Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Dungeons of Doom: The Pre-Code Horror Comics Volume 10

Part One

By Jose Cruz and
Peter Enfantino

Farrell Publications, the second publisher in our pre-code series, became the Farrell Comic Group in 1951, and in this incarnation had a number of imprints used to identify its products: America’s Best, Ajax Publications, Ajax-Farrell, Decker Publications, Red Top Comics, Steinway Comics, and World Famous. The sub-heading “A Farrell Publication” would always denote the funny book’s true parentage regardless of the imprint name.

Farrell wouldn’t enter the horror rag game until the first issue of Voodoo debuted in May 1952, almost a full four years after ACG made the genre splash with Adventures into the Unknown. Farrell would follow up their fledgling terror with Haunted Thrills and Strange Fantasy in June and August of that year, respectively. Their final mystery title, Fantastic Fears, would debut in May 1953. Fantastic Fears resumed the numbering from Captain Jet for its first two issues, while Strange Fantasy resumed the numbering from Rocketman for its premiere issue.

The majority of the artwork for Farrell’s four horror titles remains largely uncredited. It is believed that the various artists working at the Iger Shop provided the covers and much of the interior artwork. Each horror title had four, full-length comic stories (generally 6-8 pages long) along with a text story in each issue.

In total, there were 18 issues of Voodoo and Haunted Thrills produced, 14 of Strange Fantasy, and 9 of Fantastic Fears. Though a few issues currently remain unavailable through sites such as the Digital Comics Museum and Comic Books Plus, there is still an appreciable amount in circulation for readers to glean a fair assessment of the company’s spooky offerings. Any issues missing from our initial read-through will be noted and, if possible, assessed at a later time.

Here now is the first in our series of posts dedicated to the pre-code terrors of the Ajax-Farrell line.


Peter: As most newlyweds do, Joe and Lily Farnsworth are enjoying a honeymoon in laugh-a-minute Haiti when they are accosted by a villager seeking employment as a guide. Lily is terrified but Joe scats the man away and the lovebirds get back to their celebrating. Joe thinks it would be a great idea to drive deep into the mosquito-infested jungles and see if there really is such a thing as voodoo. Their car stalls and a band of zombies, led by the man from the village, plunks Joe on the head and kidnaps Lily. The gorgeous gal dies of fright en route and her body is taken to one of the huts, where her corpse rises as one of the undead. Meanwhile, Joe awakens in a nearby hospital after weeks of convalescence and begs the police to follow him back to the spot where Lily was taken. The local gendarme is having none of that and tells Joe he’s on his own. After “two days of frantic searching,” Joe manages to stumble across the village where Lily resides as a white-eyed zombie and he is taken to her hut. The master zombie informs Joe that, while he can’t bring Lily back to life, he can certainly join the two as lovers again. Knowing he can’t live without Lily, Joe agrees and the zombies poison him. He rises from the dead and joins Lily, hoping someday to find “our souls again.”

“Zombie Bride” (from #2) is not the first jungle story Ajax-Farrell slotted into Voodoo and it certainly won’t be the last. Unlike “The Antilla Terror” (from the same issue and starring Kolah, the Jungle Girl), and various other adventures starring scantily-clad heroines who have mastered vine-swinging and talking to the animals, “Zombie Bride” is a heartfelt tribute to undying love. Okay, I'm exaggerating that last bit but, even though the story is crammed full of “Notable Quotables” and insanely goofy plot twists, the climax really is heart-tugging. The tales populated by characters who did nothing to deserve their fates are the most powerful. It’s easy to root for the abominable snowman who eats the explorer who stuffed the Yeti’s wife and displayed her in his trophy room, but not so easy to stand by while a man loses his wife.

Despite the deadly serious tone, there are several laugh out loud exchanges, such as when the Zombie Master proclaims, "The moon rises! Good! Tonight there will be a new zombie in my house!" and one of his cronies shouts out, "Ayeeee- You are great, master!" Particularly noggin-scratching is when the Zombie Master (who's spent the length of the strip making life hell for the newlyweds) enthusiastically puts his stamp on undead love: "So go in peace, zombie lovers! Walk the jungle forever!" I'm sure the couple would have preferred the nice send-off while they were still breathing. Unlike our stint on the Harvey Horrors, we won't get much help from the GCD as several of the credits are unknown (the only credit I was able to find for the artist of "Zombie Bride"is the mysterious "The Iger Shop"). Another interesting tidbit about the Voodoo contents is that some of the material is reprinted (and, in some cases, re-written) from other sources. As with the Harvey Horrors, a good portion of the Ajax horror stories were pilfered by Eerie Publications in the 1970s. "Zombie Bride" was reprinted in the June 1967 issue of Weird (Vol. 2 No. 3) and can be downloaded here.

Jose: Joe Yanner works for a greedy Dutch miner who hordes the larger share of diamonds from Joe’s work in the steamy jungles, not to mention obtaining the affections of saucy jungle minx Yala. The Dutchman seems to have everything Joe wants, and as “the biggest rogue in Africa” Joe has only one method in mind on how to get them. Not only does the fat slob cheekily acknowledge Joe’s open contempt for him, but the Dutchman adds further insult to injury by mercilessly beating his employee in the games of chess they play to pass the sweaty hours. Joe attempts to make a move on Yala, but the maiden isn’t having any of it: she shows her allegiance to the Dutchman by carving a pretty scar down Joe’s cheek with her trusty dagger. Enraged, Joe sets off to kill the Dutchman, take the diamond treasure, and wait for the next boat out of town. Shooting his boss leads to an attack from Yala, but the gal only gets a bullet in her gut for her troubles. Joe dumps the two bodies into the crocodile-infested river, but soon he’s being haunted by the severed hand of the Dutchman. The sentient appendage keeps riding Joe but promises not to kill him if Joe can beat him in one final game of chess. Surprisingly, Joe gets the upper hand (*pause for laughter*) and decides to paddle his way up the creek himself rather than wait around. Unfortunately, the dead hand was a bald-palmed liar and ends up tipping Joe’s boat over for the crocs to get their dessert.

Pictured here: Yala, not taking any shit.
In a crop of stories that offered cracker-dry delivery and ever-diminishing returns, “The Game Called Dying” (from #3) comes as a pleasant respite. It’s fairly familiar stuff, goofy in its character dynamics, a little on the soft side in regards to the art… and yet it pleases me nonetheless. I tend to have a weakness for any tales dealing with reanimated hands coming back to avenge their rotting owners. There’s a nice, grim symbolism at work in that trope. For a pre-code horror story, “Game” is fairly bloodless and lacks some of the gritty bite of its brethren, but it provides the amenities of entertainment if only through the inclusion of the images displaying the Dutchman’s lobbed-off hand speaking to Joe in his stereotypical accent.

Peter: Tea baron Oliver Caxton has a problem: his Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) plantation is being overrun by mandrake, a particularly tough root to kill. His foreman, Tom Moore, leads Oliver out to the fields for a better look and when they have a go at weeding the mandrake, it’s revealed the plant has come alive, complete with claws and fangs. That night, Tom bursts into Caxton’s mansion to tell his boss the frightening news: the mandrake, now grown to the size of a man, has uprooted and seem to be talking amongst themselves. The men grab their machetes and head out to make salad ("Take that, you -- you vegetable monsters!") but chopping the creatures in half does no good as they instantly regenerate. Caxton is swarmed by the monsters and Tom hoofs it back to the estate to warn Caxton’s daughter,Virginia, only to find the house overrun. Tom saves Virginia and phones the police for help but a strange sight awaits him when he glances out the window: the mandrake has formed into a marching army and heads into the night, never to be seen again. Where did they go? Will they return?

Absolute looniness from start to finish. “Plantation of Fear” (from #3) is what we read 1950s horror comics for: sheer escapism. It would be easy to peg “Plantation” as a DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS rip-off but I doubt that. Triffids had only been published the year before and I’m not certain a bunch of middle-aged funny book writers would have time to search science fiction novels for inspiration. I opt for the “throw anything against the wall and see what sticks” theory I’ve adhered to this entire journey. Why not put fangs on a root plant?  Like “Zombie Bride,” the protagonists of  “Plantation” do nothing conniving or evil to bring this doom upon themselves. Oliver Caxton is simply an entrepeneur, tilling the fields that have been in his family for generations. Why the mandrake choose this day to “break free” from their bondage and revolt is never explained. The sight of the deranged full-sized plant (complete with Carmen Miranda headdress), screeching such expletives as "YAAAAOWWWWW!" and "YOOOOOWWWEEEEEEEE"  is one I’ll carry to the grave.

Jose: When he isn’t sitting in as a judge for beauty contests, Jeremy Poston whiles away the hours building his perfect conception of the female companion in his laboratory basement. No cadaver parts for Jeremy; his lady project is a full-fledged robot, and it only takes one flip of a Big Switch to bestow her with the spark of life. The wide-eyed lady, whom Jeremy names Cynara, numbly accepts Jeremy’s proposal to be his wife for all their days to come. But as the months go on Cynara finds herself wanting more and more to experience the sensations of humanity and understand what it feels like to be a “real” woman. Jeremy’s constant denial of these wishes leads Cynara to kill a female solicitor in order to absorb her human qualities (an aspect of her artificial intelligence that is never fully explored). Soon Cynara is having an affair with Jeremy’s friend Bill and convinces him to kill her husband. Bill shoots Jeremy, but upon reading the dead man’s written confession and finding out what Cynara truly is, he kills himself as Cynara shuts down indefinitely.

Taking an ax to feminine empowerment.
Though slight and never quite reaching its full potential, “There’s Peril in Perfection” (from #3) still remains an intriguing tale that touches on themes of identity and companionship through the filter of a 1950s horror comic posing as soap opera. The love triangle that develops between the three main players is strange and just oh-so-tongue in cheek. Jeremy expresses dissatisfaction with the parading beauty pageant-queens he must contend with and yet ends up creating the epitome of the “model” female himself, a receptacle for his love that must be entirely free of any of her own desires besides her affection for him. The apparently-more-wholesome Bill seems to feel the same way, if on a more unconscious level than Jeremy. He can’t resist the smiling, posing, perfect beauty of Cynara, and at one point holds her in his lap like a full-sized doll. The dramatic conflict in the story only arises after Cynara expresses her wishes to be like other, human women; had she just stayed in her place, none of this would’ve happened. In Bill’s suicide note, he refers to Cynara’s “evil power” and even the captions call her “death in the guise of beauty,” but these femme fatale-descriptors are completely off-base and appear indicative of contemporary attitudes towards feminine empowerment. The uncredited artist’s sympathetic portrayal of Cynara is more to the point, depicting a lost puppet who merely wanted to be something more but was never given the chance.

Peter: SS Colonel Karl Bucher has got it made: he's the heavy honcho at a Nazi concentration camp in 1945, he's got his pick of the pretty girls, and he can act out all his sadistic fantasies on a captive crowd. When a young girl spurns Bucher's advances, he has his guards skin the girl's hands for new gloves and has her tossed in the "corpse pit." Shortly after, the vacation ends for the Colonel when the Nazi party collapses and he is forced to flee the camp. Bucher manages to travel to several different countries under assumed names before settling in New York, where he plans to resurrect and lead a new party. Things go terribly awry once again when the ghosts of the "corpse pit" invade Bucher's apartment. Led by the pretty young girl (who wants her mitts back), the holocaust dead extract more than a pound of flesh from Bucher, leaving him skinned and hanging from his apartment wall.

Only seven years after World War II ended, "Corpses of the Jury" (from #5) feels like peeling back a very large scab and letting it bleed all over the page. Would comic artists of 2008 have reveled in such delicious nastiness? I don't think so. In any event, "Corpses" is a veritable contents page for Wertham's objections:

-Though it's only hinted at, we know very well what Bucher has planned when he tells the girl, "You are safe now! I, Karl, will be your - chuckle - protector!"
-When Bucher is rebuffed, his guard drags the girl away by her hair.
-We're not spared the flaying of the girl and the sight of her skin delivered to Bucher on a plate is very disturbing. She's then dumped onto a pile of rotting corpses.
-The cherry on top, of course, is the murder of Bucher ("Gaaaa- you're going to skin me!") and the sickening sight of the Colonel's head atop his entirely flayed body ("... a grisly red dripping thing.").

It's a shame we have no credits for these stories as I'd sing the praises of this particular artist to the masses. While not having the style of a Maneely or Everett (very few did), the visualist responsible for "Corpses of the Jury" certainly gets the job done.

Jose: Ireland, 1921. Anthony Denter is a captain in the army stationed to command the Dundally area as rebellion and insurrection rocks the country. Denter is a bit displeased with this news; his great grandfather, another military man, also oversaw Dundally and has been reviled by the peasants ever since. Travelling with his new blushing bride Pamela across misty moors, Denter suffers another bit of bad luck when his chauffeured automobile breaks down in the murky terrain. Broken axles are the least of the couple’s worries though. Not only does the cackling biddy at the local castle warn Anthony of the cursed fate that shall befall him for his ancestor’s sins, but the spirits of the villagers massacred by Denter the Elder are on their way to carry out the prophecy. The humans give chase but are no match for the bloodthirsty ghosts. It isn’t long before the capture is made and the scales of justice are righted in the bubbling muck.

Sometimes all you want is monstrous rampage and, should the story you’re reading be the obliging type, monstrous rampage is what you get. “Beasts of the Bog” (from #4) sets up a wonderful, classic pulp atmosphere from the start with its tantalizing splash page that shows heroics and fear in the face of an onslaught from some unseen horror on the gorgeously Gothic terrain of the Irish moors. The historical backdrop to the story is somewhat unique, but if you’re going in expecting a new patent on the monster tale than you’ll come away disappointed. “Beasts”, like some of the thrilling radio dramas of the previous decade, knows exactly what it is and carries no high airs about it, rolling out the shivery tropes right on schedule with a minimal amount of flair. It essentially boils down to five pages of genre comfort food: uncomplicated, a little crude, but ever-so appeasing to the reader’s hunger.

Peter: Newspaper reporter Tim Mackay gets his toughest assignment yet: the exotic (but press-shy) Princess Oona is in town and Mackay's boss wants an exclusive interview. Oona immediately takes a shine to Mackay's full head of blonde hair and the two soon become inseparable, with the reporter accompanying the princess everywhere. Oona tells Mackay she wants him to travel back to her jungle home with her and become the king. The love-sick dope agrees and the pair fly to the humid jungles, accosted by killer crocodiles and vampire bats all along the way. Oona surprises Tim with her jungle ferocity but love blinds him to the signs that say "You've made a mistake" and he survives the entire journey. Once in Oona's village, Tim is decked out in jungle king garb (toga and Hawaiian lei) but the "bubble bursts" when soldiers show up at his hut to drag him away. His terror turns to relief when they bring him to Oona's palace, where his new wife sits atop her throne. Sadly, Tim Mackay won't get used to this life of luxury since Oona explains that her people are headhunters and Tim is their latest catch. She pulls out a blade John Rambo would be envious of and separates Tim's head from the rest of his body.

That's some crazy croc!
Yet another jungle maiden, this one not so friendly, dominates the narrative of "Killer Lady" (from #6). What separates this one from the rest of the Jungle Jane adventures that Voodoo was well known for? As with "Corpses of the Jury," I'd have to say its delicious viciousness, but I'd also point to the absolute disregard the writer has for his characters. Don't take that as a complaint though; what I mean is that the writer has no problem slicing and dicing innocent people. Aside from his vanity ("The locks get them every time!"), Tim Mackay is nothing more than a hard working reporter. He doesn't wish his boss dead, he hasn't embezzled, cheated, or murdered; he's just an average Joe grabbing a hunk of a good thing when it's placed before him on a pedestal. And what does Tim get in the end? A beheading! The art is pretty unremarkable with the exception of that fabulous splash (reprinted above) and, I assume, the artist responsible belonged to the almighty "Iger Studio" (although one website, the fabulously detailed Eerie Publications Index, opines that it might actually be the work of Joe Doolin). Even though the opening scene never actually takes place, that image of Tim's headless body trying to catch the bat-that-holds-the-noggin is a kooky klassic. Another standout is the crocodile that magically becomes a dinosaur from one panel to another.The Ajax-Farrell jungle could be one mean, strange place.

Jose: Rita is a cold-blooded murderess awaiting her execution in the confines of a drippy prison cell, her imminent death weighing heavily upon her mind. Her grief catches the attention of a spectral ghoul who appears to her in a puff of smoke and with an offer of a way out. Mr. Ghoul promises Rita a means to escape her punishment, so long as afterward she swears to be his companion till the end of time. Rita agrees, drinks the ghoul’s death-defying elixir, and goes to the gallows with an untroubled conscience. Posing as Rita’s grieving brother, the ghoul brings her body back to his shadowy graveyard abode and administers a booster shot to restore Rita to life. Realizing she’s traded in one horrible fate for another, Rita reneges on her agreement and attempts to flee. But now that she’s crossed the mortal veil, Rita transforms into a serpent-faced ghoul herself, and her first order of business is exacting her revenge on the fat governor who refused to pardon her sentence. In her excitement, Rita gets tangled in the cord to the governor’s bedroom curtains (!) and effectively hangs herself. Mr. Ghoul reads the sad report in the morning paper, bereft and wondering when he’ll ever find love agan.

Say what you will about his looks, but the man has style to spare!
In every batch of our five favorite tales from each crop of issues, there’s almost always without fail that one goofy story that’s included not on the grounds of expert craftsmanship or shock value but rather on the amount of incredulous laughter it manages to elicit from us. “Ghoul’s Bride” (from #6) is my lovably doofy entry this time around. The artwork (yet again uncredited) is actually fairly attractive, with a lushness of style and great use of inking that allows the images to pop out from the panels. The narrative, on the other hand, is pure pulp nonsense, and I say that with a great amount of affection. To its credit, the author does try to “tie up” the loose end of Rita’s final demise by having Mr. Ghoul explain that his bride is impervious to “all forms of death” except the rope, but when we actually see the ironic events in execution they can’t help but still look ridiculous, especially when the artist shows a little trouble with perspective and ends up depicting Rita’s garroted corpse as the size of a rag doll. The weepy, wrinkled face of Mr. Ghoul is the cherry on top of the sundae, but if I were him I’d take some consolation in his sweet cemetery digs, which are adorned with skull-styled decorations and severed arm-candelabras aplenty.

Peter: A worldwide plague of locusts brings nations together for the first time to fight a common enemy. Newspaperman Pete Martin finds himself with a double-edged sword: terrified by the oncoming eradication of mankind and super pumped about writing the greatest news story of all time! Unbeknownst to the world at large, the locusts have been sending out signals to another world outside our galaxy, a planet inhabited by giant aggressive harpies (not the kind that star in reality shows). The monsters wing their way through deep space to continue the work begun by their little comrades, dive-bombing and ripping apart innocents in the streets. Their plan to depopulate and reign over a dead world, though quizzical, proves to be a good one. All the while, Pete Martin bangs those keys and laments to girlfriend Helen that this is the end of the world as we know it. The government decides that annihilation is imminent and so initiate "Super Project Final X." Much to their surprise, Helen and Pete are hand-picked from the survivors on earth (because they "are young, healthy, and - more important, still alive!") to become the new Adam and Eve. The new Alpha couple are locked in a spaceship and rocketed to an uncharted island (one that, ostensibly, the harpies don't even know about) in the Arctic Sea where they will be fruitful and multiply. But once the ship lands, Helen reveals that she's actually one of the killer harpies sent long ago to earth to infiltrate our people and scotch any such survival plan. She wastes little time tearing Pete limb from limb and, as our nameless narrator notes: "...the earth spins and desolation gathers, and the kingdom of mankind is vanished! The only sound is the evil cry of the harpies..."

Despite the obvious plot holes (Helen would have had to fly to earth - in her harpy guise - before the locusts sent out their SOS in order to set up shop as Pete's girlfriend), this was, far and away, the most effective horror story I read in the first ten issues of Voodoo. Relentlessly grim and, ultimately, pessimistic, "Goodbye... World!" (from #7) convinces me that the writers of Ajax-Farrell horror (and most pre-code horror, for that matter) were determined to "take the mickey out" of their readers. Nothing in this story follows a linear path. We begin with a life-threatening plague of locusts and that somehow segues into a distant planet populated by gargoyles who seemingly do nothing but wait for calls from outer space. What's almost forgotten in the ghoulish glee is the fate of our planet. We seemingly dodge extinction via starvation only to end up as vulture feed. How awful would it be to have salvation snatched from your grip twice in a matter of months? Delightfully masochistic and beautifully illustrated, it's going to be hard to beat "Goodbye... World!" as the Best Story Published in Voodoo.

Jose: It’s Scotland in the mid-nineteenth century, so there’s no business quite like the work of the resurrectionists who dig up fresh corpses for the purposes of dissection in the local medical schools. Dr. John Abernathy has struck up such a partnership with the odious cabbie Matt Drum, an underworld rat whom the righteous doctor regrets having to rely on for his supply. But Drum is certainly reliable, finding cadavers in good shape that haven’t been sniffed out by other body-snatchers. Drum tries to ingratiate himself in his employer’s favor, but the upstanding Abernathy bristles at their every encounter, grudgingly giving Drum his fee before forcing him back into the cold after the job is completed. Drum feels that he has suffered enough of the doctor’s indignities and finally resolves to sneak into Abernathy’s house and reveal the man’s crimes to his daughter Susan. The girl raises the alarm and Abernathy promptly beats Drum back into the street with a cane. The cabbie then swears his vengeance on the doctor. For his part Abernathy decides to ship Susan away to her aunt in London to deter any repeat performances. Coming up empty-handed when he tries going about the corpse-stealing business himself, Abernathy resorts to enlisting Drum’s aid for one final job. Drum is all too happy to do so, and it isn’t long before the doc finds out why: the casket they dig up at the cemetery carries Susan’s lifeless body inside. Enraged and distraught by his own sins, Abernathy guns Drum down before taking his own life.

With “Vanishing Cadavers” (from #10), we come across a true rarity in the annals of pre-code horror comics: a story with a genuinely strong script on all fronts. The nameless author excels in every way in crafting his tale, grounding it with a solid sense of place peopled by emotionally complicated characters who act as perfect foibles to one another. The story is given to colorful and poetical descriptions that manage to show a surprising amount of restraint and invention. Dialogue is realistic while having just the right flair of the theatrical and melodramatic as it carries the plot forward, avoiding the skipping-record rhythm that so many other stories have fallen into. And on top of all that, the writer manages to work in themes of social status and prestige. These will be familiar to anyone who adored the dynamic of the Karloff/Daniell relationship from Robert Wise’s THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), but “Vanishing Cadavers” sees these ideas played out in comic book-form to their grim, inevitable conclusion with a surprising amount of class and panache. 

And the "Stinking Zombie Award" goes to...

Who ya gonna call?
Peter: It was hard to nail down one "stinker" for this volume, as there were quite a few anemic bores from the first half-dozen issues of Voodoo, but "The Haunted One" (from the first issue) ticks all the required boxes. Ellen, terrified by her Uncle Caleb's ghost, calls the family lawyer (as anyone would, in the same circumstance). Unbeknownst to the pretty young innocent, her uncle has feigned his own death (in cahoots with lawyer Skriggs) in order for his insurance money to be paid out to Ellen. Once the money's paid out, the dastardly duo will kill Ellen. As is usually the case, greed rears its ugly head and Skriggs bashes in Caleb's skull. A wise boyfriend saves Ellen in the end and Skriggs is murdered by Caleb (who evidently didn't die from his wound), who confesses the whole affair before finally dying for real. More than anything, "The Haunted One" reminds me of those tepid bores that filled pages as back-up for the Caped Crusader in the 1940s issues of Detective Comics, the one-shots about dynamic lawyers and newspaper boys who rescued entire cities from flaming zeppelins, all visualized in stark, unimaginative stick figures. "The Haunted One," like the previous nine Stinking Zombies, is by-the-numbers, forgettable pap.

Jose: When a bunch of gorilla-women pillage a village for its men-folk to use as their jungle slaves, beautiful white heroine Kolah is called in to save the day. But the gorilla-ladies won’t make it so easy for Kolah (or us) and proceed to dog her every step. Although the horror titles we’ve dealt with thus far have attempted to mix two-tastes-that-taste-great-together either by accident or design, such as horror meldings with crime and SF, this attempt at inserting a high-flying jungle adventure in the same company as shambling corpses and tortured spirits fails on both a tonal level and a narrative level.

"I said a thousand words per page or nothing at all!"
I really don't have any experience with the jungle books of the 40s and 50s, so I can’t claim with any certainty if it was the norm for pages to cram in as many caption-heavy panels as seen in “The Antilla Terror” (from #2). I certainly hope it wasn’t, because if the prose was on par with the stilted, repetitive muck used by the anonymous author of “Antilla”, then I can’t help but wonder how any reader could make it through one issue with their sense of integrity intact. The copious word balloons and thought bubbles also seem particularly antithetical to the genre; wouldn’t the reader prefer to see Kolah vine-swinging over snapping crocodiles rather than hear her talk about it and have the poor artist forced to compromise the image in an embarrassing manner? If “The Antilla Terror” is any indication, the answer would be “Of course not.”

Low-flying action


Peter and Jose after reading too many horror comics.
"If you must stay, come into the study! And go quickly... you are in the presence of death..."
- "The Werewolf"

“Brrr… I don’t like the looks of this place, either. If it isn’t haunted there’s a swell opportunity going to waste.”
- “The Werewolf”

“Listen! Don’t I hear footsteps?”
- “The Haunted One”

Love can sometimes turn to hate - and horror! And Joe Farnsworth had to make the most terrible decision of his life when he found out he was on a zombie honeymoon...
- "Zombie Bride"

"I'll smash your skull to bits!"
- "Zombie Bride"

"Our love is safe now! We are dead!"
- "Zombie Bride"

“Golly! What a time to tangle with a python! Just when I’m trying to get this poor fellow home!”
- “The Antilla Terror”

“Can you not thrust a trapped woman?”
- “The Antilla Terror”

“Gaaa—my neck bone will soon break!”
- “The Antilla Terror”

You said it!
"Stop! Donna, stop! You must face these people!"
"Never! I'll try my fortunes elsewhere! Perhaps if I go where primitive people live they will appreciate the type of work which appeals only to those whose instincts are basic and whose minds are not crowded with false conceptions of art!"
- "Idol of Death"

Yala, upon being shot: “Owwww—I—Ahhhhh….”
- “The Game Called Dying”

“I think you’ve been dreaming—or drinking! But come on! I’ll take this machete just in case!”
- “Plantation of Fear”

"C'mon, let's ramble!"
- "Congo Terror"

"Lovely to look at! But if her name is Sybil Parks, mine is Indian Joe!"
- "Congo Terror"

“I must be like you! I will steal your qualities when you are dead!”
- “There’s Peril in Perfection”

"You're a thing! A horrible thing! Not a woman! You made me kill my friend! You... you machine!"
- "There's Peril in Perfection!"

"Perhaps you don't mind dying... I do. Nothing will stand in my way to prevent it. I think you are a fool, but then all men who go meekly and willingly to their graves are fools! Goodbye, friend. Perhaps you will be a corpse before I return... but if I am lucky, you will have someone to mourn you forever and ever."
- "Drums of Doom"

"I am not afraid of anything... but death..."
- "Drums of Doom"

“Lust had etched his face and made spider hollows of his eyes!”
- “Thief of Souls”

They do not see the thing that oozes from the bog and stares at them with the dead eyes of ancient evil...
- "Beasts of the Bog"
1953 subtlety

"He's gone! But where? No place to hide around here!"
"J-just like Captain Howe disappeared!"
"I don't like it!"
- "Death Light"

Perhaps it was because all the world hates a coward, or perhaps the party feared fear...
- "Death Light"

"I was afraid to tell you I was an undertaker, Cynthia! Afraid you wouldn't marry me!"
"I - I hate death! In any form! Ohh, this is terrible!"
- "Ghoul for a Day"

"What a fool I was! I wanted a real marriage! Now I wash dead bodies!"
- "Ghoul for a Day"

He was handsome -- but she was the devil! Out of the jungle she came, a smouldering cruelty in her eyes, and it was not until it was too late that he found that the vain die young...
- "Killer Lady"

“Old Granny Suggs still thinks we’re in league with the Devil!”
- “Deadly Timing”

"Looks kind of silly to me, Lila!"
"No, Don, it isn't at all! The part that tells how you make a necklace from the feathers of a freshly-killed chicken braided with weeds from a stagnant pool, and then wear it three days to find out your future, sounds as though it could really come true!"
- "She Wanted to Know... The Black Future"

Blame Horace!
"Yes, Lila wanted to know... what the future held in store for her! She found out... to her sorrow! It's hard to believe in the occult... until you see it at work! Lila's horrible experience has warned me! I won't dabble in the black sciences.. I'll let the future unfold itself when the time comes..."
- "She Wanted to Know... The Black Future"

Even the atom bomb, with all its terrors, was as a child’s bauble, compared to the dreadful fate that awaited the world with the coming of the harpies
- “Goodbye… World!”

"Pete! What is it? What can it be?"
"I don't know, Helen! Or I don't want to know --"
- "Goodbye... World!"

"You, Pete Martin, and you, Helen Towner, have been chosen more by fate than anything else! You are young, healthy and -- more important, still alive!"
- "Goodbye... World!"

Soon the doctor finds himself in the stews of Edinburgh, where human rats come out only at night and murder leers from every door…
- “Vanishing Cadavers”

Lucy Rowan was beautiful—and hard as coffin nails!
- “Mask of the Monster”

"I curse you, Colonel Rankin! With all my blood and soul I curse you! I shall return as a pig, and as a pig I shall slay you!"
- "Tusks of Terror"

As Rose dies, she hears the wild pig speak...
"Ha-hah-hah! You speak of love? I loved you, but your father made me a pig - and soon forgot! As a pig, I will have my revenge!"
- "Tusks of Terror"

"Even as a pig, my revenge is sweet!"
- "Tusks of Terror"

Could you give us those rules one more time?


Peter: From its pulp-influenced splash page filled from border to border with impaled colonel, hanging maiden, and killer boar, to its "just desserts" finale, "Tusks of Terror" (from #10) is one hell of a fun ride. Col. Rankin is a classic villain we can certainly root against; Rose certainly deserves her come-uppance after a nasty about-face; and who doesn't love the prospect of a killer swine? Perhaps the words of Colonel Rankin himself best describe the vibe of "Tusks: "My daughter, killed and sewn into a pig skin like a common criminal!"

Jose: Predating Roger Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by seven years, “Devil Flower” (from #7) speaks to the eternal struggle of man’s will bending to the sinister whims of flesh-hungry houseplants. Unlike many of the stories from the first ten issues of Voodoo, “Devil Flower” feels as if it has just the right amount of pages to tell its story. Even though our villain’s midpoint return to the States is marked only by the endless feeding of his new Venus man-trap, this section of the story contains a subtle wit and black sense of humor that keeps it from ever feeling like a drag. One wishes that Charles B. Griffith could’ve “reused” the climax of “Devil Flower” and had Corman show us Audrey Junior barfing up the remains of its victims. Talk about lost opportunities.

The Comics
Voodoo #1 - 10

#1 (May 1952)
Cover Uncredited

“The Shelf of Skulls”
Art by Matt Baker

“The Golden Ghouls”
Art by Robert Webb

“The Werewolf”
Art Uncredited

“The Haunted One”
Art Uncredited

#2 (July 1952)
Cover Uncredited

“Zombie Bride”
Art Uncredited

“The Antilla Terror”
Art Uncredited

“Idol of Death”
Art Uncredited

“Horror in the Hills”
Art by Matt Baker

#3 (September 1952)
Cover Uncredited

“The Game Called Dying”
Art Uncredited

“Plantation of Fear”
Art Uncredited

“Congo Terror”
Art Uncredited

“There’s Peril in Perfection!”
Art Uncredited

#4 (November 1952)
Cover Uncredited

“Drums of Doom”
Art by Matt Baker

“The Crawling Horror”
Art Uncredited

“Thief of Souls”
Art Uncredited

“Beasts of the Bog”
Art Uncredited

#5 (January 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“Corpses of the Jury”
Art Uncredited

“Death Light”
Art Uncredited

“Ghoul for a Day”
Art Uncredited

“Spiteful Spirit”
Art Uncredited

#6 (February 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“The Weird Dead”
Art Uncredited

“Ghoul’s Bride”
Art Uncredited

“Killer Lady”
Art Uncredited

“She Wanted to Know… The Black Future”
Art Uncredited

#7 (March 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“Devil Flower”
Art Uncredited

“Voodoo Canvas”
Art Uncredited

“Deadly Timing”
Art Uncredited

“Goodbye… World!”
Art Uncredited

#8 (April 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“Dollars and Doom”
Art Uncredited

“Satan’s Plaything”
Art Uncredited

“Blood Revenge”
Art Uncredited

“The Ghostly Guillotine”
Art Uncredited

#9 (May 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“Blood and Bones”
Art Uncredited

“Beasts of Baghdad”
Art Uncredited

“Death’s Shoes”
Art Uncredited

“Torture Travelogue”
Art Uncredited

#10 (July 1953)
Cover Uncredited

“Vanishing Cadavers”
Art Uncredited

“Mask of the Monster”
Art Uncredited

“Idol of Evil”
Art Uncredited

“Tusks of Terror”
Art Uncredited

In four weeks, our look at the final issues of Voodoo from Ajax-Farrell!