Monday, December 21, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 49: February 1974

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

Eerie #54

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jaime Brocal

"To Cure This Curse!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Martin Salvador

Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Paul Neary

"The Christmas Spirit"
(originally published 12/21/47)

"Bright Eyes!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"The Evil That Men Do"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Isidro Mones

A train conductor discovers the mummy playing hobo and they both tumble off the speeding train. The man dies in the fall but the mummy survives and wanders around the hills of Massachusetts until he happens upon devil worshippers setting a pile of leaves on fire. The mummy thinks back to the good old days in Ancient Egypt and wanders into a large, stone building in the Massachusetts town. He discovers that the townsfolk have summoned up a demon, and the mummy and the demon fight like crazy until the whole building falls down, killing everyone but the mummy, who shambles off, observed by a woman in town who wants to know more about the guy who beat the demon.

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!"

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!" is an odd title for this story. Yes, the mummy is a stranger, and yes, he does visit a village, but we learn nothing about the people there beyond the fact that they somehow conjure up a demon. That's the problem with this series: it moves from story to story without any real depth, and the purpose of each entry seems to be to give the mummy a reason to get in a big fight and kill someone or something. At least Jaime Brocal's art is nice to look at. He really carries the series almost by himself.

The werewolf happens upon a coven of witches in the woods and kills all but one of them, turning back into Arthur Lemming midway through strangling the old man. What can I do "To Cure This Curse," asks Arthur, and the old guy marches him to the village, where more witches have a nutty plan: they'll transfer Arthur's curse into the body of an Egyptian mummy they happen to have handy. Arthur agrees and, before you know it, the naughty old witches have not just transferred the curse but Arthur's mind as well! He's now trapped in the mummy's body and, when the full moon rises, the mummy turns into a bandaged werewolf and kills everybody but the treacherous old man. The old coot says there's an amulet in America that can return Arthur's mind to his body, which will not decompose. Arthur/ werewolf/mummy finally kills the guy and faces the prospect of...what?

Readers react to "To Cure This Curse!"

This is just dreadful stuff! Martin Salvador's art can't save a bad script the way Jaime Brocal's art can, and the idea of having the werewolf become a mummy/werewolf is as ridiculous as it sounds. The sight of the mummy with little wolf ears popping out from the bandages is more silly than scary and, as in the mummy series, the story is an excuse for the main character to kill everyone in sight. I've never read these before, so I wonder if this is all leading toward a showdown between the mummy (of the mummy series) and the mummy (of the werewolf series). Don't spoil it for me!

Hunter knocks on the door of a home demanding shelter and forces his way in when the man inside refuses. The man grabs a gun but Hunter is knocked out from behind by the man's daughter. Hunter awakens and is soon strung up, but when a pack of demons attack he is the only thing between the man's family and death. Hunter fights valiantly but is on the verge of being killed when the homeowner reappears and wipes out the demons with his Gatling gun; unfortunately, his daughter is also among the dead.

Easily the best of the first three stories in this issue, "Demon-Killer" benefits greatly from Paul Neary's increasingly smooth art, which is really reminding me of John Byrne's 1970s' work. There's little new in this story, but at least it's a trusty old plot, of the settlers first rejecting and later accepting the outsider who fights on their behalf against the forces of chaos. Substitute Native Americans for demons and this could be a western saga! Neary's demons are inventive but he sure does love Zip-A-Tone!

With "The Christmas Spirit," Warren begins its practice of reprinting some of the best comics of all time. This one follows an orphan in war-torn Europe who meets a famished Santa Claus and ends up on a plane to America, where he is taken in by the Spirit and his friends. In addition to the heart-tugging story and brilliant art, we are treated to Richard Corben's stunning color. I am really looking forward to re-reading all of Warren's Spirit mags and this is a great introduction to the series. Now, if only we could figure out how to deal with Ebony in 2020...

"The Christmas Spirit"

"Bright Eyes!"
Alone, naked, and missing his right hand, Schreck fights off the rampaging zombies and hides in the attic until they break down the door. He manages to escape and makes a run for it until he is saved by a mysterious person with a gun who starts shooting zombies. Schreck passes out and wakes up in an insane asylum, where he has been unconscious for two days while a prosthetic hand was surgically grafted onto his stump. A beautiful woman named "Bright Eyes!" enters his room but is shocked to see that Schreck's eyes are white, signaling that he has become a zombie.

There is no Neal Adams this time to elevate Schreck above a one-star rating. This is truly awful. The art stinks and so does the story. What more can I say? Doug Moench is scraping the bottom of the barrel, and it's all the worse for following Eisner's story.

"The Evil That Men Do"
London, 1886: Alistair Archaeus is convicted and sentenced to hang for murder! When the trap door drops and his body is stretched at the end of a noose, no one notices that the rope breaks and he is left alive, albeit with a broken neck. On Boxing Day, later that year, Sir Arthur Holmes entertains guests at his London estate and the men gather to hunt Chukars. Archaeus waits until Sir Arthur is alone and captures him, tying him up and sticking him inside a bush, to whose branches he ties stuffed Chukars. When the others in the hunting party shoot the birds, Sir Arthur's body is riddled with bullets. A detective suspects that Archaeus is alive and has just killed the foreman of the jury that convicted him.

Anything would look good following "Bright Eyes," but "The Evil Men Do" is not a bad start to a new series, though the conceit of having someone murder the members of a jury is not a new one. Still, the 1886 London setting is welcome and the art by Mones is effective, recalling (for me) the work of Jose Bea.-Jack

Peter- The most magical aspect (and truly, the only reason I keep reading this crap) of Steve Skeates's two quasi-Marvel series is that Steve doesn't bother to explain anything that's going on. You want to know what's with this weird town full of demon worshippers? Forget it. Just keep reading; don't ask questions. Is the mummy we come across in the werewolf series the same bandaged boogieman from the other series? What did I just say? Stop asking stupid questions! Are we even sure these two characters are living in the same era? (Blank stare) Jack naively requests us not to spoil what's about to happen, but the irony is that we can't possibly tell him. Even those of us in the Monday Morning Quarterback club aren't entirely sure what Steve Skeates does next. That's refreshing.

Of the three other series making up Eerie #54, only Dr. Archaeus is worth the time. Gerry Boudreau's riff on Dr. Phibes is, at least, readable, and the art is very good. I'm not clear why Dr. Archaeus's missing "corpse" didn't raise some red flags, but little details like proof of death probably eluded common folk of the 19th century. The problem I'm having with the majority of the Eerie series is that 90% of them are so unremarkable I forget what happened in the last installment. Praise the lord we only have two more chapters of Schreck, which is a mishmash of bad ideas, bad Moench writing, and bad art. "Hunter" has some outstanding visuals, but the narrative is confusing as all hell. Why are so many of these writers bound and determined to master the Marvel style? The only difference between Hunter/Schreck and something like Deathlok is that, with Warren, we get boobs.

The highlight of the issue is, of course, the debut of Will Eisner's Spirit. Jack and I have had lots of discussion on how we're going to handle discussing the character but, suffice it to say, were both tickled pink by the arrival. Rich Corben's color is vibrant and only enhances Eisner's vision. 

Creepy #60

"Slaughter House" 
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"A Most Precious Secret" 
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Jose Gual

"The Hero Within" ★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Rich Corben

"Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" ★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Other Side of Hell!" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

Some housewarmings are
a bit less elaborate
Tom and Toni O'Neil (along with their young son, Rickie) fall immediately in love with the derelict and unkempt "Slaughter House," despite the realtor's warnings of the old building being haunted. The man tells them of an entire family (including a newborn) killed within the walls and now a mysterious force walks the hallways. The realtor even shows the O'Neils a creepy painting of a dwarf that hangs on a musty wall. Tom tells the man it's perfect for the couple's psychic phenomena investigations and they'll take it.

First night in doesn't go well. There's a violent storm that keeps Rickie up until Toni puts him down in the murdered baby's crib. The boy goes right to sleep. Toni and Tom then acquaint themselves with their surroundings, casting a spell in their new living room to attract good spirits to protect them from evil. As the rites come to an end, they hear a slamming sound and watch in horror as the painting's dwarf looks in at them from outside. Fearing for the safety of little Rickie, the couple race upstairs just in time to see the dwarf's spirit departing into the afterlife. Not a dwarf but the spirit of the dead baby (yes, ghosts do age, stop laughing!), now able to exit our world peacefully.

A mediocre gothic at best, sixteen wasted pages at worst, "Slaughter House" just doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. The O'Neils are would-be forerunners of Ed and Lorraine Warren (the Conjuring couple), but they don't seem to know if that's really what they want as a vocation. Why would you bring a little kid into a house that might be haunted by evil spirits? And was the realtor's insistence that the couple should find a safer place to live some kind of red herring? Why does he bother showing a house if he's going to do everything in his power to prevent the sale? And what's with the closet full of diapers? 

Sandra comes home early one night to discover her husband, Erich, chowing down on the neck of an unfortunate lass. Erich is a vampire! Now, as Erich is quick to point out, he'll have to dispose of Sandra to keep his secret... um, a secret. Seconds after he sups on his wife, the phone rings. It's Sandra's lawyer, informing Erich that Sandra has leukemia (cancer of the blood!!!!!) and that she has to come over to his office right now to finalize her will. Erich stares off in the distance, dumbfounded, knowing he now has cancer of the blood!!!!!

The very definition of amateur hour, there's so much wrong with "A Most Precious Secret"! Let's start with why a vampire would possibly want to marry when obvious skeletons in the closet can only be revealed given time. I mean, Margopoulos doesn't even try to explain how awkward it might be for a woman to discover her husband can't go outdoors during the day. Was the wedding ceremony performed at night? Does Erich have some kind of phony job he goes to? When they have sex, doesn't Sandra notice how cold Erich is? Some red flags have to be flying here, no? And then the finale arrives (which holds the only moment I appreciated: a vampire on a phone) where Erich gets the good/bad news. Ostensibly, he's the primary recipient of Sandra's money, but then the lawyer (in a very un-lawyerly fashion) spills the beans about the woman's diagnosis. Hang on. Isn't a vampire dead? So why would a blood disease spell disaster? Maybe I need to go back to Stoker's book and re-read all the rules. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Gual's art is not bad, but I question what a babe like Sandra saw in a porky old fuddy-duddy like Erich.

"The Hero Within"
Orphaned Lucien is trucked from one foster home to another and the only thing that keeps him going is the ability to lose himself in his own mind. When Lucien is brought to Mrs. Gillfodder's house, he immediately senses the hostility generated by the woman, her daughter and, most importantly, their vicious dog, Bucky. When Lucien is locked in the basement for showing fear of the mongrel, he immediately escapes into his fantasy world when he finds a "magic rock" on the basement floor.

In that world, Lucien becomes a muscular, ape-like creature who saves a gorgeous big-breasted (more of those magic rocks!) blonde from a T-Rex by shoving a spear into its eye but loses his magic rock during the battle. He is quickly transported back to his basement prison. The door opens and Mrs. Gillfodder and her daughter descend the stairs. The girl accuses Lucien of stealing her dolly (sure enough, he's holding onto the blonde toy) and the brutish woman tells Lucien he'll be staying locked up until the next day. Alone again, Lucien stares in terror as Bucky approaches from the shadows.

"Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!"
"The Hero Within" had a huge impact on me when I first read it in 1973. My 12-year-old brain was frazzled by the horrors this little boy had to endure, events that were in no way of his making. And then... no happy ending! This was a different kind of Warren story to me and, today, though the impact has dulled a bit and I can see a few flaws, the story is still pretty potent. Steve Skeates manages to shy away from the maudlin and get down to the business of telling a horrifying story, one that leaves us with a depressed feeling. This poor, innocent kid deserved so much more than a grisly death, but the impact of that climax stays within your brain for quite a while after you turn the final page and go back to vampires that walk around in business suits. Would I question the random involvement of Blonde Sonja now that I'm old enough to know better? Oh yeah, but I assume "big boobs" was something Rich Corben (who we sadly lost just a couple of weeks ago) had written into his contract with Warren. 

An alien race plans to invade Earth during the 18th century, and one of their emissaries believes the best way to sneak up on the human race is to publish a novel detailing how the invasion will take place. So, the creature disguises itself as Monsieur Fortran and simultaneously becomes the talk of the town and a pariah. The plan goes awry when one of Fortran's friends believes the novel is actually a work of non-fiction and the aliens will come to silence Fortran. "Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" is a talky and dumb mess; the whole plot makes no sense to me. The 18th century would seem to be the perfect place for an alien invasion; who needs the elaborate plan? It's not like 2020, where we almost expect a similar fate to put a cap on such a wonderful year. Martin Salvador's art is bland, showing no signs of life.

There's definitely something
going on in there...I think
Wino Charlie Struthers dies after chugging a jug of whiskey and visits "The Other Side of Hell!" Charlie decides Satan's playground ain't such a bad place to visit for a while, what with its sexy babes and kingdoms to conquer, but the pace soon wears the man down and he wishes for a little peace. The obvious draw here is not the cliched script but Gonzalo Mayo's artwork, very very very very reminiscent of Esteban Maroto with its half-nekkid women and swords and long-haired barbarians and stuff. Unfortunately, like Maroto at times, Mayo's penciling can be a bit confusing. Some of the panels look like there might have been a nice soufflé there in the oven before Gonzo decided to add a huge layer of cheese and the whole thing ran together into an inedible mess. Why do the women in these fantasy strips always lounge in the same position, breasts thrust forward, with fifty pounds of jewelry weighing them down? Have their leg muscles atrophied and they can't rise from their altar/beds?

The two-page spread informing us that Steve Skeates has won "Best All-Around Writer" and Bill DuBay has won Best Story Award for "Freedom's Just Another Word" only deepens my conviction that the "election board" never actually read these things.-Peter

Jack-I'm getting to like the stories by Rich Margopoulos. "Slaughter House" is unexpectedly long, at 16 pages, but it held my interest and I thought Abellan's usually scratchy art style was pretty good. I was glad for a happy ending and less violence, even though I'm not entirely sure what happened. "A Most Precious Secret" has really nice, clean art by Gual and an ending that amused and surprised me. "The Hero Within" certainly has stunning Corben art and gorgeous color, but the story by Skeates is weak, despite Corben doing the best he can with it. The last two stories in the issue are duds: "Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" is overly talky space-filler with mediocre art, while "The Other Side of Hell!" suggests that Gonzalo Mayo is the heir to Maroto and DuBay took something he found in a foreign publication and wrote new prose for it. Pretty pictures, lousy story.

In two weeks...
Can writer Roy Thomas
bring new life to Batman?


andydecker said...

R.I.P. Richard Corben. Another of the truly great ones gone. Sad days.

Can't say I have much good to say about Eerie either. If you want to fuse "Mummy" and "Werewolf", okay, why not. (If this is what's happening. And I am not interested enough to look ahead.) Both concepts have outlived their potential. At least Brocal can deliver, while Salvador was not up to it.

Schreck is awful. It is only interesting if you compare it with other comics doing the same concept. "Crossed" comes to mind. And then it is a dull PG13 version. Meat cleavers regardless.

Also not a fan of Dr. Archaeus. What is the point to shamelessly rip-off Dr. Phibes if you just dial the gruesome vengeance down? It is just a boring story with bad dialogue, only without Phibes' wit and black humor. The art is nice, but that is the case with most of these stories. Not looking forward to the next parts.

Eisner never appealed to me. I know, this is sacrilege. But I just don't care for The Spirit.

See you in 2021, guys. Have a nice christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Quiddity99 said...

I'd agree that the best thing about this issue's Mummy story is Jaime Brocal's art. Although I've got some bad news, this is his last story for Warren. What that will mean for the Mummy series, well, you don't want to be spoiled so I'll leave it at that. As for the Werewolf series, that series takes a harsh turn into the ridiculous with Arthur now becoming a weremummy! This series has always been over the top, but now it gets even more absurd. Decent Hunter story, although the middle part of the series really blurs together for me so despite having only read this story 2-3 weeks ago I can't remember any of the details of it. The only Spirit stories I have ever read are the two that were reprinted in Eerie. This one is quite strong, and totally fitting given that we're only a few days away from Christmas. I never got around to reading any more of the Spirit, primarily because I'm not much of a superhero fan and most of my comics read have been horror and sci-fi. Schreck is not great stuff, but I was at least higher on it than you were. I think the first story of the series is its worst writing-wise (that first story does have the benefit of Neal Adams being involved), but the later stories are a bit better. "Dr. Archaeus" is a series I've always enjoyed a lot and has a pretty good gimmick (albeit not an original one). Archaeus himself also reminds me of a character from an old EC horror story where a criminal was hung for murder, somehow survived with a broken neck (and a head twisted at a 90 degree angle) and then went on a killing spree. Wouldn't surprise me if that story was also part of the inspiration for this series. In any case, Mones continues to be one of my favorite artists for Warren during this period, so always enjoy seeing more from him.

In regards to Eerie's series as a whole, I do think at this point Warren (Dubay in particular as the editor) is still getting settled in the format. Dr. Archaeus may be the first series that doesn't come off as Marvel-lite and future series like "Night of the Jackass", "Apocalypse" and others truly have that kind of feel that they could have only come from Warren; they also are kept at reasonably short lengths so they don't become stale like the Mummy and Werewolf series already have become.

"Slaughter House" is about twice as long as it should have been and Abellan's art continues to be rather "eh" compared to the superior artists around him. "A Most Precious Secret" is a horribly written story as you've mentioned, although I am quite happy to see Jose Gual back after having done just one story for Warren earlier all the way back in Eerie #38. He's one of a few artists that did a decent amount of work for Skywald, then moved over to Warren (others including Ramon Torrents and Zesar Lopez, who we won't see at Warren for a while). "The Hero Within" is the runaway favorite for best story of the issue. Although I've yet to read all of Corben's famous "Den" series that was published in Heavy Metal, I feel like this is kind of a precursor to that; regular Earth kid becomes a powerful creature in a fantasy world, fights monsters, rescues beautiful women, etc... Its clearly a subject matter Corben loved to do. "Monsieur Fortran's Hoax" is another mediocre story, although I do like how ridiculous Salvador's aliens look. "The Other Side of Hell" is also a mess of a story; it is good to see Gonzalo Mayo's Warren premiere though. His style is really interesting to look at, although he does tend to really overdo it at times, making it hard to understand what is going on. Mayo will eventually become the main backup artist for Vampirella when Jose Gonzalez is absent although that is still quite a while away, after some other artists get a try out first. Overall this is a mediocre issue of Creepy, although we'll get a very strong issue next time.

Quiddity99 said...


I'm higher on Steve Skeates than you are, so him getting best all around writer didn't bother me (thankfully it didn't go to Dough Moench or Don McGregor!), but "Freedom's Just Another Word" winning best story is absurdity, I've got major issues with the story as mentioned back when you covered it. I'd have given the award to "The Other Side of Heaven" from Vampirella #28.

RIP Richard Corben, he truly was one of the best and most unique comic artists of all time. In fact its arguable that he was Warren's best and most important American artist (with perhaps only Frank Frazetta being competition). I'm mostly familiar with his Warren work but do have a goal to check out his other non-Warren work as much as I am able to.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

andy: Eisner never appealed to you?!!!? Wait, what— maybe I mis-read that — I mean, it’s just not poss— I can’t — I can’t even...

Well — one dude’s trash is another guy’s treasure, and all that! I certainly have my share of unusual preferences. For instance, I’ve always liked Vicente Alcazar’s stuff, and I prefer the All-Alcazar art on this issue’s Schreck installment over the last one inked by Adams. But I agree, in general, that it’s NOT a great series.

I like this issue’s “Hunter” episode a lot. Yes indeed, some of the pages are pretty hard to decipher. There’s just SO much going on. But I like it.

Ah — the dawn of the infamous Were-Mummy. If nothing else, I give them credit for thinking outside the box. But it really does seem like just a desperate “Hail Mary”, as both strips had long ceased to be interesting on their own by this point. I just wish the gonzo mish-mash idea had also infused some spark of creativity and energy into the combo strip. Just imagine what Tom Sutton could have done writing and drawing the Were-Mummy!

I LOVE Dr. Archaeus. Sure, it’s just Dr. Phibes played absolutely straight. So what? It’s grim, gritty and creepy as hell. And like Quiddity says, it’s the one series so far that doesn’t feel like it could easily have appeared in one of Marvel’s mags. Check out the way Mones draws him on pages 63 and 64 — far as I’m concerned, that right there is the scariest monster to ever appear in a Warren comic.

Happy holidays to you all!


Jack Seabrook said...

Merry Christmas to all! Thanks for your comments. We love to read them every 2 weeks! As for me, I can't wait to reread The Spirit. It's one of my all-time favorites.