Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Bernard C. Schoenfeld Part Two: Alibi Me [2.7]

by Jack Seabrook

Bernard C. Schoenfeld's second teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "Alibi Me," which was based on a story by Therd Jefre that had first been dramatized on the Suspense radio show on January 4, 1951.

As the radio play opens, a small-time crook named George ("Georgie") Lennox visits his competitor, Julius ("Julie") Moore, looking for a showdown. It seems Julie has taken over Georgie's punch board racket (punch boards were an early form of lottery) in the neighborhood candy stores and bars and Georgie is not happy about it. Julie tells Georgie that he sent him a present of the biggest lollipop he could find, since Georgie is the biggest sucker in town. The two men have hated each other since they were children and a police lieutenant named Larkin warned them long ago that if one of them is ever killed, the other will be the prime suspect. Julie has to report to Larkin for a parole check-in at 6 p.m. and dismisses Georgie, who loses his temper and bashes Julie over the head with a telephone receiver, killing him.

Lee Philips as Georgie
Realizing that he will be the first one suspected for Julie's murder, Georgie sees that it's 4:10 p.m. and understands that he has less than two hours to establish an alibi for the time of the killing. He first visits Leo the bartender, who refuses to provide a false alibi even though he owes Georgie a favor. With only 95 minutes left till Julie will be missed at his check-in for probation, Georgie visits an old girlfriend named Joanie, who falls for his flattery at first but soon understands that he just wants to use her for an alibi and rejects him. As the time ticks away, Georgie visits Timmy in the hospital; Timmy agrees to alibi Georgie but suddenly dies of a heart attack.

Only 45 minutes are left till Julie will be missed and Larkin will go looking for him and discover his corpse. Georgie goes home and convinces Mrs. Ettinger, his landlady, to give him an alibi by threatening to expose her 15-year-old daughter's attempted theft of a fur jacket from a department store. At 6:15 p.m., Larkin comes knocking on Georgie's door and Mrs. Ettinger provides a detailed alibi. Larkin grudgingly accepts it and is about to leave when a messenger boy shows up with Julie's gift: an oversized lollipop. Georgie refuses to tip the young man, who complains that he climbed the stairs to Georgie's room twice that morning and three times that afternoon to deliver the gift but Georgie was never in. Larkin understands that Georgie's alibi is blown and the messenger boy puts icing on the cake by delivering Julie's final message: "To the biggest sucker in town."

Chick Chandler as Lucky
"Alibi Me" has a great plot structure with a vicious twist ending and is propelled along at a rapid clip by the manic narration of Mickey Rooney, who plays Georgie. The story is a race against the clock where the listener finds himself identifying with Georgie, a small time crook and murderer, in his increasingly frantic efforts to find an alibi to cover his rash action. The spoken credit at the end of the show says that it was written by Therd Jefre and adapted for Suspense by Walter Newman. I have been unable to find any biographical information for Therd Jefre and the only other credit I found for him is a copyright register for a 1948 play titled Is This Me? Walter Newman (1916-1993), on the other hand, wrote for radio, TV, and film and is credited as one of the writers on such films as Ace in the Hole (1951), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Cat Ballou (1965), and Macao (1952), where he wrote uncredited dialogue for a screenplay by Bernard C. Schoenfeld. It is quite possible that Jefre wrote an unpublished story that served as the basis for Newman's radio script; Grams and Wikstrom write that Jefre suggested the idea to Newman.

Harvey Stephens as Larkin
"Alibi Me" was first adapted for television a year later and broadcast on April 22, 1952, as an episode of the Suspense TV series. The screen credit this time says that the show was written by Therd Jefre and adapted for television by Max Ehrlich, who made changes to the radio play. The show opens with three new scenes. First, Leo Whaley (a new name for Julie Moore) reports for parole at 6 p.m., as he does every night. This scene establishes his history of competition with Georgie and Larkin's warning to them both. Next, Georgie visits Rafferty's luncheonette (taking the place of Leo's bar), where he learns that Leo has taken over his business. Leo enters and there is a confrontation; Larkin enters and his warning is repeated. Finally, Georgie goes home to Joanie, who is his wife in this version. He loses his temper and walks out on her.

Alan Reed as Uncle Leo
The story then picks up where the radio play begins, as Georgie visits Leo at Leo's office and kills him, though this time he uses a knife, which is presumably more visually striking than a telephone receiver. Georgie goes to Rafferty's and is rebuffed. He telephones his old girlfriend but she is with another man and refuses to allow Georgie to come and see her. He visits the hospital and the scene plays out as it does on radio. He then returns home to his wife, who replaces the landlady of the radio play. He asks her to give him an alibi and, in a bit of added suspense, the viewer waits to see if she will comply when questioned by Larkin. Comply she does, and the end of the show follows the radio version.

The 1952 TV version of "Alibi Me" is a moderately entertaining example of early television, where the script writer makes several changes to the story that he adapted from the radio but where the gist of the plot and the twist ending remain the same. Worth noting are that Rod Steiger appears very early in his career as Leo and that the show is directed by Robert Stevens, who would later excel as a director of many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The writer of the teleplay, Max Ehrlich (1909-1983), started out as a newspaperman and later wrote for radio, TV, and film. He was also a novelist and he wrote an episode of Star Trek in the mid-1960s.

Harry Tyler as Timmy
The third version of "Alibi Me" is the one broadcast on CBS on Sunday, November 11, 1956, early in the second season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The writing credit at the end says that Schoenfeld's teleplay is based on Jefre's story and it is apparent from watching the show that Schoenfeld did not see (or ignored) the 1952 TV version. The 1956 TV version follows the 1951 radio play very closely. In the first scene, as Georgie walks into Lucky's office (Julie's name is changed again), we hear piano music coming from another room. Lucky tells Georgie that "upstairs is a music professor." This detail is important because this time, instead of using a telephone receiver or a knife, Georgie pulls out a gun and shoots Julie. Fortunately for Georgie, the piano music from upstairs swells and muffles the sound of the gunshots. Paradoxically, a gun seems a less violent murder weapon than a telephone receiver or a knife, since it allows Georgie to stand several feet away from Lucky rather than having to attack him close up.

The biggest change Schoenfeld makes in telling the story is to eliminate Georgie's narration, which is such a big part of what makes the radio play a success. Without the narration to give us insight into Georgie's thoughts, the show becomes less a frantic race against time and more a series of sometimes unintentionally humorous failures on Georgie's part to establish an alibi. Leo the bartender becomes Uncle Leo and the bar becomes an Italian restaurant, with Uncle Leo speaking in a broad accent. When Leo refuses Georgie's request, the younger man rushes at the older man with a wine bottle but Leo quickly overpowers him, underscoring Georgie's general ineptitude. Joanie is renamed Goldie and she changes her mind about giving her old beau an alibi when she sees a photograph of a pretty girl fall out of his jacket pocket and realizes that his protestations of love are hollow.

Argentina Brunetti as Mrs. Salvatore
Timmy, the hospital patient, quickly agrees to alibi Georgie and refers to himself as a ward heeler, someone who works for a local political boss. Timmy suggests that he will do Georgie a favor now and Georgie will be expected to repay it in the future. The landlady's name changes from Mrs. Ettinger to Mrs. Salvatore but her scene is the same; since she, like Uncle Leo, is an Italian-American, her daughter's name is changed from Charlotte to Maria. "Alibi Me" follows the radio play closely, from scene to scene and even in much of the dialogue. The main difference is that the interior monologue has been eliminated in the switch from the aural to the visual medium. As a result, much of the excitement and the sense of a race against time are lost. The show is directed by Jules Bricken (1915-1987), who worked mostly in television as a director from 1952 to 1963 and who directed three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater" and "Conversation over a Corpse." He also directed three episodes of Thriller.

Shirley Smith as Joanie
Leading the cast as Georgie is Lee Philips (1927-1999). Born Leon Friedman, he started out on stage before moving to film and television, where he appeared from 1953 to 1975. He was seen on the Hitchcock series four times, including "The Deadly" and "The Black Curtain." He also acted on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Philips had a second career as a TV director from 1963 to 1995.

The rest of the parts in "Alibi Me" are supporting roles:
  • Chick Chandler (1905-1988) as Lucky; he started in vaudeville in the 1920s and had a long career in film and on TV from 1925 to 1971. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
  • Harvey Stephens (1901-1986) as Larkin; he was a busy character actor on screen from 1931 to 1965; he was on the Hitchcock show twice and has an uncredited role in North By Northwest (1959).
  • Alan Reed (1907-1977) as Uncle Leo; born Herbert Theodore Bergman, he started in vaudeville before embarking on an extensive career in radio, film, and television that lasted from 1930 until his death. He was an expert in voice characterization and had a part in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) but he will always be best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
  • Harry Tyler (1889-1961) as Timmy; he had hundreds of screen credits from 1929 to his death and was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents 11 times, including "Decoy," Schoenfeld's previous episode.
  • Argentina Brunetti (1907-2005) as Mrs. Salvatore; she dubbed films into Italian for MGM starting in 1937 and during WWII she narrated Voice of America broadcasts in Italy. Her career in radio, film, and TV lasted from 1946 to 2002 and she played Mrs. Martini in It's A Wonderful Life (1946). This was the only time she was seen on the Hitchcock show.
  • Shirley Smith (1929-2013) as Goldie; this is one of only two credits for her; the other is a 1960 film.
  • Lee Errickson as the messenger boy; he was on screen from 1953 to 1962 and appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Lee Errickson as the messenger boy
There are three more names on the cast list at the end of "Alibi Me": Charlie Cantor, Herb Vigran, and Eugenia Paul. Cantor and Vigran are nowhere to be seen, so their parts must have been cut, while Paul is the girl in the photo that falls from Georgie's coat pocket.

"Alibi Me" was produced a fourth and final time in the 1950s, as a Suspense radio broadcast on April 20, 1958. The script from the original 1951 radio broadcast was used, but this time comedian Stan Freberg replaced Mickey Rooney as Georgie.

The 1951 radio show may be heard here. The 1952 TV version may be viewed here. Watch the 1956 TV version here and listen to the 1958 radio version here. The Hitchcock TV version is available on DVD here.

"Alibi Me." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 2, episode 7, CBS, 11 Nov. 1956.
"Alibi Me." Suspense, CBS, 4 Jan. 1951.
"Alibi Me." Suspense, CBS, 22 Apr. 1952.
"Alibi Me." Suspense, CBS, 20 Apr. 1958.
"Catalog of Copyright Entries." Google Books,
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb, 16 Aug. 2018,
"Radio Drama and Comedy Writers, 1928–1962." Google Books,
Wikipedia, 16 Aug. 2018,

In two weeks: "Jonathan," starring Georgann Johnson and Corey Allen!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 137: April and May 1973

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

R.I.P. Russ Heath (1926-2018)

G.I. Combat 160

"Battle Ghost!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Jackals!"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jack Sparling

Peter: Through a series of illusions, the crew of the Haunted Tank manages to elude destruction at the hands of the vicious Tiger commander, Major von Todstrom, but the enraged Nazi vows revenge. The boys continue to use deception (hay bales, smoke, the usual WWII obstacles) to make their way back to friendlier territory but the major is a bit more crafty, as we soon discover. The boys use a small river to cover their tracks and come across an unusual sight: two escaped POWs (from last issue's liberation, we're told by Archie) battling each other mid-stream. Jeb has his crew separate the men and gets the skinny: one of the POWs (white) accuses the other (African-American) of being a Nazi infiltrator who sold secrets to the camp commandant for extra rations.

"Battle Ghost!"

One of our boys recognizes the accused as Gus Gray, a distinguished (but disgraced) 1936 Olympic star who allegedly took bribes for cash. Immediately, the other POW's accusations gain weight with the crew. The Jeb moves on and, as they turn a corner, they come across a bridge populated by their old friend, von Todstrom! To add to their trouble, a Stuka comes roaring out of the sky, armed with plenty of TNT eggs! How could the Haunted Tank have been located, wonders Jeb Stuart (not the ghost, but the tank commander), as his eyes are averted from the Nazi Armageddon on the bridge to Gus Gray high-tailing it to shore with his adversary in hot  pursuit. Von Todstrom does a bit of eye-averting as well and takes his attention off the big prize long enough for the Jeb to roll into a strategic area where von Todstrom can't blast them. The Stuka completes the hat-trick when the pilot zeroes in on the Jeb, not realizing the Tiger on the bridge is between them. Kablooey! On shore, Jeb discovers that the (white!) POW has been fatally wounded and, as he's dying, confesses to being the Nazi spy, exonerating Gus and, at the same time, admonishing all of us that believed Gus Gray was guilty because of the color of his skin.

We all know . . .
that people are the same wherever you go . . .
This worked a decade before with Sgt. Rock and Jackie Johnson but, with "Battle Ghost!," it's a bit forced and it comes with a lazy expository. The story itself is exciting and all the twists and turns make for a page-turner, so Archie's efforts aren't completely wasted. Gus Gray will become an important part of the tank crew when . . . ah, but that would be spilling the beans. I'll get to that when we get to that. Sam's art was beginning to grow on me but this issue it's definitely one step up, four steps back and we return to the really scratchy, almost indistinguishable features of the main characters. If there's one other aspect of the script I'd roll my eyes about (other than reminding us that all mankind is like a piano keyboard), it's the speed in which our heroes manage to pull off their subterfuges. Burying your tank in a haystack has to take more than a couple minutes, I would think. Yeah, I know what you're saying . . . when was the last time you buried your tank in a haystack, Enfantino? Oh, and the next issue blurb is intriguing!

Lt. James Decker lies mortally wounded on the battlefield while "The Jackals!," peasants from a nearby village, steal belongings from the dead G.I.s around him. One of the items stolen from Jim is a letter written by a dead friend to the man's wife, a letter Jim promised he would mail if bad karma caught up to him. Now, recovered after a hospital stay, Decker heads to the village to recover the letter and exact a pound of flesh for his troubles. Once he finds the jackal and discovers the thief is only a young boy, he takes the letter and simmers down. This one is really serious but I can't help but snicker when I see the really bad art. At least Sparling keeps most of his characters in shadow (or rain) but whenever a clear shot pops up, there goes the magic right out the window. Just look at the splash (right) and you realize this Sparling guy can do good work when he isn't given anything human to work with. The script is so heavy-handed and the captions so deadly serious (I can just hear William Conrad in full-out Fugitive narrator mode reading that final panel caption: Lt. James Decker turned . . . suddenly spent. Something inside him still cried out for vengeance . . .) that any real message or moral is lost between the purple prose cobblestones.

Jack: I'm surprised you were so hard on these stories, Peter. Maybe you have already forgotten last week, when we covered our tank in hay in record time? It's unusual that the writing is better than the art in any of the (many, many) comics we read and write about, but this issue of G.I. Combat is a rarity where the scripts trump the pictures in both tales. "Battle Ghost!" is very entertaining and I was not expecting the ending, even though you thought it was obvious. I had to look up Gus Gray online to discover that the character was not a real person. As for "The Jackals!," the opening scene reminded me of a great scene in Les Miserables where one key character is robbing the corpses on the battlefield after Waterloo. Boudreau works up some real emotion in the final scene and I thought Sparling's art was just good enough in just enough places to support the writing.

Our Army at War 256

"School for Sergeants"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Portuguese Man of War"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: Sgt. Rock bids farewell to the men of Easy Co. when he is flown to Burma for a special mission as an instructor in a "School for Sergeants"! The other sergeants are good but the Army wants Rock to turn them into outstanding leaders. Of course, the sergeants are not thrilled at the prospect of being trained by a stranger and, when they are on patrol in the jungle, enemy sniper fire erupts. One of the sergeants starts to dig in but Rock ignores him and shoots the sniper out of the tree.

That night, only one sergeant unrolls his bedroll near Sgt. Rock. The next day, the sergeants approach an enemy pillbox and gunfire erupts from inside it. One sergeant yells to rush the position but Rock counsels caution and a combination of grenade fire, automatic weapon fire, and a careful approach succeeds in destroying the pillbox without sacrificing human life. That night, a second sergeant brings his bedroll near to that of Sgt. Rock. The third day dawns and the sergeants are out on patrol again when gunfire erupts from a Japanese tank. One sergeant is wounded and, after the tank is dispatched, Rock carries the injured man on his back until they reach safety. That night, the wounded man makes sure that all of the other sergeants surround Rock with their bedrolls. In the morning, as Rock departs, the sergeants all line up to salute him as he goes.

"School for Sergeants"
Kanigher and Heath combine to tell a stirring tale of one man's heroism, though I have to say it was a bit confusing the first time I read it. Russ Health's art is great, but I had a bit of difficulty distinguishing one sergeant from another when the bullets started to fly and, as a result, I had to read this one a couple of times before I realized that it was the other sergeants, and not Rock, who were making mistakes and that the sergeants whose lives he saved were probably the same ones who came and slept near him at night. At least, that's what I think was going on. Wordless sequences are great but it helps when the action is clear.

"Portugese Man of War"
The U.S.S. Stevens almost runs into one of its own mines that has broken free of its moorings. After that, the crew is on high alert for mines and thinks they see them everywhere! One morning, the ship seems to be passing through an area filled with mines, but the frightened crew realizes they are nothing but "Portugese Man of War" fish that resemble floating mines.

These incidents are mainly interesting because of the suggestion that they are based on things that really happened to Sam Glanzman when he was in the Navy in WWII. This one is presented as a handwritten letter to home with illustrations. It's goofy and forgettable.

Peter: Both stories this issue are a bit of a departure . . . without being much of a departure. The Rock is solo Rock and I thought, at the onset, this might be an interesting change of pace. But it wasn't. Swap "new Easy G.I." duds for sergeant stripes and you've got the general gist of "School for Sergeants." It's no wonder Rock's C.O. wanted him to take his fellow Sarges to school--with attitudes like theirs, how the heck did they get promoted? The USS Stevens entry works a bit better, probably because of its brevity, but one thing that hasn't changed is Sam's ugly art. Sorry, I know there are lots of Glanzman fans out there, but I'm on the fence, swaying back and forth, right now.

Our Fighting Forces 142

"1/2 a Man"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by John Severin

Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

Jack: The Losers are told they'll be traveling to El Mukktar in the African desert to track down an Arab fighter who the natives think is the reincarnation of Saladin. When the commanding officer tells Captain Storm that he's being sent home on a medical discharge, Storm heads off on his own, determined to prove himself by tracking down Saladin alone. The rest of the Losers follow him but don't let him know they're behind him, helping out at every turn, because they don't want him to think he's "1/2 a Man."

With the Losers trailing him, Captain Storm joins the Royal Navy and ships out on a vessel bound for Mukktar, then jumps ship once he gets close and swims to shore before crossing the desert in search of Saladin. Outside a desert village, Captain Storm saves a boy from a lion attack and the lad leads him to Saladin's location, where Storm finds that the Losers are already there and about to be executed! It's Captain Storm to the rescue, as he first guns down a group of swordsmen who are about to cut the heads off of the Losers, then engages in a sword fight himself with Saladin, skewering the Arab fighter and boasting that he saved the Losers all by himself. The Arab boy reminds Captain Storm that he had some help from Allah.

"1/2 a Man"

John Severin's work on this installment of the Losers saga is about as good as anything I saw from him in our reading of the EC comics of the 1950s! Kanigher's story is quite good, even with three pages or so devoted to a recap of the Captain Storm saga, and my only concern is that, with Storm back, the Losers seem to have no place for Ona, who is shuffled off to the side in the story's first panel.

Brett says goodbye to his beloved wife and marches off to join the Confederate Army in the Civil War, the first time he and his bride have been apart in 22 years. Brett becomes a great fighter but he never forgets his "Home" and always thinks about returning. Man after man falls beside him and all he hears is that the dead are finally going home, so when he is captured by Union forces he leaps off a cliff and finds himself in a fast-moving river, heading for roaring rapids and a steep drop off a waterfall. A smile plays on Brett's face, since he knows he's finally going home.

Yes, you read that right--a character commits suicide at the end of this story in a 1973 DC comic. It's not all that subtle as to Brett's intent. The only problem, as usual, is Ric Estrada's art. I don't think we'll be seeing any coffee table book collections of his work any time soon.

Peter: With a huge assist from John Severin, Bob Kanigher is turning the Losers into a grade-A war/quasi-superhero strip. I'd have preferred the "Captain Storm is Dead" story line to continue at least a few more issues but at least Big Bob isn't simply returning to the same ol'-same ol'. The writer seems invigorated by the artist, who has somehow transformed Gunner and Sarge into manly G.I.s rather than a Martin and Lewis knock-off and the artist, likewise, is giving his all for an intelligent script. "Home" is a thoughtful and moving look at the Civil War but, to tell you the truth, I was having a hard time actually looking at the thing because of Ric Estrada's Jerry Grandenetti homage. Perhaps Joe should have borrowed some of the talent Orlando had hidden in his office.

Star Spangled War Stories 169

"Destroy the Devil's Broomstick!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jack Sparling

"Mine Eyes Have Seen . . ."
Story by John Warner
Art by Ken Barr

Peter: The Unknown Soldier faces his most dangerous and demanding mission yet: "Destroy the Devil's Broomstick!" The Devil's Broomstick is the nickname of Germany's new rocket-powered jet, the Komet, and US knows it will prolong the war if it gets placed into production. Our hero impersonates Japanese Colonel Nakadai and gets aboard the submarine that holds the prototype, heading for Japan. Safely on board as Nakadai, the Soldier plants a bomb and then makes excuses for disembarking before the sub launches, but is trapped when Allied bombing forces the fish to dive and head for deep waters. At sea, the Nazis run across survivors from a sunken American freighter and murder them.

"Destroy the Devil's Broomstick!"

"Destroy the Devil's Broomstick!"
Outraged and unable to control his emotions, our masked man lunges out at Nazi General Wessel (aboard the ship to accompany the prototype) and a fight ensues. Unknown Soldier's disguise is compromised and the sub commander suspects an explosive has been planted. Luckily for our hero, the commander is not a vicious, bloodthirsty, arrogant, smelly schweinhund like the General and the Soldier takes advantage of the moment and triggers the alarm, alerting patrolling Allied vessels above to their presence! Depth charges rain down on the sub and it sinks to the ocean floor, but the crew is able to eject to safety through the torpedo tubes, leaving only three occupants for a showdown. Wessel vows to kill the Soldier but, before he can, he's shot down by the sympathetic sub commander. The Captain goes down with the ship but the bandaged super-soldier exits to fight another day. Except for my usual rantings about Jack Sparling's awful art, it's thumbs-up for "Destroy the Devil's Broomstick!," the best Unknown Soldier yarn we've had in quite a while; the suspense level is at nine. The commander's excuse for turning sides and shooting his countryman (his family was murdered by the Nazis in a really big SNAFU) is a tad clichéd and weak but the dialogue between him and the General is a nice alternative to the usual blahblahblah. Now, how do I get over my dislike for these visuals (although I'll allow that the final panel, left, is pretty cool)?

"Mine Eyes Have Seen . . ."
A news journalist sent to report on the war seems disappointed he's not able to report on macho heroism, instead witnessing small acts of kindness and nurses bandaging the wounded. It's only when he must enter a burning building to rescue a baby that he discovers that it takes all kinds of heroes to make up a war . . . or something like that. I gotta say, I love Ken Barr's art on "Mine Eyes Have Seen . . ." and I'm super glad another A-lister joined the bullpen but John Warner's script comes off as pretentious and self-important, almost in the style of those precious Marvel writers of the early 1970s (Doug Moench comes right to the front of my brain as one of the leading offenders) who were going to solve the world's problems by reminding us that we weren't doing enough no matter what we were doing. Hell, even the title sounds pretentious, doesn't it? The reporter does one of those patented Kanigher about-faces after spending the entire story being pig-headed. Just doesn't ring true.

Jack: Peter, you cynical old Marvel Zombie! "Mine Eyes" is a thoughtful story with strong art and it's very much of its time. I wish people wrote more pieces like this today! As for "Devil's Broomstick," Goodwin's script is suspenseful and Sparling's art, while never reaching a level of greatness, is at least decent and, in places, quite respectable. The panel you reproduce is one example; another is the giant head and shoulders of Nakadai surrounded by jet planes in flight. Top it off with yet another great Kubert cover and a two-page Battle Album spread by returning DC star Gil Kane, and you have yourself a very good issue of SSWS!

Luis Dominguez
Weird War Tales 13

"The Die-Hards"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Nestor Redondo

"Old Samurai Never Die"
Story by Arnold Drake
Art by Alex Niño

"Losers' Luck"
Story by Mike Pellowski and George Kashdan
Art by Tony DeZuñiga

Peter: Nazi Colonel Kurt Broder is sent to the small mountain village of Lindz when several soldiers are found with their throats torn out. The local villagers claim there are vampires in the area but, of course, the explanation is met with guffaws and angry threats. If the mayor won't give up the killers, his townsfolk will die, in groups, every day. And every day, more residents are hanged or shot down, yet still the mayor sticks to his blood-beast theory until there are no villagers left and Lindz is a town bereft of life save Nazi soldiers. On the night of the final massacre, Broder is visited in his bedroom by the mayor, who explains that he never lied, that he is a vampire and bullets cannot harm the undead. When the colonel laughs and threatens one vampire with the wooden stakes of two hundred soldiers, the mayor smiles and tells him to have a look outside. Glancing out the window and watching his men fall before a multitude of fangs, the colonel finally understands that the mayor never told him Lindz was a village filled with vampires. Straight out of the EC cookbook comes "The Die-Hards," delivered by Jack Oleck, who worked at EC during its final years. There's nothing new here: Nazis are scum; peasants, their innocent victims. So why do the vampires bother going through the motions? Why not just slaughter the Ratzis the second they arrive in Lindz? Because then it would have been a one-pager.

"The Die-Hards"

"Old Samurai Never Die"
In fifteenth-century Japan, Baron Tanaka and his band of Samurai spread death and evil throughout the land, hoping the bloodshed will cement his place in history and lead to his becoming a Shogun. But Tanaka's reign comes to a halt when a case of mistaken identity finds his neck in a noose. The story is a bit confusing (I had to go back and read it a couple times to get the gist of the twist) but it's intelligent and layered, not what I'd come to expect from writer Arnold Drake. The visuals are stunning, some of the best we've seen from the new talent, and even perennial winner Russ Heath will have to work very hard to wrest the Best Art of 1973 trophy from the hands of Alex Niño!

By 2049, World War III is over and the world is a nearly-unlivable mess (not quite California, but pretty close). Orphans under ten are dragged down into an underground city where they are being trained, they believe, to repopulate an army and do it to the other guys before they do it to us. Into this world come twin brothers, Jeremy and David, twins who look alike but whose world views are polar opposites. David yearns to hold a blaster in his hand and mow down as many commies as possible while Jeremy simply wants to live the life of a pacifist and grow string beans in his cabana.

Their eighteenth birthdays come and, with that, their places in society are announced: David will stay behind and Jeremy will be sent back up to the surface world. Enraged by the perceived slight, David clocks his brother and takes his place in line for the trek up. When he gets there, he discovers he was actually picked to stay behind because of his strength; eggheads are considered useless and are thus dumped into the killing atmosphere above. A very "adult"science fiction tale, with an effective climax, that doesn't spend a lot of time preaching about the evils of mankind yet gets its message across just fine. And, my gosh, how can you ask for a more complete package of outstanding art than the efforts of Messrs. Redondo, Niño, and DeZuñiga this issue? DeZuñiga's wasteland is just that, a detailed Hell above ground. An embarrassment of riches, as they say.

On the letters page (which has, of late, been stuffed full of "Gosh, that issue was great!" and "I love those old reprints" missives), we get a very relevant and thoughtful letter from one Bill Henley, Jr., of Ohio, who writes:

In Weird War Tales, I hope to see stories in which the "weirdness" and the horror spring from the nature of war itself, and from the strange and terrible things war does to men and society, and not from supernatural causes or impossible coincidences. I hope to see stories which escape the "good guy-bad guy" mold which none of your other series ever really escape.

Well, if Bill were standing before me right now, I'd say, "Things are looking up, Junior!"--if the Samurai and sci-fi stories are any indication, that is. Sure, we get a helping of cliched nonsense dressed up in Nazi regalia, but if WWT were being reviewed along with the rest of the mystery line, I'd put it right at the top.

Jack: I'm right with you, Peter; Orlando's stable of new artists is making Weird War Tales into a strong comic, indeed. Granted, "The Die-Hards" is predictable Nazi nonsense, but the real horror of the story is perpetrated by the Nazis upon the villagers and the vampires come off looking like justified agents of revenge. As good as Redondo's art is here, Niño goes him one better in the Samurai story, which looks a bit like what I imagine Bernie Krigstein was going for but never quite achieved. The story by that old war-horse Arnold Drake is kind of confusing, but when I have the opportunity to see some new work by Toth then the story is of secondary importance. I was not as taken with the third story as you were, since I think DC's efforts at science fiction and futuristic settings in the war and horror books usually seem disappointing. I have no complaints about Tony DeZuñiga's art, however!

100-Page Super Spectacular #DC-16

"Make Me a Hero!"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #136, November 1963)

"Killer Hunt!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick
(Reprinted from Captain Storm #1, June 1964)

"The Flying Chief!"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #82, December 1960)

"Battle Doll!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #84, August 1959)

"Gunner's Choice!"
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #46, June 1959)

"Haunted Tank vs. Ghost Tank!"
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #88, July 1961)

Jack: P.T. boat Captain Bill Storm is haunted by a recurring nightmare of how he lost his vessel and his entire crew on his first mission when they were attacked by a Japanese submarine. The face of the sub commander is burned in Storm's memory and he vows revenge, but the fact that he lost his left leg in the battle means that he has to do some serious recuperating before the Navy brass will let him back in charge of another boat. With the aid of pretty Nurse Lea, Storm fights his way back to competence and is put in charge of another PT boat, coincidentally helmed by the brother of his favorite crewman who was killed in the Japanese sub attack. Captain Storm's wise leadership helps destroy an enemy plane when it attacks his boat, and the same fate awaits an enemy Destroyer that Captain Storm sets his sights on. When the PT boat locates the submarine that has become Captain Storm's "white whale," the skipper causes the sub some damage but fails to wreck it and must be satisfied with keeping his boat and crew alive.

"Killer Hunt!"

"Killer Hunt!" is an exciting, full-length story that kicks off the saga of Captain Storm in fine fashion. We know the good captain from his place in the Losers, but this comic gives some much-needed background and is entertaining in its own right. The rest of the stories in this 100-pager are a terrific selection and represent some of the classic tales of our favorite DC war heroes.

Peter: An extra bit of 100-page fluff for the Easter holiday? Well, that's a good segue into a bit of trivia: there were far fewer DC titles cover-dated May 1973 than any other month, because the powers-that-be looked around and saw so many other publications getting longer newsstand life, with their two- (or in some cases, three-) month difference between sale date and cover date, and sent down the command that the monthly books would not be published in May. That doesn't mean the staff got a month off; they simply turned the month forward. We never got to cover Captain Storm's solo adventures (other than the two random reprints in Our Army at War #242 and G.I. Combat #151) as we concentrate only on the anthology books but ol' pegleg's maiden voyage isn't too bad. I'm not the world's biggest Irv Novick fan, but he seems to be able to manage the heavy lifting and Big Bob's script isn't all that bad (except for the constant reminders that "the guys aren't calling me skipper!"); I appreciate that Kanigher didn't have Storm harpoon his Moby in the premiere. Would I go back and read the other sixteen issues? Probably not.

G.I. War Tales 1

"Guinea Pig Patrol!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #95, March 1961)

"One-Man Road Block!"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Jim McArdle
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #23, July 1954)

"Stragglers Never Come Back!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #100, January 1962)

Jack: As G.I.s move closer toward the front in WWII France, Fleming's sergeant tells him to leave his dog Blackie behind. Fleming drops off the rest of the men and drives his jeep forward toward an observation post when he happens on a wrecked tank and some wounded men. Blackie tracks him down just as a Nazi armored car approaches and Fleming destroys it with the machine gun mounted on his jeep.

Back at HQ, the Nazis launch shells from an anti-tank gun to level the unexpected roadblock. Fleming shows amazing accuracy when he responds with two shots from a grenade launcher and wipes out the two far-off Nazi anti-tank guns. Shocked to hear that this is a "One-Man Road Block!," the Nazi commander sends out two truckloads of infantry to finish off the American G.I. With Blackie's help, Fleming kills two Nazis who sneak up on him, and soon the rest of his outfit arrives to mop up the rest of the Nazis.

Jim McArdle did some comic book work in the '40s and '50s before dying in 1960. It tickles me to note that he worked as a staff artist at Fairchild Publications in New York City, since that's where I worked in my first job out of college. I was there a few decades after McArdle, though.

Peter: I wouldn't have imagined that the DC War line was doing so well that the editors would add not one, but two reprint titles in 1973 (this one will last four issues). But you'd think that the editors, drawing from hundreds of stories, could have found some better yarns to use a second time than the ones dumped in between these covers (although, to be fair, "Stragglers" did earn some praise from me when we first had a look at it). The only one of the three that's new to us is "One-Man Road Block!," a good example of what made so many of these 1950s DC war stories disposable. There's the G.I. who single-handedly holds off all of Hitler's forces with a few grenades, a bazooka, and a scruffy dog (who manages to tear out the throat of one unfortunate Nazi), all illustrated in crude, amateurish fashion with no style whatsoever. I'd love to see sales figures for these reprint titles.


Four  Battle Tales 2 (May 1973)

"The Last Target"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #104, August 1964)

"Indians Don't Fight by the Book!"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #196, August 1968)

Peter: So, why include a war comic dated May, 1973 in a post dedicated to comics from April? As discussed above, there were some changes made with the schedule for May and Four  Battle Tales #2 was the only war title to be dated May. That's why!.

It's that time of the year again: circulation reports are here! Here's how our favorite war titles did in 1972 (Weird War Tales was still too young to qualify and we won't see sales figures for that title until 1975). We're suckers for lots of trivial data so we've included the sales reports for the two previous years as well. Furrow your brow and try to make sense of this. For the first time in years, with the exception of Our Fighting Forces, sales are up! Could this be due to the darker nature of the titles in 1972? Stay tuned.

                                                        1972         1971              1970          
G.I. Combat                                    170,557    167,841         178,363      
Our Army at War                            165,021    161,881         171,510      
Our Fighting Forces                        156,524    164,142         139,770      
Star Spangled War Stories              154,716    145,869         136,204      

Next Week . . .
Jack and Peter once again question

whether reading all those great
EC Comics was worth this tripe!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Hitchcock Project: About Emily Neff--A Few Words About a Forgotten Mystery Writer

Emily Neff
In my review of "One for the Road," I wrote that I had been unable to find any information about Emily Neff, the author of "Partner in Crime," the short story upon which that episode was based. However, I have recently made contact with Susan Bernard Voelker, the daughter of Emily Neff. Ms. Voelker was kind enough to provide details about her mother.

Emily Neff

by Susan Bernard Voelker

My mother, Emily Neff Bernard, was born in Denton, Texas, on September 22, 1922, to Sherman Brown Neff and Jessie Utz Neff. She had a younger brother, Phillip Duncan Neff. She was born Emily Neff, no middle name.

She came from a literary family. Her father had a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Yale, and a master’s and doctor’s degree from Harvard. Most of his life was devoted to college administrative work and teaching. For twenty-five years, Dr. Neff was the head of the Department of English at the University of Utah. After he retired, he went to Wayland College in Plainview, Texas, as chairman of the Division of Humanities and professor of English. He was much loved and revered by his students. He was the author of two books, The Province of Art: An Approach Through Literature, and Lazarus and Other Poems. He was listed in Who’s Who In America.

Emily’s mother was the youngest of ten children and grew up on a farm in Missouri. At age eighteen she got her teaching certificate and taught for a year in a one-room, one-teacher school. She wrote her memoirs about her life on the farm, but I have no information on college and career. She and my grandfather were avid readers, and passed on their love of books to my mother.

Her first story, "Hoolio," was published here
My mother grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I believe she started writing at an early age. I have a little blue enamel vase she was awarded in 1936 (age fourteen) by the William M. Stewart School for "first prize, short story." After high school she went east, to Smith College, where she earned a B.A.­ with a major in English. She spent her junior year at the University of Utah, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Initially she was interested in newspaper writing. For one year she was a reporter for the New Britain Daily Herald, but she wanted very much to move to New Orleans and work for the Times-Picayune. Her plan was to start out in New Orleans and then move on to San Antonio and San Francisco. I have a series of humorous letters between her and the managing editor of the T-P, where she is trying to convince him to hire her in spite of her inexperience, out-of-state status, and the fact that she was a "girl reporter." These letters are all signed with her nickname, Red Neff. A quote from one of her last letters: "I seem to be beating my head against a stone wall in trying to land a mail-order job on your paper. However, being too young to be discouraged, too mulish to give up, and too dumb to know when I’m licked, I shall continue to cling to the thread of hope you have extended." Eventually, she went to New Orleans, had an interview, and was hired. She never made it to San Antonio or San Francisco, because she met my father, Pierre Victor Bernard, who was a city editor on the paper, got married and had three daughters. All her life, she loved New Orleans.

"The Baby Sitter" was
published in this issue
Emily was a reporter for the Times-Picayune for two years. Over the next two decades, her fiction writing was sporadic, not prolific. Perhaps the reason it is difficult to find out anything about her is that she didn’t seek recognition and wrote more as a hobby than anything else. Her genre was the short story, but she wrote some clever little poems, and even once collaborated with a friend on a musical, which they didn’t finish. She wrote the lyrics and her friend the music. A favorite of mine was a children’s story called "Garfield, The Absent-Minded Goat," which was never published, and I’m not sure she even submitted it. A list of her writings, the ones I know of, is attached.

I’m pretty sure the stories that Alfred Hitchcock bought were all originally published in magazines, and I believe he bought them through her agent in New York, McIntosh and Otis. I don’t think my mother ever had any personal contact with Hitchcock. Of course, she was delighted he used her stories on his show, and it was always a source of pride in our family. Still is.

My mother stopped writing some time in the 70’s, I think, when she became increasingly interested in New Orleans politics. She started her own public relations firm, with mostly political accounts. My older sister worked with her, and, when Emily retired, my sister took over the business.

"The Chrysalis" was published here
When we were growing up, my mother was popular with our friends, who saw her as talented, glamorous, and hip. She was active in our schooling. She directed several plays when I was a Brownie and produced and directed talent shows at our high school. She taught sewing to the neighborhood children, and one summer she helped me and a friend write a neighborhood newspaper (The Nosy News).

My older sister and I both majored in English. Neither of us followed in our mother’s footsteps. Although we didn’t write creatively, except for a few poems here and there, our background in English helped us in writing various articles/reports for our jobs, my sister in public relations and advertising, and me in social work. My younger sister was an art major, creative in another way.

Emily liked to travel… the UK, Europe, Russia, India, Mexico, Jamaica. Italy was her favorite, and she took classes to learn the language.

It was Emily’s wish to make it to the year 2000, but she fell a few months short. She died of a stroke on August 22, 1999, in Mandeville, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. She was seventy-six. At her memorial service, I read from the last chapter of Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, which I had been reading to her when she was sick. We scattered her ashes in her beloved Bryce Canyon, Utah.

I asked my friends who knew her to tell me the first word or words that came to mind when thinking about my mother. These are the words: red, red lipstick and hair, intellectual, intimidating, haughty, elegant, reserved, critical, stubborn, intelligent.

Ms. Voelker's husband, Tom Voelker, also was kind enough to share his memories of Emily Neff:
"Mr. Blanchard's Secret"
was published here

What about Emily?

I could never pin her down.

Creative. Insightful. Intelligent. Emily.

She could be charming. She could be dismissive. She could be engaging or remote, at once inviting and unapproachable.

Her smiles played across subtle wit, thoughtful observation, and cutting sarcasm.

In Emily, strength of character shaded over into hard willfulness.

But it wasn’t just that she was self-centered. Her center was her self.

Like all of us, there was much more to Emily than what met the eye.

To me, she was a mystery. Something essential remained hidden: the center.

She eluded me.

I never saw more than a few facets of her infinite variety.

I wonder whether anyone did.

Short stories by Emily Neff

"Hoolio," Seventeen, May 1948
"The Other Man," The Times-Picayune Magazine, April 10, 1949
"The Chrysalis," Cosmopolitan, October 1952
"Pupa and Butterfly," Familie Journal, Feb. 12, 1953
"The Baby Sitter," Cosmopolitan, May 1953
"Standard of Loving," Toronto Star Weekly Magazine, December 8, 1956
"Partner in Crime," Wicked Women, 1960
"The Love Sportsman," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1961
"No Bed of Roses," Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 1977
"Mr. Blanchard’s Secret," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1978

TV Shows Adapted from stories by Emily Neff:

"The Baby Sitter," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, May 6, 1956
"Mr. Blanchard's Secret," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, December 23, 1956
"One for the Road," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, March 3, 1957 ("Partner in Crime")
"Bed of Roses," The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, May 22, 1954 ("No Bed of Roses")
"Murder in Mind," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, January 28, 1989 ("Mr. Blanchard's Secret")


FictionMags Index
Galactic Central

Monday, August 20, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 64

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
64: July 1955

Piracy 5

"Jean Lafitte" 
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"Rag Doll" 
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Graham Ingels

Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"The Keg" ★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by George Evans

"Jean Lafitte"
The famed pirate "Jean Lafitte" has grown weary of constantly looking over his shoulder and has accepted a deal from the Americans: Lafitte and his men will be granted amnesty for their multitude of crimes on the high seas if they will defend New Orleans from the French. The battle is a bloody one but Lafitte and his men gain glory and freedom from persecution in one fell swoop. But a pirate's life is one that's hard to forget and, soon, Lafitte and his right-hand man, Dominique, tire of farming and assimilating themselves into "society." Lafitte gathers together a new band of pirates and sails after a ship bearing a fortune in gold. The ship taken and the Jolly Roger once more hoisted, Lafitte and his men become pirates again. Much like the mini-documentaries Harvey used to populate Two-Fisted and Frontline, "Jean Lafitte" comes across not so much as a story but a Wikipedia entry and, so, doesn't really float my boat (excuse the pun). Crandall's art is pleasant but obviously inspired by a boatload of Hollywood pirate movies. No, I didn't know Jean personally but a quick look at the internet shows me the guy was a pretty mangy customer rather than the striking, Gable-esque lady killer Reed shows us.

"Rag Doll"
All his life, Flynn has lived with an embarrassing secret: he sleeps with a"Rag Doll"! Now, the other men on his ship, the Northern Star, have discovered Flynn's peccadillo and are exploiting it for their own ends, making the young man's life miserable with their barbs and nasty insinuations. When a pirate ship attacks and its crew boards and pillages the Northern Star, Flynn roars expletives and leads a charge onto the departing pirate ship. The men of the Northern Star kill the pirates, reclaim their booty, and sail on. When Flynn visits the ship's doctor to have a nasty gash stitched up, he asks the doc not to tell the others he led the charge in order to get his rag doll back. The doc consents and hands back Flynn's dolly, its nasty gash sewn up. I'm not really sure what to make of this wonky little "alternate classic" (or whatever you'd label something so dumb it's entertaining) but I'd love to be able to ask Carl Wessler if he was on the level. The final panels are just so amazingly inane (and yet presented so darn seriously), you'd have to doubt the sincerity and question whether Carl wasn't having one over on us. The climax might be memorable for its hilarious punchline but the rest of "Rag Doll" is patented high seas piracy stuff and makes me wonder if the gold bullion in the hull is running low.

EC adds "Chuckle" to its stable of exclamations

Captain Ebenezer Bryson was a cold man, a man interested in only one thing: profits. When a particularly strong storm hits, Bryson searches for sinking ships to "Salvage," as recovering goods for a company equals large rewards. The crew of said sinking ship is not worth one cent to Bryson, so saving drowning men becomes an afterthought if there's time. Bryson's first mate, Hanson, loathes his captain's dark heart and, after watching an entire crew sucked down into Davy Jones' Locker with its ship, the young man swears Bryson will pay some day. That day does soon come, months later, as Captain Bryson finds his own ship capsizing in a storm and the rescuing ship is owned by none other than (wait for it) his former first mate. How many times in one story can Jack Oleck remind us that some men have a cold, cold heart and "as ye sow . . .?" A multitude of times, actually, and "Salvage" is proof. Six endlessly boring pages made tolerable only by B. Krigstein's nice penciling and cinematic style. Hands up, those of you who didn't guess that Captain Bryson would be the victim of his own villainy and the deliverer of justice would be his long-suffering first mate. You're all required to read this one again.


"The Keg"
First mate Hurd recalls for a fellow crew-member just what made him a "queer" fellow. Long before, Hurd had been first mate on the China Queen, a ship maimed in a vicious hurricane, and watched as men became animals right before his eyes. The men face a long journey outside of shipping lanes without food or water and their only hope is "The Keg," a barrel of water kept in the Captain's quarters. However, the Captain refuses access to the keg and advises his first mate to keep his crew busy in order to divert their minds from thirst and hunger. Whispers become shouts of mutiny before too long and the men board a longboat in hopes of rescue, leaving the Captain to die aboard a burning ship. First mate Hurd remains on board and he and the Captain (keg in tow) escape in a dinghy before the China Queen sinks. All the while, the Captain refuses to give up his treasure until a half-mad Hurd strangles him and drinks from the keg, only to find it filled with salt water. A nicely ironic twist in the tail and some fabulous George Evans art make this the best story in a very weak issue of Piracy, but you have to wonder how Hurd got out of a conviction for murder. -Peter

Jack: I thought this was a solid issue, with four good stories and very strong art. "Jean Lafitte" is an interesting history lesson with the usual fine work by Crandall, but I found the ending a bit disappointing. "Rag Doll" is a very good story with some of the best Ghastly art I've seen outside the horror titles but, again, the end was something of a letdown. An intriguing moral question is presented in "Salvage" about the value of human life under maritime law; surprisingly, slaves are treated better than free men due to their value as property. Krigstein's art is above average for him and the choice to tell the entire last page of the story without showing any people is unusual. George Evans draws a great, wordless sequence near the end of "The Keg" that makes me realize that the use of color is often a strength of EC Comics and one we never mention.

M D 2

"The Balance"
Story by Al Feldstein?
Art by Reed Crandall

Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Joe Orlando

"A Case for the Books"
Story by Al Feldstein?
Art by Graham Ingels

"Even for a While"★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans

About as exciting as it
gets in "The Balance"
When young Bobby dies of leukemia, Dr. Lesser tells his parents, who are understandably upset. Mom runs down the hospital corridor and falls, causing the early onset of labor. Dr. Lesser rushes her to the operating room and delivers twins--a boy and a girl. He tells the parents that nature has restored "The Balance" to their family. Seriously? Their son just died and now they have twins so all is well? Kind of insensitive, if you ask me. Johnny Craig's cover is shadowy and atmospheric but Reed Crandall seems to have been unable to work up much enthusiasm for the first story in this thrilling issue of MD.

"Different" since birth, Herbie suffers from cerebral palsy and runs away from home. His father struggles to make enough money to meet the family's needs and doesn't understand Herbie's condition. A policeman finds Herbie and he is reunited with his parents. Herbie's father changes his mind about his son after a doctor explains the reason for the boy's condition, and the family moves near to a clinic where Herbie can get therapy and begin to learn to walk and talk more comfortably.

Joe Orlando actually does a good job of portraying the challenges faced by Herbie and his family, and Carl Wessler's script is unusually sensitive. The father at first seems like he'll be a stereotypically mean person but his heart opens to his troubled son once things are explained to him. I did not want to like this story but I ended up giving it some respect, though it's not a particularly good comic book tale.

Yes, he's 52
("A Case for the Books")
Gustaf Swenson is a middle-aged carpenter who suddenly discovers he's losing his sight. The doctor diagnoses ocular hypertension and Gustaf travels to New York, where a specialist does a delicate operation to save his vision. Realizing that his patient cannot pay his fee, the surgeon asks Gustaf to make him a bookcase in payment. "A Case for the Books" has a clever title and is not a bad little story, with art by Ghastly that fits the subject well. If only they didn't portray the 52-year-old Gustaf as if he were about 70!

Augie has a series of tests that reveal he has a brain tumor. His headaches are killing him, but his long-suffering mother stays by his side as they roll him into the operating room. The operation to remove the mass is long and difficult, but it is a success! Augie may have grown up bad, but he'll have some relief now--"Even for a While." Too bad he's scheduled to die in the electric chair in a few weeks!

What's the other con reading?
("Even for a While")
Carl Wessler must have realized that straight medical stories without any crime or horror were not going to cut it with the EC readership, so he shoehorned in a couple of panels of flashback to show us how Augie went bad and then he zings us with a pretty good twist ending. It's not enough to save the story (or the issue), but at least it's something different.-Jack

Page 4
Peter: It's a tough task to write a funny book story about diseases (even tougher to illustrate them), so the onus falls on the plot rather than the malady. Can the "sub-plots" and characters carry a story about a little boy afflicted with cerebral palsy? I almost feel like a heartless old codger offering up an emphatic "No, not in the case of MD" (or Empty as I like to think of it), but the yarns Al and Carl spin around their medical textbook research are as maudlin and cliched as a soap opera. All the boxes are ticked and happy endings are the order of the day (even Bobby's father offers up a glow while casting his eyes on his new twins and exclaiming, "A boy . . . to take the place of the one we . . . we lost . . . and the girl we've wanted . . . for so long!") and I have to wonder if I've seen too many episodes of Marcus Welby and Medical Center, or if these stories just suck. Take for example, the mean-spirited "Different," wherein Carl Wessler paints the portrait of a father so evil and cruel, you want to see him drawn and quartered (if only this were Tales from the Crypt!), only to watch in amazement, over the course of three panels, a total transformation into caring dad who will do anything to save his son, who's "been alone too much . . . too long!" What a load of happy horse . . .

um . . . still page 4

Panic 9

"Rx Migraine M.D. 
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"Drive In Movie!" 1/2★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Zoo Charade" 1/2★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Joe Orlando

"Bo Bummel" ★1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Wally Wood

Soooo funny! ("Zoo Charade")
All that could be said about this issue of Panic has been said before. If I'd been Bill Gaines, I'd have either yanked the title off the schedule or found someone funny to write the damned thing. The parodies are achingly un-hilarious and "Drive-In Movie!," which stands in for the usual "Visit to (a public place)," is no better. By this time, even Bill Elder is being dragged down; his backgrounds and little side-signs are tired and lame. "RX Migraine M.D.," for those wondering, parodies the long-running newspaper strip, "Rex Morgan, M.D.," and "Zoo Charade" is a take on Zoo Parade, an early TV show starring Marlin Perkins, who later went on to fame and fortune on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. "Bo Bummel," of course, is Mendelsohn's variation on the then-recent film, "Beau Brummel," starring Stewart Granger and Elizabeth Taylor. Like Bill Elder, Wally Wood looks like he's had enough of this crap and phones in one of his weakest art jobs ever. Though I'm 99.9% sure the original film had more laughs than Mendelsohn's version, "Bo Bummel" did feature the only panels in the entire issue that actually made me smile (below), and thus warranted my generous star-and-a-half rating. A really bad month for EC. -Patient Peter

"Bo Bummel"

Jack: Certainly a bad month for Panic, but has this dreadful title ever had what could be called a good month? I'm fond of Elder, but "Rx Migraine M.D." is just not funny. Every joke is obvious, like the nurse who is up to her neck in bills. Jack Davis turns in some decent Bigfoot-style art in "Drive In Movie!" and I'm nostalgic for the topic, but other than a return to references to John and Marsha there's not much to see here. More unpleasant art from Joe Orlando is featured in "Zoo Charade" and when the caged coyote asked "So what's so funny?" I could not answer. "Bo Bummel" adds "boring" to the list of adjectives used to describe this issue, and I agree with Peter about the weak job by Wally Wood, who is usually reliable.

"Rx Migraine M.D."

In just seven days . . .
Hard-hittin' battle tales
to wipe the taste of Panic from yer kisser!