Monday, August 29, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 92: March-April 1978



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

Photo of Barbara Leigh
Vampirella #67

"The Glorious Return of Sweet Baby Theda" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Quest" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Fish Bait" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Alex Nino

"Home Sweet Horologium" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Paul Neary

"Choice Cuts" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Russ Heath

"The Last Dragon King" ★1/2
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Esteban Maroto

With a little help from Starpatch and Quark, Vampirella and Pantha return to Earth, with Pantha jonesing for a trip to Hollywood. Once there, she's sure, she can become a movie star. Vampi is hesitant but decides that if it's what her friend wants, she'll assist her in satisfying her desire. The girls get a break at an audition for the title role in a biography of Sweet Baby Theda, one of Hollywood's most beloved child actresses, now grown old and senile.

Vampi and Pantha are driven to Theda's mansion by her butler, Jeeves, and made to feel comfortable. What's not made clear to the girls is that they are to be the subjects of an evil experiment by Theda's alcoholic doctor, who intends to graft Vampi's face and Pantha's "woman parts" onto the aged diva. The girls are shackled and drugged, but just before the evil deed is done, Jeeves clocks the doctor and sets the girls free, explaining that the old bird is out of her gourd and he couldn't sit still while the experiment proceeded. Vampi and Pantha exit the house and Theda goes back to watching her old movies. "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!"

Whether it's an homage or a rip-off (the Warren stories are usually the latter), "The Glorious Return of Sweet Baby Theda" punched all the right buttons for me, which is highly unusual for one of these Vampi tales. Obviously a patchwork of (in no particular order) Sunset Boulevard, Eyes Without a Face, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the story is goofy as all get-out and a lot better than the usual demon cult tales Dube has been pumping out lately. Hilarious that Pantha can't seem to keep her clothes on, but let's thank our lucky stars that the undressings happened while Jose Gonzalez was around.

A barbarienne finds herself the only defense when a horde of warriors attack her city. There's a goofy twist at the climax (turns out the Red Sonya clone and all her city mates are but germs on a spaceship used to fuel the ship's engines), but essentially that 15-word synopsis is all you need for "The Quest." The message here, received loud and clear, is that Ramon Torrents is the new Esteban Maroto.

A base on the ocean floor finds itself attacked by sea monsters. The greatest threat, though, may be the spy who's infiltrated the complex. The plot for "Fish Bait" is almost indecipherable; it's extremely confusing, so it might be best to think of it as a 1970s disaster movie done the Warren way. It's also got an EC-type reveal in its climax that's telegraphed from the very beginning. Having said all that, I can still survive the ambiguity thanks to Nino's offbeat artwork. 

On the planet Horologium III, Cal Drumm must fight off a slimy monster named Dathra, a beast that is intent on kidnapping Cal's son, Keni. The boy is the first "off-worlder to be born on Horologium" and, evidently, the creature wants the boy to remain on the planet when his father blasts off back to Earth. 

Cal hunts Dathra down and mortally wounds it but then receives a startling surprise when the tentacled horror exits the swamp and heads for Keni. Another very confusing space opera, "Home Sweet Horologium" could have been at least slightly better with some clarity. The twist, that Keni is Dathra, was a surprise as I figured it would turn out to be the kid's dead mom, but one good twist does not a good story make. Odd that Starpatch tells Vampi in the opening yarn that he's heading for "the Horologium star system" but then doesn't make an appearance in this story. Paul Neary has the same kind of style as Rudy Nebres; it looks like it was concocted on a computer.

"Choice Cuts" is a rarity. No, it's not a great story, that's not what I mean. At only three pages, I have to believe this is the shortest Warren story thus far (discounting those one-page Loathsome Lore things, of course). Dr. John Elton (oh, my sides are splitting!) and his fiancé crash in the desert and survive sixty-plus days, with "plenty of water" (good trick that) but no food. After the burning sun drives them mad, Elton does what must be done: he ties his companion down, stakes her to the desert floor, and then cuts his own legs off to feed the two of them. He then goes on Dick Cavett's show to tell his story. Three pages was plenty for me.

Lyssalyn of Smith enters the village of Tucwel seeking riches and adventure, but what she stumbles onto is a winged vampire who tries to put the bite on her. Luckily for Lyssa, she has a guardian angel in the form of Drudd, a dragon-riding king who zaps the bloodsucker with a lightning bolt and sweeps the barbarian girl off her feet. Later, the two marry and sire "The Last Dragon King," named Gwan. 

An attack by a serpentine enemy leaves Gwan bleeding and dying. Fortunately, all those years ago, Lyssa was bitten by her attacker and became a vampire herself. She passes on the "curse" to Gwan moments before he dies and he becomes a vampire himself. He rides off on his dragon as his mother is reduced to ashes by the rising sun. "The Last Dragon King" provides evidence that Maroto is still a master (unless, of course, this is one of those stories pulled from a foreign source years before), but the story is a jumble of half-events and unexplained plot twists. Who are these marauding demon warriors attacking Lyssa and Gwan? Does Gwan know that he'd better get his ass to cover before that sun comes up? 

The placement of the story (in color) at the back of the book is a weird twist as well since, usually, the insert would arrive in the middle of the zine. By the way, we get the first of seven covers featuring the lovely Barbara Leigh as Vampirella, a role she was supposed to play in the Hammer film that never got made (with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing). As Hammer was well on its way to extinction by 1978, we're all probably better off not seeing it come to fruition.-Peter

Jack-I had a hard time telling Vampi and Pantha apart in "The Glorious Return..." The women's fashions on Drakulon seem to resemble those worn at a strip club. Also, the story refers to all of the adventures shared by Vampi and Pantha, but they didn't make much of an impression on me, since I can't remember them. The art is excellent but the story is derivative and contains no surprises. "The Quest" is a fairly interesting story with a dumb twist ending and art that looks too good to be by Torrents. Nino gives us another overly detailed, sideways story in "Fish Bait," which has one heck of a last page.

We haven't seen Paul Neary in a while, as best as I can recall, and reading "Horologium" shows that his art is not up to what we saw in this issue's first three stories. He manages to depict a character with a helmet on, which is always the best thing he draws. "Choice Cuts" is just yucky. I did not expect the ending, but yuck! Finally, Maroto's work on "The Last Dragon King" looks great in color, which partly makes up for the confusing story. This is a mediocre issue of Vampirella with some strong art but the usual weak writing. How many times have we said that?

Creepy #96

Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Rudy Nebres

"Trilby and the Star Rovers" 
Story by Budd Lewis & Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Bonga and Me" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Esteban Maroto

Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Green" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Alien Strain" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

A frog-faced alien and his wife, Kiann and Diaott, arrive on their spaceship to visit Africa. They fall in love with the exotic animals and, being shapeshifters, decide to assume the bodies of a lion and a lioness. At the same time, millionaires Rodger and Sharon Hathaway vacation in just about the same spot, chaperoned by guide Reed Hadley. Sharon has a Jones for bagging a lion, while Rodger just wants to tend to business in their tent.

Sharon and Reed head off into the wild alone and soon come across a water buffalo; Sharon takes a shot but only wounds the animal. The two settle down and wait for the buffalo to come back out into the open so they can finish it off. One thing leads to another and Sharon and Reed get to know each other better in the tall grass. Playtime over, the pair retrieve their rifles and head into the brush to surround the wounded buffalo.

At the same time, the lioness Kiann is foraging for food and comes across the bewildered Sharon, who raises her rifle and aims. The two stare each other down and, just as Sharon is lowering her weapon, Kiann crouches. Fearful, Sharon fires, and Kiann falls to the ground, wounded. Diaott bursts into the clearing just as the wounded buffalo charges Sharon and the two animals fight a battle to the death! As Kiann and Diaott lay dying, their spaceship blows and they telepathically send "I love you's" to each other. Later, Sharon and Reed break the news of their new relationship to Mr. Hathaway and he gives them his blessing. Kiann and Diaott, in their new human bodies, smile and head off into their new world.

"Predation" is a fairly cheesy romance story made a bit more palatable by Nebres's artwork (although there are a few sketchy spots where my eyes couldn't translate to my brain what was going on in the pictures) and that final panel switcheroo. I couldn't help thinking about Sharon and Reed making love in a grass full of spiders, snakes, ticks, and all sorts of yecccchy things. The husband who goes along with his beautiful wife just to keep her around has been done to death in the funny books, but at least Bruce didn't throw in the obligatory murder plot.

Poor Toby can't get his dad to believe he's been in constant contact with "Trilby and the Star Rovers," an unseen band of planet hoppers who (evidently) rescue little children from unbelieving parents. When his pop invites a psychiatrist friend over to evaluate his mentally unbalanced tyke, it's the last straw, so Toby begs Trilby to transport him to the big spaceship and appoint him the new Star Rover. And so, right in front of mom, dad, and headshrinker, that's exactly what happens.

A lot of the running time of "Trilby" is given over to Toby whining about his dad's mocking ("Okay... so I'm at that awkward age..." says Toby in one particularly hard to swallow segment) and conversations with the unseen Trilby. What saves the story from complete boredom is its wallop of a climax. Despite their flaws, Toby's parents seem to be caring and loving people and to see their kid shot into space on a light beam would be something of a life-changer. How do we know Toby is in good hands? Will he lead the way in the inevitable sequel, when Trilby uses Toby's hatred of his fellow man to spearhead the conquest of Earth? 

In what we can only surmise are prehistoric times, Felci is tossed out on her shapely (and naked) ass by her tribesmen and vows she'll be back to kill them all with her bang-stick. Very shortly after, Felci stumbles across a giant lizard, domesticates it, and lays the name "Bonga" upon the poor thing. Bonga grows huge and Felci leads it back to the camp of her tribe, ordering the lizard to chomp on the leader who insulted her by casting her out of the village. 

Unfortunately for Felci, it turns out Bonga is a creature who was originally from the planet Alamak-3 and who was accidentally teleported to Earth by its alien owners. The Alamakians zap their "Cobidia" back home and Felci is left holding her bang-stick and not much else against her former comrades. She hightails it but is quickly set upon by a pack of wolves. To her rescue come the Alamakians, who admit they cannot tame their Cobidia and need a helping hand.

An abrupt and strange finish to "Bonga and Me," which reads like it might have been the rough draft of the third (unmade) Hammer dinosaur flick. You know, the ones with dialogue like "Me Totonga. Make fire!" Of course, the dialogue here, in a Warren script, is immensely more goofy and awkward. These prehistoric people talk pretty much like we do, but Nick Cuti throws in a "bang-stick" or a "short-bear" here and there so we won't forget that these cats truck with T. Rexes and Woolly Mammoths. Maroto, as has been the case lately, completely phones his work in. Wait, no, it's so sketchy and un-Esteban-ish, he might have telegraphed it in. Compare this with the work he was doing on Dax and you'd swear this is a different guy. Perhaps, after collecting so many paltry paychecks, he is a different guy. Oh, and one more thought. Take a look at the panel reprinted here and join me in wondering if this was meant for Eerie #90.

While patrolling, G.I.s Spider and Cotton Boy come across an abandoned air base populated by the "enemy," giant frogs from outer space. After discovering that one of the female amphibians has given birth to a half-human baby, the men leave the aliens alone and search the rest of the base. There they find another half-human child, its throat cut, discarded in a trash bin. The men trade oaths and scrunched-up faces before a grenade rolls into the room and Spider leaps on it, saving his friend's life. Cotton Boy exits the building with machine gun a' blazin' and discovers he's mowed down the mother and child he and Spider had spared. Oh, what fresh hell is this?

Man, I really hate the Warren message stories; especially the wrong-headed ones like "Alien!" You can picture Dube in the Warren cafeteria reciting Cotton Boy's closing monologue to McGregor, McKenzie, and Moench, and the boys standing and applauding when he's done. "Wouldn't change a word!" shouts Moench. "You've dug to the heart of what's wrong with this country!" screams McGregor. "Any more Ding-Dongs in the cabinet?" queries McKenzie. Of course, you have to have the men be African American, as it adds to the irony of Dube's message that we, as a people, just can't leave... well... them other peoples alone. Add an extra irony that Dube's mouthpiece is named Cotton Boy. Let's go back and count how many times Cotton exclaims "Oh God, Spider!"

Private Richard Sanders is "The Green," a newbie assigned to deliver ammunition to Alpha-7. With him on the journey is his C.O., Sgt. Caldwell, a man used to long space trips. Sanders become bored of checkers after a short period of time and, sensing a bit of star madness on the horizon, Caldwell begins filling Sanders's head full of fanciful stories of beautiful and grateful Alpha-7 babes, the wonderful food to be found there, and the glorious battles the duo will face. But once they've landed and Sanders sees nothing but a vast wasteland of rock, Caldwell admits he might have exaggerated the bounty a bit to keep the young pup's eyes on the prize. Sanders smiles and asks Caldwell to repeat his favorite story again.

Now we're talkin'. Just when you thought this issue might be a complete and total dud, Bruce Jones and Luis Bermejo ride to the rescue. "The Green" is a fun, fanciful science fiction tale with no racial undertones, no murderous, jealous suitors on board, and no realization that our protagonists have landed on the bombed-out remains of Earth. I literally smiled out loud at that final panel.

A deadly parasite is killing and using the pretty street girls of Beta IV as hatcheries. Once the girls are opened, the millions of worm-like creatures exit and look for a warmer place to live, namely more Beta-IV girls. Scientists at the Beta-IV morgue identify the critters as Banggi larvae and prepare for the worst. Meanwhile, on the streets of Beta-IV, Banggi Chessie and his female companion, Holly, are harassed by a mob of Banggi haters. They attempt to lynch Chessie, but he's got a few (living) tricks up his sleeve.

The plot for "Alien Strain" is a bit hazy (I'm not sure how the parasites are transferred to their hosts, if not sexually), but it's a quick read and it has a great finish. The Nino art is certainly more enjoyable when presented horizontally. What strikes me is how much imagination goes into Nino's creatures; any of the other stories in this issue could have been dramatized easily on a Twilight Zone-esque TV show for a small budget. Not so a Nino presentation. -Peter

Jack-I also thought "Predation" was well done, but I was confused by the ending. I thought the aliens were finished and suddenly they popped into the human bodies. I always liked Nebres's work for the Marvel B & W mags. I had an idea of what was going on in "The Green" fairly early on, but I really liked the ending. Bermejo's art elevates "Trilby," which has an unusually gentle story for a Warren mag but a disappointing finish.

I found "Alien Strain" to be nearly incomprehensible, and I don't like the sideways presentation, but that Nino art is spectacular. The simplistic dialogue in "Bonga and Me" is annoying and the nudity is even more pointless than usual; the unexpected ending was the best thing about this one. I'm right there with you on "Alien!"--the anti-war message is heavy-handed and the story is fairy disgusting.

Eerie #91

"The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, 
Helga the Damned, and Marmadrake the Magnificent!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Elijah Arnold and the Angel's Egg"
Story by Jonathan Thomas
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Francesca: Part Two"★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Against the Sun"★1/2
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

Restin Dane is in a terrible mood! He is so nasty to Bishop that the old man hops in the Rook and travels through time, landing centuries before amid Vikings. Being a mean old cuss, Bishop subdues the warriors, is crowned king, and becomes the object of an overweight Valkyrie's affection.

Restin's bad mood also extends to his treatment of Manners, who is told to take Jan and Kate into the city. In the city, the trio encounter a mad magician named Marmadrake, who plans to use robots to take over the world. Kate easily defeats the magician with her powers of concentration.

And what of Restin Dane? It turns out he is being controlled by Sludge, an evil, talking brain from outer space with designs on stealing Earth's weapons to transport to his home world. Kate, Jan, and Manners return just in time and Kate uses Marmadrake's magic metal to defeat Sludge. Restin sends Manners to retrieve Bishop from the Vikings and all ends happily.

Twenty pages of fun, well drawn by Bermejo, is how I'd describe "The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, Helga the Damned, and Marmadrake the Magnificent!" DuBay does his usual trick of moving back and forth between stories every few pages, and this time the Bishop story and the Manners story are both funny. Once again, Restin's story is the least interesting.

Old Mr. Arnold tells the men from the planning commission a strange story when they announce that his barn must be demolished to make way for a superhighway. Back in 1800, his ancestor, Elijah Arnold, had a farm that was doing poorly until a spaceship landed on his property. Inside he found alien animals, one of which he mated with a cow. An alien farmer came for the ship but left the half-breed monster behind, imprisoned beneath the barn. The men from the planning commission are unmoved and the barn is demolished to make way for the new road. The monster, grown big and hungry, is now free to wreak havoc.

"Elijah Arnold and the Angel's Egg" is interesting in fits and starts but suffers from Duranona's shaky art. There's never a doubt about what's going to happen and the way there tends to meander.

Jean and Scott Harmon adopt 16-year-old "Francesca," a gorgeous teen whose terminal illness had required her to be frozen until a cure was found. Jean begins to see horrible visions and, while they at first seem to be nightmares, she soon discovers that Francesca is possessed by the spirit of a Medieval woman who escaped from Hell and now wants to be reunited with her dead lover. Only divine intervention, in the form of a lightning bolt, prevents Scott's death.

What a mess! If Mayo's posed figures aren't bad enough, Jones's incredibly convoluted plot kills any sense of cogency in the tale. References to Dante don't make up for an utterly unbelievable plot, and it's so hard to follow and ridiculous as to be laughable.

Moonshadow, the assassin who never fails, is old and weary. After a particularly bad murder involving a holy man, he retires and meets Death on the road. Moonshadow bargains with Death and is given the power to kill by will alone; sent to take the life of a sick little girl, the assassin tricks Death by killing the germs causing her illness. Death keeps his promise and gives Moonshadow twenty million lifetimes but takes him to the realm of the Changer, who drives men insane. Moonshadow sets off to face the Changer.

I so enjoy Ortiz's art that I liked "Against the Sun," at least until the end, when it seemed to be forced into a continuing story. Had it ended with him tricking Death and saving the child I would have rated it higher.-Jack

Peter-Bill DuBay may be the only human being on Earth who ever laughed at the one-liners that line the Rook litter box, and this installment, which goes on and on and on, is stuffed full of inanity. I'm still trying to figure out what Restin Dane means when he tells an opponent that he's the "meanest mother this side of 1984!" He's from the Old West; what does he know of 1984 (Orwell or otherwise)? And to think, this snoozer of a series will be launching its own title in a few months! I do like Restin's Fiend Without a Face helmet though!

I found "Elijah Arnold" to be more readable than Rook, but way too long. Couldn't Mr. Arnold have cut to the chase and told the two developers that there was a giant murderous bull with bowling pins on its back underneath the weirdly lettered concrete, rather than spinning a long, drawn-out saga? Sheesh, those builders probably fell asleep in the middle of Arnold's story (just like I did) and never heard the punchline. UFOs were really big at this time and the Warren writers were scrambling to find original things to say about aliens. Good luck... to us.

Bruce Jones must have been cackling inside when he handed over the script for "Francesca" to Louise Jones. "This epic tale of burning desire cannot be told in a mere eight pages. I need twenty!" And twenty he got. To paraphrase Jerry Reed, Jones got the gold mine and we got the shaft. The screwiest Giallo homage I've ever read, with Jones throwing everything in the mix, including a cameo from Elijah Arnold's bull-man and plenty more Mayo poses. I'm hoping Bruce had his tongue firmly tucked in cheek when he wrote this. I don't know what to make of "Moonshadow, Chapter One," but the pitch is intriguing at least. We'll get three installments of Moonshadow and then a further three of a prequel series ("The Open Sky") in 1979.

Vampirella #68

"Orphee, Poor Orphee, They Made Him in
a Jar Right There in the Lab!"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"October Man"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leo Sanchez

"Night of the Alley Cats"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Ramon Torrents

"By Degrees"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Munificent Ali Addan and Son!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay & Esteban Maroto
Art by Esteban Maroto

In his laboratory, a mad doctor has created a creature he calls Orphee, which looks rather like Tennessee Tuxedo's walrus pal, Chumley. Is Orphee responsible for killing and eating six people? Outside the lab's window, Vampi is starring in a schlocky movie when she is attacked by aliens. Orphee witnesses this and rushes to her aid! Vampi defends herself by taking a bite out of the creature and, when the real cannibal is caught, Orphee's name is cleared.

"Orphee, Poor Orphee, They Made Him in a Jar Right There in the Lab!" features twelve pages of DuBay stupidity, with better art than the story deserves. The first panel, depicting the mad doctor, looks just like the ads in the back of the mag for the Aurora model kit.

Paul and Miranda adopted a little boy when tests revealed that Paul was sterile. He has never been able to muster up love for little Ricky and his relationship with Miranda has suffered as a result. Paul and Miranda go to a party and leave Ricky with Charlotte, the babysitter. At the soiree, Paul runs into childhood friend Jack Westley and they lament the fact that the children of their old gang have all died tragically. They recall an incident from childhood when they bullied and chased a boy who ended up being killed by a speeding train. Realizing that Charlotte the babysitter took care of both of their children, Paul rushes home to find Ricky gone.

Paul calls Jack and hatches a plan, then races to the railroad tracks, where he finds that Charlotte has tied up Ricky and laid him out to await death under steel wheels. Jack suddenly drives up and runs over Charlotte, saving Paul and Ricky. Paul comments that now everything will be fine.

"October Man" is an unusual story that might have been better with a different artist. As it stands, it's hard to tell Miranda from Charlotte and this leads to confusion. A second read-through cleared that up for me, but it doesn't help with the far-fetched nature of the plot and the bizarre finish. Won't Paul and Jack be prosecuted for killing Charlotte? How does this all bode well for Paul's relationship with Ricky? I'm glad Bruce Jones tried to write a thoughtful story with no monsters or aliens, but it could have used a bit more work.

A swipe from The Exorcist?
Soon after learning that she is pregnant, a young woman named Maria is knifed to death in an alley. A jacket belonging to Frankie Prado, a member of the Alley Cats gang, is found near the body, so suspicion falls on him. Fleur, a gorgeous, reincarnated witch, is visiting Dr. Martin Barris, a psychologist who works with juvenile delinquents and who knows Frankie. Barris insists that Frankie was framed, so he and Fleur begin to search for the young man. Maria's brother, Tony, vows to find Frankie and kill him.

Fleur transforms into an alley cat to help with her search. She learns that Dr. Barris is the real killer but, when the gang attacks her, she incinerates them. She then encounters Dr. Barris and incinerates him as well before he can kill Frankie.

"Night of the Alley Cats" is terrible and it is only redeemed slightly by the gorgeous panels of Fleur that Torrents provides. The plot is nonsensical and there is no explanation for why Dr. Barris would insist that Frankie had been framed when he was the one who framed him. The art by Torrents is a series of posed panels, making me wonder whether he used live models or photos from magazines. If he used photos, where did he get all of those poses?

Norman really hates Christmas shopping, and his marriage to Elaine isn't very happy, either. She forgot to buy someone a present and goes back into the crowded department store, telling him to wait in the book section. As he stands there, getting more frustrated "By Degrees," Norman begins to worry and decides to go and look for Elaine. Unable to find her, he decides to go back to the book department, only to find that it no longer exists. He heads outside but can't locate their car, either. Norman tries to call home, but the number doesn't connect to anything. He takes a cab home, but their house is gone. The cab disappears, the present in his pocket disappears and, finally, Norman realizes that he is disappearing.

Warren writers really hated Christmas, didn't they? They didn't seem to have a very high opinion of marriage, either. Ortiz draws a lot of muddy panels and the story essentially goes nowhere. It's set in 2028  but, other than an ad for a gizmo that makes things disappear, it could be 1978.

The son of the legendary Ali Addan is shipwrecked and washes up on a remote island, where he meets a beautiful jinn. She claims to have been imprisoned by the demon who is master of the isle; she is chained to the rocks to attract sailors whose bodies the demon loves to consume. Addan Jr. heads off to slay the demon, succeeds, and returns to the woman, who reveals that she is the daughter of the jinn betrayed by Addan Sr. Mom is a monster who proceeds to eat junior.

In the past, we have excused many a story illustrated by Maroto as having been drawn first and then had words added in later. What are we to make of "The Munificent Ali Addan and Son!" when the credits say Maroto co-wrote it with DuBay? Perhaps it was just pretty pictures, or perhaps it made sense in Spanish and DuBay helped Maroto attempt to make it coherent in English. Whatever the case, they failed. It makes very little sense.-Jack

Peter-Dube follows up perhaps his best Vampi script with perhaps his dumbest. This drivel made absolutely no sense at all and was conjured up, no doubt, to cash in on that big-budget Hammer Vampi movie that never got made. "October Man" may very well be the worst Bruce Jones story I've ever read. It starts out as some sort of pretentious malarkey and then winds up being just plain malarkey. The single panels of the train tracks interspersed with the faux-Hitchcock revelatory dialogue made me want to hurl. Oh, and isn't it wonderful that this awful event changed Paul from a heartless prick into father of the year?

Those of us who swear by Bruce Jones's talents for terror would do well to avoid recommending either BJ tale this issue. I'm not sure what Jones wants to say in the interminably long and boring "By Degrees" other than Christmas shopping will suck in 2028 just like it did in 1978 (actually, speaking from 2022, BJ might want to amend that message slightly since hardly anyone waits in lines at Christmas anymore), but most readers will have nodded off by the fifth page. 

The first Fleur solo story since Vampirella #35, "Night of the Alleycats," has some really nice artwork by Torrents but a rambling, nonsensical script by Boudreau (I sense a pattern) with a JD angle that was old hat by 1961. All I could think was, how does Fleur keep that hair from going flat? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. "Ali Addan and Son!" features more great boobie work from Esteban Maroto, but the sideways thing is a pain in the ass to read and the climax just sits there. Thank goodness someone was bright enough to put END on that last page. I wouldn't have known otherwise.

The 1977 Warren Awards perform the same function as last year's: to pat all the popular kids on the head. Frazetta's win for Best Cover is a joke, since the damn thing sat on a shelf for years and is one of Frank's lesser works. The Best Artist of the Year, Best Art of the Year, and Special Award for Excellence in Art for the Year only further the perception (on my part at least) that the Warren Awards were tantamount to the little leagues, where everyone who participates gets a trophy. Hard to believe that Esteban didn't nab the coveted "Breast Art of 1977" punch bowl.

Next Week...
Yep! We sure are!


Anonymous said...

Bill Dubay seems to have entered a new phase of cringe-worthy Titling Conventions. First it was all those ‘Blankie and the Blank-blank’ titles (like ‘Oogie and the Scroungers’, ‘Pooter and the Magic-Man’ and the immortal ‘Irving and the Devil-Pie’), then it was the ‘Hyperbolic Adjective Noun of Proper Noun’ titles (like ‘The Enchanting Fable of Thistlewhite the Bold’ and this month’s ‘The Glorious Return of Sweet Baby Theda’ and ‘The Munificent Ali Addin and Son’) and now he’s actually COMBINING them, for fart’s sake: ‘The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, Helga the Damned and Marmadrake the Magnificent!’ And here I thought he’d exhausted his bag of insufferably twee tricks. Forgive me, Bill Dubay, wherever you are — I’ll doubt ye no more.

As for this month’s selections…

There’s a whole lot of nice artwork here. I don’t remember much about the stories.

Don Maitz is undeniably talented but his covers still don’t feel very ‘Warren’ to me. At least Enrich is still doing the occasional Vampi cover (even if this one is partially swiped from an old Earle Bergey STARTLING STORIES cover featuring Grag the Robot).


Quiddity99 said...

So begins the habit of using photos of Barbara Leigh as Vampirella for covers for the magazine. I was not a fan. She doesn't really fit how I'd envision a real-life Vampirella, but more so than that, I'd far prefer a new Enrich painting over what will end up being over a half a dozen photos of the same model. Ah well. I actually kinda enjoyed this month's Vampirella story as well? It's obviously not meant to be taken very seriously, but it was a fun read, and I love Pantha essentially becoming Vampirella's sidekick. Dare I say it, Pantha is even more attractive than Vampirella is. At least as drawn by Jose Gonzalez. I really enjoyed "The Quest" as well. The barbarian part of the story is only the first couple of pages, and I liked the mystery of what she found as well as the end reveal quite a lot. Some amazing artwork as usual from Alex Nino on "Fish Bait", but I'd agree it wasn't the best story. For "Horologium" I felt that Neary's art was inspired by old EC stories, thinking maybe Al Williamson or Wally Wood. The monster looked quite familiar at the very least. "Choice Cuts" was enjoyable for the Russ Heath art; I probably would feel lesser about the story if it was drawn by someone else. "The Last Dragon King" was a bit of a whiff for me; I'm often critical of the sword and sorcery type stories and while I love Esteban Maroto's art I prefer black and white for him instead of color. Overall an issue that starts strong but sinks a bit in quality along the way.

Creepy 96 was one of the very first issues of Creepy I ever owned so I'll always have some level of nostalgia over it. Rudy Nebres makes his Warren debut with "Predation" and while he's a fine artist, he may be tops for me among Warren artists who do a lot of work for the company who I feel just doesn't fit the company at all. His artwork seems far more suited for superhero or action type comics than horror. He does a ton of stuff for Warren the rest of the way but a lot of the time it leaves me disappointed because of that. Especially once he becomes the main artist for Vampirella, which is easily the low point art-wise for her in my eyes. The "Trilby" story is a pretty good one with some usual strong Luis Bermejo art. Although the story reminds me a lot of a story that will later appear written by Archie Goodwin, "The Night Willa Jane Gormley Went Home" which is similar in theme but I found way more powerful. I think that's probably still a good 15 or so issues off. "Bonga and Me" was very obviously an Eerie #90 overflow story, presumably bumped to this issue when "The Rook" story became as long as it did. Esteban Maroto art is always a plus and at least they didn't rehash stuff from that issue beyond the concept. "Alien" was a disappointment for me as well, with a very predictable story. I was quite happy with "The Green" too, the highlight of the issue for me. "Alien Strain" was pretty good, how could it not be with Alex Nino drawing it, although I was expecting more of a climax or twist at the end than what we actually got.

Quiddity99 said...

"The Rook" story this time seems just too overloaded with excess for me. I far would have preferred if Dubay took one of these plot lines and did, say a 10 page story about it, rather than feel the need to go 20 pages and cram all of these stories in it. My recollection is "The Rook" stories start getting too overboard and perhaps this is the time when it really starts. Beyond a rather obvious ending, I really enjoyed the "Angel's Egg" story. I continue to have a totally different opinion on Duranona's art, I really enjoy it and I feel it elevates a story here that I wouldn't have rated as high in the hands of a lesser artist. He draws the strangest aliens and monsters among any Warren artist other than Alex Nino. "Francesca" part two ends up being quite the disaster with the execution. The twist/explanation itself I was fine with, but the way it was executed was just absurdity. A few pages from the end a side character has a theory that explains the entire thing, he ends up being 100% right, and Francesca is killed a page or two later via a total deux ex machina. Big disappointment. The first "Moonshadow" story I was pretty happy with. Strong Ortiz art as usual and an interesting twist. I can't remember exactly where this series goes but totally fine with us getting more of it in the future.

Haven't read ahead to Vampi #68 (and being away on business this whole week I'm separated from my Warren collection) so will be a while before I can offer thoughts on that issue!

Quiddity99 said...

On Vampi #68...

I agree that this issue has the worst Bruce Jones story I've read, although for me its "By Degrees", not "The October Man". My was that a painful experience. A very boring subject, a rather stupid main character and a story that just dragged on and on forever with no real point to it. "October Man" was fine for me, with some strong art from Leopold Sanchez. The "Fleur" story on the other hand was a rare whiff for Torrents for me, at least for the male characters who looked so similar to each other that I had a hard time telling them apart. "Fleur" was never that interesting and thankfully this is the final story with her. As with other Dubay/Maroto stories that have Maroto credited as well for writing, I strongly suspect "Ali Addan" was originally written and drawn by Maroto in Spain, then Warren simply reprinted it with Dubay providing a new script. No official confirmation on that, but my assumption. The "Vampi" story was a bit too goofy for my takes this time and wish we got more Pantha.

I don't know how one could chock up Russ Heath's performance on "Yellow Heat" to a participation trophy. Same for Alex Nino. Both amazing artists with award worthy performances. I get the criticism for giving The Rook and Torrents awards though. And giving Frazetta an award for a cover he painted many years before that simply sat on the shelves is a joke.