Monday, March 25, 2024

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 108: Atlas/ Marvel Horror & Science Fiction Comics!


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 93
December 1955 Part II
+ The Best Stories of 1955
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook

Mystic #42
Cover by Bill Everett

"The Man in the... Mummy Case" (a: Bill Benulis) 1/2
"Casting Problem" (a: John Forte) 
"Where on Earth?" (a: John Tartaglione) 
"At the Stroke of Midnight!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"One Who Lived" (a: Sid Greene) 

Mobster Luke Thomas and his goons have stolen precious gems in Egypt, but how will they smuggle the rocks back to the States? Luke gets a brainstorm: he'll have archaeologist Ahmed Al-Dur wrap him in bandages and ship him back to America in a mummy case. Al-Dur protests but gives in due to "so much armament" waved in his face, all the while promising the criminal that the tomb is cursed and he will pay dearly.

The body of a pharaoh is unceremoniously dumped in the pyramid and Luke, wrapped from head to toe, is carefully placed in the sarcophagus and loaded aboard a steamer bound for the States. All goes well until a nosy captain spies one of Thomas's henchmen bringing him food and demands to see the inside of the coffin. When the lid is opened, Thomas is gone, leaving only his bandages as evidence that he was ever there. Miles away, in Egypt, Thomas opens his eyes to find himself back in the pyramid, the cops waiting patiently.

Of course, if this were 1954, we know that Luke Thomas would be torn limb from limb by a vengeful pharaoh but, in 1955, his fate is quite boring and abrupt. That's some deadly curse the ancient Egyptians laid down: "defile the tomb and you'll get 10 to 15 years of hard labor." It's a pity that the climax is such a limp noodle, because the first four pages or so are actually intriguing and the whole story is nicely illustrated by Benulis. The splash evokes 1940s comic strips, with its named intro to all the characters.

In "Casting Problem," a Broadway director finds it impossible to cast the role of a "good fairy" in his new play, End in Sight, and the standstill is more than just a distraction to the producer and the rest of the cast. When a gorgeous brunette reads and fails, she tells Ellis, the egotistical director, that she was born to play the part and he's wrong to pass on her. "If I am," he explains, "I won't be there on opening night." Two weeks later, on opening night, the entire cast find themselves on a distant mountaintop. We know how they got there, but I imagine lots of little third-graders couldn't understand the abrupt finale, and would a "good fairy" teleport six innocent individuals (and one admittedly stuck-up nitwit) to a faraway mountain? Seems more like "wicked witch" territory to me.

Judith Barlow tests new military planes, much to the chagrin of her scientist husband, Lionel, and she manages to travel at the speed of light in her latest jet. Losing her bearings, Judith lands the craft and is immediately swarmed by a strange, foreign-speaking mob before she is taken to a palace and introduced to their king. In a quick ceremony, Judith is wed to the man on the throne and decides she needs to exit ASAP. She gets back in her plane and manages to land back at her point of origin. Her story is met with skepticism by her husband until the two are in a top-secret meeting to view footage shot on a rocket recently returned from Mars. And there's Judith!

As opposed to the pre-code era, I'm struck by just how much art has become my measuring stick of quality in the Atlas post-code comics. Tartaglione's graphics for "Where on Earth?" are striking and kept my interest, even when the story sputtered out. These funny book yarns concerning science crack me up (as a Monday-morning quarterback) and make me wonder just what we all believed in 1955. Was the world still flat? Judith seems to have absolutely no guidelines for testing her jet, breaking speed limits without blinking a lengthy eyelash and dressed in a very Vogue-ish pilot suit. Hubby Lionel's Mars footage arrives back on Earth in no time flat; in fact, only days after Judith so kindly posed on Mars.

After a bitter breakup with his girl, a young man travels to a coastal boarding house to chill out and forget about unrequited love. The owner introduces herself as Mrs. Perry and explains that she and her pilot husband have been married for twenty years and that they're just as much in love now as the day they met. She further explains that this night is August twelfth and there's a big storm raging outside. Mrs. Perry retires to her room. At exactly midnight, the door flies open and there, soaking wet, is Mr. Perry. After trying to engage the man in conversation and receiving nothing in return, our hapless protagonist knocks on Mrs. Perry's door to let her know hubby is home. 

The old woman explains that the plane Mr. Perry was piloting crashed into the nearby waters ten years ago tonight and that he's visited her every year since like clockwork. He watches as the grey-haired loon hugs her husband and then says goodbye as he heads back into the storm. Chuckling and admitting there might be something to this "love" nonsense after all, our unnamed protagonist dons his coat and heads out into the pitch black, hoping to find true romance before he trips and falls off the cliff into the sea. "At the Stroke of Midnight!" is pure syrupy garbage, with a plot device used hundreds of times and ugly artwork by Ed Winiarski. The dope doesn't even explain why he's heading out in the middle of the night rather than waiting for morning and Mrs. Perry's sumptuous ham and eggs breakfast. Maybe our hero thought this was the pre-code version where he's sacrificed by the septuagenarian to insure her hubby comes back next year?

Paul S. Newman is responsible for the inane "One Who Lived." After the testing of an atomic bomb, a man emerges from one of the test buildings seemingly unharmed. He exclaims that his wife is still in the building, but when the emergency crew enters the building, they find only a test dummy. The victim is taken to a nearby site, where he is tested for radiation sickness but, amazingly, he seems okay. He continues to crow about his "wife" back in the house, but the brass chalk it up to bomb fever. When the "top medical officer of the army" arrives to interview the man, they discover his cabin empty and, upon further research, they find the real identity of the survivor. He was a test dummy! So, if the effect of an atomic bomb is that window dummies come to life, how come the Mrs. remains plastic? And where did our mystery man go off to? Back to the Mrs.? Did the human being effect only last a few hours and he returned to his artificial world? Seriously, these are questions I need answered.-Peter

Spellbound #25
Cover by Carl Burgos

"Want Ad" (a: Joe Orlando) 
"The Storm!" (a: Dick Ayers) 
"The Hired Man!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"Look Into My Eyes!" (a: Bob Brown) 
"The Frozen Food!" (a: John Forte) 

Tad Tone, visitor from the future, has lost his co-pilot and the time machine he rode in to get to 1955 requires two operators. The advertising editor of the newspaper Tad visits balks at the man's proposed "Wanted: Dude to help me get back to 2955" ad and tells him he's a fruitcake. Not even a trip out to see the time machine  convinces the newspaper man.

Tad resigns himself to a life stuck in a primitive society and leaves the office, dropping a news clipping as does so. The editor takes one look at the dateline of 2955 and finally believes Tad. Well, that makes sense. This dope won't swallow the big contraption hidden in the woods but he's sold on a newspaper clipping that could easily be fabricated. Time machines are always a pain in the butt; too many rules. Like when Tad and his traveling companion, Bek, first exit the gizmo and Tad says "Let's meet back here in six hours so we can get back to the future and make dinner on time!" Huh? Doesn't the machine have a knob that dumps you any time you want? How can these guys ever be late? 

This was the first contribution to the Atlas science fiction/horror comics by former EC legend, Joe Orlando. The script for "Want Ad" doesn't allow Joe to display the usual creepiness he's famous for (Jack and I covered Orlando's output for both the EC and DC mystery lines years ago), but there's still some nice work and, hey, at least it ain't Winiarski. Orlando will illustrate a total of 37 stories for the Atlas titles.

Teenage Larry Beale finds it difficult serving under his own father on the Baltimore, all the more because the old man forces his crew to carry lucky amulets to ward off disaster. But Larry's outlook changes drastically after the Baltimore is dashed by "The Storm!" More feel-good schmaltz from Carl Wessler and the "House of Ideas." 

Despite (or maybe because of) her husband's protests, boarding house landlord Eva Simpson hires a handyman to help cook, clean, and wash up after her boarders. The stranger agrees to be paid upon completion of his work, but that's the catch: the work is never-ending. No, seriously, that's the hook of "The Hired Man!" The poor schmuck doesn't put an apple in Eva's mouth and cook her for the guests or vacuum up the rug with her bloody skeleton or anything cool like that. He simply shrugs, smiles, and readies himself for a life of hard work and no pay simply because he said he'd wait for his remuneration. The pits. Speaking of the pits, the one-two punch of Ayers and Winiarski back-to-back reminds me that I'd be better off reading these things without my glasses on.

The wasteland of bad scripts and even worse art continues with "Look Into My Eyes," about a losing pitcher who takes a hypnotism course (the Marvel School of Mesmerism) and then puts a spell on opposing batters. From there, it's a no-lose season until he faces the final hitter in the seventh game of the World Series. Turns out this hitter is the guy who invented the Marvel School! Another Carl Wessler loser. Oh, and Ayers... Winiarski... Brown... three strikes, this reader is out.

Henry Prewitt has a really big problem. Every night he fills the freezer in the basement with frozen food and every morning the food has disappeared. Henry's convinced that his wife Martha is stealing "The Frozen Food!" but the poor woman only weeps and cries out her innocence time and again. Something has to be done so, one night, Henry camps out in the basement to see if he can nab the perpetrator. Long after midnight, Henry awakens to hear a strange sound coming from the locker. He opens the freezer and finds his food missing again but the bottom of the contraption partly open.

Henry climbs in and discovers a long passageway down into the Earth (walking through pitch black, I should add!), where he stumbles upon a race of small critters eating his vittles. They spy the intruder but, rather than drop their spare ribs and munch on Henry, the creatures telepathically thank their benefactor for his "donations" and urge him to stay. Henry agrees but adds that he must first take care of a few things up on the surface. 

When Henry climbs back up to the basement, he finds his wife crying and declaring love for her missing husband. Henry decides that love is more important than Swanson Frozen Dinners and remains with Martha, swearing he's through handing out free food. A pretty dopey tale, one which illustrates how dry the idea pool was in the bullpen but is entertaining and elicits at least a couple of chuckles. John Forte's graphics end the issue on a high note, but this is still one mediocre comic book.-Peter

Strange Stories of Suspense #6
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Illusion!" (a: Bill Benulis) 
"The Totem!" (a: Bill Everett) 
"Power!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"I Dare You to Look!" (a: Robert Q. Sale) 1/2
"The Third Arm!" (a: Paul Reinman) 1/2

An astronomer predicts that a comet will hit Earth but no one will believe him. Knowing doomsday is imminent, the scientist digs a hole in the ground and lowers a capsule large enough to hold one man. He then waits for the inevitable. Two days after the comet destroys life on Earth, the man exits his sanctuary and wanders from town to town looking for life. 

He stumbles on a small town filled with people, but the crowd disappears as he approaches, a figment of his imagination. A really good science fiction tale that borrows heavily from SF fare of the time (chiefly When Worlds Collide) but avoids sappiness and, incredibly enough, a happy ending. That ending (our protagonist discussing his new life with a therapist, a man we presume is another mirage, but it turns out the astronomer is "The Illusion!") makes no sense whatsoever, but it doesn't torpedo a good read.

Four fortune seekers invite the wrath of the Alaskan gods when they steal an Eskimo's golden totem pole. "The Totem!" is made up of equal parts "old standard" (this plot was used virtually every month by every comics company churning out horror comics in the 1950s) and charming visuals. I love Bill Everett's graphics, so Stan didn't even have to put captions and word balloons in the story to make it work out just fine.

For an example of what happens when you don't have an artist of Bill Everett's capabilities to enliven a bad script, look no further than "Power," the tale of a poor yokel who inadvertently conjures up evil spirits with his divining rod. This stuff is as indigestible as moldy oatmeal, with its near-indecipherable doodles by Ed Winiarski; it's the comic art equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. 

Stephen Adams has a fanciful imagination and tells whoppers now and then, but Percival Crane sees the exaggerations as out-and-out lies and thinks his adversary should be punished. Sure enough, the CCA Puritan Council lets Adams know that if he doesn't keep on the straight and narrow, he'll be sitting on the ducking stool. Next day, the best storyteller in Massachusetts is telling the good folk of the town that the council and Percival are afraid of him and that they'll let him do as he pleases. 

Unfortunately, the same Percival Crane is within earshot and fetches some councilmen to give chase to the lyin' fool. Stephen ducks into a tree hollow and emerges later to tell the story of a future metropolis where buggies travel without the aid of horses. To prove he's telling the truth, he beckons Crane to follow him and, sure enough, they exit through a manhole cover to see present-day America. Percival promises to back Stephen's story when they get back to town, but the final panel reveals that the council is having none of it. "I Dare You to Look!" turns out to be a pretty funny tale and Robert Q. Sale (an artist we don't tout much here) turns in a job that's oddly reminiscent of the detailed work of Krenkel, Williamson, and Frazetta.

Johnny Evans has a secret he'd like to get out in the open but he doesn't like people, so there's no one around to tell it to. Then, one moonlit night, after Johnny has hit the skids and hangs out in Hobo Town, he finds a man who's willing to listen to his fantastic tale. You see, Johnny was a rotten, vicious type (think, maybe, closing the door in a girl scout's face when she's selling cookies), but he was also an adventurer and his goal was to find the bottom of the supposedly bottomless lake near his home town. 

So Johnny rents a diving bell and cusses out his crew (just to add a cherry on the top of Rotten Johnny, Johnny Rotten) just before hitting the water. Down... down... down he goes until he hits solid ground. But there's something missing outside his little porthole... water! Somehow, Johnny's diving bell has landed inside an underwater cavern (good trick, that), but that won't stop the cold-blooded explorer from stepping outside the contraption and investigating. It's not long before he's accosted by a band of three-armed creatures calling themselves "The Bad Ones of the Earth" and told that this is where he belongs, amidst the rottenest souls on the planet.

Johnny ain't goin' for that and hops back into his diving bell, his only souvenir being a glove dropped by one of the multi-armed monsters. He gives the order (perhaps a bit more courteously) to hoist him up. But when he emerges, his hair is a shock of white and he's muttering nonsense to himself. Two weeks later, just home from the hospital, Johnny is the victim of a burglary, but the only item taken is the glove! Back in the present, Johnny admits it's a far-fetched tale and if he had the glove maybe someone would believe him. His new friend pulls back his own coat and asks if the glove looks like the one on his third arm.

"The Third Arm" is the victim of another haphazard script that makes little sense. The fact that Johnny is one of the worst human beings on Earth is lost on me since all I witness are some semi-harsh words ("Cut the chatter and do as I say!") used around his associates. If that's all it takes to damn one's soul to Hell, I've probably got six extra arms on the way.-Peter

Strange Tales #41
Cover by Joe Maneely & Carl Burgos

"The Riddle of the Skull" (a: Fred Kida) 1/2
"The Fishman" (a: Bill Everett) 
"The Strange Stick" (a: Robert Q. Sale) 
"They Won't Believe" (a: Dick Ayers) 
"Man in the Dark" (a: Joe Orlando) 

A trio of scientists puzzle over "The Riddle of the Skull," wondering why we only use a quarter of our brain. If skulls could talk, the scientists would learn of an advanced civilization that created an idyllic society on a distant planet millions of years ago. When a group of people rebelled, they were sent into space, destined for a rehabilitation planet. Instead, they smashed the ship's controls and ended up on Earth, where they met cavemen and began to breed with them. Eventually, evolution led to modern civilization.

Fred Kida's art is pretty sketchy except for the last panel on page two, which looks like it could be a swipe from an Alex Raymond page. There isn't really any story and the end is unclear--is the unused three-quarters of the human brain supposed to be a remnant of the advanced brain of the alien civilization?

During a raging storm at the water's edge, Dr. Bondy tells his fellow yacht club members the strange story of Peter Maher, "The Fishman." Bondy met Peter when Peter was a boy and learned that he was only happy in or on the sea. Peter grew up feeling called by the depths and began to explore the undersea world by means of an aqualung, but he wanted more.

Dr. Bondy does research and becomes convinced that the gill slits seen in the human embryo could be restored to function through surgery. Before the doctor could operate, Peter disappeared for six months. Unbeknownst to Bondy, Peter met and fell in love with a beautiful blonde named Elsa, but she refused his offer of marriage and could not tell him why. After she disappeared, Peter discovered her in the depths of the ocean and realized that she could breathe under water through her gills. Peter went back and let Dr. Bondy operate on him so that he could stay underwater and breathe. Unfortunately, Elsa also visited the doctor and had him surgically close her gill slits so she could be with the man she loved. Dr. Bondy laments that she and Peter never met, unaware that his operations prevented them from being together.

This is the first story I've given a four-star rating to since I joined Peter on this journey. It may only be five pages long, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all make sense. The technique of having Dr. Bondy narrate the story is clever, as is the interlude that tells the reader a key piece of information that is unknown to the doctor and that makes the climax tragic. Best of all is the art by Bill Everett, who returns to his Sub-Mariner roots and draws the undersea panels with multiple lines going across them to suggest the murky depths. The blue/black coloring of these panels only adds to the effect. I don't think the Sub Mariner ever had a teen sidekick, but if he did, Peter would fit the bill.

A lost little boy named Larry is located by means of "The Strange Stick," a divining rod in the possession of a young man. He overcomes skeptics by having the rod locate Captain Kidd's treasure and is challenged to prove the stick's power in front of top scientists. It rises and points at the moon, where the young man reports that Earthlings have yet to develop advanced powers.

Yet again, the payoff to an Atlas story is that the main character is from outer space. Yawn.

Curt Calders is supposed to draw industrial designs for the near future (1959) but he insists on drawing them for the not so near future (1980). His boss and his father both tell him to get his head out of the clouds, so when Curt goes for a walk and stumbles onto Hope Street the way it will look in 1980, he is certain that "They Won't Believe" him, and he's right. He goes back to Hope St. in 1980 and sees a doctor, thinking that he'll get a report to show his father that he's not crazy. Instead, Curt does not come home, and the next day his parents receive a letter in the mail from a doctor, postmarked October 1980!

The best part about these stories set in a future that is now our past is comparing what the creators in 1955 envisioned for 1980. Smaller cars, yes; atomic powered cars, no. Solar power for heating houses, yes; cosmic ray selection bands, no. The Dick Ayers art is fine, but nothing special. The conclusion is predictable for anyone who's read a handful of Atlas comics.

An elderly scientist named Reed rejoices over having discovered a way to see the core of the atom, which will give him control over the basic life force. On his way home to tell his wife, he recalls his younger years, when other scientists warned him not to experiment with the secrets of the universe. He realizes that he left his notebook at the lab and goes back for it, only to find the building gone. He walks home and finds his wife and children as they were forty years ago and himself young again. Is it a second chance? He decides to leave the secrets of the universe alone this time.

As Peter writes, the art is the main attraction (or distraction) in these stories and Joe Orlando does a nice job illustrating "Man in the Dark!"  I can't say that I'm entirely clear as to what happens, but the pictures look good and, as with "The Fish Man," at least it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, which is more than I can say for some Atlas tales.-Jack

Strange Tales of the Unusual #1
Cover by Joe Maneely & Carl Burgos

"Man Lost!" 1/2 (a: Bob Brown)
(r: Dead of Night #7)
"Who Waits in the Dark?" (a: John Romita) 
"The Gift" (a: Bob Powell) 
"Cry for Help!" (a: Bob McCarthy) 
"The Experiment That Failed" (a: Don Heck) 

Al is a gambler whose brother Greg, a scientist, has invented a time machine. Greg invites Al to dinner and shows him how the machine works, so Al gives Greg sleeping powder in his drink and sets the time machine's controls for tomorrow, where he learns the name of the horse that won a big race. Unfortunately, Al didn't pay close attention to Greg's instructions and now finds that he is a "Man Lost!" in time; no one can see or hear him, so he can't place a bet or even get Greg's attention to bring him back.

Bob Brown's art is the highlight of this confusing little story, where it seems like the writer didn't have enough pages to ensure clarity. Al seems to travel a day into the future, yet he also seems to return to the present, albeit with a copy of tomorrow's newspaper in his pocket. Though no one can see or hear him, he recalls Greg saying that, if the controls are not set properly, "'it may take weeks to come back.'" By "come back," does Greg mean return to today or return to a state where he is visible and audible? It seems like Al will be fine, so it's a temporary inconvenience rather than a permanent problem.

Three scientists explore Darkest Africa in search of a large cache of the mysterious Element X. Their native guides abandoned them out of fear. The trio cross a natural bridge made of vines that are just strong enough to support their weight and, that night, they encounter giant creatures that must have been enlarged by the effects of Element X. The next morning, all of the creatures seem to be normal size once again and the scientists retrace their steps, not noticing that they have grown to great size overnight.

There is no menace and the conclusion is left out of "Who Walks in the Dark?" What will happen to the men when they get back to the natural bridge? They are too big to cross it and will be trapped forever. Yet the final caption does not mention this inevitable fate. Instead, it says "Element 'X' is indeed a strange element!" The art by John Romita is poor, which surprises me, since I think of him as one of Marvel's more reliable artists, at least in the 1960s.

What is the meaning of the strange bubbles that have started appearing all over the world, granting people's wishes? A cranky government panel thinks they are "'a spearhead for an inter-planetary invasion,'" but it turns out they are just gifts from outer space, meant to celebrate Earth's 3000th year in the solar system.

It's too bad Bob Powell's gorgeous art is wasted on such a banal story. He produced four pages of stunning work for "The Gift."

James Stark is awakened in the middle of the night by a "Cry for Help!" when his phone rings. A voice on the other end says it's the mayor calling and that armed men are trying to break into his house. Stark calls the police and they rush to the mayor's house, only to find a grumpy mayor in his PJs and no armed men. The process repeats twice and, the third time, the cops actually find three crooks and apprehend them. Stark is a hero, but when his phone rings a fourth time he fails to grasp that the call is coming from a mayor on the moon!

This was a predictable story until those last panels, where Carl Wessler resorts to a tried and true Atlas twist--when in doubt, involve spacemen! There is no explanation as to why the phone call is coming from the moon or why the Earth mayor's house was under siege. Just run with it. Bob McCarthy's art is adequate but nothing special.

After Dr. Dennis examines a young boy who is both handsome and extremely intelligent due to the effects of atomic testing in recent years, world leaders express concern that the new generation presents a threat. They ask the doctor to find an antidote, so he shows them a machine he has created to test whether cobalt pellets can destroy dangerous radiation. Alone, the doctor runs a test and sees that the new people will create a wonderful world in the future. He lies to the world leaders and tells them of "The Experiment That Failed," assuring them that radiation  will only bring good things.

This story carries a positive message, but it's also a dull one. I've always thought of Don Heck as a reliable workhorse whose art is decent but rarely much more than that.-Jack

Uncanny Tales #38
Cover by Joe Maneely

"Behind the Locked Door!" (a: Bob Powell) 1/2
(r: Crypt of Shadows #12)
"Something in Space!" (a: Joe Sinnott) 
"Morgan's Magic Picture!" (a: Bill Benulis) 
(r: Crypt of Shadows #21)
"Plague!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
(r: Journey Into Mystery #10)
"The Pharaoh Walks" (a: Manny Stallman) 
(r: Uncanny Tales #3)

A man named Harry drives along a wet highway at night, convinced that he is a failure. His girlfriend Kay refused to marry him because of his negative attitude. Suddenly, his car swerves and crashes. He climbs from the wreckage and makes his way to an abandoned house. Inside, he forces his way "Behind the Locked Door!" and recalls an incident from  his childhood in which he saved another boy from drowning. That boy grew up to be a statesman who "'saved the world from the brink of war.'" In another room, Harry recalls being kind to a beggar on the street; the beggar later heroically saved a ship full of passengers. Harry realizes he's not a failure after all and returns to his car with his head held high. The house is nowhere to be found.

Once again, Bob Powell's art elevates a straightforward story that briefly explores a man's psyche. Both this and "The Gift" feature panels where a character is drawn in extreme closeup so that only part of their face is seen and other figures are shown in the distance behind them./ I usually associate this technique with Wally Wood, but Powell uses it effectively.

When he almost steps on an ant on the sidewalk, a reporter meets a stranger who tells him not to crush the insect. The stranger tells the story of how "Something in Space!" had been spotted five years ago and all the nations on Earth had united to prepare a common defense. The stranger explains that he happened upon an ant hill in New Mexico containing a race of mutant ants that told him telepathically that they were taking ships to a tiny planet in outer space to escape humans. Their ships were what united all the nations, so the man never told anyone, fearful that the truth might set countries back on the warpath against each other. The reporter thinks the story is nuts but makes sure to avoid stepping on the next ant he sees.

The notion of an alien threat causing Earth's warring nations to unite is not new and was used long before Watchmen. The ant angle in this story is silly, but at least Joe Sinnott provides competent graphics.

Fred Morgan paints a portrait of Lois Wayne. When he adds a necklace and earrings, they appear in real life! Greedy Fred tells Lois that he loves her and starts painting more and more expensive items, all of which appear. He admits to Lois that he doesn't love her and that he's only in it for the money, so she leaves. "Morgan's Magic Picture!" doesn't work with any other model, so Fred begs Lois to come back, and she agrees. To prove that he's a changed man, he burns the portrait and all of his wealth goes up in flames.

Peter has noted how Bill Benulis is one of the more consistently good artists we're seeing at this stage of our Atlas journey, and this story shows that he's right. Wessler's plot has been used before, but the depictions, especially of Lois and the other models, are above average.

In the future, mankind acts as one to search for the carrier of the "Plague!" Peace has reigned for centuries and now the carrier must be found before the plague can spread. The trail leads to a shabby building and a frightened man and the source of the plague is found--it's a revolver!

I'm not often surprised by the ending of an Atlas story and I admit that when I saw this one was three pages long and drawn by Ed Winiarski, my expectations were low. I did not expect a message against gun violence; I'm impressed!

When two rich men offer to pay a million dollars for a genuine solar ship to carry them into the afterlife, just as Egyptian pharaohs did, bookkeeper Amos Clifton promises to fulfill their request. He flies to Egypt and finds a guide who will take him to such a ship, but Amos ignores the usual warnings. Workers dig all night and find a solar ship; Amos climbs aboard to rest and finds the ship carrying him into outer space. The ship lands on another world, where a pharaoh sets Amos to work as a bookkeeper.

Manny Stallman's art reminds me in spots of the work of Basil Wolverton and is the only bright spot in yet another meandering story by Carl Wessler.-Jack


 1 "The Devil-Man" (Astonishing #37)
 2 "Hail the Hero" (Marvel Tales #132)
 3 "What Happened in Midville" (Mystic #35)
 4 "The Fishman" (Strange Tales #41)
 5 "While Death Waits" (Marvel Tales #131)
 6 "Man Alone!" (Journey Into Unknown Worlds #37)
 7 "The Locked Drawer" (Journey Into Mystery #24)
 8 "Return to Nowhere" (Mystic #39)
 9 "The Locked Room" (Astonishing #41)
10 "They Wouldn't Believe Him" (Journey Into Mystery #28)

Next Week...
The Triumphant Return of
The Cat-Man!

1 comment:

Grant said...

"The Riddle of the Skull" sounds like a pretty early "ancient astronauts" story, which I guess it is. Though maybe there were an awful lot of those even before Erich Von Daniken sort of put that subject on the map.