Monday, September 25, 2017

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 41

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
41: December 1953
                   + The Best of 1953

Weird Fantasy #22

"The Silent Towns" ★★
Story by Ray Bradbury
Adaptation by Al Feldstein
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Freaks" ★★★
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"The Fossil" ★★
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

"Derelict Ship" ★★ 1/2
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Bernie Krigstein

Walter Gripp can’t seem to figure out how the town at the edge of the dead Martian sea has come to be completely abandoned, but what he does know is that the loneliness isn’t sitting well with him. In spite of his reclusive tendencies, Walter finds the empty homes and quiet streets downright eerie, and it doesn’t help that his long-held fantasies of travelling into the town from his shack in the blue Martian hills to find a nice woman to marry are now properly dashed. Hope rekindles when he hears the distant ring of a telephone—but he answers just in time to hear the call end. A mad scramble throughout the town and a frantic quest to literally call every name in the phone book finally yields reward when he connects with a woman who identifies herself as Genevieve Selsor in Marlin Village before the line goes dead. Walter promptly “borrows” a beetle car the next day and zooms out, reasoning that, as a woman, Genevieve would be most likely to hole up in a beauty salon. And there Walter finds her, in abundance. Far from the “clear vaporous mist” he dreamed of, Genevieve is a pulchritudinous horror in Walter’s eyes, and their status as “last man and woman” on Mars is enough to set his skin crawling. As soon as Genevieve shows him the wedding dress she has all picked out, Walter is back in the beetle car zipping for his shack in the hills, where he proceeds to live in contented solitude for all the rest of his days.

I'd cuddle with her.
("The Silent Towns")

A rare Bradbury adaptation of a more humorous sort, “The Silent Towns” lights a wick of intrigue in a setup that clearly inspired Rod Serling during his composition of The Twilight Zone’s premiere episode, “Where is Everybody?”, (even down to the presence of mannequins) before the story posits the notion of romancing a fat person as being a fate worse than death. As conceived by Reed Crandall, Genevieve isn’t merely overweight but morbidly obese on the order of Charlie Marno from “Dead Right” (Shock SuspenStories 6). But here the jabs at the character's weight seem all the sharper given the context of Walter’s dilemma: he prefers to live with absolutely no human contact rather than have the companionship of someone whom he finds physically repulsive. This attitude wouldn’t necessarily be terrible if we were given any indication that Walter wasn’t someone whom we should be rooting for, but the rest of the story and the “Pop Goes the Weasel”-tune of the last panel tell us that Walter’s decision should be viewed as jovially affirming our long-held beliefs that fat people are gross and should be avoided at all costs.

Working for biscuits.
("The Freaks")
Don’t believe what the scandal rags tell you: life under the big top ain’t easy, and life in the freak show is a hell unto itself. Every day the band of misfits consisting of Tarpo the Living Skeleton, Aldo the Hairy Ape-Man, and others is trotted out onto the stage to be gawked and sneered at by the patrons who have paid their quarter to come and see the monsters. Bosco the Dog-Faced Boy has had enough of it; approaching Gilby and Smote, the two shysters who run the show, Bosco turns in his two week’s notice but is reminded of his binding debt to the businessmen for the sum of $200. Knowing that he’ll never earn enough to satisfy the debt with the pittance that he receives from the freak show, Bosco downs a heavy dose of sleeping pills and crosses over the Rainbow Bridge. Now out a star attraction, Gilby and Smote take to the streets in the hopes of randomly bumping into some other messed-up-looking mother that they can snooker into servitude when what to their wondering eyes should appear but a dwarf with an upside-down face and two batty ears. The circus men give chase to the creature only to find themselves led into a caged pen where the creature—in actuality Callon-X, a time-travelling showman from Earth’s post-Atomic future—informs Gilby and Smote that they will be the future attractions of Callon-X’s very own freak show.

Thanks for laying it all out for us, guys!
("The Freaks")

After the chalky taste that “The Silent Towns” left in my mouth, “The Freaks” proved to be just the chaser I needed to wash it down: unabashedly low class and goofy and not at all afraid to admit it. While “The Silent Towns” felt like an assignment that was more suitable to the métier of Jack Kamen, “The Freaks” could have easily been handed off to Graham Ingels for a morbid rebranding of EC’s science fiction stylings, but I’m thankful that it ended up in Kamen’s bin because it lead to the artist conceiving the “special makeup effects” for his star, Bosco the Dog-Faced Boy, possibly the oddest and most distinguishable creation that Kamen ever set to paper. His depiction of Bosco’s trials and travails are the stuff of weepy melodramatics, but damn if they’re not effective. But after Bosco’s surprising Marion Crane-esque first act exit we’re right back in cheap entertainment territory, and the “You’re the freaks now!” clincher that we’ve seen so many times here and abroad somehow manages to feel giddy and wholly satisfying here.

After setting down on a foreign planet, a team of space explorers begin to dig through the crusty terrain where they find a massive bone belonging to an extinct lifeform. The astronauts set to their task with renewed ardor, excavating one gargantuan fossil after another and assembling the bones into a replica of the lifeform Smithsonian-style. Two of the astronauts hypothesize that the spores that brought life to this planet are the same ones that jumpstarted the evolution of their own home when the alien planet erupted eons ago. After the skeletal framework has been fully assembled, the space team begins covering it with patches of synthetic flesh like a very upsetting quilt. Satisfied with their work, the astronauts head back into their ship for the homeward journey, removing the suits that reveal them for the face-torso crustaceans they are as they peer out at the titanic replica of a human infant that they have left behind.

"You maniacs! You blew it up!"
("The Fossil")

If nothing else in this last issue of Weird Fantasy convinces you that the SF well had run dry for the boys at 225 Lafayette Street by this point, than “The Fossil” will surely get the job done. Laboriously padded even at the minimum 6-page running time, this silly goose of a yarn earns a merit badge on the sole basis of its trippy final panels, throwing a bone to the reader with one last depiction of Joe Orlando’s long-gone mashed-up aliens and the image of a wailing baby patchwork more unnerving in effect than a good many of EC’s horror tales. The furrowed brows it inevitably induces remains as solid a testament as any as to the impression that WF’s swan song leaves upon the reader.

Probably not the best framing
for your dramatic death scene.
("Derelict Ship")
Cruising down the intergalactic highway, Captain Vance Kaye’s patrol rocket picks up indications of a derelict ship nearby and, as Kaye’s first mate knows is par for the course, the rocket pulls in for an investigation. Finding a mass of bodies within in various states of decay, Captain Kaye and Lieutenant Fielding dig out the ship’s log in the hopes that it will provide context to the strange scene. This it does in aces, as it explains that the ship’s crew was forced to seek solace on a desolate planet after an asteroid struck the vessel. Unhappily for them, the desolate planet turned out to be the lonesome prison that Earth had been shuttling its most vile fascistic criminals and radicals to. The marooned madmen commandeered the ship and forced the crew to drive them back home. Remembering the brave sacrifice made by his friend Bert and the wife and child he left back on Earth who would fall under the hateful regime of his new passengers, the captain of the ship smashed the ship’s gyro control and sentenced them all to a lingering death by asphyxiation. Finally satisfied that his derelict ship-searching days are over, Captain Kaye voices his thanks to the remains of his father, Captain Kenneth Kaye, for sparing the Earth from hate.

Bernie Krigstein barely has time to get his foot in the door before the monthly SF titles close for good, but “Derelict Ship” still manages to leave just enough of an impression of his unique aesthetic that it’ll either leave you curious for more or thankful the lights are being turned out. Krigstein’s style was one that always felt abrasive to my eyes as a youngster, purist of the classical comic book form that I was, but I’ve been eager to revisit him because I suspect that my opinion of his technique has changed. “Derelict Ship” mostly looks like the work of someone still coming to grips with their artistic identity, but it does sport spare glimpses of Krigstein’s unconventional visualizations. As a story, “Derelict Ship” remains intermittently interesting, spiking up the scale with the introduction of the planet o’ hate-mongers and the softly poignant sound-off. --Jose

Peter: "Derelict Ship" is an interesting failure, one with high moral ground, that starts off intriguingly enough but sputters out with a climax that feels tacked-on. Bernie Krigstein will become justifiably famous from his EC work but space opera could not have been his genre of choice. His space explorers and lunar landscape have too much of a Williamson vibe to them. "The Freaks" and "The Fossil" are utterly predictable (and "The Freaks" feels like a patchwork of old EC stories). I had to laugh when, halfway through "The Freaks," Al feels the need to summarize the story thus far. It really wasn't all that complicated, Al. That leaves the one shining light this issue, Ray Bradbury's "The Silent Towns," another Martian Chronicle tale (originally from the March 1949 issue of Charm), one that would have found a hard time seeing publication in today's PC world. I thought that, yep, there's a bit of misogyny and "pleasantly plump" discrimination going on, but isn't it a nice change to see Bradbury end on a humorous note rather than the stuffy, sometimes pretentious message he's used to delivering? So, other than the Bradbury, the final issue of Weird Fantasy is more vacuous space than solid entertainment. Though WF and Weird Science end this month, the two titles will merge and reappear in March as the quarterly Weird Science-Fantasy. EC will drop the new title on the public with a higher price tag and we'll see how that goes over rather quickly.

Jack: The image of Genevieve in Walter's dream in "The Silent Towns" owes much to illustrations on the covers of old pulp science fiction mags but the reality of the last woman on Mars is something much different. While there is some humor as Walter tries to avoid Genevieve's advances, the story ends up seeming little more than cruel. The Bernie Krigstein we see in "Derelict Ship" seems to be getting his feet wet and the art is inconsistent with flashes of excellence; the story is a good one. Anyone but Kamen would have done a better job with "The Freaks," another story with a cruel streak and an old twist. That leaves "The Fossil," about which the less said, the better: it's talky and boring and the ending falls flat.

The Haunt of Fear #22

"Wish You Were Here" ★★★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Graham Ingels

"Chess-Mate" ★★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by George Evans

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"Model Nephew" ★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Davis

What could possibly go wrong?
("Wish You Were Here!")
Once living in wealth and grandeur, Enid and Jason Logan now face bankruptcy and losing all the beautiful objects they've acquired over the years. While admiring her collection, Enid discovers that an old jade statuette she'd picked up in China has an inscription at the base, a rhyme bestowing the owner with three wishes. Enid exclaims that she will wish for lots of money but Jason cautions her that he'd read a story once, "The Monkey's Paw," where a woman had three wishes and they came true with disastrous results. Enid scoffs and makes her wish. Just then, the phone rings and Jason announces that his lawyer, Mr. Shiner, has called him into town to discuss a way of stalling the bankruptcy. Enid is elated and convinced her wish has come true. As in "The Monkey's Paw," the wish does come true, but only as a result of the death of Jason in a car crash. Jason's lawyer arrives to inform Enid of the sad news about Jason but lets slip that her husband's death makes Enid a rich woman thanks to the boatload of life insurance Jason had.

Maybe I'll have better luck this time!
("Wish You Were Here!")
Distraught, Enid grabs the statue and begins to make her second wish, that Jason come back to life, but Shiner heads her off at the pass, reminding her that, in "The Monkey's Paw," the woman wished for just that and got her son back in the condition he was in after being mangled in a machine accident. Enid wishes for Jason back "as he was immediately before the accident," but a knock on the door dashes any hopes of Jason back in her arms. Three men carry a coffin into the living room and one of the men informs Enid that Jason was dead of a heart attack before the crash. Enid, pondering the wording of her final wish, sends Mr. Shiner away and holds the jade statue, crying that she wants her darling "alive . . . breathing . . . talking . . . moving . . ." Jason bolts upright in his coffin, screaming in agony that his wife has made a mistake. His blood has been removed and now formaldehyde runs through his veins. As he writhes in pain, Enid grabs their rifle and shoots him but the bullet has no effect. She grabs a knife and, hours later, Mr. Shiner finds the woman standing in front of the coffin, little bits of Jason everywhere. And each piece pulses.

Ghastly's back in town!
("Wish You Were Here!")
Al takes the "inspiration" gig perhaps a bit too far this time out, but at least acknowledges W.W. Jacobs and his "The Monkey's Paw" within the story itself. It's tough, for me at least, to read "Wish You Were Here" and not think of the Amicus adaptation that appeared as the fourth story in Tales from the Crypt. Milt Subotsky did such a great job running his audience through the wringer that I had fears the comic version would pale in comparison. That didn't happen. "Wish You . . ." is the quintessential EC masterpiece, a perfect horror story (granted, Al had a lot of help from W.W. Jacobs) without any of the EC cliches (no corpse rising from the grave, no two-timing money-hungry wife, no villainous embezzler) that might have knocked it down a peg. Ghastly is just as on fire as Al here (check out the ghoulish whatsit on the splash), a nice sign since I'd been worrying his work had been slipping lately. Enid's disregard for the money and her wish only to have Jason back is a welcome change from all the adulterous shrews we've had to deal with of late. What we have here is really nasty things happening to nice people. The only thing missing is death on a motorcycle.

*Choke*, indeed.
("Wish You Were Here!")

Top hat of the mourning!
Old Zeb Taylor loves his park bench and the folks of Plainville love ol' Zeb even if he beats them, time and again, at chess. When word of Zeb's chess prowess reaches the rest of the world, he's visited by champion Eban Morgsky. Even though Morgsky is soundly defeated by Zeb, he tries to convince the old man that he should participate in the International Chess Tournament and bring fame to the small town of Plainville. At first, Zeb declines Morgsky's kind offer but is eventually worn down by pressure from city hall. Zeb agrees to the match only if the tournament can be played on his favorite park bench. Once the arrangements are made, thousands flood in to Plainville and a huge parade commences. When the American flag is trotted down the street, Zeb refuses to doff his top hat, enraging the townsfolk. When, at last, the hat comes off, "choke"s and "my God"s rumble through the crowd. Two shots ring out and Zeb is dead, a suicide. His friend, "Doc" explains why Zeb took his own life: Zeb was born one of two Siamese twins, joined at the head. His brother's body was severed but his twin's head lived on (which explains why he was so good at chess!). "Chess-Mate" is one of those frustrating near-classics that hits a speed bump on its road to 'Finis.' In this case, it's actually the finis that provides the speed bump. Al creates a fabulous mystery (why is this man so good at chess and why is he so dead-set against playing indoors, away from his bench?) but just can't seal the deal (Why were Siamese twins always associated with grimness in the 1950s and, maybe more importantly, why does Zeb carry a revolver?). Still, there's some great writing here, as in "Doc"s intro:

Suddenly, the gaiety and the air of festivity that has covered my town like confetti and tinsel, and pink and green streamers is gone, and we all stand about in a hushed terrified silence, staring down at the lifeless body lying in the gutter . . . the body of Zeb Taylor. 

Those words draw you in and keep you enthralled right up to the point when we see that Zeb has a second living, breathing head attached to the back of his noggin. Oh, is that all? Evans's heavily-inked, noirish art is gorgeous, some of the best we've seen from him.


The queen is not a happy woman when her magic mirror tells her that Snow White is the fairest in the land. She immediately sets her axeman on the comely wench but he has a kind heart and allows Snow White to escape. In the woods, Snow White happens upon the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs and, seeing it needs a bit of tidying up, cleans it from stem to stern. The Dwarfs come home from a day of work at the uranium mine and find the buxom beauty asleep across their beds. Snow White begs them to let her stay and, in return, she'll be their housekeeper. The Dwarfs agree and head off to work the next day. The most gorgeous maid in all the land answers a knock on the door and discovers an old woman selling apples. Impetuously, the girl takes a bite and dies of poisoning. The old woman doffs her cloak and we discover that it's actually the seven little imps, who then get to the business of making their cottage messy again. An absolute hunk of rubbish from page one to six, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" only adds fuel to my argument that EC should have left these "Fractured Fables" to the lesser companies. Did Al think the little sight gags (including an upside down message for people who read their comics, um, upside down) and awful rhymes would work just as well in The Haunt of Fear as they did in MAD? Well, he was wrong. If I had been an EC-Fan-Addict in 1953, I'd have stormed the gates.

The awfully awful awfulness of "Snow White . . . "

"Model Nephew!"
Sidney can't wait for his uncle, a rich old salty sea dog who now whiles away his time making ships-in-bottles, to shuffle off and leave him his fortune. In fact, Sidney is so impatient, he murders his uncle and makes it look like a heart attack. The old tar is buried (in a crypt containing his coffin and all his bottles!), his will is read, and Sidney begins a life of unfettered debauchery with the spoils. One night, stumbling home from a night club, Sidney is accosted by a man in the shadows and tries to escape. Just before losing consciousness, Sidney sees that the mystery man is his Uncle, now a shambling, rotting corpse in a sailor suit. The next day, Sidney wakes to find himself aboard one of his uncle's ships in a bottle. If you're expecting anything new here, forget it and move on to the next issue; Sidney is no different than the other 199 greedy, murderous relatives we've encountered on our journey and we're never given a good explanation for how this dumb cluck is miniaturized and placed carefully into the bottle. However, the climax, where Sid discovers he's in the bottle, little by little, is pretty creepy (his walk across the "water" to the glass and his view of uncle's casket are handled really well) and almost worth the wait. Minus a decent script, "Model Nephew" becomes Jack Davis's heavy load and he delivers the goods for the most part (there are a few too many panels of nothing but talking heads). Reviewing this issue's individual ratings, I'd say Al hit for the cycle. --Peter

"Model Nephew!"

Jack: More like three doubles and a single. After a striking splash page with the Old Witch, the art in the Ingels story is mediocre, and does referring to "The Monkey's Paw" make it acceptable to retell the same old story yet again? The changes don't improve it. Evans's art on the chess story is much better than Ingels's but the whole story builds to a revelation that is a letdown. The six pages of the Kamen story read like they're 60 pages; this may well be the worst story we've read so far that was written and drawn by EC regulars. As for the Davis story, when you figure out the surprise ending a couple of pages before it comes, the rest of the story is just passing time. Issues like this and this month's Weird Fantasy make me wonder if EC was running out of gas by late '53 and would have petered out on its own even if the Comics Code had not come along.

Jose: Like Peter, my thoughts concerning “Wish You Were Here…” are inextricably bound to the 1972 Amicus production, a film incredibly important to my development and one that left a lasting impression on me ever since I stayed up one fateful evening to excitedly record its airing on AMC’s “Fear Friday” block. And though there are things that I really like that the film added and/or changed, I would say that in the end it’s just a matter of me enjoying each version for their own individual reasons. Case in point: the relative innocence and purity of the characters, much like that of the White family in Jacobs’ source material, greatly bolster our sympathies for Enid and Jason here. Sure they may be a little vain and materialistic, but Enid’s genuine anguish over her husband’s death is like a breath of cold, refreshing air next to all the plotting trollops we’ve had to deal with. You get the sense that it’s her profound love for her husband that pushes her to do what she does in the end, and that makes all the difference in the world. The first two-thirds of “Wish…” may very well come off as old hat, but it’s that final part where the story sails right into EC territory with Jason screaming over his acidic veins and Enid deliriously chopping him down into quivering mush because she just doesn’t know how else to end her husband’s pain. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

The rest of the issue is pretty much the standard fare of the day. “Chess-Mate” reels us in with the mystery at the nub of its plot because it’s all so unusual, but then cuts it off at the knees with another play on the Siamese twin gambit, though it must be said that Feldstein does such a good job of building the momentum that it carries us through the familiar finale. My palate for trash must have become desensitized over the course of this marathon, because I didn’t think that “Snow White…” was nearly half as bad as Jack and Peter claim. I could easily point to at least five stories from Mad that look DOA compared to the silly shenanigans on display here. I think that the story’s presence in one of the company’s horror mags is probably the source of at least some of the discord, but otherwise I think this was a perfectly harmless and occasionally funny yarn. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that “Model Nephew” was a lost episode from 90s kid TV staples Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? It’s a strictly PG affair with the faint exception of Sidney’s murder and features a nutty comeuppance that would have been perfectly at home in either of those series.

Weird Science #22

"A New Beginning" ★★ 1/2
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Al Williamson, Bernie Krigstein, Frank Frazetta, and Roy Krenkel

"The Headhunters" ★★★
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by George Evans

"My World" ★★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

"Outcast of the Stars" ★★★★
Story by Ray Bradbury
Adaptation by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

"A New Beginning" with
James Dean and Liz Taylor.
In a jungle somewhere, a man warns a woman to keep an eye on a futuristic machine's gauges, lest it blow up. Alone at night with the machine, the woman thinks back to how they got there. Both came from the world of the year 3049, when machines had replaced love and babies were born through technology. The woman and the man had felt rebellion in their hearts and wanted to escape the cold world of science, so when an old scientist showed them a time machine, they jumped at the chance to return to the prehistoric age with a propagation machine for "A New Beginning." Once back in time, however, the woman convinced the man that they should forget the machine and take the more natural route toward progeny. The unwatched machine blows up and Adam and Eve are left to start a new line of people.

I can't believe I fell for the old Adam and Eve bit again! I guess it was the dazzling art. EC historians have concluded that four artists worked on this story, but only Al Williamson signed it. I don't know who did what, but it looks very good and Eve really looks like Liz Taylor in at least one panel.

"The Headhunters"
battle their way through hair.
Another nut case is brought into the insane asylum's lab for treatment, where the doc hooks him up to a diathermy machine for treatment. No one knows why, but once this machine is turned on and the skylight is opened, miracle cures happen! The doc doesn't know about "The Headhunters," a group of tiny spacemen on a tiny spaceship who are summoned by the machine and fly into the patient's brain to destroy the microscopic monsters driving him crazy.

I had to go online to see what a diathermy machine is, and it looks like it's basically an electric heating pad. Very sharp art by George Evans helps make this story enjoyable, though when the spacemen began marching through a jungle of what looked like human hair I had a pretty good idea of what was going on and thus the ending was no big surprise.

Wally Wood takes the reader on a tour of "My World" in a plotless yet gorgeous six pages of examples of things that happen in science fiction stories. I have no idea how this "story" came about, but it's a display of Wood's mastery of everything having to do with science fiction art, from beautiful women to horrible monsters.

"My World" indeed!

"Outcast of the Stars"
Tired of being an "Outcast of the Stars," Fiorello Bodoni buys a full-size model of a spaceship with money he's saved while running his scrap metal yard, determined to reach outer space despite his lack of money. He works hard to remodel the ship and then takes his children on the ride of a lifetime through outer space. He returns home safely and his wife, who had been against what seemed like a waste of money, understands that he has given his children a gift--in what is essentially an amusement park ride, a spaceship that simulated a trip to the stars while never leaving the ground.

Weird Science finishes its run with this lovely story, perfectly illustrated by Joe Orlando, with Al Feldstein capturing the sort of lyrical wonder that made Ray Bradbury's stories so life-affirming to read.--Jack

Peter: "Outcast of the Stars" (which first appeared in the March 1950 issue of Super Science Stories) has on display all the qualities that have made Ray Bradbury one of the most beloved writers of the 20th Century; there's a fabulous sense of wonder and, magically, a nostalgia for a time that has yet to come (does that even make sense?). "A New Beginning" features a mélange of great artists but the entirety left me cold. Yeah, I love Frazetta and the gang just like the rest of you but there's way too much "posing" going on and not enough of a good story to hang all this talent on. I'm not sure I understand the twist of "The Headhunters" (are these little guys summoned from the great beyond by the diathermy machine and then, when finished with their mission, fry their way out of the patient's brain?) but I loved the eccentricity of the adventure. The most well-known of this issue's quartet is Feldstein's loving "bio" of Wally, "My World," a series of images rather than a story. Taken as a cataloguing of Wally's greatest hits (including the Korean orphan from "A Baby!"), it's an enjoyable anomaly. What a great place EC must have been to work for if the powers-that-be would okay such a square peg. Unlike Weird Fantasy, Weird Science goes out on a high note.

Thanks, Mr. Wood.
("My World")



1 "Till Death . . ." (The Vault of Horror #28)
2 "Horror We? How's Bayou?" (The Haunt of Fear #17)
3 "Mars is Heaven!" (Weird Science #18)
4 "Shadow!" (Mad #4)
5 "Split Personality!" (The Vault of Horror #30)
6 "Foul Play!" (The Haunt of Fear #19)
7 "Outer Sanctum!" (Mad #5)
8 "Carrion Death!" (Shock SuspenStories #9)
9 "Strop! You're Killing Me!" (Tales from the Crypt #37)
10 "Whirlpool!" (The Vault of Horror #32)


1 “The Handler” (Tales from the Crypt #36)
2 “Outer Sanctum” (Mad #5)
3 “Lover, Come Hack to Me” (The Haunt of Fear #19)
4 “Whupped” (Frontline Combat #14)
5 “In Gratitude…” (Shock SuspenStories #11)
“Keyed Up” (Weird Science #19)
7 “Lower Berth” (Tales from the Crypt #33)
8 “Only Skin Deep…” (Tales from the Crypt #38)
9 “The Loathsome” (Weird Science #20)
10 “The Million Year Picnic” (Weird Fantasy #21)


1 "The Aliens" (Weird Fantasy #17)
2 "Wish You Were Here" (The Haunt of Fear #22)
3 "The Million Year Picnic" (Weird Fantasy #21)
4 "Carrion Death" (Shock SuspenStories 9)
5 "There Shall Come Soft Rains" (Weird Fantasy #17)
6 "Sugar 'N' Spice 'N' . . ." (Shock SuspenStories #6)
7 "Midnight Mess" (Tales from the Crypt #35)
8 "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" (The Vault of Horror #33)
9 "50 Girls 50" (Weird Science #20)
10 "Judgment Day" (Weird Fantasy #18)

Next Week . . .
The Saga of "Trader" Johnson


Anonymous said...

What I had time to skim of this was typically excellent, and I appreciate the attention paid to the Amicus adaptation of “Wish You Were Here” (thanks for the screen grab!). Since entering what we might laughingly call my adulthood, I’ve had an “emperor’s new clothes” attitude toward the anthology films that seemed so cool when I was a kid. For the most part, there’s very little there, yet “WYWH,” since it depended less on the last-minute gotcha gross-out image and more on the actual horror of the situation—which is considerable on page or screen—it was far more effective than most, I feel.

And, speaking of adaptations, you’ll note that in the MARTIAN CHRONICLES miniseries, the morbidly obese Genevieve was morphed into…

…Bernadette Peters??????????

Matthew Bradley said...

The anonymity of the prior comment was a techno-quirk, not intentional. Said comment was proudly written by me.

Peter Enfantino said...

Thank you, Professor Matthew, for stopping in and conversing with us in the rotted tree house. I also found the antho-movies to be very cool when I was a kid. I've revisited several since I shed my teenage skin and I'm at about 50-50 on whether they hold up. HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and ASYLUM can still raise goosebumps in me (as can the old DEAD OF NIGHT from the 1940s) but TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS, DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE SKULL left me wanting. I think CRYPT holds up extraordinarily despite some cheap special effects (the make-up guy could have at least whited out the eyeholes of the actor who played the skull-on-a-hog) and VAULT was actually better than I remember.

By the way, while I'm here, I'll comment that my favorite part of doing these blogs is the Year-End Best-Of section where I get to compare our Best-Of picks. Though my putrid partners are dead wrong on their picks, I still respect them for their choices.

Quiddity99 said...

So the story of "My World" is that Gaines and Feldstein had worked hard to get a lot of requests of Wood's into a story, and after a few hours of trying to make it into a workable script, Feldstein was frustrated, threw it out and came up with the story from scratch. One of EC and Wood's most famous stories, but ultimately there is no story to it, just some nice art. Quite a bit overrated.

After 1953 being quite a strong year (lots of great stories I'm seeing in your rankings), you do get the sense that from a writing standpoint they are running out of steam and a lot of this month comes off as rehashes. "A New Beginning" is quite the sci-fi cliche (perhaps only the bigger one is a story where it ends up being Earth at the end!), "Headhunters" is just the latest of numerous examples of small astronauts going to a much larger environments only revealed at the end ("The Die is Cast", "Snap Ending", "Chewed Out", need I go on?). Heck "Model Nephew" is basically just a horror version of that same story. Not only that, "The Fossil" is that same theme too! The same essential "twist" three times in one month? Absolutely ridiculous. I will say that the Evil Queen is one of the most beautiful women Kamen drew, at least in that first panel, but yeah, overall a crappy story, and we'll just continue to get more of these Grim Fairy Tales coming up on well known stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel & Gretel, etc... most of which are wastes of time. "Chessmate" is just another in a very long line of Siamese twin stories, a rather played out theme (although EC does have two extremely good Siamese twin stories near the end of its run).

At least this month's Bradbury adaptions are pretty good! As is "Wish You Were Here". Oh, and Krigstein's first appearance, another highlight. Overall though quite a disappointing end for Weird Science and Weird Fantasy and a less than average Haunt issue too.

EC will soon bring in outside writers like Carl Wessler, Jack Oleck, etc... so the stories will start getting more original again.

Best stories of the year for me (in no particular order) would be "Till Death", "Horror We, How's Bayou?", "Pipe Down", "Mars is Heaven", "The Aliens", "The Automaton" and "The Loathsome".

Matthew Bradley said...

My pleasure, Dean Pete. I should have clarified that I was speaking specifically of the Amicus anthology films, which omits DEAD OF NIGHT (not Amicus and about a thousand times better), TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (which---despite borrowing such personnel as Donald Pleasence, Joan Collins, and director Freddie Francis---was not Amicus and, if possible, even more woebegone), and THE SKULL (which was Amicus but not an anthology film, and one of their better single-story efforts, for whatever THAT'S worth). I'd probably call Matheson's TRILOGY OF TERROR the best non-Amicus anthology of that era. Quite agree on the Reaper-cyclist!

Matthew Bradley said...

And, of course, the Amicus anthology films also include Francis's TORTURE GARDEN (1967), adapted by Robert Bloch from his own short stories, and Kevin Connor's FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1974), based on stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes that, alas, are spread out among three different collections (THE UNBIDDEN, COLD TERROR, and THE ELEMENTAL).

Anonymous said...

Your year-end "Best of" picks have always been my favorite things about your blogs that aren't actually pictures of Caroline Munro. 1953 EC's is a pretty easy one for me:

1. Carrion Death (SS 9)
2. Atom Bomb (TFT 33)
3. There Will Come Soft Rains (WF 17)
4. Judgment Day (WF 18)
5. Came the Dawn (SS 9)
6. The Bribe (SS 7)
7. Memphis (TFT 35)
8. Trial by Arms ((TFT 34)
9. In Gratitude (SS 10)
10.Touch and Go (CS 17) by a hair's breadth over The October Game (SS 9) and Whupped (FC 14)

There aren't a lot of other stories I like very much from 1953; I'm not much of a fan of the horror titles, the war titles had faded significantly by 1953 from their glory years of 1951 and 1952, and for me Mad doesn't really start hitting it out of the park until Issue 8 or so. "Mars is Heaven" is very good, but not up there with the other two science fiction stories that I did put on my list. Looking at the list, I guess Wood did the art for most of my favorite stories in 1953. I wasn't reading this blog when you did 1951 and 1952, but I can tell without even thinking about it that the Kurtzman stories from TFT 24 and 25 and FC 4 and 5 would have been my top 4 from 1952; not sure what would top a 1951 list -- Kurtzman's stories from the four issues in 1952 are all much better than the six he did in 1951 or the Spanish Conquistador story in TFT 18.

-- Jim

Peter Enfantino said...


I'm sure I echo my compadres when I thank you for reading and, most especially, dropping us a line. As I've said, putting together the lists is the highlight of my blog-life. I thought 1953 was especially tough to narrow down to a Ten. I could easily have picked ten more (in contrast to our DC War blog where you'll notice we've dropped from Ten to Five) and, checking my notes I see I gave 4 stars to 17 stories.

Grant said...

I was hoping someone would mention the TV version of "The Silent Towns."
What's bizarre is that it has the same ending. Maybe it's meant to be reassuring that Christopher Connelly takes her PERSONALITY into consideration and runs off, but as you say, Bernadette Peters?!