Monday, October 1, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 67

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
67: September 1955

Panic 10

"Captain Izzy and Washt Upps"★★1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"A Star is Corn"★1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Punch Lines"★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"Foreign Movies"★1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Captain Izzy and Washt Upps" are struggling with their job on a factory line unbending bobby pins, so they complain to the boss, who sends them on an exciting mission to the North Country to inspect his property holdings. They travel by plane to Roughantough, where they fight with the local bruisers until they are tied up and taken to the boss, who single-handedly knocks out everyone in town. Their task accomplished, they fly home.

"A Star is Corn"
In a lifetime of reading comic books and comic strips, I'll be darned if I ever read a Wash Tubbs story, and these parodies are not as funny as they might be if the reader is unfamiliar with the object of the parody. Still, perhaps because Mad is no longer a comic book and thus not grabbing all the good stuff, this seems above-average for a Panic story, with nice art by Elder (no surprise there) and humorous background gags. There is even a Bob and Ray reference on page three!

Matinee idol Normal Mainliner discovers stage performer Esther Blodgett and takes her under his wing, quickly running her through the star-making machine and turning her into a movie queen. She marries him despite his drunkenness and he disappears into the ocean, though Esther does not realize that he has found a mermaid to make into his next star.

I must admit I've never seen any version of A Star is Born, either. I am suddenly feeling quite ignorant, and it's all due to Panic. "A Star is Corn" is not very funny, but it is squarely in line with the sort of movie parodies that would sustain Mad magazine for many decades to come and Jack Davis is skilled at caricature.

"Punch Lines" fills six pages with 12 half-page gags. I didn't smile once. I was surprised to see from the credits that Elder drew this, because it's so straightforward and unimaginative. There's even a Reggie van Gleason character in one of the gags, which is about as dated as it gets.

"Punch Lines"

"Foreign Movies"
John loses his job and finally tells Marsha, who pledges to see it through together. That's the premise that sets up a series of one-page "Foreign Movies," looking at how the same situation would be handled by different countries in world cinema. We see French, British, and Italian versions of this scene, followed by Japanese, Russian, and American examples. There are a few faint smiles to be had, and Jack Davis does bigfoot art as well as anyone, but this issue of Panic was a real letdown after a promising start.

"Captain Izzy and Washt Upps"
Peter: There are a couple decent one-liners in "Captain Izzy" (I'm a sucker for the fourth-wall jokes) but, otherwise, it's another bad send-up of a (now) obscure strip that I know nothing about. Sad thing is that I feel even if I knew the strip intimately, this would still be embarrassingly unfunny. But there are those two or three funny lines, something which is missing in spades in "A Star is Corn" (Ho! Ho! What a riotous title that one, eh?), which sees Jack Mendelsohn again switching out names of characters (in this case, Norman Mainliner instead of Norman Maine) and considering that hilarious. I can just picture Mendelsohn in his office cracking himself up with his own work. "Foreign Movies" and "Punch Lines" are so inane that they make me wonder if editor Feldstein hadn't, by this time, just thrown up his hands and said "I give up!" and okayed anything Mendelsohn submitted. How else to explain six pages wasted on bad alcoholic jokes and a further seven devoted to the same scene done in different languages (and none of them funny)?

 Piracy 6

"Fit for a King"★★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Skipper"★★★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans

"Fur Crazy"★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

Story Uncredited
Art by Jack Davis

An old derelict named Adam sleeps next to the fire at a British pub until he is awakened to tell the story of Long Ben Avery, the king of the pirates! Insisting that Avery was a fool, Adam recalls that Ben incited mutiny on the Charles, looted an English merchant ship, and sailed for Madagascar, where he revealed his plan to rob the treasure ship of the Great Mogul's Mocha Fleet. Despite difficult odds, his plan succeeds, and Avery recovers a large cache of treasure. He abandons his crew and sails for America, where he is chagrined to learn that the poor citizens of that new country can't afford jewels. Returning to London in search of a buyer, he is robbed and beaten; left tetched in the head, he wanders the streets, unaware of the jewels that remain in his pouch. Old Adam's tale done, he is kicked out of the pub for being a liar. He walks along the docks until he finds the quarters of the king's soldiers and turns himself in--he is none other than Ben Avery, long-missing pirate!

"Fit for a King"
This issue of Piracy is off to a solid start with "Fit for a King," a straightforward, old-fashioned tale of a pirate whose life did not turn out as well as he had hoped. It's not a big surprise that Adam is Ben Avery, but Reed Crandall can always be counted on to tell a pleasing visual tale.

Tired of being passed over for a ship captain's job, Richard Carson sets about sabotaging the Yorkton. The anchor disappears, the cargo shifts, the hold is set afire. Finally, the man who longs to be "The Skipper" fiddles with the compass so that the ship is steered through fog and onto rocks. The crew and captain abandon ship and, as the vessel goes down, Carson is excited that he finally can be the captain!

It's tough to say whose art is better in this issue of Piracy between Crandall and George Evans, but I have to give the prize to Evans by just a bit. Wessler's story doesn't hold any real surprises but it's fun to watch Carson's mad pursuit of power unfold, especially with Evans as a guide.

"Fur Crazy"
Gus Marker clings to an ice floe in the Arctic Sea until he washes ashore, only to find an abandoned Eskimo village of igloos. Hunkering down under a rotting fur, he thinks back to how he had led a party of men into the snowy wilds to kill seals for their pelts. Greed led him to wipe out the herds and thus destroy the food supply of the Eskimo; on his way back to civilization, his ship was destroyed in a storm and he ended up in the sea. Desperately hungry, he comes across the ship's stores, washed ashore, but finds no food--only pelts.

"Fur Crazy" is a depressing story with mediocre art by Ingels. Once again, the surprise ending is no surprise and, while Marker certainly earns his fate, I would have liked to have seen just a bit more characterization here. I'm an old protester against seal hunting, so I'm not unhappy to see this guy get his comeuppance.

Captain Jonathan Wade is a tyrant aboard ship but he harbors a terrible secret; he and two of his crew abandoned everyone on a prior ship and escaped in the only longboat. He sends crewman Hayes off alone to find a desert island after Hayes commits a minor infraction, but when his two comrades are washed overboard in a typhoon the captain loses his mind and is stripped of his command by the crew. He sets off in a longboat by himself, looking for the two men, and lands on a desert island where he comes face to face with none other than Hayes! The angry crewman takes the longboat and paddles off, leaving Wade alone on the island to suffer the pangs of conscience.

A bit confusing and overly packed with plot, "Solitary" is not helped by the art of Jack Davis. It can be hard to take anything he draws seriously at times. The absurd coincidence of Wade landing on the same desert island as Hayes is hard to accept, but the final panel, reproduced here, is haunting in its sparseness.-Jack

"The Skipper"
Peter: On the exact opposite end of the quality spectrum from Panic we find Piracy, the New Direction's best title. That bold statement is backed up by proof this issue in the form of "The Skipper," a chilling study of escalating madness that defies expectations of softening by story's end. The single panel of Carson, going down with the ship, screaming "I'm Captain! Skipper of the Yorkton!," is about as scary as anything offered up in the horror titles. Can't say enough about George Evans's art, which shows Carson's mania deepen with each successive panel. Potent stuff. The "twist" that comes at the climax of "Fit for a King" is a bit obvious but the tale that precedes it is a good, rousing one and Reed Crandall is fast becoming Piracy's MVP. "Fur Crazy" isn't bad but contains what has to be the crudest Graham Ingels art we've seen, perhaps courtesy of a phantom inker? Or maybe Graham was just winding it down. "Solitary" puts the bow on an excellent issue, with Jack Davis giving us some of his best work in a long time. The final panel, of Wade alone in a sea of white, is nearly as powerful as that of "The Skipper."

M.D. 3

"When You Know How" ★★
Story Al Feldstein?
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Right Cure" ★1/2
Story Al Feldstein?
Art by Graham Ingels

"Shock Treatment" ★1/2
Story Al Feldstein?
Art by George Evans

"The Lesson" ★★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Reed Crandall

There go the white carpets!
Little Tad just wants to hang out with the big boys but that means taking risks, so when the other kids dare Tad to take his sled down Snake Hill, he naturally takes the challenge. Unfortunately, the trip down doesn’t go as smoothly as the trip up and Tad ends up with broken ribs, internal bleeding and, most important of all, a pierced thorax. Luckily, the other boys are able to wave down Trooper Benson, who throws Tad into his car and treks through the feet-deep snow back to his place, where he calls Doc Yates and tells him to bring his kit over pronto. Since the roads are all closed, they can’t take Tad into the local hospital so Doc Yates must perform an emergency thoracotomy (sawing of the ribs to reach the yucky stuff) with only two cans of coffee, a chainsaw, and a pack of Marlboros. The surgery is a success and Tad is back on Snake Hill in no time! For what it is (a boring medical story), "When You Know How" really isn’t that bad but it goes on and on and, as if all the medical definitions weren’t boring enough, we get a crossover with Psychoanalysis when Tad’s mom swears he’ll never sled again and Doc Yates lectures her on growing up and the dangers of coddling her son.

"The Right Cure"
Ma Venable has got herself a right ol’ pain in her midsection and none of the medicines she’s been subscribed to by the local herbists seem to be a'heppin'. Not the swamp grass nor the moldy bread nor the lizard gizzards; why not even the crayfish stewed in donkey’s milk an’ mushroom stems, pickled in vinegar and stewed in wine did the trick. She just can't seem to find "The Right Cure"! Now this pain inside is almighty awful and her husband won’t listen to her edjacated daughter and take her to a proper doctor until it’s nigh on too late! She begs her husband to jest shoot her with the family rifle but Pa don’t want no part of that, so’s young Jennie goes into town and begs Dr. Harold Benson, MD, to come have a look at her ailin’ ma. One look at the dyin’ woman and Doc Benson knows he has to get her to the hospital, but Pa’s all fired-up mad about this here quack comin’ into his house and it takes Jennie aimin’ both barrels of a shotgun at him before he sees some sense (well, some sense). The Doc speeds Ma to the ER, where he performs an emergency appendicealectomy on the woman’s abscessed organ. Everything else seems to be in good working order so the Doc sews her up and changes out of his smock just in time for Pa to show up with his gun loaded for bear. But one look at his resting wife and Pa is a changed man. Graham Ingels was always the go-to guy for swamp folk and he does another bang-up job here. The script is what it is, another annotated surgical performance that has a hard time working up any excitement for the audience. Not that there was much of an audience by this time (though the letters page, reprinted far below, proves there were at least fifteen consumers out there hungry for a publication dedicated to psoriasis (no, not psychoanalysis!) and thrombosis (if not coloproctology).

"Shock Treatment"
Dr. Arnold Ross is called to the home of the Mortons, a family he's been treating for years, to diagnose son Larry's abdominal pain. What he finds is a nightmare of parental disorder and attempted suicide. Morton explains to Mom and Pop Morton that Larry can no longer deal with his surroundings, with the constant bickering between the couple, and his displeasure has manifested itself into extreme depression. Not even a two-tenths solution of Potassium Permanganate will help.  The only cure for Larry, the Doc explains, is "Shock Treatment"! Quicker than you can say "Two grams of Chloral Hydrate, three-tenths gram of Barbital, and six CCs of Paraldehyde," Larry is strapped to a table, greased up, and zapped. The kid comes out of the therapy an amnesiac but forgetting about Mom and Dad fighting over whether it'll be Jack Benny or I Love Lucy on the tube seems to be just the ticket. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Morton embrace and let on that the Doc has shown them the error of their ways and love is in bloom. The only thing I don't hate about this turkey is the George Evans art. George's moody work (especially in the "therapy room" scene) perfectly captures the intensity of the situation, something Al Feldstein's cold and analytical words completely miss. It is interesting to see how accepted this controversial practice was in the mid-1950s. According to Wikipedia, shock therapy is still used (Carrie Fisher is one of the most famous patients) but not as widespread as it was back then.

"The Lesson"
Young Frank Marley is out joy-riding in his Pop's jalopy, showing off for his best girl, Eve, when he loses control of the car in the driving rain. Luckily, someone sees the crash and calls an ambulance. Frank is taken out of the car but Eve remains, badly hurt. Frank recognizes Dr. Somners, who enters the wreck and examines Eve, shouting out orders to the ambulance drivers. They whisk Frank and Eve away to a local hospital where Eve undergoes an emergency cranioplasty (for you laymen out there, that's a cutting open of the skull to remove bad stuff on the brain) but Dr. Somners has a special punishment awaiting young Marley, who's beside himself over the condition of his girl, as he takes the kid into the operating room while they slice and dice. Eve comes through with flying colors and the gore has reduced Frank to a driver who will slow down for a yellow light and look both ways at a four-way stop from now on. Dr. Somners takes Marley into Eve's room to look in on the recovering girl and she awakens and plants a kiss on her doctor/father's cheek. Can you believe it? They're related!

Actually, despite my sarcasm, I liked "The Lesson" more than any story that's been presented within the closed quarters of MD covers so far. It's not Reed Crandall's art, which is uncharacteristically blah this time around (Frank Marley walks around with a bigger hunch on his back than Quasimodo and looks like a man in his thirties in the intro), but I enjoyed the straightforward story and, of course, the loopy twist in the final panel. I'm glad that Dr. Somners's insistence that Frank view the operation wasn't without comment (Frank's pop pretty much threatens legal action), but didn't little Franky do well during his first cranioplasty? -Peter

Jack- Peter, I am shocked that you totally ignored the gay subtext in "When You Know How" (even the title screams it!). Tad doesn't have the nerve to "ride the snake" so his friends tell him to "beat it." In the end, the old doctor tells the little boy "everything's easy when you know how." Couldn't be more obvious, eh what? I also got a kick out of the doctor blaming Tad's mother while her son is recovering from surgery on the kitchen table!

"The Right Cure" is weighed down by more poor art from Ingels, who seems to be about done with the whole comic book thing if his efforts this month are any indication. The story itself is dreadful and the final pun a clunker. I was hoping for a good-old EC close-up of the kid getting "Shock Treatment," but George Evans stays classy and doesn't show it. Too bad EC comics got tame! The art by Evans is the issue's visual highlight. I too liked "The Lesson," but I thought Crandall's art was outstanding. Now those were the days when the same doctor would set a broken leg, set a broken arm, and then do brain surgery all in one shot! The ending was a complete surprise to me. In all, not a terrible comic, but I'd love to see the sales figures.

Next Week . . .
What could possibly be worse
than a stinkin' Nazi?

No comments: