Thursday, July 31, 2014

Andrez Bergen Strikes Again with "Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth"

Our friend from Tokyo, Andrez Bergen, has just published his fourth novel, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth.

The book is a fascinating coming of age tale told from the point of view of a teenage girl in 1980s Melbourne, Australia. I read a preview copy recently and found that it held my interest. Things are not always what they seem in this story, but pay attention from page one and you'll have a good idea of what's going on. It's different from his prior novels but it has the same style, with lots of pop culture references. It is available on Amazon here; get it on Kindle for only $2.99!

Here is some of the publicity for this book:

"What I remember of '80s flick Heathers with a little bit of Fight Club, slamming into This Boy's Life and Dogs in Space — while Jimmy Stewart's Harvey looks on."

The upcoming novel by Andrez Bergen, author of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and Who is Killing the great Capes of Heropa?

'She's a disturbed, quiet girl, but Mina wants to do some good out there. It's just that the world gets in the way. This is Australia in the 1980s, a haven for goths and loners, where a coming-of-age story can only veer into a murder mystery.'


"Andrez Bergen introduces us to his most remarkable character in a dark, gothic tale — truly fabulous storytelling, and to my mind the author's best."
Katy O'Dowd, In Glorious Technicolor

"Vivid imagery delivered in a lucid, dreamlike narrative. This is an enthralling tale of survival, endurance and growing up that sinks its claws deep."

PUBLISHED ON 25/7 2014.

Fatale by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips  
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami  
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry  
Veronica by Nicholas Christopher

Distributed to the trade by National Book
Network in US; by Orca Marston in UK
Publisher contact:  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Do You Dare Enter? Part Thirty-Two: January 1973

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

Special 350th Double-Sized Anniversary Issue!

Nick Cardy
Unexpected 143

"Fear is a Nameless Voice"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Ruben Yandoc

"What Evil Lurks in the Night"
Story by Bill Dennehey (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Jack Sparling

"Panic Grips Manhattan"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by E.R. Cruz

Jack: The Astonishing Bromley is an aging ventriloquist who made the classic mistake of marrying his beautiful young assistant, Ernestine. He accuses his handsome young male assistant Bailes of having an affair with the woman, an affair witnessed by Bromley's many dummies, who testify to what they saw. Bromley murders Bailes and dumps his body in a waiting grave in the basement of his theater. He plans to do the same to Ernestine, but his dummies begin to speak out of turn and he destroys them, convinced that they will betray him. Unexpectedly, he learns that "Fear Is A Nameless Voice" and he continues to hear their accusations in his head, driving him insane. As scary ventriloquist dummies stories go, this isn't a bad one, though the art is better than the writing, something we see way too often.
"Fear is a Nameless Voice"

Peter: Like a lot of the Unexpected tales, this one ends rather abruptly as if George Kashdan had no idea how to finish telling his story. I'll admit, most of the really good finales to horror stories about ventriloquist dummies have already been written. Yandoc continues to impress me but at times his panels do seem a little too crowded and busy.

Jack: While patrolling the cemetery one night, Luke, the caretaker, learns "What Evil Lurks in the Night" when he discovers the man who has been robbing graves and making off with valuables. Unexpectedly, the man looks just like Luke. Luke feels compelled to protect the thief and hides him in his own attic, keeping his wife and son from venturing upstairs. Luke then sneaks his doppleganger into the back of a hearse departing a funeral and the man escapes, though the hearse's destination turns out to be a junkyard where the car is crushed with the man inside it. Luke awakens and discovers it was all a dream; he himself is the grave robber and now he feels remorse and will return everything he stole. This is some of the worst art we've seen by Jack Sparling, with his characters looking like Pillsbury doughboy versions of George Tuska's toothy creations. The story isn't very good, either.

"What Evil Lurks in the Night"

Peter: Oh boy! This magazine is getting harder and harder to get through. What's worse here? Jack Sparling's chicken scratchings or Murray Boltinoff's plotless story? Murray probably thought he was writing scripts for DC Comics' adaptation of Petticoat Junction when writing the scene where Luke has to keep his wife and son from going in the attic. Barrels of larfs.

"Panic Grips Manhattan"
Jack: Joe Morton needs money, so he lets Dr. Jarvis replace his brain with a computer. The experiment goes haywire and Joe becomes a rampaging murderer as "Panic Grips Manhattan"! Dr. Jarvis is more concerned with his own reputation than anything else, so when he tries to kill Joe's wife to cover up what he has done, Joe's final victim is the doctor himself. This story sounds better in a short summary than it reads in the comic. E.R. Cruz's art is nice in the way we're becoming used to from most of the Filipino artists, but Wessler's story really goes nowhere. It's too bad, because the premise could have led to some interesting places.

Peter: A modern day take on Frankenstein helps make this issue a complete waste of paper. Not one of the three writers seems to know how to craft a compelling (never mind scary) story, instead relying on cliches and fragments. How did this title last 222 issues running tripe like this?

Jack: An editor's note in the letters column is enlightening: "A year ago, our publisher-president Carmine Infantino went out on a safari to bag some of the best talent in other parts of the world. He came back triumphantly with a wad of winners--the Redondo brothers, Ruben Yandoc, Al Alcala, Rival, Cruz, Nino, etc." So, in a roundabout way, Peter, your distant relative was responsible for the great work we're seeing in the DC horror books!

Mike Kaluta
The House of Mystery 210

"The Exterminator"
Story by Michael Fleisher and Maxene Fabe
Art by Rudy Nebres

"The Immortal"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Gerry Talaoc

"Body Beautiful"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Jose Delbo

Peter: Frank Alban is not just "The Exterminator," he's the exterminator who loves his job, maybe a bit too much. Frank will light fires and watch as spiders sizzle or spray ants and watch their death throes. Yes, killing bugs is all that brings Frank Alban happiness. You can blame this obsession on his wacky parents who used to lock Frank in the bug-infested closet when he "misbehaved." One day, Frank has a gorgeous visitor to his office, Ms. Latrodectus, who wants her inherited mansion to be certified bug-free. Frank happily agrees and heads out to the estate the next day but is quickly puzzled by the cleanliness of the old place. A beckoning voice draws Frank to a dark room. When he enters, he is trapped in a large spider's web and approaching is Ms. Latrodectus, revealed to be a huge black widow! Well, Michael Fleisher (who will go on to do great things, don't worry) must have just been getting warmed up in 1972, as this mess is a patchwork of horror cliches. Naturally, the crazed bug man will meet his end from some insectoid creature. It's only a matter of Fleisher picking from door number one (a horde of the little things) or number two (a huge one). And while we're at it, let's throw in the sadistic parents as a reason for Frank's phobia. Ms. Latrodectus? Please. Why not Ms. Tarantula to be a bit more subtle? The only thing sillier than giving away the surprise that way is the fact that an exterminator wouldn't know the "scientific name for the black widow spider." Every great writer has his bad scripts, I know, but there's not a hint here of the scribe who will go on to shock the comic book world with his reboot of The Spectre and, bringing the focus back to DC mystery, write what I would say is my favorite DC horror story of all time. Stay tuned. Let's not overlook the first work by yet another fine Filipino artist, Rudy Nebres, who will go on to pencil several Kung Fu and Conan strips for Marvel. As mentioned a few weeks ago, DC seemed hell bent to shore up their artistic bullpen with as many new names as possible and the Filipino invasion might not have been created for quality purposes but, more likely, for monetary reasons.

Caught in the web of Cliches!
Jack: I really enjoyed this story, but it's not quite good enough to rate a "4 out of 4" across the board. I love stories about bugs and I have to respect the exterminator who truly loves his job. This story actually flows from start to finish and makes sense, unlike the three in this month's Unexpected. And it reminds me for the umpteenth time of that story I read when I was a kid that really disturbed me. Maybe it was in a Red Circle comic? It was about a kid who loved insects and his evil stepfather made him get rid of them all, then killed the kid so he could have his comfy bed by the window. At the end, the old guy snuggles up in bed only to find that that's where the kid kept all of his bugs. The old guy falls out the window in horror. Can anyone help me identify this story?

Peter: A rift develops between adventurers Marco Polo and Cassandro. The former simply wants to plunder villages for their gold while the latter wants to become "The Immortal." To that end, Cassandro heads off to do the plundering in Cathay, rumored to be the home of the secret of immortality. He and his men torture and maim until Cassandro blackmails the head man of the village to show him the hiding place of immortality. The headman leads the villain to a cave where sits a pit of molten fire. Cassandro is told he must climb into the fire to achieve life everlasting but, suspecting a trick, Cassandro orders the old man to enter first. When the man survives the heat, Cassandro climbs in and is reduced to ashes. Just then, Marco Polo arrives and asks how the old man could survive. The headman tells the plunderer about a newly discovered fiber called asbestos. A well-illustrated tale capped with a nice twist finale. I could question whether the old man could survive a molten pit regardless of how much flame-retardant he wore (surely his feet would be burnt to a crisp?) when all he really does is don a cloak but I won't mention any of that. Very nice illos by Talaoc are almost drowned in bright colors.

"The Immortal"

Jack: I thought this one was boring but I agree that the art is impressive. It was too much like Sword and Sorcery or Prince Valiant for my taste.

Nope, not a Charles Atlas ad
Peter: John Bannister has the "Body Beautiful" but his wife of twenty years has let herself go, packing on plenty of pounds and losing the good looks she once possessed. Not one to be weighed down by a fat, ugly sloth, John convinces his young girlfriend, Anne, to wait on him while he attends to matters. With the help of a book on suspended animation and a handgun, John blows his wife away and then puts himself into a deep sleep. Six months later, he rises from his coffin in the mausoleum to visit Anne, only to find her repulsed by the sight of him. When he passes a mirror, he discovers why: while his body has stayed fit, his face has rotted. Where do I start when dissecting this crap? How could John lay dormant in a coffin for six months without food or water? Does John's world not believe in embalming? How does one will one's self to lapse into a coma so deep the medics would be fooled? Any horror reader worth his salt can tell what's going on when John rises from his tomb and keeps his face covered for two pages. Perhaps this is Jack Oleck's "homage" to EC's "Reflection of Fear" (a strip that had just recently hit the big screen as one-fifth of Amicus' Tales from the Crypt) which has virtually the same fate for its protagonist. Jose Delbo continues to prove that not all of the Filipino artists had talent. His pencils and layouts lack anything resembling style, more akin to some of the in-house ads.

Jack: What? You didn't like this one? This story was great! The art may not be the best we've seen technically, but it fit the story perfectly, from the Charles Bronson lookalike protagonist to the fat and dumpy wife to Anne, the 15-year-old nymphomaniac. Sure, I knew something was wrong with his face because it was kept hidden from us until the last panel, but that was a great last panel! I have to disagree with you strongly on this one, Peter. I think that if this was in an EC comic we'd get a big kick out of it.

Peter: Yes, my esteemed colleague, that's the point: it was in an EC Comic!

Nick Cardy
The House of Secrets 104

"Ghosts Don't Bother Me... But..."
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Nestor Redondo and Virgilio Redondo

"The Dead Man's Doll"
Story by Bill Riley
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Lend Me an Ear!"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by George Tuska

Peter: Rudy's a hit man and if you kill enough people, you're going to have a ghost problem. Up to now, Rudy's been okay with the hauntings but when a high profile hit goes awry and the wrong man is shot, the assassin gets a lesson from beyond the grave. "Ghosts Don't Bother Me... But..." is a silly little nothing that certainly won't harm you nor will it strain the brain but if I wanted humorous horror I'd be reading Plop! rather than a title that's supposed to dish out chills. Additionally, the Redondos' art is unremarkable.

Ghosts Bothers Me!

Jack: The narration by tough guy Rudy is a little too much like a Warner Bros. cartoon version of Edward G. Robinson. Take this caption: "...Well . . . lemme tell you what happened to me, one time . . I get this contract to rub out a visiting Maharaja, see . . ." The art is above-average and technically skilled but the story doesn't give the brothers much to work with.

Peter: Con artists Martha and Chester Emmet, on the run from the law, have a little fortune shine on them when they run into old friend Fanny Seabrook, who tells the couple that old Titus Wade needs a nursemaid. Seeing a perfect hideout appear before their eyes, Martha and Chester set up at Titus' estate and begin to hatch their latest scheme. Martha is convinced that old man Wade has a stash of dough hidden somewhere around the place and she's going to find it if she has to wring the codger's neck. While ransacking a room, they come across a hideous rag doll but think nothing of it until the following day when they espy a peculiar sight: Titus Wade speaking to the rag doll. When they burst into the room, the doll is as they first saw it, limp and lifeless. Seeing her chance, Martha grabs the doll and threatens to tear it to pieces unless the old man surrenders his booty. The stress is too much and Titus dies of a heart attack, leaving the couple to their search of the house. The old man's ghost appears and Martha, undaunted, tries to bargain with the specter. When that doesn't work, she destroys "The Dead Man's Doll" and unwittingly uncovers the money, used as the creepy plaything's stuffing. Speeding along the narrow cliff road, Chester becomes convinced the doll has risen in the back seat and the duo plunge over the side. Admittedly, this one's stuffed with the usual con-man (and in this case, con-woman) shenanigans but, for the most part, it's a very effective chiller. The panel of the upright rag doll speaking to Titus has the desired effect but it's a throwaway piece of the puzzle and ignored throughout the remainder of the narrative. I also have problems with the equally disposable ghostly appearance and the (deliberately?) vague climax where we don't actually see the doll rise from the back and throttle the Emmets (though we're told by Abel that's pretty much the way things went down) but overall a keeper. Yes, it's helped immensely by Alfredo Alcala's atmospheric visuals, I won't lie. Imagine the same story with art by, say, Jerry Grandenetti and we might have a completely different verdict here.

Jack: Alcala's skills are wasted on a story that goes nowhere. I can't find anything about Bill Riley online and he has just a handful of credits, but based on this story I can say that he was not a rising star. The idea of the animated rag doll is a good one, and it's one we've seen before, but we get no explanation for its relationship with the old man or why it is able to come to life. Even the art is below-grade for Alcala.

"The Tusk" strikes!
Peter: Campus clown Lacey just loves to pull practical jokes on folks but his latest round has taken a turn towards the vicious. Picking on an old morgue attendant has left Lacey a pariah but that only goads him to escalate his pranks. Now he's hiding in the morgue and issuing ghostly haunts. Deciding their classmate needs a lesson, a group of students tie the clown up and leave him in a morgue freezer, intending to free him after a half hour or so. When they come back, the morgue is shut up tight and the old man isn't answering the door. By the time they break in, it's too late and Lacey is a large snow cone. The attendant explains he never heard anything because, since the haunts got noisier, he'd been wearing ear plugs. Obviously "inspired" by the classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Jokester" (which was based on a Robert Arthur short story), "Lend Me an Ear" offers neither originality nor decent artwork. If I'd been Robert Arthur, in fact, I'd have gotten myself a good lawyer.

Jack: You stole my line! The most embarrassing thing about this story, other than Tuska's art, is the attempt to give it a "relevant" cast of college kids and Black people. Let's see, we have the elderly Black morgue attendant and the trio of college guys, one black, one blonde and one with long read hair and a bushy black mustache. They all look about 35 years old. The bad guy looks like Moose from Archie comics. This is a really weak issue of House of Secrets, rescued only by the usual great cover by Nick Cardy.

Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour 27

"The Bodies at 13 Ravenwood Lane"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Wake Up and Dream!"
Story by Gerry Conway and Sal Amendola
Art by Sal Amendola

Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Win Mortimer

"Journey to Oblivion"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Gerry Talaoc

Jack: Horace Duncan lives in a boarding house and buys and sells used clothes for a living. Unfortunately, each night, after he admires someone's outfit, that person turns up missing the next morning and someone else has their clothes to sell to Horace. Once everyone else in the house is dead and Horace has all of the clothes, the police come, but when he digs up the graves where he buried "The Bodies at 13 Ravenwood Lane," all they find are old clothes. Alfredo Alcala draws a great Mordred the witch and the rest of his panels look ghoulish and great, but the story makes no sense. Were the other boarders alive? Were they dead? Were they a figment of Horace's imagination? And were there still boarding houses in 1973?

Peter: I'm not embarrassed to say I have no idea what was going on in this story as I'm probably not alone. But heck, it sure looks pretty. Please, Mr. Boltinoff, team Alfredo with a writer of equal talent. The comics world is waiting.

Jack: Larry Pratt has been a hard-luck loser all his life. Even worse, he is tormented in his sleep by a recurring dream of falling. Finally, he forces a doctor to give him some pills that let him sleep. He wakes up prince of an alien race, with a beautiful bride and adoring subjects. In our world, he is dead of an overdose of sleeping pills, but in his dream world, everything is groovy. "Wake Up and Dream" is another confusing disaster from Gerry Conway who, had he not killed off Gwen Stacy, might only be remembered as one of the worst comic book writers of the '70s. Sal Amendola's creative art is completely wasted on this story.

Peter: So, am I wrong in summing up "Wake Up and Dream" as pro-suicide? Sure looks that way. The message I get from the story is "If you've got a crappy life, overdose and something better will be waiting." That's a controversial stance for a 1972 comic book and I'm surprised the CCA didn't apply their hatchet to the script. All that's not to say it's not a good story. It's very good because of (or in spite of, depending on your religious leanings) its taboo-breaking and the trippy art of Sal Amendola. This is about as close to the ledge as the mystery line has gotten.

Jack: Lionel and Stan are competing for a promotion. When Lionel steals some of Stan's papers and causes Stan to get in trouble, Stan accidentally walks in front of a bus and is killed. With his dying breath, he vows to haunt Lionel, whom he blames for murdering him. Lionel's life soon becomes a series of near misses as one accident after another turns his days and nights into a "Frightmare!" Eventually, Lionel pitches down an elevator shaft and discovers that Stan had been inhabiting his body and causing all of the mishaps. After reading this story, I Googled Carl Wessler to see if he was on death's door in 1973 and still churning out a few last, bad stories to pay the electric bill. Nope--he lived many more years. We'll have to see if his EC work was any better than his DC work when we start doing the EC comics line.

Peter: "Frightmare" is a really dumb story with really bad art. I'd call it an early contender for Worst Story of 1973 but with eleven months ahead of us, I've a feeling something worse this way comes.

Jack: Richard Dolan likes to complain, so a train trip from dreary New York to sunny Florida becomes a "Journey to Oblivion." Even when he gets there, he grumbles and grouses so much that he finally hops the first train home. Surprise! It was all a dream. He wakes up in his hospital bed after a near-death experience involving a heart attack. The doctor suspected he wouldn't even like Heaven, and he was right. Now, Richard thinks he might give this world another chance. Perhaps because the rest of the stories in this issue were so bad, I kind of liked this one, even though it was fairly obvious where it was going. I think I've compared Gerry Talaoc's art to that of Jack Davis before and the resemblance is seen here again.

Peter: Biggest laugh of the issue (and possibly the month) comes when the doctor tells Dolan he knew he wouldn't hang out in heaven too long. "Journey to Oblivion" could be seen as the Yin to the Yang of "Wake Up and Dream" but, whereas Gerry Conway reaches his lofty goals, Carl Wessler comes off more as a recycler.

Jack: In this issue's letters column we get more about Carmine Infantino's trip to find new artists: "He was enormously pleased by his findings, and the artists, in turn, whose work never had been seen here, jumped at the chance. One by one, they have punch and power, and a fresh, new approach. Their skilled, intricate details are astounding." If only Carmine had rounded up some new writers as well!

Nick Cardy
Ghosts 11

"The Devil's Lake"
Story Uncredited
Art by E. R. Cruz

"Next Stop is Nowhere"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ernie Chan

"The Specter Who Stalked Cellblock 13"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Instrument of Death!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Bob Brown

Jack: General Klaus Dieter never stopped being a Nazi. In 1969, he led a new band of followers to a bank robbery with fatal consequences for some bystanders. Escaping to "The Devil's Lake," he and his men and pursued by a battalion of skeletons in Nazi uniforms, who kill them. The authorities find Dieter and his men at the bottom of the lake, in charge of a large group of Nazis at last. Although the stories in this issue have no writing credits, we can assume that they are all by Leo Dorfman, since they bear all of the hallmarks of his work--confusing plots, unclear storylines, and abrupt endings that don't add up.

"The Devil's Lake"
Peter: If I was a Nazi and wanted to rob a bank and get away with it I'd probably avoid wearing my uniform into the bank that day. A really weird story that's worth slogging through to get to that effective final panel--even if it doesn't make sense.

Jack: New York City, 1961, and David Wales and his wife board a train from the Bronx to Manhattan after an evening out. They soon realize that the "Next Stop is Nowhere," when the train zooms along the tracks with no other passengers and makes no stops. They question a conductor, but he exits the train and disappears as a ghost. Finally arriving at their destination after an hour has gone by, they witness a fire beginning and are able to alert the authorities so that everyone is saved. They discover that the ghostly conductor was the late father of one of the people who would have died in the fire, and he returned and delayed the Wales just long enough so they could sound the alarm. There's nothing spectacular here but it sure is nice to read a ghost story that makes sense! Ernie Chan's art is decent and this story confirms my suspicion that I'd rather have a good story and fair art than a bad story and good art.

"Next Stop is Nowhere"
Peter: Even though its dialogue is hammy ("Saints in heaven! We're lost... somewhere in space and time...!") and its protagonists accept the crazy scenario around them a bit too quickly, this is a pretty good ghost story. For Ghosts, it's darn near excellent.

Jack: San Quentin Prison, 1886, and Eddie Hayes is on death row. Just before he is to be hanged, a leg infection leads to an amputation and replacement of his limb with a wooden leg. A cruel guard takes the peg leg from Eddie right before he is hanged, leading Eddie's ghost to become "The Specter Who Stalked Cellblock 13," looking for his missing leg for the next century or so. Another terrible art job by Jerry Grandenetti marks this goofy story that, once again, leads nowhere.

We want a new artist!
We want a new artist!

Peter: Not sure why the closing of San Quentin would cease the endless search for a peg leg. I think our equally ghost-like writer (Uncredited--probably our old friend Leo Dorfman) missed the boat on this one. I'd have had Eddie Hayes haunting the halls until he got another artist. Imagine going through eternity as a Jerry Grandenetti squiggle.

Dental care in 1968 Spain
left much to be desired.
Jack: Spain, 1968, and famous organist Edgar Powers discovers a rare Pacini organ in an abandoned Spanish villa. He ignores an old woman's warning and plays the organ, only to be tormented by the music of Hell in his head due to a curse by the organ maker. The old woman tells him that he must play a mass on the organ to lift the curse, but after playing it he drops dead of a heart attack, probably due to his encounter with "The Instrument of Death!" Another mundane story with average art by Bob Brown.

Peter: We get a killer splash (identical to the cover) but little else from "The Instrument." Amazing that a piano built by Pacini would be left to molder in an old villa.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Thirty-Three: "The Kerry Blue" [7.28]

by Jack Seabrook

Among the many teleplays that Henry Slesar wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents up to 1962, some were based on stories that had been published a few years before. Some were based on stories that were published almost contemporaneously with the filming of the show. Several were based on stories that had not yet been published but that would be published soon. With "The Kerry Blue," we see the first example of a teleplay based on a story that would not be published for years after the show aired. The onscreen credit confirms that Slesar wrote the teleplay "from his story."

This seems to be another occasion where, as Slesar said, "There were times when I wouldn't wait for a magazine publication, but sent the story directly to Hitchcock if I thought they would like it. On several occasions, they did." While the TV show aired on NBC on Tuesday, April 17, 1962, the story on which it was based was not published until the November 1968 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, under the title "Death of the Kerry Blue."

Illustrations from the original
magazine publication
Ned Malley and his wife have been married for 18 years and, with no children, their interactions alternate between arguments and silence. They pay most attention to Doc, their Kerry Blue Terrier, which Thelma had given to Ned on their fifth wedding anniversary. When Ned is sent on a business trip to Cleveland he worries about Doc's health, and when he returns home Thelma informs him that, in his absence, Doc got sick and died. Ned becomes angry that his wife buried the dog in the woods without first calling the vet. He slaps Thelma and crawls into the empty doghouse.

The next day, he visits a doctor and fills a prescription for sleeping pills. That night, after accusing Thelma of having buried Doc alive, Ned turns kind and fixes his wife a cup of hot chocolate before bedtime. She drinks it and grows very tired; after he helps her to bed, Ned tells his wife that he spiked her drink with an entire bottle of sleeping pills. He suggests that she may end up being buried alive, just like their dog. Ned goes downstairs and hears a dog's whimper. Convinced that Doc has returned, he rushes out to the doghouse, where his excitement at seeing the dog causes a sudden, fatal heart attack.

Thelma is saved by the next door neighbor, who calls the police, but she laments that it is too late for Ned, who never knew that Thelma had bought a new dog to surprise him.

"Death of the Kerry Blue" is a sad portrait of  a marriage gone wrong, where a dog takes the place of a child and a husband's affection turns into murderous obsession. Slesar's trademark irony is evident in the climax, when Ned's devotion to his dog causes his death just as he has tried to kill his wife.

Slesar's teleplay follows the story closely but makes Ned's obsessive interest in his dog--rechristened Annie--a source of jealousy on Thelma's part. When Ned suggests to Thelma that he should take Annie to the park more often to improve her health, Thelma responds, "Why don't you take her to dinner and a show?" Gene Evans gives a good performance as Ned and Carmen Mathews is even better as Thelma. Paul Henreid directs the show and not only keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace but also uses several interesting camera setups to deepen the story. He follows the well-known practice made famous by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane of shooting on a slight upward angle in some shots, allowing the viewer to see the ceiling in one of the Malleys' rooms.

Gene Evans
Another shot features a lamp in the foreground and the lighting achieves an ominous, noirish quality. Finally, when Ned gives Thelma the spiked cup of hot chocolate, Henreid cuts away a few times to a God's eye view from above; the effect passes quickly on first watching the show, but it demonstrates the care he used to craft this episode when one realizes that other shots showed a ceiling while the overhead shots had to be taken from high up on an open sound stage. Even the small details are carefully worked out: on the fireplace mantle are four framed photographs--all of Annie, the Kerry Blue!

Carmen Mathews
Both Gene Evans and Carmen Mathews succeed in showing anger and hurt, and the scene where Mathews narrates the events surrounding the dog's death shows real emotion and understanding in her face and voice. Evans has a matter of fact way of demonstrating his character's descent into insanity as he becomes convinced that his wife buried his beloved dog alive. Mathews is convincing in her portrayal of an unhappy wife who is trying to deal with an untenable situation. 

The most powerful scene in the show comes when Ned has helped Thelma into bed and calmly tells her that he has poisoned her. He stands by the bed, speaking in a seemingly rational tone of voice, as Thelma struggles to break through the drug-induced fog that is quickly enveloping her mind. There is a quiet sense of horror as he remarks that she could end up buried alive, "just like you buried Annie out there, alive!" There is no background music and the fact that this scene is somewhat hard to watch is a testament to the skill of the two actors and their director.

The final scenes include a small change from the story. Ned is washing out the cups at the kitchen sink as his wife lays dying upstairs when he hears a dog bark. Is it his imagination? We see that it is not, since he sees a very much alive Kerry Blue Terrier standing at the entrance of Annie's doghouse. Yet instead of suffering a fatal heart attack, Ned trips over the construction materials that he had left strewn about when he built the doghouse and falls, striking his head on the concrete walk, a blow that kills him on the spot. Slesar's irony is again at play, since the tools he used to build a home for his beloved dog are the same tools that lead to his sudden and unexpected death--his obsession is his undoing.

The God's eye view angle
"The Kerry Blue" is well acted and well directed and the TV show is more interesting than the story that finally saw publication six years later. Paul Henreid (1908-1992), the director, was born in Trieste, started acting onstage in Vienna, moved into German film in the 1930s and then to Hollywood by the 1940s, starring in classics such as Now, Voyager (1942) and Casablanca (also 1942). He later turned his hand to directing and, in addition to two episodes of Thriller, he directed 29 episodes of the Hitchcock series. The last one I reviewed was "Cop For a Day."

Gene Evans (1922-1998), who seems like a bit of a tough guy in this episode, was also a tough guy in real life. He won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in WWII, which is when he also started his acting career, performing for the troops. He was in movies from 1947 to 1989 and on TV from 1954 to 1988, including a year as a regular on My Friend Flicka (1956-57). He appeared once on the half-hour Hitchcock show and once on the hour show. He was a favorite of director Sam Fuller and played Boden, the atomic scientist in Shock Corridor who was driven to insanity by the prospect of nuclear war.

John Zaremba and Carmen Mathews

Carmen Mathews (1911-1985) got her start in theater and later worked almost exclusively on episodic television in a career that spanned the years from 1950 to 1992. She was on The Twilight Zone's elegiac episode, "Static" and she appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents six times.

John Zaremba (1908-1986) played Dr. Chaff, the vet who Thelma brings to the house to try to reason with Ned. He started out as a journalist at the Chicago Tribune before becoming an actor. He was in movies from 1950 and on TV from 1954, including regular roles on I Led Three Lives (1953-1956) and The Time Tunnel (1966-1967). He appeared on The Twilight Zone, Batman, and he was on the Hitchcock show eleven times, including "The Kind Waitress."

Looking up from below, the ceiling is visible
Like most (all?) episodes from season seven of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Kerry Blue" is not yet available on DVD or online, but it may turn up one of these days on Antenna TV!

"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. Web. 19 July 2014.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. Web. 19 July 2014.
"The Kerry Blue." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. NBC. 17 Apr. 1962. Television.
Slesar, Henry. "Death of the Kerry Blue." Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (Nov. 1968): 66-77. Web.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 19 July 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 32: January 1962

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

Russ Heath and Jack Adler
G.I. Combat 91

"The Tank and the Turtle!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Wings for a Wash-Out!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Irv Novick

"Secret War of a Snowbird!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Peter: The men of the Jeb Stuart make friends with a turtle and the friendship proves advantageous later on when the Haunted Tank comes under enemy fire. Not only do I not see the reasoning behind "The Tank and the Turtle," I'm also beginning to wonder why Kanigher created The Haunted Tank in the first place. This could be just another tank squad for all the difference the ghost makes. I'd question why these guys, when surrounded by the enemy and trying to catch some rest in a hideaway, would shoot at the hawk that carried their little friend off and give themselves away. Yeah, it's just a comic book story but how on earth, in this wide open space, does the Jeb Stuart keep crossing paths with little Tommy Turtle? Russ Heath's art is still miles above that of Grandenetti and Abel but he's obviously better served by bigger panels and lots of airplanes!

"The Tank and the Turtle!"

Jack: I thought this was a fun story with dynamite art. Kanigher knows how to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, something that we probably take for granted. He starts with the cute episode featuring the turtle, then establishes that there are three Nazi tanks firing at the Jeb Stuart. The Haunted Tank then hunts down and destroys each of the three tanks. The turtle returns near the end and helps our heroes find a fourth tank. The structure of this story is very good. Too bad it does not include the exciting scene on the gorgeous cover!

Peter: Rookie pilot Curtis isn't good enough for combat so his CO grounds him. When Curtis happens upon Charlie, an old rust bucket too fragile for battle, he finds his "Wings for a Wash-Out." Every day at three, Zeroes home in on the base while the Aces are out hunting so Curtis has to get Charlie into tip-top shape in case he's called upon to defend their home ground. When the call comes, Charlie and Curtis perform admirably and their fellow pilots and forts salute them. Despite the "Wash-Out" mantra repeated approximately 110 times, I thought this one was a decent little read. If I was Curtis' CO, I'd worry about how much the kid talks to his airplane but then this was a war populated by haunted tanks, so who knows?

Jack: One question: if the Japanese planes attack the fort every day at three o'clock, why isn't there any real defense? Why is Curtis left there along with Charlie the plane? Just askin'.

Peter: After the war, Ed, an Allied ski trooper, feels compelled to revisit the mountain in Germany where he was ambushed and "lost time." He meets up with a friendly German named Hans who offers to head up the mountain with him. As Ed skis down the slope, his memories come back to him after a bullet puts him in the snow once again. When he comes to, his companion is dead and he realizes this was the same man who attempted to kill him months before. The police come up the mountain to help Ed and explain that Hans was actually a Nazi war criminal who believed Ed was on his trail. A bit of a stretch that a wanted Nazi war criminal would hang out around the mountain where he made his runs but, all in all, a decent read. The "present day" scenes and flashbacks get a bit jumbled and threaten to totally confuse the reader at times. Other than a few trademarked crazy eyes, I'd never have figured this for a Grandenetti. There are a few very unique and stylish panels here, almost Steranko-esque (No, I'm not drinking, Jack! Look at the example below.) and the action is well-choreographed. Though the GCD lists Jerry as both penciler and inker, I'll eat my tin pot if that's the truth. A different sort of animal in that "Secret War of a Snowbird" actually takes place after the war (though flashbacks are integrated), surely the first of its kind on our journey.

"Secret War of a Snowbird"

Jack: I had the same reaction that you did as I read this. Other than the toothy closeups of the Nazi, this is some of the best art I've ever seen from Grandenetti. It reminded me of the Gil Kane/Sid Greene art that was showing up in DC superhero comics around this time. Very surprising!

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 114

"Killer Sergeant!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"The Doomed Crew!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Santa Claus Commando!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Jack: Alone on night patrol, Sgt. Rock overhears his men praising his work and thinks back to an earlier time when he had to make sure they hated him, at least for awhile. Early in the North African campaign, Rock's compass was wrecked by enemy fire and he had to act like a "Killer Sergeant! and lead his men through the desert on instinct alone. When they requested a water break, he had to refuse and keep them moving because he could not reveal that their canteens had also been shot full of holes. He played the tough drillmaster and their resentment grew until they finally reached safe haven and he showed them the empty containers. This little management lesson by Kanigher and Kubert succeeds in building suspense even though we know no one is going to die of thirst.

"Killer Sergeant!"

Peter: Though it's only 13 pages, this Sgt. Rock tale (one of the better ones I've read) has the feel of an epic with its desert setting. You can almost feel the heat emanating from the pages. That cover, though, is not one of Kubert's best pieces. Besides illustrating a scenario that never happens, the Nazi looks like Marty Feldman with his pop eyes.

Jack: PT 105 is blown up by enemy fire and its captain shares a raft with a native, whose fishing boat was also destroyed. They become "The Doomed Crew!" and pick up a live torpedo from the wreckage and paddle along after the enemy destroyer until they can put the torpedo to good use. The push for racial equality at DC gets another boost in this story of a white sailor who is marooned on a raft with a silent black native. Even though the black man is drawn like something straight out of Skull Island, his dignity and resourcefulness make him a good match for the white soldier who represents the reader.

Peter: It's almost a DC war version of Robinson Crusoe. How could our two heroes survive the torpedo blast when everyone else on the enemy battleship is killed? Dumb luck?

"Santa Claus Commando!"
Jack: Two little boys in occupied France send a note to Santa in a bottle tossed into the Channel. The note is picked up by some G.I.s planning a pre-invasion raid, so one of the men dresses up like Father Christmas and parachutes in, much to the boys' delight. But the soldier has to become a "Santa Claus Commando!" and battle Nazis in his Santa suit before he is able to escape by helicopter, much to the delight of his young observers. This story shows that Jerry Grandenetti had the ability to draw decent comics when he wasn't in too big of a hurry or trying to get too stylized. His Santa Claus even makes me think of one by Will Eisner.

Peter: Hate to be a Bah Humbug grinch but this Christmas story was pretty dumb. I doubt if the French speak perfect English expect for the "double e" sound in their "i"s. If I can take one positive away, it would be that this has been a good month for Jerry Grandenetti.

Jerry Grandenetti
Our Fighting Forces 65

"Dogtag Patrol!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Combat Gunner!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

"Chained Lightning!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Irv Novick

Jack: Gunner complains that he's tired of going out on patrol as Sarge's decoy, so Sarge sets out with just Pooch. When Pooch brings back Sarge's dogtags, Gunner heads into the jungle with Miss Vicky, combat photographer, to bring back the body of his late commander. This "Dogtag Patrol!" soon turns into a rescue mission when Gunner finds Sarge alive in a POW camp. Gunner and Sarge work together to get back to base safely, with Pooch in tow and Miss Vicky capturing it all on film for posterity. Gunner's concern when Pooch brings back Sarge's dogtags adds a bit of pathos to this tale, which is a few notches above the usual laff-fest.

"Dogtag Patrol!"

Peter: With all the action these two see, it's a wonder we didn't bring all the rest of the boys home. This series gets ludicrouser and ludicrouser with each ensuing travesty. Gunner takes out an enemy patrol boat with his machine gun, Pooch jumps up on the wing of a zero while it's taking off, and the squad inside that Japanese tank must be the thickest in the army as they're nice enough to avoid running Gunner over with their monstrous treads! My favorite moment, however, is Gunner telling Pooch to chew through Sarge's ropes... and the mutt does it! Awrfff!

"Combat Gunner!"
Jack: All his life, Andy came in second at everything he tried. Now that he's a "Combat Gunner," he still can't bring down an enemy plane! But when he's assigned to help bring supplies to the front, a series of unexpected opportunities allow Andy to destroy an enemy plane and an enemy sub by using a bazooka, dropping boxes of TNT out of his plane, and finally dropping a tank in mid-flight! Jack Abel's art is the only thing that saves this silly story. We know from page one that Andy will be a hero by page six.

Peter: I was going to remark that it sure seems like I've seen this plot line before but we've probably seen a variation on it every week. The "Woe is me. I always come in second. All I want is to kill the enemy first." mantra gets as old as the repeated tagline. At least we find out that you will sink a sub if you drop a tank on it.

"Chained Lightning!"
Jack: Jack and Steve are a couple of American POWs in Stalag 10 who do nothing but argue. After a failed attempt at escape, they are chained together at the wrist and transported to a new camp, but they manage to escape, shoot the driver, hijack the jeep, steal a Nazi ammo truck AND a Nazi plane, and shoot down another enemy plane, bickering all the while! At least they didn't hug and make up at the end of this ripoff of The Defiant Ones.

Peter: The far-fetched adventures of Jack and Steve make those of Gunner and Sarge look highly probable. How do you jump from a moving vehicle, chained to someone else, and get up without a scratch? Were all Nazi commandants bald and blind in one eye?

Andru & Esposito
Star-Spangled War Stories 100

"The Volcano of Monsters!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"The Flippers of Doom!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

"Stragglers Never Come Back!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: The Flying Boots (aka The Flying Franks as seen in SSWS #99) are entertaining the troops with their high-flying acrobatic act when a Zero opens fire on them. Without batting an eyelash, the Franks open fire on the plane with their machine guns... never missing a daredevil feat. Their CO is mightily impressed and asks the boys to head out on a top secret mission that could only be accomplished by professional acrobats. Seems several planes carrying missiles have gone missing over a remote uncharted island in the Pacific (sounding familiar yet?) and the Army suspects a nest of Japanese bunkers will hold the secret of the missing armaments. Lo and behold, no enemy located on the island but lots of thunder lizards running riot over the little piece of ground. The boys manage to somersault and tumble their way through all sorts of peril and even stumble upon the missiles in "The Volcano of Monsters!", being warmed by a territorial T. Rex who mistakes the bombs for eggs. Desperately needing a way out of the volcano before they become dino-chow, the Franks/Boots ingeniously strap themselves to three of the missiles and set them off, parachuting to safety just before detonation high in the sky. Good fortune is smiling on them as a recon plane is in the area and rescues them.

More than ever this series has become a slog to get through. Kanigher's given up trying to invest anything original by this, the tenth entry in the "War That Time Forgot" series. I can understand the US Army not jotting down notes that half their planes and subs have been eaten by dinosaurs over the last year or so, always in the uncharted Pacific (after all, they've got a lot on their minds) but how do The Flying Franks forget their dangerous encounter last issue?! Barely surviving an island full of extinct lizards would make an impression on me. And mention must be made of the real fantastic elements in this story: the Frank Bros. firing machine guns at a Zero while swinging like monkeys from a tree and tossing grenades at a pterodactyl while free-falling through the sky. Now that's incredible!

Jack: I am becoming so used to these stories that I was more surprised to see The Flying Boots performing their trapeze act for the rest of the troops while wearing helmets, boots, and with rifles strapped to their backs than I was by any of the dinosaurs! I am no circus expert, but doesn't it seem like one would take those items off before swinging through the air and catching one's brother? Did they take into account the weight of the extra equipment when calculating how far and fast they could fly in mid-air? I guess it was a good idea to wear all that gear, though, since a Japanese Zero just happened to attack in the middle of the act.

Peter: Lt. Ed Burke, frogman extraordinaire, has received the coveted Golden Flippers for his dangerous missions but soon Burke will discover that he's actually just received "The Flippers of Doom!" Out on a mission, Burke disappears and it's up to three other frogmen (including Ed's brother, Shorty) to vie for the esteemed commendation. Shorty wants no part of the flippers as he believes now they're cursed. Each man ventures out on a more dangerous mission until it's Shorty's turn and his destination just happens to be the same spot where brother Ed went missing. Shorty manages to blow up enemy gas tanks and stumble across his brother so he wins the Golden Flippers whether he wants them or not. Why is it that whenever we get one of these "missing brother" stories, I always know the siblings will be reunited by story's end? There's not much of a story here, just a framework built around the words "Golden" and "Flippers."

Jack: Wait, this story's not about killer dolphins? Oh, that would be NEXT week's post.

Peter: Jet pilots learn very quickly that "Stragglers Never Come Back!" Though they continue to deliver their payload, one by one the squadron is being reduced to a minimum. Finally, our unnamed skipper and his gunner bear the brunt of the enemy and prepare for the worst. They're forced to dump their payload over a deserted amusement park rather than the desired target and then limp home. Once there, they learn that the enemy factory they had bombed that day was a dummy and the real factory was housed within the amusement park. Easily the best story of the issue, "Stragglers" suffers a bit from "repetitious war keyword syndrome" but still manages to deliver its payload, an exciting edge-of-your-seater (with honest-to-goodness Allied casualties) with a good twist finale. I'm having a hard time believing that the same Jack Abel who penciled "Stragglers" was responsible for the mediocrity on display in "Flippers of Doom." Were there two Jack Abels or are we looking at two different (uncredited) inkers? It's funny that in the "olden days" of comics, no fuss was made when a title hit 100. Was it Marvel that first made it a celebration in the 1970s?

Jack: When I saw the phrase, "deserted amusement park," my Scooby Doo Mystery Solver training kicked into gear and I just KNEW that it was going to be a Nazi base in disguise! I couldn't get beyond the repetition of the title over and over to enjoy this story, though I don't see much difference in Jack Abel's art from the one before it.

Dear Santa, Please send this for Christmas!

P.S., And this!