodheart bursts in on Fenster and says he's known the secret all along. He demands that Fenster make a convincing giant lizard and so Fenster does what he does best: when the cameras roll, a horrible T-Rex strides onto the set, animated by what's left of the heart and brain of none other than C.B. Goodheart!

It's great to see Tom Sutton at Warren; he's someone whose work I enjoyed at Charlton in the '70s. His work, especially in this story, has an underground comix vibe that reminds me in spots of the work of R. Crumb. Here, he writes and draws a love letter to classic monster movies and the men who created them, although the denouement doesn't make a ton of sense (but then neither do many Goodwin conclusions). How exactly does C.B. Goodheart make a T-Rex more realistic?

Noooo indeed!
("Big Change!")
Con artists Harry and Jane are on the lam from the law in New York City, so they hide out in the small town of Nortonville, where they are hired by disabled millionaire Martin Foster to help out around the house and keep him company. One thing leads to another and Martin marries Jane; Harry and Jane eventually reveal their treachery to the old man and withhold his medicine, allowing him to slump over in his wheelchair, presumably dead.

But wait! He turns into a werewolf and kills them both. It seems the medicine was the only thing keeping him from getting all hairy at the full moon, and the weakness and debilitated condition were side effects. Next morning, Martin is back in his wheelchair, thinking about putting an ad out for new housekeepers.

"Big Change!" does not have a terrible script, but it does suffer from the Warren curse of pulling a classic monster out of nowhere when the script runs out of gas. Larry Woromay's art is really poor, especially compared to what else we've seen this issue.

Peter Grimes awakens from his coffin to discover that he's become a vampire! The last thing he remembers is having been on the way to visit his fiance, Lenore, when he was attacked, bitten, and killed by one of the undead. Now he has long, pointy teeth and a driving hunger. His target for "First Blood" is a young woman walking alone, but the cross she wears on a chain around her neck drives him away. He decides to head for Lenore's house and uses his mental powers to draw her out to him. They struggle and he bites her neck, only to find she's bloodless! She laughs and tells him that she's a vampire, too--in fact, she's the one who killed him! The morning sun vaporizes poor Peter before he even gets to taste blood.

And what of Lenore? Doesn't she get vaporized as well? Another silly vampire story made pretty good by Gene Colan's fine draftsmanship and creative page designs. Still, these magazines are relying overly much on vampires and werewolves and, for goodness sake, they sure could have used a proofreader!-Jack

Peter-Though a much better version of "Berenice" will appear in Creepy #70, I'll give Jerry Grandenetti points for his atmospheric work here. Jerry continues to astound my expectations (and, I suspect, those of my compadre, Jack) by riding a Good Art/Bad Art seesaw. The panel of the ghostly Berenice (reprinted to the left) is haunting and effective. Those are two adjectives no one in their right mind would apply to Joe Orlando's doodles on "Witch Hunt!," a truly awful "She's a witch but I'm a warlock" mess; Archie's "shock" ending comes right out of nowhere and makes no sense at all. Orlando quilted together some of the panels and got an extra chunk of change for the wretched cover as well. Gray and Frank had obviously upped their rate by this time.

It's good to see Wally Wood's name back in a Warren zine but only bits of his style bleed through Dan Adkins's cohabitation. Still, this Universal adaptation is oodles better than the follow-up below. I didn't think much of either art or script for "To Slay a Dragon!" but, as I said before, Jeff Jones could be an acquired taste. Johnny Craig's script for "The Blood Fruit!" is a mish-mash of ideas that never really gels and it looks as though someone might have given his pencils a rough inking. The bottom of the barrel we're about to be dumped in gets a good scraping with the odiferous "Big Change!" (penciled by Atlas pre-code mainstay Larry Woromay in his only Warren appearance), scripted by Ron Whyte (who may be the Ron White who delivers a much better script in our next outing). Even amongst this issue's weak offerings, this one stands out like a month-old fish in the fridge. Gene Colan does what he can with the dopey script Archie provided for "First Blood" (if Lenore is a vampire too, how come she's not disintegrating in the climax as well?), fabricating magic with his pen and inks. I love the oddball panel arrangements. Tom Sutton phones in his first script for Warren but, despite the similarities between "The Monster From One Billion B.C." (which would be reprinted the following year in Famous Monsters of Filmland #48) and "Image in Wax" (in Creepy #17, below), Tom certainly knew his way around the classic monsters. I can't be too hard on Sutton for the meandering script since it was also the first pro sale he'd ever made. As I hammer home in my comments for "Image in Wax!," Tom Sutton will only get better.

Creepy #17 (October 1967)

"Zombies!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"Thundering Terror!" 
Story by Clark Dimond & Terry Bisson
Art by John Severin

"Mummy's Hand" 
Based on the Universal Film
Adapted by Russ Jones
Art by Joe Orlando
(Reprinted from Monster World #2, January 1965)

"Heritage of Horror!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Norman Nodel

"Image in Wax!"  ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Tom Sutton

"A Night's Lodging!" 
Story by Rhea Dunne
Art by Maurice Whitman

"The Haunted Sky!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Roger Brand

Subtitled: The Issue Where the Wheels Fell Off. Archie's last issue. A gaffe on the splash page of  "A Night's Loding!" Cousin Eerie "guest-hosts" "Thundering Terror!" Our first glimpse at a Warren Universe sans Steve Ditko. A reprint from Monster World. Monster World, ferchrissakes! But if you think this is bad, just wait 'til next time.

Harris gets the scoop on the zombie rituals he's been sent to nab but when the natives catch him snapping shots of their ultra-secret ceremony, they come after him. Harris is much too fast but his guide is caught and his heart cut out. The guide then comes to call on Harris in the middle of the night, explaining that the witch doctors seek his company. Harris hoofs it into the jungle and finally to the beach. When he remembers that zombies snap out of their spell if they come into contact with salt water, he wades into the deep. Too late, he realizes he's waded into the Amazon, full of fresh water. The whole set-up of "Zombies!" is ripped off from several pre-code voodoo stories and the payoff is a stretch. That leaves us with Rocco's so-so visuals, which mostly avoid the gruesome and highlight talking heads. Skip this one.

"Mummy's Hand"
Johnny is obsessed with shooting buffalo, to the detriment of his life and relationship with his brother. Even when the herds have dwindled, Johnny soldiers on until he's tracking that one last buffalo. "Thundering Terror!" has a cliched and boring strip with a silly and confused climax but I can recommend it for two reasons: I'm a sucker for a western/horror hybrid and it's illustrated by John Severin. Enough to squeak by, in my book.

Joe Orlando's artwork for his adaptation of Universal's The Mummy's Hand (a 1940 film renowned for little else than being the one that doesn't star Karloff or Chaney and, instead, features a cowboy star as the bandaged beastie) is not bad, but that faint praise is weighted with the knowledge that Joe was basing most of his art on studio stills (I know because I've seen lots of those panels in Famous Monsters at one time or another) and not pure imagination. That half-pager of George Zucco and Kaharis (I have no idea why Orlando chose to pop in an extra "a" in Kharis's name) is pretty sweet, though.

"Heritage of Horror!"
Christine marries John Daxland for his riches and power, despite his shady background and checkered lineage. Daxland's ancestors were executioners, handy with an ax when needed and, after Christine learns all about John's "Heritage of Horror!," she's having nightmares about falling under the blade herself. In the end, John proves to Christine he's no axeman as he raises her high in a noose. Archie's variation on one of those Italian Gothic horrors (usually starring Christopher Lee) falls flat on its unatmospheric face thanks to a predictable plot line and generic art from Norman Nodel. It's hard to feel sympathetic for a woman so stupid as Christine. Is Daxland really an executioner? There's no way of telling what this guy does in his spare time.

Even the Manster gets in on the act
at Renais's House of Horrors!

Image in Wax!"
Gerald Vigo covets the masterful craftsmanship of Claude Renais's waxworks: the artistry, the life-like qualities. Vigo's wax museum pales in comparison to Renais's house of horrors. How does Renais do it? No amount of begging will tear the secret from the master and Vigo is left with only one option: murder. Vigo sneaks in one night and tosses a torch at Renais but the outcome is not what Vigo had imagined. The skin melts off Renais as if he were made of wax! Suddenly, Renais's monsters enter the room and explain that they are the real deal and Renais was the wax figure. Now they need a new housekeeper!

Despite the cliched script and even more predictable "twist," "Image in Wax!" is infinitely more readable than anything else in issue #17 for one simple reason: Tom Sutton. Even though Sutton's genius is still in its infancy (though you can see one of Sutton's "old man" trademarks in panel 2 of page 40), it's clear that this guy was something special. Sutton excelled at the Lovecraftian horror (and he was never more free or fanciful as when he was with Charlton in the mid-1970s), but "Image in Wax!" reminds me that Tom could handle anything. He was the 1970s' answer to Ghastly Graham Ingels and, on a personal note, responsible for my favorite Warren story of all time. But we'll get to that in about six years' time.

"A Night's Lodging!"
After his carriage breaks down, Conrad Ernst is approached by a coven of vampires, hoping to have Ernst over for dinner. Conrad begs for his life, insisting that he, a hotel magnate, will build a fabulous getaway spot where travelers can be served up on a platter. The hotel is built but the fresh blood runs out very quickly and the vampires demand more. Ernst does his best to fill the hotel but visitors dwindle. Then one night, Conrad answers a pounding on his door to discover a whole passel of new guests. Well, actually they're the old guests returned as vampires. If the general plot of this dreary mess sounds familiar to you, you're probably remembering the very similar "The Invitation," way back in Creepy #8. That one also had the central character making a deal for life with a clutch of the undead. Artist Maurice Whitman comes across as a poor man's Pat Boyette to me; there's nothing exciting or imaginative being done here and the finale, in particular, is fumbled badly. Whitman was an artist whose work extends way back into the 1940s (including a boatload of war and western material for Charlton in the 50s) but "A Night's Lodging!" (or "A Night's Loding!" if you believe the splash) was his sole credit for Warren.

"The Haunted Sky!"
Colonel Bryant Clinton breaks all speed records in the experimental RPX-19C jet but then mysteriously crashes his plane. His badly burned body is pulled from the wreckage and the jet manufacturers are able to glean a story from the Colonel before he dies. Unable to resist pushing the boundaries of flight in the RPX-19C, Clinton soars higher than any plane has ever been but then experiences supernatural phenomena. All the dead fighter pilots Clinton had served with in the war float above the clouds and urge the colonel to join them. After Clinton dies, his bosses are informed that there was an audio tape pulled from the wreckage that proves the colonel was not alone in "The Haunted Sky!" A good, solid read with some spare but effective Roger Brand graphics (in his big-league debut). Brand only contributed a few pieces to the Warrens (and his best work arrives next time out), but his stuff was memorable, stark and gripping; it was only natural that his biggest splash was in the Underground. Dan Adkins, in an interview published in Comic Book Artist #14 (Twomorrows, July 2001), revealed that "The Haunted Sky!" was written for him by Archie but a Marvel project took precedence, so he handed the job over to Brand. The splash was done by Adkins. -Peter

Jack-I liked "Thundering Terror!" best out of the offerings in this issue, mainly because of the great art by John Severin, who has become one of my favorites. I also liked that there was very little of the supernatural in the story, other than a ghost and his wagon. It made me wonder if the story was originally done for Creepy or not. Next best is "Image in Wax!" with that nice Sutton art, though Goodwin's script is weak and predictable. "Zombies!" is forgettable, even though it reminded me of the great Night Stalker episode where Kolchak has to climb in the back of the hearse with a bag of salt and sew it into the zombie's mouth.

Much like the Mummy film series, "Mummy's Hand" shows a decline in quality from the Mummy adaptation in Eerie the month before, and "A Night's Lodging!" is yet another vampire story with mediocre art and a puzzling final page that seems tacked on. "The Haunted Sky!" features lettering that looks like what we see in stories by Alex Toth and art that has faint echoes of Krigstein here and there; the story is original though not particularly compelling.

Next Week...
Archie Goodwin returns to Midway!


Quiddity99 said...

And so the Archie Goodwin era comes to an end. This era of Warren garners almost universal praise, but you two were a lot more down on it than what I'm used to seeing. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The stories had gotten repetitive quite a while ago and your coverage of it has evidenced that. Goodwin writing somewhere around 90% of the stories himself shows just how overworked he was, and thankfully Warren for the rest of its run spreads its stories across a wider number of writers.

The bigger blow is the mass departure of the nearly all of Warren's artists; we will see Warren work its way through some inventory stories over the next few issues, but aside from those, Angelo Torres, Steve Ditko, Eugene Colan, Johnny Craig and Joe Orlando are all gone for good while John Severin, Alex Toth, Grey Morrow, Reed Crandall, Wally Wood, Jerry Grandenetti and others will be absent for quite a while. Not to mention those Frank Frazetta covers! Bye to those for a while as well. I'm interested in seeing how you guys are going to start handling things when we soon get into issues that are at least half reprints.

The emergence of Tom Sutton is quite a boon for Warren though, his style is quite a bit different than much of what Warren has featured to this point, but it suits horror and sci-fi extremely well. By my count he is the most prolific American born artist for Warren, doing approximately 60 stories (in fact he's the only American born artist in their top 10 most prolific artists, which just goes to show how much the Spanish and Filipino artists dominate later on). Speaking of Ghastly Graham Ingels he does a tribute story for him eventually, although that is a super far way off (one of his last stories in fact).

As for these issues themselves, the Eerie one is pretty decent, as your ratings would indicate, also I believe the first Warren issue to have 8 stories, something that is quite the rarity. Tom Sutton's debut, Eugene Colan's finale, a strong Poe adaption drawn by Grandenetti (whom you seem to be coming more and more on my side on...), good stuff from Jones and Craig as well. I don't even mind the cover that much.

Creepy on the other hand is fairly mediocre, "A Night's Lodging" in particular is quite pathetic being nothing more than a redrawn version of "The Invitation" as you mentioned. Tom Sutton's story aside not much I liked here. One last Frazetta cover. Roger Brand doesn't do much for Warren, but we will see his wife work for them quite a number of years down the line.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think of Tom Sutton as a “One Man EC Band” — besides Ghastly Ingels, I see flashes of Jack Davis, Wally Wood and even Bernie Kriegstein in his stuff.

In any case — I adore him. HUGE fan.


Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment! I always read them and pay close attention.

Peter Enfantino said...

Which is more than you can say about the war comics you rave about! (smiley face emoji inserted here)

Peter Enfantino said...

Quid- As far as the blog goes during the "Dark Ages," we'll just double (and sometimes triple) up on our coverage since each issue will have no more than four new stories. I've already read most of them and about 90% is swill (no spoilers there for those of us who've read this stuff before). If I wasn't the completist, I'd talk Jack into skipping the whole era altogether.

Quid & BT- I cannot stress enough just what a pleasure it is to gaze upon the work of Tom Sutton. His material is virtually the only thing worth reading during that long stretch of garbage Warren published from 1968-1970. Sutton starts off a little weak (and much of that has to do with the material) but, by 71 or 72, he's going to be the best artist in the bullpen. Since we're covering so many of the issues in each post, the "Dark Age" will be over before we know it.