Monday, July 15, 2024

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 116: Atlas/Marvel Science Fiction & Horror Comics

 


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 101
April 1956 Part I
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook



Astonishing #48
Cover by Carl Burgos (?) & Bill Everett (?)

"It Happened at Midnight!" (a: Bill Benulis) ★1/2
"One of Our Ships is Missing!" (a: Bill Everett) ★1/2
"The Man Behind the Mask!" (a: John Forte) 
"The Thing in the Box!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"There's No Tomorrow" (a: Bob Powell) 
(r: Tomb of Darkness #17)
"When Ends the Dream!" (a: Jay Scott Pike) 

Fantasy writer Randy Clarke types up a fanciful tale of a man assaulted and kidnapped by aliens, but he doesn't quite know how to put a bow on the climax (sounds like Randy Clarke might have been one of Stephen King's pseudonyms!). Allowing the outcome to be murky and deciding the reader can supply the details, Clarke heads out to mail the manuscript and is kidnapped by... you guessed it, aliens. Now Randy has a better climax! 

With the decision by the powers-that-be to cut the script pages to three or four from here on out (at least until the big purge hits, two years down the road), the onus settles even more firmly on Atlas's stable of artists. Ideas were hard enough to gel within five or six pages of story length; try hatching something in three pages. "It Happened at Midnight!" suffers due to that malady, but even more so from a dearth of fresh ideas. There's only so much excitement Bill Benulis can illustrate when the story is a bunch of talking heads.

All across the globe, vehicles of transportation disappear into thin air. What's the story? Turns out the King of Mars had the cars, boats, trains, and a bicycle teleported to the Red Planet for the amusement of his son. The Prince selects the bike and all the other vehicles are returned to Earth. The previous owner of the bike is happy to find a bag of gold on his porch the next morning. A cute little fantasy, "One of Our Ships is Missing!" also benefits from three pages of gorgeous Everett penciling.


In "The Man Behind the Mask," the poor people of a small village are gifted blankets, food, and money to buy essentials by a mysterious man in a scary mask. Good fortune comes to the hidden gift-giver when the shoe is on the other foot and morals are taught to the tiny audience who still buy Astonishing. A double dose of dull as John Forte's scratchy pencils are just as unsatisfying as the maudlin script. Equally awful is "The Thing in the Box!" A small treasure chest makes its way from sea to shining sea, picked up by all manner of despicable characters. Whenever the box is opened, the man holding it gasps in fear and tosses it right back into the water. When a kindly boy finds it washed up on the beach, he opens it and finds... a mirror. More phony morality.

Captain Blackheart's crew are the victims of a very predictable disaster in "There's No Tomorrow." Blackheart's pirates hijack a ship and kidnap an old fortune teller. The captain asks for his fortune and receives news he's not happy with. There's a decent twist in the tail and Bob Powell's old hags are always fun to look at. "When Ends the Dream!" is an overly complicated fantasy about three sailors who find themselves shipwrecked on an island that is actually a multi-dimensional portal. A mediocre climax to a mediocre issue.-Peter



Journey Into Mystery #33
Cover by Sol Brodsky & Carl Burgos

"The Flame That Burned a Thousand Years!"
(a: Manny Stallman) 
"There'll Be Some Changes Made" (a: Steve Ditko) 
"The Fabulous Traveler!" (a: Chuck Miller) 
"The Meddler!" (a: Bill Benulis) 
"The Man Who Had No Friends!" 
(a: Al Williamson & Gray Morrow[?]) 
"Footprints From Nowhere!" (a: Ed Winiarski) ★1/2

Flint Wentworth finds a unique relic in an antique shop, a small incense burner that glows brightly; the shop owner explains that it is "The Flame That Burned a Thousand Years!" Flint pays a steep price for the item, but the shop owner explains that Flint must keep the fire burning as long as he owns the bowl or else he will have bad luck.

Flint being Flint, he decides he's not going to feed the flame and, as the fire dims, bad luck arrives in many forms. Realizing he'd better get with the program, Flint reignites the flame and good luck arrives at his door! There's not much sense to a man paying two hundred bucks (in terms a comic fan might understand, that would be about how much Marvel paid its artists in a calendar year) for a burning bowl and then making it a point to extinguish the flame. This guy isn't just lazy; he makes it his goal to watch the fire go out! Well, I guess without his inane stance, there would be no story. But guess what, there is no story.


Warped genius Paul Haines creates a giant TV screen that can telecast events from the past. The best thing about it (besides the low cable bill) is that Paul can change the events occurring before him. So, he does what any dopey genius would do: he sets the way-back machine to when his great-great-great-etc.-grandfather, Cedric Haines, decided to blow his millions on trivial pursuits. As Cedric heads to the chest that holds his cash, Paul zaps the container and teleports it to the present day, only to discover it contains Continental currency, as worthless as the paper it's printed on. "Oh well," sighs Paul, "at least I learned a good moral lesson about the value of love vs. money (or something like that)."

"There'll Be Some Changes Made" is a very apt title for what became the first story Steve Ditko illustrated for Atlas/Marvel. Right from the get-go, you can see this guy had something extra. Every detail of every panel screams "weird and eerie!" If only the CCA had not popped up to rein in what Steve could have wrought in these titles. In all, Ditko would illustrate 271 fantasy/horror stories for the Atlas titles.

"The Fabulous Traveler!" has an intriguing set-up: Bill Fleming finds a book in the library detailing the flora and fauna of Mars and takes it to a scientist friend, who claims it could only have been written by someone who actually had visited the red planet. Turns out the book accidentally found its way from a Jupiter-Venus library system. It's not really supposed to be on Earth! There's no explanation of how the book actually turned up at the library (UFO lands in the parking lot and drops off one book?) or why Bill's scientist buddy is so convinced only a space traveler could have detailed the plant life and canals on Mars when no one from Earth has actually landed there. Couldn't it just be someone writing a fanciful tale? 

In "The Meddler," a scientist perfects a pill that puts its user into suspended animation but makes a fatal mistake when he stores the bottle of pills in his medicine cabinet next to his sleeping tablets. Yep, the dolt swallows some pills and wakes up hundreds of years in the future to an aggressive scientific community that wants no part of him or the past. But, good news, it was all a dream! Yeesh! 

"The Man Who Had No Friends!" is a bit better, thanks to atmospheric art by Williamson and Morrow. A pirate ship takes on a new crew member who doesn't cotton to raping and pillaging and lets his captain know of his growing disdain. This was Morrow's first work for Atlas (he'd do a total of 22 stories through 1957), and the first of three he'd collaborate with Williamson on. Williamson, fresh off a stellar stint with EC, would appear 33 times, usually inked by Roy Krenkel or Ralph Mayo. In the sendoff story this issue, "Footprints from Nowhere," the first men to land on the moon find footprints leading to... a wrecked spaceship! Despite the weak graphics from Winiarski, this science fiction tale is not bad at all and has a good shock ending.-Peter


Journey Into Unknown Worlds #44
Cover by Sol Brodsky

"Someone is Waiting!" (a: Bob Forgione) ★1/2
"Where the Dinosaurs Roam" (a: Bob Powell) 
"The Blue Men!" (a: John Forte) ★1/2
"The Wrong World!" (a: Carl Burgos) 
"Enchanted Town!" (a: Joe Orlando) 
"They Come By Night" (a: Paul Reinman) ★1/2

A pair of scientists named Lanner and Dunbar make contact with intelligent life on another planet and build a rocket ship to make the one-way trip from Earth. Lanner kills Dunbar and travels alone, only to discover that the planet is inhabited by robots, leaving him the sole human there, unable to return home.

The sudden murder is a surprise and doesn't make a lot of sense, other than to make Lanner a less sympathetic character. Forgione's art on "Someone is Waiting!" is not bad and has a '60s DC look to it.

Having never read any fiction by Ray Bradbury, Mr. Pruw signs on with Time Safari, Inc., to go back to a time "Where the Dinosaurs Roam" and hunt a T-Rex. He kills the giant beast but objects when his guide spots two other dinos and feels like he's supposed to kill them. When the duo return to the present, they discover that the failure to kill the last two dinosaurs meant that dinosaurs did not become extinct and still roam the planet.

The uncredited writer adds insult to injury by plagiarizing the setup of "A Sense of Wonder" and then tacking a dumb ending onto it. The last panel shows the dinos wandering around amidst futuristic buildings, so humans must have evolved alongside the dinos. It doesn't make much sense.

Morgan is a test pilot who takes a new super jet for a ride and seems to land on the moon, where he encounters "The Blue Men!" After a tussle, he sees that he's on a movie set and returns to base. He goes to every space movie for months but never sees the blue men; he does not realize that he was really on the moon and stumbled into a movie being filmed there by its inhabitants.

Haven't we seen this plot before? John Forte's art can get pretty stiff at times.

Uod and his wife, a Martian couple, land on Earth in disguise and befriend an Earth couple at a charity bridge game. The Martians invite their new friends over to their home for another game and abduct them, but on the way to Mars, the ship's controls get stuck and they head straight for Pluto, where the Earthlings turn out to be Plutonians who thought that they were abducting an Earth couple.

I was intrigued to see a story drawn by Carl Burgos, but text and art are awful. Fortunately, "The Wrong World!" is only three pages long.

Arbor Haven truly is an "Enchanted Town!" Each man who approaches it sees something different. Clive, a composer, sees castles and palaces, while David perceives it as an Arabian Market Place, with danger lurking in every street. Those who are turned off leave, but Clive stays, marries Linda, and lives happily in a castle.

As Peter noted, now that the stories are three or four pages long, the quality of the art is key. Joe Orlando makes this slight tale as enjoyable as it can be, despite the lack of any semblance of plot or suspense.

Harsh words promising conquest are broadcast over the airwaves, but no one knows where they're coming from. A TV receiver is built and the speaker turns out to be Julius Caesar, preaching domination from the distant past. Everyone is calm, thinking the receiver picked up events that happened long ago. That's just what the people of Mars wanted to happen--Earthmen will be lulled into complacency prior to the invasion!

"They Come By Night" is another example of Carl Wessler rehashing old plot points he's used before. Fortunately, Paul Reinman's art bounces back after last month's dreadful "Take a Giant Step."-Jack


Marvel Tales #145
Cover by Sol Brodsky

"Run All the Way" (a: Paul Reinman) 
"Philander's Last Performance" (a: Al Hartley) ★1/2
"No Turning Back" (a: John Forte) 
"This Never-Ending Dream" (a: Dick Ayers) ★1/2
"The Last of Angus Merriwell" (a: Jim Mooney) 
"The Machine That Ruled!" (a: Bob Powell) ★1/2

Greg reads in a 1930 newspaper that Pharaoh Amon Hatok was buried in a pyramid with a fortune in gold and gems. Greg loves Helene Bixby, but her father won't let her wed a man who is not rich, so Greg heads to Egypt to find the hidden wealth. Entering the pyramid, he finds a secret passageway that leads to a surprise: the pharaoh is very much alive and living in a chamber where he has found the secret of eternal life! Greg escapes, ignoring the pharaoh's warning that it will take him 25 years to find his way out of the pyramid. He emerges, thinking it's only been 24 hours, but when he gets home, he discovers that his girlfriend Helene now has a grown daughter and 25 years have passed!

"Run All the Way" may only be four pages long, but it contains enough confusion for a story of at least, oh, five pages. If 25 years have passed, why didn't Greg age? What did he eat and drink while he was stuck in the maze for 25 years? Where did he relieve himself? And most puzzling of all, why does the final panel tell us it's 1953 which, if my math is correct, is not 25 years after 1930, the date given in the first panel? Paul Reinman's art is  shaky again; not as good as in "They Come By Night" but not as bad as in "Take a Giant Step."

The great magician Phil Philander disappoints his public by retiring. They dog his every step until he agrees to give "Philander's Last Performance." Before the eyes of the crowd gathered in a hotel lobby, Phil fades away into nothingness.

Philander's Last Performance may be anti-climactic, but Al Hartley's art is impressive, especially his work on the magician's face. The panel reproduced here may be a photo swipe, but it looks good.

Joe Simpson is a shy, lonely guy who wishes he'd find a shy girl. On Mars, Ogu is a shy, beautiful blonde who has no one to love. One day, Joe volunteers to take a one-way trip to Mars, hoping to find the girl of his dreams. Sadly, Ogu volunteered for a one-way trip to Earth, and the two will keep pining away and never meet.

I was kind of hoping that Joe and Ogu would find each other. Curse you, uncredited writer! My heart is broken again.

Steve Marlin, sailor, has "The Never-Ending Dream" while working on a ship. He keeps seeing men dressed in green togas, welcoming him. When he's swept overboard by a wave, Steve plummets to the ocean floor, where he meets a bearded patriarch who explains that Steve is descended from the people of...wait for it...Atlantis.

Raise your hand if you didn't guess Atlantis right away. Is this your first post-code Atlas comic? All is forgiven. Reading Atlas post-code comics is like "This Never-Ending Dream" in a way, except there are no men in green togas to welcome us at the end.

Angus Merriwell is a lonely man who wishes he had friends. One day, picnicking in the mountains, he meets a group of wee folk who call themselves Hokies and welcome him. After whiling away the afternoon bowling with them, Angus says he must head back to town, and the Hokies offer him a choice: stay with them or take a bag of gold. Angus chooses the gold and, when he gets back to town, he discovers that everyone is suddenly his friend. Realizing they're only after his newfound wealth, Angus flees to the mountains and rejoins the Hokies.

Jim Mooney is a reliable, if unexciting, artist, and "The Last of Angus Merriwell" contains no surprises, except for the last panel, where Angus rejoins the Hokies and is suddenly their size. The story may be set in either the Blue Ridge or Allegheny Mountains in Virginia, where Virginia Tech students are known as Hokies.

Fred plans to fire employees at his factory and replace them with machines, but when he is suddenly catapulted into a future world where a computer is in charge and no one can think for themselves, he has a change of heart.

Bob Powell elevates this issue of Marvel Tales with four pages of above-average art in "The Machine That Ruled," a story that, once again, contains little to surprise. The big computer that runs the future society is referred to as a "giant calculator."

I really like Brodsky's cover and wish some of the exciting scenes pictured were as interesting in the interior stories.-Jack

Next Week...
Will the "New Look"
Save Batman?

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Hitchcock Project-Completely Foolproof by Anthony Terpiloff [10.23]

by Jack Seabrook

In the short story, "Completely Foolproof," which was first published in the March 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Joe Brisson receives a telephone call from the bank and imagines strangling his wife Lisa after he approves a request to allow her to cash a check for $5000. Twenty years ago, Joe led "a goon squad against striking workers," but now he is a rich, respected factory owner, married to a beautiful woman whose grandfather was a junk dealer. She is responsible for their social success and for "some of the more elaborate doublecrosses" in his business career.

That morning, Lisa told Joe that she would not be sailing with him on the Queen Mary the next night; instead, she is flying to Reno for a divorce. She insists on half of the business and threatens to make public a series of letters Joe wrote to his lover, Anna, letters that Lisa's private detective procured for her. Joe grows enraged and throws a cup of coffee at Lisa.

"Completely Foolproof"
was first published here
On his way to the office, Joe stops off to see Anna, who confirms that the letters are gone. Deciding he will have to pay Lisa off, Joe goes to his office and receives a visit from Howard Duncombe, whose plant Joe bought and now plans to close. Duncombe pulls out a gun and threatens Joe, who calmly talks the man out of killing him and instead makes "'a very interesting proposition.'"

That evening, Joe is in his cabin on the Queen Mary, waiting for Duncombe to murder Lisa in exchange for keeping his plant open. Out of curiosity, Joe telephones Lisa and hears her get shot. He hangs up the phone only to find Lisa's private detective in his cabin, aiming a gun at him. Joe now understands why Lisa withdrew $5000 from the bank, as the man quietly shoots and kills him. Joe's body is thrown overboard and he will be listed as "lost at sea." Regarding his late wife, "as he had often thought, they were well matched."

J.D. Cannon as Joe Brisson
Anthony Terpiloff adapted the story for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and it first aired on NBC on Monday, March 29, 1965. While the short story begins with Joe Brisson getting a phone call from the bank, the TV version opens in a dark, rainy parking lot at night, where Joe meets a man named Baines in order to give him a briefcase of cash to resolve a "'zoning difficulty.'" Brisson sees a third man watching them and grabs back his briefcase, telling Baines to "'get lost.'" Brisson confronts the watcher and a fistfight ensures; Brisson forces the man to admit that Lisa hired him, and the man later turns out to be the private detective. This initial scene establishes that Brisson is crooked, tough, and not afraid of physical confrontation.

Patricia Barry as Lisa Brisson
There is a cut from the darkness of the parking lot to the brightness of Brisson's home, where his beautiful wife, Lisa, hands a glass of champagne to her guest, Walter Dunham, and asks where Joe is. Her husband then walks in the front door, and immediately he and Lisa begin to argue. Joe speaks to Dunham, who asks how the payoff of Baines went and is thus shown to be part of Joe's crooked circle; Dunham's companion is a younger woman named Betty Lawrence, whom Joe does not even pretend to be cordial to. Joe and Lisa argue and she mentions Anna and asks for a divorce. In the story, Lisa demands half of the company, but in the TV show she wants three-quarters. She mentions his past as a goon and her social skills, details that are conveyed through narrative in the story and through dialogue in the show.

Geoffrey Horne as Bobby Davenport
During the argument, Joe mentions Bobby Davenport, a young lover of Lisa's who comes from a well-known family. Davenport replaces Howard Duncombe from the short story. Instead of coffee, Joe throws champagne in Lisa's face and the glass smashes against a door as it closes behind her after she leaves the room.

The following scene is new to the show, as Lisa visits Bobby Davenport at home. He is her younger lover, just as Anna plays that role in Joe's life. Having each of the Brissons have a younger lover makes them more equal than they are in the story. Despite his position in society, Bobby owes Joe money and Joe holds a promissory note on Bobby's land.

Myron Healey as George Foyle
The next scene dramatizes Joe's visit to Anna in the story, where she cannot find his letters. She is young and pretty and speaks in the same, breathy voice that Lisa uses, yet Joe tosses an envelope of money at her and tells her that he never wants to see her again. Beauty and subservience are not enough for Joe; he is drawn to Lisa's mind and her calculating ways. Director Alf Kjellin cuts back and forth between these parallel scenes, as both Brissons deal with their troublesome, younger lovers.

Back at home, the Brissons are ready for bed and continue to spar. Joe agrees to Lisa's demands and attempts to seduce her, but she maintains the upper hand, avoiding his attempt at a kiss. The cat and mouse game turns into a business negotiation, as Lisa gets Joe to agree to give her Bobby Davenport's promissory note in exchange for ten percent of the business. In the end, they do kiss, but it seems more like a confirmation of a business deal than a passionate embrace. Lisa predicts her own fate when she tells Joe that "'you don't want me to live.'"

Joyce Meadows as Anna
Another new scene follows as Brisson visits the office of Foyle, the private detective Lisa hired and the man with whom Joe fought in the parking lot in the first scene. Brisson offers to pay Foyle for the letters to Anna, but the detective says that he no longer has them. Brisson then offers to pay Foyle to kill Lisa, but this offer is flatly refused and Foyle pulls a gun on Joe, telling him to leave the office. Joe has lunch with Bobby Davenport and his table manners and speech are contrasted with Bobby's more refined behavior. Bobby visits Lisa and asks her to marry him, but she sees right through his transparent attempt to manipulate her for his own benefit and makes it clear that, from now on, their relationship will be strictly business. After Lisa leaves, Bobby takes a revolver out of a hidden place on a bookshelf and examines it.

Lester Matthews as Walter Dunham
The following scene parallels the one in the short story where Howard Duncombe visits Joe at his office, pulls a gun on him, and is talked into agreeing to murder Lisa. In the TV show, Duncombe is replaced by Bobby Davenport. The final scene plays out much as it does in the short story, with Joe on the cruise ship telephoning Lisa at home. Bobby enters her bedroom, where he shoots and kills her. Joe hangs up and Foyle enters his stateroom, holding a gun; he shoots and kills Joe who, like Lisa, collapses to the floor. The show ends there, omitting the short story's detail of Joe's body being tossed overboard.

Robert Lieb as Baines
The TV adaptation of "Completely Foolproof" improves on its source by giving additional time to the main characters so that their personalities can be more fully developed. Joe and Lisa Brisson are indeed well-matched; she is a strong, ruthless woman who knows how to use her beauty to make men do her bidding. Joe Brisson is never far from his roots as a goon; though he has made a killing in real estate, violence always lurks near the surface. Replacing Howard Duncombe with Bobby Davenport also improves the tale by presenting a contrast between new money and old money and setting up a lover for Lisa to parallel Joe's lover, Anna. The end of the story is the same, but getting to know the characters better and having Bobby Davenport act as Lisa's murderer is more satisfying than having the deed done by a stranger.

Jo de Winter as
Betty Lawrence
Anthony Terpiloff (1929-1978), who wrote the teleplay, was born in New York and died in Wales. He wrote for television from 1963 to 1978 and this is one of his two scripts for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in its final season; the other was "The Monkey's Paw--A Retelling." He also wrote two episodes of The Avengers and five of Space: 1999.

The show is directed by Alf Kjellin (1920-1988), who was born in Sweden and started out in the movies in 1937 as an actor. He began acting on TV in 1952 and continued until 1979. He started directing films in 1955 and worked as a director on American television from 1961 to 1985, concurrent with his work as an actor. As an actor, he appeared in the 1966 film adaptation of Jack Finney's Assault on a Queen and in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. As a director, he was at the helm for one episode of the half-hour Hitchcock series ("Coming Home") and eleven episodes of the hour series.

Janet MacLachlan as
Brisson's secretary
J.D. Cannon (1922-2005) plays Joe Brisson. After serving in the Army in WWII, Cannon was a founding member of the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954 and appeared on screen from 1958 to 1991, mostly on TV. His best-known role was as a regular on McCloud (1970-1977); he also appeared in Cool Hand Luke (1967). "Completely Foolproof" was his only role on the Hitchcock TV show.

Patricia Barry (1920-2013) plays Lisa Brisson. She was born Patricia White and she came to Hollywood in 1946 after winning a Rita Hayworth look-alike contest. She began appearing on screen in 1946 but most of her roles over the next 60 years were on TV, including starring on First Love (1954-1955), co-starring with Jack Klugman on Harris Against the World (1964-1965), and playing another role on a soap opera called Loving (1992-1994). Fans of televised fantasy know her for her two roles on The Twilight Zone and her three roles on Thriller; she also appeared in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Good-Bye, George."

In smaller roles:
  • Geoffrey Horne (1933- ) as Bobby Davenport; he trained at the Actors Studio and appeared on screen from 1955 to 1999. This was his only role on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; he was also seen on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
  • Myron Healey (1923-2005) as George Foyle, the private detective; he has countless credits on film and TV from 1943 to 1994 and appeared in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Incident in a Small Jail."
  • Joyce Meadows as Anna; she was born in 1933 as Joyce Burger and was still performing as of 2022. Meadows started in movies and on TV in 1956 and appeared four times on the Hitchcock series, including "A Night with the Boys." She was kind enough to comment for this blog in 2013.
  • Lester Matthews (1900-1975) as Walter Dunham, who is visiting the Brisson home in the second scene; a British actor, he was on screen from 1931 to 1974 and he appeared in such classic horror films as The Raven and Werewolf of London (both 1935), as well as in Assault on a Queen. This was his only role on the Hitchcock show.
  • Robert Lieb (1914-2002) as Baines, who meets Brisson in the parking lot in the first scene to trade briefcases; on screen from 1946 to 1999, he appeared on The Twilight Zone and in two other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "Hangover."
  • Jo de Winter (1921-2016) as Betty Lawrence, who visits the Brisson home with Walter Dunham; born Juanita Maria-Johana Daussat, she was on screen from 1965 to 2016 and this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show.
  • Janet MacLachlan (1933-2010) as Brisson's secretary; this was her first credit in a screen career that lasted until 2003. She was also seen in "The Monkey's Paw--A Retelling."
Robert Arthur (1909-1969), who wrote the short story, was born in the Philippines, where his father was stationed in the Army. He earned an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Michigan before moving to New York City in the early 1930s and becoming a prolific writer of short stories. He later was an editor at Dell and Fawcett but is best known as the ghost editor of many of the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. He also wrote a beloved series of books about Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators for young adult readers. In 1959, he moved to Hollywood to write for television and edit screenplays. Before that, he won two Edgar Awards as a writer for radio. Many of his stories were adapted for TV; five episodes of the Hitchcock series were based on his stories and he wrote one additional teleplay himself. There is a website devoted to him here. Oddly enough, the onscreen credit for this episode says that the short story was by Andrew Benedict, one of Arthur's pseudonyms, even though Arthur's name is on the story in the magazine.

Telly Savalas as Joe Brisson
"Completely Foolproof" was remade as an episode of the TV series Tales of the Unexpected that aired on June 21, 1981. The half-hour show was produced on videotape and is in color. Robin Chapman adapted Arthur's story this time, and the teleplay follows the short story closely for the most part. The writer or director made the odd choice to set the events in late 1930s New York City, which allows for the use of art deco furniture and sets. Telly Savalas plays Joe Brisson and the only notable change is the addition of a short scene near the end where Anna visits Lisa to beg for her letters in exchange for promising not to see Joe again. The final scenes, where Lisa and Joe are both shot and killed, are longer than in the 1965 version but, overall, the show is dull and underlines the comparative high quality of the earlier adaptation. Watch it online here.

Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the short story!

Sources:

Arthur, Robert. "Completely Foolproof." Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May 1958, pp. 84-93.

"Completely Foolproof." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 3, episode 23, NBC, 29 March 1965.

The FICTIONMAGS Index, www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.

Galactic Central, www.philsp.com/.

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


IBDB, www.ibdb.com.

IMDb, www.imdb.com.

Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "One More Mile to Go" here!

In two weeks: "Six People, No Music," starring John McGiver!

Monday, July 8, 2024

Batman in the 1960s Issue 26: March/April 1964

 

The Caped Crusader in the 1960s
by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino



Moldoff
Detective Comics #325

"The Strange Lives of the Cat-Man"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Despite evidence to the contrary, the Cat-Man is alive and well and prowling the alleys of Gotham. Batman and Robin are flabbergasted. Remember, they witnessed the villain's final visit to the litter box when his boat exploded only a few months before. What could explain his immortality?

After yet another battle with the Dynamic Duo (while stealing a rare "black lion" from millionaire John Talbot's estate), the Cat-Man falls off a high cliff to the rocks below but magically misses the rocks and glides effortlessly into the water. All parties are astonished.

Back at his Cat-Lair, Cat-Man recalls a trip to a curio shop, where he stumbled upon a bolt of cloth created by natives of a "small Pacific island" and listened in awe as the shop owner recited a legend concerning said material: the cloth will protect the wearer. Suddenly, Cat-Man knows he has at least six more lives to use before his luck runs out. Where best to use up such golden fleece than at the local refinery plant, where he intends to make off with the workers' payroll? Why, there must be at least two grand in that haul, right?

As is his wont, the Feline Felon leaves a clue to the Caped Crusaders as to what he'll be up to, and the World's Greatest Detective takes at least sixty seconds to work out the lame tease. The boys trap Cat-Man atop a high tower, but the villain simply jumps onto a batch of electrical lines and hightails it to freedom. One more life gone, five to go.

Back at police headquarters, Batman and Robin bump into Kathy Kane, who is "anxious" for an update. Something in what Bats tells her sparks an idea and she heads back to her cave, where she examines the costume Cat-Man made her when he considered her an ally (issue #318). When she unfurls the cape, it reveals a message that somehow no one (including Cat-Man himself!) ever saw: The cloth that protects the idol shall nine lives on the wearer bestow. Batwoman suddenly understands that, once she dons the cape and cowl, she is also virtually invincible!

Meanwhile, the Dynamic Dopes attempt to apprehend the Cat-Man, only to be knocked unconscious and tied up. Cackling, the Cat-Man lights a ring of oil around the pair and then exits stage left, ostensibly to read their obituaries later in the Gotham Gazette. To the surprise of Batman and Robin, Batwoman arrives and waltzes through the burning ring of fire to rescue them. She then leaves to track her prey, who is about to plunder the India jewels section of the World Trades Fair.

When Batwoman arrives to quash Cat-Man's plans, the menace explains that he'll simply jump from the building and escape, since he has four more lives left. "Not so fast," the sexy heroine warns, "the bolt of cloth used for our costumes allows for nine lives altogether ("Now keep up with me, all you eight-year-olds," she says and winks at the audience) and I used up two more on the way over here in order to exhaust your inventory." Batman and Robin arrive just in time to deliver the knockout punch and haul the Cat-Man's tail to prison. The heroes enjoy a laugh at the caged cat's expense.

"The Strange Lives of the Cat-Man" is a fun read and it has some intricate details that go beyond the usual Batman script. There's the origin of the material made for Cat-Man's uni, which also provides a "satisfactory" explanation for all those near-death escapes. There's the spotlight on Batwoman as main hero, the girl who gets the job done this time without much help from our stars. And, oddly enough, Cat-Man uses no henchmen to help him. 

I love when Catwoman displays the powers of her Cat-costume by walking through a raging fire to aid her allies and then Batman tells her that, as soon as they're safe, he's going to have a talk with her, like he's her dad. She tells him the talk will have to wait, since she's a busy girl. The stuffed elephant in the India room was, without doubt, an inspiration for the classic "chest-burster" scene in the finale of the first two-parter of the '66 show, starring Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Off topic, but there was never a better two-parter in that series. 

This was the last appearance of Cat-Man until the early '90s, when he was rebooted by Alan Grant for Shadow of the Bat #7. At that time, Cat-Man became a member of the super-villain group, the Misfits. I'll miss this clown, as he was much more entertaining than aliens, mobsters, or hokey one-shot villains.-Peter

Jack-I like Cat-Man, too, and noticed with delight that he, like Batman, wears his Cat-Man mask under other masks when he impersonates people. Also, like Batman, his little cat ears don't push the mask out of shape. I'm always happy to see Batwoman; in fact, she's probably my favorite thing about the series right now.


Moldoff
Batman #162

"The Batman Creature!"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"Robin's New Secret Identity!"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Two madmen with fantastic strength rob the Gotham City Bank! Batman and Robin arrive at the scene and notice that the men seem like hybrids of men and animals--in this case, a lion and a gorilla. The man-beasts escape and make their way to a camouflaged locale on the edge of Gotham, where Eric Barroc, "maker of the trained beast-humans," has figured out how to shine a ray on animals and turn them into human form, yet still with their animal urges and strength.

Eric transforms a bull and a jaguar into human form and they rob the dignitaries at an exclusive reception. Batman and Robin again appear, and this time, Batman follows the jaguar man back to the remote box canyon where Barroc has animals in cages, waiting to be transformed. In order to escape capture, Barroc trains his ray on Batman, who transforms into "The Batman Creature!" Gorilla-Batman heads downtown, where Robin (driving the Batmobile by himself!) and Batwoman try to figure out what to do, while Bat-Kong starts climbing the Gotham State Building.

Robin and Batwoman manage to get through to the altered Batman, who climbs down, calms down, and helps them overpower a couple of beast-humans who have robbed Trans-Ocean Lines. Batman, Robin, and Batwoman head back to the box canyon, where they overpower some rampaging beasts, knock out Barroc, and shine the ray on Batman, turning him back into his old self.

King Kong is my favorite movie, so how could I resist a story where Batman turns into a sort of gorilla and climbs a tall building? I'm most impressed with Robin behind the wheel of the Batmobile. Is he old enough to drive?

When he's Robin, everything is rosy, but when Dick Grayson is just Dick, he's not satisfied. Afraid of revealing his secret identity by being too successful at a school basketball game, the Boy Wonder goes home, suits up, and helps Batman try to catch some crooks who are escaping by helium balloon after a robbery. Robin saves the day and, back at Wayne Manor, decides to put on a disguise (basically, a red wig) before heading to the rec center to join a pickup game of B-Ball.

"Danny" excels but falls and sustains a knock to the head that causes amnesia. That evening, there's no sign of Dick at Wayne Manor and, when Batman rescues a woman from a building fire, "Danny" races to help and brings a child out of the inferno to safety. Back at the Batcave, Batman puts two and two together and realizes that "Danny" is Dick. Meanwhile, Dick notices that he's wearing a wig, assumes he was in trouble before losing his memory, and decides to turn himself in at police HQ. On his way, he encounters a robbery just as Batman makes the scene. Batman calls Danny "Robin," his memory returns, and all is well.

It's astonishing that Dick Grayson would seriously think that if he did too well playing basketball at school then someone might suspect him of being Robin, the Boy Wonder, as if only a heroic teen could score more than one basket per game. The other thing I've noticed in these stories is that there are an awful lot of holdups in Gotham City. You'd think that, with the Dynamic Duo constantly on patrol, crooks would relocate, but that doesn't seem to be the case.-Jack

Peter-
Two perfect examples of why, when Julius Schwartz took over editorial duties on the Batman titles in May 1964, a "new look" was essential to save the Batman character from slipping into obscurity. Sure, the character had been around for twenty-five years, but sales were beginning to slip and the scripts were, for the most part, inane and incomprehensible. How can you work up any suspense in a strip where aliens can swoop down and make everything alright? In "Bat Creature," the Dark Knight becomes some kind of dog-thing and climbs to the top of what appears to be the Empire State Building, where he's quickly fired upon by the Air Force. His size varies from panel to panel. He changes from evil to good in the wink of an eye. It probably wouldn't be so bad if we didn't get this kind of plot every other issue. "Robin's New Secret Identity!" is even worse. The whiny kid ain't getting enough attention, so he fabricates a "Danny." If he's pissed about no one fawning over him on the basketball court, how does he handle the non-attention when he's the World's Greatest Detective's Second Banana? But is Batman really the sleuth we think he is if he can't sniff out his little buddy when he's standing right next to him in bad make-up? Oh, and about those 1960s basketball uniforms... Nothing like shooting a jump shot in your Sunday best.


Moldoff
Detective Comics #326

"Captives of the Alien Zoo!"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Flying high over Africa, Batman and Robin become distressed when the Bat-Plane is struck by lightning and they lose control. Crash landing, they find themselves in the midst of a pride of lions. They manage to wrangle the beasts but are surprised when they are caught in a solar energy fencing beam, which encircles them in a helpless position. Emerging from the jungle are Khor and Ramz, two aliens from an outer space/extra-dimensional world, here on Earth to capture animals for their other-worldly circus. Batman dumbfoundingly exclaims "Look Robin! They're aliens! And they look just like the ones we fought a couple months ago!"

The Dynamic Duo are hurried onto a spaceship and carted off to another planet, where they become "Captives of the Alien Zoo!" The duo are trained to perform simple circus tricks but, while observing their fellow prisoners, Batman deduces that a few of the aliens are training the simple-minded creatures to perform acts resembling a Gotham candy store heist. 

"These aliens are thieves, Robin! We have to put a stop to this chicanery!" proclaims the World's Greatest Detective. Batman finally uses the acid he must have forgotten was in his utility belt to dissolve the cage bars and the boys escape into the night.

While trying to figure out where you escape to when you're trapped on another planet, Batman and Robin stumble onto a harrowing sight: one of the locals being chased by a giant bull-like creature. Sensing that interplanetary steer are all alike, Bats uses his cape to blind the rampaging monster and save the rotund alien's life. Out of gratitude, the BEM grants Batman and Robin their freedom. Before the Caped Crusaders board their transportation home, Bats tells his savior all about the heist ring back at the zoo, and the three enjoy a good laugh. Our heroes head back to Africa to clean up the wreckage of another Bat-vehicle.

Or do they head straight back to Gotham and leave the twisted metal to rot in the African jungle? That's the story I want to read: how the boys commandeer a scrap-cleaning expedition. It would have to be better than the bottom-of-the-barrel crap we just endured. Quite a celebration for the 300th appearance of the Dark Knight in 'tec (no notice of such anywhere to be found). Dave Wood's script and Shelly's pencils are both excesses of laziness. So much is never explained: why don't the boys require oxygen on this far-off planet? They simply step off the ship and breathe the clean, deep-space air. Why does Bats persevere through days and nights of malnutrition and exposure to the elements before deciding to use his Bat-Acid? What's the plan when they escape? 

I'm not privy to the DC correspondence from 1964, but I have to believe the company was receiving LOCs from fans who were tired of the same old alien plot and crappy doodles. That's why the shake-up occurred. Can John Broome and Gardner Fox resurrect that sense of mystery and darkness the character once oozed? Can Carmine Infantino change the look of a strip that had become content with aliens who were nothing more than circles with beaks? Time will tell if Julie can turn the ship around just before it hits the iceberg or if we're swapping one form of Bat-Guano for another. It was the 1960s, after all.-Peter

Jack-The alien zoo story was pretty weak, but even this is better than most of what we're reading in the Atlas comics of 1956. DC comics always had a bottom line level of quality, even when they were at their most infantile. I'm looking forward to the New Look Batman, even though I see that Moldoff continues as one of the artists, at least at the start.




Next Week...
At Long Last...
The Coming of Ditko!

Monday, July 1, 2024

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 115: Atlas/ Marvel Horror & Science Fiction Comics!

 


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 100
March 1956 Part II
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook



Mystery Tales #39
Cover by Bill Everett

"The House That Lived" (a: Bernie Krigstein) 
"The Unseen Ones!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) ★1/2
"They Walk Among Us!" (a: Tony DiPreta) 
"Man Alive!" (a: Bob Brown) 
"Once Upon a Time" (a: Vince Colletta) 
"The Luck of Harry Hathaway" (a: John Tartaglione) ★1/2

Jonathan and Elvira have owned their huge house since the kids were little but now, with the children grown up and moved out, the home has become too much to keep up with and they're forced to sell it. A real estate speculator buys the property with an eye to converting it into a hotel, but the house seems to fight off any such plan. In the end, the businessman sells the home to a young couple who promise to treat the building with the utmost care and love.

"The House That Lived" is a charming fantasy with style and a message that is easy to swallow. Nothing maudlin here. I have no inside knowledge to support my thought that when an Atlas bullpen writer found out Bernie Krigstein was illustrating his script, the creative juices began to flow, but there is evidence that Bernie worked magic with even the scarcest of a concept. Carl Wessler, author of "The House That Lived," surely must have had some clue he'd be paired with Krigstein, as those dozens of little Eisner-esque panels must have taken some mapping out. "The House That Lived" might just be the best post-code Atlas I've yet read.

A Navy ship sights an unmanned sailboat near a small island and attempts to tow it in to safety. Once in port, they discover the island is completely deserted as well. What's the story? Well, "The Unseen Ones!" certainly builds up an atmosphere of genuine suspense, but the payoff is cliched and, as with a lot of these post-code strips, delivered with no explanation whatsoever. In "They Walk Among Us," Jerry Fulton suddenly develops telepathic powers and uses them to get closer to his dream girl, only to discover aliens are out to get him. Read my mind.

Peter Pawling is a sickly, weak little man with a glamorous, gorgeous girlfriend, but his constant whining and need to run to a pharmacy have babe-a-licious Kay heading for the exit. Desperate to get his woman back, Peter buys a heating cabinet to strengthen his body and discovers it's a portal to the prehistoric past. Not all of it is bad news, however; Peter is forced to endure healthy food and a strict exercise regimen thanks to his tribe leader, Og, and becomes a strongman. Hopping back into his time travel machine, Pawling rejoins 1950s culture, shows Kay he is a he-man now, and lives happily ever after. "Man Alive," this is a dumb story! 

"Once Upon a Time" there lived a fair maiden named Princess Melissa, whose father, the king, insists she marry into wealth and power. But Melissa would rather be alone with her fairy tale books. Then an evil knight attempts a coup, demanding that Melissa be handed over or the kingdom will fall, and the brave Sir Percival steps forward and conquers the black knight. He wins the hand of Melissa and the princess finally gives up her fantasy tomes. This nicely-Illustrated three-pager is capped off with a completely unnecessary final line that informs us that Melissa's kingdom is actually on another planet. 

If Harry Hathaway didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. Harry runs across a horseshoe in the middle of the street and believes it should bring him good luck, but nothing seems to be going the schlub's way. Unbeknownst to our dopey protagonist, he's actually weaving his way through an obstacle course of life-ending events, narrowly missing death time after time. With a shrug, Harry tosses the horseshoe in the street and another schlub comes along to pick it up. "The Luck of Harry Hathaway" is not groundbreaking, but it is entertaining in an It's a Wonderful Life kinda way.-Peter


Mystic #45
Cover by Carl Burgos

"When the Ocean Vanished" (a: John Forte) ★1/2
"A Trip to the Moon" (a: Manny Stallman) ★1/2
"The Darkness Outside!" (a: Dick Ayers) 
"Suggestion Box!" (a: Ed Moore) ★1/2
"The Angry Pharaoh!" (a: Bill Benulis) 

Scorned by his colleagues, Professor Alex Torgoff invents a gravity-pulling accelerator that sucks up "the entire ocean" and sends it to the moon. No one seems to see this, but the evidence is right there on display the next morning. Torgoff snickers and vows to become "head of the academy" (which academy is not specified) and "ruler of the world," or else every last drop of water on Earth will make the same outer space trip.

While calibrating his accelerator, Torgoff gets a little thirsty and heads out to his pond (he lives in the desert), only to discover he inadvertently sent his little pond packing, necessitating a drive into town. His car breaks down and he’s forced to walk the rest of the way. Torgoff suffers heat stroke and spends the rest of his days in a wheelchair, brain dead. The world never finds out where the oceans went but, after time, little rivers and dales fill them back up. The end. 
"When the Ocean Vanished" is more safe, post-code nonsense (evidently, the CCA required that all dried up bodies of water be replaced by tale’s-end) that might bring one or two smiles to a reader’s face while not requiring one iota of brain stress. I’m not sure evil "genius" Torgoff really thought his whole plan through. I love the splash where the four gigantic fish of the ocean are pictured next to the stranded vessels.

In the nonsensical "A Trip to the Moon," poor unattractive schlub Charlie Milton only wants the chicks to dig him so he does what any homely guy would do... step into a planetarium for a seminar on the moon. But Charlie gets more than he bargained for when his "subconscious being in parallel harmony with certain cosmic attractions of the universe" transport him... bang, right to the moon. There, Charlie discovers good-looking women are a dime a dozen and there is plenty of ocean water to go sailing. Pulp hack Carl Wessler once again outdoes himself with his goofy finale expository, but I'm still a little befuddled by Charlie's trip.

Eric follows Fran and Bob onto a speeding train in hopes of reclaiming her love. Henry boards with his dominating wife, Lillian, only hoping she'll not give him a right upper cross at some point in the journey. Boss Franco, one of the world's best-dressed mobsters, runs from indictments and spineless weasels everywhere. These "lost souls" gather on a train ride to destiny, one that will change their lives and help launch dozens of sub-plots on One Life to Live

Ladies and germs, I present you "The Darkness Outside!" Pause and enjoy that whiff of pure inanity and mediocrity. The story is, admittedly, five pages of fluff and 1950s stereotypes (my biggest guffaw was when Lillian tells her mousy husband to "straighten up and don't order anything fried!"), but it's a side-splitter as well. The Ayers art is almost as stiff as the dialogue and the script's climax, with all the "happy ending" pieces of the puzzle fitting just right, is a hoot. 

The "Suggestion Box!" at Carlson's Modern Metals Company is being stuffed with incredible formulas and ideas for world-changing devices, but Carlson can't track the origin of the memos... until he does and discovers one of his employees is an alien who just wants to help mankind, for some reason. In the final head-scratcher of the issue, Hotenpah begs his father, "The Angry Pharaoh," to allow him to marry the sweet and pure commoner, Sira. Amen-Tok refuses and promises to banish Sira from the kingdom if his son doesn't wise up. The Pharaoh comes to own a magical scarab that allows him to wish for anything he desires. That proves to be his undoing in the befuddling climax. Truly, that final series of panels makes no sense whatsoever. but the unique skills of Bill Benulis at least make the strip worth a look. Just turn down the sound.-Peter


Strange Tales #44
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Man Who Ran Away!" (a: Bob Forgione) 
"One World at a Time!" (a: Joe Orlando) 
"The Mysterious Boarder" (a: Robert Q. Sale) 
"Look Out Below!" (a: Bob Powell) ★1/2
"Safari in the Sky!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"Take a Giant Step" (a: Paul Reinman) 

A poor old man named Dan Pierce is brought to a charity hospital and is found to be near death. His blood type is so rare that there is none in stock. Dr. Kenard to the rescue! He locates some of the blood and the man has an astonishingly quick recovery. He even starts to look younger! After being discharged from the hospital, he notices that he keeps growing younger and stronger, so he resolves to find the person who donated the blood.

His search reveals that it was none other than Dr. Kenard, who explains that he's been alive for thousands of years but has always been unhappy. Pierce is his son and Kenard deserted Pierce when he was a boy, which led to his ending up on skid row. Now that they are reunited, Kenard promises to raise the boy properly and "impart the knowledge of the ages." By the way, at the end of the story, Pierce has reverted to being a toddler.

I like Bob Forgione's art, even without inks by Jack Abel, and there are some interesting aspects to "The Man Who Ran Away," but it suffers from the Atlas curse of brevity (four pages) and confusion. I had to read it twice to begin to understand the ending. I still don't get why Dr. Kenard had to run away every time he failed to age like those around him. Also, in the last scene, Pierce de-ages from an adult to a toddler in the course of the doctor's windy speech, though his de-aging up to that point was much slower.

Fred Cole has lived an uneventful life so, when he reads an ad in the paper looking for someone like him who longs for adventure, he responds. Professor Galton runs a series of tests and decides that Fred is qualified to accompany pretty Alice Towne, a librarian whose life has been equally dull, on a trip into another time sphere. Fred and Alice are transported to a parallel world, where they are told they will be banished to "an outer world of emptiness from which there is no return." The dull duo hotfoot it back to the transporter, return to their own world, and race off to get married, planning to enjoy "One World at a Time!"

Joe Orlando's art veers back and forth between looking like the work of John Forte and looking like something out of a Golden Age comic. It all works reasonably well, though the end, as so often happens, is a bit abrupt.

Felix Donald is "The Mysterious Boarder" at Amy Jones's establishment. By October, he begins to grow ill, and by the end of December he has a long, white beard and is bidding everyone goodbye and promising that a new boarder will arrive soon. Surprise! Felix was "1955" and Baby New Year "1956" marches in the front door. Yawn. How many times will they drag out this old chestnut? Sales's art is from hunger.

Professor Thornton leads his students down into a cave and through a tunnel that leads to an underground city whose inhabitants are green and scaly. The green folk lock the prof and his class in a cage, calling them spies, but the humans escape and return to the world above. When the dean hears about Thornton's lectures concerning the green men in the cave, he marches into the class, only to find it peopled by green exchange students!

Leave it to Carl Wessler to write a story that takes ridiculous twists and turns in the course of only four pages and ends with something both unexpected and disappointing. I usually like Bob Powell's art, but this time out it seems rushed, as if the inks were done in a hurry.

A movie crew heads into the jungle with trigger-happy guide Luther Rousch. They encounter wild animals that fly at nighttime and the crew film them using infra-red light. Back in Hollywood, when they develop the film, the crew witness aliens that were invisible to the naked eye. The aliens were lifting the animals up into the sky so it looked like they were flying. It turns out they took the animals to a zoo on Pluto and trigger-happy Luther was abducted as well. Really awful stuff! "Safari in the Sky!" may be only four pages long, but it's so badly written that I had to read it twice to get what happened. The art is terrible.

Were Atlas artists so poorly paid at this point that they were just submitting slapdash junk and it was getting published? That's what I make of "Take a Giant Step," in which Paul Reinman's panels look like they were drawn by a not very talented 10-year-old. Bobby has a secret friend in the attic but his parents don't believe it, so his dad makes a man out of him by giving him a pony and the secret friend goes away. The story is bad enough, but the art must be seen to be believed.-Jack


Uncanny Tales #41
Cover by Bill Everett

"The Pyramid's Secret!" (a: Dick Ayers) ★1/2
"Beyond the Four Doors" (a: Syd Shores) 
"Shadows From the Past!" (a: Joe Sinnott) 
"Unlucky Thirteen" (a: Sol Brodsky) ★1/2
"The Richest Man on Earth!" (a: Bill Benulis) ★1/2
"The First Man!" (a: John Forte) 

Archaeologists Don and Hal enter the Egyptian tomb of Ahmen-Hak and, inside the royal coffin, they find a book written by them and dated next year. They decide that the pyramid must be a time machine and they struggle to remove the stone suddenly covering the entrance. On exiting the tomb, they see that they are in Ancient Egypt and decide to learn all they can before returning to 1956.

Another confusing story with sub-par art, "The Pyramid's Secret!" makes little sense, so I suspect it was written by the Baron of Bewilderment, Carl Wessler. Not much makes sense here and the ending isn't interesting or surprising.

Amos Jordan is serving life in prison, bitter and unaware of his crime. The warden allows him to make amends for four dishonest acts and, voila!, he's no longer in prison. It turns out that the prison was his conscience and the warden was himself. The bar has been set so low for Atlas comic stories at this point that I'm giving "Beyond the Four Doors" a two-star rating, one for the reasonably competent art by Syd Shores and the other for the reasonably clear narrative by Senor Wessler. It may not be surprising, but at least I could follow it.

A reporter named Kirk Dunster invents a spray that allows him to see and photograph events from the past. When a farmer claims to have seen men from Mars, Kirk sprays his formula and sees a Martian! He races to the phone to call in his story, but the Martians zap his spray and his sprayer, so he has no proof.

At least Joe Sinnott does a decent job on these four pages. The best thing about "Shadows from the Past!" is the panel depicting the Martian.

Louie Masters is an auto racer and a gambler who avoids "Unlucky Thirteen" and loves the number seven. On his way to a big auto race, he is forced to take a cab and a plane that are associated with number thirteen. He arrives at the track, wins a race, and decides that thirteen is his new lucky number. Days later, he bets on a horse and thinks he loses. He rips up his ticket, swearing he'll never bet on thirteen again and failing to hear that seven was disqualified and thirteen was the winner.

Well, that wasn't much of a surprise ending, was it? The art by Sol Brodsky is nothing special.

Joe Bender is so generous to charities that he barely has enough money to take care of himself and his wife. He buys her an antique sugar bowl with a crack in it and suddenly finds that the bowl yields wads of cash, enough to pay off his debts and spread the wealth around. Joe truly is "The Richest Man on Earth!"

I was skeptical when Peter kept praising Bill Benulis's art, but I like what he does with this story and some of his panels remind me of Alex Toth. There are unnecessary twists and turns on page four, one involving Bill getting arrested for suspected counterfeiting and the other occurring when his wife disposes of the bowl, but all ends well.

"The First Man!" to arrive from Venus looks like any other businessman, circa 1956, but his passport raises eyebrows at the airport. He quickly becomes famous and appears on TV, where he claims the whole thing was a publicity stunt for a new movie. He's picked up by a plane and realizes he's the only passenger; it turns into a spaceship and he's rocketed to Venus, where a Venusian publicist asks him to promote a movie about the first man from Earth.

John Forte is reliable and this story made me smile, as silly and inconsequential as it is.

One interesting note about this issue is that the cover, which features three panels that are supposed to represent highlights from stories inside, is completely new--the scenes don't really correspond to anything in the stories. Bill Everett's art is more evocative than anything on the inside.-Jack



Next Week...
Bat-Creature!