Monday, April 19, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 57: October/November 1974

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

Vampirella #37 (October)

"Cobra Queen"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #23)

"She Who Waits!" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #18)

"The Cry of the Dhampir"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #22)

"Demon Child"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #26)

"The Vampiress Stalks the Castle This Night
(Reprinted from Vampirella #21)

"Blood Brothers!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #26)

"The Accursed!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #23)

Adam Van Helsing has been put into a deep trance by the "Cobra Queen" (see Vampi #23 or simply read the reprint that immediately precedes) after the dope kills the giant snake's mate. CQ is about to sacrifice Adam but has a change in plans when she realizes how cute the dummy is, so she sinks her fangs into Adam's neck and makes him her slave. When Conrad VH finds his son in a near-cataleptic state, with two puncture wounds on his neck, he naturally assumes Vampi is back in town.

Rather than ask questions, Conrad tries to stake our Drakulonian heroine while she sleeps. Sixth sense (and the fact that the blind dolt trips over three or four pieces of furniture before falling face first into Vampi's voluptuous breasts) awakens the vampiress from her deep sleep just in time to save herself. She and CVH have a long discussion about betrayal and true love before the drunk Pendragon stumbles into the room to point out that Adam would be dead (or -hic- undead, presumably) if Vampi had drained him. The light bulb goes on over Conrad's head and he agrees to call a doctor now rather than jump to any more rash conclusions.

After the less-than-brilliant trio leave the bedroom, a cobra enters and wraps itself around Adam's neck, sending psychic messages deep into his shallow brain. Like a zombie, Adam heads out of the house and straight into the arms of the Cobra Queen. Suddenly, the heretofore on-the-blink psychic powers that have become CVH's trademark begin working again and send him the message that Adam is in trouble deep in the jungle and the entire "Adam killed the Cobra King" montage unwinds in flashback through the old man's skull. The terrific trio rush to the palace of the Cobra Queen just in time to save Adam and burn the Queen to cinders (thanks to the ever-handy flask of brandy belonging to the fully-inebriated Pendy). 

The only new story this issue, "She Who Waits" is a bumbling, rushed fill-in that smells like "Deadline Doom" or "Shelf Story" to me. The Van Helsings' pop-in visit falls between two linked stories (last issue's "The Vampire of the Nile" and next's "The Mummy's Revenge"); Archie hadn't written a Vampi since #16; and a sequel to a non-Vampi story that appeared two years before all back up my uneducated opinion. In any event, it's not a good enough story to spotlight the return of two "beloved" characters and Pendy's Foster Brooks impersonation (Google him) has gone way past annoying and hits cringe-worthy several times here. The buildup is well-paced, but then Archie arrives at page seven and realizes he has to finish this thing right now and does. Going through my notes, I see I wasn't floored by the rest of the contents, though "Demon Child" and "The Accursed" were at least readable. This was another one of those 100-page giants Warren would put together in order to ease readers into paying an extra quarter an issue. Usually, the price would stay the same but the page count would drop back to normal. I never seemed to see through Jim's nefarious plan.-Peter

Jack-"She Who Waits" is an unusually weak story from the team of Goodwin and Gonzalez, who usually turn out much better material. It's certainly jarring to see Conrad and Adam return; Archie throws in a line about Vampi and Pendy returning from their magic tour, but he's not fooling anyone. Of the reprints, I most liked "Cobra Queen," which makes more sense than most stories Maroto worked on, and "The Accursed," which has creepy art by Bea. The rest range from fair to worse and none really deserved to be reprinted.

The Spirit #4 (October)

"Life Below"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 2/22/48)

"Mr. McDool"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 10/12/47)

"Silk Satin & The Spirit"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc
(Originally appeared 5/30/48)

"Ye Olde Spirit of '76"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 7/3/49)

"The Elevator"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 6/26/49)

"The Return of Vino Red"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 9/25/49)

"The Guilty Gun"
Story by Will Eisner 
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc
(Originally appeared 6/6/48)

"Flaxen Weaver"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 12/11/49)

Jack-A classic cover leads into another strong issue. Stories this time out come from October 1947 through December 1949 and feature writing aid by Jules Feiffer and art help from Jerry Grandenetti and Andre LeBlanc. The first five stories are all outstanding, from the great mix of horror and pathos in "Life Below," as the Spirit finds crooks living in the sewers, to the two stories with Silk Satin, "Mr. McDool" and "Silk Satin & The Spirit." The relationship between Satin and the Spirit is great and the attempts by the child, Hildy, to play matchmaker are charming.

"Ye Olde Spirit of '76" is an entertaining look at a July 4th celebration, with another ghost making an appearance, while "The Elevator," this issue's color story, has a gorgeous splash and makes fantastic use of panel design and geometric shapes. Ebony is an unlikely hero!

"The Return of Vino Red" falls flat for me, mainly due to an overuse of dialect, while "Flaxen Weaver" has another femme fatale who is far less memorable than Silk Satin. Throw in "The Guilty Gun," about a weapon with a mind of its own, and you have another superb issue of some of the best comics ever made.

Peter: After ingesting eight stories in just under an hour (Deadline Doom!!), I've got to say that perhaps The Spirit is a vino best sipped at rather than downed in one shot. Since I usually read one or two at a time, the hijinks don't usually get on my nerves, but this time out I've OD'd on the really good stuff. Anyway, of the eight this issue, my favorite would have to be the one-two Satin punch of "Mr. McDool" and "Silk Satin and the Spirit." Eisner definitely knew his way around the female form and Satin is one of his greatest achievements. Close runner-up is the equally gorgeous Vino.

On the letters page, African-American William Williams of New York lets Dube (and Eisner) know that he considers Ebony a "parody of a black human being," and that "his appearance and speech, even in print, cannot be condoned." Hard to argue with Williams's points (DuBay kinda sidesteps the issues with another one of his "It is not, nor has it ever been our intention to portray any faction of our society, minority or otherwise, in a degrading fashion"). Right. DuBay makes me chuckle with his wrap-up line: "Without this basic human dignity for his audience to identify with, Ebony could never have become such a popular character with fans of all races!" I'd love to see the poll done among African-Americans that rated Ebony high on their list of role models. But anyway, it is what it is. I'm sure an argument could be made that the Italian-Americans had a bone to pick with Eisner, too, based on his understanding of IA dialect in the Vino tale. 

Creepy #66 (November)

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Portrait of Death" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Vicente Alcazar

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Martin Salvador

"Pinball Wizard!" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rich Corben

"Relatively Axe-Cidental" ★1/2
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Adolfo Abellan

Story by Gerry Boudreau & Isidro Mones
Art by Isidro Mones

"Chariots of the Dogs"
Treasure hunter Dern purges ancient Egyptian tombs and sells the relics he finds to the highest bidder. Now, Dern has stumbled upon the resting place of Akhenaton, cursed by Amon-Ra to sleep forever within a pyramid tomb and never see the "afterworld." Dern climbs to the top of the pyramid, discovers a false top, slides it off and climbs down into the chamber via rope. As he's descending, Dern reads ancient inscriptions that tell the legend of Akhenaton and his eternal sleep. 

Reaching the bottom, Dern looks up to see the top of the pyramid slide back into place. Trapped! Suddenly, a door slides open and there stands dog-headed Amon-Ra, who explains to the terrified Dern that he's taking him back with him... somewhere. The pyramid lifts up and blasts off into space. That two-star rating of mine is very charitable. "Desecration" is utter hogwash, with the final reveal making no sense whatsoever. Why has Amon-Ra been sleeping in a pyramid for 2000 years, waiting for one dope like Dern to invade his privacy? Was that the goal? Was Dern an alarm clock? Hell, I don't know. Ask Doug. 90% of the two stars goes to Jose Ortiz for his eye-pleasing visuals.

Artist Delany Bridges seeks to create the most horrifying visions but always seems to come up short in his own eyes. To capture "death," he decides, he must be faced with the evidence. So he and his aide Gregory go grave-robbing one night and haul back a perfectly splendid example of corpus rottenus. But Gregory takes the fizz out of the evening's festivities by announcing that he plans to blackmail Delany. The artist, seeing his bright future ending in a swift hanging, cracks his assistant across the head with a candlestick and then stares in awe and inspiration as the man steps over to the "other side." 

Gripped with an intense drive to create the perfect visualization of the grim reaper, Delany sets to work. Later, at the unveiling of his "Portrait of Death," the artist writhes in horror as his painting pulls him into the canvas, to the utter dismay of his audience. The splash makes mention of Poe and those are the vibes I get from this one. It's a really well-told tale right up to the predictable finish, which drives home the fact that a lot of these Warren writers could come up with interesting plots but couldn't deliver the goods in the end. Vicente Alcazar certainly delivers, though; this is some of VA's best work. The portrait itself is pretty spooky stuff.

Captain Yarnell and what remains of his Civil War Raiders are dying of thirst in the desert when they happen upon the town of "Solitude!" Though the Raiders are gruff and violent, the people of Solitude give over everything that's asked of them, hoping the men will ride on and leave them to their peace. But when the daughter of the town's priest is brutally murdered, the kindly citizens of Solitude show their true colors. They're werewolves! Thank you, Captain Obvious. Who here never saw that one coming? Possibly in a magazine not devoted to "illustrated horror," the revelation might come as something of a surprise but, by now, we know we're going to get a/vampires, b/ghouls, or c/werewolves. Archie simply spun the wheel and it landed on lycanthropes. The real question here is why a whole town of werewolves would go vegetarian (well, obviously dining on the stray cow) and put up with this band of rude renegades, rather than overpower the four men and snack on them later. Not one of Archie's best.

Pop Jonas, owner of Walter's favorite soda fountain, is being muscled by a group of heavies run by mobster Charlie Schmied, who wants Pop to add pinball machines to the very small diner. If Pop says no, chances are bones will be broken.  Walter has an idea on how to send Charlie and his bozos to hell, but Pop's not hearing of it and tells the boy to go home and stop thinking such bad thoughts. But, given a day to reflect, Pop realizes the kid is right and tells Charlie to take a hike. For his troubles, Pop is ventilated. Later that day, Walter visits the diner and discovers Pop's body. Unlike other precocious ten-year-olds, Walter is well-versed in raising demons through black magic rituals, so he calls on Ebon, Prince of Darkness, to rid the world of Charlie Schmied. Ebon rips the mobster apart and then transforms his soul into a billiard ball, where Charlie spends the rest of eternity slapping against bumpers and collecting points for the "lord of scum!"

Leave it to Doug Moench to gather all the cliches ever presented in a funny book and cobble them together to sell Warren a script like "Pinball Wizard," an immensely stupid yarn that wastes the talents of Mr. Corben and simultaneously wastes twenty minutes of my life. We get the usual Moench-isms (seized by inexplicable force... hurled through the bleak immensity of space... nails driven into his eardrums... his throat pinched on sour bile... slammed against an unyielding mass, spasms of excruciating pain shudder the core of his being...), the requisite revenge motive, grimy mobsters, the old man who won't give in to bad guys, the oh-so-hip pilfering of a popular song title, and a dozen other familiar banalities. What we don't get is any rational explanation of why this pre-teen should know how to draw a pentagram and conjure up the demonic equivalent of Tommy. It's schmaltzy. Where the hell was Pete Townshend's lawyer?

The peaceful existence of executioner William Roundside is disturbed when a stranger in a crowd shouts out his name and tells him he knows who he is and he should be ashamed of what he does. Afraid his wife will discover the true nature of his work, Roundside follows the stranger to a bar, where he finds the man reading a book of sorcery. When questioned, the stranger admits that he is a scholar and only has the book for research. Seeing a prime opportunity present itself, Roundside notifies the police that they have a sorcerer in their midst. The stranger is arrested.

That night, William's wife, Jenny, informs him that her brother, Henry, is coming to stay. Oh, by the way, he's a scholar! Yep, the next day, William puts his brother-in-law under the axe and then impales the man's head on a spike for all to see. Jenny confronts her brother's executioner and discovers, to her chagrin, that the headsman is her hubby. Hell hath no fury... and all that, so no surprise, the next day William is picked up for sorcery and beheaded soon after. The last panel reveals the new headsman to be none other than headless Henry! "Relatively Axe-Cidental" is pretty damned dumb stuff and that final twist makes no sense whatsoever (did Henry's headless body go into the office and fill out the necessary employment forms?), but it's the perfect capper to an inane and overlong mess. I'm doubling down on my dislike for Abellan's penciling. This is the type of art that kept me away from the Skywalds.

This really weak issue of Creepy ends on a... weak note. "Nightmare!" sees businessman Harry Magraw wracked by vivid dreams of creatures in the darkness reaching out to him and... -poof- he awakens. He walks out to his car, late for work, and finds he has a flat. Finally arriving at the office, he's called into the boss's for a chat and discovers grotesque creatures in the shadows. Harry is beheaded by the monstrous... -poof- he awakens. "Whoo, that was quite a dream," thinks the overworked Harry. "Guess I better splash some water on my face." More nightmarish monsters invade his bathroom! And so it goes until we reach the inevitable and mind-sucking conclusion where Harry walks out to his car and finds a flat tire. By 1974, this "it was only a dream... no it wasn't" plot hook had been utilized approximately 8000 times in horror comics but, evidently, Boudreau and Mones must have thought their take was something new. It isn't. The only saving grace is Mones's creepy critters. The reseeding of all these hoary old cliches begs the question: are these writers out of fresh ideas?-Peter

Jack-When did Warren writers ever have fresh ideas? These mags have always been more notable for the art than the story. This is a particularly average issue; not terrible, but lacking any standouts. I'm a little bit embarrassed to say "Pinball Wizard!" was my favorite, for two reasons: I did not expect the kid to perform a satanic rite, and Corben's art is funky. I liked the idea of the bad guy reading a spiraling comic strip in hieroglyphics as he descended inside the pyramid in "Desecration," but when Amon-Ra showed up looking like a dog in a spacesuit and then the pyramid blasted off for Pluto and the moon, Moench lost me.

Not much happens in "Portrait of Death" and the scratchy art makes it hard to make out what little is going on. At least Martin Salvador's art is clearer in "Solitude!" I like the Western setting but the setup is obvious. "Relatively Axe-Cidental" was too long and had more not-so-hot art, while Mones's work on "Nightmare!" is scratchy (like that of Alcazar), but I kind of liked the panels with the corpses. Still, no standout stories make this a pretty bland issue of Creepy.

Eerie #61 (November)

"Death Wish!"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Killer Hawk"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Wally Wood

"Something Evil Came Out of the Sea"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Joaquin Blazquez

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Isidro Mones

"Death Wish!"
In the hot desert of 1889 Arizona, a man lies staked to the ground, ants chewing at his flesh. He manages to escape and wanders till he finds three Indians whom he blames for leaving him to die. He kills two and the third curses him, explaining that the man killed the rest of the Indian's tribe for no reason. The man recalls traveling west by stagecoach when Indians attacked; he was the only survivor. He later tracked the Indians to their village and murdered all but three with shots from a rifle. The lone surviving Indian tells the man that he will suffer but not die until he learns to live and respect life. The man is found in the desert and taken to a fort, where he learns that the Indians who attacked his stagecoach were white men in disguise. He promptly kills them.

It's hard to tell if "Death Wish!" was meant as a ripoff of the Charles Bronson film that was released on July 24, 1974; perhaps the Warren version played off the 1972 novel on which the film was based and the pre-release film promotion. In any case, this story features lots of violent killing and a Bronson-like anti-hero. It's hard to like Coffin, who isn't called that in the course of the story, since he murders an entire village of innocent people without making sure they're connected to the people who attacked the stagecoach. Still, it looks like we're stuck with him as a new series character. I do like the Western setting and the art, by Jose Ortiz, shows a good ability to tell a story in panels without too much dialogue, a skill sometimes lacking among Warren artists.

"Killer Hawk"
Americans colonized Mars generations ago, so now their descendants don't want people from other countries joining them on the red planet. The Martians invade Earth, led by Jim "Killer Hawk" Hawkins, who has a bad habit of blacking out when threatened and killing people when he's in a blackout. Hawkins and his fighters quickly conquer Berlin, and he meets a gorgeous blonde named Grechin, who stows away on his rocket ship to join him on the trip back to Mars. Unfortunately, the penalty for illegal entry to Mars is death!

On Mars, Hawkins is summoned to see the president, who tests his fighting skill by having him battle and slay a human killing machine. Killer Hawk's loyalty is tested by having him murder Grechin. Hawkins accomplishes both tasks with ease and is named the president's new bodyguard. Before long, Killer Hawk murders the president and takes his place; it turns out he's an android, programmed for the task. As president, Killer Hawk orders lots of things to be blown up, then flies back to Earth, where he had been programmed originally, only to find that he is seen as being too powerful to live and so he is quickly shut down.

Whew! Twelve pages packed with fairly confusing plot and terrific Wally Wood art. I had to read it twice to figure out what was going on, but the truth is that I am a sucker for a story with Wood's women and outer space scenes. I was wondering if this was going to be a series but when Killer Hawk was turned off at the end I figured it must be a one-shot. Too bad. I'd love to see a sci-fi series drawn by Wood!

"Something Evil Came Out of the Sea"
An old slave known as Cotton Boy raises the corpse of Captain Blood from the water outside the town of Cliffport in 1794, but why? Back in 1772, Coffin Boy had been brought to the colonies aboard a slave ship that was hijacked along the way by the pirate, Captain Blood, who sold the slaves at a premium when he reached port. Blood was betrayed by a woman and killed, so now Cotton Boy uses voodoo to revive the corpse and then directs it to murder the slaveholders, one by one. The last slaveholder recently died of syphilis, so Cotton Boy uses voodoo to revive the dead man's corpse, which will remain trapped in its coffin six feet below ground. Coffin Boy gloats over Captain Blood's animated corpse, but the former pirate kills the slave and returns to his watery grave.

Another story that starts out looking like the first in a series but ends up with most of the characters dead, "Something Evil Came Out of the Sea" is the usual corpse getting vengeance on bad folks narrative, this time enlivened by the slave background, the 18th century setting, and the pirate corpse. Boudreau has become one of our favorite Warren writers lately, and Leopold Sanchez's art is good, for the most part. There are pages and panels that look terrific, then there are panels that just look off. Overall, a fairly enjoyable story.

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts"
The hunchbacked dwarf's mind is in the body of Arthur Lemming and needs money, so he holds up a stagecoach and guess who is one of the passengers? Yes, it's the pretty woman who mistreated the dwarf and who also wears around her neck the magic amulet that holds the power to restore everyone to their correct bodies. Lemming/Dwarf takes the gal to a pub and reveals his true identity to her. Meanwhile, the two mummies happen by and get into a big fight. The gal knocks out Lemming/Dwarf and skedaddles as the mummies slowly punch each other. The full moon rises and Lemming/Mummy turns into a werewolf/mummy, but he can't kill Curry/mummy, who has been dead for millennia. And so it goes.

No, no, no! Not the mummy series again! Did Steve Skeates actually think anyone wanted this to return? It's so darn confusing, with two mummies, the dwarf, and the werewolf. Not to mention the pretty girl whose hairstyle and manner of speaking are more 1970s than 1870s. For example:

"I've come to see your boss, honey! I've got business with him!"

"I can hardly believe what you say, but if it is'd better not blow it...!"

Also, how exciting can a fistfight between two mummies be? They shamble slowly and punch each other. The whole thing is just a disaster, not helped by mediocre artwork by Joaquin Blazquez.

With Miles Sanford dead, Jamaica Jensen offers 5000 pounds to the man who kills Dr. Archaeus. A street tough with a knife fails to do the job, but Joshua Blackraven, a trained assassin with a mask over half of his scarred face, tells Jamaica he's the man for the job. Archaeus manages to pull off one more murder before he is shot in the shoulder by Blackraven; the assassin then chases Archaeus to a monastery. Trapped in the bell tower, Archaeus hangs himself rather than allowing Blackraven to kill him.

Kind of an anticlimactic end to an enjoyable series, don't you think? Blackraven is an intriguing character and I wish they had kept going, since I enjoyed Boudreau's evocation of late 19th-century London and Mones's depiction of the events.-Jack

Peter-I liked the premiere installment of “Coffin” despite its awkward title reminders (“this guy looks like he should be in a COFFIN!”). The character has a nifty origin tale and the art is well done. I wonder if American International knew Warren was ripping off their design for the Colossal Beast. Coffin will last 4 chapters. On the “editorial page,” Bill DuBay announces the creation of three new series this issue. Well, when is a series not a series? When it lasts only one installment like the confusing and ultimately disappointing “Killer Hawk.” There’s a racist undertone to the proceedings (I’m not saying DuBay was a racist), but then some of this is obviously tongue-in-cheek, so maybe I’m overthinking. Wally’s art looks washed out and indistinct. Ten years before, we’d be gazing in awe at Grechin’s female form, but now it’s just there. I’m not really sure what the heck is going on in this story, but it does have a nasty edge to it that I admire.

Ostensibly, one of the other series debuting this issue was “Cotton Boy & Captain Blood,” but its climax makes me wonder how the heck even a single sequel could have been milked out of this meandering but good-looking mess. Like with “Spook” and “Coffin,” I can’t help but smell some funky non-PC stuff going on here. You certainly couldn’t get away with calling your African-American co-lead “Cotton Boy” these days without catching some well-deserved hell. I wonder if this was another DuBay christening.

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts" is the long-awaited follow-up to the Mummy/Werewolf/
WereMummy/WhoGivesaF**k series last seen in Eerie #56. The fact that absolutely not one person was clamoring for an extension of this nonsense obviously played no part in the story's existence. By this time, Steve is typing without the lights on, hoping DuBay doesn't care (he doesn't). I'll say this: at least until 1984/94, nothing is as goofy and aimless as the M/W/WM/WTF? series. The "Dr. Archaeus" series was like a breath of fetid, evil air that kept me going these last several months. Alas, this is the final chapter and I must say it's a letdown with its abrupt, albeit unpredictable, outcome. At least Boudreau snazzed it up a bit with the disfigured hitman. I'll miss this series a whole lot.

Vampirella #38 (November)

"The Mummy's Revenge" ★1/2
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Gypsy Curse"
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Lucky Stiff" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Out of the Nameless City" ★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Felix Mas

"On Little Cat Feet!" 
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Trick of the Tide" 
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Isidro Mones

Vampirella discovers that the mummy of 2000-years dead Ptolemy has risen from his tomb on display in a Rome museum. Still feeling guilty for her part in the God's death (see "Vampire of the Nile" in Vampirella #36 -Archie), she and Pendy visit the sarcophagus to see what's what. There, our fabulously sexy Drakulonian falls for a handsome hunk by the name of Bruno (think John Carpenter, circa 1978), who fills Vampi in on the rumors of the resurrected mummy. Bruno asks Vampi out on a date and, since she's fallen immediately in love with the Adonis, she quickly agrees.

That night, Bruno takes Vampi into a darkened cellar he affectionately calls "the abode of the ancient dead." Once deep in the labyrinth, Bruno disappears and Vampi is attacked by Ptolemy the mummy. Suddenly, Amun-Ra (on loan from Doug Moench's outstanding sit-com, "Desecration!" (see Creepy #66 above or, better yet, don't!-Archie) appears and destroys the mummy, informing Vampi that the real culprit here is Bruno, who has been using the mummy as a vehicle for his own shenanigans. Outraged that her undying love for this man has not been reciprocated, Vampi heads to Bruno's place, where she drains him of blood.

"Gypsy Curse"
That way-too-generous rating you see above is for the whacked-out nature of this episode and, to be honest, cuz I'm tired of fighting the inanity of the whole thing. I give up and give in. Vampi looks good and Flaxman Butterworth doesn't seem to care if any of this makes sense anymore. Just go with the flow, I says, and it'll go down much smoother. Gonzalez's approach to our heroine this issue is an odd one; Vampi seems to have visited a hairdresser at least three times, including on page 12, where her tresses seem to be made of leaves. She looks dy-no-mite, don't get me wrong, just mentioning it. Oh, and check out the hot dress she's not wearing on that same page. Fashion tips by Cher.

"Gypsy Curse" is a very simple tale, but it's told well enough to keep the interest. Gypsy peasant Marta falls for Count Barak (and, no, just to head off your suspicions, he's not a vampire!), but their love seems doomed from the get-go. While on a super-secret romantic meet, Marta's father attacks Barak and the Count is forced to fatally stab the man. With his dying breath, Marta's pop tells Barak that he may have his daughter but if he ever hurts her, "all the demons of hell" shall feast on his flesh. Fast-forward to: Barak comes home after the war, an embittered man and a suspicious husband. Barak beats Marta based on lies told to him by a scheming butler and his body suddenly pulls apart as if "eaten by a thousand demons." As I say, pretty simple, but Maroto's art is stunning, almost able to tell this story without words. But it's not Moench, so it's safe to read.

Linda is new at work and all the guys are falling over themselves to get a look at her, but Harry Nada keeps his cool. That pays off when Linda asks Harry to come over to her pad and teach her the basics (get it? the basics!), as she hears that he's good with figures (get it? figures!). All the other guys think, "Lucky Stiff!" So Harry Nada heads over to Linda's place, where he's attacked by her cats. Linda arrives and explains that her cats need meat and Harry is just the right size. Meow! But what if Harry didn't make it to Linda's that night? What if fate took him down a different path? Well, then he would have been run over by a truck.

Hard to figure which part of this flotsam was written by Wessler and which Boudreau. It really doesn't matter since all of it is atrocious. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall at the brainstorming for this one. "So, if he doesn't get eaten by cats... hey, I got it, he gets run over by a truck! How ironic is that?!" Ramon Torrents holds up his end of the sinking ship, though; Linda is mega-hot, even for a cartoon girl.
One of the more exciting panels from
"Out of the Nameless City"

A stage actor learns he could be the key to returning the Eternal Ones back to life. There's a whole lot more than just that going on, but "Out of the Nameless City" could very well be the most boring story I've read in a Warren zine since that gothic crap way back when during the "dark ages." Why, oh why, do these comic scripters feel they can pilfer Lovecraft for names, plots, whole scenes, but then lack the balls to go all the way? We get the tease over and over... eternal ones, nameless city, Abner Whately, Arkham, Miskatonic U, "that which is not dead can eternal lie..."... but the big tentacled guy never shows up. Would that have been enough to push Lovecraft's estate (whoever actually represented his estate at this point) over the edge and send lawyers knocking on Big Jim's door? This is the classic "bait and switch," like Best of the Beatles (google it). A whole lot of boring illustrations of people walking around and talking and talking and talking. At least Tom Sutton could rip HP off with pizazz. 

"On Little Cat Feet!" is the bizarre, but well-illustrated tale of two girls: Kitty, a witch who can turn into a cat and has poison claws that reduce her victims to puddles of goo; and Eulalia, an artist who puts up with Kitty's strange ways because they have a bond. There is literally no plot here; it's like a series of cringingly unfunny SNL skits sewn together for a VHS release. There's only the art and a clever twist at the climax, involving Eulalia's true identity, that saves this from being a total dud.

We were saved from the total dud until the final story, "Trick of the Tide," Jack Butterworth's homage to EC Comics. Gabriel Greaves fishes a body out of the Thames, with the large bundle of money in the corpse's pocket as his reward. When the dead man's wife starts asking Greaves questions, he murders her and dumps the body in the river. Later that week, he discovers that the dead woman's wealthy brother has posted a reward for information leading to the woman's whereabouts. Greaves fishes his victim out of the water and she attacks him, disemboweling the con artist. Holy cow, a vengeful corpse rises from dead! Yep, that's it. Perhaps one of Jack Flaxman Butterworth's easiest paydays, right? There's not one iota of imagination behind this six pages of... paper. The Mones art is well-done but I'm kind of tired of ending my sentences with "... but at least the art is good!" -Peter

"Trick of the Tide"
We're sure seeing a lot of Ancient Egypt all of a sudden, aren't we? Vampi falls head over heels again (every issue, it seems) and wears some snazzy outfits, so all is well. Since when does she go around killing baddies by biting them? It really doesn't matter, though, since I am so enamored of Jose Gonzalez's art on this strip. I wasn't as impressed as you were by Maroto's work on "Gypsy Curse"; I just don't think he's a very good visual storyteller and his style is not my favorite.

I prefer Ramon Torrents's art on the otherwise terrible "Lucky Stiff." The double entendres were amusing but the story ended badly, as Wessler's tales so often do. "Out of the Nameless City" was too long but features nice art by Felix Mas. I am always happy to see a story by Auraleon, even one as terrible as "On Little Cat Feet!" John Jacobson's two entries this issue are disappointing. Finally, "Trick of the Tide" is short and fun. Again, I like Mones's work and I put on my little detective hat and figured out that Jack Butterworth and Mike Butterworth are probably the same person (Mike goes by Flaxman Loew)--the real name of the writer was John Michael Butterworth.

Next Week...
At long last...
Batman and Robin!


Quiddity99 said...

Fortunate enough to be off today and get to read this in the morning instead of having to wait until my lunch break. Vampirella #37 was one of the earliest issues of Vampirella I ever owned and was my first exposure to the vast majority of these stories. In hindsight the Vampi story is a bit of a mess; with Goodwin writing it we have the Van Helsings appear out of nowhere after being absent for around 10 issues or so and the story was clearly rushed to fit it into the 8 page length so it could be in color. This is another issue with a particularly strong back cover from Enrich.

Iffy story for sure, but "Desecration" is at least memorable for some great Ortiz visuals in his Creepy debut. Around this era Alcazar's art is clearly channeling that of Luis Garcia, my favorite Warren artist, so "Portrait of Death" turns out fairly well. "Solitude" shows that despite it being the mid 70s, Goodwin's story writing mentality seems to be stuck in the 60s; this is the type of story that would fit right at home during his original run as editor but seems rather blasé now in an era where Warren has much more variety to its stories than simply "Surprise, they're werewolves!". "Pinball Wizard" may not be as good as the typical Richard Corben fare (and a rare issue from this era where there's no color story, which this surely would have been if they had one), but it is one of the more memorable stories for me from an overall mediocre issue. "Relatively Axe-Cidental" is just way too long for me, and Abellan's art continues to be quite a downgrade compared to everyone else. "Nightmare" is also a rather poor story, but I do absolutely love Mones' art. His monsters for this story are quite well done. This issue's cover is also rather off when you consider the guy's entire body is missing!

"Coffin" finally makes his debut, a character who I think by this point had been promoted on back covers at least 10 issues ago if not more. It's a fairly strong series in my eyes, particularly due to great art from Jose Ortiz. A rather "eh" cover of him though by Ken Kelly. "Killer Hawk" is a strong effort from both Dubay and Wood; the story is yet another part of the "Exterminator" series which is very anthology in nature at this point. I'm not sure if like last issue this was a Wood submitted story that got totally rewritten by Dubay, but it wouldn't surprise me. In any case Dubay did a great job with this one. 1984/1994 would have been a lot easier to handle if its sci-fi stories were more like this one.

Quiddity99 said...


"Cotton Boy and Captain Blood" is a fairly good story, but seems odd that they introduced these characters for what appeared to be intended to be a series, then killed off one of them by the end, resulting in us never getting a second part. The Sanchez art and story revolving around a former slave makes it come off much like an offshoot to the Spook series for me, which for some unknown reason has been taking the last couple of issues off. For whatever reason I never made the connection to it being a racist character name, but that really is becoming a trend for Dubay at this point. Alas, the disaster that is "The Mummy" and "The Werewolf" returns! I suppose we should be happy that it has been combined into one series though. It has been a while since any part of this series has been that good and this one continues the ridiculousness. Joaquin Blazquez's art is all over the place, in some places it is quite strong while in others its mediocre. Why did they change the artist on this series yet again when Martin Salvador was still working for Warren? Blazquez will always come off as a rather iffy Luis Garcia-lite to me. Sad to see Dr. Archeus end! They could have mixed things up and given us a female protagonist by having Jamaica pursue Archeus through several more murders, but instead simply have her hire an assassin to take him out. I don't think we needed his 12 Days of Christmas gimmick to go all the way to the end, but this series was so good I think it could have gone at least several more parts before concluding. Neither Boudreau or Mones are going anywhere anytime soon so I would assume they wrapped it up to give them room for more new series. There are tons of great series and individual stories to grace the pages of Eerie over its next 10 issues or so, so at least they didn't end it to bring in poor work in its place.

Great art job by Gonzalez on "The Mummy's Revenge", alas his brief return is over and he'll go on hiatus again for the next few issues. Loew really should get over his whole gimmick of doing what are essentially loose two parters, as I don't think we needed to visit the mummy theme again. My take on "Gypsy Curse" is basically the same as yours, very simple premise but amazing surrealistic art job by Maroto. The gypsy theme makes me reminisce about a werewolf series from Skywald that started off good then went in a very mediocre direction by focusing on gypsies for a number of stories. "Lucky Stiff" is memorable for me in a bad way, as this is Wessler recycling a story he had done for EC, "Out Cold", which had appeared in The Haunt of Fear #25. The only variations are that in that story Linda has a mother who pushes for her to feed him to her cats, and in the alternative ending our protagonist falls out a window instead of being run over by a car. I suppose the bright side is that this is the only time I can recall that Warren totally recycles one of his EC stories for Warren. And I'll happily take Ramon Torrents art over that of Jack Kamen! I was a bit higher on "Out of the Nameless City" than you, I think Jacobson does a good job pulling off the sense of Lovecraft in the story, although Felix Mas isn't really the guy I'd first think of for a Lovecraft-inspired story. "On Little Cat Feet" I enjoyed quite a bit, easily my favorite story of the issue. Goes to show that Auraleon can also pull off a comedic story quite well. "Trick of the Tide" was also a disappointment for me although Mones did a good job on the corpse lady at least.

andydecker said...

Eerie #61 featured some great art and some godawful writing. "Killer Hawk" is a mess, pretty Wood pictures with laughably bad writing. The story contradicts itself in every two panels, the drawings don't match the text. If DuBay felt the burning need to write a story about the absurdities of racism he failed on an epic level. This is offensivly bad, not because of the content but because of the lacking craft. For an editor to deliver such nonsense as a writer is embarassing.

"Death Wish" has some great Ortiz art, but again pictures and text don't mesh well. At least in this first part the whole "curse" thing isn't sold in the art. Still, at least it is coherent.

The plot of "Cotton Boy & Capt. Blood" is a bit slight, but Boudreau took his story seriously and it is nicely mean in parts, as a horror story should be. The art is great. "Mummy" doesn't even merit a browsing any longer, and the ending of "Archaeus" was lame.

Creepy # 66 is one of the few magazines I own of the title, bought on Ebay because of the cover. I'll grant you that Moench's "Desecration" isn't worth Ortiz' talent. The pyramid is a spaceship idea is just as dumb as the whole the vampire is a ghoul twist.

"Portrait of Death" is not better in its idea, but I like this kind of gothic horror and Alcazar is great. "Solitude" also has a groaner for a twist, but I thought it interesting in its presentation. If you compare its slow pace and the soft violence with an issue of DCs 2005 ultraviolent Jonah Hex series, both westerns, they are worlds apart.

I have a soft spot for "Pinball Wizard". Yes, it is as stupid as "Desecration", but Corben's art at least deserves a chuckle. The playing demon is awesome. The rest of the issue is forgettable, and Mones ruins again the ending. I am supposed to believe that this guy looses his mind? Not even close.

Vampirella is again a weak story. Butterworth is phoning it in. Vampis falling in love because of nothing has become as tiresome as the usual deus ex machina conclusion. The art is the only redeeming feature of the series.

To research Butterworth is always difficult, as there is the second Michael Butterworth, the British publisher who also wrote sf.

"Lucky Stiff" has lovely art but is as stupid as The Mummy. "Out of the Nameless City" would have worked better as a prose story, here is nothing which demands a comic treatment. There is nothing visually interesting in this tale. The rest of the issue is also forgettable.

The cover is nice but a bit crowded. Sanjulian can do better. He "borrowed" heavily from horror films, aside the mummy there is a undead knight templar, but Vampi looks good.

Anonymous said...

I don’t have much to say about this batch of Warrens. I bought them all as back issues — some of them many years later — so the contents aren’t as burned into my brain as others that I got hot off the newsstand. I’ll limit my comments to the covers this go-round.

A fairly weak set of covers, I have to say! Pretty unusual for Warrens of this vintage. As Quiddity noted about the CREEPY cover : what the heck happened to the dude’s body??? The color scheme is kinda washed-out and un-appealing too.

Next up, Doc Sav— er, I mean COFFIN! — on the cover of EERIE. The blatant James Bama swipe and no-frills background make it seem like Kelly wasn’t putting a whole lot of effort into this one. The off-key cover copy doesn’t exactly get the pulse pounding neither : “They Called Him Coffin The Coward!” Way to sell it! Take my money NOW! I do kinda dig Coffin’s groovy Haight-Ashbury cowboy threads tho.

I agree with Andy that Sanjulian’s VAMPI cover is nice, even if it’s not really up to his usual standards. Heh, I noticed the 70s
Spanish Horror Film icons too — that’s Paul Naschy as the Mummy, isn’t it? The funky girdle is the give-away. The weirdest thing about this cover, though, is Vampi’s pose. What exactly is she doing here? Is she....throwing her candle away? Or did she drop it because the Blind Dead guy and Paul-ho-tep startled her? Her head IS turned away from them, but her expression is so blank, it’s almost impossible to say what her attitude or emotion is supposed to be. It’s possible she doesn’t even realize the two boogeymen are standing just a few foot away. Storytelling-wise, this one’s a mess.

I think THE SPIRIT gets “Best Cover” this week. I like the combination of Eisner’s line art and Kelly’s rich, dimensional, painted color.