Monday, February 24, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Twenty-One: February 1972

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

Nick Cardy
Unexpected 132

"The Edge of Madness"
Story by Bill Dennehy (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Jim Aparo

"The Diary of a Dead Man!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Tuska

"Experiment 1000"
Story Uncredited
Art by Nick Cardy
(reprinted from House of Secrets #6, October 1957)

"The Sorcerer's Handcuffs"
Story Uncredited
Art by Mort Drucker
(reprinted from House of Secrets #1, December 1956)

"Death Watch!"
Story by Murray Boltinoff
Art by Rich Buckler

"A Will To Kill"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Never wear a miniskirt to babysit in the snow.
Jack: Young Debbie gets more than she bargained for when she babysits for the Partridge Family who recently moved into the old mansion on Cemetery Hill. She hears scratching at the window and sees a shadowy figure outside. Rather than call the cops like a rational person, she grabs the baby and runs out into the snow-covered boneyard, where she promptly trips and falls. The figure turns out to be her boyfriend Johnny, who was keeping an eye on her. The Partridges return home early and find their baby in the graveyard with Debbie and Johnny. They take Debbie and the baby home, where both parents freak out on "The Edge of Madness," ending with Dad cracking his skull on a tombstone. I was so pleased to see Jim Aparo as the artist on this first story and so disappointed when it turned out to be another muddle.

Peter: Yet another silly, disjointed tale. So, if you're a young girl and someone appears at the window on a cold, lonely night, the best plan is to grab the baby and head out into the snow. The cemetery, after all, is the best place to hide! Much safer than indoors. Sheesh! Sometimes, especially when we're talking about Unexpected stories, I think the writers cobbled together two or more disparate plot threads they had lying around and counted on the kind and lazy red pencil of Murray Boltinoff.

Pop quiz--identify the
facial feature most
associated with the work
of George Tuska.
Jack: Assistant State Attorney Barney Roberts investigates the death of wealthy old Crawford by reading "The Diary of a Dead Man!" The memoir relates how Crawford found his son dead and his wife gone; he was certain his rival, Hathaway, was at fault but the sheriff wouldn't listen. Finally, Crawford dropped dead and Roberts discovered that the family he was so attached to was a figment of his imagination, since his "wife" had married his rival decades before. This stinker had the appearance of a crummy reprint but sadly was a new piece of work by George Tuska. The "unexpected" ending is telegraphed early on and the art is wretched.

Peter: The story's really not that bad, Jack, and I didn't see the twist coming (a rarity, I assure you). There will be no argument on the art though and that's to be Expected.

Jack: On the real reprint front, we get "Experiment 1000," about a gorilla who learns to think and is killed by a greedy scientist. My favorite line: "'Any gorilla on the loose is bad enough . . . one with intelligence can be a hurricane on two legs!'" We lifelong DC fans know that whenever there was a way to shoehorn a gorilla into a story, they'd do it, and if it could be smarter than the humans around it, all the better. "The Sorcerer's Handcuffs" is a neat little tale about a pair of manacles enchanted by an ancient sorcerer. Mort Drucker's art is impressive, though it's odd that his credit on the first page states that he's "currently of Mad Magazine." Not so weird when you realize they were owned by the same corporation.

"The Sorcerer's Handcuffs"
Peter: The gorilla story is acres of fun, made all the more nifty by Nick Cardy, but "The Sorcerer's Handcuffs" outstays its welcome. Overly long and meandering, the only aspect worth mentioning, of course, is the Drucker art. This story was published just as Mort had joined Mad, where he'd establish a style all his own. The story involves magical handcuffs but what overloads my believability tank is that a park bum heard a radio broadcast all about the cuffs.

Jack: Old Uncle Jacob has a year to live, so he tells his three evil nephews that his fortune will go to the last remaining heir. Two of them team up to kill the third, then spend months going after each other--or do they? They discover that someone else has "A Will to Kill" and is after them right before falling to their doom. Turns out the first nephew never really died, but Uncle Jacob has a surprise--the surviving nephew had a son and would have to kill his own child to inherit! In the hands of a skilled artist, this might have been an interesting story. Instead, we get Jerry Grandenetti. More and more, his stories seem to be relegated to the back of the book, and with good reason.

That's some hand!
Peter: This one's a laugh. Old Uncle Jacob is just as evil as his three nephews, setting up a scenario in which only the most ruthless will inherit the money. And, since Seymour's taken a fancy to murder, who's to say that baby won't meet a similar fate? I think an open-ended final panel (maybe Seymour scratching his chin and thinking hard) might have added a little edge to this otherwise dreary fare.

Jack: Best thing in this issue was the hubba-hubba cover; worst thing was that godawful Tuska artwork.

Peter: Kudos to "Experiment 1000" and No-Doze to everything else.

Neal Adams
The House of Mystery 199

"Sno' Fun!"
Story by Sergio Aragones
Art by Wally Wood

"He Doomed the World!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jack Kirby
(reprinted from My Greatest Adventure #17, October 1957)

"Snow Beast"
Story by Lynn Marron
Art by Rich Buckler

"The Whole Ball of Tin"
Story by Len Wein and Gerry Conway
Art by Bob Oksner

"The Haunting Wind!"
Story by Jack Miller
Art by John Glunta
(reprinted from The Phantom Stranger #2, November 1952)

Peter: Dr. Wallace B. Peterson has a dream: he'd like to be the scientist who discovers an ancient city buried far beneath the Antarctic. The trouble is that Dr. Strauss has discovered it first. Peterson politely pushes Strauss out of a window and suddenly the funding for the expedition is all his. Once there, the mad scientist is lost in a snow storm and falls into a trench, a massive hole that happens to be the gateway to Peterson's lost world. Peopling that world is a race of skeletal creatures who must stay put or melt. After a long and arduous stay, Peterson decides "Sno' Fun" and escapes. He's rescued but diagnosed with a rare malady. His only resort is to retire to the House of Mystery, where he lives out his life until one morning he melts. It's amazing that any of the scientists in the DC mystery world ever got work done since they're always busy knocking one another off. The Wally Wood art is gorgeous and Aragones' story has enough macabre touches to keep our interest. That finale is a lift from Lovecraft's "Cool Air."

Jack: This is exactly the kind of story I would like to see more of! I could count on one finger the number of stories we've seen to date by Aragones, but this one has just the right touch of horror and glee, and I love that Cain is actively involved. The art by Wally Wood is wonderful and reminded me of his work on The Spirit on the moon series in the early '50s. The art also reminded me of EC, which is always a good thing.

"Sno' Fun!"

Peter: Kirk wants the gold that stuffs the mines he co-owns with Sam so he dresses up like a "Snow Beast" to create chaos. Unfortunately for Kirk, there's a real monster loose in the area and the two get to meet in the end. They really made fabulous costumes in the Old West. Kirk dresses up like a bear and magically adds at least three feet to his stature. The art, by personal fave Rich Buckler, is the only saving grace of this dismal mess.

Jack: Ouch! That was a stinker. The dialogue is awful: "Forget about Kirk . . . I love only you!" Buckler's art is passable in that early '70s fan-turned-pro way, and he can draw some good cheesecake, but for the most part this story is a real mess.

"Snow Beast"

Peter: J. Frederic Brown has never wanted to anything but collect tin. Then, one day his trouble-making son pays him a visit, admitting to a murder and asking pop to help him cover it up. Knowing his son will never amount to anything, J. Frederick finally finds a use for all that tin: he wraps his son up in "The Whole Ball of Tin" and dumps him in the river. I'm not sure if Wein and Conway (two writers I have nothing but admiration for) thought they were working on the Great American Novel and wanted to preview a chapter for us but we're not the richer for it. Pretentious, nonsensical and, in the end, a total waste of paper. And what the hell does "the folds of midnight sleep over the water's edge" mean?

Jack: Any story starring an old man named J. Frederic Brown is okay by me. The real Fredric Brown died in March 1972, a month after the cover date of this issue. Perhaps it was because the cops caught up with him after he dumped his son in the river? Nah . . . that would be too UNEXPECTED.

"The Whole Ball of Tin"

"He Doomed the World"
Peter: An alien race uses a scientist as a pawn to destroy the world. "He Doomed the World" is silly stuff (very reminiscent of the type of story Kirby would excel at over at Marvel) but maybe I was in the mood for silly as it provided at least five minutes of enjoyment. As is par for the course, our unbilled writer can't come up with a good reason why these aliens are threatening earth so he sidesteps it completely. Explorer Dan Russell steals a giant ruby from a sacred city in Tibet and becomes victim of a "Haunting Wind" that follows him all the way back to America, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Forgettable fluff with nice art.

Jack: I was really enjoying "He Doomed" until the cop-out ending. I guess I was just in the mood for Kirby today. The art is pretty standard '50s Kirby, very blocky. The story was picking up some good suspense but then it went nowhere, and the end was just silly. As for the second reprint, three and a half pages is very short but Giunta's art is impressive. I did not know that the Phantom Stranger started out in the early '50s! I thought he was a late '60s invention.

Jack: Best of this issue was easily the Wally Wood story; worst was the mess about the snow beast.

Peter: I'd agree with the Wood choice but opt for the Wein/Conway nonsense as worst.

"The Haunting Wind"

Nick Cardy
Ghosts 3

"Death is My Mother"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Tony De Zuniga

"The Magician Who Haunted Hollywood"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Leonard Starr
(from House of Mystery #10, January 1953)

"The Dark Goddess of Doom"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by John Calnan

"Station G-H-O-S-T"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ruben Moreira
(reprinted from House of Mystery #17, August 1953)

"Legion of the Dead"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by George Tuska

"The Screaming Skulls"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Death is My Mother"
Jack: In mid-eighteenth century Ireland, Sir Desmond falls in love with and marries beautiful and mysterious Lira. They have a son named Dennis, but Desmond grows too attached to his money and neglects his family, eventually pushing his wife by accident to her death in the sea. She swears that the child will remain hers and little Dennis learns that "Death is My Mother" when he ventures out in a boat and is never seen again--except as one of a pair of wraiths who haunt the coast for centuries. DeZuniga's art is always a pleasure, even when he's not at his best, as is the case here. The story is spooky and enjoyable enough, though there's nothing special about it.

Peter: Lira turns out to be a pretty nasty mother, drowning son Dennis to spite her husband. That's the only interesting aspect of this story, one deserving of a place over at Gold Key's Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Tony De Zuniga once again proves he's a good sport by providing the dress for the pig.

"The Dark Goddess of Doom"
Jack: Englishman Chris Morton steals a bronze statute of Kali, "The Dark Goddess of Doom," and finds that it's a fatal mistake to put a ring on its finger when the statue crushes him in its embrace. This story does not have any credits, so I tried to play "guess the artist." The best I could come up with was Dick Dillin, but it turns out to be John Calnan. As with most of Leo Dorfman's stories so far in Ghosts, I kind of enjoyed it!

Peter: I liked the dialogue between the club's staff after they discover the Kali statue is missing:

Nameless Spectator #1: Mr. Morton's statue--it's gone!
Nameless Spectator #2: Someone may have stolen it!

The story is about as amateurish as you can find in a comic book and the art is strictly grade school. It'll be hard to pick my worst story of the year.

Tuska strikes again!
Jack: It's 1943, and Lt. Mark Calder's plane crashes in the Sahara Desert. A "Legion of the Dead," made up of ghostly Roman soldiers, leads him to safety and then vanishes. The best I can say for this story is that the journey across the barren wasteland only took four pages.

Peter: I don't believe in Ghosts anymore.

Jack: France, 1932, and Perrault ignores the warning of the old woman who tells him not to use stones taken from the resting place of the dead to build his mansion. Troubled by "The Screaming Skulls" the workmen uncovered, Perrault faces tragedy when his wife is injured in a fire. Only when the skulls are returned to their rightful spot does Mrs. Perrault recover and the nightmare end. For Perrault, that is, but not for us, not as long as Jerry Grandenetti wields the pencil!

Peter: More fabulous writing: "The skulls... I hear them laughing! B-but how can that be? It's some omen of horrible evil--I know that now!"

Our skulls are screaming too!

Nice of the squaw to
strike a cheesecake pose
while leaping to her death.
Jack: Actor Dick Mayhew is so wrapped up in playing the part of famous magician The Great Gregory that he begins to find himself able to duplicate the illusions of "The Magician That Haunted Hollywood." He refuses to believe it's all a trick and ends up saving actress Lola Lamour from a blazing fire. Leonard Starr's art is classic '50s and this reprint is a lot of fun! In "Station G-H-O-S-T!" TV fright show host Andrew Gill tries to trick an old man into selling a haunted house, only to have the ghostly plan backfire. More nice '50s-style art by Ruben Moreira highlights this tale, which features an early appearance of TV sets from 1953. Inexplicably, the opening caption tries to update the story to 1967, though nothing in the story looks remotely like the '60s!

Peter: "The Magician" is really silly but at least it's a better read than most of the swill served up this issue. I hate those "Here's how it was done" expositories and we get a doozy of one here. The art by George Kashdan is nicely done. "Station G-H-O-S-T!" is a goofy and confusing mess. That 1967 reference makes no sense whatsoever in a story originally appearing in 1953 and reprinted in 1972. Eddie's confession in the final panels gave me a headache. So he played a prank... oh no, he didn't... well, maybe he did... but not really:

Spoiler alert--he does not fry!
Eddie: Guess I owe you an apology, Andy, for the joke I played on you! You see, I was at the house the night you made that broadcast--but after I put the scare into Yorke, I figured I could have a little fun with you, too!

Andy (laid up in a sanitarium bed, mind you): Thanks for telling me, Eddie... but what about the ghost I saw? Was that also you?

Eddie: No... that wasn't me... and I'm not joking this time!

Andy: Then... then maybe it was the ghost of Timothy Gill I saw that night! I suppose I'll never know it was just a figment of my imagination... or whether there are things on earth that we mortals never believed existed... like ghosts!

Jack: Best of this issue were the reprints; worst is--once again--Tuska's contribution!

Peter: I'm not playing this game with you, Jack.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Twenty-Two: "A Woman's Help" [6.24]

by Jack Seabrook

Tired of caring for his bedridden wife Elizabeth, Arnold Bourdon is pleased when she hires a pretty, young nurse named Miss Grecco to care for her and to keep her company. In time, Arnold and Miss Grecco fall in love and plan to murder Elizabeth slowly by giving her small overdoses of her evening sedative. One night, Elizabeth catches her husband and her nurse in an embrace and fires the woman. Realizing that her husband cannot be trusted around another young nurse, Elizabeth hires a dowdy, older woman. What she does not realize is that the new nurse is Arnold's mother and that she is fully engaged in the plan to carry out the murder of her son's wife.

"A Woman's Help" was broadcast on NBC on Tuesday, March 28, 1961, during the sixth season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The onscreen credit states that the teleplay is by Henry Slesar, based on his story. However, the story--if an actual story preceded the teleplay--was not published until 1962, when it was included in the collection, A Crime for Mothers and Others. The copyright notice in that paperback states that the story is one of four in the collection that has not been previously published.

Geraldine Ftizgerald
It is hard to tell whether this dull episode falls flat because of the teleplay or because of the uninspired direction by Arthur Hiller. The story that was published a year after the show aired is much more entertaining than the TV show, but that may be because Slesar's narrative takes an ironic and humorous approach to what looks like tired material on screen.

Starring as Elizabeth is Geraldine Fitzgerald, an actress whose star quality overshadows the part she is given to play. Elizabeth is supposed to be unlikeable and we should be rooting for Arnold to succeed in his plan to eliminate her. In the short story, Slesar describes her as having "graying hair and yellow skin" and she is said to be "barely presentable." In contrast to this description, however, Fitzgerald is an attractive woman of 47 years (at the time of filming), who looks rather hale and hearty for someone supposed to be confined to bed. Hers is easily the standout performance of the episode.

Scott McKay plays Arnold, and his performance is so lifeless that it helps to sink the episode.

Scott McKay
As Miss Grecco, the nurse, Antoinette Bower fails to demonstrate the vibrancy and beauty that she would often exhibit later in her career. In the short story, her character is described as having "superb legs," and as being "provocative," "voluptuous," "remarkably pretty," and looking as if she came from the "Folies Bergere." On screen, Bower conveys none of this, and comes across as rather insipid. Born in Germany, she has a vaguely exotic middle-European accent but her performance fails to light up the screen.

It seems clear that Hiller should have taken a more exaggerated and ironic approach to the material. Instead, he has the cast play it straight, as if it is serious drama. In Slesar's story, the tone is one of light humor, and he seems to recognize that this situation has been played out many times before and thus cannot be taken seriously. For instance, midway through the story and show there is a scene in Arnold's kitchen at midnight when he and Miss Grecco first profess their love for each other and then share a kiss. In the short story, it seems so ridiculous that it can only be played for laughs, yet onscreen it is in earnest and just seems cliched. The only humor in the TV show is found in the very first scene, when a sense of suspense is built only to have it revealed to be about cooking a three-minute egg.

Antoinette Bower
The only notable camerawork in the TV show comes near the end, when Hiller places Elizabeth at the top of the stairs twice to demonstrate her power over Arnold, who stands below her. One wonders if Slesar realized the shortcomings of the show when he turned it into a short story for his collection, since he adds narrative passages and scenes and deletes others.

The title, "A Woman's Help," has multiple meanings for Arnold, who has spent his entire life supported by women. He is tied to Elizabeth by her money, a fact he points out to Miss Grecco when they first discuss marriage. Even at the end of the show, when his mother appears out of nowhere as the new maid, he is still dependent on a woman to advance his aims. It is ironic that his mother is willing to help him kill his wife, and one wonders if Miss Grecco will still be in the picture after the murder is accomplished!

Scott McKay and Lillian O'Malley, as Arnold's mother
Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005) was born in Ireland and started her film career in England in 1934. She had emigrated to the U.S. by 1938, where she quickly appeared on Broadway with Orson Welles and bore him a son. She had a long and successful film career that began in 1939, the year she appeared in two classics: Wuthering Heights and Dark Victory. She had many roles on TV from 1949 to 1989 and was on the Hitchcock series twice.

Scott McKay (1915-1987) was born Carl Gose and had a long career on Broadway. He also appeared in movies starting in 1944 and on TV starting in 1950. He was on the Hitchcock series twice and was briefly married to actress Ann Sheridan, one of his four wives.

Antoniette Bower (1932- ) had just started her career on TV the year before this episode was filmed. She would go on to appear in movies and on TV into the early 1990s, including two roles on the Hitchcock series, as well as appearances on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Star Trek, and many other shows. She still lives in Los Angeles and has appeared at conventions, where she greets fans of classic TV.

Arthur Hiller (1923- ) directed television shows from 1954 to 1977 and movies from 1957 to 2007. He directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the last one reviewed here was "One Grave Too Many."

Surprisingly, even though "A Woman's Help" is not a memorable episode, it was remade in 1981 for the series Tales of the Unexpected, starring Tony Franciosa. Bert Salzman wrote the teleplay. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents version is available on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here. The Tales of the Unexpected version is may be viewed for free online here. The series is available on DVD but it is expensive and it is hard to pin down which DVD set includes this episode.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Slesar, Henry. "A Woman's Help." A Crime for Mothers and Others. New York: Avon Book Division, 1962. 40-49. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"A Woman's Help." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. NBC. 28 Mar. 1961. Television.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 21: February 1961

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

Irv Novick
All-American Men of War 83

"Fighting Blind!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Pencil Pusher Patrol!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Bazookamen Are Nuts!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Peter: Even after convincing his squadron he's more than capable of taking care of himself in an air battle, "Flying Chief" Johnny Cloud must once again deal with racism when the newest recruit, Tex, views the new leader's management skills as suspect. When Tex is shot down, Johnny himself shows doubt but a lucky quirk of fate re-teams him with Tex and the two become life-saving assets to each other even while one is "Flying Blind." I'm hoping the framework of the two Johnny Cloud stories thus far--"Johnny battles bigotry"--will quickly give way to varied plot lines. Much like the French in Mme. Marie's adventures, Johnny only uses "Indian talk" (like powwow and papoose) when it's a word us Americans can understand. Having said all that, the series is certainly better than the yuck-fest known as Gunner and Sarge and I'm just glad that every time Cloud sees a spirit in the sky it's based on his surname rather than his first!

Tonight's homework assignment:
compare Johnny Cloud on the cover
to Johnny Cloud inside
Jack: The second Johnny Cloud story is even better than the first! They toned down the "fish out of water" business but kept Cloud's Indian characteristics, such as seeing his "brother" in the clouds. Having new man Tex not like him until Cloud saves him works well and the final flight, where Cloud is blinded and Tex talks him through it, was harrowing. Interesting how they tone down Cloud's features and skin color for the cover.

Peter: After riding nothing more than a desk during "the Big War," Sgt. Gage gets his first command in Korea. Unfortunately, one of his men turns out to be Vic Barnes, an old comrade during WWII, and Barnes rides the Sgt. with jabs about pencil-pushing and re-loading ink. In the end, Gage proves he's got what it takes to lead the "Pencil Pusher Patrol"... to himself and to Barnes. We all know where this is going from the opening panel so we might as well get comfortable. The scene where Gage scissors Barnes with his legs while they make their way over a ravine is a stretch to say the least. At least we get Jack Abel's fine art to see us through to the other side of this ravine.

For many years after this,
he was known as "Iron Crotch"
Jack: A very impressive tale, both story and art! I'm always happy when these stories move beyond WWII and the concluding peril, where the soldiers avoid being trapped in a trench and gunned down by the enemy, reminded me of an incident on Day 1 at the battle of Gettysburg. I am reading Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, a new book about the Civil War battle, and it's amazing how so much of what happens in war is accidental and unplanned. And by the way, the Sarge must have developed some real muscles while pushing his pencil to be able to go hand by hand across a rope while holding another soldier between his legs!

Peter: Green GI Shaw shows up at Baker Company just as the squad is burying Barney, a bazooka destroyed during combat. Shaw quickly raises the ire of the gunners when he questions the sanity of a soldier who names his equipment (no jokes now!). After being assigned to aid a bazookaman during heavy fire, Shaw comes to appreciate the love for a good piece of firepower. As with the first two stories in this issue, there were no surprises here; we all know there will be a major change in a character's outlook on the warriors around him during the story. Yeah, most of the tales we've read so far on this journey hammer that plot device home but this issue seems to be particularly egregious in its sameness. Anyone wanting to witness the startling pendulum swing known as Jerry Grandenetti need only compare his fine work here with the exaggerated and chaotic art he served up for "One False Step" from Unexpected #130 (covered in last week's blog).

Another Grandenetti pose
Jack: Even this was not a bad little story, despite showing early signs of the bad habits Grandenetti would develop in the next ten years or so. It's not so weird to gave names to inanimate objects. Certain members of my immediate family name their cars, so naming bazookas makes sense.

Peter: Call me a deserter, Corporal Jack, but I thought this issue stunk.

Jack: I think yer tin pot's on too tight.

Russ Heath
Our Army at War 103

"Easy's Had It!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Who Says You Can't Sink An Island?"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: The men of Easy Co. have such high respect for Sgt. Rock that they think that, if he dies in battle, then "Easy's Had It!" This worries the sergeant, who tries to convince his men that no one is expendable. After Rock single-handedly destroys two enemy tanks, his men are even more certain that he is invincible. Only when Easy Co. has to storm a seemingly impenetrable hill fortress and Rock is shot and apparently killed do the men realize that they have what it takes to keep on fighting, even if it's in Rock's name. Happily, Rock lives on and so does Easy Co., perhaps having grown in their confidence in themselves yet still acknowledging the importance of their leader. This has to be one of the classic Sgt. Rock stories! The importance of the scene where Easy Co. thinks Rock is dead is signaled by two consecutive full-page panels, which is unusual for Kubert. Kanigher's writing is in top form and the art is superb.

Peter: The extra pages really allow Kubert to flex his artistic muscles. There are several full- and near-full page pin-ups in this one. The story's a pretty good one as well though I still question the thought process behind shooting at a plane that's heading right at you. I would think the ensuing explosion would have taken out the entire Company but luck was with Our Army at War and a small tree provided enough barrier to save the day. Yes, I'm a stickler.

Jack: Japanese soldiers occupying a Pacific island think they have the upper hand when an Allied aircraft carrier approaches, but "Who Says You Can't Sink an Island?" The zeroes can't put a dent in the ship but repeated attacks by the American planes essentially destroy the island. At five and a half pages, this story is too short to work up any momentum, but Abel's art continues to impress me.

Peter: An interesting concept but as you say, Jack, the story's a tad on the light side. Jack Abel's work, in several spots, is a dead ringer for that of Kubert's. Only one panel, of Japanese Commander Sito in his Zero cockpit (stereotypical buckteeth a-flashin'), reminds the reader just how far Jack Abel has come since we started this journey.

Jack: Two side notes on this issue: one is the nice cover by Russ Heath, which pulls a scene out of the Sgt. Rock story that is not one of the highlights, and the other is the annual sales report, which states that Our Army at War was selling an average of 172,000 copies per month. I wonder why Kubert did not draw the cover for such a strong story? Maybe he was tired after cranking out 18 pages!

Peter: That 172,000 sales statistic is eye-opening. According to the 1960 DC sales figures, only All-Star Western sold less copies than any of the war books (at least of the titles that had to report sales figures) and this was at a time when Superman was selling 810,000 a month. What kept these titles afloat? For the record, other 1960 numbers reported were: GI Combat (182,000), All-American Men at War (176,000), Our Fighting Forces (175,000), and Star-Spangled (169,000).

Jerry Grandenetti
Our Fighting Forces 59

"Pooch--Patrol Leader!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"No Place to Land"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath

"Beach Prize for a Frogman!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Arf! After Gunner & Sarge destroy a Japanese tank in the pouring rain, their bickering back at camp leads the captain to tell them they are finished as a team. When poor Pooch can't decide which one of them to follow, the captain assigns the hero dog to go out on patrol with Cpl. Stanton and he becomes "Pooch--Patrol Leader!" On his own, Gunner downs an enemy plane but begins to worry about his four-legged pal and follows Cpl. Stanton into the jungle. Not surprisingly, Sarge has had the same idea and takes out an enemy machine gun trap hidden in a tree. Together again, everyone's favorite trio blows up an enemy cannon. Pooch manages to save the day when a grenade gets a little too close, but he is stunned when it goes off and his masters fear for his life. All is well in the end, though, as the canine champ lives to prance again! This story of the terrific trio was not as bad as some others, perhaps because it was not filled with wall to wall goofy banter.

Arf! Arf!
Peter: You're being much too kind, Jack, and your animal rights bent is showing through loud and clear. I, on the other hand, find Pacific Ocean dinosaur islands more believable than a dog who reads minds. That last bit, with Poochie finally wagging again after Gunner and Sarge are reunited, worked much better in the episode of Family Affair when Mister French made peace after Buffy found Mrs. Beasley in Jody's bed.

Jack: When a fighter pilot's aircraft carrier is destroyed he finds that he has "No Place to Land!" as he soars above the ocean with his gas gauge falling dangerously. He finally finds another carrier but sees a rising sun on its deck and knows two things: it's an enemy ship and it's lying in wait for a nearby Allied ship. The pilot aims his plane straight down at the enemy carrier and destroys it, saving the Allied ship and himself in the bargain. Ahh! A nice story with art by Russ Heath. What a relief! Russ, we've missed you.

"No Place to Land!"
Peter: This story tackles a subject I've often wondered about: where does a war plane go when it can't refuel? Just as scary a scenario as the crippled submarine in my book. Of course, we get the requisite happy ending (for just a few moments there, I thought we'd get one of those bleak "lead character dies a hero" finales I love so much but...) but, still, some nice intense scenes illustrated by the finest war artist DC employed at the time.

This one has it all!
Jack: A frogman is assigned the task of clearing enemy traps that surround a Pacific island so that the Allied invasion force can land. He is tempted by a "Beach Prize for a Frogman," a samurai sword placed on the beach as a challenge by a Japanese soldier. Despite obstacles that include enemy fire, a giant squid, and the enemy soldier himself--who is a judo master--the frogman clears the traps and makes off with the sword, clearing a path for invasion. This story was too busy to work, though any tale that manages to get a samurai sword, a judo master, and a giant squid into six pages can't be all bad!

Peter: Ed Wood called. He wants his giant rubber squid back. Jack Abel pauses on his ascent to the upper echelons of DC War Artists long enough to remind us that all Japanese soldiers had buck teeth. Really, Jack's a bit off his game here, very sketchy. As for the story, there are a few too many chutes and ladders for my tastes but it's harmless fun, I guess.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Twenty: January 1972

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

Nick Cardy
The House of Secrets 95

Story by John Albano
Art by Don Heck

"And Things That Go Bump in the Night!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Jack Sparling and George Tuska

"The Day After Doomsday..."
Story by Len Wein
Art by Jack Sparling

"The Last Sorcerer"
Story Uncredited
Art by Bernard Bailey
(reprinted from House of Mystery #69, December 1957)

"The Phantom of the Flames!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Maneely
(reprinted from House of Mystery #71, February 1958)

"The Bride of Death"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Nestor Redondo

Peter: Little Johann is worrying his upscale parents with his insistence that his fantasy friend, a "Creature" named Bobo, is real so they give their friend Corey, a psychiatrist, a call. Corey comes to stay and, one night, he follows Johann out to the beach house to find that Bobo may be real after all. Here's a wacky one, a story line we've read dozens of times but with a nasty twist thrown in. It's only hinted at but Johann's father, Martin, is some kind of a scientist or doctor and has a laboratory in the basement (where Johann catches spiders for Bobo!), "fully stocked with numerous parts of the human anatomy." Johann, a very bright boy, has been stealing in to the lab and watching his father perform "anatomy transplant experiments," all in order to build his own playmate. The final panel (see below), even after some really silly expository, is very creepy and effective. But why does Bobo eat spiders?

Jack: Because flies are too hard to catch! This story is a lot of fun and Don Heck's art is just right for it. I still can't get over the visiting doctor's offhand comment: "Incidentally--your basement laboratory is fully stocked with numerous parts of the human anatomy, is it not?" As if that's a normal thing! Why would a surgeon, other than Dr Frankenstein, keep spare human body parts in the cellar? It boggles the mind.

"And Things That Go Bump in the Night!"
Peter: In "And Things That Go Bump in the Night!", Martha and Henry move into their dream house only to find that it's haunted by a poltergeist. Realizing they can't solve the problem on their own, they enlist the aid of Addison Bell of the Bell, Book, and Kandle Spirit Exterminators. Agent Bell holds a quick seance and lickety split, no more evil spirit. This is a harmless bit of fluff with a fun reveal. Jack Sparling's art goes perfectly with a story that seems torn from a 1950s DC comic.

Jack: Another fun story! The ending caught me by surprise, but it wasn't a big shock--more like what one would expect in this situation. I liked it when Henry flipped through the Yellow Pages for a Ghost Breaker. Do they still take out ads? I'd check my Yellow Pages if I knew where they were. I just Googled "Ghost Breakers" in my local area but nothing useful popped up.

"The Day After Doomsday"
Peter: "The Day After Doomsday," Adam and Gertrude sift through the wreckage looking for food and reserves. Eve stumbles upon a music box but she can't get it to work. As she walks away, it begins to play. And that's it. I have no idea why these little two pagers ran so far apart (the last one appeared in The Witching Hour #9, July 1970) nor if Len Wein had a complete story in mind when he began writing it. If the story is lacking (and what story fragment isn't lacking?), at least we find out that Jack Sparling knows his way around the female anatomy.

Jack: This again? Can it possibly be unintentional when Adam asks for "a hand with these cans" and the word balloon is right beneath Gertrude's ample bosom?

"The Last Sorcerer"
Peter: Both reprints this time out are nice little slices of nostalgia: "The Last Sorcerer" is The Great Manfrey, a magician who views his gift as a curse and can't wait to become a regular citizen sans magical powers. Bernard Bailey, who helped create The Spectre and Hourman in 1940, makes you forget that the story you're reading isn't so special even though the art is delivered in a very elementary style (the majority of pages are divvied up into six panels dominated by the central character and not much else). My favorite Golden Age artist, Joe Maneely, helps tell the story of "The Phantom of the Flames." After no-gooder Jess Hargrove saves the life of a medicine man in the jungle, the witch doctor feels indebted to Jess and gives him the power of calling up the Genie of the Flames, a creature who dwells within a cloud of smoke. Of course, Jess uses the genie for nefarious deeds but, thanks to a meddling housekeeper, the con man is left defenseless during a robbery and gets sent up the river. If I didn't know better, I would have thought this was actually taken from one of the pre-Thor Journey Into Mystery comics Joe contributed to. Pay attention to the intricate detail in Maneely's work and explain to me how he could pump these things out so fast.

"The Phantom of the Flames"
Jack: What a weird little story "The Last Sorcerer" is! Manfrey decides he has too much power and so wills it away. The end! I love Bailey but his art on "Martian Boy" (see House of Mystery this month, below) is even better. I am right there with you on Joe Maneely. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the smoke monster! I am going to take down those magic words and try it out the next time we have a fire in the fireplace. I think that all of these war and horror comics are making it hard for me to distinguish reality from fantasy. Oh, Gertrude---!

Peter: As his life comes to an end and he wants youth and beauty again, the Marquis Luis Da Costa makes a bargain with Satan for one more century of youth and a beautiful bride. Da Costa gets his youth but, as is always the case when one makes a deal with the devil, not quite the beauty he'd hoped for. Another cliched plot line but "The Bride of Death" is served up with exquisite artwork by Nestor Redondo, who somehow found the time and patience to intricately detail each and every panel despite being saddled with an average script. In many panels, Redondo's work reminds me of that of Reed Crandall, one of EC's finest artists.

Jack: Arrgh! What a great story right up to the ending, which was a dud! The art is just gorgeous. It reminds me of Classic Comics I read when I was a kid. I'm not sure if it was Redondo or another artist like him who drew those books but they sure were great!

"The Bride of Death"

Nick Cardy
The House of Mystery 198

"Two Lives to Live!"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Mike Sekowsky and Nick Cardy

"He Adopted a Martian Boy"
Story Uncredited
Art by Bernard Bailey
(reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #28, August 1958)

"Brief Visit"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Day of the Demon!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Mike Sekowsky and Carl Anderson

"The Thing in the Telescope"
Story Uncredited
Art by Mort Meskin
(reprinted from House of Mystery #60, March 1957)

Peter: This is the first House of Mystery I ever bought new off the stands (and I've still got its coverless corpse around here somewhere) after dipping my toes in the water with DC Special #11: The Monsters Are Coming Here. I must not have thought too much of #198 because 16 issues would pass before I bought another one. It might have been the exorbitant price tag.

"Two Lives To Live"
Ian Lerner, famous painter and party man, can't seem to find enough time in the day for his two passions. One night he exclaims "I would sell my soul to the devil to be twins!" and faster than you can say "Two bargain with the devil stories for Jack Oleck in one month!" he has "Two Lives to Live." Ian1 goes out partying while Ian2 stays at home and paints, but Ian1 becomes jealous when the work of Ian2 draws the attention of the same critics who ignored Ian1 all these years. Could his twin actually be better than he? In an effort to see, he commands Ian2 to party all the time while he himself does the painting. Ian1 finds that the grass is always greener and decides that he doesn't want to be twins anymore but when he tries to strangle Ian2 he discovers that they are simply two of the one. If one dies, the other dies. For some silly reason (right after finding out how attached the two are), Ian1 locks Ian2 in a basement cell, marries a beautiful girl and goes on a cruise. There he dies of starvation because Ian2 was left to rot in his cell. It's too bad the climax is a "d'oh" because the build-up is actually pretty good, despite the overload on Satan Bargain Stories this month.

Jack: Nick Cardy's inks overwhelm Mike Sekowsky's pencils in most panels, though there are some real Sekowskyish close-ups of faces in a few spots. The funniest bit of dialogue comes when one twin asks the other, "'Having fun, me?'" This is not a very good story to start the issue with.

"Brief Visit"
Peter: "Brief Visit" is a four-pager beautifully drawn by Sam Glanzman but, unfortunately, also written by Sam Glanzman. It's not horrible, it's just not much in the way of a narrative and what's there doesn't make much sense. Satan decides to go up top to see what's been going on but he can't decide which of his three junior demons to leave in charge. Should it be Nilats, Itepal, or Reltih? Well, this time Reltih wins the lottery and Beelzebub takes his trip just in time to witness Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He's a pleased man. Why use anagrams for the three demons (Stalin, Pilate, and Hitler) when you could just as effectively call them by their real names? The final panel (of a mushroom cloud over Nagasaki) is chilling but the story goes nowhere. We're introduced to the three juniors but that's all. They're not an integral piece of this puzzle. Is it Glanzman's graphic representation of "Sympathy for the Devil?"

Jack: I was so happy to have used my DC Zatanna training to decode "Reltih" that I never thought to stray from the strict code of backwards names in order to decode "Itepal." The story is cliched but the art has a nice, Alex Toth-like vibe to it. Glanzman is better at drawing demons than people.

"The Day of the Demon"
Peter: Archie Goodwin taps into the Cthulhu Mythos for "The Day of the Demon," an early contender for Best Story of 1972 (yes, I know we're only one month in!). The followers of Modok, a beast who waits to be freed from his dimension into ours, have kidnapped a villager's son and are ready to serve him up to their master. They're just waiting for the right time, a sign that tells them Modok is ready. They believe the sign arrives in the form of a robed man, carrying a book of spells, who agrees to follow them to their black church and proceeds to conjure up the demon. Just as Modok is about to feast, the stranger alters his incantations and the giant red being goes up in flames. As he walks back to the village with the boy and his father, it's revealed that the stranger is a priest. Suspenseful and very adult, "The Day of the Demon" hits all the right notes. I never saw the finale coming (even after having read it 40 years ago) and though the art is sketchy and exaggerated (if I hadn't seen the credits, I'd swear this was Jerry Grandenetti), it seems to work perfectly here. The only hiccup is that giant tentacle in the middle of Modok's face. It just looks silly. That panel of the worshippers sitting in the rotted church is a classic. Three demon-themed stories in one issue and The Exorcist hadn't even been released yet!

Jack: Compare Mike Sekowsky's art here, inked by Carl Anderson, to his work on "Two Lives to Live," which is heavily inked by Nick Cardy. Sekowsky did Goodwin no favors with this one. I did not care for this story at all. I had a feeling that the mysterious stranger would turn out to be a good guy, so the big reveal that he was a priest did not surprise me. This reminded me of one of those confusing Dr. Strange stories from around 1972 with all of the Lovecraftian stuff. I just didn't think this one worked.

"He Adopted a Martian Boy"
Peter: "He Adopted a Martian Boy" indeed! But what to do afterwards? Well, you can teach him the English language in one afternoon, or watch as he freezes gorillas with the beams from his eyes, or thrill to the spectacle of the boy becoming a giant and destroying a hurricane. I prefer to just forget this one. There's not much to recommend in "The Thing in the Telescope" either. A group of thugs dig up their deceased boss's stash box, rumored to be full of priceless gems. Instead, they find a telescope and as each thug takes his turn looking into the lens, madness befalls him. Turns out the boss had known he was being two-timed and coated the focus with a fast-acting poison. Please don't ask how the boss rigged the poison and buried the box if he was on death row. It's the kind of faux supernatural melodrama that DC "excelled" at in the 50s, harmless stuff you can forget about minutes after ingesting. Which is what I've done yet again.

"The Thing in the Telescope"
Jack: I loved Bernard Bailey's art on "Martian Boy" and I enjoyed the story, though those Martians are awfully fish-faced. "Telescope" suffers once again from Mort Meskin's unfocused art. Usually I think his work looks like that of Kirby, but here he reminds me of Ditko. One thing I have not seen yet in the Meskin reprints is an individual style. "Martian Boy" is more SF than horror and "Telescope" ends up being a crime tale. The problem with the DC "horror" reprints is that DC didn't really do "horror" in the '50s.

Peter: Letter writer Ernie Saxton of Pennsylvania tells "Cain" that he thinks "the old E.C. line has influenced you and that is wonderful. Unfortunately, you are limited by the Comics Code Authority. Still, your stories are of a very high calibre. Did you ever think of experimenting with a little sci-fi/horror?" Bizarrely, "Cain" takes the opportunity to get in a dig at Warren: "If some of my stories are a bit reminiscent of the E.C. days, it could be because the editor I hired [Joe Orlando] used to work in that old MADhouse. Comics Code or no, I am limited only by the range of my ingenuity. As far as sci-fi goes, I do some occasionally. But as for horror, I wouldn't stoop to doing that CREEPY, EERIE stuff. My tales are masterpieces of macabre mystery."

Nick Cardy
Unexpected 131

"Run for Your Death!"
Story by Jack Phillips (George Kashdan)
Art by Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia

"The Beast of Bristol"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jim Mooney
(reprinted from House of Mystery #20, November 1953)

"If Time Runs Out!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Dick Dillin and Mike Esposito

"We Cruised Into the Supernatural!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Nick Cardy
(reprinted from My Greatest Adventure #30, April 1959)

"The Upside Down World of Harry Updyke"
Story by Bill Dennehy (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

This photo of Peter was taken right
after he read another issue of Unexpected.
Jack: Lance Ervin traveled from America to Paris to join the International Sportsmen's Club, little knowing that it would result in him being told to "Run for Your Death!" It seems that, rather than being welcomed as a fellow hunter, Lance is seen as prey, and he is chased all over France before an unintended avalanche on a snowy mountain buries the hunters and saves Lance. Not a bad little tale, with standard 1972 DC art by Bob Brown. I did not see the end coming, which makes it UNEXPECTED!

Peter: Here's something Unexpected: a decent story in Unexpected. I'm not sure if this variation on The Most Dangerous Game is actually any good or if it's just not as bad as the usual Unexpected tripe. It's got a nice twist in its climax.

Jack: Ian Cheevers has wanted that grandfather clock for 26 years now, ever since wealthy Mr. Cavendish outbid him for it at an auction. Now Cavendish is dead, and Cheevers enters his house to take the clock. A servant warns him that the clock is cursed and "If Time Runs Out!" and the clock stops, it's owner will die! Undaunted, Cheevers shoves the servant down a flight of stairs and absconds with the clock. Eventually, his crime is found out, and the villagers take potshots at his house with their rifles. By this time Cheevers is convinced that the curse is for real, since he nearly died a few times in a storm. UNEXPECTEDLY, the clock stops and he drops dead! I just about keeled over myself reading this one. This idea was done much better on The Twilight Zone as "Ninety Years Without Slumbering."

Spoiler alert--he dies.
Peter: It's inexplicable to me that Carl Wessler, a guy who'd been writing comic books (including a stint at EC) for thirty years, leaned back in his chair, considered this a perfectly readable story, and turned it in to editor Murray Boltinoff. Of course, having read over a dozen issues of this title, it's not Unexpected that Boltinoff happily accepted this bilge. "If Time Runs Out" has no flow, no suspense, and no real climax. Characters flit in and out with no consequence.

Jack: Poor Harry Updyke. His wife is a shrew and his boss is a jerk. He's only happy when he's dreaming of wealth or of beautiful women. He suffocates his wife with a pillow and stabs his boss with a letter opener, but when he goes home to slip back into dreamland he develops insomnia. He goes to the police to confess, thinking that clearing his conscience will let him sleep. But in "The Upside Down World of Harry Updyke," it turns out that he confessed to a crime he imagined (killing his boss) and as a result he was convicted of a crime he really committed (killing his wife). He is sentenced to death and electrocuted. This story was hard to follow but at least we had Jerry G's bizarre art to keep us entertained.

Jerry being Jerry
Peter: There's a gem of a good idea here but it seems to have gotten lost in the confusing result. Harry's blurring of his world, real and imagined, is an interesting hook on which to hang a story. Unfortunately, Murray didn't have the hammer to knock the hook in. Grandenetti, meanwhile, is Grandenetti.

Jack: Elliot Smathers is the hottest monster movie star in England, and his agent, Alex Kent, is offered $5000 to bring him to America. Unfortunately, Smathers wants no part of the U.S.A. Kent hires another actor to dress up as some of the monsters Smathers has played and make some personal appearances around London in order to scare Smathers into going to America. It seems Smathers has been having nightmares of his roles and Kent thinks this will put him over the edge. Sadly for Kent, the personal appearances go a little bit too well, and when he discovers that Smathers is really acting out the roles himself, he becomes the latest victim of "The Beast of Bristol." This is a cool story with nice 1953 art by Jim Mooney. In "We Cruised Into the Supernatural!" a group of men who pay big money for exciting adventures takes a ride with sorcerer Maki into a supernatural land filled with mythical creatures and has to hitch a ride on a flying horse and the Loch Ness Monster to get home! This sure reads like it's part of a series but I don't know what series it was. It was a fun read, in any case.

"The Beast of Bristol"

Peter: Hate to sound like the proverbial broken record, but our reprints this issue are much more enjoyable than the stuff Murray had to pay for. "The Beast of Bristol" is goofy and it doesn't make much sense (but then, what does in this title?) but it's got a manic energy to it that makes you want to read more 1950s mystery stories. Rather than the typical Scooby-Doo climax, we get one that's vague and open-ended (is Elliott really the monster or are the monsters coming to life independent of the film star?) and, thus, refreshing. Also silly fun is "We Cruised into the Supernatural," which reads like a pilot for a Challengers of the Unknown-esque series. My Greatest Adventure (which lasted for 85 issues from 1955-1964) may be a book I'd like to delve a little deeper into. As usual with Unexpected, the star of the title is the guy who picks out the reprints.

"We Cruised Into
the Supernatural!"

Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 18

"The Worm That Turned to Terror"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Diggers! (or, Dig, They Must!)"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia

"The Face Behind the Mask"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Jack Kirby
(reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #13, May 1957)

"I Was a Prisoner of the Supernatural"
Story by Fran Heron
Art by Nick Cardy
(reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #13, May 1957)

"Hypnotic Eye"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jim Aparo

"When Satan Comes A-Creeping!"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by John Calnan and Vince Colletta

"The Worm That Turned to Terror"
Jack: Milquetoast Barney dreams of killing his shrewish wife Henrietta. One night, his long-lost twin brother Keith shows up with a message--get a spine! Barney joins Keith on nighttime outings, first knocking over his mother-in-law's gravestone, then vandalizing the office where he works, as he becomes "The Worm That Turned to Terror!" Finally, when Barney and Keith try to break into the safe at his office, the police arrive and cart Barney off to the hospital. His wife tells the doctor that Barney was an only child and Keith his imaginary brother. Between this and "Harry Updyke," in this month's Unexpected, Grandenetti is becoming the poet of the repressed husband.

Peter: It's fairly obvious we're going down the Fight Club path, but that familiarity may be a result of the Monday Morning Quarterback chair I sit in and we've lived through several variations on this twist already. Readers in 1972 may have been surprised at the reveal. As is the case with all of Jerry Grandenetti's work, his "talent" depends on the story he's given more than just about any other artist. Here, I think his art works just fine.

It's only a statue!
Jack: French soldier Achilles Moreau flees a doomed trench in France in 1917 moments before his comrades are blown up by mines placed by underground diggers. In the years that follow, his life is ruined by the sounds of "The Diggers," underground digging sounds that he hears whenever he is about to embark on a big change--running for mayor, getting married, signing a business deal. Desperate to solve his problem he returns to the site of his cowardice, only to be blown up by a leftover mine. This is a very interesting story! I have my doubts that Moreau's decision to flee the doomed trench was a bad one or made him a coward. To me, his action made a lot of sense. The psychological digging sounds he later hears are reminiscent of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" and the final scene, where he thinks he sees the ghosts of his comrades, is well-handled. A surprisingly good story that elevates the Brown/Giacoia art.

Peter: Bob Haney's a name that comes up quite a bit while reading for our Star-Spangled DC War portion and, much like Robert Kanigher, it's apparent that war was what Bob excelled at. In fact, we just reviewed a war story not too long ago that dealt with "diggers." This story looks like it might have been meant for one of those war titles but was gussied up a bit for The Witching Hour.

Why you should not harm kitty-kats
Jack: "Hypnotic Eye" is a one-page quickie about a duel that features the usual above-average art by Jim Aparo. "When Satan Comes A-Creeping!" features Crazy Lord Harold, who still lives in the run-down castle he inherited from his ancestors. When beautiful blonde Bedelia and her black cat Satan take shelter from a storm in his garage, he welcomes them into his home with evil intent. Bedelia turns out to be a witch and she fixes up the place, prepares a nice meal, and eventually becomes his wife. Harold takes things a step too far when he kills her cat, thinking it will take away her powers. What it takes away is her beauty, and he is stuck with a hag as a wife! I was really surprised at the quality of the Calnan/Colletta art here. Bedelia is hot stuff and when she turns ugly, she turns UGLY!

Peter: "Hypnotic Eye" is nowhere near as entertaining as the movie of the same name. "When Satan Comes..." is marred by a really dumb climax and lapses in logic (was it always Bedelia's plot to marry Lord Harold?), but almost escapes the trash bin with its nice Calnan and Colletta art.

Put the mask on now!
Jack: In "The Face Behind the Mask," wealthy Jay Hamilton falls hard for beautiful actress Zoe Ann Kerns, but when he wangles a date with her he is surprised to see that she covers her face in bandages. She later reveals it's because she's 300 years old and can only regain her youth for a short time with the help of a sorcerer's potion. When Jay's dad wants to plunk down a cool million for a supply of the potion for his own use, Zoe takes him to the sorcerer and finally admits it's all a con to get his cash. Once again, I don't see what the big deal is about Jack Kirby's art. Seems to be it's often a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. If anyone else drew this we'd be laughing at it.

"I Was a Prisoner of the Supernatural" finds actor Jasper Murdock receiving an offer from Satan to be his emissary of evil on Earth. Jasper disobeys and saves his rival for the love of a woman; all ends happily as he is lauded as a hero. Standard fare with early Cardy art that is much better than Kirby's from the same 1957 comic, if you ask me.

"I Was a Prisoner of the Supernatural"
Peter: Neither of our reprints have anything to do with witches. "Face Behind the Mask" is a so-so mainstream mystery disguising itself as fantasy with nice Kirby art. "I Was a Prisoner..." is an enjoyable little tale about a decent guy who becomes a bad guy but saves himself in the end. I thought for sure we were going to find out that Satan was all in Jasper's imagination (writer Heron introduces the Head Honcho of Hell but then ditches him midway through the yarn). Rarely do we see in these old horror stories a man go bad and then redeem himself and live a respectable life (even getting better roles!). I liked this one a lot. This and "The Beast of Bristol" prove there were a lot of good stories to be mined out of the actor who becomes identified as his characters. (A note on the story credit: though the comic itself credits Fran Heron as writer, the GCDB lists the creator as Ed Herron)