Monday, December 29, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 43: December 1962/Best of 1962

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Russ Heath
All American Men at War 94

"Be Brave--Be Silent!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"The Flying Has-Beens!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: Johny Cloud attempts to integrate a new fighter pilot, one whom the other men have branded "pariah." Lt. Andy Blue relates to Cloud how on one deadly mission he couldn't "Be Brave - Be Silent" and it led to the doom of his comrades. Johnny tells Blue that his own father would tell him that most soldiers can Be Brave or Be Silent but it's a true warrior who can Be Brave and Be Silent all at the same time. Blue moans that he's not sure he can Be Brave and Be Silent but that he understands the unwillingness of the other pilots to accept him. Then, during a particularly grueling mission where the men are attacked by a squadron of dirty Nazi scum, Andy Blue becomes a true warrior; he learns to Be Brave and Be Silent all at the same time. Pride wells up in Johnny Cloud that this now-dead-as-a-doornail pilot could Be Brave and Be Silent and save the lives of the fellow pilots who shirked him and made his life a living hell. I learned to Be Brave and continue turning the pages of this unoriginal and uninvolving drama but I can't Be Silent when I say I will have forgotten just what it was all about in a matter of hours. I'm pretty sure if a pilot ejected above the clouds without oxygen (as Johnny does in this story) he'd Be Brave and Silent very quickly. Irv Novick delivers a nice bit of illustrating (in an all-Novick showcase issue) but the real wallop is delivered on the cover, one of the greatest we've yet seen. In one single image, Russ Heath delivers all the excitement and action that was missing from the story itself.

"Be Bold... No, Wait It's Be Strong... No, That's Not It..."
Jack: Are you kidding? This was one of the best DC war stories I've read yet! I was so surprised to find such a good read in a Johnny Cloud story! The narrative moves along smoothly, incorporating flashbacks to deepen the meaning of the WWII tale. Even the flashbacks to the reservation work. I like Irv Novick's art and this is Novick at his best. It's mind-boggling that Kanigher could write stories like this and, at the same time, churn out The War That Time Forgot and Gunner, Sarge and Pooch. Extra credit goes to Bob K. for not copping out at the end--having the fighter pilot die seemed just right.

Peter: "The Flying Has-Beens," three mothballed planes in an air museum, discuss what it was like to fly in their respective eras. Then a fourth weapon is introduced, a rocket designed to destroy cities, and the three sigh and get back to their knitting. One of those silly tales where inanimate objects are given a voice. I didn't much care for "The Flying Has-Beens" but they're preferable to a talking pooch.

"The Has-Beens"

Jack: This is an interesting story for a couple of reasons. I learned a little bit about the developments in battle planes from WWI through the Korean War, and Novick focuses on air battle action rather than people. Also, this may be the first time we've seen a post-Korean War weapon in a DC war comic. Here, we are introduced to the XR-12 rocket and shown how it can be used for deterrence. I know this isn't really a story, per se, but I thought it was neat anyway.

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 125

"Hold--At All Costs!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Wings of Shame!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

"The Bug That Won An Island!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

Jack: When Easy Co. is told to stay put on an open patch of land and "Hold--At All Costs!" Sgt. Rock tells his men a story about another time when they got the same order. It was in North Africa, and Easy managed to hold onto a patch of desert despite heavy casualties. Back in the present, Rock and his men advance on a group of tanks and blow them to bits. He tells the men that they solved the problem in the desert the same way--by moving forward instead of standing still. The last time we saw Russ Heath draw a Sgt. Rock story, it was a disappointment. That's not the case here, as Heath does what he does so well and focuses on battle and action rather than static faces of the men. The story really picks up momentum in the flashback and makes up for a slow start.

"Hold--At All Costs!"

Peter: Sometimes the story-within-a-story gimmick can backfire and lead to lapses in the narrative or just downright confusion for the reader but "Hold--At All Costs!" avoids both trapdoors. The story has almost a seamless time-jump between past and "present" and both pieces perfectly complement each other. I think this is the first Non-Kubert Rock I've really enjoyed (and that includes past Heath/Rock entries) and, in spots, you have to look closely to see it's not Joe.

"Wings of Shame!"
Jack: In WWI, Lt. Parker was the only man in his corps to lose his plane, which was captured by the Germans. Now it's WWII, and his son manages to lose his plane, too, and is captured by the same nefarious Nazi who captured his Pop! Lucky for him, he finds Dad's old plane in the hangar and steals it, managing to destroy a modern Nazi plane with a little Yankee ingenuity. Corny and predictable, yes, but enjoyable, with solid art by Jack Abel.

Peter: I'm not sure what it was that tipped me off but I just had a feeling that, no matter how careful, "dad" was going to lose his plane! Could it have been the several hundred times Hank Chapman included the words "don't lose your plane" in the first three panels? And how about sweet old dad, seeing his son off to WWII, telling him "No matter what happens, do not lose your plane!" Right! Lose your arm, lose your sight, hell, lose your life, but don't... This one begs for there to be a word to describe "beyond coincidence."

All is not quiet on the western front
Jack: Who knew that the rare butterfly Lepidoptera Rhopalocera would be "The Bug That Won an Island!" Certainly not Eddie, a soldier who is part of an invasion force. All he wants is to capture the rare creature. Chasing it around while under fire from enemy guns leads Eddie to destroy a few enemy machine gun nests; at the end, he decides to set the butterfly free in honor of its role in liberating the island. What are the chances that we would read rare butterfly stories two weeks in a row? Eddie is just lucky that this one didn't eat all the flesh off his body!

Peter: The art of Andru and Esposito isn't the only bad thing about this dopey mess but it's up there on the list. The young protagonist looks like he just graduated from Riverdale High School and thinks nothing of jeopardizing the mission and risking the lives of his comrades, all for a butterfly he lets go in the end. This story bugged me.



Best Script: Bob Haney, "Dog Tag Hero"
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "TNT Mailman"
Best All-Around Story: "Dog Tag Hero"

Worst Script: Robert Kanigher, "The Four-Footed Spy" (Our Fighting Forces 72)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Destination Doom" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Four-Footed Spy"


  1 "Dog Tag Hero" (Our Fighting Forces 67)

  2 "TNT Mailman" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
  3 "Killer Sergeant" (Our Army at War 114)  
  4 "Ace in a Cage" (All American Men at War 91)
  5 "New Boy in Easy" (Our Army at War 121)
  6 "Battle Tags for Easy Co.!" (Our Army at War 120)
  7 "Hold -- at All Costs (Our Army at War 125)
  8 "Target - Sgt. Rock" (Our Army at War 124)
  9 "No Place Like the Front" (GI Combat 92)
10 "Stragglers Never Come Back" (Star Spangled War Stories 100)


Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "S.O.S. Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 116)
Best Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Dogtag Hero!" (Our Fighting Forces 67)
Best All-Around Story: "Dogtag Hero!"

Worst ScriptRobert Kanigher, "The Four-Footed Spy!" (Our Fighting Forces 72)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "The Four-Footed Spy!"
Worst All-Around Story: "The Four-Footed Spy!"


1 "Rock's Battle Family!" (Our Army at War 115)
2 "S.O.S. Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 116)
3 "Snafu Squad!" (Our Army at War 117)
4 "Dogtag Hero!" (Our Fighting Forces 67)
5 "The Seesaw Aces!" (Our Army at War 118)
6 "A Bazooka for Babyface!" (Our Army at War 119)
7 "T.N.T. Mailman!" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
8 "The Haunted Tank vs. Killer Tank!" (G.I. Combat 94)
9 "Target--Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 124)
10 "Be Brave--Be Silent!" (All American Men of War 94)

In Our Next Skin-Sizzling Issue
On Sale at Participating Webstands January 5, 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Forty-Four: "Behind the Locked Door" [9.22]

by Jack Seabrook

When a handsome but poor young man falls for a plain but rich young woman, does he really love her or is he just after her money? This is the central question in Henry Slesar's short story, "Behind the Locked Door," first published in the January 1961 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine under the pen name O.H. Leslie.

The story opens as Davey Snowden and Bonnie Daniels visit a large, old house that belongs to her family. "The house was a sphinx, squatting on the hillside," writes Slesar and, like the Sphinx of ancient myth, it holds a secret. Davey believes that, if he solves the riddle, he will be rich, yet solving the riddle of this sphinx will result in his death. Bonnie and Davey drive up to the house and she runs ahead of him and ventures inside, turning on lights to reveal cracked ceilings and white-shrouded furniture. Already, Slesar is hinting at the hidden nature of their relationship, with initial excitement leading to disappointment.

Bonnie states that she lived in this house until she was nine years old--she's 17 now and Davey is 22. They playfully explore the house until Davey finds a locked door on the fourth floor. Bonnie tells him that it has always been locked and she does not want him to open it. In a sense, the locked door represents Davey's heart and Bonnie is afraid of discovering the true nature of his feelings for her. Davey's mind immediately goes to thoughts of wealth and he wonders if there is something of value behind the door; he knows that Bonnie will inherit the house when she turns 21. Bonnie convinces him to leave it alone and he builds a fire downstairs as she dozes off.

Suddenly, a car drives up and Bonnie's mother marches in "like some matriarchal figure of vengeance." She demands that Bonnie come home with her but Davey tells her that they were married that afternoon in Elkton, where a 17-year-old girl may legally wed (a couple of hours' drive from New York City, Elkton, MD, was once known as the quickie wedding capital of the East Coast). Davey insists that he loves Bonnie but Mrs. Daniels bluntly tells him that she is a plain girl and that a handsome boy like him only wants her money. Bonnie threatens to kill herself and her mother leaves as "the last clutch of flames flared up and died on the blackened log." Is this a metaphor for the end of romance between Davey and Bonnie? Possibly, since the next day the young couple goes to Davey's small apartment in the city to begin their married life together.

James MacArthur as Davey Snowden
Davey consults a lawyer and tells Bonnie that her mother can probably have their marriage annulled. He suggests that she follow through on her earlier threat to kill herself in order to prove to her mother that their love is true. She goes along with the idea and writes what is meant to be a fake suicide note, which he mails to her mother. She then takes a small number of sleeping pills with the idea that her mother will find her and prevent her death. Instead, when Mrs. Daniels arrives, she finds Bonnie lying dead in her bed, much to Davey's surprise. Mrs. Daniels reveals that Bonnie had rheumatic fever at age 14 and that the illness left her with a weak heart, so "it wouldn't take much" to kill her.

Lynn Loring as Bonnie Daniels
A month  after the funeral, Davey is summoned to the office of Mrs. Daniels's attorney. She gives Davey the old house, making "one small donation" in her daughter's memory. Davey drives out to the house and climbs to the fourth floor, anxious to see at last what is behind the locked door. He unlocks it, steps through, and utters "a hoarse, despairing scream" as he fall to his "sudden and violent death" through the rotten floorboards of an overhang, four stories above the driveway. Later, Mrs. Daniels tells her attorney that she knew Davey would rush in and fall to his death: "It was an old, gloomy, drafty house, Walter," she says. "But you know, sometimes I think it really wasn't so bad."

Gloria Swanson as Mrs. Daniels
"Behind the Locked Door" is an effective story with a surprising ending. As he so often does in his fiction, Slesar explores the nature of family relations and love. Here, the locked door is both physical object and metaphor for Davey's true feelings--when he finally opens it and exposes them, there is rot at the base and nothingness beneath. Yet Davey's greed is rather subtly presented in this story and he never comes right out and says that he only loved Bonnie for her money. This subtlety is removed at the shocking conclusion of the TV adaptation of this tale, also called "Behind the Locked Door," which aired on CBS on Friday, March 27, 1964, during the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The teleplay is credited to Henry Slesar and Joel Murcott (1915-1978). Murcott was a writer for radio and television from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s; he wrote twelve episodes of the Hitchcock series and this was the last one to air. There is no way to tell who contributed what to the teleplay at this late date, but if Murcott was responsible for the major change in the story's ending, he should be applauded.

Trying to pick the lock
From the opening credits, "Behind the Locked Door" is a special episode, initially due to the original score by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975), who scored 7 films for Hitchcock from 1955 to 1964 and who wrote original scores for 17 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour's last two seasons. (The score for "Behind the Locked Door" is contained on one of Varese Sarabande's collections of Herrmann's scores for this series and is available on CD here; more information about Herrmann may be found here). Herrmann uses a five-note theme to create a mood of suspense as the show begins with the exploration of the old house by Davey and Bonnie. Unlike the story, where they enter with ease and turn on the electric lights, the TV show heightens the aura of mystery and danger by having Davey break a window to get into the house and by having the electricity turned off, forcing the young couple to light candles for their exploration.

The first appearance of Mrs. Daniels
Davey's underlying coldness is foreshadowed by his willingness to leave Bonnie standing alone in the dark in order to break into the house. As they enter, we see an unknown man watching them from a car across the street; he drives away, and we later learn that he called Mrs. Daniels and told her about their visit to the house. In the show, Davey believes Bonnie is 19 years old and she tells him that she was six years old when her father died and they moved out of the house. These changes in age from the story make it more believable, first because Bonnie had rheumatic fever as a young child rather than as a teenager and would thus be more likely to be unaware of her medical condition, and second, because she lied about her age in order to get married without her mother's consent.

Unable to revive Bonnie
The producer of "Behind the Locked Door" follows a trend in other Hitchcock TV episodes of casting an attractive actress to play a female character who is described as "plain." Lynn Loring (1944- ), who plays Bonnie, is quite pretty, hardly the plain girl that her mother claims her to be. James MacArthur (1937-2010) plays Davey as somewhat suspicious from the start. Instead of walking in on the couple in front of the fire, as she does in the story, Mrs. Daniels surprises Davey as he tries to pick the lock on the upstairs door. Gloria Swanson (1899-1983) gives a superb performance as Mrs. Daniels, and director Douglas was surely thinking of her classic role in Sunset Boulevard (1950) when he dressed her in a black veil and lit her to look menacing.

Mrs. Daniels tells Davey that his new bride is 17, not 19 as she claimed, and concludes her scene with the young couple by stylishly blowing out the three candles on the candelabra that they used to light their way. Like the dying fire of the story, the extinguishing of the candles shows how Bonnie's mother puts an end to her daughter's romance.

Davey's real nature is revealed
The teleplay adds a scene where Davey visits the office of Mrs. Daniels's lawyer. The lawyer and Mrs. Daniels offer Davey a scholarship to finish college and then a good job afterwards in exchange for leaving Bonnie alone; he refuses the offer but grudgingly signs a paper agreeing to annul the marriage. The next few scenes expand the story and this is the only part of the show that drags a bit. Bonnie turns 18 and rejoins Davey in his apartment, refusing to leave when her mother arrives and demands it. Davey buys a used car and wants to drive out to the old house, but Bonnie resists--he remains curious about what is behind the locked door. Davey is broke and tells Bonnie to go back to her mother, but she professes her love for him, even without money. They meet in a restaurant and he tells her that her mother has blocked him from finding a job; here he comes up with the plan for her to fake suicide.

Watching from the shadows
Lynn Loring gives an excellent performance as Bonnie, a young woman who is very much in love and blind to signs of danger. The scene where she takes the sleeping pills is brutal and is highlighted by Herrmann's suspenseful music, featuring harp strings plucked like a ticking clock as she drifts off to sleep. James MacArthur is suitably cold here as Davey, staging the room with small touches to make it look like a real suicide attempt. Mrs. Daniels arrives and Gloria Swanson is convincing as a distraught mother who looks like she threw on a robe and rushed over to find her daughter lifeless. This is where the small change in the story makes more sense than Slesar's original--we can believe that Bonnie was unaware of the danger of taking sleeping pills because she had rheumatic fever as a young child and did not remember. Davey asks her mother, "Did she know that?" and does not receive an answer. Davey begins to cry as he holds his dead wife, and we wonder if his love for her was sincere. James MacArthur credibly portrays a man in conflict who appears to love his wife but who also wants her money.

Through the door at last!
The show's final scene is memorable. Herrmann's score builds suspense as Davey heads upstairs in the dark, his way lit with shadows from the candelabra he holds. For the first time, his personality manifests itself in a way that was not present in the short story. In an earlier scene, Davey had picked up a small, framed photo of Bonnie as a little girl and kissed it tenderly. Now, he picks up the same photo and addresses it: "Mother was right, baby; you were as plain as dishwater. But you finally paid off. And now Davey's gonna get a look at the jackpot." He kisses the picture derisively, tosses it away, and marches out of the room and down the hall, singing! Unlike the story, where he is alone in the house, here he is being watched by Mrs. Daniels, who stands in a darkened doorway, dressed all in black, mourning her dead daughter.

At the bottom of the elevator shaft
Davey opens the door, steps through, and screams. In the story, that is the end of the scene, and what happens to him is revealed to the reader in the lines that follow during a discussion between Mrs. Daniels and her lawyer. In the TV show, the drama is heightened by having Mrs. Daniels right there on the spot. She walks to the doorway and stands there like the Angel of Death. She looks down at Davey and lifts her black veil. He lies at the bottom of an unfinished elevator shaft, his back broken, calling for help, but she explains that the elevator was never installed. Her husband was having it built for his sick daughter and, when he died, Mrs. Daniels locked the door, moved away, and never looked back. In a horrific climax, she lowers the black veil over her face and slowly backs away from the doorway as Davey screams. She tosses down the keys to him, closes the door, and the screen fades to black.

What a tremendous ending, and what a brilliant alteration to the story! The final scene brings everything together: the great score by Herrmann, the shadowy set, and Gloria Swanson's powerful acting. Her lifting and lowering of her black veil and her slowly backing away from the doorway demonstrate the skills she used in silent film. "Behind the Locked Door" is a very good story that was turned into an unforgettable hour of television. True, it drags in the middle section, but once you have seen the ending you will not soon get it out of your mind.
Bonnie assures Davey she is happy

Gloria Swanson, playing Mrs. Daniels, was a great star of silent cinema who made a brilliant comeback in Billy Wilder's classic Sunset Boulevard. She made her film debut in 1914 and her TV debut in 1948. She did not make many appearances after Wilder's film but when she did act onscreen she was impossible to ignore. This was her only time on the Hitchcock series.

As Davey, James MacArthur plays a very different role than the one viewers most remember him for today--that of Danno on Hawaii Five-O (1969-1979). MacArthur's father was playwright and screenwriter Charles MacArthur; his mother by adoption was the great stage actress Helen Hayes. He grew up surrounded by literary and theatrical greats and surely met Gloria Swanson before acting with her in this episode. His TV and movie career began in the mid-1950s and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show. Learn more about James MacArthur here.

Anything but plain, Lynn Loring gives a very emotional performance as Bonnie. She started out as a child actress in 1951 and worked into the mid-1970s before becoming a producer. She was president of MGM/UA Television from 1984 to 1989 and today runs her own production company in Los Angeles. She appeared in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Whit Bissell as Adam Driscoll
Whit Bissell (1909-1996) was a busy character actor in movies and on TV, who appeared in such films as Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). He was in one other episode of the Hitchcock series: Slesar's "Burglar Proof."

Finally, Robert Douglas (1909-1999) directed this episode. He began his movie career as an actor in 1931 and appeared twice as an actor in Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He began directing episodic television in 1960 and directed four episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Sign of Satan."

"Behind the Locked Door" is not currently available on DVD or online.

"Behind the Locked Door." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 27 Mar. 1964. Television.
"Elkton, Maryland: The Quickie Wedding Capital of the East Coast." Boundary Stones: WETA's Washington DC History Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
"The FictionMags Index." N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Galactic Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Slesar, Henry. "Behind the Locked Door." 1961. Death on Television: The Best of Henry Slesar's Alfred Hitchcock Stories. Ed. Francis M. Nevins and Martin H. Greenberg. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989. 220-34. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

*MeTV is showing The Alfred Hitchcock Hour every Saturday night/Sunday morning at 3 a.m. Eastern Time.

*Antenna TV is showing back to back episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents every night from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. Eastern time.

*In two weeks: "Who Needs an Enemy?" with Steven Hill and Joanna Moore!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas from Bare Bones!

Merry Christmas from Jack, Peter, and Jose! We've taken this week off from perusing old horror and war comics but we'll be back with more next Monday. Jack will be back on Christmas Day with the latest installment of The Hitchcock Project.

And coming January 15th, the first in a series of in-depth looks at the best of pre-code horror, publisher by publisher. First up: Chamber of Chills by Harvey!

We've got lots of great surprises in store for you in 2015! Stay Tuned!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Evermore: The Persistence of Poe

E D G A R   E V E R M O R E :
A Quaint & Curious Collection
of Poe Paraphernalia

“It is not altogether a breach of confidence to admit that his interest in Poe did reach the point of an obsession, and perhaps eventually of an absolute mania.”  
—“The Man Who Collected Poe” by ROBERT BLOCH

In 1951, Psycho author Robert Bloch authored the short story “The Man Who Collected Poe,” which appeared in Famous Fantastic Mysteries (vol. 12, no. 6).  The autumn exhibition at New York’s Grolier Club, “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe; The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane,” might easily be called “The Woman Who Collected Poe.”  

Enter, stage right – a manuscript of certificate, First General Meeting of Edgar Allan Poe Club in Philadelphia, 1930, with signatures including Poe collector Richard Gimbel …

The Grolier Club (47 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10065) is a private Manhattan gentleman’s fellowship, open to the public, with a mandate to promote the book arts, and the treasury on recent display came courtesy of Susan Jaffe Tane, a Poeist collector for a quarter of a century who lives for the “thrill of the hunt and pride of ownership” of original manuscripts, letters, popular merchandise, and anything else pertaining to America’s Master of Mystery and the Macabre.

The only complete manuscript of “Epimanes” …

First editions of Poe’s major works …

Two daguerreotypes of Poe …

A fragment of his coffin …

One of only two privately-held copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems

“…Once a truly unique collection has been assembled,” Ms. Tane explains, “there comes an opportunity for an even greater kind of thrill: that of sharing one’s collection with the world.”  And for free – there is no admission to any Grolier Club exhibit, including “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe” which ran from September 17th to November 22nd.  Ms. Tane, brimming with philanthropic enthusiasm for her obsession, has been known to personally conduct guided tours from time to time, one at the club for a senior citizen group.  Another event was a Library of America-sponsored screening of The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price, on Oct. 22nd, all in time for Halloween.  (The prestigious Library of America publishes a two-volume Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe which includes Poetry and Tales and Essays and Reviews.)  Inaugurating the collection’s premiere was an October lecture delivered by Poe scholar Richard Kopley, Professor of English at Penn State, editor of Poe’s Pym: Critical Explorations, and author of Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries.  

On prominent public view was the only known manuscript copy of “The Conqueror Worm,” never before shown and thought lost until last year’s rediscovery, and that was not the only first.  Also newly discovered a year ago, and making its debut appearance, was a previously unknown Poe cut-paper silhouette, the work of artist William James Hubard, and an autograph letter from Poe submitting “The Tell-Tale Heart” to author and editor of Boston’s The Pioneer, James Russell Lowell.  An engraved engagement ring given by Poe to childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster, unknown to scholars until 2012, could be viewed in a curio table (“Case 11: Women in Poe’s Life”) along with letters and artifacts pertaining to the many loves of Poe, several of whom were convinced they were his “Annabel Lee.”  One relic displayed was a locket of hair of Poe’s mingled with that of his wife Virginia’s.

How to explain Poe’s enduring popularity and legacy across the varied media is best summed up in Tane’s own words: “No other author of the 19th century is so fascinating or complex, and the materials in this room show why Poe has persisted so strongly over two hundred years after his birth.”  

Poe persists.  And not only in Providence where he was a frequent visitor, or Richmond which, as the city of his childhood, claims him as its own, or Boston, his birth city, or Baltimore, his death city, but here in New York, where he spent more than a decade of the happiest and saddest years of his life with his wife and lifelong love Virginia Clemm.  (All this, despite the fact that, as pointed out in this exhibit, “a physical altercation with Thomas Dunn English, editor of the Aristedean, ended with Poe’s virtual expulsion from the New York literary scene.”)  

New York City can call itself home to at least two Poe attractions.  In the Bronx there is the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, recently renovated and expanded.  Its location – 2640 Grand Concourse – is in the northward part of what is known as Poe Park. (Every Christmas, a tree bark-roofed model of Poe Cottage, constructed of tendrily twigs, leaves, and other plant material, can be viewed at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show on 2900 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx.)  Further south, in Manhattan, is the Edgar Allan Poe Room at New York University (245 Sullivan St., near to Poe’s original 85 West Third Street residence) which hosts Poe events and “houses artifacts of the time period of Poe and a comprehensive, illustrated timeline of his life.”  There are, of course, the many walking tours, particularly in the Greenwich Village area.  And, briefly, there was the Grolier Club’s expansive one-room gallery space, a very manageable but dense affair that catered to the highbrow…

An autograph score of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony The Bells, Op. 35, based on the Poe poem of the same name, which in turn was inspired by, according to Fordham University itself, “The bell in the [Fordham University Church] tower, known since as Old Edgar Allan…” 

Poe art, for those who pore over illustrated Dover books like Tales of Mystery and Imagination and The Raven, from masters Harry Clarke, Édouard Manet, Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and Aubrey Beardsley …

…and the populist…

“Case 9: Poe in Comics”: First-run issues and even original illustrations – splash page artwork, pen and ink on art board – of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Gold Bug,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Raven,” “Berenice,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” adapted by Paul Laikin, Rich Margopoulos in Classics Illustrated, Creepy, even Mad magazine from Jim Wilcox, Rudy Palais, Mort Drucker, Maxon Crumb (brother of R. Crumb), Isidro Montes, Richard Corben …

“Case 10: From Poe to Pop”: Poe-related novels, books, playbills, stamps, a skateboard, bandages, bookends, a pillow, dolls, tumblers, statues, figurines, toys, t-shirts, bookbags, puppets, Mont Blanc pen sets, playing cards, a desk calendar, a latex mask of the man himself …

…and everything between: 

Fantastic, vol. 2, no. 1. New York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, Jan.–Feb. 1953. Containing the first printing of Poe’s posthumous fragment “The Lighthouse,” completed by Robert Bloch at the behest of Poe scholar Dr. Thomas Ollive Mabbott who had been duly impressed with his “The Man Who Collected Poe” ... 

With title cards like “Case 5: Poe’s Growing Fame,” “Case 6: The Death of a Poet,” and “Case 7: Illustrations of Poe’s Works,” the collection neatly divided its displays according to subjects and categories to give an overview of Poe’s life and legacy.  

A silent Poe biopic plays on one monitor, and PDFs of various Poe-themed art can be navigated by museum-goers on another ... 

Poe’s legacy extends extensively to the silver screen, as evidenced by “Case 8: Poe in Music and Film.”  Framed for display are a Belgian lobby card and an American poster (and sheet music) for the The Raven, starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff, only one of many Roger Corman filmizations from the 1960s, invariably penned by famed author Richard Matheson, the story of whose work on those Poe classics has been detailed in the largely definitive Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Filmed Works by Matthew R. Bradley.

For those who missed this treasure horde, a handsome 208-page exhibit catalog, titled Evermore: The Persistence of Poe by Susan Jaffe Tane and Gabriel McKee, from Oak Knoll Press, can be obtained for $40, not much more than the price of round-trip train tickets, and certainly less than a night in a hotel that the out-of-towner would inevitably pay.  

A past Grolier Club exhibit, “Murder by the Book,” put on show “manuscripts and first editions of the novel of crime and detection,” and it is a straight line from there to this exhibit dedicated to the man regarded as the Father of the Detective Novel.  

A 1952 Hand-painted ceramic Edgar Award statuette from The Mystery Writers of America …

A first printing of Classics Illustrated #40, containing adaptations of three “Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe” …

A 1935 Arthur Rackham-illustrated Tales of Mystery & Imagination …  

An 1843 first edition of The Prose Romances containing “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” … 

The logical next step for the Grolier Club would be to mount an exhibition of pulp covers, manuscripts, and correspondence of H. P. Lovecraft, the weird fiction writer often hailed as Poe’s heir who briefly made his home in Brooklyn during a short marriage in the 1920s, along with other pulp material from authors in his orbit as chronicled by Mara Kirk Hart and S.T. Joshi in Lovecraft’s New York Circle: The Kalem Club, 1924–1927.  However the Grolier Club could afford to cast an even wider net than that since it does not confine its exhibition to New York-themed literature.  (Other past club exhibits included “Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition,” whose “Journeys of the Imagination” section included art and manuscripts pertaining to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1874), and “Facing the Late Victorians: Portraits of Writers and Artists” which featured figures such as Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Aubrey Beardsley.)

There is no underestimating the legacy of the man who signed his letters and manuscripts “Edgar A. Poe.”  Even at press time, a film is playing in theaters: Stonehearst Asylum, starring Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine and Kate Beckinsale and based on his “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether.”  

Poe persists.  Surely there must be a brick leftover from that asylum set, or the “hydrotherapy chair,” for Ms. Tane to bid on.  In 1967, Bloch adapted his short story “The Man Who Collected Poe” for an Amicus anthology film titled Torture Garden.  At the close of that segment, Peter Cushing’s character tells Jack Palance’s: 

“My grandfather made money by selling cadavers to medical students ... One of the graves he opened was the last resting place of Edgar Allan Poe.  The body, of course, had crumbled to dust.  But he gathered that dust and kept this box.  So you see he really was the greatest collector.  He even collected Edgar Allan Poe himself.”  

The narrator in Bloch’s short story reels at this revelation: 

That the body of Edgar Allan Poe had been stolen—that this mansion had been built to house it—that it was indeed enshrined in a crypt below...—was beyond sane belief.  

Perhaps it is wise that Ms. Tane not read this Bloch tale lest she get any ideas.  Though if she does, we could someday be in for an even grander treat than her “Evermore.”  

“What prompted a retired merchant to devote himself so fanatically to the pursuit of a hobby, I cannot say.  Let it suffice that he virtually withdrew from the world and from all other normal interests.  He conducted a voluminous and lengthy correspondence with aging men and women who had known Poe in their lifetime—made pilgrimages to Fordham, sent his agents to West Point, to England and Scotland, to virtually every locale in which Poe had set foot during his lifetime.  He acquired letters and souvenirs as gifts, he bought them, and—I fear—stole them, if no other means of acquisition proved feasible.”  
—“The Man Who Collected Poe” by ROBERT BLOCH.


GILBERT COLON has written for publications ranging from Filmfax to Cinema Retro to Crimespree Magazine. His interview with Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, The Funeral) for Mystery Scene’s Ed Gorman appeared in the anthology book They’re Here, and he will soon contribute to the author site Bradley on Film. Read him at Gilbert Street and send comments to

Monday, December 15, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Forty-Two: December 1973/Best of 1973

The DC Mystery Anthologies 1968-1976
by Peter Enfantino and
Jack Seabrook

Nick Cardy
Ghosts 21

"The Ghost in the Devil's Chair"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ernie Chan

"Within You Dwells a Demon"
Story Uncredited
Art by Alfredo Alcala

Jack: Darren Klone is climbing rocks in his trench coat and hat in the hills of Massachusetts when he sees a throne made of rock and senses that something weird is going on. A beautiful redhead warns him away but he ignores her; he is soon attacked by "The Ghost in the Devil's Chair" when a lighting bolt-like hand grabs him and deposits him back by his car on the road. At a local inn, Klone learns that in the old days, witches came to worship Satan at the throne. He runs into the same redhead, whose name is Irma, and asks her out to dinner. She takes him back up to the rocks and warns him again, but he sees a financial opportunity from turning the area into a tourist site. When Irma casts a spell to keep him away he strangles her and is attacked once again by the lighting bolt/hand from the chair. He awakens to find the police standing over him and, due to the fact that he murdered Irma, he ends up in another sort of chair--an electric one! This doesn't have much to do with ghosts, but the sight of what I think are supposed to be the devil's legs hanging over the side of the chair is unintentionally funny.

The devil's legs were
later seen at KFC
Peter: More a goofy hodgepodge than a coherent script, and with no real Ghosts!, this story belongs in Unexpected. The art's pretty sharp though.

Jack: A boy named Richie and a girl named Beth snoop around in the Brazilian jungle and happen across a native witch doctor reviving a seemingly dead man. They are chased by natives until their father intervenes; he's an engineer building the trans-Amazon highway and he brought his kids along while they were on vacation. He has little time for native superstitions. Later, little Richie finds one of his dad's crewmen lying sick and tries out the spell himself. Unfortunately, it works by transferring the illness from the patient into Richie, who knocks on death's door. Only the timely intervention of the native medicine man can save him; fortunately, the witch doctor knows how to take the evil spirit of illness into his own body and then cast it out. "Within You Dwells a Demon" is another story that has next to nothing to do with ghosts, but with Alcala's usual, excellent art, it doesn't matter. Richie is one sharp kid if he can observe, memorize and repeat a witch doctor's healing spell! I think he'll knock 'em dead back at boarding school.

Peter: Obviously DC's jungle version of The Exorcist with its witch doctor who absorbs evil spirits, but this one has tamer proceedings and a climax that whimpers rather than bangs. At least we get to see Alfredo run wild with jungle scenes and that's always worth meandering through even the worst script.

"Within You Dwells a Demon"

Nick Cardy
The House of Secrets 114

"Night Game"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Frank Bolle

"The Demon and the Rock Star!"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Gerry Talaoc

Peter: Hockey star Ron Kopachec has been accepting bribes from shady underworld figures in return for throwing important  matches but his coach is onto him and forces Ron to accept early retirement or face a scandal in the press. Ron agrees but retirement from a lucrative job is the furthest thing from the icon's mind and he plants an explosive on board the team's charter plane. With his secret safe (but his team obliterated), Kopachec signs with another franchise and leads them to a championship game. On the eve of the big game, Ron is called to the arena for a "Night Game" and who should show up but his dead teammates, now jersey-clad skeletons, to wish him good luck. You gotta love that final series of panels that depict the now-dead Kopachec, propped up in front of the goal. Ostensibly no one noticed him there that morning when they opened up the rink and the sports commentator's very EC-esque "Gasp" and "Choke" are a hoot. It's not a good story, though; it has a rushed, unfinished feel to it and the artwork is pedestrian and void of any style. And there you go--the enigma that is Michael Fleisher, producing a bland, lifeless, and frankly stupid script like "Night Game" in the same month he dazzles with the brilliance of "They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They?" (see HoM #220, below) Frank Bolle's dull, repetitive art perfectly compliments the dreariness of the proceedings. Ron drops a grenade in the gear locker that's loaded onto the charter plane. How does that work?

"Night Game"

Jack: I was laughing at the bizarre dialogue! One of Ron's fellow players calls him "Ron baby," and the coach keeps referring to him as "old man," like he's in England. I was shocked that Ron would blow up a plane full of people to cover up his part in throwing a hockey game, but I have to say that ending made me smile. Fleisher is easily the best writer in the DC horror books at this point and he's doing his best to revive the EC format of revenge tales with ghoulish twists. If they don't always work, at least they're fun! And how about that Cardy cover? Where did the gorgeous babe on skates come from? Certainly not this story! But I'd plunk down two dimes any day for a longer look at her!

The Grateful Dead?
Peter: Rock star Dean Taggert has made a fortune singing his tunes before millions but the glory days are now behind him and the fading icon can't get a record contract or a touring gig. He decides to chill a bit at the estate willed to him by a dead uncle (rumored to be a big fan of the black arts) and runs across an ancient parchment that conjures up Ol' Sparky. Before you know it, Dean's been given a new lease on life, he's a happenin' thing again, but there's the one catch. Dean must sacrifice three souls by delivering a special ring to the victims. The first two deliveries go swimmingly but the third, a costume designer Dean's become smitten with, ends in a platinum-worthy disaster when the girl sews the ring onto one of Dean's stage outfits. Satan comes a-callin' mid-tune but the audience digs it! Very similar in tone and theme to "Night Game" but "The Demon and the Rock Star" delivers because the writer invests it with that special Fleisher sense of dark humor and the artist seems to be interested in the job at hand. I'm not sure why but when the youth of the day are central figures of a DC mystery story they all look like they just got off a delayed bus from the Haight. I guess the DC bullpen didn't get out much. That final panel (above) of Dean Taggert's final solo is a keeper.

Jack: Dean's series of groovy outfits are a real gas, man! I didn't like this story as much as "Night Game" but Talaoc's art is the ginchiest. The gruesome ending was telegraphed a mile away but, again, that last panel is cool. That's twice in one issue where the main character dispatches a planeload of people by blowing it up. What's that about, Mike?

Nick Cardy
The House of Mystery 220

"They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They?"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Russell Carley
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"The Hunter!"
Story by John Albano
Art by Alex Nino

Peter: Lepidopterist Percy Twittler has only one goal in life: to add the ultra-rare Heliconius Eyelitus to his collection of butterflies. To that end, he hires gruff jungle guide Fred Macal to aid his trek through the treacherous jungles of Brazil. The duo come across the gates of a huge wall, deep in the jungle, decorated with symbols resembling the wings of the rare butterfly. The natives are not exactly friendly and the pair are told to pack their things and get out of town before they're dropped into the stew. When Percy comes to the aid of the chief's snake-bitten son, the chief rewards the nutty butterfly catcher with a single Heliconius Eyelitus. Realizing how much the bug is worth, Macal makes a move on Percy but the meek geek takes a header over a cliff, butterfly cage and all. Not one to leave a jungle excursion empty-handed, Macal heads back to the gated wall and ventilates the chief. Opening the gate reveals a wonderland populated by millions of the rare butterflies but Macal's delight is short-lived when the chief nails him with a paralyzing dart. As he lies, unable to move, he watches in terror as the butterflies first alight and then begin to eat him alive.

"They Hunt Butterflies..."

I first read "They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They" when I bought HoM #220 right off the stand at 7-11 (it was one of my first off-the-rack DC Mystery buys) and, no exaggeration, I must have read this story a dozen times over the following week. This one really freaked me out. Try telling someone that a story about carnivorous butterflies will create goosebumps and wait for their reaction. It was the first time I had seen Alfredo Alcala's artwork and its detail stunned a boy who had never really paid much attention to artwork before. Afterwards I would buy anything that had Alcala's work between covers, even (shudder) Conan the Barbarian and Captain Marvel! It's nice to know that, forty years later, "Butterflies" still stuns. There's not much fat on its bones; no wasted dialogue, no silly cliches, no mismanaged moments, a classic final panel. Well, okay, Mascal looks like he's dressed as a boy scout for his journey (and he's making fun of Percy!) and that finger gets picked pretty clean but, otherwise, I defy you to find a more perfect DC horror story. This was Michael Fleisher's first masterpiece and he'd take the genuinely sadistic overtones found in "Butterflies" and perfect them a couple months later with his reboot of The Spectre in Adventure Comics. And, again, spend time taking in Alcala's detailed jungle. Funny book artists can't always take the time to fill in the spots but Alcala somehow did it on a regular basis. I wish we could reprint the entire story here for you but, alas, that might invite legal problems. If you seek this out, I recommend finding the original comic book (or at least a comic file) rather than the black and white reproduction in the Showcase volume as this is a story that should be seen in full color.

Jack: Let Alcala loose in a jungle and you do get something special, don't you? I'll ignore the reference in the story to "jungle-bunnies" and agree that this is a very strong script by Fleisher with great art by Alcala. The panel where the butterfly eats the flesh off one finger is somehow more horrible than the final panel showing the gleaming skeleton picked clean, perhaps because we know the victim was still alive while the butterfly was feasting. I can even suspend my disbelief that a butterfly can consume that much human flesh and not grow really fat! Good story. Best of the year? We'll see. Best of the entire DC horror run? I'll reserve judgment.

More Alcala. You're welcome!

Peter: Evans has hunted all the great monsters of mythology: the werewolf, Frankenstein's Monster, the vampire, even the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but it's all become a bit of a bore, so now "The Hunter" wants to claim the biggest trophy of all: Satan's head. To achieve this goal, Evans hires Olbaid, an expert in the supernatural, to find them a way into Hades. Gateway opened, Evans must defeat Cerberus, the multi-headed dog who guards Hell, before he can face the devil himself. The final task turns out to be relatively easy since (surprise! surprise! surprise!) he'd been by Evans' side the entire time (Olbaid = Diablo). The devil has the last laugh as he reveals to Evans that he himself is something of a big game hunter as well, seeking out evil souls! The highlight here is obviously Alex Nino's mind-blowing artwork but John Albano's script keeps us involved as well. Sure, you're going to guess who Olbaid really is fairly quickly but there's a dark humor to the whole affair that had me smiling throughout. Off-topic but when did the DC mystery letters pages become such tripe, filled with press releases, "supernatural news items," and fan letters addressed to "The House"? I recall at one point some very thoughtful missives discussing artists, writers, and themes. Let's hope this nonsense ends quickly.

"The Hunter"
Jack: At the risk of having you sic your pet butterflies on me, I'd rather look at Nino's art than Alcala's. His page designs are unlike anyone else's and his panels are so creative that I just have to sit back and enjoy them. Too bad the story is run of the mill!

More Nino! You're Welcome!

Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 37

"The Devil's Chessboard"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Ernesto Patricio

"My Daughter the Witch"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by ER Cruz

"No Coffin Can Hold Me"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Frank Redondo

Jack: In "The Devil's Chessboard," chessmaster Jan Raditch receives an unusual challenge from a ragged man named Mr. Daarke: play his protege for high stakes! If Raditch wins, he receives one million dollars, but if he loses, Daarke will marry Glenda, Raditch's beautiful fiance! During the match, Raditch is shocked to see that his opponent is a computer, and Daarke's associate, an old witch named Mother Kleegle, gradually turns Glenda uglier with each step in the game! Raditch takes a recess and finds the brains of the computer, which he reprograms to ensure his own victory. Glenda is thrilled that he won, sure that they will be happily married as millionaires, but she is horrified to see that her fiancee has turned into a robot! Huh? Where did that come from? Was he a robot all along? Did the witch do it?

"The Devil's Chessboard"

Peter: This is one of those disposable time-wasters that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and if you try to make sense of it your brain will begin to itch. If these (obviously supernatural) shady characters who want a chess match with the protagonist have the power to turn Glenda into a giant toad, why do they have to resort to computers for their trickery? The final twist is rubbish as well.

Cynthia's ancestry revealed
Jack: Many years ago, Miles wanted to marry Prudence, but his father Samuel was against the love match because she had no money. Samuel frames Prudence as a witch but when the villagers began to stone her he feels remorse and confesses. Prudence tells him that she's grateful, because now no one will believe that she really is a witch! ER Cruz's art is the highlight of "My Daughter the Witch," which has another dopey Kashdan twist at the end. The most interesting thing about this story comes in the last panel, when Cynthia tells us that Prudence was her ancestor.

Peter: You'd have to be a DC mystery newbie not to see that climax coming a country mile away. Another climax that makes no sense when you stop to think about it. Why would Dear Prudence reveal her secret to Samuel after she's in the clear? How would she know Samuel wouldn't take up the charge again, especially to save his now-estranged son? The answer is: don't think about it!

The maze coffin
Jack: Escape artist Lazarus boasts that "No Coffin Can Hold Me" and hires a coffin maker to build a special box to try to prevent another escape. The coffin maker's box works too well and Lazarus is killed when attempting a water escape. It turns out that there was a secret escape hatch that the magician could not use because his assistant poisoned him in a bid to take over his act. Eric finds to his dismay that he cannot escape the coffin maker's shop. A dreadful end to a dreadful issue, this story shows that Frank Redondo's art can't compare to that of Nestor Redondo.

Peter: What starts out very promising becomes nothing more than a substandard Columbo episode in the end. Still, that maze-coffin is a great idea. A coffin-maker named Mr. Carrion?

Unexpected 153

"Who's That Sleeping in My Grave?"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Ernesto Patricio

"Wedding Bells for a Corpse"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by ER Cruz

"Black Hole of Wrath"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Alfredo Alcala

Jack: Lance Durham falls for a pretty waitress named Grace, but her ward, Dr. Allwyn shows him why they can never be together. It seems Grace had a fatal disease and Dr. Allwyn transplanted her head onto a plastic body. Lance is smitten and asks the doc to transplant his head onto a plastic body, too! After the operation, Dr. Allwyn reveals that he has now transplanted Grace's head onto a real body from another woman. But wait! It gets better! Dr. Allwyn took Lance's body and transplanted his own head onto it so he can marry Grace. Lance threatens to kill Dr. Allwyn and goes outside to dig his grave but keels over and falls in it himself when his new plastic body and old human head reject each other. "Who's That Sleeping in My Grave?" would be a candidate for worst of the year if the art were by, say, Art Saaf.

Paging Dr. Wertham!
Peter: "Who's That Sleeping..." is almost bad enough to be an "alternative classic." Dialogue like "Lance knows I have his body, and that you and I are in love with each other. H-he threatened to kill me!" and "That was my first transplant failure, Grace! But how fortunate for us that he came into our lives, darling!" doesn't come along every day (unless you're reading a Doug Moench script, that is) so you have to celebrate it when it does. There are so many pulpy twists and turns (this head on that body and this head on that body) that it's hard to keep up at times but do your best. That panel of the doctor disrobing in front of the now-robotized Lance is one that had Fredric Wertham running for his notebook.

Jack: Terrence and Charles both love Gilda, so she tells them that whoever brings her the ring her mother pawned years ago can have her. They compete to see who can earn enough money and Terrence wins, but Charles murders him as they sail to Gilda one night during a storm. Gilda will not be denied her ring, however, and insists that she will marry Terrence when he returns and brings it to her. One day, his skeleton washes up with the ring intact, so Gilda anticipates "Wedding Bells for a Corpse!" George Kashdan and Carl Wessler are competing, just like Terrence and Charles, but they are vying to see who can write the worst story each month. So far, it's a toss up.

"Wedding Bells for a Corpse"

Peter: This seems to be the issue to turn to if you're in the mood for nonsensical wackiness and befuddling twists heaped upon scalp-scratching plot devices. I'm not sure why Gilda went insane but I'm just glad it wasn't revealed that she was a witch the whole time. ER Cruz didn't have a handle on whether Gilda was beautiful or horse-faced and why are all the DC mystery femme fatales saddled with decidedly unsexy monikers like Gilda, Glenda, and Prudence?

Now why is that?
Jack: In the 1850s, white hunters are in Africa rounding up black slaves. One of the white men happens upon a back man praying to an ant hill for wisdom. The white man squashes the ants and the black man shoots a dart into the side of his neck. He shrinks and finds himself in an ant hill, where he manages to escape the ants until he pulls the dart from his neck and grows back to man size. He trips and twists his ankle, leaving him unable to run when army ants march toward him. "Black Hole of Wrath" is a good example of Alcala doing his best to fix a mess of a script. The slave trade was over by the 1850s, but who's counting?

Peter: There's no real flow to the script for "Black Hole of Wrath" but then that's in keeping with this special "Inanity Is King" issue. It's just a series of set pieces, but it's worth slogging through for the image of poor miniaturized Blake, giant blowdart embedded in his neck, bouncing from menace to menace. This looks like a rare rush job by Alfredo, with none of his usual lush detailed backgrounds. Still, poor Alcala is better than...



Best Script: Michael Fleisher, "They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They?" (HoM 220)
Best Art: Alfredo Alcala, "They Hunt Butterflies"
Best All-Around Story: "They Hunt Butterflies"

Worst Script: Leo Dorfman, "The Nightmare in the Sandbox" (Ghosts 13)
Worst Art: Mike Sekowsky, "Target: Planet of the Two-Legged Men" (Dark Mansion 12)
Worst All-Around Story: "Ever After" (HoM 213)

Ten Best Stories of the Year 

 1 "They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They?"
 2 "Unholy Change" (HoM 211)
 3 "Head of the House" (Dark Mansion 9)
 4 "Oh Mom Oh Dad..." (HoM 212)
 5 "Skin Deep" (House of Secrets 107)
 6 "Who Dares Cheat the Dead?" (Ghosts 15)
 7 "Swamp God" (HoM 217)
 8 "The Dead Live On" (Ghosts 19)
 9 "Spawns of Satan" (HoS 113)
10 "Mr. Reilly the Derelict" (Sinister House 15)


Best Script: Arnold Drake, "The Night of the Nebish!" (HoS 107)
Best Art: Bill Payne, "They Walk By Night" (Dark Mansion 10)
Best All-Around Story: Drake and Alfredo Alcala, "The Night of the Nebish!"

Worst Script: Carl Wessler, "Name Your Poison" (Witching Hour 32)
Worst Art: Art Saaf, "The Scent of Death" (Witching Hour 31)
Worst All-Around Story: John Jaconson, George Kashdan and Sekowsky, "Target! Planet of the Two-Legged Men!"

Ten Best Stories of the Year (in no order):

1 "Deliver Us From Evil" (HoM 211)

2 "Unholy Change" (HoM 211)
3 "Back From the Realm of the Damned" (HoM 213)
4 "Skin Deep" (HoS 107)
5 "The Night of the Nebish!" (HoS 107)
6 "The Monster" (Dark Mansion 10)
7 "They Walk By Night" (Dark Mansion 10)
8 "Deadly Muffins" (Sinister House 13)
9 "Spawns of Satan" (HoS 113)
10 "They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They?" (HoM 220)

Alcala's atmospheric opening page to HoM #220

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