Thursday, September 16, 2010

Horror Comics Curved My Spine! Part Three

Meanwhile, over at the regular-sized Marvel monster line, there was more going on than just vintage reprints (Where Monsters Dwell, Where Creatures Roam, etc.) and hip new heroes (Ghost Rider, Tomb of Dracula). Indeed, some of Marvel’s finest writers were plumbing the depths of classic horror from the shudder pulps of the 1930s and 1940s.

Ron Goulart’s adaptation of Robert Bloch’s best known short story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” (Journey Into Mystery #2, December 1972) not only scared the crap out of an already jaded eleven year-old horror movie fan, but also made me the obsessive Bloch completist I am today.

When a series of slasher murders terrorizes New York, a young psychiatrist named John Carmody and a grizzled Scotland Yard detective, Sir Guy Carmody, are called in to investigate and add insight to the case. Sir Guy is convinced that the slashings are the work of Jack the Ripper and works to change the mind of the scoffing Carmody. The psychiatrist has a point though since, if it is indeed Jack the Ripper, the murderer would have to be nearly a century old. Sir Guy patiently explains that he’s deduced that Jack is a satanist and has kept himself not only well but relatively unaged by his sacrifices. Carmody agrees to take Sir Guy on a tour through Greenwich Village, where the ScotlandYard detective meets a young hophead he thinks is the Ripper. The two cops chase the suspect but lose him in a dark alley. Carmody tries to convince Sir Guy that the boy is not their killer but the old man is undauted until finally Carmody shows his true colors in a final panel that still runs the chills down my spine.

A perfect melding of great source material (an oft-anthologized classic from the famous Weird Tales pulp), a great adaptation by a writer familiar with the genre (Goulart was a contributor to Alfred Hitchcock's and Ellery Queen magazines before and after the JIM appearance) and a fine pair of artists in Gil Kane and Ralph Reese (I’m sure I’m not the first to see the striking similiarity in Reese’s work and that of Wally Wood). Other great Marvel adaptations in the 1970s include Theodore Sturgeon’s “It,” and, of course, Roy Thomas’ long-running Conan the Barbarian, based on Bloch’s Weird Tales stablemate Robert E. Howard.

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