Monday, July 20, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 38: September - November 1972

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

Vampirella #19 (September 1972)

"Shadow of Dracula!" ★1/2
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"To Kill a God!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #12)

"Two Silver Bullets!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #1)

"Fate's Cold Finger!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #9)

"Jack the Ripper Strikes Again!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #9)

"The Survivor"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #7)

"The Soft, Sweet Lips of Hell!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #10)

"The Silver Thief and the Pharaoh's Daughter"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #13)

"Shadow of Dracula!"
When Adam Van Helsing finds a scrap of paper in a secret room in the Van Helsing mansion, there's hope that the Van Helsings of the 19th century were about to discover a cure for vampirism. In an effort to find out just what the heck those crazy vampire slaughterers had stumbled onto, Vampirella travels back to 1897 and disguises herself as luscious lab assistant, Ella Normandy. Once there, she is introduced to Jonathan and Mina Harker and Abraham Van Helsing (the first of the VHs to battle Count Dracula); immediately, the four hit the road to visit with Boris Van Helsing, who has a surprise for them. Count Dracula emerges from the house to the dismay of the Harkers, but the Count explains that the Dracula they had fought was an ancestor of his and all he wants to do is help.

Vampirella smells bad fish and confronts the Count later, when they are alone. Dracula confesses that, yep, it's really him, but that he was sent to 1897 from the present for the same reason Vampi was: to gain a cure. The next day, a coffin is wheeled into the castle and Boris proclaims that, for the merry band of truth-seekers, the only way to discover a cure for vampirism is to pull the stake out of Lucy Westenra's heart and bring her back from the undead.

"Shadow of Dracula!" is a confusing and meandering mess; some of this stuff just doesn't make sense. When Adam finds the incomplete proclamation, his pop exclaims, "No problem, we've got a spell we can cast that'll send you back into the 19th century and this will all be taken care of!" If that's the case, how come the boys don't simply set the way-back machine for centuries earlier and nip the Count in the bud before he kills hundreds? More snorters come when Drac claims the vampire-guy was his grandfather or uncle or somesuch and these dopes buy it. Did Drac have brothers or sisters or kids we never knew about? Then there's the contrived Conjuress storyline, which is the hardest part to decipher. And, please, tell me why Lucy has to be resurrected?

This was the first year Warren incorporated their Annuals (or "Fearbooks") within the regular numbering. As with last year's Vampirella Annual, this is the only title that presents new material. But this sure feels like it was an overlong story that was simply chopped in half and will continue next issue.-Peter

Jack-I thoroughly enjoyed the Vampirella story! It's cool to see Vampi and Drac back in the 1890s with the original cast of the novel, and I was relieved that Vampi quickly reverted to her usual outfit. I did have to laugh when she told Drac that they don't want to attract unwanted attention right before she climbed down the side of the building half-naked! T. Casey Brennan writes an entertaining story and the art by Gonzalez is gorgeous. Four stars from me!

I also love the cover, with a great drawing of our heroine standing in front of a selection of classic covers. The term "special issue" seems to mean "lots of reprints," but when they include art by Wood, Crandall, and Adams, I think it's easily worth a buck. There's also a good, two-page summary of Vampirella's origin and adventures to date that we've reproduced at the end of this post.

Eerie #42 (October 1972)

"The Mummy Stalks!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #5)

"The Blood Fruit!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #11)

"It That Lurks!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #7)

"Dark Rider!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #8)

"Life Species"
(Reprinted from Eerie #30)

"The Lighthouse!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #3)

"Ogre's Castle"
(Reprinted from Eerie #2)

"Room with a View!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #3)

"Voodoo Drum!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #10)

"I Am Dead, Egypt, Dead"
(Reprinted from Eerie #35)

Jack-Another nice package, 84 pages for a dollar, with a great cover by Luis Dominguez. Inside are ten stories with a heavy emphasis on EC veterans, including Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, John Severin, Al Williamson, and Angelo Torres. Add stories by Steve Ditko and Neal Adams, then throw in a one-page history of Cousin Eerie (see far below), and it's money well spent. Readers who were new to Eerie might have been surprised to see all the reprints by the classic horror artists who filled the magazine's pages before the new wave of Spanish artists arrived!

Creepy #48 (October 1972)

"The Coffin of Dracula!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #8 & #9)

"The Castle on the Moor!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #9)

"Moon City"
(Reprinted from Creepy #4)

(Reprinted from Creepy #3)

"Thumbs Down"
(Reprinted from Creepy #6)

"The Cosmic All"
(Reprinted from Creepy #38)

"Drink Deep" 
(Reprinted from Creepy #7)

"The Adventure of the German Student"
(Reprinted from Creepy #15)

Jack-Another "special" issue, this time with eight reprint stories, again heavy on former EC artists: Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and John Severin are represented. The first story is actually two stories edited together. A one-page "bio" of Uncle Creepy (see far below) completes the fun!

Vampirella #20 (October 1972)

"When Wakes the Dead" ★1/2
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Gender Bender" 
Story and Art by Esteban Maroto

"Love is No Game"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Luis Garcia

"Eye Opener!" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Vengeance, Brother, Vengeance!" 
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Luis Dominguez

"When Wakes the Dead"
Boris and Abraham Van Helsing use the formula provided by Dracula (actually supplied by Vampirella but letting Drac take the credit so's not to give away her simple country bumpkin lab assistant guise) on the undead Lucy Westenra, bitten by Dracula and staked by Van Helsing, in the hopes of returning her to some semblance of "normalcy." The potion works and Lucy becomes human again. Dracula, believing the formula can make him human again as well, begs Vampi for a vial. Down to her last two doses, our Drakulon babe gives in and hands him the juice.

Unfortunately, the potion only works on legitimately undead vampires, not aliens from another world, so the vial is good only for 24 hours before Drac returns to his cravings. Unfortunately, that blood-madness happens as Mina Harker is crossing his path and he jumps the girl, biting her neck and sipping her life's fluids. Lucy comes across the scene and drops dead, ostensibly from heart failure, but that's not clear. Meanwhile, while rummaging for that aforementioned final dose of anti-vampire serum, Vampi gets butterfingers and drops the vial. Now there are two very hungry vampires on the loose. Since all of Drac and Vampi's plans have gone tits up, the Conjuress materializes, announces to Vampi she's wanted back in the 20th century, and tells Drac he's a failure but there will be "more tests" in the future. Back in the 20th century, Vampi gazes at her lover, Adam Van Helsing, and pines for a real man... Dracula.

"When Wakes the Dead"
You know you're in real trouble when the introductory "here's where we're at" is almost as confusing as the story itself. "When Wakes the Dead" literally makes no sense. As if TCB felt the whole 19th century trip was a bad idea and decided it was time to exit, stage left, pronto. The Lucy Westenra 90-minute resurrection segment is a waste of space and her latest death left me scratching my head. Does the potion leave you with a diminished nervous system? Adding in the mysterious Conjuress sub-plot does Brennan no favors either. This is that rarest of funny book strips: there's so much going on while nothing happens. As usual, I love Gonzalez's art but, more and more, I'm wondering if the Vampirella series is being handled the "Marvel way." Some of the gal's expressions don't go with her thought balloons.

Maroto's take on She Freak.

"Gender Bender" is another of the confounding "Tomb of the Gods" stories written by Esteban Maroto and, yet again, I can make neither heads nor tails of it. Usually, though, I can at least eke out some kind of half-assed synopsis; fake it, if I have to. This is the one time so far that I can't even come up with a couple of lines to describe what the hell this is all about. Again, the art is outstanding and perhaps Warren should have just run something akin to a Maroto portfolio rather than putting nonsensical words (I really haven't seen any of the innate hostility between the sexes the doctors predicted. Except my own! Well, I'll sublimate that, and just dance) to the pictures.

There's a man killing prostitutes in the city... meanwhile... Dorothy can't get John, the shy dreamboat who lives next door to acknowledge she's even alive. Her pal, Gwen, tells her to get John's attention, make him rush to Dorothy's aid, and soon he'll be eating right out of her hand. Dorothy tries the old "Hi, John, whoops! I slipped!" and, sure enough, the hunk runs to her aide and assists her back to her house. He does, however, refuse a sandwich or a nightcap, and hurries off. Dorothy sees him heading into the woods and follows him. Deep in the forest, she spies John carving her name in a tree and bursts out of the bush, cooing sweet love. John turns, tells Dorothy he always knew she was a whore like the rest, and knocks her unconscious. Dorothy comes to in time to watch John digging a big hole in front of her named tree. Two other trees, two other names, two other graves stand alongside. Barely a fragment of a story, "Love is No Game" is pretty darn confusing at first, with its shift in time and perspectives; it's also got dialogue straight out of Young Love Confessions.

"Love is a Battlefield"
Tuckered out and still a hundred miles from his destination, shoe salesman/male chauvinist pig Sol Plotkin stops at an old dark house by the side of the highway and inquires of the gorgeous, scantily-clad vixen who answers his knock as to whether she can "put him up for the night." The babe tells Sol her name is Wendy; come on in and she'll ask her grandma, a blind old goat who agrees to his request and remarks that Sol is a pretty good looking dude. Taken aback that a blind woman could remark on his handsomeness, Sol is further astonished when the old woman tells him she has the power of sight thanks to the eyeballs she keeps in a little black box on her lap. Wendy does the whirligigs around her ear and lets on to Sol that Grandma's elevator doesn't go to the top floor any more. When Grampa died, Grams kept his eyeballs as a souvenir. She shows Sol to his room.

"Eye Opener!"
Then Wendy shows Sol the other amenities that go with the room. The next morning, Sol is ready to go when Grandma verbally assaults him in the entryway. She tells the scoundrel that she knows he robbed Wendy of her virginity and that her eyeballs saw the whole thing. She then opens the black box to reveal... a couple of eyeballs! Sol is so flustered he races out of the house, hops in his car and runs right into an oncoming truck. Before he dies, he loses his eyes. But Grandma finds them.

Another really dumb script with really great art (sound familiar?), "Eye Opener!" makes little to no sense, but that's okay; what matters is that Doug lets us know once again he's there for 1970s women (the opening panels let us know that Sol has just dumped his wife and refuses to pay alimony, so he's obviously another one of those mangy men of the '70s who would stay out late at the bowling alley and expect a hot meal and warm bed when he finally got home). How Sol's eyeballs are keeping Gramps's peepers company is beyond me.

"Vengeance, Brother, Vengeance!"
When Carlonia is invaded by the warrior Jenwral, Fein is able to escape, but witnesses the death of his brother Furlon at the hands of the evil invader. Years later, Fein returns to Carlonia to rescue his beloved Melandra, unaware that his brother has been enslaved and forced to be Jenwral's sorcerer. Fein slays both Jenwral and his sorcerer (unaware that the dead man is his brother) and rescues his scantily-clad lass. As Furlon dies, he utters his brother's name and Fein, believing it to be the spirit of Furlon thanking him for avenging his death, exclaims "No thanks necessary!" As a rule, I tend to avoid stories with unicorns (yes, Fein rides a unicorn) but, unlike most of the goofy fantasy/sword and sorcery tales offered up by Warren, this is an amiable read. It's got a nice sense of (dark) humor to it and Luis Dominguez does a great job of stepping in for Pat Boyette, who would usually do the honors on the dark fantasy entries. That last panel, where Fein tosses off a "No problem, Bro!" to what he thinks is the ghost of Furlon, unaware that he's just run said brother through with his sword, is laugh-out-loud funny. "Vengeance, Brother, Vengeance!" is pretty much the only reason to pick this issue up. -Peter

Jack-Even more fun than "Vengeance, Brother, Vengeance!" is writer Greg Potter's autobiography, where he admits that he still lives at home with Mom and Dad and is thrilled to share his creations with Warren's "hundreds of readers." I didn't think much of the story, partly because I was floored by Dominguez's cover and expected more of the same inside the book. The writer credit for Maroto's "Gender Bender" is again suspect and the pretentious prose seems more likely to be the work of a McGregor than Maroto. "Love is No Game" is not bad, with art (as usual) outdoing story, but Peter's point about "the Marvel method" may or may not be supported by the panel where the man pushes a lawnmower and the caption reads that he's raking the lawn. It made me wonder if the script was sent to the Spanish artist who was not entirely sure what "raking" meant.

"Eye Opener!" is yet another example of smarty-pants Doug Moench telling us that it's okay to use a cliche if you acknowledge that it's a cliche; the art is fabulous but the story falls apart at the end. That leaves the lead Vampi story, which I really liked. Gonzalez's art is stunning and Brennan seems to have conquered much of what annoyed us about his stories; too bad he won't continue.

Eerie #43 (November 1972)

Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Musical Chairs"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Tom Sutton

"Bright Eyes!"★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Richard Corben

"The Hunt"
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Paul Neary

Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jesus Suso Rego

"Let the Evil One Sleep"
Story and Art by Esteban Maroto

Peter reads his 500th DC War Comic.
Rebelling against the evil Xargon empire, Adram and Evah take the ultimate weapon and bury it on a backward planet, where it speeds up the evolution of the creatures that live there. Centuries in the future, explorers find the weapon and take it to a research lab for study. After determining that it is too dangerous to keep, they shoot it into space with Commander Doug McKeen, who will be blown up along with it. After "incalculable centuries of unending flight," the ship with the bomb ends up back at planet Xargon, where it is attacked by the sub-humans that are "remnants of the long-fallen empire." McKeen fights for his life but is overwhelmed by superior numbers and detonates the bomb, which wipes out the entire universe. Eventually, life sparks once again and a planet called Earth is born, where "Someday" a similar tale will play out.

Richard Margopoulos's first story for Warren is a dud, typical of a young writer whose enthusiasm is not matched by his originality. "Adram" and "Evah" start a new civilization and the plot is circular, as an empire grows too big for its britches and prefigures the history of Planet Earth. Jerry Grandenetti's art is not suited for science fiction at all and it's only the sheer predictability of the story that makes it worth reading through 12 pages. At least it's more lucid than "Gender Bender." Don't miss Margopoulos's far-out autobiography below!

Sentenced to death for committing murder, Raymond is strapped into the electric chair only to find himself suddenly and inexplicably transported to another world, where a wizard hails him as a hero. He pulls a sword from a stone and quickly becomes a great warrior, slaying all who oppose him. He sits on the throne and calls for dancing girls to perform, but just as they start to cavort, the lever is pulled and he's back in the electric chair, frying to death. Police observing the execution wonder what goes through a prisoner's mind in the last seconds and wonder why Raymond was smiling right up to the end.

Sutton at his most Kirbyesque

I'm happy to read a good story by Steve Skeates, since they've seemed few and far between. "Musical Chairs" got me with the surprise ending, which I did not see coming at all--though I guess I should have. Tom Sutton's art is an odd mix of Sutton and Kirby; I've reproduced a panel of battle here that could've been drawn by the King.

"Bright Eyes!"
After a long day of toiling in the Louisiana cotton fields, Joshua returns home to the mansion of "Bright Eyes!" a/k/a evil, greedy Master Farquand. A competitor named Hartman wants to take over the cotton business, so Farquand sends his zombies out to kill Hartman. Joshua's brother, George Bennett, arrives from Chicago, looking for his brother. Farquand sends him away but George finds Joshua living in sub-human conditions and beseeches him to leave. Farquand appears and informs George that his brother and the others are dead and he has raised them as zombies to work in the cotton fields. George and Farquand struggle and the plantation owner accidentally shoots and kills himself, at which point Joshua and the other zombies decompose before George's eyes.

Leave it to Richard Corben to bring the horror to an issue of Eerie! "Bright Eyes!" holds no surprises (other than a jarring use of the "N" word by Farquand), but Corben's art style brings out the best in Moench's story and the final panels are worth the journey.

A nuclear accident wipes out humanity. Fast forward to the year 14729, and a lone man runs through open land, trying to avoid becoming a victim of "The Hunt." He recalls having been a servant at a royal banquet until he was imprisoned for dropping a tray. He escaped and went on the run. Now he is injured and set upon by wild dogs that are only stopped by mounted humanoids with the faces of foxes.

Yes, that's the end. I really have no idea what it meant or what happened. Perhaps we're supposed to get that the protagonist was considered a slave because he was fully human, while the mutant fox-people were hunting him? This is Margopoulos's second story this issue, and it's slightly worse than his first. At least Paul Neary's art is pleasant to look at; it reminded me a bit of the work of Paul Gulacy in its slickness.

In a "Showdown" on a dusty street in the Old West, one gunslinger shoots another and then rides out of town. On the trail, he is shot in an ambush and pursues the man who shot him. He comes across the man he shot in town and shoots him again several times before concluding that he's hallucinating. Before long, he is shot dead by the man who ambushed him.

Steve Skeates is back to his usual sub-par scripts with this western, in which next to nothing happens. Fortunately, we have very sharp artwork by Jesus Suso Rogo to enjoy. On the first page, he is either influenced by or swiping the work of John Severin, and on the last page he draws a pretty fair imitation of Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name. Whatever the source, I enjoyed the Western art; I only wish it had been in service of a better story.

Dax rides through the desert, desperate for water, and passes out, only to wake to a beautiful land where water is plentiful and a beautiful, nearly naked woman named Lilith insists on calling him Adam and prances around with him in her paradise. She shows him the Evil One, who lies dreaming on a stone slab; Dax impregnates her and rescues her from some skeletal monsters. He tries to kill the Evil One but finds himself stabbed and back in the dry wasteland, craving water.

More Dax
"Let the Evil One Sleep" makes more sense than "The Hunt," but that's not saying much. I'm already getting tired of Maroto's plot-free rambles through the pages of the Warren mags; all his girls look the same and the Dax stories seem to follow a pattern where someone tries to pull the warrior out of his brutal life but he ends up right back where he started. I'm also not a big fan of giant mushrooms--they remind me too much of the work of Vaughn Bode. In any case, this is not a very good issue of Eerie and, coming right after the special that reprints work by a series of great EC artists, the new material doesn't look so good.-Jack

Peter-"Someday," we'll get consistently good science fiction out of a Warren funny book, but right now is not that time. "Someday" is a meandering and confusing mess and it's adorned with mediocre Grandenetti. Margopoulos never even answers the golden question: how the heck did the "savages" manage to dig up and raise the multi-ton weapon when it was buried a mile below the surface? Steve Skeates sat in his cubicle at the Warren office and smiled, thinking "These bozos have never even heard of Ambrose Bierce!" and then typed up his homage to "Owl Creek Bridge" and handed it in for his paycheck.  Jim Warren, knowing a deadline when he saw one, shrugged and thought, "What the hell, most of these little creeps don't have issue #9 of Eerie!"
The only bright spot is "Bright Eyes!"

Rich Corben elevates "Bright Eyes!" above the adjective-riddled purple prose masquerading as a script (The oppressiveness of the swamp at dusk, as turgid waters ooze around your knees, inspires within you a foreboding of lurking danger... makes me wonder if Warren was paying by the word rather than by the page) but, call me a stickler, I sure would have liked to see this in color. It's standard zombie fare but Corben's art (especially in the darker panels) is magnificently evocative (or as Doug might have said: "superbly magnificent in its evocatively splendid splendor"). Though Rich has been around for a couple of years, I think you can point to "Bright Eyes!" as the true beginning of the Corben Era at Warren.

Rich Margopoulos eyes Steve Skeates over in his cubicle, retyping "Owl Creek," figures if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em, and rips-off Planet of the Apes. Well, he does use foxes. I do like the Neary art, though; you can almost see the genesis of his short stint on Marvel's Ka-Zar the Savage a decade later. Just as with all the stories this issue, "Showdown" has weak writing but gorgeous graphics. I love good western horror, but there's not much plot to this one and the climax is vague. Artist Suso is welcomed aboard on the Eerie letters page as "worthy of standing alongside the other Warren greats now making comics history: Gonzalez, Maroto, Auraleon, Mas, Crandall" but Suso will only contribute to two scripts during his time at Warren, after which he'll jump ship and head for Skywald. How was it that this guy was never snapped up by DC for Jonah Hex?

Suso's West
The Dax installment this issue is particularly baffling; the plot makes no sense and the dialogue is awful ("Oh God. Am I doomed to peace only through solitude? Will you not share my heart? Are my children to be born murderers, important to beauty?"). If I didn't know better, I'd say the script was written by our man in New York, Don McGregor. Slip your tongue around this bit of writing and tell me I'm crazy: Twin battles rage. One hideously physical, one a savage conflict of wills. Scars open and throb in Dax's frozen, agonized being. Madness invades, disperses fleeting sanity. Bestiality and hate overpower his rotting soul. Ugh. In any event, the series continues to meander through its non-entity of a storyline and excels purely on the gifts of Maroto the Illustrator.

Creepy #49 (November 1972)

"Buried Pleasure" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Severed Hand" 
Story by Fred Ott
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"The Third Night of Mourning" 
Story by James Stenstrum
Art by Jaime Brocal

"The Accursed Flower" 
Story and Art by Jose Bea

"Wedding Knells" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Jose Gual

"Buried Pleasure"
A seemingly mesmerized young man named Curtin approaches the pirate ship of Captain Raven, requesting passage to Spain; he holds what appears to be a map and mumbles something about digging. The light bulb goes on over Raven's head and he smells treasure, untold wealth waiting at the end of the journey. The ship sails but, each night, more and more of the ship's men are found dead and accusations are made that the newcomer is behind the carnage.

After several nights of death, only Raven and his first mate, Snelling, are left alive, and it's at that time that Raven reveals he's the murderer, killing every person on board save Curtin so that he will not have to share in the riches Curtin is leading them to. Raven strangles Snelling, then calls to Curtin that they've reached the shores of Spain. The two men leave the ship and Curtin points to a spot right on the beach and tells Raven to dig. The pirate wastes no time and, very soon, hits something hard. His treasure chest! No, it's a coffin! Out pops a female vampire, who bites Raven and then gives Curtin what he's been waiting for... a kiss!

There's a hell of a lot that doesn't make sense in "Buried Pleasure!" not the least of which is Raven's immediate assumption that this guy's got a treasure map in his hand. Curtin looks mentally disturbed and we all know, in the Warren Universe, if it quacks like a duck... quite a leap of faith then on a pirate's part. And then to slaughter his entire seasoned crew on such a tenuous wish. Never mind how he overpowered five men at a time without waking anyone or raising suspicion. As usual it's Maroto to the rescue. Esteban similarly saved Doug Moench's fat in the vampire-themed "Cross of Blood," back in Creepy #46. I guess we should just be happy that Doug didn't stop the voyage to Spain long enough to deliver a monologue on how badly women were treated in the 17th century.

"The Severed Hand"
Speaking of Doug and "Cross of Blood," there's a hilarious missive on the Dear Uncle Creepy page, penned by Moench himself, wherein he extolls the virtues of that tale: "I must confess that I enjoyed "Cross of Blood" beyond the other stories gracing Creepy #46's pages." Now, I'm not one of those vicious "journalists" that would leave Doug's comments out of context, so I will say that the author goes on to praise Esteban's artwork, but I still believe writing in to praise your own work is highly questionable.

Dr. Otto Brunner is the biggest wig in all of late-19th century Germany. He's the most highly regarded surgeon, he's got a great house, and he's married to a really hot babe named Gisele. Into this perfect world comes upstart surgeon, Hans Sterne, a headstrong young and handsome young man who also happens to be a whiz with a scalpel. Immediately, Otto is yesterday's news to both his hospital and his wife. When  Brunner discovers that Hans and Gisele have taken their relationship to that next level and are prepping a getaway, Otto does what any 19th century surgeon would do: he consults the local witch, Frau Sarg, who lives in a shack on the outskirts of the village. The old crone accepts Otto's money and tells him to bring her a severed arm so that she might work her magic. Limb attained, Otto watches in amazement and horror as Frau Sarg brings the limb to life. She instructs the doc to find a way to attach the arm to Hans and calamity is in the bag.

"The Severed Hand"
After Otto monkeys with the axle of his carriage, Hans is mortally wounded and requires surgery. Guess what part of his body gets an upgrade? The new arm leads Hans to murder Gisele and attack Otto before hacking the offensive limb off. Otto is badly hurt in the attack and, while he's unconscious in the hospital, his mutilated arm is amputated and replaced with... you guessed it!... Hans's offending appendage ("Since Sterne's hand was available, Herr Doktor, I gave it to you while you were still unconscious!"). A goofy, check-your-brain-at-the-door horror story (think Poe by way of Lovecraft) that makes no apologies for just how dumb it is. I was laughing out loud at each new twist and turn. The "old witch" sub-plot is straight out of EC, and artist Auraleon seems to be having a ball conjuring up images of gory amputated limbs and decapitated Hammer models. I had a ball too.

"The Third Night of Mourning"
Jacques Aurenche is beheaded in 18th century France and his wife left stranded, unable to remove herself from the guillotine platform. Three nights after being executed (and framed, by the way), his headless corpse stalks the streets, seeking out his accuser. What is essentially a very serious version of The Thing That Wouldn’t Die (a 1958 Universal headless horror film that's also much better than it should be) somehow avoids the giggles that a two sentence synopsis might bring out, primarily due to Jaime Brocal’s stark panels and Jim Stenstrum’s straightforward script. When Jacques’s body rises from the guillotine where he has rotted in the sun for three days, he looks like something George Romero would have featured in one of his Living Dead films. But we never rooted for Romero’s zombies.

Jordi Valls has had enough of the seemingly unending work on his land: plow the fields, feed the animals, clean the machines and tools. This is no life! So Jordi decides to travel to the cave housing the Maneironera plant; legend has it that should one be fortunate enough to find the plant, sow its seeds, and wait 24 hours, the Maneiros will grow. The Maneiros are small creatures who love to work (but, as Jordi's friend warns, never run out of work for the little buggers or else!) and Jordi Valls is a man who would love to watch them work. The trip is a success, Jordi plants the seed and, sure enough, he awakens the next morning to find thousands of little Maneiros in his field, awaiting orders.

"The Accursed Flower"
At first, everything goes swimmingly; Jordi has dozens of projects for the mighty mites to complete but, alas, dozens is not enough. Once our poor farming dupe exhausts his to-do list and throws up his hands in exasperation, the Maneiros find another project to take up their idle time. Jose Bea continues his ascent to the top of the Warren creative heap with "The Accursed Flower," a delightful (and delightfully dark) fairy tale with imagination and creativity to spare. Sure, Bea's main protagonist looks like the guy who complained about a smelly head in the hat shop and got too drunk to answer the phone call from the crypt, but his backgrounds and gremlins are to die for. The story is a tale of two extremes; humor and horror. You can't help but chuckle at Bea's panels of the mini-Baryshnikovs turning on a dime and cutting a rug in the field and, on the other hand, feeling the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as their bat-eared leader questions, "What shall we do now?"

"Wedding Knells"
Honeymooners Gus and Nancy Heath vacation in a log cabin in the "remote Canadian woods" with their German Shepherd, Bruno. Nancy's obviously getting the short end of the attention stick and she chides Gus constantly for treating Bruno like a "human" (wink, wink). For his part, Gus just loves that big old dog and believes the feeling is mutual. A series of brutal murders in the nearby village have the townsfolk murmuring "Loup Garou" under their breath and staring in suspicion at the newcomer in their midst. When Gus comes home one day to discover a dead man on his porch and an inconsolable wife, he decides this monster business is for real and boards himself, his wife, and his trusty best friend in the house. When he starts putting two and two together, Gus believes Nancy must be the werewolf and fills her full of buckshot. Unfortunately, for Gus, Nancy wasn't the one who grows extra fur and Bruno smiles and advances on his master.

The reveal of "Wedding Knells" is not that bad; I'll give Moench the credit for pulling one out of his hat, but the build-up is a cure for insomnia and the visual payoff itself is a riot. Gus changes gears seemingly in the midst of a thought and buys into the whole werewolf theory hook, line, and sinker. The scene of Gus, on a whim, deciding his wife is a monster and emptying both barrels into her at close range, is laugh-out-loud stupid but is, incredibly, topped by the next panel where our lead dope looks at his dog and says, "Hang on, I never realized before how much a German Shepherd looks like a wolf!!!" Gus really screwed the pooch.-Peter

Jack-My favorite in this strong issue of Creepy is "The Third Night of Mourning," which features an excellent story by James Senstrum (whose profile is reproduced here) and gorgeous art by Jaime Brocal. The technique of moving back and forth between the present and the past is a bit confusing, so I docked a half-star from my rating, but the story is very well done overall. Tied for second are "The Severed Hand" and "The Accursed Flower." I love the setting and the art in "The Severed Hand" and it doesn't start out as a severed hand tale but takes a left turn down a familiar road partway through. It's very good overall, and the cutting off of a head and a hand are shown in brutal detail. Jose Bea is unique among the Warren artists and easily turns out the creepiest stories of them all, at least at this point. I was reminded of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by the events in "The Accursed Flower."

"Buried Pleasure" did not float my pirate ship as much as it did yours, Peter; I thought it went on too long and that the "surprise! it's a vampire!" ending was a dud. Still, it's good to see a somewhat-cogent script rein in Maroto's tendency toward vagueness in his storytelling. Finally, there's "Wedding Knells," which drags an old story out to a silly finish. Is it surprising that the two weakest scripts in this issue were by Doug Moench, or that they both pulled out classic Warren cliche endings?

Next Week...
We'll discuss the merits of
John Byrne!


Quiddity said...

Although he isn't formally credited as such yet, this is the point where Warren historians generally consider Bill Dubay to have become editor. I think it will be another year or so of issues before he really starts to perfect things, but greatly looking forward to what is coming up as I think his run as editor is Warren's peak, especially the 1974/1975 issues.

Shadow of Dracula is the only story out of the entire 112 issue run of Vampirella I've never read, beyond this issue I own all non-reprint issues of Vampirella. The cover features arguably the most popular/well known painting of Vampirella, which was drawn by Jose Gonzalez and painted by Enrich Torres.

Love the artwork for "Gender Bender" by Maroto, but yeah, this is the most nonsensical Tomb of the Gods story yet. One of the pages from this story turns up again with the Tomb of the Gods story from Vampirella #22, making me think they didn't just take Maroto's original stories and translate them, but made some edits and rewrites too, and they do quite the bad job at it. Like most of the Spanish artists currently working for Warren, Luis Garcia did a lot of romance comics work, which is what "Love is No Game" comes off of. Still, I liked it quite a lot. Auraleon continues to impress with "Eye Opener". Dominguez's work is fairly strong too. This was one of the earliest issues of Vampirella I read and its mostly enjoyable to me, granted more so due to the art than the stories.

"Someday" is not Rich Margoulos' first story for Warren, he did a Tom Sutton drawn story an issue or two back in Creepy. Love the Grandenetti art here, will sure miss him when he wraps up his Warren career in the near future. "Musical Chairs" I enjoyed quite a bit, beyond just the excellent Sutton art, I too thought of the obvious inspiration from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". "The Hunt" seems to be dedicated to that ending twist of the pursuers being part animal part-human. I too spotted the obvious reference to the original Planet of the Apes movie. "Showdown" is memorable for featuring art from Jesus Suso Rego, one of the very few great Spanish artists that Warren let get away to Skywald, where he did a ton of work and was arguably their best artist.

Rather poor writing for "Buried Pleasure", with far too many leaps of logic by the captain, although very fun to see Maroto drawing pirates. Even more great Auraleon art with "The Severed Hand", a story that reminds me a lot of a very old EC tale where it was a famous pianist instead of a surgeon. Awesome premiere for Jim Stenstrum with "The Third Night of Mourning". Stenstrum will go on to be one of the better writers during Bill Dubay's run as editor and will eventually write what many consider to be the best Warren story of all time (although its not my #1), "Thrillkill". "The Accursed Flower" is one of the quintessential Jose Bea stories for me (the others being "The Picture in the House" from Creepy #45 and "The Other Side of Heaven which is still a ways off). No one at Warren, artist or writer can pull off stories as bonkers and out of this world as he does and this story is such a great example of that. Bea will continue to return to a similar setting/protagonist (Spanish farmer) many times with future stories. Alas, the issue concludes with the horrifically stupid ending to "Wedding Knells" where the guy offs his wife with so little to go on.

andydecker said...

The Dracula tale makes no sense at all. The set-up is ridiculous – here we have the time-trip spell, yeah, right -, TCB doesn't seem to grasp that for Drakulonians drinking blood is like drinking water for humans, a biological necessity. What shall the cure achieve? That they don't have to eat anymore? They already have their blood-serum. So what is the point? You could argue that it is evil to kill other people for their blood, but this is a moral problem. The Deus ex machine goddess doesn't get it either what the blood thirst is about. Laugh out loud the scene where our vampire-hunters want to call Scotland Yard to extradit Dracula to England for his crimes instead of staking him.

But the art is breathtakingly pretty. I have never seen a more beautiful Mina or Lucy.

The rest of the stories is not much better. "Gender Bender" is a plotless and pretentious nonsense. I just can't believe Marotto wrote this drivel. I mean the translated text. Still, even with a better text the story itself would not be better. "Love is no Game" is no story, just a fragment. "Eye Opener" is awful. Text and art are often at odds, if Plotkin really sleeps with the girl, shouldn't this be illustrated? To - maybe, it is never spelled out except in the ranting of grandma - let this happen betwween two panels is nonsense.

But I kind of liked "Vengeance". It was plotted a bit tighter and was generic fantasy, still it had a beginning, a middle and an end.

Eerie #43 is also mostly a disappointment. The twist of "Musical Chairs" is groan-worthy, "Dax" is the same as last month or the month before, and the text is awful. The only story which really works is Corben. But in other hands this would also have been a dud. I like the western artwork of Rego, but the writing again is weak.

As far as horror is concerned, the majority of the tales are weak. And the sf and fantasy content is even worse. Warren is – at least this era – all about the art. One wonders if the editor didn't recognize the dire writing or if he just waved it through.

Quiddity said...

Andy - I think the editor is exactly what the issue is for this era of Warren and why the art is great but most stories are lackluster. Warren had this massive revolving door of editors around this time; after Bill Parente left you had Archie Goodwin helping out for a little bit, then Billy Graham, then JR Cochran, then Marv Wolfman (although I don't think he ever got credited). I don't think any lasts more than 6 months before leaving and forcing Warren to move on to the next guy. Net result is I wouldn't be surprised if most of these stories from young guys like T. Casey Brennan, Don McGregor, Doug Moench Steve Skeates, etc... are getting through largely unedited and the art they buy from Spain gets some very lackluster stories/translations to put on top of the amazing art.

Once things are stabilized (first with Bill Dubay for 30 issues or so, albeit with some growing pains, then Louise Jones after him for even longer than that) the writing improves considerably. Will be a little bit until we get there, next issue of Creepy in particular I recall having one of the all time worst stories Warren ever published in it.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thank you both for the detailed comments! I have to wonder if some intrepid Spanish-speaking fan ever got a hold of the original Dax stories to compare the writing to the Warren versions. That might settle the matter once and for all, as far as whether the originals are any better.

Grant said...

This is looking far ahead, but Eerie # 59 is full of Dax story reprints, that are also retitled and rewritten (at least, a lot of them). But I could swear I heard that it was actually the other way around, that those were the ORIGINAL versions by Maroto, and that they get rewritten for Eerie the first time around.
If that's true, that would be a way of seeing what you're asking about. But again, I don't know for sure.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Grant!