Monday, March 21, 2016

It's An Entertaining Comic! Part Two: June/July/August 1950

And special guest host
John Scoleri!

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
2: June/July/August 1950

The Crypt of Terror #18
(June-July 1950)

"The Maestro's Hand!" 
Story and Art by Al Feldstein

"The Living Corpse" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

"Madness at Manderville" 
Story by Ivan Klapper (?)
Art by Harvey Kurtzman

"Mute Witness to Murder!" 
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

Admiring the gorgeous sky and stars one night, Pam witnesses her neighbor murder his wife and the shock leaves her mute. When her husband discovers his wife's malady, he calls Dr. Bask to examine her. Unfortunately, for Pam, Dr. Bask is her murdering neighbor! Suspicious of the woman's sudden handicap, Bask has her committed, explaining to Pam's husband that some sudden shock has left the woman a violent psychopath. Trussed up in a straitjacket and speechless, Pam can't get her story told and, very soon after, she gets really bad news: knowing that Pam's speech will eventually return, Bask has scheduled brain surgery and tells Pam there will be an unfortunate slip of the scalpel. That night, Pam discovers that her voice has returned but she keeps mum. The next day, Bask comes into his patient's room to lead her to the operation and, as he undoes her truss, Pam beats him furiously. The strain is too much for the doctor's weak heart and he collapses. As he is dying, he discovers that his intended victim's voice has returned and pleads for Pam to tell an orderly he needs help. Pam answers in the negative and, instead, watches him die.

Voyeurism isn't played up as much in "Mute Witness to Murder" as it would be in Hitchcock's Rear Window (which hit screens four years after this story) but it's hinted at. Pamela wouldn't have been involved in this madness if she had simply obeyed her husband and retired to bed rather than spy on the domestic squabble-turned-murder across the alleyway. The hook is a bit contrived, I'll admit. Of all the doctors to call, it would have to be the murderer, wouldn't it? More powerful is the climax where Pam eschews "the moral thing to do," and ignores Bask's pleas for help. At one point, Bask cries "But... you can't just let... me die! Save me... please..." and Pam answers him with a cold, sharp "No." Johnny Craig, like Jack Kamen, can have an almost boring sameness to his work (his panel design is anything but startling) but no one can deny that he draws a great dame. Pam was played by Patricia Clarkson in the second season episode of Tales from the Crypt (HBO, 1990) rendered almost unwatchable by a hammy performance by Richard Thomas (as Dr. "Trask") and an awful score by Jan (Miami Vice) Hammer. The only aspect of the script that improves on the original story is the role of Pam's husband (Reed Birney), who actually shows interest in his wife's condition and questions whether she should be in a mental hospital.

"The Maestro's Hand"

"The Maestro's Hand" draws more than a little inspiration from The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) and its finale is predictable but Al Feldstein's art is a hoot, especially Dr. Hellman's swirly eyes. It's no wonder the gorgeous Virginia went looking elsewhere for love and satisfaction, even if she did wind up with a greasy piano player who looks like Robert Goulet. "The Living Corpse" and "Madness at Manderville" are both skippable but for Wally Wood's art (still in an almost cocoon-like state at this point) on "Corpse." -Peter 

Early Wood just doesn't give us wood.

Jose: “Mute Witness to Murder” is clearly the strongest story here, even if it does lift its basic premise from the 1946 film Shock, starring none other than Vincent Price as the dastardly doctor. While he certainly doesn’t reach the Gothic heights of Graham Ingels or the moribund caricatures of Jack Davis, Johnny Craig was always a great stylist, in my mind, and the fact that he was a double threat writer-and-artist was certainly no small feat. His renderings of Dr. Bask are especially unnerving; the reptilian smiles and smugness Craig captures in the character makes him feel more genuinely dangerous than any number of ghouls or witches. The finale is a master class in finely-wrought tension. I love Feldstein’s Disney Witch-looking Crypt-Keeper that opens up “The Maestro’s Hand.” Perhaps I’m just full of soft spots (see my love for the “Thing in the Swamp” blob from the previous post), but one of my endearing loves is for the ambulatory hand story. It’s such an old-fashioned conceit, the human appendage turned into a spidery monster with a mind of its own, that I can’t help but be tickled every time I encounter it. Sure, it has a cop-out ending, but it still gets an “A” for effort. This won’t be the last time Feldstein resorts to his swirly-spectacles look, and like Peter I just adore it. (Who else here has picked up on ol’ Al’s trademark hypno-circles that crop up in his work?) “Madness at Manderville” is way more insufferably leaden and tin-eared than I remember it from my youth; a very pale carbon copy of the themes that Kurtzman put to better use in “Horror in the Night” from last post’s Vault of Horror #12. And while “The Living Corpse” is another example from the school of “mystery stories that aren’t really mysteries” that other companies were publishing at the time, it does have some pretty nifty nightmare imagery that, even when coming out of the blue, still manages to give the story a nice hallucinogenic touch.

Jack: Troublemaker that I am, I preferred “The Maestro’s Hand!” to “Mute Witness to Murder!” I’ve always loved The Beast with Five Fingers, so this rip-off with mostly fantastic art by Feldstein was a blast. There are a couple of panels where he really messes up, but for the most part it’s wonderful. I was disappointed with Wood’s art on “The Living Corpse” and I’ve been underwhelmed by what we’ve seen from him to date, though I know he’ll get really good very soon. Kurtzman’s art is quickly growing on me, and his stylized work on “Madness at Manderville” nearly makes up for a too-wordy script. Craig’s story has the best balance of story and art, but the tale is a bit plodding despite a strong finish.

John: I'm with Jack on this one. “The Maestro’s Hand,” while somewhat silly, was the most fun in this issue. I'm finding it difficult to roll back my sensibilities to appreciate these tales as readers might have back in 1950. In “Mute Witness to Murder!” I couldn't get past Pam's inability to non-verbally communicate what she saw, say by writing it down before she was locked away in a strait-jacket. But that said, Johnny Craig's art was the best in the issue.

The Vault of Horror #13
(June-July 1950)

"The Dead Will Return!" 
Story Uncredited
Art by Al Feldstein

"The Curse of Harkley Heath" ★1/2
Story Harry Harrison(?)
Art by Harry Harrison & Wally Wood

"Doctor of Horror" ★ 1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Island of Death" 
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Based on the story, "The Most Dangerous Game"
by Richard Connell
Art by Harvey Kurtzman

Hank is being laid to in-medias-rest as we come into the issue’s lead story following our jolly ol’ Vault-Keeper’s introduction. The murdered man’s wife, Flo, and her lover, Bert, have the plan all worked out: the body’s to be dumped into the unforgiving ocean, Hank is to be reported missing and last seen on a fishing trip, and the conniving couple shall reap the rewards of their crime in the form of the hidden stash of dough Hank has squirreled away in the lighthouse he owned. It’s E. C. Revenge 101 by way of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. And as our lovers soon find out, so does the ferryman, for Hank’s nibbled corpse has a nasty habit of washing up from the River Styx and right back onto the beach in front of the lighthouse. Try as the couple might, they cannot free themselves of its accusing presence. It’s only when Flo finds herself alone in the lighthouse one night that Hank officially rises to the occasion and stalks his cheating wife to the top of the tower, Bert meeting an equally ghastly fate when he returns.

“The Dead will Return” might just be the first bona-fide horror classic to come from the company’s bullpen. The script, which remains uncredited, is a prime cut of steak totally shorn of the narrative fat that weighed down many of EC’s contemporaries (and they themselves, at times). The unnecessary lead-up to the murder is completely disposed of, economically recounted in a later monologue that finds Flo venting her doubts and fears as she waits alone in the primal dark. Feldstein’s pen sparkles throughout; his thick, heavy lines are crisp and exact, giving us just enough detail in the small glimpses we see of Hank’s waterlogged corpse. Indeed, the decision to keep the reanimated husband completely in the shadows is a wise one. It keeps us questioning the supernatural implications of the conflict and results in one of the most suspenseful set pieces we’ve seen yet: Flo’s terrified retreat up the lighthouse’s winding spiral staircase as—something—follows ardently behind.

"The Curse of Harkley Heath"

“The Curse of Harkley Heath” is an old dark house chestnut of the English moor variety, a reconstruction of Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” filled with duplicitous relatives out for the inheritance and a familial curse that may-or-may-not be real. Chances are your guesses concerning the plot’s trajectory are completely accurate based on this summary. “Island of Death” uses for its source a more contemporary classic, “The Most Dangerous Game,” that public school favorite, and Kurtzman’s script is much more obvious in its pillaging of the material. (This is essentially the same type of pulling-over that the company would later attempt with Ray Bradbury’s “The Emissary,” with memorable results.) Square-jawed hero “Stephen Crane” faces off against maniacal Count Cabeza on the “Island of Death,” but this abbreviated adaptation proves a tad unkind to Connell as most of the original story’s suspense and sadistic banter between the characters is vetoed for a more streamlined tale. Death by bees is certainly no replacement for a duel ending in mauling-by-bloodhounds.

The typical EC reader.
Creepy artiste extraordinaire “Ghastly” Graham Ingels makes his first splash in this batch of horror titles, including this issue’s “Doctor of Horror.” Reading the story reveals it for the fairly rote body snatcher-saga that it is, but simply to look at Graham’s artwork is to stare into the Gothic abyss that he seemed to easily conjure in every assignment without fail. Whereas guys like Feldstein and Craig worked in bold, clean-cut styles that aimed for an air of naturalism, Ingels wrought torture upon the page with expressionistic furor. Everything, from characters to setting, looks to be always in a state of agony or decay. When madmen rave, their mouths fill with thick cobwebs of saliva; hands are always long-jointed, bony, perfectly suited for the letting of blood. Even his sultry female characters, when they did appear, look like their curves are from the benefit of putrescence more than the All-American pulchritude of Jack Kamen. Looking at Ingels’s art produces the exact same emotional response as reading Poe. Perhaps this is a rather sorry review of “Doctor of Horror,” but all you really need to know in order to enjoy this tale is who it was that drew it. -Jose 

Peter: "Harkley Heath" is a warmed-up slice of Gothic meatloaf but a slab that's been out of the refrigerator for a couple days. It's not very tasty but you should have known better from the start. While I don't think "The Dead Will Return" is a classic, I do like certain bits of it, chiefly the climax that doesn't spell everything out for the reader. The evidence that Hank has been traipsing around the lighthouse is everywhere but we never actually see the corpse reanimated, do we? In a couple years, Feldstein (and Gaines and Craig and so on) won't be so keen on keeping the reader guessing.

Seabrook approved.
Jack: I love both Feldstein’s art and the lighthouse setting of “The Dead Will Return!” and I also love Flo’s array of low cut and off-the-shoulder dresses and blouses. She has an impressive selection of outfits for someone living in a lighthouse! The GCD credits “The Curse of Harkley Heath” both to Harrison and Wood, which gives me more to do in my ongoing search for the great artist that Wally Wood would soon become. I was disappointed in “Doctor of Horror” and thought it suffered from the “curse of the third story”—way too wordy and only so-so art from Ingels. Reading these EC tales is giving me a new appreciation for how hard it is to balance words and pictures, since some of the stories have way too many of the former crowding out the latter! I continue to enjoy Kurtzman’s work in “Island of Death,” though the changes to the uncredited source story don’t improve it.

John: "The Dead Will Return!" finally delivered on what I've been expecting from these EC titles. And I'd say it's Feldstein's best work yet. Sure, we don't see the shambling corpse, but dead bodies don't just find themselves wrapped in seaweed at the top of a lighthouse. Can't wait to read more like it! While I wasn't particularly enamored with "Doctor of Horror," it helped me recognize the influence Ingels had on artist Bernie Wrightson. I was disappointed with "Island of Death," which proves you can make a lackluster adaptation from the best stories... 

The Haunt of Fear #16
(July-August 1950)

"Vampire!" ★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Johnny Craig

Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Harry Harrison and Wally Wood

"The Killer in the Coffin!" ★1/2
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Graham Ingels

"The Mummy's Return!" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

Marsh Island, “a patch of land off the Louisiana coast,” is not only infested with swamps but also the bloodsucking undead, and it’s up to the good Dr. Jim Reed to sort out the deaths that have been plaguing his home. Trouble is, no one else is buying into the vampire theory, and the physician soon finds himself the butt of many an uncreative joke about bats. There seems to be a change in the wind when Jim discovers that the last victim was the maid of local aristocrat Mr. Winslow, and the older gentleman’s strange manners and insistence that the doctor attend to his ailing daughter at night—not to mention the presence of bite marks on the beautiful Nelda’s throat—seem to confirm that Jim is on the right track. The discovery of a dirt-lined casket in the basement seals the deal. Desperate to save Nelda from her predatory father, Jim confronts Winslow in the swamp and drives a stake through his heart. But Jim’s announcement of victory is met with rather a chilled  reception: Nelda admits that it is she who is the vampire and that she was sick only because her father hadn’t been able to provide her a victim. Now that Jim’s here, she doesn’t have to worry about that.

The swamp noir of "Vampire!"

Johnny Craig asserts his control of story and art once again in the swampy noir “Vampire,” economically moving the reader through eight pages of intrigue that build up to the grim moment of revelation. Craig flavors the tale with shots and lighting that show the influence of the cinema on his work, and though the twist at the end may be well-worn to our modern eyes, it must be stated that Craig never once shows his hand or compels his characters to act in an inane way in service of the surprise. “Horror-Ahead” is a game old sport but nothing really revolutionary. It does a nice little spin on the “unseen narrator” gimmick of prose fiction, but this is probably the worst of the Harrison/Wood collaborations that we’ve seen so far.

Even healthy folks look sick in "The Killer in the Coffin."
Ingels manages to make every day life a horror show with every panel of “The Killer in the Coffin,” and while it might not be his best it still possesses the same sumptuously Gothic thrills that we admire him for. And you have to give it up for that double-sting ending, one that finds our calculating henpecked husband feigning death from plague in order to murder his overbearing wife and take off with a young chickie, only to be buried alive along with all the other diseased corpses while his paramour lies helpless at the hospital, deranged from the exact same illness. I love the way that all the Egyptians from the flashback in “The Mummy’s Return” speak perfect English but then start chanting hieroglyphic symbols when trying to raise the dead, not to mention the fact that evil pharaoh Khufu has underlings carry out the assassination of a romantic rival because he doesn’t want blood on his hands but then goes ahead and knifes his wife to death himself. A ho-hum affair to put the wraps on this issue.

Peter: The obvious high point here is the Ingels art but "Horror-Ahead" is also good for some chills, despite hot-and-cold work from Wally Wood (who, like Ingels, will probably get better and better every month until he settles into being the incredible craftsman we know and love). Again, Russ Cochran claims this is Wood alone but, this time out, I'm going to favor the GCD's listing of Harry Harrison and Wood. Some of the panels (page 7, panel 1 for instance) are just too sketchy and amateurish for this to be Woody. Harrison and Wood would have a falling out in 1950 and go their separate ways (as Monday morning quarterbacks, we can cheer this occurrence). Bill Gaines, in an interview in EC fanzine Spa-Fon #5 (1969) said that when the two were working together, he didn't know who did what but when they split, "... all of a sudden Harrison's art wasn't very good anymore, and I found out who did what." Feldstein's "The Mummy Returns" is nothing more than a rip-off of the Universal mummy films of the 1940s and not a very good one at that. "Vampire" is a tedious eight pages of red herrings but Craig's art (especially the lovely splash and the effective final panel) makes the whole thing tolerable.

"The Mummy's Return"
Jack: I thought “Vampire!” was an excellent blend of story and art with a killer last panel, while “Horror-Ahead!” made me fondly remember Robert Bloch’s 1957 tale, “The Cure.” Ingels still hasn’t reached his peak with “The Killer in the Coffin!” but it’s better than “Doctor of Horror” and I especially like the panel where the murder is depicted in shadows on the wall. The story starts out too wordy (it is the third tale in the issue, after all) but really picks up toward the end. I was surprised to see that Ingels had been drawing comics since 1946 because in my mind he really evolves quickly in his time at EC. Finally, I think that if we didn’t set the artistic bar so high we’d be raving about Kamen’s art on “The Mummy’s Return,” which is very slick.

John: It's great to see Graham Ingels's art paired with a decent story. "The Killer in the Coffin!" was my favorite in this issue; it's the type of story I've been expecting more of as we take this trip through EC history. While I also enjoyed Johnny Craig's art in "Vampire," if not for the last panel it would have been a completely forgettable tale. I look forward to seeing more of Jack Kamen's work, and hopefully in stories a little more interesting than the rather dull “The Mummy’s Return.”

Weird Fantasy #14
(July-August 1950)

"Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion"
Story Uncredited (Bill Gaines?)
Art by Al Feldstein

"The Black Arts"
Story Harry Harrison (?)
Art by Wally Wood and Harry Harrison

"The Trap of Time!"
Story Al Feldstein (?)
Art by Jack Kamen

"Atom Bomb Thief"
Story Al Feldstein (?) Harvey Kurtzman (?)
Art by Harvey Kurtzman

Kurtzman's splash page
Working at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 1946, Paul Arnold seems to be nothing more than a mild-mannered nuclear physicist’s assistant. Little do his colleagues know that he is, in reality, an “Atom Bomb Thief!” For years, he has been sneaking data out of the plant and giving it to his associate, Karl. Together they intend to sell the plans for the bomb to the highest bidder. They fly off together over the Pacific to meet the agents of foreign powers but Karl pulls a double-cross and accidentally shoots out the plane’s control panel, causing a very wet crash landing. Paul escapes on a raft and leaves Karl to be eaten by a hungry shark. Washing up on a desert island, Paul is horrified to discover that the date is July 25, 1946, and he is standing on Bikini Atoll, where an atomic bomb is being detonated.

I hereby take back anything I ever said about Harvey Kurtzman. His splash page is stunning and his final page is brilliant. I did not see the surprise ending coming and it’s a blast! The other stories in this issue are not bad, either, from the self-referential “Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion” to “The Trap of Time!” which features more slick art by Jack Kamen and a plot twist we’ve all read before. The Harrison/Wood collaboration, “The Black Arts,” could fit well in just about any of the horror or fantasy books this month.--Jack

and the fabulous finale of "Atom Bomb Thief!"
Peter: It’s evident from the classic “Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion” that the creators behind Weird Fantasy had a lot of fun spoofing themselves and the often outlandish science factoids they would invest their stories with. The final panel proves these guys don't mind pushing the envelope. The fact that Professor Don Hartley (in "The Trap of Time") has nothing but good intentions for his time machine (rather than the usual pre-code inventor who would have come up with the gizmo to go back in time and find the Lost Dutchman) makes the cruel twist halfway through the story that much more delicious. The ironic ending that awaits the hapless protagonist of "Atom Bomb Thief" is indicative of the state of the U.S. (and the world) at the time. Someone much smarter than me (probably Jose, John, or Jack) once said that Hollywood moved on from werewolves and vampires to atomic bombs and all their side effects in the 1950s because the latter was a real horror, not some myth drummed up to scare the pants off your kid brother. Perhaps even stronger than his scripting (if we assume this was written by Harvey) is his layout technique and the sheer joy he seemed to be having confounding us (in the same way Will Eisner did) with bizarre panel structures and boxes with no balloons. Don't look too hard for any Lovecraft in "The Black Arts" despite the placing of the Necronomicon in the splash; HPL wasn't a household name in 1950 and, I suspect, the inclusion of the dark book was merely something Harrison (or Feldstein) had seen mentioned in Weird Tales at one time or another. These guys stole from the best.

The shock compels him to sing the opening lines to "Crazy Train."
Jose: “Atom Bomb Thief” is a great whopper of a tale, masterfully paced and conceived by Kurtzman with a rock-em, sock-em ending that foreshadows the great, great things we are soon to see from the company. It’s a nice, solid grounding for the lighthearted opener, “Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion,” which, as Peter says, shows that Gaines and Feldstein were well aware of their ham-fisted stuffing of data from scientific articles into their comic book yarns and were not afraid to poke some fun at themselves. (Was it then a conscious decision of Feldstein’s to include the scientist characters who perpetually call out each other’s names?) For as humorous as the story is, it’s got one hell of a downbeat ending, one I can’t imagine seeing publication in these modern times. It doesn’t seem like Feldstein (or whoever was at the typewriter) was trying very hard on the script for “The Trap of Time,” however. Silly to the extreme, it suffers the “third story curse” that Jack mentions and proves too wordy and overwrought for its own good. Not only do we get an editorial aside that breaks down the concept of reincarnation for us, but there are these golden bricks of prose to help pave the way towards the risible conclusion: “A girl’s scream against the agony of her pain and hurt!” and our hero’s cheery thought, “Since Adele won’t die from that blowout, my life stream will change. I think I’ll stick around and see what happens!” Sure, you do that! Were it not for the SF tales it’s keeping company with, “The Black Arts” would certainly seem like a fitting tale to find in the pages of a comic called Weird Fantasy. Taken by itself, it’s a decent concoction of dark magic that has one of the more chuckle-inducing turnabouts involving love potions. Make sure you get all those ingredients right, otherwise your beloved could turn into a bloodthirsty were-beast!

John: Does anyone happen to know if the use of the editors as characters in "Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion" was the first time that had been done in a comic? I remember members of the Marvel bullpen showing up throughout their books from time to time many years later. And while today Gaines and Feldstein are revered, I'm curious if kids at the time were even aware of the fact that those were supposed to be the real people behind the stories they were reading. I was amused they were described as the editors of Weird Science, so as not to be too self-referential in this issue of WF. "The Black Arts" seems strangely out of place in this issue, but it's entertaining and the art is a highlight. I can't wait to see Wally Wood at the top of his form. I also enjoyed “The Trap of Time,” and was prepared for it to end on the panel mid-way through when Don realized that he was responsible for the act he thought he would be preventing, so to get the second twist at the end was a nice bonus. For me, Jack Kamen's art is the standout in this issue. Last but not least, I thought “Atom Bomb Thief” was an okay tale, but I've not warmed up to Kurtzman's art yet. All in all, it was nice to read an issue with no real dogs for a change!

Weird Science #13
(July-August 1950)

"The Flying Saucer Invasion" 
Story and Art by Al Feldstein

"The Meteor Monster" 
Story Harry Harrison (?)
Art by Harry Harrison & Wally Wood

"The Micro-Race!" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"The Man Who Raced Time" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Harvey Kurtzman

Scientist Marvin Stanhope creates a life form of his own, a microscopic civilization that he has engineered to evolve into an intelligent species in a matter of weeks. His hope is that this new world avoids the pitfalls of our human race and evolves into a more intelligent, peaceful race. Once Marvin has all the information he needs, he attempts to destroy the race before they can discover war and greed but his machinery lets him down and "The Micro-Race" eventually create a powerful weapon to use against each other. The resulting explosion destroys the micro-planet as well as Marvin's island. A fun little sci-fi romp with, for a change, a scientist who only wants to do good for mankind. A pity his experiment goes awry. I've slagged Jack Kamen for his dull art but this is the type of story he excels at; a story that doesn't require a lot of illustrated detail and can get by on its hook alone. The other three stories in this issue are fairly by-the-numbers though "The Flying Saucer Invasion" has a dandy twist ending. The art credit for "The Meteor Monster" is a bit hazy. GCD lists Harry Harrison but Russ Cochran claims (in the Weird Science #2 reprint, 1992) it's Wally Wood (and it sure looks like Wally's work). I'm erring on the side of caution and listing it as Wood as I consider Cochran to be the world's leading EC scholar. -Peter 

The stunning finale of "The Flying Saucer Invasion"

"The Micro-Race"
Jose: The first two tales in Weird Science #13 both left me asking the same question: “That’s it?” Perhaps it’s the overfamiliarity of the stories’ plots (UFO sightings and alien mind control, respectively) that left them feeling so old hat, but I think half of the problem also lies in the fact that at this point EC was still getting their feet wet in the genre game and had yet to excel at their craft. (“It was only their second issue,” the reader screams. “Cut them some slack, ya nut!”) “The Micro-Race” does have a fairly clever conceit, and it’s also refreshing to see Feldstein use a light hand in drawing the parallels between the little alien’s and mankind’s latent desires for ultimate self-destruction. “The Man Who Raced Time” skates by mostly from the benefit of Kurtzman’s art and characterizations. (Take a look at that homicidal grabber of a splash page.) Perhaps it’s just me, but our put-upon Professor Quantum (yeah, I know) felt much more immediate to me in his frustrations and insecurities than some of the other Melvins we’ve seen so far. You almost want to shed a tear for the poor, flattened sap at the end.

"The Meteor Monster"
Jack: May I take a moment to say how great these comics are? I know we’re not to the best of them yet, but the level of quality is already high. It’s interesting to read “The Flying Saucer Invasion” and see that a story as early as 1950 was already able to catalogue all of the theories about the flying saucer craze. “The Meteor Monster” is not a bad little story about an alien creature brought down by a surprising source, following the lead of H.G. Wells. The nuclear explosion at the end of “The Micro-Race!” is already becoming a cliché and I went back and counted three stories in this post alone that ended that way. Kurtzman continues to impress me in “The Man Who Raced Time,” with another idea that we’ll see a decade later on The Twilight Zone. Between Kutzman’s art and the humorous, self-referential tales that opened this month’s sci-fi comics, it’s not a big leap to Mad Magazine.

John: I'm beginning to wonder how good a final panel has to be to forgive a story for dragging on for several pages. In the case of “The Flying Saucer Invasion,” it might just be good enough. Despite the great ending to that tale, it was immediately forgotten once I started the fantastic "The Meteor Monster!" The initial panels reminded me of the Jordy Verrill segment from Creepshow, but it quickly washed away those thoughts with the introduction of the coolest creepy thing I think we've seen thus far in these titles. This story also has a great final panel, but it was a fantastic story leading up to that point, too. The most fun I've had in this batch of funny-books. I think I'm going to go back and read it again.

"The Man Who Raced Time"

Next Week in the Special 75th Issue of
Star Spangled DC War Stories!
The most popular war series of 1965 returns!

from Haunt of Fear 16


AndyDecker said...

I know of course the story of EC and their end, I saw and liked the tv-series of Crypt, but I only read the odd original story as a reprint. So I am particulary interested in this series.

It is hard to understand the era in which Gaines published his magazines. As far as I know horror was out of favor in the adult market with the demise of the pulp magazines, unlike today there was no strong horror films or tv. So the idea to publish this genre for a childrens market seems strange. Especially as these stories seem to be fairly adult both in content and presentation. Did they really sell better then the competition?

Jack Seabrook said...

Peter is the expert on this topic, but I can say that EC was hardly alone in targeting the youth market with horror comics. If anything, they were following a trend rather than starting one. What made them special was the quality of their product. I think comic sales have always been more a factor of distribution than quality though I have no idea how EC sold in comparison with their competitors.