Monday, September 12, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 93: May 1978



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

Barbara Leigh
Vampirella #69

"The Saga of Frick and Frack and Freckles 
and the Phantom of Hollywood" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Hit Six" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Off the Beaten Empath" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Leo Duranona

"Reagan Redux" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Jessie's Friend" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

Deep in the Misty Mountains (where the spirits fly), there is a special compound belonging to an old woman known as "Granny" and her "elfen companion," Rollem. The pair make Hollywood-style movies utilizing androids built by Granny. Rollem has become bored and desires a "plaything," such as the pretty vampire girl featured in that morning's paper. Well, what Rollem wants...

Meanwhile, Vampirella has just completed another hard day's work on her movie set and is heading home with Pendragon when she is attacked and kidnapped by a horde of killer androids. Pen is seriously hurt in the ordeal but, thankfully, he's so tanked he doesn't feel a thing. Vampirella is loaded into a spacecraft (on loan from Lucasfilm, no doubt) and taken back to the Misty Mountains (where the spirits go), where she survives a rather bumpy landing and is presented to Rollem as a present from Granny. Rollem confesses that he "shore do" like Vampi's "spunky" outfit and promises she's going to have lots of fun. To Be Continued.

"The Saga of Frick and Frack and Freckles and the Phantom of Hollywood" is a Vampirella saga that literally goes nowhere. The two new villains are introduced, but we learn nothing about them. How does Granny make those special toys when NASA doesn't seem to have a hovercraft/spaceship in its 1978 catalogue? What is she doing with all the footage she shoots? Is Rollem really an elf? Who the hell are Frick and Frack and all the rest? We never even meet them. As seems to be his specialty, Dube decides his new characters should be backwoods rubes who speak in hillbilly dialect. In none of the interviews I've read with Bill DuBay did he admit to either a fondness or a dislike for rednecks, but the proof seems to be there every month, so what we're left with is a really dumb script with some pretty panels. I feel kinship with DuBay; I'm a writer who constantly says the same thing.

Just when he thinks he's out, the mob drags retired hit man Raff Dougan back in! Raff has accumulated a mountain of debt in Vegas and the only way out of a trip to the "East River" is to kill a purty woman who's been a thorn in the side of Johnny "The Boss" Rico. Agreeing to the job, Raff hops a plane to Majorca but can't pull the trigger when the time is right. The assassin becomes obsessed with the young woman and begins following her around the village, but she's much too smart and corners him, questioning his motives.

After a shaky start, the two become pals and the woman confesses that Rico ordered her husband killed and now she intends to use her knowledge of Rico's business practices against him in court. Suddenly, Raff knows why he's been sent on this mission. A little romance changes his mind and, before he knows it, he's dodging bullets from the men who sent him in the first place. 

Here I go again, wondering why Bruce Jones was, hands down, the best horror writer of the 1970s, when we keep coming across vapid and cliched crap like "Hit Six." The dialogue is  straight out of a Harlequin romance novel ("I guess I was like a moth attracted to the flame--a very handsome flame!"), the plot is tired (the hit man who falls for his mark), and the final twist is ludicrous (go ahead and guess the identity of Raff's previous victim). Was I the only one who was confused by the banter between Raff and Maxie in the opening? Is Raff in Vegas like he says or in New York? I've never heard of an "East River" in Vegas.

Casey Jarrett is an empath; he can feel the emotions of anyone around him. The condition is worsening and, after witnessing a horrific traffic accident, Casey is taken to a hospital, where his special ability is immediately recognized by a doctor. The physician gives Jarrett a bottle of pills he promises will deaden the effects of his condition and, for a while, the medication works. But then it seems as though the pills are heightening the sensations; Casey not only feels the emotions of other people, he takes on their physical attributes. 

This does not sit well with Casey's shrewish wife and, when he comes home from the office after being fired, the couple get into a raging argument. Casey becomes his wife's twin and realizes, after he murders her, that the medicine has taken him to an even higher level. He dies as well. We not only have to contend with Gerry Boudreau's melodramatic, angry young man of the '70s writing (Hatred, so deep as to be archetypal. Not merely the tension between black and white, rich and poor, but the primal mistrust of the many for the few. The average toward the privileged. Primal hatred, and of course, greed.), but also the double whammy of Leo Duranona's seriously ugly artwork. Nothing about this script makes sense. If Casey has always had this affliction, why is it suddenly elevating? Who is this doctor with this innovative new medicine that helps a very specific portion of the population? "Off the Beaten Empath" would warrant a rare "zero stars" from me if we used that rating.

1956. While rummaging around in the desert with his poodle, young Bobby Reagan comes across an unconscious man. Bobby somehow gets the man back to the trailer that he lives in with his mother, Vivian (who has a PhD in medicine), and she nurses him back to health. The man admits he remembers nothing, including his own name, but the three quickly become friends. Bobby shares his love for science fiction movies with the stranger and the man claims to have seen the movies on color TV. Since the newcomer has no ID or memory, Bobby nicknames him "Shane," after the boy's favorite movie.

Vivian and her guest become very close, smooching in the sand one night after Bobby has gone to bed, but Viv feels it's not right to enter into a relationship with someone she's barely met (ah, those naive and glorious '50s!). One day, while Shane and Bobby are out walking the sand dunes with Ranger the poodle, the dog mysteriously vanishes. The pooch then materializes right before their eyes. Shane thinks he knows what's going on and steps forward, disappearing as well. He can still hear Bobby on "the other side," but they cannot see each other. When Shane steps back into Bobby's "world," he finds the kid passed out in the sand.

Vivian tends to the boy but admits she's never seen symptoms like this before. Shane hands over something he's found in the sand: his wallet. Inside they discover a driver's license for "Robert Reagan," a dime minted in 1976, and a picture of Vivian signed to her son, Robert. Yep, "Shane" is actually Bobby come from the future to... uh, never mind that, he just showed up. Shane posits that Bobby has been exposed to a disease from the future and needs a transfusion of his own, older blood to combat the fever. Viv agrees and performs the transfusion; Bobby immediately perks up. Shane decides it's time to go back to the future but tells Bobby they'll be together again soon (clever that!).

I loved the Ortiz work (I thought it would have been a clever twist if Shane had actually been the Rook), but Jones's script is a mishmash of good and maudlin. The time travel/meet yourself in the past thing had already been done to death by 1978, but I think it still could have been done effectively given the right plot. All I could think about was the effects triggered by Shane's appearance and why that appearance had not carried on through the decades. It was clever of Jones to burden Shane with amnesia, since that would explain his not recognizing himself and his mother in their younger days, but why wouldn't 1978 Robert Reagan remember visiting the desert, falling into a time hole, and infecting his younger self with some kind of 1970s virus? And wouldn't Vivian have told older Robert never to go wandering in the desert lest you slip your mom's younger version the tongue? These Terminator-esque stories always make me go to my local bar and run the various outcomes through my head over six or seven shots but, hey, based on the title I was expecting some kind of Warren writer tirade on the former governor of California, so who am I to complain? My 16-year-old self just materialized in my living room to tell me I'm taking this crap too seriously.

Jessie finally works up the nerve to call it quits with boyfriend Donald, a temperamental artist who lives in a squalid flat and sees no reason to better himself. Jessie finds herself a new place with the aid of her friend, Kathy, but discovers a strange old man who lives in the apartment across the way and does nothing but stare out his window 24/7. Despite worrying about Donald contacting her, Jessie has a phone installed and, sure enough, one morning receives a call from her ex begging her to let him come see her. She refuses and hangs up but the calls persist.

As does the old man in his chair who, Jessie insists to Kathy, is getting "grayer" every day. Since he never moves, Jessie wonders if the man might be dead. Jessie buys a pair of binoculars in order to get a closer look at her admirer and becomes convinced the man is a corpse. She picks up her phone to call the cops and finds Donald on the line; in a panic, she begs him to come over to comfort her and take care of the situation. He tells her he'll be over now that she's invited him. She hangs up the phone but it immediately rings. It's Donald, calling to ask Jesse why she hasn't contacted him since she left him. The door opens and there stands...

Though it's your typical EC "shambling dead thing" climax, I thought "Jessie's Friends" was not bad at all if you don't analyze it too much. But, of course, analyzing is exactly what I do so... this dimwit Jessie leaves her blinds up and then begrudges the old man across the way for liking what he sees? I know Cosmopolitan taught women to fight for their rights, but did they say dangle the carrot in front of the horse and then complain when he takes a bite? Obviously, Cosmo would not advise Jessie to call her violent ex if a scary situation should arise, so the girl is just making her own rules up as she goes. Also, our gorgeous heroine complains about her boyfriend being a bum and then offers no proof that she herself holds down a 9 to 5.

There's no denying Gonzalo Mayo can draw a woman you'd love to meet in a dark alley, but the posed vibe is annoying at times. Who opens their blinds, back to the window, with their buns up in the air? And, unless I'm mistaken, that's Harlan Ellison on page 48, looking ponderously off into space while trying to rent Jessie a flat. None of it looks real, unless real is one of those sci-fi tales where everyone freezes in mid-action.

Joe Brancatelli's column, an answer to a fan who called out Joe for never ragging on Warren, is perhaps the best and most memorable he ever wrote for the Warrens. Well, it is for me. I remember reading this for the first time and laughing out loud at Brancatelli's comment that he "despises it when Jim Warren trots out his old Frank Frazetta paintings every year or two and reprints them." Amen. At some point, Jim Warren (or one of his toadies) will fire back in a letter column. More on that soon.-Peter

Jack-We don't always agree, but we are on the same page with this issue. The best thing about it is Brancatelli's column, where he calls out Warren's Spanish artists for their inability to tell a story! The best of the five stories is "Reagan Redux," mainly due to the artwork by Ortiz. I could not figure out why the kid kept a well-groomed poodle in the desert, though. I kept looking for the title characters in "Frick and Frack," but to no avail; the story is a waste of twelve pages. When I saw who drew "Jessie's Friend," I said "Hold the Mayo!" Two stories of posed gals in one issue is too much, though I couldn't blame the old man for staring at Jessie.

"Hot Six" lacks any surprise and the last panel on the first page made me wonder if Bermejo read or understood the captions; Jones mentions a "headless body" but the picture shows a corpse with its head intact. "Off the Beaten Empath" starts out bad and just gets worse, with some panels so light as to be barely there and others so obscure that it's hard to tell what's going on.

Eerie #92

"Cold Sweat"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Strangers in the Strangest Places!"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Abel Laxamana

"Let's Hear It For Homo Sapiens"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Suzanna Don't You Cry"
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Bad Day 'Cross 110th Street"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

"Final Wish"
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

Sticks Mandell and Fangs Rydell, stars of the hockey team representing Earth in the finals for the championship of the galaxy, travel with their team through space to play the Vesuvian team in the finals. A tractor beam pulls their ship into a crash landing on an icy asteroid, where they are met by robots who insist that Sticks play a showdown match against the planet's robot squad. The Earthman agrees and the game is on, with Sticks having three explosive pucks to run a gauntlet of skating alien robots and make a goal. He blows up his opponents with the pucks and reaches the goal, only to see that his teammate Fangs is the goalie, who will be obliterated with one explosive shot. Sticks shoots high and destroys the snowbank behind the goal, where a Venusian superfan was running the entire show in an effort to eliminate the competition.

What's the story with Warren's emphasis on ice hockey? I don't recall it being that big a sport in 1978--the "Miracle on Ice" didn't happen till 1980. Ortiz does his best to make "Cold Sweat" interesting, but there's only so much you can do with a mashup of Star Wars ships and robots and ice hockey. The end, where it is revealed that the whole setup was the work of a Venusian fan, is clever, but you have to slog through eight pages of boredom on ice to get there.

On the planet Thalmuroid, a little fellow named Organ Lo spends his days watching the adventures of Restin Dane on a monitor and wishing he could emulate his time-traveling hero. Organ uses a time-space transporter to travel back to the Old West but finds himself among "Strangers in the Strangest Places!" In the present, Restin tells Bishop about a letter from 1879 that he just found in the mailbox; it seems that the people of Red Gap, Arizona, need help ridding the town of a monster.

The monster is none other than Organ Lo, who has been taken in by Granny Filcher, who has dressed him like a sheriff and who tasks him with stealing millions on her behalf. The lighter gravity on Earth gives Organ super strength and that, combined with his alien appearance, means that everyone in town fears him. Restin and his grandfather arrive in Red Gap and Bishop hooks up with Banjo Feather, an old frenemy, jetting off in Restin's hovercraft with Useless the robot to confront Organ Lo. Organ Lo has his own problems, since he is meek by nature and he is being run roughshod by Granny Filcher.

The character of Organ Lo makes this an unusually entertaining Rook story, though it seems that it was chopped in half at a random point. The art doesn't look much different than what we're used to.

On a faraway planet, evolution progresses strangely and produces both sentient humans and animals. An ape named Antilles grows up with the intelligence and emotions of a human, but when discriminatory laws are passed and the animals revolt, Nine-year-old Millicent Mipps is caught in the fracas but escapes from her jail cell and ends up joining Antilles, who is not exactly yelling, "Let's Hear it for Homo Sapiens." The two manage to escape and reach safety, and Antilles recalls the events in old age and wonders what happened to Millicent.

Gerry Boudreau does all he can to try to make this story seem interesting and important, but it isn't. Each of the eight pages is titled as a separate chapter, but the whole thing just ends with the duo's escape; in one panel they're running off and in the next Antilles is old and sitting at his desk. The story is meant to be some sort of allegory about race relations, like Planet of the Apes, but it goes nowhere, and Auraleon's art doesn't create much interest.

As Moonshadow wanders along, looking for the city of the Changer and singing "Suzanna Don't You Cry" to himself, he meets a bird who reveals that the Changer's city lies right beneath them. A push of a button reveals a staircase, and Moonshadow descends into the Changer's realm, where he is welcomed by a creature with eyes on stalks. Moonshadow is bathed and dressed and brought to a beautiful, young woman whom he recognizes as Suzanna, the woman who trained him to be an assassin when he was 16 years old. He recalls that he became a threat to the League of Assassins and they sent Suzanna to kill him one night, but he killed her instead. She offers herself to him, but the sight of her nubile flesh turning to rot makes him catatonic.

As it would anyone, I guess. Moonshadow is turning into a decent series, at least after the first couple of entries, mainly due to the efforts of Jose Ortiz. I especially like the creature with eyes on stalks that gets him ready to meet Suzanna. It's funny, but not over the top as DuBay might have done it.

On a hot August day in Harlem, Abelmar Jones and his friend Stanley decide to head down to Whitesville, where they have a "Bad Day 'Cross 110h Street!" They enter a shop where a wizard asks them to keep an eye on things and to stay away from the big mirror while he goes out for an hour. As soon as he leaves, they head straight for the mirror, which discharges all sorts of snaky, wormy demons from the netherworld. Fortunately, the wizard returns and all is right with the world of magic. Stanley and Abelmar return to Harlem with a stolen wand that they promptly hock for some ripple.

This sort of shuckin' and jivin' is hard to read in 2022 and I don't think it was much more acceptable in 1978. One caption says it was "Hot 'nuff t' fry chitlins on th' roof!" Another reports that it's "Too hot t' even botha with th' foxes." The plot is lifted from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and there's mention of Dormammu, perhaps in a nod to Marvel's Dr. Strange. Is the wizard supposed to be the Ancient One? Probably not, but at least Nino can fill a page with snaky, wormy creatures on demand.

Now an old man, Jamie remembers when he was a boy and he was by Gaffer's side at the moment he died. Gaffer wrote out a makeshift will, leaving his "Final Wish" to Jamie. Many years later, the city is in the midst of a tough winter, where poor people are freezing to death and going hungry. After little Lisa's mother dies, she and Jamie hear a radio news report that the big bomb will arrive and blow everything up in ten minutes. Jamie finds Gaffer's will but armed looters grab it from him and shoot him. With his final words, Jamie tries to mutter a wish before the bomb drops, but he runs out of breath and it goes "thunk" in a snowbank. Jamie thinks for a second that his wish for peace on Earth was a success, but then the bomb explodes and everything is annihilated.

That's my read of how it ends. I think someone mistakenly put "end" at the bottom of page eight instead of page nine. Gaffer was always a fairly good series, likeable mostly for its setting among the downtrodden, and Duranona turns in better looking pages than we've seen from him recently, probably because he uses more black ink.-Jack

Peter-"Strangers in the Strangest Places!" is a rollicking, thoroughly enjoyable Rook romp, the best in quite a while. Of course, one of my favorite bits of Dube's creation (which seems to constantly seesaw in quality) is the elder Dane's insults: "You gutter-brained sharp-shootin' cut purse!" is one of this issue's highlights, even if I have no idea what it means. Laxamana does a good job filling in for Bermejo on this two-parter.

"Cold Sweat," obviously a holdover from the All Sports Creepy #93, is a loser, a silly page-waster that should have sat on the shelf. "Let's Hear It For the Homo-Sapiens" is further proof that Eerie was a dumping ground for stories that never made the Creepy themed-issue deadline, in this case the Apes issue #95. "Homo Sapiens" is a pretentious, incomprehensible pile of rubbish and the only good thing I have to say about it is that Jack had to write the synopsis for this crud, not me. What message is Gerry Boudreau trying to get across? That he liked the Planet of the Apes movies? Take my word for it; skip this one and put it out at the curb for collection.

"Moonshadow" continues to be intriguing while being maddening as well. I'm not sure where this story is going (or, to be honest, where it is right now), but at least it's not boring and the art is great. The art is also great on "Abelmar Jones," but the script is vapid and meandering. I continue to believe that Bill DuBay had a very narrow idea of how Black people speak and let's just leave it at that. Finally, "Gaffer" has some genuinely sad moments (the scene where Jamie is comforting the little girl after losing her mother stands out) but, like "Moonshadow," this was a series that had no focus or goal in mind. At least, there's none apparent to me. The climax is downright perplexing. It doesn't help that there's a page printed after the one that says "END" nor does Duranona's typically muddy art help convey whatever McKenzie was trying to say. Does the bomb go off or is Jamie crossing over to the other side? Or both? Please, Jack, fill me in.

Creepy #97

"Momma Is a Vampire" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Leo Duranona

"The Wax Werewolf" 
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Black Death" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Snaegl or How I Conquered 
the Snail That Ate Tokyo" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Martin Salvador

"Dragon Lady" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

Though Lisa Dunbar has become a vampire, she still loves and protects her family. The woods are crawling with bloodsuckers who would love to initiate Lisa's husband and children into their secret society, but Lisa fends off any attempts on her family and pays a terrible price for her loyalty. A local doctor thinks he has the cure: a transfusion from Lisa's human husband might destroy her dreaded blood disease. The doctor performs the operation and, afterwards, Lisa looks into a mirror and sees her reflection. Joyful, Lisa hits the kitchen to make her family a Christmas supper, but her husband enters, holding a stake and axe. He explains that the transfusion did not work and Lisa only imagined that she saw her reflection in the mirror. She sighs and accepts her fate.

The first half of "Momma is a Vampire" is a harrowing horror story; the scene of Lisa speaking to her children and begging them to let her in the house is truly chilling. The second half doesn't really hold up, though, with the doctor reciting a few heretofore unknown rules of vampirism that didn't make much sense and an ending that feels rushed. The Duranona work here isn't as awful as in Vampirella, but it's still not ideal.

Sheriff Boisie Lecter investigates the death of a local farmer and discovers that he's got a werewolf on the loose. Visiting his girlfriend Shary at the town library, Boisie explains that a hunk of the wolf's hair found at the scene the night before has transformed into human hair this morning. Shary reads from a book on lycanthropy and tells Boisie the affliction is in the victim's head. Convinced he's dealing with a real monster, the sheriff visits the obligatory local witch, who lives where the swamp is alive with a thousand eyes and all of them are watching you. The old hag whips up a werewolf-weapon, a wolf made of wax and the hunk of hair. The  woman teaches the lawman how to draw the wolf out of hiding and warns Boisie to wear gloves while wielding the weapon, since "mixing your fluids with magic is deadly."

That night, the sheriff sits in his living room, chanting the words the swamp witch taught him, when the werewolf bursts through his window, murder in its eyes. Boisie stabs the wax figure and the monster keels over, dead, transforming back into... Shary! Distraught, Boisie sobs, mixing his tears with the wax weapon, and casts "The Wax Werewolf" into the fire. He immediately bursts into flames and he and Shary are together again.

Despite some very hokey trappings and an all-too-obvious twist, I liked "The Wax Werewolf." It's tantamount to one of those old ABC Movie of the Week (Moon of the Wolf, for one) cheapies, comfortable and familiar, but enjoyable enough to keep your attention. My praise for this one might be due to the fact that Warren, by this time, had pretty much abandoned monster stories (do you not find it odd that Creepy has to release a monster-themed issue when, in the old days, it was all monsters?) for slutty witches and sleazy perverts. "The Wax Werewolf" is a good, old-fashioned monster story populated by all the ingredients handed down through the ages: the beleaguered sheriff, his loving and lovely librarian girlfriend, the swamp witch, and the reveal that the answer was (literally) right there under the cop's nose all the time. I wonder if writer Bob Toomey neglected to mention in his script that Boisie was a sheriff and artist Jose Ortiz assumed the man was an accountant. He sure doesn't dress like any hick-town lawman I've ever seen.

Now we're talkin'! Sheriff Boggs finds his small Southern town has become a literal graveyard for its African American populace. Boggs suspects the Ku Klux Klan, but their Grand Wizard insists he and his boys are not responsible. That confession seems to hold water when the racist leader is found with a bullet in his head. Boggs consults his Black friend, Snake, who tells the sheriff that he can't stop a black/white war but that "something evil is hanging over the town..." Out of answers, Boggs visits local witch Hattie, who lives back in the swamp where the strange green reptiles crawl and snakes hang thick from the cypress trees like sausage on a smokehouse wall. The trip is for naught as blind Hattie insists she's harboring no fugitives nor does she know what's going on. 

Boggs heads home, where he finds his wife has been murdered. Enter Snake, who confesses he knows who is responsible for the killings and will lead his friend to the culprit. That trek ends back in the swamp, where Snake finally explains what's going on. Swamp Witch Hattie has introduced voodoo to their small Okeechobee town and the killers, who... here it gets a bit muddled... are committing the murders to bring the white and Black races together in zombie brotherhood. Snake pulls a knife and tells Boggs to relax, he's going to take care of his friend himself.

Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Sutton

What a load of rubbish "Black Death" is, regurgitating many of the same ingredients "The Wax Werewolf" used to its advantage and reminding us that when those pieces are assembled they don't always make a cohesive whole. I could make neither heads nor tails of what Jones was trying to accomplish here with his alternative race relations suggestion, possibly because he cluttered up the narrative with so many dead ends and false faces. I gave this an extra half-star for Sanchez's evocative art, but otherwise this is convoluted crap. Yet another chance for Jack to point out that I claimed Bruce Jones was the best horror comics writer of the 1970s and '80s.

A giant snail rises out of the Pacific to threaten Japan with mucus trails and all that gross stuff. Sightings of "Snaegl" in the past had been laughed at or ignored, but the fact that a 100-foot mollusk is crushing buildings in Tokyo is hard to ignore. Three separate parties are convinced they are responsible for the creature's appearance. Oceanographers Kojiro Ishii and Miyoshi Minamoto encounter the monster at the bottom of the Salami Sea and, after Miyoshi is ensnared in Snaegl's tentacles, Kojiro is forced to blast it with an electric charge. The two escape with their skin intact but the thing seems to be following them back into Tokyo Harbor. Little Yoritomo Hongo, a pre-teen geologist, keeps a tank of uranium ore (a deadly metal provided by Yori's helpful scientist father) he's convinced has had some kind of luring effect on the monster. Stripper Tamiko relates to her manager the horrifying story of her childhood, when she was abducted from her small Pacific island by white slave traders. On that island, the natives worshipped Snaegl. Tamiko is convinced Snaegl is here to rescue her from her life of sordid entertainment.

These four disparate individuals do their part to repel the invasion of Snaegl and, when the monster slithers back into the sea, all are hailed as heroes. Unfortunately, a few months later, a horde of giant snails emerge from Earth's various oceans to destroy the world! A goofy homage to Godzilla, Mothra, and all the various Toho heroes, "Snaegl: Or How I Conquered the Snail That Ate Tokyo" mines all the elements that make us smile, laugh, and belittle those "man in a suit" monster flicks. Nick Cuti gets it, though; he understands it's ridiculous that a father would give his son uranium ore to play with and tosses in the obligatory scene where a cop insists he hasn't been drinking when Snaegl slithers into the harbor. I don't even mind Martin Salvador's elementary art (though I sure wish Tom Sutton had still been around the Warren cafeteria in 1978), as it fits rather nicely with Cuti's elementary script.

A warrior arrives at a Japanese village terrorized by a giant dragon. He is told the story of a princess abducted by a demon from Hell and, transformed into the monstrous reptile, the creature that attacks and feasts nightly on the village's inhabitants. The village's sorcerer gives the samurai a powder he insists will tame the beast and the warrior heads off, vowing to bring the dragon's head when he returns. What the sorcerer didn't tell the assassin is that the dragon is actually the village's mascot and the warrior is destined to be the monster's latest meal. "Dragon Lady" reads like the multiple "barbarian/dragon" tales Esteban Maroto had pumped out over the previous years but, for me at least, it works much better as an Oriental fable with a nice twist. The Maroto art is quite a bit different than we usually see, perhaps created by Esteban using a different medium. That panel sitting atop page 43 sure looks like a still from Reptilicus.

On two different planets, two young girls feel the pull of the other's world in terrible nightmares they have each night. "Sisters" is a lot more complicated than that, I'll admit. There's a whole lot of interplanetary (or possibly other-dimensional) mumbo-jumbo and theories on reincarnation that are too layered to break down into a few sentences. There's even the entrance of exorcists (here on Earth and there on Tentacleworld), but I'll say it's a more elaborate script than we're used to seeing from Dube and the climax is thoughtful and filled with hope rather than cheap and gimmicky. The Nino art is customarily otherworldly, but I admit to wondering if we'll ever see a Nino creature without tentacles and multiple sets of eyes.-Peter

Jack-"Black Death" worked for me, partly due to the fact that Jones's treatment of Black people is more sophisticated than DuBay's in Eerie this month. The story meanders but the end is effective. "The Wax Werewolf" held no surprises regarding the identity of the monster, but Ortiz makes the most of it. I don't typically enjoy parallel narrative stories like "Sisters," but Nino gives it his best and it ends up fairly interesting.

"Momma is a Vampire" begins with the intriguing premise of a mother who still looks after her children even after she's undead, but I, like you, was confused by the complicated vampire rules, which reminded me of that scene in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave where it's not enough to put a stake through Drac's heart--you have to pray and mean it! Even the usual shortcomings of the Duranona art can't fully sink this one. I got that "Snaegl" was a satire of Japanese monster movies but the story seemed to drag much longer than eight pages. "Dragon Lady" was fairly dull and the art was not Maroto's best.

Next Week...
Robin re-imagined!

1 comment:

Quiddity99 said...

A bit of a whiff for this issue of Vampirella, starting with the photo cover. I've actually liked the Vampi stories the last few times, but this one ends the streak. The villain is ridiculous and comes off too much like a villain from The Rook. Pantha is nowhere to be seen and Pendragon who wasn't in Hollywood with them shows up out of nowhere. Hit Six has fine art from Bermejo but isn't really a horror story. Off the Beaten Empath I'm pretty much on the same page as you, the story doesn't make a ton of sense and has some rather weak artwork from Duranona. Reagan Redux is a bit better (although again no horror element to it), and I am glad they didn't go the cliché route of the guy being his own father. I think I read somewhere that Bruce Jones was rather dismayed when the art came back and Ortiz had drawn a poodle as the dog instead of some other type. Jessie's Friend is far and away the best story of the issue for me, with a clever concept and good ending.

Thankfully this year they don't go with an entire sports issue although we have to take the hit of having a rather eh cover and an even more so lead story. Odd that they didn't put The Rook in the front. The Rook story didn't do anything for me. Organ Lo is a rather lame character, as is the concept of everyone being scared of him and he being scared of Granny when neither really pose much of a threat. Abel Laxamana makes his Warren debut here; he is a fairly good artist but never wows me. Much like Eerie 90 having an overflow story we have the same thing here for Creepy 95 with another ape story popping up. I wasn't particularly impressed. A fairly strong Moonshadow story here which for me is also primarily due to Ortiz' art. Moonshadow going catatonic at the end was rather abrupt. While I'm always happy to see Alex Nino art, I'm disappointed to see the Abelmar Jones series here, one of the worst Eerie series from this era. The Gaffer has always been a memorable series for me and this story is the main reason why (although the past entries were all pretty good too). This is one of the bleakest ends to a series Eerie would ever publish and Duranona's art fits it perfectly. A rather ambiguous ending too that can be up to several interpretations.

Seems rather fitting that in a month where Brancatelli's column complains about reprinting an old Frazetta cover Warren goes ahead and does it again (although this one seems at least a little bit modified from the original Eerie 3 one). Momma is a Vampire I was pretty happy with and the same creative team turns out a pretty good series from it in Eerie coming up around a similar theme. Wax Werewolf reminded me of an old Vault of Horror story where a guy has a voodoo statue made of his wife, she throws it in a fire and we get the same ending we had here. Black Death reminds one much of the old Spook series, even featuring the same artist. This story is only so-so, with them waiting too long to bring out the zombies. Sutton would have turned out a much better job on Sneagl than Salvador did, that's for sure. With all the different story paths I was surprised at just how abruptly the story ended (and the final twist was super predictable). Dragon Lady on the other hand totally fooled me and had a strong twist to it. Sisters is a fairly good wrap up to the issue.