Monday, November 12, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 70

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
70: November 1955

Piracy 7

Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"Up the River"★★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"John's Reward"★★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

Story Uncredited
Art by George Evans

Tired of fighting all the time, pirate captains Valez and Kemp decide to join forces, though each knows the other intends to break the deal at the first opportunity. One night aboard ship, after amassing quite a fortune in stolen loot, the captains plan each other's doom, but Kemp gets the better of Valez and sends him and a couple of his men off in a rowboat. Months later, Valez and his men run into Kemp's mate and threaten him; the mate says he wants to join them and shows them a spot on an island where Kemp supposedly buried his fortune. Valez and his men dig for two months and only find treasure chests with the bones of their former colleagues. Kemp stands at the top of the hole and starts to have his men bury his rival, but Valez has his own men knock out the support beams holding up the sides of the hole, causing Kemp and his men to fall in and join Valez and his men in the grave.

Despite Reed Crandall's fine work, I did not think much of "Partners." The cliche of the fighting captains pretending to join forces was not very well handled and that hole they dig over the course of two months is ridiculously large. I would think such a shrewd pirate captain as Valez would realize he'd been tricked long before digging down sixty feet. Sixty feet! Think of it.

"Up the River"
In the late summer of 1777, the British troops at Saratoga are in desperate need of reinforcements but ships far down river cannot get up the Hudson to them because the colonists have stretched chains across the water. An American spy who is nearly captured escapes but leaves behind a map that gives the British admiral an idea--why not sail up a parallel waterway and surprise the troops? He tries to do this but his ship runs aground in the shallow Bronx River and he is captured by a ragtag band of Americans in canoes!

Bernie Krigstein is not in experimental mode in "Up the River," so the art is fairly run of the mill, but Wessler's script is fun and the little history lesson is appreciated. It's always nice to see the underdog trick the man in power! It really stretches a point to call this a pirate story, though.

"John's Reward"
John Tabori is an honest fisherman whose wife constantly berates him for not making enough money. He needs one big catch to keep from losing his boat and one night he gets it--more fish than he could ever have dreamed of. He then sees a vessel sinking nearby and chooses to jettison his valuable catch in order to save the people aboard the liner from drowning. He returns home and loses his boat but is happy. What is "John's Reward"? His wife left him!

I let out a guffaw at the end of this one which, admittedly, has nothing whatsoever to do with pirates. Ingels's art is nothing special and I was expecting someone that John rescued to turn out to be rich, but instead he lost everything and the twist was that he finally lost his wife as well and was delighted. Very clever and unexpected.

Captain Dover, skipper of the Mimosa, is not happy when Chief Mate Childers bursts into his cabin and sees that the ship is secretly transporting $2,000,000 in gold and gems. Worried that the "Temptation" to steal the fortune might be too great, Dover keeps an eye on Childers through the succeeding voyage, which is married by a series of unfortunate accidents. Finally, the ship crashes and Dover orders everyone to abandon ship; Childers wants to stay and save the treasure so he has to be knocked out. A month later, Childers asks Dover if they can salvage the ship and collect the treasure, since insurance has already paid for the loss. Dover declines but Childers finds a backer and goes through with the salvage operation. He returns to Dover a week later with a startling revelation: the treasure is gone! Childers tells Dover that he knows the captain hid the money and then sank the ship on purpose; Dover tries to make a deal but an insurance man hiding nearby has heard all he needs to hear.

The last issue of Piracy goes out on a high note with this tale illustrated by the wonderful George Evans. Once again, I fell for the misdirection and thought Childers was a crook; I also fell for the cover, which suggests a scene from this story that never happened!-Jack

Exactly the way Enfantino-Seabrook
Blogging Inc. began!
Peter: I'm being completely sincere when I say I'm going to miss the hell out of Piracy. It could be that it died at just the right time, but we don't have the proof that eventually the quality would tail off. Call me crazy but I firmly believe that Wessler, Oleck, Evans, Krigstein, Crandall, and company all reveled in the freedom this book gave them. Sure, they had to involve the sea somehow but quite a few of its 28 tales push the boundaries of the word piracy. The final issue is just as good as the previous six, with the high point, for me, being "Partners," a darkly humorous bit of swashbuckling. The dialogue between Kemp and Valez crackles (a lot of it sounded like the e-mails Jack and I send back and forth) and all the twists and turns left a wide grin on my face. Most husbands in the 1950s shook their heads after reading "John's Reward" and thought, "If only it was that easy!" "Up the River" was a bit too historical for my tastes but "Temptation" unfurled a fabulous twist in its tail I never saw coming.

Panic 11

"Mary Worthless!" ★★★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"Shaggy Dog Stories!" 0 stars
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Sunday at the Beach!" 1/2
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Bill Elder

"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea" ★★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Wally Wood

"Mary Worthless!"
Since making people happy and solving their problems is the life blood of "Mary Worthless!," the new boarding house (in the Okefenokee) is just the ticket for the old dame. She takes a tour of the little shack (which actually looks huge on the inside) and meets the disturbed boarders, one by one, from the failed ballerina, Miss Leotard, who suffers from severe ballet-ache, to Constance and Lee Bickering, who are pitching plates at one another when Mary enters, but are smothering each other when she leaves. It's all in good fun until Mary gets to the end of the strip and realizes she could have stretched all these problems out for "sevens months of continuity," but solved it all in one day! Well, now we know where Forry Ackerman got all his puns.

More hilarity from "Mary Worthless!"
As dopey as this parody is, it's also the funniest thing Panic has ever run and the closest Jack Mendelsohn will ever come to the level of quality MAD reached in every issue. There's a lot to laugh at (and, yes, a lot to grimace at), including some of Mary's dialogue ("Remember, my child, money can't buy you happiness, but it'll pay for a snazzy Cadillac so you can drive around and look for it") and the painful puns (the really bad cellist who yells at the goats up above, "Hey, you kids! Get offa that roof!") but the star, without doubt, is the chameleonic Will Elder, who not only manages to ape several different styles within the same strip but manages to sprinkle some great sight gags in as well. Outside of Howard Nostrand, I can't think of a comic book artist so adept at copying others' styles (well, I mean, on purpose) as Elder, who just seems to flow from one aping to another. Of course, Elder's trademark was the marginal and background "noise," but his funny bone seems to have been on vacation for the last several months. Not being a Mary Worth follower, I googled the original strip (originally drawn by Ken Ernst and, incredibly, being published to this day!) and, ironically, every set of images that popped up contained one of those goofy close-ups Elder makes fun of throughout (a gorgeous and anonymous woman's lips, a redhead's ear, etc.). For one brief seven-page stretch, you can almost believe MAD is back!

"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea"
"20,000 Leaks Under the Sea" is a mildly amusing parody of Disney's 1954 production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, starring James Mason and Kirk Douglas. I'll begrudgingly admit a few half-smiles cracked my otherwise-unmoving lips (well, they move when I read--does that count?), thanks to Wally Wood's version of the Nautilus and a few funny sight gags (two characters run across a chest full of "pieces of eight" on the sea floor and Wally's next panel reveals a chest full of broken number eights), but Mendelsohn still hasn't learned from Harvey that it takes more than changing character names (Nemo becomes Meno) to elicit guffaws.

Inane crap like "Shaggy Dog Stories!" and "Sunday at the Beach!" remind me why I hate this title so much. The former consists of six achingly unfunny jokes stretched out across six very long pages (not even Jack Davis's silly doodles could put a smile on my face while trying to get through this bilge), while the latter is another of Mendelsohn's family day trip diaries that no one besides Mendelsohn and Feldstein finished to the last panel (looks like Bill Elder gave up on it halfway through as well). I could have written this nonsense in my sleep and I'm one of the world's unfunniest guys. Bright side: only one issue left. -Peter

Stop! You're killing me!

Jack: You're right about Bill Elder, but I liked the Wally Wood story best, perhaps because I'm more familiar with the subject being parodied. This is not the worst issue of Panic ever, though it was still a chore to read. Like you, I never read Mary Worth and found the jokes slightly amusing. Jack Davis is perfect for something like the shaggy dog gags, and I admit I chuckled a few times. The beach story's art style reminded me of the work of Syd Hoff and I wonder if Elder was thinking of him when he drew this.

MD 4

"So That Others May Walk" ★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Reed Crandall

"New Outlook" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Orlando

"Point of View" ★
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Worried Sick" ★★1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans

Even though her son lay dying upstairs, Mrs. Hoyt
knew there were ways to shave a few bucks off the bill.
Mrs. Hoyt is beside herself because son Danny has polio and has been placed in an iron lung. She has no one to turn to so she goes down to Dr. Wolack's office, but the doc is discussing some unimportant details with his wife on the phone and--CAN YOU PLEASE GET OFF THE PHONE YOU INCONSIDERATE QUACK MY SON IS DYING AND YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT TOYS YOU HAVE TO BUY FOR YOUR BRATS--she's getting a bit testy. Once off the phone, Dr. Wolack tries to answer Mrs. Hoyt's questions with as much patience as he can muster ("Will my son ever walk again?" "Will he be in an iron lung forever?" "Just how much is this going to cost me?" "Where the hell is that SOB husband of mine?"), before he launches into a story of a boy named Jimmy who had polio but still managed to swim and play baseball and do all those keen things kids do and then grew up to be a really good doctor named . . . Jimmy Wolack. The doctor stands and walks out of the office, with aid of canes, and Mrs. Hoyt suddenly realizes she's in good hands. Ahhhhhh . . . I never saw that ending coming! The kid in the flashback was our hero, the doc!? What are the odds? And, seriously, where is Mr. Hoyt? I gotta say that the usually reliable Reed Crandall looks as though he was as bored as I was by "So That Others May Walk." Aside from the hot Mrs. Hoyt, the rest of the panels look unfinished. Can someone tell me how it is that I always lose the coin toss and get assigned MD and Panic?

Deep down inside, Chuck is relieved he held
on to his frat pin.
Nineteen year-old Marian has everything to live for. She's pretty, she's a straight-A student, mom and dad pay her bills, and handsome Chuck is about to pin her . . . with his frat pin! Out for a joy ride with Chuck, Sandy, and Harry, Marian has never felt so alive, until Harry floors it around a sharp bend and wraps his jalopy around a tree. Harry and Sandy are killed, Chuck is thrown clear and fractures his right arm, but Marian, oh, Marian. The poor girl has a compound comminuted bilateral fracture of the mandible, a deviated septum, a depression of the Malar-Process of the Zygoma in the infra-orbital region, and a fragment of bone missing from her right mandible. No amount of Max Factor is gonna clear this up. She needs several surgeries and she needs them pronto. Chuck comes to see her but she turns him away, not wanting her beau to make Quasimodo jokes. The doctors make no promises but three plastic surgeries later and the process of healing begins. After a mere two or three panels, Doctor Wilson proudly shoves a mirror in Marian's face (along with a bill for $3,000,000.00) and shows her what a little rebar, chicken wire, and chewing gum can do in the 20th Century. Our girl is all healed and just as pretty as ever and, on cue, Chuck enters the room after eight months of abstinence and pins Marian . . . with his frat pin!

"New Outlook" is dumber than a box of rocks and twice as much fun. Even in 1955, you'd think it would come across as offensive and mean-spirited that a doctor would tell Chuck not to ask to see Marian because of "her face!" Or the traffic cop who discovers the badly-damaged girl and tells the ambulance driver, "The other girl is still alive . . . but maybe she'd be better off the other way! Her face . . .!" The uncredited writer (Wessler, I assume) loaded this one up with so much medical jargon, you can't help but be impressed even when you're not involved. Joe Orlando does his best with what's essentially oodles of panels of talking faces (or talking bandaged faces) but I almost feel cheated we didn't get to see Marian sans gauze with cameo Ghastly art!

Marian auditions for Les Yeux Sans Visage

Beth auditions for Les Visages Sans Yeux
Donald Archer awakens in a hospital bed to discover he's in bad shape after a car accident. Worse, though, is the news his wife, Ellen, is in a coma and his daughter, Beth, is badly hurt. Doctor Seldon delivers the final blow the next day with word that Ellen has died, but that some good can come from Mrs. Archer's passing. Seldon explains that a colleague has dire need of Mrs. Archer's eyes for another patient; Archer tells the doc he's a ghoul and to let him be. But, overnight, Donald changes his mind and agrees to the donation. The next day, Seldon wheels him into the patient's room and Archer recognizes the bandaged face of his daughter, resting comfortably after her Corneal Transplant.

"Point of View" was heading for a rare-as-hen's-teeth (for MD, that is) two-star rating until it came to the inane climax and the even dopier explanation from Seldon that he couldn't risk the shock to Archer if he revealed the true identity of the donee. What nonsense be this? Still, I can dream of the sequel appearing in Vault of Horror #41, "My Mother's Eyes!," where little Beth metes out vengeance for mommy (seems Donald was lit when he got behind the wheel and he was having an affair and had taken out a huge insurance policy on Ellen) by tearing daddy's eyes out and placing them in her mother's sockets (after digging up her grave). Gotta be better than this pap.

If only there had been room for one more panel!
Marty Cooper has built his business up from ten thousand a year to millions in profits, but the toll on his body has finally caught up with him. Yes, Marty has a Duodenal Ulcer which, if not properly cared for, may escalate into the Jejunal variety. From there, it's just a couple steps away from milk, soggy bread, and Carol Burnett reruns every night. Worse than the ulcer though is the fact that Marty has an EC wife, one of those selfish and ambitious ice queens who always get what they want, despite the cost. Ilene needs her furs and her big social parties and her expensive house and multiple cars and ugly (but doubtless) expensive brown culottes and Marty's health be hanged. Even when the Doc tells Marty he has to stop eating that crappy catered food at the parties, Ilene tells Marty to grow a new set and get on with life. Of course, this leads to the inevitable hemorrhage and ambulance ride to the hospital, where a skilled surgeon and team have been prepped for Marty for over two weeks. The operation is a success but Dr. Keaton warns Ilene that her husband needs complete and total relaxation and a vacation from stress and parties. Ilene agrees and explains that she'll be a better, more caring wife, and Keaton buys it. When she gets home, she brings Marty into the drawing room where a crowd of sycophants jump out and scream, "Surprise!"

Honestly, my generous rating for "Worried Sick" is mostly for that final panel (complete with a patented EC "choke . . ." from Marty), which flies in the face of what I was expecting from a story appearing in this awful title, but overall the yarn is not that bad. Marty is a likable character, your typical EC husband caught up in the web of an overbearing and demanding wife. Evans and Wessler both manage to stray from the usual six-eight panels per page of talking heads and medical mumbo-jumbo and offer us up what will doubtless go down as the best story ever to appear in the pages of MD. -Peter

Jack: Ilene Cooper should meet John Tabori's wife from this month's issue of Piracy. I think they'd have a lot to talk about. Like you, Peter, I dug that last panel in "Worried Sick." I thought "So That Others May Walk" was inspiring and find the polio epidemic endlessly fascinating. Those were some amazing plastic surgeons in "New Outlook," but poor Chuck should have come across with something better than a frat pin at the finish. "Point of View" is ridiculous and the doctor should have told the patient that the corneas were for his daughter. But then where would the drama come from?

Next Week in Star Spangled #143 . . .
The war just keeps getting Weirder!

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