Monday, June 16, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Twenty-Nine: October 1972

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

Mike Kaluta
Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion 7

"Eye of the Beholder!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Howard Chaykin and Tony deZuniga

"The Immortality Thieves!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Win Mortimer

"The Royal Right"
Story by Joe Orlando and Robert Kanigher
Art by Bill Draut

Peter: Hunter Ron Evans has been lost in the forest for days when he stumbles into and becomes entangled in a giant spider's web. Just before the super-arachnid is about to chow down on Ron, he passes out and comes to, staring into the eyes of a beautiful girl. The lass introduces herself as Elana and invites Ron back to her father's castle. There, Ron learns that Elana's father collects exotic spiders but when he tells the older man his story of horror he's met with derision. Ron soon falls in love with Elana but the girl refuses to marry him since, she says, her twin sister, Ora, is also in love with the young man. Bewildered, Ron exclaims that he hasn't even met Ora yet. That situation is soon rectified when Elana's father takes his guest down into the cellar to meet Ora, who happens to be a giant red spider. The man of the house explains that Ron will be blindfolded and must choose a door, behind which will be his new bride, either Ora or Elana. Ron picks Door #2 and, at first, likes his choice but beauty is truly in the "Eye of the Beholder," when the gorgeous damsel soon reveals herself to be a really big crimson spider.

She's a what?
Where to start? I suspect that was the question that popped into Bob Kanigher's head when he needed to come up with a story for Dark Mansions #7. Kanigher wrote thousands of DC war and hero stories so structure must have been one of his strong points but this narrative rambles and makes very little sense (at one point, the action jumps from Elana's revelation about Ora to her father leading Ron into the cellar as if there were a few panels missing from the finished product). The art is really sharp in spots but several panels almost look like posed Maybelline models looking off into the distance when they're supposed to be having interaction. Just look at that last panel (right) and you can see neither of the male leads is actually looking at each other. And just what the hell is that ending supposed to mean? Was it all in Ron's head? Is he being punished for hunting or dressing like a swashbuckler?

Jack: You are being too harsh on this one! The art is gorgeous, with Chaykin and deZuniga working together to bring out each other's strengths. Yes, the story is a little strange, but you can't deny it's a cool ending! I did figure out that the sister was the giant spider not too far into the tale. I'm just that good.

Actually, that should be
"Hand deliver those vials, understand?"
Peter: Edward and Laura visit Edward's dying older brother Jack but are startled to find the man magically youthful. Jack reveals the secret of his good looks, a serum that reverses age. Edward knows he must have that serum and Laura (once Jack's fiancé) goes to work on her ex with all her charms. Neither have success prying the potion from Jack so Edward has a safe cracker steal the formula. The two leave for home and youth soon follows.... for a time. Soon, the aging begins again but at an accelerated rate. In a panic, the pair race to Jack's house where they find a grotesquely old man, Jack, who explains that his plan the entire time was to get the two vultures to join him in old age and death. "The Immortality Thieves" is not a very good story and, much like "Beholder," I got the sneaking feeling it was edited crudely before publication. Let me just add that it seems sometimes as though the DC mystery line letterers had a problem with punctuation and spelling. It's no wonder my generation grew up not knowing the difference between who's and whose.

Jack: This story can't make up its mind between romance and horror! The art by Win Mortimer is his usual bland work. Can we talk about the woman who is hosting this mag? She is not impressing me. I think someone cut the head off the figure in the full-page intro and kept pasting it on in random panels along with her narration. She looks like a brunette scarecrow. And don't even get me started with the proofreading.

She's a what?
Peter: A small neighborhood in New York is home to Transylvanian transplants, including the rude and insufferable Duke, who demands that his neighbors feed him and clothe him at his whim. One of the young girls in the neighborhood, beautiful Illya, strikes the Duke's fancy and, on her wedding night, he tells the girl he wants to be her... first. Knowing she cannot refuse anything the Duke commands, the girl accompanies the man to a nearby room where she reveals that she's a vampire and bites his neck. Oy! Another of those long long long seven page stories that only seems to be seventy. The reveal at the climax is right out of the blue, which normally would be fine but, in this instance doesn't work. It's clear from the get-go that this Duke is a rotten guy and we have to suffer through incident after incident of bad behavior. Why doesn't Illya do the neighborhood a favor and take this guy out earlier? And does her husband-to-be know she's a vampire? Does her father? Doesn't look like it. All around, a lousy issue of Dark Mansions.

Jack: I liked the ending and it made the whole story better for me. The Duke is such a jerk and the people who are subject to his whims are such idiots that I was very glad to see the Duke get his just desserts. I don't think we've had a vampire story in awhile, so I was glad to see one. Too bad we didn't get any blood!

Nick Cardy
Unexpected 140

"The Anatomy of Hate"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Born Under an Evil Star!"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Jerry Grandenetti and Bill Draut

"Blind as the Night!"
Story by Bill Dennehy (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Lee Elias

Jack: Greg Roberts seems like a nice guy but his father Cort is an overbearing monster. When Greg's mother dies, Cort tells him that it's just the two of them against the world and that he needs to make his wife Mona toe the line. Mona takes the kids and walks out and, after a couple of weeks, Greg tries to win her back. Cort is disappointed by his son's weakness and, one night, he is menaced by a monster that seems to be made up of energy. Cort shoots the monster, which turns out to be his son Greg. Greg's anger and hate was so great that Cort imagined that he was a monster. The cops find them both dead the next morning--Cort dead of fright and Greg dead of a gunshot wound. "The Anatomy of Hate" is sort of a good story with sort of great art, but in the end it just falls apart, especially when the narration tells us it was all in Cort's head. Alcala can draw anything, but a monster made up of pure hatred is a tall order to visualize.

It just looks funny to me!
Peter: I agree, Jack. This is not Alfredo's best work, too many "human" characters. Now, if the action had taken place in the jungle... I couldn't make much sense of that finale. Did Cort shoot his son with a shotgun in the cellar? Then what's he doing in the garden? And did he shoot him before or after he was the Great Goblin of Light? I hate comic books that force me to think.

Jack: Owen Rogg shoots and kills his friend John Turner and then assumes his identity in order to accompany Turner's associates, Fleming and Pratt, on a treasure hunt. Rogg did not realize that he was "Born Under An Evil Star," but he learns this soon enough as one problem after another befalls him, ending in his death. Bill Draut tames most of Jerry G's bizarre excesses but the result just looks wooden. And, in an UNEXPECTED twist, this story marks the return of the Mad, Mod Witch, who has not been seen around these parts in a couple of years! What would possess them to bring her back? Was this story sitting in a desk drawer?

What did we do to deserve this?
Peter: Absolutely rotten in both story and art. Grandenetti's work here looks unusually bright as if someone in the DC bullpen stole all of Jerry's trademark black ink.

Jack: Rich old Henry Jessup is as "Blind As The Night!" and so cannot enjoy all the art treasures in his home. When a new servant named Peter shows up, Jessup offers the man $30K to buy one of his eyes. The operation is a success and Jessup can see, but when everything suddenly goes dark he falls to his death in his empty swimming pool. Surprise! It was the blackout of 1965! When does copying reach the point of stealing? As I read this story, I was hoping it would not end with Jessup suddenly thinking he's blind again due to a blackout. Yes, I saw it on Night Gallery, too. Apparently, Murray Boltinoff watched that Night Gallery movie, along with millions of other TV viewers, because he copied it a little too close for comfort. For anyone keeping score, the episode was "Eyes," aired as part of the pilot on November 8, 1969.

Peter: Even though I saw that Night Gallery episode and could guess the twist at the climax, this was a decent read for me. Why didn't Jessup think about offering fifty grand to someone for their eyes before? Did this scheme just pop into his mind when he was around this young guy? Elias' art gives the story a pre-code Atlas vibe. That's a good thing!

Unexpected . . . unless you watched Night Gallery

Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 24

"Where Nightmares Never End"
Story by Bill Dennehy (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Another Candidate for the Morgue"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Norm Maurer

"When the Scorpion Strikes"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jack Sparling

Jack: On a bus tour into the jungle, "Where Nightmares Never End," a group of Americans is taken to see a voodoo rite. Despite being warned not to take pictures, a pushy American businessman snaps away and angers the natives. The tour guide pleads for mercy and, to everyone's surprise, the witch doctor takes an instant photo of Horton and gives him back his camera. Horton's wife is disgusted by the picture, which Horton thinks is a trick. However, on the bus ride back to civilization, he learns differently, as his face and body begin to decay to resemble the gruesome figure in the photo.

Before discussing this story, let's mention the knockout cover by Nick Cardy, where a beautiful woman walks nervously through an expressionistic, bombed-out urban landscape as the hairy hand of a strangler promises impending doom. Cardy has become one of my favorite comic book cover artists since we've been reviewing early '70s DC books.

Peter: Now this is a better example of Alfredo Alcala's exquisite artwork. That large panel of the witch doctor and his rooster is insanely detailed and atmospheric. The story... eh. Since we see our pompous traveller insult the tribesmen on the third page, the rest of the story feels like padding until we get to the inevitable twist finale (which doesn't really work anyway). Best art of the month.

Something strange, indeed!
Jack: It's 1947, and bombed-out West Berlin is being terrorized by the Jackal, who murders lonely young women with a knife. Will Elsa, a pretty waitress, become his next victim? She rebuffs the advances of a policeman named Ernst and her boss Fritz in favor of creepy Mr. Loering to walk her home, but in the end it turns out that the Jackal is none other than Elsa herself, who has gone off the deep end because her family had been killed in the war. Proofreading again ain't so hot, and our hostess, Cynthia, is at her hippest and grooviest. Witness this caption: "Ah, that Elsa! She was a bird who wanted a cat that'd put her in a guilded cage!" For the record, it should be "gilded." Norm Maurer was a long-time comic artist who actually taught with Joe Kubert. He gets a C- for this assignment.

Peter: This is another pulpy Wessler script, one that tries for Ten Little Indians and ends up with some low-budget Corman production. The physical change that overcomes our little strudel, The Jackal, is goofy. It looks as though Elsa's entire brow and eye sockets move a few inches down her face. Nicht sehr hubsch, Fraulein! Maurer's art in spots is a dead ringer for Jerry Grandenetti's. Speaking of dead ringers, Fritz could very well be J. Jonah Jameson's dad.

Jack: Poor Horace Madigan! Every night, he dreams that he's a big, hairy spider who meets a scorpion. When he wakes, he's convinced that "When the Scorpion Strikes," he'll die for real. Night after night, the dream recurs and gets closer to its tragic end; day after day, his life and family begin to fall apart. He finally consults a psychiatrist, who tells him to concentrate on who he really is. Unfortunately, when he goes home and does just that, it turns out that he is really a spider about to be killed by a scorpion! This is the kind of kooky, gruesome story that appeals to me, and Sparling's slightly bizarre art fits the bill perfectly. The twist reminds me of Ambrose Bierce and "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," except with spiders.

Peter: This one's got a fun double whammy twist but just don't you think about it too long or the whole thing will come down like a house of cards. That big, hairy spider has one heck of a well-traveled imagination to come up with psychiatrists, sneering children, bitchy wife, and a town that ostracizes the poor guy for having bad dreams.

Nick Cardy
Ghosts 8

"The Cadaver in the Clock!"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Buddy Gernale

"The Guns of the Dead"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Hotline to the Supernatural"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by The Redondo Studio

"To Kill a Tyrant!"
Story by Leo Dorfman
Art by Quico Redondo

Jack: As Emily Berwick is dying, she asks her friend, young Dr. White, to promise that she will not be buried alive as her brother nearly was years before. The doctor keeps his promise, and preserves Emily's mummified corpse in a grandfather clock with a glass door on the front. He also must bring the corpse back to her home at Birchen Bowers every seven years. When the doctor finally dies, the memory of these requirements gets forgotten, and Emily's ghost haunts those near the clock. They finally bury her in a grave, clock and all, but that doesn't stop the Berwick specter. Over time, her home becomes a place for the poor, run by a greedy landlord. He dies one night trying to drive a stake into her grave to lay the ghost to rest. This story isn't half bad! It gets a little confusing and tries to throw in too much plot, but I found the central conceit--the corpse in the clock--and the ghostly wanderings entertaining.

Peter: Ghosts is fast becoming the one book I dread cracking open every week. The "true ghost story" has worn out its welcome for me after seven issues of mostly forgettable material. Having said that, if more stories in this title were as entertaining as "The Cadaver in the Clock!", that dread might well turn to acceptance. This story has a breezy feel to it (who couldn't love a cadaverous cuckoo clock?) and it's nicely illustrated by newcomer Buddy Gernale, an artist who, while not quite the stylist of an Alcala, Nino, or Redondo, can hold his own against the middle-rung pencilers of the DC mystery line. We'll see a handful more of Gernale on our journey.

Jack: It's 1944 in the Marshall Islands, and two marines lament the death of their sergeant. They and their comrades rush the jungle and are being picked off by snipers when "The Guns of the Dead" roar to life and the sergeant, presumed dead, rushes forward, shooting snipers and turning the tide of the battle. Later, when all is calm, the marines discover that sarge is still buried in the grave they made, but they don't notice his M-1 pointing up out of the dirt toward the jungle. Maybe it's because we've been conditioned to expect so little from Ghosts, and maybe it's because we have a special affinity for DC war stories, but I thought this was pretty good!

Peter: "The Guns of the Dead" isn't an awful story but it's an oft-told tale. There's nothing new here but the Sam Glanzman art is very G.I. Combat-worthy. No surprise since Glanzman was a regular writer and artist for the DC war titles in the 1970s, creating the popular "U.S.S. Stevens" series that appeared regularly in Our Army at War and Our Fighting Forces.

Jack: In 1902, on the island of Martinique, a few people have premonitions of doom and get away fast. Good thing, too, because the next day a volcano explodes and the only survivors are those who heeded warnings from a "Hotline to the Supernatural." This is a forgettable, Ripley's Believe It Or Not sort of tale in three quick pages.

Peter: Even though this story is a load of wet laundry, I'm impressed that writer Dorfman was allowed access to "records of the disaster" that showed "the only survivors were those who believed in the warning from the world of the supernatural." I'd like to see that paperwork. The art, credited to The Redondo Studio (composed of unnamed Filipino artists), is weak and uninspired.

Jack: In Czarist Russia, Rasputin, the Mad Monk, has grown too powerful, so a couple of nobles try to kill him, but (like Steven Seagal) he proves hard to kill. As he is dying, he asks that his mystical, hypnotic eyes be transplanted into someone else after he is dead, since they are the source of his power. Decades later, as Stalin is dying, he trusts only his servant Olga. Though Stalin struggles for survival, he eventually kicks the bucket as well, and we learn that Olga had been the recipient of Rasputin's eyes when she was a blind girl. Did Rasputin's stare carry across time and allow the peasant woman "To Kill a Tyrant"? I don't know, but I was intrigued enough to head to Wikipedia and learn more! My quick scan of the (very long) article on the Mad Monk tells me that yes, he was a bit tough to finish off, and no, his eyes did not get transplanted in a blind girl who later won a staring contest with Joseph Stalin.

Peter: Nice art but a story that would put Rasputin's transplanted eyeballs to sleep.

Mike Kaluta
The House of Secrets 101

"Small Invasion"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Alex Nino

"The Sacrifice"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by June Lofamia

"Hiding Place"
Story by Raymond Marais
Art by Ruben Yandoc

Peter: In the not-too-distant future, aliens from the planet Phloris will camouflage one of their own as own of our own to initiate a "Small Invasion" of earth. Set up as a logger named Dick, the alien very quickly becomes friends with his crew members and even falls in love with a local waitress, so when his commander orders him to build a platform for the first wave of invasion ships, he refuses. Enraged, his commander sends a "lethal sound wave" to earth which kills Dick and all his logging friends. After the deluge, Dick's girlfriend contacts Phlorus and tells her commander that the sound wave worked. However, she had fallen in love with Dick as well and, in a fit of revenge, she sends a sound wave right back at Phlorus, destroying the entire invasion team.

"Small Invasion"

A very old-fashioned story retro-fitted for the 1970s thanks to the knockout artwork of Alex Nino. Ignoring anything that looks like a panel border, Nino's art seems to bust at the seams with a life of its own. I wonder though how the Phlorusians manage to screw up their measurements badly enough to make Dick a small man. Twelve zoltics should really have done the job, don't you think? That must have been the logging camp of the giants.

Jack: After that dynamite cover by Mike Kaluta, this issue starts off with one of the best stories of 1972! The story is more science fiction than horror, but I enjoyed it and did not anticipate the relatively mild twist of having the girl be an alien. I did have to laugh when it was revealed that the alien "mole" who was supposed to be so big and strong was christened "Dick Brawn," a porno name if I've ever heard one. Nino's art is fantastic and reminds me of the work of Alex Toth in spots. I would love to get a look at the original artwork for this one!

"The Sacrifice"
Peter: Fifty years ago, Andrew offered his wife up as "The Sacrifice" in return for youth. Now, he's willing to do it again with his second wife, Maria. When Andrew explains the situation to Maria, she willingly goes with her husband to the small Greek island of Karres where the witches will perform the ritual. Unknown to Andrew, his wife has made the same bargain with the witches and he'll be the next one offered up on the slab. Jack Oleck opens up the creaky bottom drawer and out pops this predictable pulp, overlong by a couple pages (but you'll guess the twist by page three) and presented with newcomer June Lofamia's bland, lifeless art. Lofamia's art, at least this initial shot, is proof that not all of the Filipino artists were exploding with panache.

Jack: I thought June Lofamia was a rare female comic book artist until you pointed out, to quote Mickey Spillane in Vengeance Is Mine!, "Juno was a man!" Unlike my experience reading that great novel, I guessed the twist in this story well before the ending just like you did.

"Hiding Place"
Peter: Mob guy Freddie Sloan steals some money from his boss and runs over an old man while making his getaway. Freddie's in a heap of trouble so he needs a "Hiding Place" and he needs it fast. Salvation comes in the form of an unusual toy shop run by two mysterious oddballs who offer their shop up as a place for Freddie to lay low for a bit. Once he thinks he's in the clear, Freddie threatens the couple with bodily harm if they don't give up their fortune. Unfortunately for Freddie, these two are anything but ordinary goofballs and they drug the mobster. The next day, when police come to call, looking for Freddie, they don't notice the small, very realistic new doll in the store's front window. It's not a horrible story but it's one of those that will infuriate with its unanswered questions. Who are these shop owners and how did they shrink Freddie? What do they intend to do with him? The plot has a bit of a resemblance to an old Robert Bloch story, "Waxworks" (which was filmed as a segment of the film, The House That Dripped Blood), but it's still fast-moving and has that nice kiss in its rear. Raymond Marais seems to be a bit of a mystery. He wrote a handful of Marvel hero strips in the late 1960s, then jumped ship to DC and Warren and wrote a handful of mystery and war stories. This was the first mystery story penciled by Ruben Yandoc (aka Rubeny), yet another Filipino immigrant whose work will only get better as we witness his jumps back and forth from DC mystery to DC war (with a few Marvel blips on the radar as well).

Jack: I started out thinking this story was awful, but when Freddie got to the toy shop it turned around completely and I ended up enjoying it. I was thinking it had a real Blochian feel to it and I'm glad you pointed that out. It also seemed like something we'd see on The Twilight Zone. You just knew that a toy shop down a dead end street where they sold little torture devices would not turn out to be a great place to hide!

Bernie Wrightson
The House of Mystery 207

"Last Ritual, Last Rites"
Story by Bill Meredith
Art by Bill Payne

"The Spell!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jim Starlin and Dan Adkins

"This Evil Demon Loves People!"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Jack Sparling

Peter: Bennett's becoming impatient with his invalid wife, Charlotte. The poison he's been dolloping her tea with each night doesn't seem to be working and his gal pal, the lovely young Hillory, won't wait for him forever. Is Charlotte just a tough old bird or could it be the mysterious Hindu maid, Amrita, who performs strange rituals every night for her mistress? In the end, Bennett just can't control himself and he murders Amrita. As he confesses his evil deeds to his wife, promising a quick death for her, Charlotte has a confession of her own: the car crash she and Bennett walked away from during their stay in India actually killed Bennett and Amrita's rituals each night kept his rotting corpse mobile. With the death of the Hindu witch woman, Bennett goes to pieces. Obviously, the first thing to mention here is Bill Payne's startlingly effective art (even though in spots it threatens to confuse the storyline). We got a glimpse of Payne's talent last month in "Sentimental Journey" (HOM #206) but the difference in that story and his art this time out is amazing. Payne's depiction of Cain the Caretaker is about the best I've seen (and that includes, yep, Wrightson), while the floating demons that permeate many of the panels reminded me of what Jerry Grandenetti used to do quite a bit: the squiggly, nondescript borders filled with eyes and open mouths. Needless to say, I think Payne pulls the trick off much better than Jerry. I love how Payne messes around with the conventional layout of a comic page, creating several full-page poster worthy images.  The story's not too shabby either and that twist ending was an honest-to-goodness surprise to me.

Jack: Payne uses black, shadows & unusual angles to great effect. I was also taken by how good his Cain looks. I had a feeling for what was coming based on the great Wrightson cover, but I thought the final page had a terrific, EC-like gruesome quality to it. This is one of the top ten art jobs of '72 DC horror.

More of Payne's mind-blowing art!

"The Spell!"
Peter: Ol' Nel is feeling dissed by the villagers who ran her out of town so the witch attempts to conjure up a "fire-breathing demon from Hell" and, instead, gets a giant pretty butterfly. My synopsis is actually longer than "The Spell!" itself but my summation will be mercifully short: deadly dumb.

Jack: Hard to believe this filler is by Jim Starlin. He must have needed a quick paycheck.

Peter: Little Geoffry has a unique power: anyone who irritates him ends up shrunken and trapped in one of his baby bottles. First there's his dad's co-worker, then the babysitter, and then his parents as well. Anytime someone crosses him, the bottle collection grows and, pretty soon, the whole world seems to bother the little imp. "This Evil Demon Loves People" is one wacky read, from its goofy premise right to its unexpected (but thoroughly enjoyable) climax. Even Jack Sparling's art is somewhat palatable this time out.

Jack: Did you ever get the feeling the editors (or censors) weren't paying attention? Sparling draws the wife and secretary as if they're posing for pinup calendars, and the flap on little Geoffry's PJs keeps falling open to display his rear end. Best of all is that the li'l tyke speaks only in rhyme, like a demonic Nipsey Russell. Crazy!

Howard Purcell
Weird Mystery Tales 2

"Toxl the World Killer!"
Story by Mark Evanier
Art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer

Story by Howard Purcell
Art by Howard Purcell and Jack Abel

Peter: Barbarian Toxl urges his men to storm the gates of "the plant," a giant building resembling a nuclear facility. The giant believes that the men who run "the plant" are destroying his land so he aims to break in and destroy the "hell pit," the center of the compound which provides its energy source. After attacking the guards, Toxl is able to steal a key to the gate, the men break in, and soon the barbarian is in the "hell pit." He uses his sword to strike the center of the pit and... the world explodes. Another of the leftovers from the proposed second issue of Spirit World, "Toxl the World Killer" is a jumbled mess which still manages to entertain. There are a lot of grey areas and unanswered questions abound. This would seem to be Jack Kirby's nuclear protest but then again there really is no proselytizing going on here, no mutant babies, no giant fish. The effective climax (obviously borrowing the final scene of Beneath the Planet of the Apes) is nonetheless abrupt and we learn nothing about the "evil men" who run "the plant." So, why the big thumbs up from me? The art is fabulous, vintage Kirby (I never bought or read any of Jack's DC stuff but I can imagine this would fit in very well with his New Gods universe) and the story is nicely paced. It's much too short, a compliment I don't pay to many of these short strips. Two nits: 1/ if Jack wanted that finale to be a shocker, I would have advised him not to broadcast it in the title. 2/ editor E. Nelson Bridwell's policy of having two horror hosts in the same story is becoming distracting. This story ends with two sign offs in the same panel!

Jack: OK, I get that Kirby is a giant in the history of comics, but I still don't enjoy his art, especially in this stage of his career. It's all the same! And his women all look the same! They are the farthest thing from sexy. Kirby's writing is average at best. I read the Fourth World stuff when I was a kid and I read Kamandi until Kirby was gone, but looking back at it today I just can't understand what all the fuss is about.

Beneath the Planet of the Forever People

Peter: As he is placed in one of the lifeboats of the "Titanic," Gary Baldwin is warned by his father to stay away from water for the rest of his life. He gives it a shot but, of course, staying away from water is a tough thing to do when you're young. Several near-fatal mishaps occur until, as a grown man and playwright, Gary has to fly overseas to supervise a play. His plane crashes in the Atlantic and Gary is saved by a life preserver (labelled the R.M.S. Titanic) sitting atop an iceberg. Believing his curse has finally lifted, Gary buys a sailboat and enjoys his "new-found freedom"...until he drowns a year later. I'd point to "Titanic" as proof that the powers-that-be had no idea which direction to take this new title. Should it stray into "True Supernatural Hocus-Pocus" like Ghosts or settle down to straight ahead horror like House of Mystery? We'll get the answer in a few issues (hint: DC makes the right decision). Howard Purcell's art is as bland and boring as his script, with unremarkable figures and blank backgrounds. Odd then that his cover and the splash are so effective (perhaps Howard should do a skeleton story?). I'd have mistaken that cover for a Kaluta if I didn't have the GCD to rely on for credits. It's revealed in the letters column of Weird Mystery #3 that Purcell created the cover for a "proposed book of supernatural tales a few years back... that never saw the light of day." It would have been a good idea to include a few panels of Gary slipping in the shower or being sucked into the toilet. That would have answered a couple of my questions at least.

Jack: Your story ideas are better than Purcell's. This snoozer belonged in Ghosts. One question: if your parents died in the Titanic disaster and your Pop told you never to go near water, would you let a blonde in a bikini talk you into a quick ocean swim? I'd have to give that one some serious thought.


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