Monday, November 15, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 72: March 1976



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

Vampirella #49

"The Blood Red Queen of Hearts" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Thing in Jane's Closet" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Then One Foggy Christmas Eve" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Joaquim Blasquez

"Jewel in the Mouth of a Snake" 
Story and Art by Jose Bea

"The Succubus Stone" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Steve Clement
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Edgar Allan Poe's The Oblong Box" ★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Isidro Mones

"The Blood Red Queen of Hearts," a servant of Chaos, has delivered to her God hearts torn from six of his greatest enemies. It occurs to her that the seventh gift should be the heart of Vampirella. She sends a demon into the body of Pendragon (who, if you can remember, is in a coma after being attacked by someone somewhere for something), just as Vampi is about to deliver a transfusion of her high-powered blood to her friend, Pen.

As Vampi is lying like a porn model on the operating table with a hose running from her arm, the ghost of Dr. Van Helsing appears to her and warns her of danger. Just then, a demon emerges from Pen's body and begins draining the blood from the Draculonian at a rapid clip. As the demon giggles and prances, a huge shadow appears on the wall: the horned god of Chaos! The demon is distracted just as police enter the hospital room and empty their bullets into the thing. 

Vampi regains consciousness and discovers that the illusion was created by her friend, Pendragon, who has made a complete recovery from his bullet wounds and is already halfway to the corner liquor store. But that's not the only surprise on tap for our lovely vampiress as the detective tasked to bring Vampi in on charges of murder informs her that they've uncovered other evidence and she's free to go. But wait, there's more!

From behind door number three emerges the living, breathing Dr. Van Helsing himself, hidden by the police in order to lure Vampi out of hiding. The warning, Van Helsing explains, was delivered not by his ghost but by telepathy! The team back together, they all giggle and head out on the street to search for their drunken buddy, who's probably already been kidnapped by aliens.

Forget the chronology; I'm tired of complaining about the fact that none of this makes any sense and I can't keep the previous events in mind. DuBay obviously decided the same thing and wrote a script that swept away all those dreary and confusing subplots that none of the writers stick to anyway. The climactic twist, that ol' Doc Van Helsing is alive and well and living in New York, is a hoot, but nobody really believed he was dead, did they? Well, those who even remembered that his character was a part of the series, that is. The Maroto art is spectacular. Lots of great naked breasts and come hither poses (I do have to mention again Vampi's "come and f**k me" look during the transfusion scene) to keep the pages turning while you scratch your head at Dube's words.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Smithpot claims there's a monster in her closet. No one believes her, of course, and her mother comes this close to sending her beautiful daughter off to an asylum. Then Jane's psychiatrist explains to Mrs. Smithpot that Janie is metaphysically projecting her dark, inner fears into this closet. Mrs. Smithpot tries to relay the message to Jane by sticking her head in the closet and showing her there's nothing to fear. But then something grabs the old woman and pulls her in. Moments later, Jane's psychiatrist makes a house call and finds the home empty. Curious about the famous closet, he opens it... and screams out in fear. Jane closes the closet and leaves the house, ready to face her fears.

I'm not entirely sure about the deep message contained in the last couple of pages of "The Thing in Jane's Closet" (teenagers can be real complicated and grownups just don't get them, I suppose), but I did think, for the most part, that Budd managed to type up a good yarn without much preaching. We all know the sermon we'd get from Moench or McGregor in this instance. Torrents's work is really good here, even though there's not much heavy lifting. 

Melvin the Monster is a huge hit at Christmas, despite being an extremely ugly little toy. Every kid wants one and Art Sharrock's Toy Shop has stocked up enough to put one under every tree in Waterville. But then suspicious deaths, first animals and then townsfolk, alert Ed and the town sheriff that something evil might be at work in the guise of these little dolls. Sure enough, Ed and the sheriff get a visit from a plethora of Melvins, informing them that if they don't pack them up and ship them to New York City, the town will be slaughtered. What are the men to do?

There are elements of Trilogy of Terror here, but since it's so obvious that the Melvins are the menace, "Then One Foggy Christmas Eve" works up none of the suspense that the TV movie was filled with. The scene with the dolls at their powwow with Ed and the sheriff is hilarious, as are Ed's sudden mathematics about a story he read in the paper the year before about a couple of men dying at a toy factory and their current dilemma. That's a heck of a memory there, Ed! It occurred to me halfway through the story that perhaps Boudreau was putting us on, but the climax is so dead serious, I doubt it. Blazquez's art is dark, murky, muddled, fill in the blank with a synonym for "I can't figure out what's going on from panel to panel." Any way you carve it up, this is a foggy story.

Archaeologist Pedro Vasquez searches for the mythological Feathered Serpent, a creature which holds a giant diamond in its mouth, in the jungles of Guatemala. Incredibly, Pedro finds the creature and manages to steal away with the jewel, but he becomes obsessed with his new prize and it draws him in. There, he finds a group of men, all trapped within the diamond. The serpent takes back its jewel and returns to Hell.

I used to look forward to Jose Bea's art, but now it's just meh. Gone are the days when Bea used his heavy inks to draw us into his nightmare worlds. Now those inks just seem like an afterthought. As in "The Incredible People-Making Machines" (Eerie #72), Bea seems to think goofy Monty Python art in the middle of a supposedly scary story is cool. It just draws my attention away from the plot. Which, in the case of "Jewel in the Mouth of a Snake," might not be such a bad thing, actually. 

Detective Christopher Matheson has seen some odd things in his career, but none can compare with the two suspicious deaths he's investigating. Both men were in their thirties just before their deaths, but both look decades older. What's up? Like any good detective, Matheson follows the clues and they lead him right to Madame Gorvay's palace of prostitutes, a quartet of beauties who happen to be succubi. To maintain their youth, they use "The Succubus Stone" to drain the energy out of their Johns. Matheson confronts the women and blasts the stone with a well-placed bullet. The women age and crumble to dust.

If you close your eyes, you can hear Darren McGavin narrating "The Succubus Stone" (although if you close your eyes, you can't read the caption boxes); the nod is that obvious (Matheson? And his partner's name is Kolchinsky!). Yeah, the main protagonist is a cop, but this is just the kind of "monster" Kolchak would bump into on a weekly basis. As a matter of fact, he did encounter a comely succubus in his brief TV career. Anyway, the read is breezy and fun, but the paint-by-numbers color is wasted. There's an obvious disconnect at one point between writer and artist when a "kid" visits Madame Gorvay's and the "youth" looks like a forty-ish, goateed Wall Street executive. 

On a sea voyage, a man wonders about "The Oblong Box" his friend has brought aboard with him. Though our protagonist insists that there must be a valuable painting sealed inside the box, we know better. Poe is me! I've got an Edgar Allan Hangover! Surely this must be the finale of the raping and pillaging of the man's work? I mean, he wasn't even around to complain or collect royalties. Of course, we all know that's why there were so many Poe adaptations. Like so many of previous Poe visualizations, there isn't much meat on the bone. The guy has a coffin. It's got his dead wife in it. Horror of horrors! In fact, when the obligatory AIP movie adaptation happened in 1969, the screenwriter wisely jettisoned most of the Poe story and tossed in some voodoo to spice things up. Much more interesting.-Peter

Jack-I enjoyed "The Blood Red Queen of Hearts" for two reasons: Maroto's art, which features a very sexy Vampirella and a topless Queen of Hearts, and DuBay's goofy script, which ties together so many loose plotlines that now I hope the saga can move forward. How could you not like the scene where Vampi disguises herself in what looks like a Halloween-style "sexy nurse" getup and the doctor gives his name to the guard as "Dr. Goldfoot"? The next best story for me was "The Oblong Box," though I didn't understand why the main character went nuts over his wife's coffin. At least Poe could tell a coherent narrative, unlike the other writers in this issue.

"The Thing in Jane's Closet" seemed like page after page of talking heads, with too many blacks in the art and no panel displaying the title character. The story of "Then One Foggy Christmas Eve" was hard to follow and featured more murky, heavily-inked art. "Jewel in the Mouth of a Snake" was a simplistic story with unappealing visuals, while "The Succubus Stone" featured more bad writing, but at least the Torrents art looks better in color. Vampirella has really gone downhill over the years, hasn't it?

Eerie #73

"Death of the Phoenix"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Paul Neary

"Carnival at Midnight"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Day of the Vampire 1992"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"A Grave Terror Leads to Death!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jose Gual

"Voyage to the Final Hole"
Story and Art by Jose Bea

Yaust explains to Karas and the Exterminator that he's actually the good guy and what they've been fighting for is all a lie. Karas hops on the back of a dragon and flies back to confront Mandragora, who admits having duped Karas. Karas shoots and kills Mandragora and the castle begins to collapse around him, but he manages to escape and sets off alone to find other people with whom to create a new world.

At least that's what I think happened in "Death of the Phoenix"! I was able to understand the prior stories in this series, mostly because they followed a pattern, but this one leaves me scratching my head. Yaust is a good guy and Mandragora is a bad guy? It would help if I remembered who Mandragora was. As usual, Neary's art works best when his hero's head is covered with a helmet. He draws great helmets.

John and Jerry are two brothers who sense that something unusual has come to town, and they rush off to discover a "Carnival at Midnight"! John was born "crippled" and Jerry sensed that before it happened, too. Jerry runs from the "monsters" they encounter outside the tent of "freaks," but John is unable to run because he left his leg braces at home. Knowing that too much time spent walking on unbraced legs will cause permanent damage, their father heads for the carnival, rifle in hand. He finds the freaks hovering over John, who lies on an operating table. Dad starts shooting until the freaks subdue him and tie him up. He manages to free himself and runs for help; his posse opens fire but the freaks fight back until Grimilkii, a dwarf, puts a halt to the carnage. He explains that he was a surgeon in Europe and his operation has repaired John's legs. The carnival leaves for its next destination.

It was obvious where this was going from the start, but the revelation that Grimilkii was a renowned orthopedic surgeon was unexpected--I thought the freaks would just do some unexplained operation to fix the boy's legs. Lewis's scripts have taken a turn for the preachy and heavy-handed, which is not a great development, but at least this story features some evocative art by Sanchez.

It's 1992, and the nuclear bombs have left the world in a state of pre-civilization, where men hunt elk and wear loincloths. Mutant creatures also roam the Earth. Exploring some ruins, two hunters happen upon a beautiful maiden in suspended animation; a holograph of a doctor from 1976 explains that the woman is a vampire who has been put to sleep until she can be cured. One of the hunters departs while the other, overwhelmed by desire, pushes a button marked "revive" and watches the woman awaken. They make whoopie, surrounded by monsters left to frighten travelers away from her, and she drains his blood. She flaps her wings and takes off into space, where cosmonauts blow her up. The man she drained arises as a vampire and sets out to hunt human prey.

"Day of the Vampire 1992" has a dreadful script, filled with DuBay inanities like one of the hunters referring to an elk as "a beautiful chunk of meat that'll keep the tribe in baloney sandwiches for the next week" and a caption that refers to "back in the days of Archie Bunker, Elton John and low cholesterol Mazola." He's trying to show that the main characters grew up in the 1970s and still refer to memories from those pre-Armageddon times in the post-apocalyptic world, but it just ends up sounding forced. Peter has remarked before on Mayo's tendency to draw pages that seem to be dripping and oozing with images that run into each other and create confusion; that is fully on display here, though he draws one heck of an attractive female vampire.

Jan Foley, last survivor of the Foley family, is menaced by two men who think that a chest of gold coins is hidden in the house. Little do they know that Jan is protected by "It--The Dead Thing!" It shambles in from the graveyard and the thieves make a run for it. It returns to Its grave. Later that evening, Jan and her fiancee Roy go to the circus, where Jan recognizes two clowns as the men who tried to rob her. The clowns go to the cemetery and plant a bomb that is meant to obliterate It, but Roy and Jan follow and set off the bomb somewhere else in order to protect It.

Jan and Roy return to her house and find the thieves once again looking for the gold. They think that It is no longer a threat, but they're wrong, because "A Grave Terror Leads to Death!" It shambles in and saves Jan and Roy by crushing the skulls of the crooks. It returns to It's cozy grave.

Just when we think it's safe to read another issue of Eerie, here comes good old Carl Wessler with another cockeyed tale about the corpse that walks! It seems like all of the events in this story take place in the course of one very long evening, but no one told Jose Gual, since most of the panels seem to occur in daylight. The other thing Gual seems to have been unaware of is that the story takes place in 1929. The hairstyles and clothing are very 1976. The whole thing is a mess, but I still like It. It's kind of cute.

Peter Hypnos is relaxing in the countryside on a sunny Sunday when suddenly he is swallowed by a giant rose. He shrinks inside the flower and meets many strange creatures in his efforts to escape. Peter is consumed by a strange creature and expelled out the other end, on his "Voyage to the Final Hole"; eventually he escapes and returns home safely.

I can't decide if this is very clever and inventive or just pointless. Bea's art seems heavily influenced by the work of Terry Gilliam and his storytelling owes a clear debt to Lewis Carroll. It's not terrible, but it's not very enjoyable, either. It's an anomaly in a mediocre issue of Eerie.-Jack

Peter-"Death of the Phoenix" is an unreadable mess composed of deep 1970s messages and what Budd thought was a gaggle of funny one-liners ("Hmm. If the robot were just here yeah! He'd laugh at me for being made to sit in the corner while daddy bangs mommy!"). You know you're in deep trouble when the introductory exposition that's supposed to catch you up on what's going on in the story confuses the hell out of you. I've got good news and I've got bad news. Good news first--this is the last Hunter II. Bad news? Hunter III is right around the corner.

Budd Lewis's message within "Carnival at Midnight," that man must love his fellow man even if he looks like a seven-foot-tall boa constrictor, kinda gets lost in Budd's cheat of a set-up. Who here, upon opening a door and seeing their son roped and tied to a gurney, wouldn't open up both barrels without asking questions? That scenario has nothing to do with freaks; it has to do with protection and observation. Are we meant to assume this is the same circus of freaks we saw in the last installment? Again, I'm lost.

The initial installment of "The Tombspawn," "Day of the Vampire 1992," is one part goofy and several parts confusing (are you seeing a pattern?), but it's got some really nice Mayo art (even though some of the panels look like that time your mom made mashed potatoes and peas for Thanksgiving and you wouldn't eat the taters cuz the pea juice made them gross). Very Maroto-esque. I'm afraid I'm not buying that these unusual mutation monsters popped up in just 16 years, but what do I know about science and radiation?

It would seem as though Carl Wessler's "A Grave Terror Leads to Death" could be the very definition of beating a dead corpse, but I have to believe the sheer stupidity of this story is intentional. Seriously, how could this not be a parody of Warren horror series? You say the dumb dialogue and silly dead guy pratfalls only strengthen the argument that Carl was a pulp hack. Let's call it a draw, but I laughed through this more than the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Jose Bea once again shows his love for Peter Max and The Yellow Submarine with "Voyage to the Final Hole" (a dodgy title if there ever was one!) and yeah, I'm out of here.-Peter

Comix International #4

"The Believer!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #77, February 1976)

"The Power and the Gory!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #28, October 1973)

"A Thin Dime of Pain"
(Reprinted from Eerie #72, February 1976)

(Reprinted from Eerie #57, June 1974)

"Tell-Tale Heart"
(Reprinted from Creepy #3, 1965)

"Exterminator One"
(Reprinted from Eerie #63, February 1975)

(Reprinted from Eerie #57, June 1974)

"The Monster Called Vampirella"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #46, October 1975)

Since the Overstreet Comics Price Guide and Daniel Horne's Gathering Horror both list multiple variants of this issue, I'm inclined to believe Jim Warren gave one of his office boys ten bucks, a six-pack of whatever the cheapest beer was in 1976, and a stack of Creepy, Vampirella, and Eerie magazines, and instructed the kid to tear out all the color inserts and staple them together. Jim then smartly sold the potpourri of recent material as Comix International #4 for nearly three bucks to whoever was interested. Jim could always sniff out a sucker, but obviously the hefty price tag of CI #3 must have kept away more than a few customers, so witness the new lower price.-Peter

Jack-The ad on the back cover of Eerie 73 lists Comix International #2 & #3 for $2.98 each but, as usual, issue #4 has no price anywhere on the cover or inside. It's all in color and the stories range from the great ("The Believer!") to the terrible ("The Monster Called Vampirella"). "A Thin Dime of Pain" is reprinted from Eerie 72, which has a cover date of February 1976, so it couldn't have been too long between the first printing of that story and this reprinting.

Next Week...
Yet Another Anniversary!
the 500th appearance of the Batman
in Detective Comics!


Anonymous said...

“The Blood Red Queen of Hearts” is probably my favorite of this week’s offerings. I remember thinking half the Vampi drawings were probably swiped from Jose Gonzalez panels, and in retrospect the others were likely swiped from Playboy models, Robert McGinnis covers and who-know-what-else. But I still thought it was all splendid, and was hoping he’d do more down the road, but I think he only did one more, many years later.

I thought there was even one MORE ending to this story — doesn’t the Queen get her eyes ripped out of their sockets at the denouement, n punishment for effing up her diabolical plan? I know she comes back as a recurring villain, even into the Harris run, decades in the future.

And I love that Enrich cover.


Anonymous said...

I think that second “porny” Vampi pose posted above — her body in the dynamic ‘Z’ shape, her knees going one way and her head going the other — may be swiped from a 1950s Dell cover by Gerald Gregg, but I haven’t been able to track it down yet. I’ll keep on it though because clearly I HAVE NO LIFE.


Peter Enfantino said...

You've come to the right treehouse. Look what WE do in our spare time.

Jack Seabrook said...

b.t., what's really sad is that now I want to know what you track down!

Quiddity99 said...

I'm fairly high on "The Blood Red Queen of Hearts" if only because Esteban Maroto finally gets his shot to do a Vampirella story and does an amazing job with it. Quite a strong final page too (which you've skipped in your synopsis). As for the rest of the story though... lol. After setting up a new recurring storyline with issue 43, most issues between then and now have been unrelated side stories and we finally have the grand conclusion here that everything was all a big fake out. They all survived. The status quo remains the same. Yawn. But then who came to Vampirella's stories for the quality of the writing?

"The Thing in Jane's Closet" I enjoyed, and glad that we never showed much of what was actually in the closet. "Then One Foggy Christmas Eve" is essentially a redo of the story "A Touch of Terror" from Creepy 63, which isn't that good a story either. That said, this story is quite notable as artist Joaquin Blazquez was convinced that the makers of the movie E.T. ripped off the design of the titular character from the doll character in this story and even tried to pursue legal action, which ended in complete failure for him. "Jewel in the Mouth of a Snake" seems a combination of the typical Bea fare of throwing us into a bizarre world along with elements of a story from one of the earliest issues of Creepy or Eerie in a story drawn by Steve Ditko (I recall it having ruby in the title, but that's it). "The Succubus Stone" comes off like several other detective/cop stories that Boudreau has written over the last year or two (I think of "The Easter Bunny Murders" for example). The one time Torrents' art appears in color; I like it better in black and white. I've always been fine with the Poe adaption at the end, having read the story for the first time here in Vampi.

Quiddity99 said...

Hunter II wraps up in what I consider its best segment, although I admit the twists are a bit too much. I like it mostly because it is something other than simply Karas and the Exterminator fighting goblins, which has dominated this series for much of its run. This segment of the "Freaks" was fairly good for me. "Day of the Vampire 1992" I liked quite a bit as the story reminds me a lot of the 80s movie Lifeforce, which I'll never forget after watching it with my father as a teenager (he somehow forgot that the main vampire villainess is naked pretty much the entire movie). That said, its largely the plot that I like, I'd agree that Dubay's captions/dialogue at times is quite lackluster. Kinda comes off like a preview of the style of writing he'll do in 1984. Oh joy, another "It" story! This series has been dreadful for quite a while, with nothing unique whatsoever from story to story. At least this time they got the family name right. And I'm pretty sure this is the last we'll see of this series. Peter Hypnos wraps things up for us with something very similar to his previous story and the Vampi story of his. Jose Bea, boring me? Say its not so!

Oddly enough this issue of Eerie is the first with Louise Jones as editor; Dubay will get one more issue each of Creepy and Vampirella before bowing out from them as well. I'm looking forward to the changes we'll get in the Warren magazines with someone else in charge.

Anonymous said...


Dell #213, UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN by Mignon G. Eberhart

The (AMAZING) Bookscans Database has a scan of it. Googling the title and author brought up several scans of it too.


Anonymous said...


Yes, the color on the Torrents story is hideous. Overly saturated, garish, acidic, it hurts my eyes to look at it. Ugh.

And one obvious positive result of Weezie’s tenure as editor: many, MANY more Bruce Jones stories.


Quiddity99 said...

My recollection is that the writing quality very soon will go up significantly, and Bruce Jones is like 75% responsible for that if not more. Nearly every issue for Louise Jones' era has at least one story from him, sometimes several. Warren's all time top writer in my eyes. We've hit a bit of a rut with the usual gang of Dubay, Lewis and Boudreau dominating so much of the magazines; I'm happy for the change.

Jack Seabrook said...

b.t., I looked at that Dell paperback cover and that's definitely the same pose. Good find!