Thursday, March 5, 2020

Journey Into Strange Tales! Atlas/ Marvel Horror Issue 55

The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 40
April 1953 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

 Adventures Into Terror #18

"Tracy Took a Drink" (a: George Tuska) 
"Vampire By Night" 
"He's Trying to Kill Me" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"Headache" (a: Joe Maneely) 
"They'll Never Get Me" (a: Pete Tumlinson) ★1/2

Once he was a brilliant young physicist and had women kneeling before him but, now, Tracy's drinking has ruined his life. From daybreak to midnight, Tracy must keep the booze flowing to keep some semblance of order in his mind. Then, one day, during a particularly heavy binge, a monster appears before our hapless protagonist and explains that Tracy's drunken mind is the gateway for creatures from the 4th dimension to cross-over into our world and conquer the human race. Tracy swears off drinking but everyone knows that, without help, a boozehound always returns to the bottle. Sure enough, Tracy stands outside Dugan's Tavern and realizes the only way to keep the world safe is suicide.

Though I have issues with George Tuska's sketchy art (and I'll continue to have those issues right up through his 1970s work), I have to applaud the (uncredited) writer's attempts to use alcoholism in a serious manner (Tracy isn't a funny drunk who staggers through the street and utters loud "HIC"s and slurs his words), culminating in a grim finish to an unfortunate life. Tracy is one of the those rare Atlas characters... the innocent who's doomed by personal failings rather than spiteful or violent actions.

Movie director Sig Drumm is one cold-hearted piece of work, yelling at his stars and insulting the crew, but he wants to be known as the world's greatest horror movie director. To that end, he's imported Castle Dracula, brick by brick, to the soundstage of his latest thriller, "Vampire by Night," in order to inspire his truly wretched co-workers. The new set works wonders for the atmosphere and his star, who suddenly looks and acts exactly like a vampire. There's a reason for that. This supremely silly Stan Lee script has been used in various forms several times and it's just as silly and predictable here but I love the creepy artwork (GCD hypothesizes that the artist is Ed Robbins and, looking at some other Robbins work, I'd say that's possible) involving the giant vampire creature.

The balance of AIT #18 is given over to some rather weak material. In "He's Trying to Kill Me," Bertha is convinced her husband has lost the family fortune and now plans to kill her for the insurance money. How did she come to these conclusions? Well, she read it in hubby Adam's diary, of course! The twist revealed at the climax is that Adam had lost all the money and was attempting suicide but Bertha kept botching his plans. His last plan, however, ends up killing the dopey shrew. If you're going to commit suicide and leave your wife well-off, I recommend you detail your game plan in a diary for the insurance company to run across. "Headache" is a really dumb two-pager about a guy who can't seem to find the right medicine for his cranial ills. "They'll Never Get Me" proves the old adage "if you're a thug on the run, never hide out and nap in a construction area where they're pouring concrete" is actually some good sound advice.

 Adventures Into Weird Worlds #17

"He Walks With a Ghost!" (a: Sid Greene) 
(r: Dead of Night #2)
"The Man From Mars!" (a: Fred Kida) ★1/2
"This Way Out" (a: George Oleson) 
(r: Uncanny Tales #3)
"The Nightmare!" (a: George Klein) 
(r: Dead of Night #2)
"The Gentlemen of the Jury!" (a: Russ Heath) ★1/2
(r: Vault of Evil #9)

Small-time hood Barney Grill learns he's inherited a massive hunk of real estate in Hungary from a recently-deceased uncle. Once he gets to his property, he decides the swimming pool should go right where the cemetery sits so he hires an excavator operator to dig the site up. Bad move. Stan literally takes one of the most rudimentary of plots and does nothing with it; the outcome of "He Walks With a Ghost!," skeletons using the crane to bury Barney, is exactly what we predict will happen.

Young Bill tells his dad that a flying saucer has just landed in their yard. "Poppycock!" exclaims pop. But, sure enough, when the older man has a look, there's a flying saucer in their yard! The ship quickly takes to the air, leaving Bill's dad to ponder. After about two hours of thinking, Bill's dad (who, we're soon told by Bill, is one of the "top scientists in the country") comes to the conclusion, based open the depth of the crater left by the saucer, that the ship is from Outer Space, most likely Mars! Holy Cow! The egghead decides to whip up an ultra-sonic transmitter right on the scene and contacts the aliens in hopes they'll take the Prof and son back to Mars with them. The gizmo works, the aliens return and begin a dialogue with the scientist, who explains he wants to travel to Mars because Earth is overcrowded. "You ain't seen nothin'" says Bor-Ronggl, who makes his home in the 8th Great Crater of Mars, as he whips out a pic of a densely populated street on the Red Planet, "We were thinking about moving here!" Silly and inoffensive, "The Man From Mars!" is good for a few laughs, nothing more.

"This Way Out" gives us Slug Mears, convict heading for the chair, who's found a great way of stalling the inevitable. He's convinced the prison doc he's dying and has to convalesce before he can take that last walk. While lying in bed, Slug befriends a shadowy character who claims that salvation is right outside Slug's window. Of course, the buddy turns out to be Death and the window, inexplicably, opens up on the room holding the electric chair. I have issues with the architecture of not only the prison but of the story as well. If I gave out "Zero" ratings, "The Nightmare!" would surely be slapped with one. A woman tells her psychiatrist about a horrible nightmare she's having wherein she's a devoted wife with a precious son. Since both figures are kept in shadow for the entire three pages, we know something's up but, when it's revealed the woman is a witch and the shrink a zombie, I couldn't even work up a snicker.Neither newcomer George Oleson nor vet George Klein has much of a style to speak of; it's all just as bland as an Oprah Winfrey book-of-the-week selection. "This Way Out" marks the debut of Oleson (who will pencil 7 stories for Atlas before the Code), while "The Nightmare" signals the finish of Klein's career in the Atlas Pre-Code Horror Bullpen after six previous contributions.

Mob boss Nick Rico has been rubbing out the competition all over town but the cops are starting to close in on him. What he needs, according to his girlfriend, exotic dancer Dolly Le Moor, is a can't-lose "mouthpiece." Nick finds his man in famous criminal lawyer, Benedict Boswell, who manages to get Nick off on charges of murder time after time after time. The jury never comes back with a "Guilty" verdict! Well, with this new-found success comes a bit of arrogance and Nick starts treating Dolly like day-old fish; the stripper gets frustrated and turns to the only avenue a woman has when being taken for granted: the black arts!

Coinciding with Dolly's new passion for witchcraft is Nick's crowning achievement: the murder of twelve rivals in a single nitro blast. Knowing that Boswell will get Rico off, Dolly calls on Satan and makes a bargain. When Nick goes to trial, the jury is made up of the twelve men he murdered! Russ Heath to the rescue of what otherwise was shaping up to be a disaster of an issue. The plot's nothing to write theses on(and the climax doesn't make much sense). but Heath works his magic (including a nice GGA shot of Dolly changing -- VA-VA-VOOM!) and sometimes, as I've no doubt said fifty or sixty times, all you need is Russ.

 Astonishing #24

"Accidents Will Happen!" (a: Tony DiPreta) 
"Poor Wilbur!" (a: John Romita) 
"You're Next" (a: Chuck Winter) 
"The Pink Elephant!" (a: Al Carreno) 
"The Stone Face" (a: Harry Anderson) ★1/2

Writer Keith Castle witnesses George Fane killed by a falling piece of stone on the Post Office steps and, thinking this might be a hook for a great story, tries to figure out what brought Fane here in the first place. Was it fate or just coincidence? Thanks to a letter Fane dropped on the steps, Castle is able to find Fane's boarding house and bribes his way into the dead man's room. What he discovers are notes, seemingly written by a mad man, detailing a gizmo Fane invented that allows him to listen to inanimate objects (aka "moveless things").

Though doubtful, Castle dons the headgear and, sure enough, hears lots of complaining from the "moveless things" inside Fane's room. Finally opening the letter Fane had on him when he died, Castle reads a terrified plea for Dr. Carlton Isaacs to come immediately. Fearing for his life, Castle runs for the Post Office to send off his own letter to Isaacs but is killed on the steps by a falling stone. Magnificently stupid, "Accidents Will Happen!" follows the tried-and-true Atlas formula of explaining (and making things up) along the way, even though the explanation makes no sense. Who sets out to invent a machine that will allow a person to listen to the thoughts of matches and napkins? But if that's the premise, at least go wild with it. What we get here is six pages of talking heads (leaving Tony DiPreta with not much to do) and goofy motives.

Hapless inventor Wilbur Binkle can't do anything right. His bullet-proof vests don't stop bullets, his sink-proof boats make great submarines, and he's coming to the end of his rope when he hits upon a bit of genius: the Binkle Robot! That's right, a robot that will do everything and anything you program it to. The world falls at Wilbur's feet and very soon he's a zillionaire. Then the robots develop speech and begin plotting. "Poor Wilbur!" A very entertaining and funny little Stan Lee delight with some fabulous graphics by John Romita and a delightful twist ending.

The rest of the issue is devoid of originality or cohesiveness. "You're Next" is a dopey black comedy about a hitman with a toothache who heads into a "DDS" building, only to discover it's not a dentist's office but the "Devil's Delivery Service." Oh boy, what a knee-slapper! A mean drunk is trampled by "The Pink Elephant!" (and, yes, that is the extent of that). "The Stone Face" is yet another reminder by Stan Lee that the Commies were a nasty bunch of bastards. This time they've stolen all our Atomic Bomb plans and intend to use our weapons against us but the hand of fate (this time attached to the Statue of Liberty!) falls upon the rats as they're speeding through New York Harbor on their way to the USSR (long boat ride!). The words are disposable but artists Carreno, Winter, and Anderson still put in their best work, attempting to at least make the pages worth turning.

 Journey Into Mystery #7

"Death of a Puppet" (a: Harry Anderson) 
"Ghost Guard" (a: Tony DiPreta) ★1/2
"Paid in Full" (a: Carl Hubbell) 
"High as a Kite" (a: Vic Dowling) 
"It's Murder, He Says!" (a: Jack Abel) 

Grimes is losing tons of money with his nightly variety shows and he's convinced it's because his chief puppet man, Krueger, won't change out the old-fashioned marionettes he's been using in the act for years. Grimes goes to the old man's house to threaten him but Krueger won't budge. While at Krueger's home, Grimes discovers that the little people are actually alive and the puppet master relates the origin of his puppets. Years before, Krueger had seen a boy crying on the street and asked the youth what was troubling him. When the boy tells him that the world is unfair because he is ugly and his aunt has thrown him out of the house to find shelter on his own, Krueger suddenly remembers an old formula that shrinks people to the size of puppets. He, luckily has the ingredients lying around the house, and injects the kid, turning him into a very small person.

Smelling a fortune to be made, Grimes ties up the old man and demands to know the secret ingredients. Krueger sics his little people on his tormentor and then injects Grimes with the formula, transforming the real mean guy into the newest puppet sensation. Hampered by another of the five or six plot hooks that desperately needed to be put out to pasture, "Death of a Puppet" is good for nothing more than a laugh or two and is immediately forgettable. You do have to smile though when the light bulb goes on over Krueger's head while he's talking to the waif on the street ("...a strange formula, first discovered by an alchemist during the reign of King Otto..." ); oddly enough, Krueger seems to think cursing this boy to a life as a puppet in a freakshow is saving him!

"Ghost Guard" is a frighteningly simple tale of a murderous treasure hunter who runs afoul of a ghostly pirate. A weak month for Tony DiPreta, who I usually dig quite a bit. The two-star rating I give "Paid in Full" is strictly for the art; until I began this dark journey I had never heard the name Carl Hubell but now I find myself looking forward to his gritty style. A pity he only contributed ten stories in all to the Atlas Horror Universe as his "underground" style fit in nicely with Romita and Co. The story is pure nonsense: a collection agency employs a killer to shake down debtors but the guy runs afoul of a meek old man. Well, yes, comic books are all about the extreme but this is too extreme.

"Paid in Full"
MacTaggart is a worthless drunk and now he's threatening to kill his wife. Is there no shame? The cops haul him away and put him behind bars for a night to help him calm down but the first thing he does once he's free is head to Buck's to tie one on. Buck won't extend any more credit to MacTaggart but a very nice soul sitting next to Mac at the bar is more than happy to share his "Old Nick" rum. Mac gets blotto and allows to his new friend how he'd love to be "High as a Kite." Nick (aka Satan) grants his wish and Mac is a kite. Well, that was interesting. Not sure how we got from Point A to Point B but I assume the deadline was looming and our (uncredited) writer was plum out of workable climaxes. Never mind we abandon Mac's promise to murder his wife mid-point and then suddenly meet the Devil in a bar (the bartender seems as oblivious as the scripter). Shrug.

One of the worst issues of Journey Into Mystery so far ends on a head-scratcher called "It's Murder, He Says!" First strike against the story is Jack Abel's indecipherable sketches. Abel's strong suit was inking and when he was teamed with a particularly strong penciler (Bill Benulis, for example), the results could be very digestible indeed. However, someone must have told Jack that he could pencil as well as the other guys and that's just bad advice. Some of Jack's worst material was reserved for the DC War comics but he also managed to infect Atlas with his particular brand of competence, solo-wise, now and then.

The story? Oh yeah. Guy walks into the precinct and reports that two brothers got into a brutal fight; one brother kills the other and then buries his body in a freshly-dug excavation site. Upon arriving home, the brother realizes there's just too much blood to cover up and decides he's going to spill to the cops. Chief Obvious exclaims, "Only one man could know all the details of the murder... the killer himself!" To which our narrator replies something along the lines of "Nope, the victim could know too!" as his surviving brother comes into the precinct house to confess. So... the dead guy rose from his grave to announce to the cops that his brother will turn himself in? Well, that's a novel way to end the story at least and, I have to admit, much better than the four low-energy fables that preceded it. Story-wise that is.

 Journey Into Unknown Worlds #17

"The Ice Monster Cometh!" (a: Gene Colan) ★1/2
(r: Chamber of Chills #12)
"The Lost City" (a: Sheldon Moldoff) 
(r: Chamber of Chills #10)
"Harry's Hideout" (a: Carl Hubbell) 
(r: Chamber of Chills #10)
"Tough Guy" (a: John Rosenberger) ★1/2
(r: Where Monsters Dwell #28)
"The Great Disappointment! (a: Russ Heath) 
(r: Weird Wonder Tales #13)

There's a snow monster terrorizing the small town of Wintersville. At night, the town is boarded up so visitor Fred Hammer can't even get a room in any of the hotels. Luckily, the proprietor of Tobin's Inn takes pity on Fred and lets him in. Bad move. Fred falls in love with Tobin's wife, Lucille and the babe talks the dope into killing her husband for the insurance money. Lucille then puts down some phony pawprints to make it look like the snow monster did the deed. Unfortunately, for Lucille, Fred is the monster! "The Ice Monster Cometh!" is yet another one of those horror stories with a preposterous climax that collapses (especially after a second reading). You know the thing has to be either Lucille or Fred in the end but the latter makes no sense based on his behavior throughout the first five and a half pages. Like several of the better artists in the Atlas Horror Bullpen this month, Gentleman Gene is not given anything useful to work with so, it seems, he just phones his work in (although the final panel is a nice shot of Icey Fred).

Then there's the wonder that is "The Lost City," almost impossible to synopsize but I'll give it my best shot. Former WWII ace Rusty Pike now flies storm buster planes for the weather service. His assignment on "that September morning in 1949" is to grab his boss, Lt. Harper, and control monitor Jimmy, and fly right into a new storm system nicknamed "Baby." Harper never shows and his replacement, a quiet guy by the name of Charro (!), shows up as second pilot. Once the plane is in the air and has flown into the eye of the storm, Rusty feels groggy and passes out, awakening on the bottom of the ocean floor. He notes that it doesn't feel wet so how he figures he's on the sea bottom is almost as mysterious as Charro.

The guys get off the plane and walk until they run across a huge city manned by pirates. Since the water is not wet or (one assumes) cumbersome, these guys don't seem to have slowed down at all; they take our heroes to their leader, who happens to be Satan! The devil tells Rusty that he and his men will have to live the rest of their lives in his underwater kingdom; Rusty screams and awakens at the controls of the plane. It was all a dream! But then why is Jimmy dead and his mouth sewn shut? Charro turns to Rusty, smiles, and transforms into Satan. Unfortunately, there's no credited writer to accept blame for "The Lost City," but I'll put that blame right at the feet of editor Stan and the dreaded deadline. There have been oodles of weird stories that seem to lose their footing along the way but this one is a special case. Sheldon Moldoff is an artist I've never been fond of (his name screams out "Bad DC Superhero Comics") but I have to admit his stuff here is not bad; certainly more serviceable than the script.

Harry kills an old man for his money but the cops spot him and give chase. "Harry's Hideout" turns out to be a time capsule about to be buried with Harry inside. Nice art by Hubbell but a predictable finish. A bit better is "Tough Guy," about Bart Nelson, a mean SOB who goes to hell and won't cooperate. He laughs at whips, snickers at hot coals, and is tickled by the pitchfork. Despondent, Bart's personal demons take him before Satan and plead their case. After Bart tells the devil he'll split Hell's territory with him, ol' Sparky pulls a rabbit out of his hat and has Bart dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. I like that we didn't need to learn about Bart's sins on Earth and his transformation into Angus Young is a genuinely funny punchline.

You don't need to see the signature on the splash to know the red-baiting "The Great Disappointment!" is the work of Stan "The Man!" The Soviet Bastards have won the race to the moon but the joke's on them as one of our (nice guy) scientists explains in the end that the moon is actually one gigantic living organism that lives off tourists. The finale sees the stinkin' commie rats sucked into the surface of the moon, leaving three more craters as the only proof they were there. Interesting that our egghead remarks that the craters on the moon are actually the millions of the moon's "victims." Have we been watching our moon digest aliens? That sounds like a more interesting story than the cliched "the only good Red is a dead Red" nonsense that Stan kept spitting out during his lunch-time McCarthy meetings.

 Marvel Tales #113

"The Iron Lady" (a: Al Luster) ★1/2
"Brother of a Monster" 
(a: Mike Sekowsky & Chris Rule) 
(r: Tomb of Darkness #22)
"What's New?" (a: Werner Roth) 
"Terror Tale" (a: Russ Heath) 
(r: Chamber of Chills #23)
"The Man Who Isn't There" (a: Tony DiPreta) 
(r: Chamber of Chills #24)

Farmer Elmer Purdy becomes fascinated with Agatha, a female robot at a local carnival; he's sure the mechanical wonder would make life on the farm much easier. Agatha's owner, Mr. Brewster, agrees to rent out Agatha for two hundred bucks a week but he has to move out to the farm with her. Purdy agrees and fires all his farm hands. After watching Agatha do all the farm chores in half the time as his workers, Purdy becomes greedy and wants to own the robot. He breaks into Brewster's room one night and fills the man with buckshot but finds, to his dismay, that Brewster is every bit as nuts 'n' bolts as Agatha! Amusing Carl Wessler script hits all the right buttons and I like Al Luster's stark, nightmarish style; it's a bit like DiPreta only gloomier.

"Brother of a Monster" adds nothing to the "One evil twin, one good twin" sub-genre; you know the good-looking twin is going to turn out to be the bad one in the end so why bother? The Sekowsky/Rule art is particularly grating. Werner Roth's gorgeous art is the only thing I can recommend in "What's New?," a Stan Lee-penned tale about Jim Mulligan, a talent scout for a carnival who's down on his luck. He's been run out of town after the local sheriff uncovered fake acts (the two-headed man whose second noggin is made out of plaster, for one) and now he's trying to go legit but there's no unique talent out there. Then one day, a dame with legs up ta here walks in his office and claims she can tell the future. Mulligan scoffs and the woman, peeved, explains that she's from the 24th Century and disappears. The humor falls flat but Roth soars (especially in the gorgeous dame department).

In Hungary, a vampire brings his catch to his brothers, claiming he's a better hunter than the "Beast- Man" (a rival monster we're not told much about). His comrades agree but then they argue over who gets to sink their fangs into the chubby sacrifice first. Before they can begin their meal, the victim transforms into the Beast-Man and tears them apart. No one in the Atlas bullpen could pencil bloodsuckers quite like Russ Heath, so for that I'm grateful to "Terror Tale"scripter Stan for spinning the wheel and landing on "Vampire," but would it be too much to ask for Stan to then spend a bit of time on the story?

Small-time thief Marty Mallen robs a man of his suitcase and discovers the baggage holds an old coat that allows its wearer to become invisible. Marty dreams of leaving the rat-infested hovel he lives in and becoming a millionaire so he begins a reign of terror, using his coat in order to steal a fortune in gold and jewels. At last, ready to hop a plane for Europe, a knock on the door by the police forces Marty to hide in the closet. Unfortunately for Marty, the police were there to warn the tenants that the tenement would be locked down and fumigated. Poor Marty. I'm not sure how this "invisibility cloak" works as afar as smuggling out valuables. Does Marty put them in his pocket and they vanish as well? I love the DiPreta art (you knew I would); when "The Man Who Isn't There" becomes invisible, for some reason his teeth become sharp and jagged like a vampire!

Menace #2

"The Man in Black" (a: George Tuska) 
(r: Uncanny Tales #5)
"Burton's Blood" (a: Bill Everett) 
(r: Vault of Evil #11)
"Rocket to the Moon" (a: Joe Sinnott) ★1/2
"On With the Dance!" (a: Russ Heath) 
(r: Giant-Size Dracula #2)

Ivan Muloff has trained for years to be the perfect KBG agent; he's even slain his own father to prove his love for the Soviet Union. Ivan is put in charge of a Soviet prison camp where he starves and freezes his inmates and uses the corpses to climb the ladder of Red success. He's the perfect killing machine, just like all the rest of the Commies back in the 1950s, and his higher-ups utilize his hatred for everything American by sending him to New York to help "Agent X" steal the plans for a super-secret atomic sub the good guys are working on. Unfortunately, his General can't and won't reveal the identity of "Agent X" so Ivan will just have to bide his time.

Not Johnny Cash
Growing bored, the spy decides to cut out the middleman and murders Professor Ochnig, the "capitalist swine" who's perfecting the sub. Alas, the police witness the murder and chase Ivan before he can nab the plans. He makes the 2:10 sub to Russia and, once back, is summoned to the Kremlin where he is informed that Professor Ochnig was "Agent X!" Oops! Stan's previous hundred or so red-baiting tales were only a warm-up for "The Man in Black," a howlingly-ridiculous propaganda tale that ages about as well as Herman's Hermits. You can almost picture "The Man" in his office, shouting the hilariously over-the-top lines:

Guard: We will need a new burial ground if any more prisoners die, comrade!
Ivan: Fool! Why waste good land on these scum? We'll throw all the corpses to the wolves!

George Tuska contributes some solid artwork (thankfully, he's still not approached his "big teeth" phase yet). Again, I understand why Stan would use the Reds as bad guys since his old standbys, the Nazis, were nearly a decade in the rearview but did he similarly villainize the Viet Cong in the Sixties? I have no personal knowledge of where Stan leaned as far as political stance; knowing what I do know about Lee, chances are he would have made anyone a villain if it would have sold funny books.

John Burton, vampire, is like a pig rolling in crap after an atomic war kills a vast number of people. Burton grazes on the corpses, ingesting so much that he's allowed to lie in his coffin for years. After waking, he heads out for a meal but discovers that human beings died out in that great war and now robots rules the world. Where does a vampire go now for a good meal? "Burton's Blood" is imaginative and graced with creepy Bill Everett graphics. Burton changes back and forth into a giant bat and, for the first time, you get the sense that it's a physical transformation (his face almost resembles putty in one panel) rather than a presto change-o effect. The climax is predictable but, overall, "Burton's Blood" is one of the best stories of the month.

Lars Sugger is working for the world's worst boss, Professor Noname, a scientist so egotistical, so darn mean he refuses to allow Sugger to rush to the bedside of his dying mother! And when the mom kicks the bucket, the Prof docks Sutter's pay while he attends the funeral. Is this Professor a commie spy? Sounds like it! But Sugger vows to get even so, on the side, he perfects the world's first rocket and announces to the press he'll be flying that rocket to the moon. Well, the Professor ain't taking the news lying down. He cold cocks Sugger, hops aboard the spaceship and blasts off to the moon. Sugger snickers as he confides to a perplexed guard that the joke's on the Professor: the rocket is designed for a one-way trip!

Supremely silly, yes, but also entirely entertaining in a dumb-as-dirt kind of way. Sugger's whole revenge scheme hinges on the Professor knocking him out cold and holding a gun on a guard to gain passage. A leap of faith, you say? Possibly. The Professor's constant insults hurled Sugger's way are a total delight ("If you're as stupid as you look, forget it" the Professor answers Sugger's plea for a job) and, as noted, almost teeter into Stan's red-baiting dialogue territory but the single funniest panel is when our junior genius scientist launches an HO-scale rocket and the next day the newspapers announce he's built a vehicle that can "carry a man to the moon!" That's the leap of faith, my friends!

Dancer Stella Stevens is sick and tired of wasting her time with the rest of the "witches" in the chorus line and she needs a big break fast. Alas, no one likes Stella for reasons that become obvious to us when one of her old beaus (who did three years in the pen for a crime Stella committed) shows up back stage, only to be rebuffed, and then puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. The good news is that star dancer Fay Grey has broken her leg and producer Lou Harmon needs a new gal. Stella is determined to get that role but Lou gives it to stunning brunette, Mona Durell, instead. Stella confronts Mona outside the theater and kidnaps her at gunpoint. When the ladies get back to Stella's apartment, Stella tells Mona she wants the job because she can dance better than any of the other "witches." Mona smiles and tells Stella she'll be dancing forever because... Mona is a witch!

As noted in my commentary for Menace #1, Stan envisioned the new title as a place to spotlight quality material. While Stan certainly nails it with his choice for artists, his scripts are certainly no better or worse than those for the other Atlas horror comic books. This was at least half a decade before the actress Stella Stevens first made a splash so the identical name is nothing more than coincidence, although the funny book version certainly does resemble the actress in at least a couple of areas. Stan's Stella Stevens is too bitchy to be believable, shrugging off the sight of her ex-boyfriend blowing his brains out in front of her but it's in keeping with the extreme personalities that populate Stan Lee's scripts. The finale, where we discover Mona is a licensed broom-riding witch is predictable but simultaneously hilarious and chilling thanks to the maestro, Russ Heath.

In Two Weeks...
More Damn Commies!


Michael Hoskin said...

I wonder if the reason Stan wrote so many diatribes about the communists was based on 1) that he was Jewish and many people conflated Jews & communists and 2) he wrote comic books which were considered to have a corrupting effect on the nation's youth. By attacking communists so repeatedly it could have been a means for him to "prove" his bona fides as a good American.

It only comes to mind because it's kind of what happened to Jack L. Warner around that time after HUAC questioned whether he was pro-communist (mostly because he was Jewish). He was so offended he switched his politics to the right wing to "prove" he wasn't soft on communism.

Grant said...

Even though I've never read it, there's one thing about "The Man From Mars" that doesn't sound so forgettable (even apart from whether it's witty, which has already been mentioned), and that's that it's about overpopulation.
Of course, 60's and early 70's SF stories get teased for (supposedly) having TOO MUCH to say about that subject, but do very many 50's stories get into it?

Peter Enfantino said...


My gut tells me Stan knew Commies were the "enemy" and for the funny books to sell, HIS enemy had to be the Reds. Same thing in the 40s with the Nazis. And, believe me, I really don't blame Stan for falling back on "the Commies are coming, the Commies are coming!" I might have hated the USSR just as much as every one of my neighbors had I grown up in the 50s.


Good point. Had overpopulation becomes a conversation piece by the 1950s?