Monday, January 6, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 24: June-July 1970

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

Creepy #33 (June 1970)

"One Too Many!" 
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by William Barry

"Royal Guest" 
Story and Art by Pat Boyette

"Blue Mum Day"  
Story by R. Michael Rosen
Art by Reed Crandall

"Dr. Jekyll Was Right" 
Story by Bill Warren
Art by Bill Fraccio & Tony Tallarico

"I'm Only In It For the Money" 
Story by Al Hewetson
Art by Juan Lopez Ramon

"The Full Service" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Jack Sparling

"Boxed In!" 
Story and Art by Tom Sutton

("One Too Many!")
Clyde scours the universe for animals to stock his zoo back on Earth but a discombobulated fratastat leaves him stranded on a distant world. As per intergalactic rules, Clyde zaps all his animals dead so they won't escape onto a "Class K planet." Well, at least he thinks he gets them all but... a Kron manages to escape and, one year later, when Clyde and a small party return to the planet to salvage the wreckage, Clyde discovers it only takes one Kron to populate a planet.

I hate to complain about the brevity of a really bad story but it seems writer Buddy Saunders forgot to write a climax to "One Too Many!" The action comes to a screeching halt and we're left in the middle of a scene shortly after the not-so-remarkable twist. Bill Barry's art also remains unremarkable. For no apparent reason other than to inject cheesecake, the female member of the salvage party wears what appears to be a one-piece bathing suit (which she doffs in one peek-a-boo panel)!

"Royal Guest"
As the Black Plague sweeps through Europe, decimating the population, the King of Koenigstahl must hide his wife away in a remote castle, watched over by a kindly old man and his grandson. The Queen has been sequestered because she is a carrier of the plague who, unfortunately, infects the young man. He later spreads the disease through the village. A really bad synopsis, I'll grant you, but that is the gist of the story. It's a well-told one and, more importantly, a gorgeously-rendered one as well. That amazing style Pat Boyette first hinted at in "The Rescue of the Morning Maid" way back in Creepy #18 finds itself maturing with each successive contribution. Boyette's castle reminds one of the great crumbling behemoths found in the Corman/Poe flicks of the early 60s and his scenes of the destruction wrought by the Plague are grim and memorable. Boyette and Sutton are keeping this boat afloat until help arrives.

"Blue Mum Day"
Yet another pack of blithering archaeologists unearth the tomb of mummy Arem-Bay, put to living death thousands of years before. What's more fascinating than a crumbling mummy to a bunch of culotte-clad eggheads? Why, the "blue spirit stone from the sky" found within close proximity of Arem-Bay's sarcophagus; a glowing hunk of rock that may or may not be a radioactive meteorite. As with most of these expeditions, the members begin dying off one by one, with the only clue a strange blue powder found on the throats of the victims. Is it the mummy, arisen to bring forth the prophecy of death to any who desecrate the tomb?

Well, kinda. The twist itself is not a bad one but the reveal (that one of the survivors was infected all along) is trite and unconvincing. But, then again, "Blue Mum-Day" is about a killer rock from outer space so some leeway may be given. The art reminds one that Reed Crandall is just about the only thread left from the EC gang who made up the first batch of Warrens a few years before.

Frallarico nails an ogre...
no, wait, it's Mr. Hyde, sorry.
("Dr. Jekyll Was Right")
Next up is the abysmal "Dr. Jekyll Was Right," wherein genre film expert Bill Warren (who would have torn something like this a new one if it had graced the silver screen) does absolutely nothing with that old "my grandfather was misunderstood" trope Universal used to trot out every year for one of their monster rallies. The art is hideous (as usual) with the requisite Frallarico ogre popping up on page two as the not-so-fearsome Mr. Hyde.

The script and art woes continue on "I'm Only In It For the Money," about the selfish host of "That's My Line," a TV show that takes its viewers where they've never been before. Emcee Ted Williams travels into the jungle to bring back photographic proof of voodoo rituals but (surprise! surprise! surprise!) finds himself part of the shrunken head ritual. The twist is telegraphed from afar and Lopez Ramon looks like he studied Joe Orlando at art school (not a good thing). This is another story that brings to mind the Eerie Publications output at about the same time.

Who's on First?
("The Full Service")
After a car accident leaves his beloved wife, Laurine, dead, Wes Brookfield is not certain he can go on, but the Mortz Brothers Funeral Home may have a solution to the man's agony. That night, while walking home, Wes is punched in the face by a mysterious man and then has visions of death. Upon returning home, he's somewhat surprised to see Laurine waiting for him! Somehow, the Mortz Brothers managed to send Wes back in time to before the accident but now he must be sure he doesn't make the same mistake twice. "The Full Service" is a confusing and sloppy mess with a head-scratcher of an ending and typically garish visuals from Jack Sparling (poor Wes looks like he ages back and forth from panel to panel); I have no idea what message writer Cuti is trying to put across in the final panels and I don't care.

"Boxed In!"
Bert chooses Jim-Jim to be "It!" and the other kids never argue with Bert since he's the biggest kid in the group. So Bert thinks it would be cool to stick Jim-Jim in a coffin-shaped wooden box and who's to argue? Then, why not nail the "coffin" lid shut? Sounds great! Luckily for Jim-Jim, just as Bert decides it would be neato to actually bury the box, a group of adults comes along and breaks up the fun. The kids scatter, leaving Jim-Jim in the box. Bert thinks this is hilarious but, hours later, decides he'd better go back and let the little guy out of the box. He arrives just in time to see the garbage man toss the wooden box in the grinder. Terrified, Bert runs home to contemplate his next move.

His next move is interrupted by the ghost of Jim-Jim, who howls "let me out of the box, Bert!" as the terrified kid does an exit, stage right. Bert runs down to the dock where he hides in an abandoned refrigerator but the door locks and, in a panic, the boy begins to rock his prison back and forth. The fridge tips off the pier and into the water just as Jim-Jim and his friends walk by, astonished that Bert fell for their prank.

"Boxed In!"
The first certified "classic Warren" since Phase One ended, "Boxed In!" is a sick and delightful piece of madness with a brilliant script and graphics. Obviously inspired by Ray Bradbury (and featuring a cast eerily similar to the ghoul-kids Sutton created for "No Fair" back in #22) in the script department and Eisner, art-wise (that final panel could have been pulled whole cloth from a Spirit tale), "Boxed In!" features a boatload of classic images. Bert's demented grimace while he nails the coffin lid; his "ulp" when he witnesses the box lifted and tossed into the back of the grinder; Jim-Jim's moaning "corpse"; and especially that fridge heading for the drink. Jim Warren wisely awarded Sutton the "Bradbury" at the 1971 Warren Awards, realizing that the artist was his Bradbury.-Peter

Jack-I agree that "Boxed In!" is the best of the bunch in this issue. Sutton seems to be at his best with stories involving kids, though I did not make the Bradbury connection, which is a good point. Reed Crandall's art on "Blue Mum Day" is not his best work but it's still great, though the story is muddled. "Royal Guest" features a haunting story and art to match. The rest of the stories are not worth a mention. In the letters column, there is a missive complaining at length about the proofreading, something we've complained about as well. Uncle Creepy identifies the proofreader as Noah Moresky, though our host claims Noah has trouble with English and his eyesight is failing. Despite this colloquy, the very first story has problems with proofreading! The fan page features a bio of Pat Boyette that reports that he made three movies and, lo and behold, a search on IMDb shows this to be true!

Kelly & Frazetta
Vampirella #6 (July 1970)

"The Curse of Circe"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Brothers Death"
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Jack Sparling

Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Mike Royer

"New Girl in Town!"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Dan Adkins

"Victim of the Vampyre!"
Story by Vern Bennett
Art by Frank Belle

"One Way Trip!"
Story by Larry Herndon
Art by Bill Fraccio & Tony Tallarico

"The Wolf-Man"★1/2
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Frank Bolle

"The Curse of Circe"
When a Mediterranean cruise ship strikes an invisible wall, Paul Madden is thrown overboard. Washing up on an island, he meets a beauty named Helen, who warns him that the island is unsafe. He ignores her warnings and is drawn to the beautiful Circe, who feeds him and sleeps with him. Unfortunately, the next morning he wakes up to find he has been transformed into a boar by "The Curse of Circe." Helen gives him an antidote and the two try to escape by swimming into the ocean, but they drown and their corpses wash up on another island, where fishermen marvel at their odd garments.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess, since I was happy to see a story drawn by our old punching bag, Jerry Grandenetti. I quite enjoyed the art, which is definitely an acquired taste, and the story is reasonably entertaining until it ends with a thud.

Ever since her father died, pretty Marie has been obsessed by death. She buys a book at an old bookstore and out of the book comes Christiana, a blonde who takes Marie to the Plains of Death and the Castle of Clove. There she meets "The Brothers Death," who include Clove, the man who will make Marie his queen. The brothers ride out on the Plains and kill Mink, Digester of Souls, but this act brings upon them the wrath of Gurn, Mink's master. Clove slays Gurn, allowing lost souls to make their way to Paradise, and he is reunited with his beloved Marie.

("The Brothers Death")

I think that's what happens in this godawful story, which has some of the worst proofreading yet. The plot makes little sense and Sparling's art is really starting to get on my nerves. I had always thought Nicola Cuti was a great comic writer, based on E-Man, but his Warren work is pretty bad.

A shy, aging magician named "Darkworth!" hires a beautiful stripper named Sandy Churchill to be his new assistant but, while he falls in love with her and proposes to her, she betrays him and plans to disclose the secret of his greatest trick to his rival. Darkworth's caveman-like helper, Togo, murders Sandy and Darkworth goes ahead with the performance of his big illusion: escaping from an underground grave! Too bad the trick depends on his being able to crawl through a subterranean tunnel and emerge from an empty grave, since that very grave has now been filled in with the recently-buried Sandy.

Somewhat more coherent than the story that immediately precedes it and featuring more skilled art by Mike Royer, "Darkworth!" is good enough for most of its length but again suffers from a rather confusing climax. Perhaps Cuti was still learning how to plot and tell a story as of 1970?

The not-so-scary climax of
"New Girl in Town!"
The "New Girl in Town!" walks the streets looking for some action, but the guys are creepy and everything looks broken and run down. Why did her parents move here? As she approaches home, it turns out to be the graveyard and she is dead.

Gardner Fox must have pulled out an old EC comic when he tossed off this four-page waste of time, which Dan Adkins draws with such little verve that the payoff isn't even a shock. It's obvious something's wrong when the main character keeps her back turned throughout the story, but the payoff panel in which we see her supposedly decaying face is a complete letdown.

Soon after Kurt Bukov returns to his family's castle in the Carpathian Mountains, his wife Lisa falls ill. Father Koenig visits and Lisa is soon a "Victim of the Vampyre!" The priest knows the foul fiend and helps Kurt set a trip to end the blood sucker's reign and save Lisa's life.

"Victim of the Vampyre!"
A mediocre story with no surprises, Bennett and Bolle present a tale that seems like an adaptation of an old story and reminds me of the entries that Warren reprinted awhile back from Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror.

Mike Davis is in the hospital, suffering from a bad drug trip. The doc gives him a shot to try to bring him out of it but, meanwhile, Davis is trapped inside his own mind, where he comes face to face with a horrible monster that represents the evil born in every man. Just as the creature is about to destroy Davis, Mike comes out of it and awakens. The doctor gives him something to make him sleep, but later that night Davis wakes up to find that the monster has been freed from his mind and now menaces him in reality.

Frallarico Tusky-Thing Take 27
Fraccio and Tallarico's art is so uninspired that it makes Grandenetti look like a master. The idea of a bad trip--or a "One Way Trip!" as the title tells us--is corny and the monster from Mike Davis's mind is more silly than scary.

Mavis Deering tells her lover, David Stewart, that she wants him to kill her husband Roger. They go to Roger's house with a rifle but Mavis is upset when she sees that Roger is cheating on her with another woman. Mavis and David follow Roger and his "'bit of cheap fluff'" to Roger's mountain cabin, where Mavis convinces David that Roger is a werewolf. David shoots a wolf, thinking it's Roger, and Mavis shoots Roger's girlfriend. It turns out that Roger discovered a way to transfer his mind to the body of a wolf and vice versa; the body of Roger with a wolf's mind kills David and advances on Mavis.

"The Wolf-Man"
And thus ends a pretty poor issue of Vampirella. Buddy Saunders tries so hard to surprise the reader that he ends up writing a confusing mess. Mavis thinks Roger is a werewolf and has David shoot him (don't even ask if the bullet was silver), but then she finds a tape recording of Roger discussing his experiments with wolves, and as she is killed we hear the tape explaining the idea of mind transfer. Frank Bolle's art is nothing special, either. Peter may disagree, but the best thing about Vampirella is the good-looking female characters. I think anyone plunking down two quarters for a mag named Vampirella with a hot, half-naked female vampire narrator has good reason to expect a lot of hot chicks in the stories inside.-Jack

Peter-The problem I have with a lot of the scripts that make up Vampirella is that most of the men come off as chauvinistic and all the chicks have big boobs. Were these the #1 and #2 requirements listed on Jim Warren's Writer's Guidelines handout? A typical string of dialogue (lifted from this issue's opening act, "The Curse of Circe") goes something like this:

Circe: Helen! Bring the young man to me!
Helen: It's too late now... too late!
Paul: Man--what a dish!

Gardner Fox's script is typically pulpy and goes nowhere sloooowly. JG manages to contribute a few keeper panels but the whole thing is confusing as hell. "The Brothers Death" lost me somewhere around the part where Clove had to fight Gurn for the globe of life. This goofy, nonsensical fantasy crap is just not floating my boat. And do I need to bring up the editing--or lack thereof--again (The whole purpose of life is to producing (sic) plump soul (sic) to be fed to this protoplasmic blob.)?

Hard to believe Warren was paying professional rates for tripe such as "New Girl in Town!" (oh no! I've been dead the whole time!) or "Victim of the Vampyre!" Frallarico manage to top themselves each issue and I'm almost looking forward to each trip into their nightmare ghoulash. There is, of course, the obligatory Tusked-Demon-Thing present in "One Way Trip!" "Victim of the Vampyre!" and "The Wolf-Man" both have the same kind of bland and boring art that "graced" those awful Christopher Lee Treasury reprints we had to wade through a few months back. You almost expect to see numbers in all the white spots. But I laughed out loud at the panel where Roger/Wolf catches a bullet. "Darkworth!" is not too bad... well, when compared to the rest of the issue that is. At this point, Vampirella is still a showcase for very bad horror stories but a change is on the horizon.

Eerie #28 (July 1970)

"The Hidden Evils!"
Story by James Haggenmiller
Art by Dan Adkins

"The Beast in the Swamp!"
Story by Bill Warren
Art by Billy Graham

"The Rescue Party!"
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Jack Sparling

"Follow Apollo!"★1/2
Story by R. Michael Rosen
Art by Tom Sutton

"Ice Scream"
Story by R. Michael Rosen
Art by Bill DuBay

"Pit of Evil"
Story by Al Hewetson
Art by Dick Piscopo

"The Last Train to Orion!"
Story and Art by Pat Boyette

In the Spanish town of Los Flores, the mayor's son has been possessed by a demon! The townsfolk ask Padre Lorenzo to drive out "The Hidden Evils!" but the demon is too powerful for the man of God. Along comes another man named Astan, who says he can do the deed. The mayor's son is captured and Astan performs an exorcism that succeeds in driving the demon out of the mayor's son. When the demon advances on Astan, it is revealed that Astan is really Satan, who was mad at the demon for possessing the mayor's son. Satan wanted the mayor, not his son.

Of late, the Warren mags emit a lot of evil gas...
("The Hidden Evils!")

Nine pages and that's the best conclusion they can come up with? Having Satan use an anagram of his own name (Astan) was a dead giveaway, but I was hoping for something more. Haggenmiller's script and Adkins's art are both adequate, nothing more.

Peter does not appreciate this
gratuitous display of female flesh.
("The Beast in the Swamp!")
Sorik the Barbarian is not a popular guy after killing a sorceress, yet a hot chick wearing next to nothing asks him for help after her Pop has been fried to a crisp by a flamebeast. Returning to her village, he is soon blamed for another flamebeast barbecue and thrown into a pit, where he uses his big sword to kill a scary swamp creature. Eventually he discovers that the flamebeast was really an Earth astronaut, who has been killed by some monkeys.

Obviously, there are many people who like Conan etc., but I've never been one of them. I just can't be bothered to pay attention to all of the weird names and apostrophes. Billy Graham continues to demonstrate his mastery of human anatomy, and his art is much better than any number of other folks toiling in the Warren bullpen at this point, but the whole thing is a chore to read and seemed much longer than eight pages.

"The Rescue Party!"
A greedy coal mine owner named Verlin Dayke sits alone at the bottom of a mine, trapped and fearing for his life. He thinks back to all of the times he neglected to ensure the safety of his workers and laments having been at the bottom of a mine conducting an inspection when it collapsed. He hears digging and has a spark of hope, yet his enthusiasm is dimmed when "The Rescue Party!" breaks through the rock wall and he sees that it is comprised of the skeletons of workers who had died due to his callousness.

Where do they get these names? Verlin Dayke? This is not a bad story and I must admit I did not see the end coming in advance, which is somewhat rare in a Warren story. Jack Sparling's art is as usual, though for a change there are no busty young ladies in the mine. The only women in the story are a trio of miner's wives, all of whom are fully clothed and whose faces look like they were drawn by Jack Davis, of all people.

"Follow Apollo!"
The first mission to the moon goes awry when one of the astronauts rips open his space suit and freezes to death in the moon's harsh environment. On the trip back to Earth, the astronaut comes back to life so, after the module lands, the astronauts are quarantined to make sure they did not bring home any moon germs. After a second astronaut dies and returns to life, it is revealed that the two spacemen are actually walking corpses harboring moon germs. The scientists finish testing the trio and find nothing wrong, so they let them out of quarantine, unaware that the moon germs will soon emerge and attack, spreading all over the planet.

Tom Sutton's art is the best thing about this one, which continues to demonstrate a distressing trend in Eerie: too much warmed-over science fiction and sword and sorcery and not enough horror! Of course, moon stories were all the rage in the wake of the real moon landing the summer before, but "Follow Apollo!" is not very original or interesting.

"Ice Scream"
Bodies are disappearing from the cryogenics unit at an alarming rate and the press and public demand to know who is responsible! The director blames poor Dr. James and gives him a daily dressing down, but when the director develops a sudden blood clot on his brain he has to be frozen until a cure is developed. He begs Dr. James not to let his body be stolen, but to no avail. No one suspects the kindly janitor of wheeling out stiffs in the nightly trash to take home to the graveyard and feed his family of ghouls!

"Ice Scream" is dreadful, with weak art by Bill DuBay and a lame script by R. Michael Rosen. The janitor appears on and off throughout the story and is obviously set up to be the culprit, and the ending, where he and his family turn out to be ghouls, comes out of left field but should have stayed there.

In the middle of a championship boxing match, Bert Meredith knocks down his opponent and suddenly finds himself whisked away to another planet, where he fights another boxing match with a huge alien. He again kayos his opponent and is rewarded with command of the planet for a year, until it's time for the next match. He resists so mightily in his mind that he finds himself back on Earth as the ten-count concludes.

Another unnecessary display to aggravate Peter from "Pit of Evil."

Ignore Dick Piscopo's art (I wish I could) and the swipes from the sci-fi classic "Arena" and what do you have left? Not much. I'm not sure why this is called "Pit of Evil" but it's the pits, alright.

Everything is groovy in
"The Last Train to Orion!"
In the year 3250, the beautiful young people of Earth have spread throughout the solar system as they multiply rapidly and banish anyone over 40 to another dimension. A colony of beautiful people traveling through space runs into an atomic storm and is destroyed; soon, the destruction spreads throughout the universe and removes every trace of Earthlings. But wait! It seems all of the humans were just germs in the body of an alien who came down with a bad case of humanitis.

I give up. I don't know what the heck was going on in this story and the final page got even more confusing. "The Last Train to Orion!" is another mysterious title for a bad story. And so ends another bad issue of Eerie. Peter, when will these mags improve?-Jack

Peter-I thought "The Hidden Evils" was chugging along (despite some stilted writing) until Haggenmiller dropped the ball with his clunky twist. Another one of those "surprise" reveals that makes no sense whatsoever. Adkins puts in some decent work. The first few pages of "The Beast in the Swamp" give the impression that Bill Warren is writing a parody of Conan and Kull but, painfully, it soon becomes obvious the guy is serious. The prose and dialogue are infantile (Into the swamp of dread Y'Bane--the girl of Pollat, leading Sorik from Phorgey...) and suffer from the dread science fiction disease known as Dopus Alternitivus  (in layman's terms: "let's call a cow a mordock"). Then Warren grows bored of cliched sword and sorcery and throws in one of those cliched SF twists at the end.

Boyette! ("The Last Train to Orion!")

"The Rescue Party!" is microwaved EC, complete with a twist ending only the writer thought was original. I enjoyed the Alien ancestor, "Follow Apollo!," but the art looks so heavily inked to the point of muting Tom Sutton's power. Perhaps Sutton was paying homage to Wally Wood. The inordinate amount of typos is the least of your worries should you sit through the truly wretched  "Ice Scream." Holy cow! You mean it was Willy the whole time? Fooled me.

"Pit of Evil" (an awful title if there ever was one) is an amiable rip-off of Fredric Brown's "Arena" with a Twilight Zone vibe to it (and some very TZ-esque narration as well) and some fair-to-middling art by Dick Piscopo (in his Warren swan song). I'm not sure what was going on in Pat Boyette's "The Last Train to Orion!," a variation on Bill Nolan's Logan's Run, but I liked it anyway. That's due mostly to Boyette's unique art style rather than a cohesive script.

Kenneth Smith
Creepy 1971 Annual

"Beast Man"
(Reprinted from Creepy #11)

"A Curse of Claws"
(Reprinted from Creepy #16)

"The Mountain"
(Reprinted from Creepy #8)

"Grave Undertaking"
(Reprinted from Creepy #5)

"Castle Carrion"
(Reprinted from Creepy #14)

"Image in Wax"
(Reprinted from Creepy #17)

"The Rescue of the Morning Maid"
(Reprinted from Creepy #18)

"Skeleton Crew"
(Reprinted from Creepy #11)

Kenneth Smith
Eerie 1971 Annual

"Hatchet Man!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #4)

"Wolf Bait!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #8)

(Reprinted from Eerie #10)

"The Defense Rests!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #7)

"Island at World's End!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #4)

"The Swamp God!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #5)

"The Changeling!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #6)

Next Week...
The moment Jack has been waiting for!


Todd Mason said...

The humanoid species in that first discussed story is notable for huge hands, at least on the cartoon cheesecake character.

Jack Seabrook said...

For some reason I never noticed the hands...