Monday, January 29, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 122: January 1972

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Star Spangled War Stories 160

"Blood is the Code!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Joe Kubert

"Lt. Steve Savage--The Balloon Buster!"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #112, December 1965)

"Combat Cool!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by John Severin
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #70, May 1958)

"Edward Michael"
Story and Art by Norman Maurer

Peter: The Unknown Soldier is dumped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by the Japanese Navy. What kind of treatment is this for a hero who has saved countless Allied lives? Relax, war fans, US has been assigned an almost insurmountable task: to be captured by and convince the enemy that he's a naval cryptographer. Once our hero has infiltrated the prison camp of Colonel Funaga, he's tortured until he confesses that the Allies have not broken the "purple code." Funaga relates the info to his commanders, who assure Admiral Yamamoto that he's safe to fly without an escort. The good guys soar in and blast "the man who destroyed Pearl Harbor." The Unknown Soldier makes good his getaway and Colonel Funaga, disgraced, commits Harakiri.

"Blood is the Code!" is another strong installment of the Unknown Soldier; this series is hitting all the right notes despite its admittedly far-fetched premise (guy walking around with a mask fools everyone). Bob Haney almost straddles the fence here in depicting the "bad guys" not as slant-eyed, buck-toothed jokes but as men of honor who aren't happy about the methods they must use to get information and who admire a man who can withstand a whole lot of suffering for his country. And this Unknown Soldier sure can absorb the pain. You can tell Joe loves this series as much as we do; sure, his Rock is stellar, but Kubert goes to another level every time he's assigned one of these scripts. I think the fact that, very soon, he's going to surrender regular duties on Rock yet stay the course on US supports my theory.

Proof that Maurer is Lesser
There are two reprints this issue: an old favorite, "The Balloon Buster!," and "Combat Cool!," which details the travails of a desert G.I. who just can't get cool. The Severin art is nice but the Haney script exists only to remind us every panel that the action is getting hotter! Norman Maurer provides a bio of real-life hero, Lt. Edward Michael, a pilot who somehow conquered insurmountable odds to save the day. The subject matter is gripping but the delivery, thanks to excruciatingly amateurish art by Maurer, is hard to look at.

Jack: I feel like Kubert gave up regular duty on Sgt. Rock to Heath awhile ago, probably around the same time he became editor of the DC War line. The splash page for this issue's Unknown Soldier story is another photo collage with Kubert art overlaying it; I wondered if this was Kirby's influence and Kubert admits as much in this month's letters column. Kirby was doing this before he left Marvel and kept it up at DC. The Unknown Soldier sure can take a licking, and so can his amazingly lifelike rubber mask! Kubert contributes a new, one-page introduction to the Steve Savage reprint, and the Haney and Severin reprint is a weak effort indeed with a lame hook on which to hang a story. As for the Norman Maurer Medal of Honor short piece, it left me hanging at the end, wondering if the pilot survived the difficult landing. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that he not only survived but also lived many more years.

Our Army at War 240

"Tank 711"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #86, September 1959)

"Another Time Another Place"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Neal Adams

"Three Seconds of War!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #48, May 1957)

"David Porter-Hiram Bearss"
Story and Art by Norman Maurer

"Vella Lavella"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: Sometime in the future, in "Another Time Another Place," three Earth soldiers in space suits battle an enemy on another planet. They can't quite figure out if the enemy is plant or animal, and a gas that causes hallucinations doesn't help. They are about to use an ultimate weapon when the enemy reveals that soldiers who were killed in the past were killed by mistake, and the planet's inhabitants are friendly and want peace. In fact, they look just like us!

"Another Time Another Place"

This is a heavy-handed Vietnam allegory, but the chance to see eight pages of Neal Adams art from this era that I have never seen before is worth reading the mediocre story. Adams was at his peak around this time and, while there's nothing special about this tale, the visuals are excellent.

So much can happen in "Three Seconds of War!" An Allied paratrooper lands on a French road and his parachute is caught by a Nazi motorcycle's sidecar as it speeds by. The paratrooper manages to throw a grenade and blow up the cycle before the Nazi can shoot him dead. All of this occurs in the few seconds it takes a nearby peasant to catch a runaway goose. The paratrooper has two more close encounters with the enemy, and both happen so quickly that local peasants don't notice them. Mort Drucker does his usual fine job with the illustrations and the story's message is an interesting one, but it seems to me that some of the battles would be rather noisy and hard for the local peasants to avoid hearing. Shooting down a plane with a machine gun makes quite a racket, I would think.

"Three Seconds of War!"

During the War in the Philippines in 1901, "David Porter" and "Hiram Bearss" lead a brave attack on a seemingly impregnable enemy fortress and later receive the Medal of Honor. Norman Maurer tells an exciting little story in four pages, revealing a battle I knew nothing about in a war I knew next to nothing about.

"David Porter-Hiram Bearss"

A WWII destroyer battle known as "Vella Lavella" ends with the Japanese beating the Americans. The U.S.S. Stevens series seems to be branching out into battles involving other ships. As usual, it's short and ends abruptly. This is a weak issue of Our Army at War, with a real mixed bag of offerings.

"Vella Lavella"

Peter: You know that deadlines were becoming a problem when the lead story in Our Army at War is a reprint. It's not easy (pun intended) filling all these pages with quality stuff. The Adams-illustrated science fiction tale is a bit of a meander but then I don't cotton to SF/War stories (though I do have a hankerin' for the supernatural battle tales, so go figure); the obvious draw here is the art and not the story (which is a little top-heavy with awkward racial tension), and in that it scores a near-bulls-eye. I thought "Three Seconds of War!" was a nice change of pace with great Drucker art and a strong finish. The two short pieces both suffer from the usual Maurer/Glanzman weaknesses: the former weighed down by its ugly art, and the latter in the sense that Glanzman's work always feels like it should be longer and tell a complete tale.

G.I. Combat 151

"A Strong Right Arm!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Death of a Sub!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick
(Reprinted from Captain Storm #8, August 1965)

"Red Ribbon"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"Lt. Frank Luke the Balloon Buster"
Story and Art by Norman Maurer

Peter: Tank commander Jeb and his men are given orders to travel into a remote village surrounded by mountains on a recon mission. They are ordered not to engage the enemy if they encounter Nazi tanks. Once there, they come across a startling sight: an armored arm holding a sword on an altar. A beautiful young lady named Irina (think  Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music) approaches the boys to inform them that they are gazing upon the arm of Ludovici the Just, an ancient warrior who died on this spot and whose spirit now protects the valley. Irina lives in a nearby cabin with her younger siblings and Jeb explains that the valley is right in the path of approaching Nazi tanks, but the girl refuses to leave, citing the protection of a lopped-off arm. Jeb shrugs and the men advance into town to warn the rest of the villagers to evacuate and, while there, the crew is informed that Irina is "simple-minded" and believes in fairy tales. Village safely evacuated, the Jeb heads back up the mountain to get Irina and her kin. Once there, Jeb is confronted by the ghost of the General who tells the commander that Ludovici has sent him to deliver a message: a flash flood will soon wipe out the cabin and everything else in its path unless the boys can quickly set up a diversion. The boys enter the Guinness Book of World Records by building a dam in about ten minutes flat and the day is saved.

Except for the reality-challenging dam erection, "A Strong Right Arm!" is a very good Haunted Tank adventure with work that puts Russ Heath in position to recapture the Best Artist of the Year award (after seeing his yearly trophy go to Joe Kubert in 1971). Most appreciated is Big Bob's decision to actually carry over elements from last issue's story that saw the Jeb acquire pretty much a complete overhaul and become the "New" Haunted Tank. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come; I never liked the "sitcom" approach to story-telling, wherein major changes are ignored or forgotten by the next installment.

Is the good Capt. more amazed
that the hapless sailor committed suicide
or that he can talk underwater?
Captain Storm is captured by a sadistic Japanese submarine commander and forced to walk the plank in (SPOILER ALERT!!!) "Death of a Sub!" Storm uses his ingenuity and wooden leg to get himself out of a deep-sea pickle and save the day for the entire Allied fleet. Long before Captain Storm joined the Losers, he had his own title (18 issues, June 1964 - April 1967) and every issue the poor guy would suffer the torments of that wooden leg. If it didn't catch fire or absorb machine gun bullets, a randy shark would latch on. It's darn lucky he always carried spares. When this DC War Comics blog was first launched, we decided to restrict our focus to the anthology titles, but always in the back of my mind I thought, "What could we be missing? Will we regret not covering Capt. Storm or Blackhawk?" Based on this installment, I'd say no regrets. And even a Novick supporter like Jack would have to admit this is not Irv's finest hour, leaning more toward Andru+Esposito rather than Kubert.

Sam Glanzman's U.S.S. Stevens vignette this issue, "Red Ribbon," is one of the best in a long time, detailing how a battleship tends to battle scars in an emergency. Norman Maurer contributes a short bio of the real-life Balloon Buster but it's tough going. Is it my imagination or is Maurer's art getting worse rather than better?

"Hey! Who you callin' 'Horse Face'?"

Jack: I think Maurer's art has stayed pretty consistent through these Medal of Honor stories. I'm more troubled by Russ Heath's art on this issue's lead story. At best, it's weak Heath; at worst, it looks like another (lesser) artist was involved. The Haunted Tank story comes to an abrupt finish but there's a kernel of a good yarn buried in the middle and I like to see a bit more participation from the ghost than usual. The Capt. Storm story is just page-filler, but the U.S.S. Stevens story succeeds because Glanzman tells an anecdote that focuses on a single character who makes an error that is more humorous than fatal. As for Lt. Frank Luke, I guess we now know the inspiration for Steve Savage!

Next Issue . . .
Did Peter learn his lesson or will he speak his mind
on the lesser KurtzElder strips?
Only one week to find out!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Caroline Munro Archive: Titan's Captain Kronos Comic Covers

by John Scoleri

I'm back again with more from my Caroline Munro collection, a continuing series here on bare•bones.

Last year, Titan Comics released a series licensed from Hammer Studios based on the 1974 film, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Wisely, one set of variant covers was christened Hammer Glamour, and featured photos of Caroline, who starred in the film as Carla.

Surprisingly, only one of the four covers actually utilized a photo from Captain Kronos; the other three used publicity images (two black and white, one color) shot for Dracula A.D. '72.

Caroline in her costume as Laura Bellows from Dracula A.D. '72

Caroline (appropriately) as Carla in Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Another great shot of Caroline in her costume as Laura Bellows from Dracula A.D. '72(Don't think dropping a photo of Horst Janson in the background will fool us!)

A publicity shot of Caroline from Dracula A.D. '72(Even Horst appears to be thinking, "Why am I here?")
I haven't read the series myself, which is described as picking up where the film left off. If you missed out on the individual issues, or your local comic shop didn't carry it, there is a trade paperback is due out in April, and it will likely include the variant covers. You can pre-order a copy here.

Watch for more Caroline Munro rarities here on bare•bones, and be sure to check out the prior entries in this series!

Monday, January 22, 2018

EC Comics! It's an Entertaining Comic! Issue 49

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
     49: September 1954, Part I

Crime SuspenStories #24

"Double-Crossed" ★★★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Reed Crandall

"Crushed Ice" ★★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jack Kamen

"Food for Thought" ★★ 1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Joe Orlando

"More Blessed to Give . . ." ★★★ 1/2
Story by Jack Oleck (?)
Art by Bernie Krigstein

David Volney, a traveling hosiery salesman, murders Edwin Jordon and then dismembers and cremates his body. Jordon is the spitting image of Volney, with a gorgeous wife and a hefty bank account, so Volney took advantage of the resemblance and assumed the man's identity. He had come into town and been mistaken for Jordon at every turn; when he met Jordon's beautiful wife and beat up her boyfriend, the doll melted at his feet. There's only one problem: Jordon had murdered his wife's boyfriend not long before Volney killed Jordon, so when the police knock at the door he has to go along meekly to the pokey, since his alibi would also land him in the electric chair.

Thank goodness for that big drum!
Reed Crandall's violent, shocking cover is more graphic than the corresponding scene in "Double-Crossed," but the first few pages of the story depict murder, dismemberment, and cremation in a fashion that is disgusting. The main character vomits and is so repelled by his own acts that he has to wait to clean up his own mess. The art in this story is superb but Wessler's tale seems to embrace gore for the sake of gore, and the character of the wife is ridiculous: she had been through with her husband until she saw him punch her boyfriend. That demonstration of masculinity was enough to change her mind in an instant.

On a cold winter's night in Quebec, Bart Ryan is snuggled up with Rita when her husband Lloyd comes home unexpectedly early. Lloyd is beating Bart to a pulp when Rita hands her lover a gun and Bart shoots Lloyd through the noggin. He then takes the body out on a frozen river, chops a hole in the ice, and sinks the corpse in the cold water below. But that grinning, dead face begins to haunt Bart, who marries Rita but has to drink heavily to deal with his nightmares. A psychiatrist isn't much help, so Bart and Rita head off on an ocean voyage, hoping that this will finally give Bart's troubled mind a rest. Too bad the ship hits an iceberg and the last thing the couple sees before they drown is Lloyd's grinning face, looking at them out of the ice.

"Ghastly" Kamen.
("Crushed Ice")
There are enough twists and turns in "Crushed Ice" for about three stories, but Carl Wessler is so awkward about how he fits them together that the seams show and the plot seems clunky. Add Jack Kamen's standard, uninspired visuals to the mix and you have an average story--nothing more. Kamen's attempt to draw a shambling corpse in Bart's dreams looks about like you'd expect.

Sick and tired of working every day in the mines for peanuts, Kip Lorus murders the paymaster and steals the payroll, hiding the cash in his lunchbox. Kip goes to work that day as if nothing happened and stews about his hard-working father, who always yells at him for being greedy, telling him that he can't eat money. When news of the murder gets out, Kip panics and pretends to smell a gas leak. All the other miners escape, leaving Kip alone in the mine; a cave-in traps him and all he has is his lunchbox to keep him alive until he can be rescued. When found, he is dead with a mouthful of greenbacks.

Who says money isn't good for you?
("Food for Thought")
Carl Wessler must have been getting paid by the word or by the plot twist, because the three stories so far in this issue have had too many of both. Joe Orlando's art can veer back and forth from impressive to almost ugly, sometimes in the same story, but once Kip's old man told him "you can't eat money," then I knew where "Food for Thought" was going and I was impatient to get there. A good story by Feldstein or Kurtzman never telegraphed the ending so clearly.

The old saying that it's "More Blessed to Give . . ." than to receive is tested by Molly and Stanley Talbot, whose marriage became loveless some time ago. They buy each other deadly anniversary gifts: she will give him rat poison in a bottle of whiskey and he will give her a cake with a bomb in it. Their careful plans are upset when each sees the other preparing the deadly present, but in a surprise ending both get their wish.

I never know how to read these stories that run on parallel tracks. This time, Jack Oleck (if that's the writer--the GCD isn't sure) tells the wife's side of the story on the left half of the page and the husband's on the right. It all works out pretty well, mainly because of Bernie Krigstein's usual knockout art. I don't know what it is about his work, but it somehow seems so perfect for the mid-fifties, and I can sure see why he went into the advertising game.--Jack

Fine work by Krigstein!
("More Blessed to Give . . .")

Peter: George Evans delivers two knockout covers this month. I really enjoyed "Double-Crossed," mostly for its dazzling Reed Crandall work, but this kind of story always makes me think how easy it was in the 1950s for someone to pass themselves off as someone else, even to a wife! I mean, the guy's not even a twin brother; he's just a dead ringer. Volney's got the same voice and mannerisms as Edwin Jordon without even having met him? Yeah, I know, without the extreme coincidences . . . no story. "Crushed Ice" is pretty doggone silly (no explanation is given as to how Lloyd's corpse got so far out to sea) but the sight of Lloyd's head lying in the fireplace is not something you see every day in a Jack Kamen strip. "Food for Thought" offers further proof that Joe Orlando's art was getting worse rather than better (odd since his 1960s-'70s stuff for DC was very effective). Here, at least, it's easier to stomach since there are no females and the main characters are grungy miners. The script is not bad, with the cave-in adding a nice, ironic touch. Rounding out the quartet this issue is the best story in Crime SuspenStories since the Feldstein/Ingels creepfest, "Jury Duty," way back in #6 (and this is the best overall CS issue in many a moon). "More Blessed To Give . . ." once again shows us the direction EC was heading thanks to B. Krigstein and his incredible style. But I don't want to sell Jack Oleck short; seems like all I do is bad-mouth Wessler and Oleck and here Jack seems to reach deep down into his magic writer's bag (way deeper than he's ever reached before, I hasten to add) to conjure up something special for Krigstein to visualize. "More Blessed . . ." is like a wonderful Rock Hudson/Doris Day screwball comedy gone wrong. Savor this one.

Panic #4

"Smiddy" ★★★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Will Elder

"Hindu" ★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

"Just Plain Bull" ★★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

"I Touched a Flying Saucer!" ★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Davis

Even though he’s technically 45 years old, “Smiddy” is still sporting freckles and working as an errand-boy for his eccentric, cotton ball-haired boss Mr. Bully and *still* doesn’t know what in the Sam Hill his supervisor does for a living. Other characters are stuck in the same time-warped loop of rehashed plots that Smiddy is, including his little baby brother Hoiby, the one with the lisp and the 5 o’clock shadow, and the rest of his no-good furshlugginer family. Mr. Bully for his part is intent on bagging Old Paunchdrunk, the infamous fighting fish of the Canadian waters that has eluded his grasp for the entirety of the comic strip’s history. Taking his usual trip up to the snowy wilds and aided by colorful supporting characters like “not smiling, Jack” and Real George, the zoot suit-wearing Native American guide, Mr. Bully finally witnesses the end of Old Paunchdrunk, but only after Hoiby disrobes from his Indian war chief disguise, claims the fish for his own, and heads off to sell it for its oil, fish oil being the industry that Smiddy finally learns his boss makes his money in.

Distilled my heart.
Even if you don’t know what in the Sam Hill is being parodied here, “Smiddy” is sure to still get you to bust up in the usual Will Elder-yuks. There’s the usual chicken fat as can be expected, but Feldstein and Elder throw in some nutty curveballs with the reprising cameos of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr’s smooching characters from From Here to Eternity (always funny, whatever the context), Hoiby massacring an entire street corner with a tommy gun, and a recurring joke re: who should be working around here. For as delightful and colorful as “Smiddy” is for the duration of its seven pages, it unfortunately sets a precedent that the remaining contents of the issue couldn’t really hope to live up to.

In “Hindu,” John Wayne swaggers his girth across the Old West to make love to the neglected wimmen-folk and give their ankle-biters the Paw to play catch with that they never had. On his latest bender, Wayne rides his giant trusty border collie Melvin to the next homestead and immediately begins schmoozing the chicken lady that is the evil farmer’s wife and teaching some valuable lessons to his furshlugginer kid, like how to swim (in dirt). Wayne trades harsh words with the Lone Stranger, blows the evil farmer’s head off, and is only rescued from scalping by Indian warriors when chicken lady claims he’s her husband, thus allowing all three of them to live happily ever after.

So much for that last chip from anger management.

“Hindu” has some solid Wood art and a handful of snicker-worthy moments (like when Melvin takes a break running from the Indian warriors to reminisce on the missed opportunity he had to be on Lassie), but aside from that it really isn’t worth talking about all that much.

After serving you slop for breakfast, bidding you adieu, and strategically littering cleaning supplies around the house to make it appear as if she’s been busy all day, your wife settles in for a morning/afternoon marathon of her favorite radio soap opera, “When a Young Widow-Girl Marries Her Guiding Light Because She’s Got a Right to Happiness, the Road of Life Can Be Beautiful Backstage.” When she isn’t being charmed by the dulcet, alluring tones of the suave commercial spokesman (really just a balding alcoholic battling through his latest hangover), she lies there in coiled anticipation of what today’s episode has in store. She sits through a veritable speech of all the previous proceedings and haywire storylines that have brought the drama up to this point, and when it finally does arrive it’s… about 45 seconds of material in between the recap and the commercials. But even that little taste of heaven is enough to make her resent her unglamorous life as a “happy” homemaker and by extension, of course, you.

Jack listens entranced as Peter interrogates
Jose about what's been holding up his reviews.
("Just Plain Bull")
Hang it all, I don’t know what the heck it is about these dang radio show parodies, but for some reason I can’t help but like them. As in the case of “Breakfast with the Furshlugginers,” I realize inherently that these stories aren’t particularly hilarious, and in certain contexts they hardly qualify as stories but rather more like just a list of “things.” Feldstein’s captions and speech bubbles groan in both to the point of breaking from the weight, but there’s a quality of his ribbing of this particular medium—perhaps it’s the acid in his voice—that just makes it compulsively readable to me. Still, I can’t in good conscience score “Just Plain Bull” any higher than two and a half stars. I sleep bad as it is.

In “I Touched a Flying Saucer,” some dingus sells millions of books based on his experiences photographing various objects thinking they’re UFOs from outer space including a hub cap, a thumbnail, a yo-yo, an alarm clock, beer can tops, and an umbrella. When his put-upon wife finally breaks her last nerve trying to pull her hubby’s head out of the stars, she throws something out the window that is destined to become the secret to his literary success: a “flying” saucer from the kitchen cabinet.

Somebody’s gotta review this crap! Who should it be? Me?! I’d prefer not to, but to these eyes “I Touched a Flying Saucer” is thus far the nadir of EC humor. The one thought you’ll probably have on your mind the entire time should you read it will likely be the same as mine: Poor Jack Davis. --Jose

A solitary giggle in a cosmos of unfunny.
("I Touched a Flying Saucer")

Peter: I've got some good news and I've got some bad news about this issue of Panic (and, actually, the good news has some semi-sorta-bad news attached). Whattaya want first? Okay, so the bad news is that three-quarters of this comic is about the furthest away from being a funny book as you'll ever find. "Hindu" is just another really bad film parody wherein Al considers changing the actor's name from Gene Autry to Gene Atrocity to be the very definition of a knee-slapper. "Just Plain Bull" would be considered by many in today's PC age to be sexist but I find it "Just Plain Stupid." And "I Touched a Flying Saucer!" means well but provides not one more laugh than the previous two stories. So, the good news? "Smiddy" is the funniest strip found so far in Panic. Yes, it would probably be considered weak for MAD, but here in the nation's most unfunny humor magazine, it shines like a diamond in a cowpie. The sight gags work (Kerr and Lancaster are still getting good mileage), the dialogue is very funny, and the satire is on the money. It's official: Will/Bill Elder is a genius. And that's the semi-sorta bad news; this company is not cultivating new talent, relying on Elder to provide the biggest guffaws for two titles now. Well, I've told you what I think. Let the other two schmoes dig deeper. "Somebody's gotta work! Who should it be? Me?!"

Jack: Why is Panic so relentlessly not funny? It has to be due to Al Feldstein, who was a solid writer on the other EC titles but who just can't make me laugh here. Elder and Wood turn in reliably good art, Davis does a better job than he has been doing lately, and Orlando's work continues to be un-nerving. There are crossover references to MAD, as in the mentions of the From Here to Eternity and Shane parodies, and Feldstein comes up with a catch phrase in the first story and then refers back to it in each of the following stories. Yet it just doesn't work. I have no idea what "Smiddy" parodies and I've never seen Hondo. The soap opera story has an announcer who reminds me of the one in "The Countynental." I did get the tiniest bit of amusement from the line, "the Ray Brad Buried" in the flying saucer story but, for the most part, reading Panic is a chore.--Jack

Shock SuspenStories #16

". . . My Brother's Keeper" ★★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans

"The Hazing" ★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Joe Orlando

"A Kind of Justice" ★★★ 1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Pen is Mightier" ★ 1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jack Kamen

The Case of the Siamese Twins
With a Moving Joiner!
(". . . My Brother's Keeper")
Mark has murdered his brother Frank's lovely girl, Alice, and stood trial for it but now the judge has released the unrepentant murderer. Why? For that we'll have to go back into the past and discover the dark secrets behind the two (very close) brothers. All his life, Mark has been a rotten apple; his father knew it, Frank knew it, the whole world knew it. When their father takes his own life, the (inseparable) brothers are constantly at odds. Frank wants to do good while his sibling (who never seems to be very far away) continues his campaign of evil. The final straw is Alice, who loves Frank but loathes Mark. When the lovely lass  rejects Mark's loathsome advances, the fiend strangles her right in front of Mark! A jury finds Frank guilty of murder and yet lets him free so Frank knows there's only one thing to do to end his brother's reign of terror and mete out justice for Alice: he cuts his own throat, knowing his Siamese twin brother will die along with him. There's no way you can't see the "shock" of ". . . My Brother's Keeper" coming right from page one. The brothers are never separated (although George does tend to cheat a bit when drawing the men--just where are these guys joined?) and the word "freak" is bandied about. We've encountered Siamese twin stories before and this one is neither better nor worse than the rest. It's just a mediocre script with some nice visuals.

"The Hazing"
While frat-boy Warren Fuller tends to the boys of the fraternity he admires so much, he overhears them grumbling about their teacher, Professor Millstone, and his attitude toward underachieving athletes. Warren proclaims to his fellow students that he can prove Millstone is a commie if they'll accept him as one of their own and then sets to "proving" it by planting red literature in Millstone's dorm room. While this is happening, Warren is contacted by his sister, Selma, who's been keeping her brother afloat while he's in college by sending money. Selma informs Warren that she'll soon be wed and the meal ticket has expired. The crafty frat leads his boys to Millstone's room and, in a brazen act of B+E, points out the volumes of Marx and EC Comics sitting by Millstone's bedside. The boys turn the Prof. in to the Dean and all hell breaks loose. While waiting outside the Dean's office to see what fate awaits his victim, Warren is shocked to see his sister arrive but even more nonplussed to hear the news that Selma has married Professor Millstone! His new brother-in-law is fired, his sister disowns him, and the boys of Sigma Delta Dolt declare their frat off limits to the brother-in-law of a commie! Poor Warren is left badly-drawn and all alone. And, oh what bad drawing! The usually at-least-tolerable Joe Orlando must have been in a mighty hurry as most of his work on "The Hazing" looks like half-finished pencils with a bit of ink thrown on for good measure. Orlando's characters are misshapen freaks (hands and arms are smaller than they should be and one character looks a whole lot like Vincent Price's Egghead); his frat students are middle-aged; and, worse of all, there's not one iota of energy to the visuals (panels are virtually interchangeable). Perhaps the best example is the panel reprinted to your right that shows the absolute ". . . shock, . . . hurt and . . . utter despair etched" on the faces of Selma and Millstone. Oh, and the story's a bloated load of coincidental hooey as well. This could be the worst Shock SuspenStory ever (at least I hope it is).

More of Joe Orlando's gawdawful work from "The Hazing."

No, wait, Reed!
("A Kind of Justice")
Sixteen-year-old Shirley Hansen is taken to a shack at the edge of town and sexually assaulted. Her assailant vows to kill the girl if she reveals his identity to anyone but, when she gets home, her bullying father hauls her down to police headquarters to tell her story. Sheriff Judson and his deputy swear they'll catch the sumbitch and head out to round up suspects. It's not long before they stumble on a young stranger at the local diner, Eddie Nichols, who's just gotten into town and has no alibi for his last few hours. Nichols is naturally angry at being forcibly dragged down to the precinct by the law but, once he sees the growing mob outside, he begs the sheriff to keep him safe. Judson tells him the only way they can protect Eddie is if he signs a confession but it's not until the deputy goes to work on the kid with his fists that Nichols cracks and signs. Confession in hand, Sheriff Judson lets the mob outside know they've got their man and then stands aside as the lunatics storm the jail and murder Eddie. Judson drives Shirley home so that she doesn't have to be witness to the slaughter and warns the girl, again, that if she reveals his identity to anyone, he'll kill her.

"A Kind of Justice"
I first read "A Kind of Justice" back in the early 1980s via Russ Cochran's boxed Shock set and the reveal was a complete surprise to me, so I came at it from a different angle this time, looking for cheats and hints that really are not there. That climax is a Shock. We're inclined to believe, due to past Shocks, that Eddie is innocent but, for me, the guilty finger would naturally point to the aggressive deputy (whose name, Russ Ford, is just too close to that of Lou Ford, the insane deputy of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, to be coincidence). Writer Carl Wessler taps successfully (maybe just this one time, we'll see) into that vein that Al ran dry in the first dozen or so issues, even topping it off with the obligatory crowd exclamation of "He's dead!" Though Reed Crandall's art is exciting and subtly brutal, this is so obviously a story that cries out "Wally!" Yes, the climax is a bit heavy-handed (the aforementioned deputy stands aside, almost salivating, as the crowd rips Eddie to pieces) but "A Kind of Justice" still packs a wallop.

A typical yawn-inducing Kamen panel.
("The Pen is Mightier")
Zack Hamlin drags himself up from the streets of a New York slum at the turn of the 20th Century and, through a series of fortunate turns, becomes an important gossip columnist and discovers that the adage, "The Pen is Mightier," is true. Along the way, he becomes good friends with mobster Manny Vaughn, who similarly makes the journey from simple hood to important underworld figure. Vaughn elevates Zack to national columnist through the years but makes a fatal mistake when he marries the gorgeous Inez. Zack ventilates his buddy and "inherits" the lovely Inez. My synopsis simplifies the plot but, believe me, there's not much else going on in this quasi-Bad and the Beautiful rip-off. Wessler hammers into the reader just why Zack is so bitter about his life but there are segments that just make no sense whatsoever. A kindly newspaperman finds a hungry young Zack stealing produce and takes him under his wing but, years later, Zack stabs the man in the back almost gleefully. The climactic reveal is a cheat since Wessler describes the newspaperman's shock at "his friend's cold-blooded murder" in a panel depicting only the two conspirators. And all the while, we have to watch Jack Kamen work his "magic," slapping that smart-ass grin on every one of his characters (though Kamen does allow Zack to have a Pinocchio-esque nose in a few panels, ostensibly to make him stand out from the other figures). The powerful cover belies the mostly sub-standard material found within the pages of the antepenultimate issue of what was once the most controversial and consistently well-written title in the EC stables.--Peter

Jack: I read this issue before I read your comments, Peter, and I was shocked--shocked, I tell you!--that they were so negative. Though I figured out what was going on early in " . . . My Brother's Keeper," I thought Evans did a great job of keeping it hidden and the script is decent, especially for Wessler. "The Hazing" is heavy-handed and of its time but Orlando's art is less bizarre and ugly than it has been lately, so the story is bearable. Crandall's superb art makes "A Kind of Justice" a powerful tale, though I thought the end was telegraphed way before the last page. The Kamen story is not terrible, though Jack's art makes everything look like it's transpiring in 1954 and there's no sense of time passing. His attempt to draw a rumble is laughable. All in all, this is the best of the three comics we read this week and a reasonably good issue of Shock.

Next Week . . .
Can the New Haunted Tank
Live Up to the Old One?

And coming on February 18th: The Classic TV Villain Blogathon!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Caroline Munro Archive: Manikin Cigars Calendar

by John Scoleri

I'm back again with yet another rarity from my Caroline Munro collection, a continuing series here on bare•bones. As we're celebrating Caroline's Birthday this week (January 16th), we'll consider this a special Birthday installment!

One of the many ad campaigns Caroline Munro worked on in the early 70s was for Manikin Cigars. My friend and fellow collector Holger Haase was the first to upload a copy of the Manikin Cigar commercial 10 years ago, and since then a slightly longer, higher quality version has surfaced:

Most fans know that Caroline appeared in several Lamb's Navy Rum calendars throughout her 10-year tenure with the brand, but until recently, I was unaware that she also made an appearance on a calendar for Manikin Cigars (circa 1970-71). I was pleased to add this particular rarity to my collection, as it contains three great images of Caroline tied to the commercial shoot above.

Fans may also recognize this shoot as the source of two unauthorized topless photos of Caroline that have been circulating for many years (after first appearing in Japanese publications). Out of respect for Caroline, you won't find those here, but I assume her devout fans are already be familiar with the images in question.

If you have any information about further Manikin campaigns featuring Caroline (be it print, commercial or calendars), please leave a comment below!

Watch for more Caroline Munro rarities here on bare•bones, and be sure to check out the prior entries in this series!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Francis and Marian Cockrell Part Eleven: The West Warlock Time Capsule [2.35]

by Jack Seabrook

Business is good at the Tiffany Studio of Creative Taxidermy, where George Tiffany stuffs animal heads for hunters and enjoys the company of Charlie, a boy who hopes to be his apprentice when he grows up. George's latest project is to prepare a full-sized model of Napoleon, the beloved nag who gave local children rides in the park for 22 years. Modern taxidermy techniques do not require George to use Napoleon's actual skeleton, however--he uses the late horse's skull and skin and makes a wooden frame for the body. Inside this wooden frame he will place "The West Warlock Time Capsule," a large, metal cylinder that will contain examples of what life was like in the little town of West Warlock in 1957. Townsfolk will open it in 100 years and be amazed at what life was like so long ago.

George and his wife Louise live a comfortable life in an apartment upstairs from his taxidermy shop; they both look happy in cardigan sweaters as he relaxes in his Morris Chair while she sits knitting on the sofa. "Into each life some rain must fall," as Longfellow wrote, and a violent storm outside is a harbinger of the arrival of Louise's "little brother Waldren," whom she has not seen in 25 years and who arrives with no suitcase but with a bad cough and a healthy sense of entitlement. He takes over George's favorite chair and quickly makes life miserable for the taxidermist and his spouse with his demands for constant pampering.

Henry Jones as George
As work progresses on Napoleon, George's patience with Waldren wears thin; he suggests to Louise that it's time to tell Waldren to get a job, but she won't hear of it. One day, George arrives home to find Waldren resting comfortably in his chair and Louise passed out from exhaustion on the kitchen floor. The doctor tells George that he must "get rid of" Waldren to preserve Louise's health, but when George tries to talk to Waldren, his uninvited guest refuses to listen. George has an idea and asks Waldren "about how tall are you?" He types a letter to Louise from Waldren, writing that he has left for warmer climes in Mexico, then goes down to his shop and removes the time capsule from Napoleon's abdomen.

George waits in his shop until Waldren ventures downstairs, seeking food. George gives Waldren a large bottle of formaldehyde and a syringe to hold, then takes a large hammer and aims it the back of the man's head. The next thing we see is the unusually heavy stuffed horse being loaded onto the back of a truck. Musical cues (a few bars of Chopin's Funeral March) tell us that Waldren's body has replaced the time capsule inside Napoleon and this scene is followed by a town meeting, where the mayor thanks George for creating the "priceless memorial" and remarks that the town of West Warlock will be in "the national limelight" when the time capsule is opened in a century.

Mildred Dunnock as Louise
Marian Cockrell's teleplay for "The West Warlock Time Capsule" is a delightfully humorous treatment of family dysfunction and murder. As in "Conversation Over a Corpse," violent death occurs off screen but the bloody details are ignored in favor of clever wordplay and the killer succeeds in getting away with the crime. The show opens with a shot of the window of George's shop, with the words "The Tiffany Studio of Creative Taxidermy" stenciled on the glass. The events of this episode demonstrate just how creative George can be, since he manages to find a way to dispose of an unwanted guest without arousing suspicion. The name Tiffany is used ironically, since the image of the lavish, expensive New York City jewelry store contrasts with the reality of the homey, small-town taxidermist.

Equally ironic is the fact that the old nag who gave children rides in the town park for decades is named Napoleon, after the great French general. Cockrell educates the viewer very early in the show by having George explain that wooden frames are now used rather than the animal's skeleton; this also serves to provide support for the overweight corpse of Waldren. A subtle comparison is made between the horse, which is said to have given rides for about a quarter century, and Waldren, whom Louise has not seen for the same amount of time. The two characters are linked early on and will spend the next 100 years together in the park, unbeknownst to the people of West Warlock.

Sam Buffington as Waldren
Cockrell uses foreshadowing when Charlie, the boy who likes to hang around George's shop, comments that when he becomes the taxidermist's apprentice, he'll put "a surprise in every job." By placing Waldren's body inside Napoleon, George follows the boy's advice! In the same scene, Charlie sees Waldren walk by the shop and asks George if all his brother-in-law ever does is "sit in the park." In a sense, George will ensure that that is all Waldren will ever do. Later, after Louise collapses, the doctor tells George he'll have to "get rid of" Waldren, advice that George proceeds to take. Cockrell has all of the messy details of Waldren's murder occur off screen and they are never referred to. We see George reach for the hammer and then there is a dissolve to the horse being loaded on the truck. George must have bashed Waldren's skull in with the heavy tool, then cleaned up the blood. Presumably, he used the formaldehyde to preserve Waldren's body so that it would not smell and attract attention once the horse was placed in the park. Cockrell's work here is wonderfully subtle and delightfully horrible.

In the final scene, the dialogue is perfect, as the characters say one thing and we know that George means another. Louise says that Waldren is "better off though where he is"; she thinks he's in Mexico but George knows he's in the horse. The mayor's comment about the reaction in 100 years is also more accurate than he knows--surely the town will make the news when a corpse is found inside the nag instead of a time capsule! After all, while time capsules were often full of junk that did not really depict how people lived, the body of overweight, lazy Waldren may provide a far more accurate depiction of life in small-town America in 1957.

A strong script needs good actors to bring it to life on screen, and "The West Warlock Times Capsule" features three fine performers in the lead roles. Henry Jones (1912-1999) is perfect as George, his laconic drawl exhibiting just the right amount of frustration with his wife's no-good brother. Jones won a Tony Award for his 1958 role in "Sunrise at Campobello" and was a fixture in character roles in film and on TV from 1943 to 1995. He was on countless shows, including The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Night Gallery, and The Night Stalker, and he appeared on the Hitchcock show six times, including "De Mortuis." He was also in Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo (1958).

Mildred Dunnock (1901-1991) plays his wife, Louise; she was a founding member of the Actors Studio and originated the role of Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's classic play, Death of a Salesman, on Broadway in 1949. Dunnock played many roles on screen from 1944 to 1992 and appeared in Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" (1955). She was on the Hitchcock show four times, including "Heart of Gold," and she was also seen on Thriller. She and Henry Jones again played the married couple of the title in "William and Mary," a 1961 episode of Way Out that was based on a Roald Dahl short story.

Bobby Clark as Charlie
The lazy, overweight brother-in-law named Waldren is played by Sam Buffington (1931-1960), an actor who made quite an impression on screen during a brief career that lasted from 1957 to 1960, when he killed himself at age 28. He was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, including "A Night with the Boys."

Charlie, the boy who likes to hang out at the taxidermy shop, is played by child actor Bobby Clark (1944- ), who was on screen from 1949 to 1964 and who was also seen in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid." He also had a part in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

"The West Warlock Time Capsule" is directed by Justus Addiss (1917-1979), whose work is competent but rarely remarkable. He worked mostly in TV from 1953 to 1968 and directed ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Night the World Ended." He also directed three episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Finally, the credits for "The West Warlock Time Capsule" say that the teleplay is based on a story by J.P. Cahn (1918/19-2004), but I have not been able to find a published story by the author that could have served as the basis for this show, so he probably wrote a treatment or a teleplay that Marian Cockrell then revised, as she did with Norman Daniels's teleplay for "Conversation over a Corpse." I found one story by Cahn listed in the FictionMags Index ("The Magic Guy," in a 1943 issue of Liberty) and one other listed at ("Sovereign Republic of Rough and Ready," in a 1960 issue of Coronet), but that's all, and IMDb only has one credit for him--this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A detailed obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle tells us that Cahn was born and lived in California, served in the Navy in WWII, and wrote for the Chronicle until the mid-'50s, when he supposedly quit to freelance for magazines and television. His most memorable work seems to have a been a six-part series in the paper in 1954 called "The Great Flying Saucer Bunco," in which he exposed a flying saucer scam. He died in obscurity in 2004.

"The West Warlock Time Capsule" aired on CBS on Sunday, May 26, 1957, and is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here.

The FictionMags Index,
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb,, 6 Jan. 2018,
Taylor, Michael. “John P. Cahn--Ex-Chronicle Writer/He Later Freelanced for Magazines, TV's 'Hitchcock.'".” San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 2004,,
“The West Warlock Time Capsule.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 2, episode 35, CBS, 26 May 1957.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan. 2018,

In two weeks: Miss Paisley's Cat, starring Dorothy Stickney and Raymond Bailey!