Monday, January 17, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 76: July 1976


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

Vampirella #52

"Dr. Wrighter's Asylum of Horror"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The Beauty and the Beast"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The House at Blood Corner"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Ramon Torrents

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Segerson Experiment"
Story by Gerry Boudreau and Steve Clement
Art by Zesar

Vampirella and Pendragon have just finished a "gig" in Aspen, Colorado, and happen upon "'Professor Widgeon's world reknown seminary of circus stars and vaudevillian performers,'" according to Pendragon, who recalls being sent there to study magic when he was a boy. The pair tour a carnival being held on the premises and, to Pendragon's surprise, see that there is now a freak show. Running it is Dr. E.C. Wrighter, who explains that he operated on "'social derelect'"s and turned them into freaks so they could make a living with the carnival. Vampi agrees to dine with Wrighter, unaware that his seemingly handsome face masks a monstrous countenance.

The freaks complain that Wrighter's promises of fame and fortune have not come true and he proclaims that he plans to graft Vampi's head onto a monstrous body and vice versa in order to sell her to Flashman Howell as a new movie star. At dinner, Wrighter drugs Vampi, but before he can operate on her the freaks turn on him. Vampi turns into a bat, sucks the blood from the freaks, and flies off.

Where to begin with this godawful mess? "Dr. Wrighter's Asylum of Horror" is Bill DuBay's "homage" to any number of things, including Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, a terrific film that bears no relation to this story. The lettering and proofreading are worse than ever and the bad in-jokes all fall flat. On a page where Vampi's bust is front and center, Pendy says he studied under "'Juggins the Great.'" "E.C. Wrighter" is a mix of E.C. Comics and Easy Rider. Vampi quips that people never notice her attire. And so on, and so on. None of it is funny. Perhaps worst of all is Pendy's comment, when explaining cotton candy to Vampi, that it is "'grown with loving care on plush plantations and hand-picked by song-in-the-heart, rhythm-in-the-feet darkies!''" In 1976? Seriously?

A movie producer named Enrique Whitestaff is having trouble finding just the right woman to co-star with Flashman Howell in a new horror movie, but when he sees Vampirella perform in a televised act with Pendragon, he knows he's found his new star! No one knows that Flashman is actually a hideous monster who wears heavy makeup to look like a handsome guy. The producer meets Vampi and explains the plot of his proposed film, but when Vampi hears it she thinks he's an agent of Chaos and puts the bite on him.

Surprisingly, "The Beauty and the Beast" picks up where this issue's first story left off. Unfortunately, it's no better than what precedes it. The corny jokes continue (an actress is called "Miss Melonbosom"), as does Mayo's habit of posing Vampirella in each panel as if it's a pinup rather than part of a story. Like E.C. Wrighter, Flashman Howell is a creature who pretends to be good looking. And on it goes. At least there's some recognition of prior stories when Vampi suspects Howell of being a disciple of Chaos--too bad the story comes to a sudden end when she goes on the attack.

Thorison House, "The House at Blood Corner," is haunted by the ghost of Paul Thorison, a decadent silent film star who supposedly was walled up alive in the house. His spirit has driven crazy everyone who tried to live there in the years since his disappearance. Now film historian Gerald Novak and his wife Christine have moved in so that Gerald can write a biography of Thorison. During their first night at the house, they see and kill a rat whose body disappears. The next night, Gerald discovers that Thorison is alive and has been behind the hauntings that killed prior residents. Sadly for Thorison, Christine is the daughter of one of his victims, and she ends his desire for fame (and Gerald's desire for cash) with two bullets.

At least none of the characters' faces melted off in this story. It's not a bad little haunted house noir, though the art by Torrents isn't particularly strong--his characters often look like swipes from photos.

In the future, vampires are called "Inheritors" and General Shorr oversees the funding of a nuclear vampire slayer, despite a truce that exists between humans and Inheritors. An Inheritor is killed in an ambush, then a human Patriarch is killed and found to have puncture wounds in his neck, so the Inheritors are blamed. The Inheritors turn into bats and fly to a Patriarch's mansion; one gets inside and wants to talk. General Shorr and his security force break in and are confronted by the Patriarch and the Inheritor, who explain that they have uncovered the truth--Shorr faked the death of the Patriarch and made it look like an Inheritor was to blame. The proof? The dead Patriarch did not rise as an Inheritor, so he could not have been the victim of a vampire. The uneasy truce remains in place and the leader of the Inheritors is allowed to feast on the treacherous general.

The clever plot twist at the end of "Stake-Out!" makes it the best story in this issue so far, despite the creaky science fiction and horror elements of this tale. Ortiz's art has been better, but at least the characters are interacting with each other, unlike in the Mayo stories.

A young woman reporter arrives at the spooky New England mansion of Randolph Segerson, where she plans to research a feature story on the reclusive writer some have called the new Poe. The author is younger than expected and shows her to her room, where she finds a bed of nails. A hooded man wielding a branding iron appears at the door to her room but leaves. Later, she spends the night in Segerson's bed because she's afraid to be alone. At lunch the next day, she first sees Segerson's head on a platter and then her own head in its place. Finally, she is chained in the dungeon and told she is to be sacrificed to an ancient horror. In the end, she is set free, having helped Segerson understand the nature of fear.

"The Segerson Experiment" is a tedious story to read, mainly because it features numerous panels of ponderous prose that is supposed to be a story written by Segerson. The art, like all of the art in this issue, is mediocre, and the story veers from one tepid terror to the next without ever generating interest or suspense. It is reminiscent of a Gothic paperback novel.-Jack

Peter-Is it just me or does Mayo's art on "Dr Wrighter" look as if editor Weezy Jones cut and pasted a whole lot of Mayo art and glued them together on storyboards? No, it's not just me, cuz the evidence is right there on the pages. None of this looks right (never mind the fact that half the support and background characters look like Famous Monsters stills); there's no flow or synch whatsoever. Characters appearing in the same panel don't even seem to look at each other when they're speaking. Nor is there any cohesion to the script, an ugly, rambling mess that hits all the Vampi-series buttons and leaves you wondering (as did the previous chapters) why we do what we do in our free time. Incredibly enough, the follow-up, "The Beauty and the Beast," is even worse. I get that the very idea of a Vampirella series necessitates a Fugitive-style narrative, but if Dube intends to stick to that template he'd better find a way to add some depth and originality or I'll keep calling a turd "a turd."

Which is a great segue into Gerry Boudreau's "The House on Blood Corner," a potboiler that begins as a ripoff of Richard Matheson's Hell House and then transforms into something altogether more ludicrous halfway through. I couldn't stop chuckling as goofy expositories were laid atop each other like samples in some unholy shag carpet warehouse. I mean, it makes perfect sense that the horror movie director got so pissed at his unloving public that he faked his own death and spent a fortune on building the legend of his haunted house, right? But no, wait, it gets better. The writer's wife is the daughter of the guy who died of fright years before! My knee is black and blue from the slapping.

The drivel just keeps on coming with Gerry's "Stake-Out" and "The Segerson Experiment." The former is a needlessly complicated yawner almost saved by Ortiz's spare but effective graphics and the latter is a head-scratcher with an eye-rolling climax. Judging by the samples of Randolph Segerson's writing (Putrid odors from nearby swamplands hung like Christmas stockings over the grounds... His eyes were yellow, the pale color of weasel urine...), I wouldn't be surprised if Louise Jones hadn't already signed the man to an exclusive Warren contract.-Peter

Creepy #81

"Brannigan's Gremlins" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Wings of Vengeance!" 
Story by Bill DuBay and Esteban Maroto
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The War!" 
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Paul Neary

"Close Shave" 
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Martin Salvador

"Battle Rot" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by John Severin

"Billicar and the Momblywambles of Glass" 
Story by Steve Clement
Art by Isidro Mones

During World War I, a fighter pilot discovers the planes in his squadron house pipsqueak nuisances known as "gremlins." The other pilots explain that there is no explanation for the little devils and that there are "good gremlins" and "bad gremlins," the latter of which are capable of tearing a plane apart and sending a pilot to an early grave. 

There's really not much to "Brannigan's Gremlins," but I found the fantasy an enjoyable bit of fluff, with Dube ratcheting down the poetry and just telling a fireside story for once. The art is adequate, but unlike, say, George Evans's classic dogfights from the EC Two-Fisted/Frontline days, the plane battles look like Luis simply drew a batch of sideways Fokkers (pardon my German). But it's the whimsical element of this one that sells it.

A young man sits in the forest and recounts his tale of sorrow to the birds that sit nearby in rapt attention. Once he was the handsome son of a warrior, until he attempted to covet his father's young bride-to-be. Enraged, his father put the girl to death and had his son mutilated and cast into the forest. The man wonders if the birds can understand his sorrow, never knowing they've evened the score.

Can we agree that every beautiful young man Maroto ever drew looks the same? I'll grant you there's still some of that Esteban magic evident in the cliched and flowery "Wings of Vengeance!" but, overall, it's pretty plain by 1976. And it always takes me at least 75% longer to read a DuBay scripted story than anyone else's; I have to constantly re-read a sentence to see if it really makes sense or not (The sun's brightness wained [sic] as I watched my love's fearful tears. And yet I was too cowardly to stand against my sire. That, or truly did I love him and wished not to betray him).

In a way-too-familiar future, a warrior hunts down vampires and zaps one with his laser-beam gun but, as we discover, the real enemy of man is... woman! "The War!" is a needlessly complicated and pretentious sci-fi tale that lost me by its second panel. It might seem to our readers as though I'm an endlessly grumpy old man who really hates comics and, in particular, Warren comics but, in reality, I'm just looking for something readable and (if I can find it) original. These Warren sci-fi strips are the furthest from original you can find, gobbed up with long, poetic sentences (He wondered how it had come to this. But he didn't have any answers. He was only a soldier. A killing machine. And he was tired as hell...!), written at lunchtime on napkins in the Warren cafeteria by bored mail room interns and "rescued"  by McKenzie/DuBay/Moench/ Lewis for all eternity. And what's with the throwaway reference to vampires? What does that have to do with the war between men and women (ooooh, there's a hot button topic, right?) in this goofy version of the future? With the Neary art, it's also a little too close to "Hunter," wouldn't you say?

Eddy the barber gives a real "Close Shave" to Mr. Tyson, whose wife has been occupying Eddy's bed of late. Eddy and Mrs. Tyson have been planning the untimely death of the Mister for quite some time; one deep thrust of Eddy's razor and the insurance money is theirs. Deed done, Eddy prepares for clean-up but then a series of mishaps leads to his undoing. This could very well be the worst story of the year in both script and art department. Though Martin Salvador's work would never have been mistaken for that of an Alcala or Bea, the artist's output by 1976 could only be charitably referred to as "output." Nothing in any of the panels found in "Close Shave" exhibits an artistic vision. It's simply there. 

But that's actually more than you can say for Roger McKenzie's script, which comes off as a light bulb that went on over Roger's head after he read a couple of the East Coast Comix reprintings of Tales from the Crypt. As with the goofy three-panel mention of mutant vampires in "The War," Roger drops in a quick nod to Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" for no apparent reason. Utter drivel.

In World War I Germany, rumors of the dead awakening on the battlefield rumble through the ranks. But these silly wives' tales do not frighten ace fighter pilot Sigfrid von Meuse; to Sigfrid, the dead are dead. His outlook on the "other side" changes when he is tasked with the mission to bomb a civilian hospital before the enemy can transport their wounded to the building. Sigfrid's plane is shot down and crashes into the infirmary, where the pilot is helped out of the rubble by what appear to be walking corpses. Sigfrid loses his mental facilities, never knowing that his plane has crashed into a hospital for lepers.

Here's what happens when DuBay tells an EC story that's simple, to the point, and has a good shock ending. Of course, it helps that Dube has EC vet Severin along for the ride. Severin's splash, depicting the victims of "Battle Rot," is gloriously disgusting (aside from that opening, we never do find out if the walking corpses are a product of fatigue or the supernatural) and elicited an ear-to-ear smile from this grizzled old war comics vet. Rotting head and shoulders; best story of the month.

Attending a private boys' school is no fun, but it can be downright dangerous when your teacher locks you in the closet for being a naughty boy and you discover the small room is actually a doorway to another world. Billy meets new friends (Quazz, the deeeelightful Koala-thingie) and horrible monsters (the scorpion-tailed dinosaurs known as Momblywambles) on his path to self-discovery and becoming a better young man.

Oh boy. Alice in Wonderland wanna-be "Billicar and the Momblywambles of Glass" is a hectic, meandering waste of paper with some genuinely irritating artwork and no sense of direction. I can't honestly say I understood the "point" here (if there's one that writer Steve Clement wanted to make, that is). Teachers are mean? Little precocious boys make the best wizards? Drugs do not make for good prep when you're attempting to write comic book strips? When in doubt, slap a Bill Dubay title on your script?

Outside of "Battle Rot," this is a fairly disposable issue of Creepy. On the plus side, we get the initial installment of Joe Brancatelli's "The Comic Books" column. Brancatelli had served as editor of the unique newspaper-formatted The Monster Times (get me started and I'll never stop talking about how much I loved TMT as a kid) and the TMT offshoot, Inside Comics. Obviously, Jim Warren must have seen something in Brancatelli's critical outlook on the comics and thought it a perfect fit for the Warren zines. The column appeared in all the titles until March 1980. You can read Brancatelli's recollections of the behind-the-scenes and the abrupt end of the forum in Twomorrows' The Warren Companion. In his opener, Joe discusses the changing of the guard at Warren, DC, and Marvel and the declining sales figures of mainstream funny books. Essential reading each and every month.-Peter

Jack-It's sad when a text column is the highlight of an issue of comics, but that's the case here. I was floored by Brancatelli's honesty and the way he went after some of the industry's sacred cows. I was also surprised to see he was editor at Fairchild Publications, the site of my first job after college.

As for the comics, they were pretty bad and made me wonder if another Dark Age of Warren is upon us. "Battle Rot" was best, with fairly good Severin art and a decent twist ending. "Brannigan's Gremlins" was pretty dull for a story about gremlins, and the little guys weren't drawn very clearly, even though they were the focus of the story. DuBay shows a penchant for grotesque, cruel violence in "Wings of Vengeance," and I wasn't sure at the end if the birds really attacked the old guy or not. As I read "The War," I noticed for the umpteenth time that Paul Neary sure draws a lot of people wearing helmets--it seems to me that this is because he's not very good at drawing faces. "Close Shave" had more gore and lousy art by Salvador, while "Billicar..." was just terrible from every angle. At least we have the Captain Company ads to enjoy!

Next Week...
The Joker's Last Laugh!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-William D. Gordon Part Two: The Dark Pool [8.29]

by Jack Seabrook

After his teleplay for "The Lonely Hours," a domestic drama involving mothers and babies that features an all-female cast, William D. Gordon co-wrote the teleplay for "The Long Silence," another domestic drama where the main characters were all women and where the central figure was confined to her home and unable to speak. His next teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was "The Dark Pool," whose teleplay is credited to Gordon and Alec Coppel, based on a story by Coppel. I have been unable to find any published story that could have served as the basis for this episode, so it is reasonable to assume that the "story" was either a story idea or an original teleplay by Coppel that was revised by Gordon.

Coppel was also credited as the author of the story on which the 1957 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "The Diplomatic Corpse" was based; like that earlier half-hour, "The Dark Pool" is set in Southern California and features Mexican and Anglo characters.

Lois Nettleton as Diane Castillejo
This episode opens with a tragic scene, where Diane Castillejo, a wealthy young woman, returns from horseback riding to find her toddler son, Victor, in his playpen, which has been placed next to the family's large swimming pool. The child is being watched by his nanny, an older woman named Andrina Gibbs (known as Nanny); a servant named Pedro Sanchez stands nearby, cleaning the pool. Diane asks Pedro to fix her a vodka tonic and, after Pedro and Nanny exchange worried looks, Diane amends her request by telling her servant to "'make it a light one.'" Pedro brings Diane the drink and he and Nanny both leave Diane alone with her son. The telephone rings inside the house and Diane goes to answer it, drink in hand, leaving the child unattended. Suspense is created right away as the viewer wonders if this choice will be a bad one.

Anthony George as Victor Castillejo
Diane answers the phone and speaks to her husband, Victor, who is calling from the back seat of a car in nearby San Diego. He is with Larry Hawthorn, an attorney, and he has just returned from a business trip. After hanging up, Victor tells Larry that Diane has not had a drink since they adopted the baby. Diane goes back outside and sees the playpen empty--the implication is that the baby climbed out of the playpen, fell in the pool, and drowned.

Suspense is created by alternating shots between Diane talking to her husband and the baby bouncing in his playpen. Diane tells the first of a series of lies when she assures her husband that she no longer drinks, even while she is holding a drink in her hand. The first scene thus establishes that Diane is an alcoholic and that her son's death may be a consequence of her addiction, though she appears not to be drunk, just careless. Why was the playpen positioned right next to the pool? Why did Diane suddenly want a drink, and why did Pedro and Nanny allow her to have it and leave her alone with the baby if they both knew that she was an alcoholic who had promised to stop drinking and who had not had a drink since adopting the baby? These questions are never answered.

Madlyn Rhue as Consuela Sandino
The coroner holds an inquest regarding the baby's death and the lies begin to multiply as Nanny testifies that she, not Diane, left the baby alone. Larry says that the telephone call lasted only a minute and the coroner rules that the death was accidental. It seems that Nanny had cared for Diane as a child and continues to protect her. At home, Victor asks Diane to dismiss Nanny, but when Diane goes upstairs she finds Nanny packing her suitcase, having anticipated Victor's decision. Nanny dissuades Diane from telling Victor the truth about the accident, reminding her that she promised to stop drinking and convincing her that admitting the truth to Victor would make him doubt her from then on. Nanny suggests that the tragedy of the child's death will help Diane quit drinking, foolishly thinking that Diane can conquer her addiction through willpower and encouraging her to continue the pattern of deception.

After Nanny departs, a young woman named Consuela Sandino arrives at Diane's home, claiming to be the child's birth mother. She knows the truth about the accident and, when Victor returns home, she tells him that she and Diane are old friends and that Diane has asked her to stay for the weekend. She later tells Diane that Pedro told her about the accident and about Diane's promise not to drink, so when Diane again resolves to tell her husband the truth, Consuela and Pedro point out the pitfalls (as Nanny did) and Diane offers to pay Consuela for her silence. Pedro later suggests to Consuela that they take the money and leave, yet she has her sights set on a bigger prize, hoping to replace Diane as Victor's wife.

David White as Larry Hawthorn
Soon, Victor arrives home to find Diane drinking at the bar. She expresses remorse and assures him that she can control herself; he is leaving on another business trip and tells Diane that he has asked Consuela to stay with her, believing that the women are old friends and that Consuela's presence will be beneficial. Victor's judgment is poor--he leaves his alcoholic wife at home after she has been drinking and while she is still reeling from a tragic loss.

Diane wakes at night to the sound of a baby crying. Unable to find the source of the noise, she is distraught. The next day, she is drinking again; the next night, the crying returns and we see that Pedro and Consuela are torturing Diane by using a hidden tape player. Diane turns to alcohol again to self-medicate and Victor returns from his trip early to find that his wife has been drinking to excess. She begs her husband not to leave again and insists that she heard a baby crying. The incidents with the tape player are not resolved later in the episode and neither Victor nor Diane ever discover what was causing her to hear a baby cry. Perhaps it would have worked better to leave the baby's cries unexplained, as if they came from Diane's tortured imagination.

Eugene Iglesias as Pedro Sanchez
Victor demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of his wife's condition when he announces that he plans to have a dinner party to host a senator and several other guests. He understands that Diane is able to control her drinking when he is at home, but his work constantly pulls him away, so he suggests that she see a psychiatrist. Diane sees Consuela approach Victor by the pool and fears that they may become intimate, so she immediately takes a drink. That evening's dinner party is a disaster, as Diane gets very drunk and makes a scene before breaking down and apologizing. The next day, Victor attempts to talk his wife into spending a few weeks at a sanitarium, but she insists on trying to conquer her problems at home, without help. An alcoholic who drinks to steady her nerves and bury her fears, Diane is unlikely to succeed.

Diane visits the orphanage where she adopted the baby and speaks to Sister Marie Therese, asking if she can adopt another baby right away. Apparently, Diane thinks that replacing her dead child will help improve her mood and aid in controlling her urge to drink. Fortunately, the nun tells her that a long period of investigation is necessary before an adoption can be carried out but, after Diane confesses to the nun about her lie regarding the accident, Sister Marie Therese reveals to Diane that the baby's mother died in childbirth, so Consuela cannot be the boy's birth mother. Diane now realizes that Consuela is a liar as well as a blackmailer, so she is finally ready to tell her husband the truth. This suggests that her reticence up to this point was in part due to sympathy and guilt regarding Consuela's alleged loss. Diane's motives for deceiving her husband and others are complex.

Doris Lloyd as Nanny Gibbs
Back at home, Diane "gathers the suspects," as in a murder mystery, summoning Consuela and Pedro to a confrontation for Victor's benefit. She tells Victor the truth about her part in the baby's death and Pedro turns on Consuela, despite her urging him to lie about how many drinks Diane had had before her son died. Pedro chooses the path of honesty over the wishes of Consuela, who is revealed to be the true villain of the piece. Victor sends the duo away immediately and Diane tells him that she will now consent to going to a sanitarium. She finally takes responsibility for her actions and, though she tells Victor to get a divorce, he confesses his own shame and understands that it was he who caused her to fear telling him what really happened. The mystery is solved and the lovers are reunited, set free by the truth, at least for the moment.

"The Dark Pool" is neither a condensed novel not an expanded short story and, perhaps because of that, it seems to be just the right length. The show is well paced and flows quickly from beginning to end, with a generous use of close ups to help display the characters' emotions. The "dark pool" of the title refers more to Diane's inner turmoil than to the actual swimming pool in which the baby drowns, which is bathed in sunlight.

John Zaremba as the coroner
The show is directed by Jack Smight (1925-2003), whose four episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour all deal with women and domestic problems. This was his last episode for the series and all of the shows he directed aired in 1963. The prior one was "The Lonely Hours," which was also written by William D. Gordon. Smight directed for television from 1949 to 1986 and for film from 1964 to 1989. Among his many films were Harper (1966) and Midway (1976); he also directed four episodes of The Twilight Zone and won an Emmy for directing in 1959.

Alec Coppel (1907-1972), who is credited with the story and co-credited with the teleplay, was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1907. He moved to England in 1927 and his first play was produced in 1935. In 1937, he had a hit on the London stage with I Killed the Count, which was later adapted for the only multi-episode story of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, airing over a three-week span in March 1957. The play had been performed in the U.S. on Broadway in 1942, though Coppel returned to Australia during WWII. He continued to write plays, as well as novels and screenplays. Moving to Hollywood in 1954, Coppel wrote teleplays and screenplays, including some uncredited rewrites on Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1954), and he worked closely with Hitchcock on the script for Vertigo (1958). Coppel continued to write novels, screenplays, teleplays, stage plays, and radio plays for another 15 years until his death in 1972.

Isobel Elsom as Sister Marie Therese
Starring as Diane is Lois Nettleton (1927-2008), who was Miss Chicago in 1948 and who went on that year to be a semi-finalist in the Miss America pageant. She trained at the Actors Studio and began acting on radio that same year and on Broadway the next year; her film and TV career lasted from 1957 to 2006. This was the only Hitchcock TV show in which she appeared; she was also seen on The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.

Anthony George (1921-2005) receives second billing as her husband, Victor. Born Ottavio Gabriel George, he served in WWII and was in films from 1950 to 1957 and on TV from 1951 to 1988. He was a semi-regular on Dark Shadows in 1967, on Search for Tomorrow (1970-1975), and on One Life to Live (1978-1984). He also appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Flight to the East."

Consuela is played by Madlyn Rhue (1935-2003), who was born Madeline Roche and who took her stage name from the film, 13 Rue Madeleine (1947). She was a dancer at New York's Copacabana night club when she was just 17 years old and her film and TV career lasted from 1958 to 1996. Rhue was seen on Star Trek and The Night Stalker and she was a regular on Days of Our Lives from 1982 to 1984. This was the only time she appeared on the Hitchcock show.

In smaller roles:
  • David White (1916-1990) as Larry Hawthorn, the lawyer in the back of the car with Victor; he was a Marine in WWII and appeared on Broadway starting in 1949. He was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and appeared in many television shows. He was in four episodes of the Hitchcock series (including "Dry Run") and two of The Twilight Zone, but he is best remembered for his supporting role as Larry Tate on Bewitched (1964-1972).
  • Eugene Iglesias (1926- ) as Pedro Sanchez; born Eugene Iglesias Carrillo in Puerto Rico, he was on screen from 1951 to 1970.
  • Doris Lloyd (1891-1968) as Andrina "Nanny" Gibbs; born in Liverpool, she started out in Vaudeville in 1916 and appeared in over 150 films from 1920 to 1967, including Phantom Lady (1944). She was in four episodes of Thriller and nine episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Schartz-Metterklume Method," where she also played a character called "Nanny."
  • John Zaremba (1908-1986) as the coroner; he started out as a journalist at the Chicago Tribune before becoming an actor. He was in movies from 1950 and on TV from 1954, including regular roles on I Led Three Lives (1953-1956) and The Time Tunnel (1966-1967). He appeared on The Twilight Zone and Batman and he was on the Hitchcock show eleven times, including "The Kind Waitress."
  • Isobel Elsom (1893-1981) as Sister Marie Therese; born Isobel Reed in England, she was a veteran of stage, film, and TV who appeared onscreen from 1915 to 1964, including roles in 1947 in Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Hitchcock's The Paradine Case. She was on TV from 1950 to 1965 and appeared five times on the Hitchcock show, including "Back for Christmas" and "Final Vow," where she also plays a nun.
  • Walter Woolf King (1899-1984) as Senator Hayes; he started out on Broadway in 1919, worked in radio, and was seen in many movies and TV shows from 1930 to 1977, including A Night at the Opera (1935), Swiss Miss (1938), and Go West (1940). He was in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Our Cook's a Treasure."
Walter Woolf King
  • Eva Novak (1898-1988) as Mrs. Hayes, the senator's wife; she was on screen from 1917 to 1966 and played Tom Mix's love interest in ten westerns. Many of her later roles were uncredited.
Eva Novak
  • Bess Flowers (1898-1984) as Mrs. Pradanos, a guest at the ill-fated dinner party; nicknamed the Queen of the Extras, she played hundreds of uncredited parts on screen from 1923 to 1964, including bit parts in seven films directed by Hitchcock and small roles in six episodes of the Hitchcock TV show.
Bess Flowers
  • Paul Bradley (1901-1999) as Emilio Pradanos, her husband; he was a stand-in for George Sanders and he also appeared in many films in uncredited roles. His screen career lasted from 1935 to 1990 and he appeared on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Batman, and six episodes of the Hitchcock TV show.
Paul Bradley

"The Dark Pool" aired on CBS on Friday, May 3, 1963; watch it for free online here.


Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.


"The Dark Pool." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 8, episode 29, CBS, 3 May. 1963.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of William D. Gordon concludes with "You'll Be the Death of Me," starring Robert Loggia!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma and Jack Seabrook discuss the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Sybilla" here!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Batman in the 1980s: Issue 44: August-September 1983


The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino


Batman #362

"When Riddled by the Riddler..."
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

Commissioner Gordon receives a mysterious box from that arch-fiend, the Riddler. Harvey Bullock wants to know what it all means, so Jim explains that, "When Riddled By the Riddler...," one had better put on one's thinking cap. Batman arrives and tells Bullock to beat it; Gordon opens the box to find a golden egg with the initials MA printed on it. From this, Batman deduces that E. Nigma plans to rob the gate receipts from Gotham's Mother Goose Amusement Park.

At the park, the Caped Crusader and the Riddler chase each other around for a while, until the Riddler disappears and Batman learns that the park is closed for the season and there's no cash to steal. Back at Gordon's office, another clue is found inside the egg and it leads Batman to a TV quiz show that is being filmed that evening at Gotham's Paradise Theater. The Riddler makes off with the prize money and hijacks a crowded bus. The Dark Knight is more than a match for the green-clad villain, though, and it's back to jail for Edward Nigma.

In the epilogue, Commissioner Gordon sends a veiled threat to Harvey Bullock, who decides to withdraw his charges of corruption against his boss at the big hearing.

Jack: Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala combine to provide us with a feast for our eyes in this 23-page, full-length story. Doug Moench's story is mediocre but not bad--there's only so much that can be done with the Riddler and his goofy clues. I liked seeing the Mother Goose Amusement park by night, and the concept of a nursery-rhyme themed playland allows the artists to go wild with giant eggs and shoes. I'm looking forward to the return of more classic, campy villains!

Peter: I thought Doug's script was actually clever this time out (the riddles work), even while being 100% disposable. Riddler shows up, dumps some riddles, and then goes back to jail. Like Jack, I'm eager to see the rogues return, hopefully, to glory. The art is great as usual. The Bat-titles seem to be in good hands. Now if we could have some gripping subplots and stories with consequence.


Detective Comics #529

"The Thief of Night!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Dick Giordano

Answering an alarm at a nearby warehouse, Batman encounters a sly, elusive villain calling himself "The Thief of Night!" The mysterious figure gets the better of the Dark Knight and steals away into the night with an expensive fur. Batman takes the injured night watchman to a hospital and foolishly tells a reporter what happened. The next day the papers scream: "Batman Foiled by Common Thief!"

Meanwhile, Lucius Fox is informed about an employee of Wayne Enterprises who was injured during research. The woman, a "Ms. N. Knight" (hmmmm!), was exposed to radiation, which damaged the pigmentation of her skin, reducing it to a white, deathly pallor (hmmmm!). 

That night, Bruce Wayne takes Vicki Vale out on the town to make up for a previous, missed date. He stops for some champagne at a local club and hears a radio deejay read a message from the Thief of Night, inviting Batman to a rematch. Bruce drops his drawers, leaves Vicki in the car, and heads out into the night as his alter ego. 

A clue in the radio message leads Batman to the residence of Mrs. Raymond Brevoort, one of Gotham's elite and a woman who keeps very expensive jewelry in her home safe. The Brevoorts are on vacation and Batman is convinced that the Thief will attempt to make off with some expensive baubles. Sure enough, the Dark Knight spots the Night Thief atop one of the neighboring rooftops and swings down to engage in battle.

Alas, the Thief proves to be slippery once again and makes off with the priceless Brevoort necklace. Batman swings back to Vicki, who's still double-parked at the club, and tries to explain, but the ace reporter proves that patience is a virtue that Vicki Vale was not born with. The Thief (whom we discover is named Anton) delivers his goodies to his lover, Nocturna, a pallid-complexioned woman, while Bruce heads home dejected, only to discover that Jason wants to go back to the circus.

There's a whole lot going on in these 16 pages, some might say too much. It always makes me laugh when we're given info that we know is crucial to the plot points in a sledgehammer way. We know this poor astronomer named N. Knight (!) has suffered a catastrophic injury that will propel her into a life of crime, but does she really have to be on the Wayne payroll? Coincidence? And when did this accident take place? It seems like a whole lot of planning went into setting up Anton with special "thief of the night" powers and costume. Is Nocturna's plan to send Anton out into the night to jazz up her wardrobe? Give N. Knight credit for filling out the workman's comp papers.

Then we come to the ludicrous: Bruce deciding, on a whim, that leaving Vicki outside the club for three hours while he flies off to fight the Thief was a good idea. I mean, even if Bruce thought it was a good idea, Doug Moench should have known it was pretty dumb. More realistic would have been that Bruce heard the broadcast while inserting air particles into the Bat-Analyzer to come up with fingerprints for the Thief. Why does Batman repeatedly remind us that the Thief is just a common thief when the guy clearly has some major skills? Jason's sub-plot, involving Waldo the Clown (who, no doubt, is something other than the good-hearted, if creepy, carnival clown he appears to be), has already jumped the shark and let's hope it quickly goes the way of Gordon's hacking cough.

Jack: I was intrigued by the artistic combo of Colan and Giordano. My impression is that Giordano was a great inker without an individual style whose strength lay in bringing out the style of the person whose work he was inking. He does it here with Colan just as he did it so many times with Neal Adams. Not surprisingly, the Thief spouts some classic Moench dialogue, but I'm most interested to find out why Waldo the Clown never removes his makeup. Is he a crook on the run?

"Getting Up III: Lost in the Ozone"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Paris Cullins & Frank Giacoia

The Green Arrow must hunt down Ozone before the villainous teenager uses the deadly Botulin formula on the city's population. Arrow accomplishes the task.

Peter: There's no sugar-coating it: this is bottom of the barrel comics, the kind that permeated 1980s funny books like a Botulin. The art is uninspired and the script was probably laughably dated by the time it was published. On the bright side, there's no "Getting Up IV" and Arrow's office boy/little buddy's action-pausing speech about his crazy inventor dad is a howler.

Jack: I thought the art was pretty good, despite the weak script. The mid-1980s pop culture references all seem to date badly, don't they? In the 1970s' comics, similar references evoke a fond sense of nostalgia, while the 1980s' stuff makes me cringe. Maybe it's all related to when we grew up. Still, this is better than Nemesis any day of the week.


Batman #363

"Elegant Night Crimes"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

The "Elegant Night Crimes" of the Night Thief are plaguing Gotham City! Natasha Knight, a/k/a Nocturna, attends a charity dinner at Wayne Manor and flirts with Bruce Wayne until the Night Thief crashes through a window and liberates the wealthy attendees of their cash and jewelry. Lucius Fox explains that Natasha was injured in a laser accident several years ago and awaits compensation for her resulting loss of skin pigmentation.

Batman pays a visit to Natasha, who admits her part in the robbery and explains that she was a poor child who was adopted by a rich man who turned out to be a criminal. She grew used to the finer things in life and has no plans to give them up. The Night Thief arrives and, after thinking he has rendered Batman unconscious, departs with Natasha.

Jason Todd followed the Night Thief, but when Batman refuses to let him help fight crime, the youth vows never to help Batman again. At the Gotham Observatory, Natasha reveals that the Night Thief, a/k/a Anton, is the son of the man who adopted her; he was trained in the Orient as a master fighter and steals to keep his lover happy. Batman appears and has a long fight with the Night Thief, who succeeds in the dark but fails in the light. Natasha escapes in a hot air balloon and, weeks later, sends a check for $100K to support the observatory, money that Bruce refuses to accept. That night, Jason Todd runs away to join Waldo the clown.

Peter: There are some obvious sub-plot timeline problems inherent when scripting two titles featuring the same character, and we see a glaring instance here when precocious panel-furniture/future-hero Jason mumbles a promise to Alfred that he's gonna talk to Bruce about returning to the circus. The kid already laid out the plan to Master Wayne in 'tec #529 which, according to the almighty GCD, went on sale two weeks before this issue. 

Moench's back-story on Nocturna, while familiar, is satisfying and his dialogue between the two Knights crackles, as in the sequence when Nocturna explains why she's stealing expensive items even though she grew up wealthy:

Nocturna: Once I'd owned a Mercedes, I could never be satisfied with a... Volkswagen. After the sweet intoxication of the finest concert halls in Europe, I could never go back to a beer-house juke-joint. Once I'd heard the finest stereo money could buy, a transistor radio merely hurts my ears... Do I make myself clear, Batman?

Batman: You're spoiled.

At what point did N. Knight say to Anton: "Hang on a second! Don't call me Natasha anymore. From here on out, it's Nocturna!" And can we wrap up the "Harvey Bullock is a fat, greasy asshole!" sub-plot already? It's going nowhere and the character is obnoxious. I realize he's a part of the cast that's going to stick around, but can we maybe give him a second note?

Jack: Even though we don't give star ratings to the Batman comics in this blog, I do rate them in my notes, and these comics are earning a solid three stars in my book. Story and art are both consistently above-average but not spectacular. Never having read these before and having only the most rudimentary familiarity with the Jason Todd character, I admit that I'm intrigued to see where this Robin 2.0 storyline ends up. Having Nocturna escape by hot air balloon seemed improbable, but I'm fine with the character returning in the near future. I don't think Nocturna or the Night Thief will join the Pantheon of Bat-villains, but they're good enough for now.


Detective Comics #530

"Passion Nocturnale"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Dick Giordano

After Jason runs away from Wayne Manor, he rests in the forest and is approached by the lovely Nocturna. Not realizing who he is, Nocturna asks why the boy is out in the wilderness so late at night. Not realizing who she is (even though he probably should), Jason tells the woman his entire sob story, leaving out some important alter ego facts. He asks the woman what he should do and Nocturna tells him to go back to the place he left, where he is loved.

Meanwhile, across town, Batman has requested that Anton, Nocturna's accomplice, be tried by a night jury. His reason for the unusual request enters the courtroom--Batman is the star witness, to the astonishment of the jury and judge. The Dark Knight gives chase as the woman turns and hoofs it into the night air, but he's once again bested by a pale astronomer who has no evident martial arts skills. 

Still, our hero is a pretty smart guy and, once Anton has been given his right to a fair and (extremely) swift trial, Bats volunteers to drive the armored car carrying the convicted man to the "upstate pen." Predictably, Nocturna hovers over the vehicle in her hot-air balloon and drops a grenade, which somehow blows the back door open and frees Anton. Ah, but our sly Dark Knight then hops out of the truck, chucks a Bat-a-rang at the balloon, and watches in glee as Nocturna drifts right into his hands. He pops the cuffs on the criminals and hauls them off to prison.

Peter: Anton's trial must be the fastest in American history. He was only taken into custody an issue ago and he's already been found guilty? That's what I call swift American justice. Perhaps even swifter is the Gotham Star, which gets out an edition with the news of the "surprise night trial" the same day and then somehow gets a copy delivered to Nocturna in her cave. That Gotham must be a great place to live! No Harvey, no problem! Shouldn't Jason have known who Nocturna was when they met up in the forest, since he tracked her to her lair just days before (in Batman #363)?

As with many of these super-villains, I question where Nocturna would get all that "wonderful stuff," explosive jewelry and getaway balloons, and why Bats seems to be constantly fooled by the woman when he's the world's greatest detective and, um, I could have figured she'd come to the courthouse armed. The Colan/Giordano work is glorious; I know I sound like a broken record, but these current titles have the best and most consistent artwork we've seen on our journey. Doug Moench adjusts his quill pen to "flowery" again after avoiding that purple hue last issue; I could have done without his two-page observation of "love" and all its permutations (A woman paces her nest-like apartment... hoping for the shrill sound of love's call...), but the Nocturna character, no dangerous combat skills and all, is a pretty cool addition to the third tier of Bat-villains.

Jack: I agree that we are in good shape with the art on the Bat-books right now, with Colan and Newton providing consistently fine work. I don't think it's up to the level of Adams/Giordano or Austin/Rogers, but I'm not complaining. The splash page, where Jason meets Nocturna in the woods, is terrific, and I like that Nocturna advised the lad to go home, even though he ignored her wise counsel. For once, the transitions back and forth among the three main plot threads were smooth, something we don't usually see in Detective. In all, one of the best Batman stories I've read recently.

"Survival of the Fittest"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Adrian Gonzales & Rick Magyar

As an ace reporter, Oliver Queen is covering an event at the Soviet Embassy in Star City when a gang of armed military men bust in and claim they're authorized by the American government to take all Soviet diplomats hostage. Smelling a rat, Ollie changes into his Green Arrow spandex and chases the baddies off.

Tracking them to their lair in the sewer system, Queen overhears their leader spill the beans: the group is awaiting nuclear war, storing up arms and gold for the inevitable post-apocalyptic new government. Ollie heads over to the local Army base to let the brass know what's going on but... too late! The nutty survivalists have gotten their hands on a gizmo that will circumvent security and fire off our nuclear missiles. Bombs away!

Peter: Wow! I gotta say this is more like it. An energetic, exciting and, yep, extremely far-fetched action thriller that beats the hell out of dangerous aerosol cans. The art is still on the south side of average but, for the first time in a long time, I can't wait to see how they follow this one up.

Jack: I'm glad one of us enjoyed it! I thought art and story were terrible. I have no tolerance for these Red Dawn-type 1980s' Soviet Union/nuclear war stories and the art reminded me of the work of Ric Estrada, which is something I'd rather not be reminded of.

Peter: Hey! I wear the grumpy grouch uniform around here, not you!

Next Week...
Where, oh where, are Rich Corben and
Bruce Jones in our hour of need?

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 75: June 1976



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

Creepy #80

"Benjamin Jones and the Imagineers" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Second Genesis" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Fable of Bald Sheba and Montebank the Rogue!" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Bea

"Proof Positive" ★1/2
Story & Art by Alex Toth

"Ain't It Just Like the Night" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Axe-Man Cometh" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Jorge B. Galvez

"The Last Chronicle" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

Young Benjamin Jones is terrified of the things waiting for him outside near the garbage pails; the creatures of the night. Luckily, Benjamin has his toy soldiers, the "Imagineers," who keep him safe when they're by his side. Problem is, Mom wants Benjamin to take the trash out and act like a big boy. The Imagineers must stay in the house!

Benjamin barely makes it back inside after the things attack him but, of course, mother is having none of it. Her son has forgotten to bring the trash can back in and now she insists he scoot back out the door or face the beating of his life. Little Ben begs his mother for a few more moments while his Imagineers ready their defense, but Mom has had enough. She storms out the door to retrieve the pail on her own, vowing that Benjamin's father is going to hear about this. Benjamin locks the door and refuses to open it even after his mother's screams ring through the night. 

Owing a huge debt (in my mind at least) to several similar Joe Orlando House of Mystery/House of Secrets stories back in the late 1960s, "Benjamin Jones and the Imagineers" is a jumbled mess with little energy. There's an epilogue after Mom is locked out and her shrieking halts where we see her, in one panel, pouring milk and making cookies for her sweet little boy and, in the next panel, propped up in a chair with her eyes torn out. I'm not sure whether Budd Lewis is reaching for the "Benjamin Jones was insane the whole time and killed his mother" angle or if these monsters really exist. It's a toss-up, I guess. Benjy's mom gets a nice once-over from Ken Kelly in his dynamic cover.

In a future where mice and lizards communicate telepathically with humans, a strikingly illustrated man named Hamlyn decides he really must know who his parents were, so he participates in a government experiment in time travel. Hamyln screws with the gauges and, instead of arriving 100 years in the past, he arrives a mere 30 years before in order to investigate his own birth.

In the past, he bumps into the strikingly illustrated Janella, who thinks nothing of lounging in the nude, and they have a smoldering tryst. Alas, the time cops arrive on the scene and execute Hamlyn for government crimes. The bright side is that he has impregnated Janella with... you guessed it... himself.

Groan. How could new editor Louise Jones not have taken one look at the script for "Second Genesis" and screamed loudly through the Warren office: "No more fucking talking animals!" Seriously, this story is stupid on so many levels that I'm not even going to my thesaurus to look up a fancy four-syllable synonym for stupid. And whoooooooaaaaa, that twist ending is such a shocker, ain't it? Maroto has seen better days as well.

Legend has it that Sheba the Bald Witch was buried with her magical ring, a priceless bauble that every man in the countryside covets. When Montebank the Rogue tries to liberate the corpse of its jewelry, the old hag strangles him and Montebank is cursed to lie with Sheba for all eternity. 

Yes, Peregrine (yet another rogue) has heard the legends and believes none of it, but when some of his tankard-lifting mates dare him to visit the grave, the man cannot be kept away. "The Fable of Bald Sheba and Montebank the Rogue!" is paper-thin horror that is saved infinitesimally by Jose Bea's art. In Jose's world, the humans are much creepier than the critters. For me, the biggest kick now to be had from a Bill DuBay story is guessing what crazy combo-title he'll come up with next. Think about it, the selection was endless: "(adjective) (name) and the (adjective) (nonsense word)." With his dictionary by his side, the man was unstoppable!

In 19th Century Baltimore, photographer Barton Dix invents a new form of film development and approaches the patent lawyer firm of Cozzens, Field, and Bryant in an effort to protect his brilliant breakthrough. Barton is dazzled by Bryant's daughter and entrusts the men with his invention. Alas, the three partners are shysters and the "daughter" merely a paid pawn in their charade. Barton overhears the men talking of their deception and invites them to his place for a demonstration of his new process. There, he poisons the three and then develops the film, not knowing how explosive the chemicals can be. BOOM!

At some point in this journey, I'm sure we'll run across a double-duty by Toth where the story is every bit as good as the art, but "Proof Positive" is not that breakthrough. Toth's climaxes, for the most part, have an abruptness to them that is unsatisfying, even while his graphics knock my socks off. The entirety of the story is printed vertically rather than the typical horizontal. Why? Because it's Toth.

A mysterious figure in a trench coat is driving around town, tossing drugged civilians into the back of his van and hauling them off to a deserted warehouse, where he deposits them into huge beakers. WTF? Turns out our perp is actually a good Samaritan alien who's come to Earth to save a handful of humans (and animals) from the upcoming nuclear war that will destroy mankind. After the radiation fades, the BEM will release the survivors and hope they do a better job in the future. We come to find out this is not the first world the grasshopper-creature has saved... and it won't be the last.

Though I thought "Ain't It Just Like the Night" (a superlatively dumb title) was more cliched Warren science fiction nonsense, I thought the Moenchmeister was a sly one when he shifted gears from obvious psycho-killer tale to Noah's Ark/ecology rant. Never saw that coming. The payoff panel, with the weeping insect-head man, didn't elicit the response I assume Doug was looking for. The opening captions, yet another stab by Doug at poetry, I think (Ain't it just like a dream that comes... only when you're blind... ain't it just like insanity to... do only what it thinks is right), made me stop reading a few times and consider another vocation.

With the help of his sister, Cloris, convicted axe-murderer Chester Loomis escapes the four walls of Hargrove Asylum. Cloris takes her brother home to her (incredibly) understanding husband to hide out, but the woman's real motives become clear when she buries a hatchet in hubby's head and calls the police. Chester has the last laugh, though, as he adds Cloris's corpse to the pile and escapes before the cops arrive.

One issue after "Shadow of the Axe" comes the lesser "The Axe-Man Cometh," which wears its pulp roots on its sleeve. It might not be fair to rip into a five-pager that has no script or story to speak of, but that final twist is pretty good. What's not good is the rough and ugly Galvez artwork, where every man looks the same (save a mustache or longer hair) and backgrounds are simply black or white.

Ever since his dearest Charlie sailed away in his patchwork balloon, Bernie sits in his prison and watches out the window, waiting for his friend to return. He finally does. Text-heavy and ponderous, "The Last Chronicle" seemingly exists for the sole reason its first chapter ("The Escape Chronicle" back in Creepy #75) existed: to win Warren Awards. Budd is endlessly satisfied with himself when he pumps out emotional dialogue like "(W)e built an escape machine! Oh God! Oh God, Charlie... Oh God! Didn't we?" In the end, I'm not sure why we needed a second chapter. Bernie seems to seesaw between "Charlie was the greatest thing to ever happen to me" and "Charlie ruined my life." Extra points to Charlie for landing the balloon on the roof of the mental institution with none being the wiser. From top to bottom this was one very boring, very disposable issue of Creepy.-Peter

Jack-I'm not sure which is worse--fewer long stories or more short stories, as we get in this tepid issue. Seven stories that range from five to eight pages in length mean that, when they aren't good, at least they're over quickly. And the stories aren't good this time around. I gave the highest marks to the Toth entry (of course), though it was nothing special and it was really annoying that it was printed sideways. I liked the art on "Benjamin Jones," but the last page makes no sense with Mom being fine in one panel and a corpse in another. I agree that Maroto's work has gone downhill and "Second Genesis" is weak sci-fi with an obvious payoff. Bea's art was too weird for me on the DuBay story, which featured another ending that was telegraphed in advance.

I assume the Moench tale was another file story; I've never been fond of Salvador's art, but the ending was a surprise. "The Axe-Man Cometh" had uneven art and a dopey ending; when I see Wessler as co-writer I figure the other writer had to try to make sense of whatever Carl turned in. Worst of all was "The Last Chronicle"; I had forgotten the earlier story and I wish I could forget this one--it's dull, talky, and pointless. I thought the Louise Jones era was supposed to be good! Not so far...

Eerie #75

"The Demons of Jeremiah Cold"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The One Eyed Shall Be King!"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Oogie and the Worm!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

Story and Art by Jose Bea

"Gillian Taxi and the Sky Pirates"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Bermejo

Jedediah Pan rides in to the Old West town of Amity, where he enters a saloon and hears a group of men boasting about brutally murdering three young people by crucifying them and peeling the skin from their bodies. Disgusted, Pan decks their leader, a large Native American known as Red Fish, with one punch. A young man named Jeremiah Cold helps Dr. Perry Bottles remove the dead trio from their crosses and Bottles explains that they were all disabled in one way or another. Each lived in the remote, New Mexico town of Kalerville, where those with disabilities are welcomed.

That night, Red Fish and a friend take off from Amity in a biplane (it's1912), intent on machine-gunning the residents of Kalerville from the air. A bloodthirsty mob follows and Pan trails along at a distance to see what happens. When the mob reaches Kalerville, Cold and Bottles fight back, soon to be joined by Pan. Pan is Cold's estranged father and the two must put aside their differences to save the town's residents. Using their magic bracelets, they summon six demons, who quickly destroy the invaders. A brave leap onto the plane's strut by Cold causes it to crash into the side of a mountain. Kalerville is saved and a truce exists between father and son.

"The Demons of Jeremiah Cold" is an example of why I like Warren's longer stories and why I also like the continuing series. The opening of the story was disgusting, but gradually, over twelve pages, it began to make sense, and the end was satisfying. I had to look back at the earlier stories in the series to remind myself of who was who, but once I did I understood what was going on. Ortiz's art is so good that it always elevates any story it illustrates.

The caravan of circus freaks is passing through remote New Mexico when a wheel breaks on a rock. While the wagons are stopped, the freaks are approached by men in hoods and cloaks who demand that they submit to Kaler's judgment. They are brought before Kaler, a strange little bald man who lives inside a glass jar. He insists that the freaks mate with several women he has at hand in order to produce more deformed residents for Kalerville. No way, says Dramulo, who knocks over Kaler's jar, which breaks, killing him. The freaks head down into Kalerville, perhaps finding a home at last.

Any good feelings left behind from the first story are immediately wiped away by this mess, in which Budd Lewis reveals that the kind, accepting town of Kalerville is actually run by a guy from another dimension who is breeding deformed people for his supper. This story is just terrible, though the art is not half bad. The title, "The One Eyed Shall Be King," suggests that the freaks, with all of their problems, have more on the ball than the residents of Kalerville.

Somewhere in the vast reaches of the universe, the robot/computer named Oogie continues to have a man and a woman act out the space opera adventures of Buck Blaster and Thelma Starburst. When a Thelma Starburst spinoff becomes popular, the woman decides she wants liberation and domination, and she and Buck fly off toward Oogie to demand that she be made a god.

Nothing much happens in the ten (endless) pages of "Oogie and the Worm," and Maroto's art continues to underwhelm. DuBay seems to be spinning his wheels with this series and just filling pages. The attempts at humor fall flat.

What seem like tiny aliens discuss their "Invasion" of the human body. In the end, the aliens are revealed to be cancer cells.

This quick five-pager is reprinted from a full-color 1972 book called Dracula that was published by Warren (with a $5.00 price tag!). The book is available to read for free at the Internet Archive, and a comparison of the original pages with the reprint pages shows that the overall story is the same but many of the captions have been rewritten, for no particular reason I can see, and some of the panels have been laid out slightly differently. The punchline is the same. I cannot figure out why the alien from the last panel was used as this issue's cover, especially since they kept it small and surrounded it with vivid pink. It looks like the 1972 book was itself a reprint of a series of comics published in Spain with stories and art by Maroto, Bea, and others.

When Englishman Gillian Taxi invents what appears to be a big, flying teapot that runs on a fuel made from crushed rubies, he invites a couple of his pals over for a successful test drive and then opens a taxi company. The high price of a ticket dissuades most potential customers until an Indian prince arrives and pays for a passage to Pooten-Stan. On the way there, the flying teapot is hijacked by sky pirates, but some heroic work by Taxi saves the day.

I take back what I said about long stories. This one just goes on and on and never amounts to much. The art by Luis Bermejo reminds me of Alex Toth's work in spots, especially the way he draws character's faces, but this is a lot of rot, what ho!-Jack

Peter-I can't, for the life of me, figure out what's going on in "Jeremiah Cold," though I'm sure the whole thing is a lesson in the evils of prejudice. As usual, Bill DuBay's script is a whole bathtub full of doolally, but that goofiness translates into energy, which stimulates the kitsch side of my brain. The splash is about as graphic a concept as you'll see in funny books (gutted and crucified pre-teens is not something you'll see in The House of Mystery), but those graphics, I'm sorry to say, resemble the aftermath of a spilled barrel of entrails. I can't even begin to tell you what's happening on page 14.

I can't help but think that Budd Lewis was striving for some demonic version of Guardians of the Galaxy (or another of the lesser Avengers clones) with his "Freaks." I know my fingers keep typing the same sentences when it comes to the Lewis/DuBay dialogue in these things but, Kee-rist, no one, not even winged freaks, spout dopey lines like "I can't keep from wondering why I'm not normal, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, married with two kids and reading the paper at the breakfast table in a Boston brownstone!" My eyes are so tired from rolling.

"Oogie and the Worm" is an overlong mash-up of bad sci-fi and groan-inducing one-liners, easily the worst thing I read this month. "Invasion" is short and the climactic twist is pretty good, but I had the sneaking feeling that the captions didn't go with the pictures. At 16 pages, "Gillian Taxi" is entirely too long but at least it's a whimsical fantasy adventure in a sea of bad science fiction.

The Spirit #14

"Dick Whittler" (7/23/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"The Chase" (7/30/50)
Story by Jules Feiffer & Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner

"Investigation" (8/6/50)
"Sammy and Delilah" (3/5/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"A Day at the Zoo" (4/23/50)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Jules Feiffer & Will Eisner

"Teacher's Pet!" (9/10/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"The Hero" (5/13/51)
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Klaus Nordling & Jim Dixon

"The Big Win" (10/1/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"The First Man" (8/20/50)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

Jack-A solid but not outstanding group of reprints fill this issue. With nine stories at seven pages each, there are 63 pages of comics included, quite a bit more than the 49 pages in Creepy and Eerie. Of course, these are reprints, but I think Eisner was doing touchups and revisions, so it's quite a bargain.

The first three stories make up one long narrative. "The Chase" is the strongest, with its great evocation of a seedy roadside diner where the flies outnumber the customers. The character of "Dick Whittler" is engaging and the first story has a nice cliffhanger ending. The third story, where all is explained, is a bit of a letdown, but Eisner sure can draw action scenes.

The next two stories are character studies where the Spirit barely appears. "Sammy and Delilah" is a clever parody where the temptress appeals to the boy's stomach rather than his lust (which is nonexistent), while "A Day at the Zoo!!" is most notable for Feiffer and Eisner's extraordinary skill at depicting rain on paper. "Teacher's Pet!" features the always-welcome P'Gell and the return of Dick Whittler, along with a funny bit where the Spirit masquerades as a college student to the delight of every co-ed in sight.

"The Hero" is drawn by Klaus Nordling and Jim Dixon, and their art is virtually indistinguishable from Eisner's. The last two stories are the weakest and "The First Man" seems to recycle a plot device we've seen before, with a nobody determined to be the first to pass through a new tunnel.

Peter-Overall, this is one of the lesser issues of The Spirit I've read, with a lot of humdrum scripts and forgettable supporting characters. I liked the goofiness of "A Day at the Zoo!!" but, of course, I was rooting for the lion. The art on the three-parter that opens the issue looks rushed, as if Eisner didn't have the time to complete the usual detailed backgrounds, moody splashes, and dark inks. Perhaps Jim Warren and Will Eisner had already mined all the classic material for the early issues.

Next Week...
Who is Nocturna?