Monday, December 31, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 73

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956

October 1955 to February 1956
The Picto-Fiction Titles
The First Issues

A note on the Picto-Fiction line: When reviewing the regular four-color EC comics, we relied on Gemstone's color reprinting of the 1990s, but the only reprinting of the Picto-Fiction line came with the Russ Cochran over-sized box set in 2006 (the final set of Cochran reprinting, I believe). While I hold a fondness for Russ's slipcased monsters, since they were my first exposure (outside of the East Coast reprints and Horror Comics of the 1950s) to the "deeper cuts" of EC Comics, I never liked the black-and-white presentation. I bought every one of those box sets (in fact, I was one of Cochran's subscribers for years and received the newest box as it was published) but grinned like the Cheshire Cat when the color comics began. Anyway, all the box sets contained interesting nuggets of knowledge and trivia and some, especially the articles written by Max Allan Collins, contain incisive commentary on the stories and artists but the set of Picto-Fiction reprints is the one to get if you can buy only one. This is the only place you're going to get these things as well as the only place you'll find the several issues that were either destroyed or unfinished (such as Confessions Illustrated #3), as well as manuscripts of stories that would have seen publication in future issues. It's fairly affordable through Amazon (several copies are under $200) and highly recommended.-Peter

Jack Kamen
Shock Illustrated 1 (October 1955)

"The Needle"★
"The Jacket"★1/2
Stories by Daniel Keyes
Art by Jack Kamen

"Switch Party"★
Story by Robert Bernstein
Art by Jack Kamen

Peggy Blaine may only be 16 years old, but she still manages to get herself arrested and booked on charges of theft, possession of narcotics, and prostitution. What led this doll in a tight sweater down such a dark path? That's what her parents want to know, so they hook her up with--you guessed it--the Psychiatrist! Yes, the same guy (at least it looks like the same guy) who solved so many problems in Psychoanalysis is back for more in Shock Illustrated. After about 1000 tedious pages of Peggy lying on his couch and talking about her upbringing, it turns out she peeked through a keyhole when she was about 7 years old and saw her twelve or thirteen year old brother doing what boys that age do in  the privacy of their bedrooms. That led her down a dark path, one that only the Psychiatrist could bring into the light and cure.

"The Needle"--what a dingbat
Peter! When you assigned me to read, summarize, and comment on a title called Shock Illustrated I did not realize that it was actually the slightly more adult version of Psychoanalysis, only with 20-page long howlers like "The Needle"! In his introduction to the hardcover collection of Shock Illustrated, Roger Hill writes that this first issue contains "what may EC aficionados today consider to be some of Kamen's very finest work...lusciously detailed art..." Huh? I guess I'm not an EC aficionado, because it looks like more of the same from Jack Kamen to me, and the story is endless.

5 cents, please!
("Switch Party")
A group of married swingers like to engage in something they call a "Switch Party," where the husbands put on blindfolds and crawl around on the floor to pick up the key that will determine which woman they'll spend the night with. Beth Denbow is happy to go home with Alan Kent, who is happy just to sit and talk. Beth's husband Jim suspects there's more than talking going on and loses his temper, so Beth packs her bags and goes home to mother while Jim signs up for some sessions with the Psychiatrist! Analysis reveals that Jim fears impotence and dislikes his mother. Now that he's cured, all will be well with Beth.

If there's anything worse than a color comic called Psychoanalysis, it's a 56-page black and white illustrated magazine on the same topic. What must have been going on in these people's lives in the '50s? A switch party? Do people really do this? Did they ever? Perhaps one of our faithful readers will comment and help me understand this phenomenon.

Young Frankie Norton stands on a ledge outside the window on a tall building and threatens to jump. The cops pull him in before he does, but why did Frankie do it? Admitted to the psych ward at the City Hospital, Frankie meets the Psychiatrist. Once Frankie has been discharged, he seeks out the Psychiatrist and begins analysis. After Frankie's mother died, he was brutalized by his drunken bum of a father, Tim, who wanted to make a man out of him. Frankie began running with a bad crowd and soon was a juvenile delinquent, wearing "The Jacket" that was the uniform of his sort of young man. As he nears a breakthrough in analysis, Frankie loses his temper. One night, he sees an old bum on a park bench and murders him with a switchblade. Returning to the Psychiatrist's couch, Frankie finally admits that, as a lad, he witnessed his father being arrested for trying to molest young boys in a movie theater. Frankie grew up hating himself and fearing he would turn into the image of his father. His mental problems cured, he turns himself into the police.

Sweeney headed for The Blade
("The Jacket")

At least this story had a murder and a pedophile to keep me from nodding off. Fifty-six pages of Jack Kamen-illustrated stories about people in psychoanalysis is really above and beyond the call of duty for any blog.-Jack

Peter-Oh boy! Just what I wanted for Christmas: 56 pages of Jack Kamen and prattling psycho-babble. In his notes on the creation of Shock Illustrated in the Cochran box, Roger Hill informs us that the move by Bill Gaines into the magazine market was not an easy one but one that he tried to keep from the public right up to the time of publication. Shock is obviously a continuation of Psychoanalysis, that EC title Jack and I were so fond of. Unfortunately Shock, if anything, is even more poorly-written and dated than the earlier title ("Switch Party" is laughingly bad), with padded and boring tales of teen druggies, swap parties, and JDs. Hill mentions that many EC fans believe that Shock #1 may be Kamen's finest hour and, while I'll agree that some of the pencils in "The Jacket" are pretty nice stuff, it just looks like more of the same to me. Thankfully, in the second issue, editor Feldstein will jettison the psycho-nonsense, shorten the prose a bit, and veer the book into Shock SuspenStories territory. Fingers crossed.

Joe Orlando
Crime Illustrated 1 (December 1955)

"Fall Guy for Murder" ★★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Bernie Krigstein and Reed Crandall
(revision of story from Crime SuspenStories #18)

"The Sisters" ★
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Joe Orlando

"Fool's Gold" ★★1/2
Story by Richard Smith
Art by Graham Ingels

"Farewell to Arms" ★★1/2
Story by John Larner
Art by Reed Crandall

"Mother's Day" ★★1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by George Evans
(revision of story from Crime SuspenStories #21)

"Fall Guy for Murder" is a faithful re-booting of the story of the same name (originally illustrated by Johnny Craig) that appeared in Crime SuspenStories #18 (September 1953). I liked the original very much but this prose version might just improve on the tale; it now resembles a Manhunt-esque short story, clearly an inspiration. This was the infamous story that sent Bernie Krigstein packing (whether he was fired or quit is up to interpretation depending on which interview you read) after a disagreement on whether the bad guy should win out in the end. Krigstein was morally appalled that Gaines and Feldstein would allow evil to triumph and refused to draw the final panels; Reed Crandall was brought in to ink the overall story and completely redraw the finale. The change-over is obvious and startling, but hardly ruinous. The other "reboot" here is "Mother's Day," the closest thing we’ve come to a full-blown illustrated tale in these Picto-Fictioners, light on the prose and heavy on the illos. Some of these "reboots" have the same flavor as those Jack Oleck movie tie-ins for Tales and Vault (as if Jack had the funny book open in his lap and only had to transform it into prose).

Ben Wilson comes across a heated exchange between a brawny man and a gorgeous blonde beneath the El and really feels the need to interject. The woman introduces herself as Ruth Carr and Ben falls madly in love with her immediately. He walks Ruth to her apartment and promises to look in on her the next day but, when he comes back the next morning, Ruth’s apartment is a mess and she’s been crying. Seems Ruth has a twin sister, Myra, who’s a very bad girl and has gone missing, ostensibly holed up in a back room somewhere with a sailor. Ben and Ruth spend quite a bit of time together and, when the time seems right, the love-smitten fool pops the question. Ruth tells her beau she can’t marry until she finds and tames her sister. Ben promises to track the loose dame down if it means getting on his knees with a magnifying glass but, luckily, Myra isn’t very hard to find. The would-be detective finds her perched at Ruth’s brownstone and tries to talk some sense into the fiery alley cat but words aren’t what this girl is used to and she leaves in a huff after raking her talons across Ben’s face. Ben and Ruth decide Myra must be put away for her own good so Ben, once again, goes out searching, finding Myra in another seedy bar. This time, the gorgeous dame ain’t playing with her nails; she pulls a knife on Ben and tries to disembowel him but he gets away just in time, heading back to Ruth’s apartment in a terrified daze.

A chance remark from Ruth’s landlady (“Sister? Why, I didn’t know she had one!”) gives Ben pause in his search and, suddenly, the light goes on over his thick head. He goes through Ruth’s closet and finds Myra’s clothes, just as Ruth comes through the apartment door. But is this Ruth or Myra with the blade in her hand? An annoyingly predictable potboiler with a dense leading man and more Hollywood swipes from Joe Orlando (nope, these two don’t look like twins--Ruth is Plain Jane while Myra is Marilyn). You can’t imagine anything this awful showing up in Shock SuspenStories.

Cal lives on a pig farm with his Uncle Josh and a gorgeous "hired girl" named Angie. Young and full of beans, Cal is convinced that his father was murdered by his Uncle Josh for his pa's gold and the farm. Now, Angie flirts with Cal but cavorts with Josh, since the old-timer has all the dough and has no problem sharing it with her. One night, Cal spies on the couple and discovers where Josh has hidden the stolen gold; this gives the young man the incentive to do away with his murderous uncle. He splits Josh's skull and buries him in the sty and then waits for Angie to come home. It's the sheriff, however, who makes an appearance to tell Josh he now believes the boy's story about the disappearance of Josh's father. The sheriff believes the gold and, possibly, the pa are buried under the sty. "Fool's Gold" has a crafty twist in its tail but the story is way too long and meanders a bit much. The Ingels art is nifty, but it's become obvious that there were a whole lot of Marilyn Monroe pin-ups hanging in the bullpen. Jack mentions below that the issue has the kind of pulpy stories found in the digests from that era; that's true but I'd compare "Fool's Gold" to a short Gold Medal novel. It's got that sleazy, backwoods feel to it and the sex is there but only subtly hinted at (as when we first glimpse Angie after she witnesses Josh give Cal a beat down and her young beau thinks: Cal could see the contempt in her expression. Contempt. And only last night... Cal shivered. Angie was cheap.).

Ralph Stander is a good-for-nothing who befriends the meek Lester in college. Having gotten wind of Les's rich mom, Ralph worms his way into an invite back to Lester's mansion. There, Ralph woos and wins the portly Margaret but Lester is onto Ralph's scheme and makes a fuss. A shiv on the El puts that nonsense to rest and Ralph is free to marry the now-so-alone Margaret and live a lifestyle he's been dreaming of. That life is wonderful for a while but then Ralph's eyes start roaming toward the maid, Irene, and suddenly he's crafting an elaborate plan for a second murder. He has Margaret journey out to the beach house on the coast and then establishes an alibi. He sneaks out to the house and strangles his wife and carries her body out into the low tide but her body becomes restricted with rigor mortis and pulls him under the water. The climax is way too far-fetched (I've never had to dispose of a body but I'm assuming there was some way of getting Margaret off his back!), but I liked "Farewell to Arms" (a really dopey title) anyway. Crandall's art is very effective and Stander's actions are particularly brutal, which give this one a bit of an edge the other tales this issue don't have. -Peter

Jack: Orlando's dynamite cover lays on the bright red blood and looks like a pulp magazine illustration. Gaines and Feldstein were credited with writing the original "Fall Guy for Murder," but this time the writing credit goes solely to Al. I did not buy the ending the first time around and I still don't; I also preferred Johnny Craig's style to this mix of Krigstein and Crandall. "The Sisters" has a familiar plot with an ending that is no surprise, while "Fool's Gold" features unusually finished work by Ingels. The end of "Farewell to Arms" reminded me of that of Frazetta's "Squeeze Play," though it's clearly different. "Mother's Day" is another one originally credited to Bill and Al but now ostensibly written by Alfred E. Neuman; Crandall drew the comic book version and Evans draws this one--the art is good both times but I still don't find the ending convincing.

This is an excellent issue overall, with art that is above-average to excellent and good, pulpy short stories that could rival what was found in digests of the same period.

Reed Crandall
Terror Illustrated 1 (December 1955)

"The Sucker" ★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Reed Crandall
(Originally appeared as "So They Finally Pinned You Down" in Haunt of Fear # 6)

"Sure-Fire Scheme" ★★
Story by John Larner
Art by Joe Orlando

"Rest in Peace" ★
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by George Evans

"The Basket" ★★1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Graham Ingels
(From Haunt of Fear #7)

"The Gorilla's Paw" ★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Johnny Craig
(From Haunt of Fear #9)

Three of the five stories in the first issue of Terror Illustrated are adaptations of tales that appeared in Haunt of Fear. While the editors have thoughtfully provided new art (and, to be fair, "new" prose), the "reprints" feel like a cheat to me (worse is the fact that seven of the fifteen stories that appear in the three issues are re-boots) and I'd have thrown my scooter to the ground after forking over my two bits, sight unseen. "The Sucker" seems padded but one can't argue with the art in either version. For fun, I've reprinted below the scene where the poor schlub meets vampire girl for the first time. Obviously, EC was going for a more "adult" approach the second time around. "The Basket" provides us with one of our final looks at Graham Ingels, and the master is in fine form. Al warms up his loose adaptation of  "The Monkey's Paw" and Johnny Craig donates some nice pencil work, but I preferred Jack Davis's version and this re-boot of a rip-off seems to move along as slowly as the paw itself.

Rated PG


Carnival barker Tim Haley has been spending time with the lovely Rosa, husband of the carny food concession owner, Hank, but it's not Rosa's lovely gams that have Tim interested; it's the family jewels. Hank is stuffed with carny profits and Rosa is not the sharpest tool in the shed, so Tim sees a way of becoming a wealthy man without doing the grunt work. He talks to carny swami, Krishna ("The one, the only mystic of the East!"), convincing the magician that he'd like to learn a side job. Krishna teaches Haley the ancient secret of "playing dead" by arresting one's breathing. Tim learns fast, blackmails Rosa into cooperating, and then murders Hank. The cops are on to him fairly fast but that was part of the plan. Haley is convicted and sentenced to death but, just hours before the execution (this state moves mighty fast!), the warden and pokey doctor are astonished to see Tim Haley's corpse in his cell. A few days later, as arranged, Rosa comes to claim Tim's body but the warden has a pleasant surprise for our heroine: the state law mandates that executed prisoners be cremated! The prose is a bit on the long side and the outcome is, for the most part, predictable, but it's a decent read and the art is about the best we've seen from Joe Orlando. Carnival barking must have been a pretty popular profession in the 1950s.

Walter is summoned to the estate of his old friend, Paul, and is appalled at the state of the man. Looking years older than his age and babbling about life after death and family curses, Paul's behavior worries Walter to no end. Then Walter meets Paul's sister, Cathy, who also speaks of inherited family curses and being buried alive, and this poor visitor knows he's checked into a real loony bin. That assessment gains even more ground when Paul introduces his old chum to the family mausoleum, equipped with a bell leading to the house, should Cathy or Paul rise from their tomb after death. Cathy grows ill and dies quickly and her brother begins a long vigil, convinced his sister is still alive but, after several days without sleep, Paul falls asleep. The next morning, he bolts from his bed and drags Walter out to the crypt to behold a terrifying sight. Raising the lid of the casket, both men behold Cathy, her nails broken and bleeding from scratching at her coffin lid. Paul, beside himself with grief, falls and cracks his head open on the crypt floor. Several days later, he dies and Walter begins his vigil, waiting for the bell to ring. Jack Oleck pillages Edgar Allan's Greatest Hits and does so with a measure of... boredom and padding. I always wondered, even when reading those old Poe "classics," why these dopes never thought to leave some beer and chips in the family crypt, or at least, you know, leave the lid off the coffin if they were so darned worried about being buried alive. Hell, Poe made a living writing about dumb rich folk who tricked up elaborate ways to avoid being wrongly entombed but would overlook installing little windows. Anyway, the George Evans art is, as usual, nice to look at but don't bother reading the microwaved words. -Peter

Jack-I was very impressed with this issue, even if it had three redone stories. "The Sucker" may have serviceably wordy prose but that Reed Crandall art is gorgeous. Joe Orlando's new style is a real improvement and "Sure-Fire Scheme" is intriguing and well-told. More fabulous art elevates "Rest in Peace," and this issue makes me think Terror Illustrated  is more "terror" than "horror," less graphic than EC horror comics at their peak. Ingels's art is superb in "The Basket," better than much of what we saw from him as the comic book horror run trailed off. I began reading "The Gorilla's Paw" thinking, "oh no, not 'The Monkey's Paw' again," and Johnny Craig's strange mix of comic and magazine style art still looks odd to me, but by the end this story was gruesome and effective.

Bud Parke
Confessions Illustrated 1 (February 1956)

"I Joined a Teen-Age Gang" ★★
Story by Daniel Keyes
Art by Jack Kamen

"I Can Never Marry" ★★1/2
Story by Daniel Keyes
Art by Joe Orlando

"My Tragic Affair" ★1/2
Story by Daniel Keyes
Art by Wally Wood

"I Took My Sister's Husband" ★★1/2
Story by Daniel Keyes
Art by Jack Kamen

"Passion Made Me a Thief" ★★
Story by Daniel Keyes
Art by Johnny Craig

For the first time since A Moon, a Girl... Romance (which eventually morphed into Weird Fantasy) in 1950, Bill and Al decided to tackle something even scarier than butcher shop windows filled with human cold cuts: romance! But rather than fill the pages with juvenile love stories, Gaines took advantage of the new Picto-Fiction brand and had Al commission writers to ape those gawdawful True Confessions rags that were clogging up the newsstands in the mid-1950s, aimed at young girls and their teen angst. And that's the difference between A Moon, A Girl... and Confessions Illustrated; each of the 14 stories published in CI was written from the female protagonist's point of view. Well, that and all the sex, of course.

"I Joined a Teen-Age Gang"
Nan has just moved to New York from Cobs Corner and is having a hard time making friends, so she very hesitantly joins an "auxiliary" gang called the "Tiger Debs," a group of chicks who act as "queens" to a street gang called the "Tigers." Nan's brother tries to talk her out of the foolishness but it's too late; Nan has pledged her loyalty to the thugs and fallen for one of the gang leaders, Hal. She realizes pretty quickly that her chores as Hal's "girl" extend past fetching him a malt, and the poor Nebraskan dandelion loses her virginity to Hal on the Tigers' couch. Unfortunately, things go awry after members of a rival gang, the Greensleeves, attack Nan and one of her fellow Debs. Hal calls for all-out war and the Tigers ambush the 'sleeves in a city park. Nan's brother, Jimmy, arrives to whisk his sis out of the fray but Hal mistakes the kid for a 'sleeve and ventilates him. The two gangs are hauled in to jail and Nan spends her formative years taking care of her paralyzed brother after Mom and Dad die. As dopey and cliched as "I Joined a Teen-Age Gang" is, I enjoyed it. Sure, it's dumb as a Michael Bay film festival, but it's entertaining as hell and pretty risqué as well. Some pearls of writing:

Hal held me close... very close... and as we danced, he kissed my ears and neck in the soft dark corners of the room. [were Nan's ears and neck located, off-body, in the dark corners of the room?]

So there in the darkness of the Tiger's club room, on an old battered couch where hundreds of other girls had been before me, I learned all about love from Hal. 
There was no tenderness in him. NO warmth. No commission. He was a tiger. And that's all that he was. 
An animal. Nothing more.
And I cried.

It lies upon my heart like a stone to know that I was the teenage gang-moll who carried the zip-gun that robbed my brother of a happy natural life...

"I Can Never Marry"
Poor Kitty is in danger of becoming the female Marty, and she's got a mother that won't quit reminding her. Thirty years old and never been... well, never mind that. Time to enjoy herself at a posh remote resort and maybe, just maybe, meet a nice man or two. The first night is a catastrophe until Kitty decides to take six or seven layers of clothing off and live a little. This attracts handsome Burt, who dances and romances Kitty and then asks her if she'd like to... well, never mind that. Kitty is a nice girl and she wouldn't do that on the first date so she waits until Burt proposes and then she jumps into bed with him. Fireworks light up the bedroom until Burt's wife and her private investigators storm into the room and start snapping photos. The real Mrs. Burt explains that the cad does this constantly but this time they're heading for divorce-ville. Kitty heads home, humiliated, and tells Mom her sob story, but if she was expecting sympathy she went to the wrong place. Mama slaps her across the face, throws her out, and tells her never to come back. With her name, picture, and address listed in the gossip column under The Other Woman, Kitty becomes a nomad and drifts from town to town, hoping to find the real Mr. Right someday.

Holy cow, and I thought some of the Shock SuspenStories ended grimly!  "I Can Never Marry" is chock full of depressing situations, horrible human beings, and unsupportive parents, so I guess that would be what a 1950s teenage girl would want to read. Me, I'm pretty happy so far with a title I was prepared to hate with a passion. Is it because my expectations were so low or could it be that the writing is deliberately outlandish, almost tongue-in-cheek? You want to yell out to Kitty that Burt just wants to taste her heretofore virgin flesh, not put a ring on her finger. The poor girl is so enamored with the beast (and worried she'll disappoint her shrewish mother) that she even misses out when he tells her that they'll "become man and woman in spirit, if not name." I wish I'd known that line back in high school.

"My Tragic Affair"
(with Frank Frazetta?)
Fran, the good-girl-who-went-wrong of "My Tragic Affair," doesn't really love boyfriend George and tells him she just needs to get some things off her chest by moving to New York City for a while. But when she gets there and meets wild child Barbara at the YWCA, things go wonky for the small-town pixie. The girls get a pad in happenin' Greenwich Village and meet the groovy artists that frequent the hip coffee bars. When local Michelangelo, Frank, asks Fran to pose for him, a whirlwind affair of love, sexual passion, pregnancy, and abandonment threatens to push Fran to the edge of suicide. After a back alley abortion, George arrives to tell Fran he doesn't care if she did it with the entire Brooklyn Dodgers team, he's in love with her and he wants her to return home with him... even if her cheap operation left her womb barren. So Fran marries George and lives happily ever after. It's nice to see Wally Wood's art gracing one of these things as it gives him the room to branch out but, of course, I'm wishing that EC had published a Weird-Incredible-Science-Fantasy Illustrated so Wally would have been able to go really hog wild. Fran looks a little too much like Marilyn but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The script (unlike the previous two) contains no humor, intentional or otherwise, and the reading is a bit of a slog. The dialogue, as usual, is a hoot, as when Frank coos in Fran's ear, when she's about to give up the goods: "Not only for today," he whispered as we clung to each other, "This is for every tomorrow that will ever become today." I'm still scratching my head at that one.

Bess is the typical little sister to Ellen, who lives with her in their parents' house (Mom and Pop having left them orphans several months before), and so takes an interest in Ellen's new husband, Larry. Problem is, the interest turns to obsession when Bess becomes jealous, figuring Ellen has always gotten the best in life, leaving nothing but dried up roses and empty beer bottles in her wake. Larry moves in with the girls and takes an immediate interest in his cute little sister-in-law, praising her low-cut dresses and eyeing her caboose whenever the coast is clear. After Larry buys Ellen a mink coat, little sister's temper flares and she goes after Larry with a vengeance, not having to push too hard to get the dumb lummox to cooperate. Ellen comes home early one night, catches the adulterous couple in bed, and leaves the house in a huff. Her car crashes and she's killed, leaving both parties feeling immensely guilty but, after Larry packs and leaves, Bess has a really nice house all to herself. "I Took My Sister's Husband," another immensely grim and, yet, oh-so-fun, tawdry tale, makes me wonder if there were actually more hussies in the '50s than there are today. Writer Daniel Keyes can't help but give Beth one more kick to the kidneys in the final panel when she wonders if Larry let the neighbors know what was going on behind closed doors since no one in town will give her the time of day.

"Passion Made Me a Thief"
The fifth, and final, wanton hussy this issue is Stella, a pretty but simple bookkeeper at Praiser Business Bureau, who lives the simple life with much-older husband, Max, and not a lot of spending money. Into her life comes Freddie, nephew of business owner, Mr. Praiser, and owner of the sweetest silver tongue on the East Coast. It's not long before Freddie has talked Stella into a tawdry affair but this Romeo has more in mind. Protesting that he doesn't have the money to do "the things I want to do for you...," Freddie plants the idea of embezzling Praiser's funds in the little walnut-sized brain of the cute but matronly Stella. At first hesitant, Stella finally gives in and starts chipping away at Praiser's accounts, with dreams of a South American life with Freddie clouding her better judgment. Fifty thousand bucks later, Stella enters her office to find two accountants ready to peruse the books, explaining that a tip from an anonymous source claiming Praiser would be missing a really big amount of money sent them her way. After the shortage has been tallied, Stella goes straight to a cell but Max, willing to forgive his scheming, adulterous wife, talks Mr. Praiser into foregoing charges if the couple refunds the stolen money over time. Freddie is caught in Vegas and goes straight to Sing Sing, while Stella returns to a modest, but content, existence with Max, trying to forget about the time that "Passion Made Me a Thief!"

Since these stories are my first contact with the "True Confessions/True Love" genre, I'm finding it oddly unsettling how much I'm enjoying the miseries these five women have endured. While surrendering that I'd rather be reading Rotting Corpses Illustrated, I must say I'm actually looking forward to the other two issues in the series. Perhaps it's just a matter of "something new," and the rote format and sleazy plots will eventually drive me down into a Psychoanalysis-esque depression, but for now I can't wait to see how each dame will dig herself out of each mess (or not, in the case of Kitty and Bess), how they'll give up "all the love they possess" to the bad boy, and just how many chuckles Daniel Keyes's flowery and overwrought prose can elicit. -Peter

Jack: My wife and daughter looked at me askance when they saw me reading Confessions Illustrated, but once I read some of the prose out loud they got the joke. And what a joke! This is a fun issue, for the most part. In four out of five stories, the young lady "gave my love completely to another man" and here are the results:
  • one woman's brother is killed in a gang fight
  • one finds out her fiancée is married when his wife bursts in with a photographer
  • one has a botched abortion that leaves her sterile
  • one barely avoids spending 20 years in jail
Kamen is really the perfect artist for this sort of story and does an especially good job with "I Took My Sister's Husband," but (of course) Wood takes the art honors for this first issue. By the way, if you look closely, the heroine of "I Can Never Marry" is topless in one panel, even if in the shadows. I have to wonder if the male artist in "My Tragic Affair" is patterned after Frank Frazetta, since they share a name, a macho attitude, and look alike. It sure must have been miserable to be a young woman in 1956, based on this issue. Thank goodness for the Pill and Women's Liberation!

Next Week...
Easy deals with racism... again.


Quiddity99 said...

I struggled a bit getting through Shock Illustrated #1 myself as well, especially in that I never even bothered reading Psychoanalysis. I'd agree that it was a bit tedious to get through, although you can really tell that EC is going over the top here in an attempt to be adult, with a girl walking in on her brother masturbating, a group of friends exchanging spouses, and a kid having a child molester for a father. I'd say Kamen's art is decent here, not great. In looking over this issue I realize that we don't get as much artwork as you'd typically get for a picto-fiction issue (smaller art size, more text) and a lot of it is just sitting in the psychiatrist's office. Kamen's art works far better in Confessions Illustrated with more space, and drawing pretty girls being his specialty. Thank God they move away from this format after this issue.

Mother's Day was a story I really enjoyed when it was originally published, and happy to see it here (Fall Guy for Murder is just so-so at best as a story). I'm surprised that after doing so many stories with unhappy endings or endings where the bad guy won, Krigstein suddenly gets a conscience and doesn't want to do it here. Sorry to see him go! Farewell to Arms is by far my favorite for this issue of Crime Illustrated. The twist in "The Sisters" I could see from a mile away. Basically a tamer version of the classic "About Face" story from Haunt of Fear #27

Like you, I'm disappointed to see how much they go back to old stories with Terror Illustrated, even if they are for the most part strong ones. We do at least get 3 new stories per issue starting with the next one. Seems like Gaines wanted Feldstein redoing old stories as a cost saving measure, although you'd wonder then why they only went halfway with it, still doing several new stories an issue. If there's one good thing that came out of it, its the first appearance of "Alfred E. Neumann", one of Feldstein's pseudonyms here.

As for the new stuff, Sure Fire Scheme, like this month's other Orlando story is just a very blase one for me; even if he doesn't get cremated if I'm the lover I let him get buried alive so he can't blackmail me any longer. Its been a while since I've read Poe, "Rest in Peace" comes off similar to "The Fall of the House of Usher", but maybe I'm thinking "Premature Burial" instead. EC does seem to be going more towards high brow terror with this title like you've mentioned; we don't get too much gore here (aside from the last story I suppose) and the next few issues of this and some of the other titles will see the writers taking inspiration from Poe, Bradbury, John Steinbeck and William Faulker at the very least. More on that when we get to those issues.

(to be continued)

Quiddity99 said...

This is my first ever time actually reading the Confessions Illustrated stories (I have looked at the art before) and am finding these stories so over the top ridiculous that they are quite enjoyable. Granted I think a lot of it is just how much we have changed as a society since 1956 when this issue was first published. The stories come off to me as the fake horror stories the Abstinence crowd will tell teenagers to try and get them to stay away from sex. Your siblings will die! You'll have an abortion and be unable to have kids! You'll never be able to get married! And so on. I think these days most of these stories are quite unrealistic; I have a hard time seeing the main character in the first story having a hard enough time in getting friends that she has to join a gang. In the age of no fault divorce, the second story doesn't really happen either (and being unmarriable at an age as young as 30 is quite a joke). Frank fleeing in "My Tragic Affair" is still apt to happen today, but our heroine should be able to make it out okay with a legal abortion instead of being sterilized (although whether her old boyfriend takes her back is questionable). The Husband in "I Took My Sister's Husband"is likely avoiding the sister like the plague so he doesn't have statutory rape charges in that story. "Passion Made Me a Thief" is probably the most realistic today, although I could see the twist coming a mile away.

Peter Enfantino said...

We sure appreciate your comments! I've already completed my reading of the entire Illustrated run and I can only say, with glee, that Confessions gets even better! I'm almost feeling embarrassed to admit a fondness for this particular title but, when compared to the dull fare in the other titles, it's only common sense to gravitate towards over-the-top material.

Will said...

Oh not the Psychiatrist again.

Peter Enfantino said...


My exclamation sounded almost exactly like yours but there was an extra word between "the" and "psychiatrist."