Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Hitchcock Project-James P. Cavanagh Part Four: The End of Indian Summer [2.22]

by Jack Seabrook

In Maurice Baudin Jr.'s short story, "The End of Indian Summer," which was published in the April 1945 issue of Esquire, a clerk at the Triumphant Insurance Company inadvertently discovers three similar claims filed by Marguerite Gillespie, a retired high school French teacher. Every few years, she married a retired man who unexpectedly died while they were on their honeymoon. Each of the three unfortunate husbands was quickly cremated.

Mr. Rogers, an investigator in the Triumphant claim department, is sent to check up on Mrs. Gillespie at her current home in Lafayette. Pretending to be a businessman, Rogers makes inquiries around town about the widow and recognizes a stranger as another insurance claims investigator; Rogers assumes the company sent another man to keep an eye on him.

Steve Forrest as Joe Rogers
Feigning interest in buying a home, Rogers is invited in by Mrs. Gillespie, who introduces him to Charles Raymond, her next husband. After Rogers leaves, he encounters the other detective but spurns the man's offer to compare notes.

The next morning, the other detective tells Rogers that Mrs. Gillespie and Mr. Raymond left town in a hurry. The other detective reveals himself to be Saunders, from Reliable Insurance Company; he was investigating Raymond, who had at least six wives drown in the bathtub on their honeymoon and who collected life insurance on them all! The detectives wonder who will die first--the bride or the groom.

Gladys Cooper as Marguerite Gillespie
The story's title refers to that time each year, in the autumn, when summer seems to return unexpectedly; for Mrs. Gillespie and her latest fiance, it is a time to recover some of the happiness of youth. That period is about to come to an end, however, due to plans for murder.

The author of the story, Maurice Baudin Jr., has seven short stories listed in the FictionMags Index, all but one published in the slicks between 1945 and 1947. IMDb lists two TV shows adapted from his stories, including this one. He appears to have edited several collections of short stories for students and he may be the same Maurice Baudin who taught creative writing at New York University and whose students included Joseph Heller. He may have died in 1982, though a birth year of 1918 suggested in one online source seems unlikely, assuming he was teaching writing at NYU in the 1940s. It's possible there was a father named Maurice Baudin who taught and a son who wrote, but I have been unable to confirm this.

James Gleason as Howard Fieldstone
In any case, the short story was adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents by James P. Cavanagh and aired on CBS on Sunday, February 24, 1957. Cavanagh made important changes to the story and the film benefits from good direction by Robert Stevens and from a strong cast.

As often happened, the screenwriter had to take long, narrative passages from the story and turn them into dialogue between characters on screen. The show begins with an establishing shot, the camera swooping up the side of a tall city building as jaunty music plays on the soundtrack to suggest the fast-moving world of business. There is a dissolve to a close up of a paperweight on a desk; the paperweight bears the logo of Triumphant Insurance Co. We sees claims manager Sam Henderson talking on the phone at his desk; he says, "'No, I'm not going to fire him--not yet'" as Joe Rogers walks into the office and overhears the end of the phone conversation.

Philip Coolidge as Sam Henderson
Sam has discovered that Marguerite Gillespie collected $50,000 each on two life insurance policies when her husbands died on their honeymoons; he suggests that Sam's investigative work was sloppy and that his failure to met the beneficiary in person caused him to overlook this unusual situation. By creating this initial scene, Cavanagh turns exposition into dialogue and gives Joe a good reason for later thinking that the second investigator was sent by his boss to check up on him. Sam assigns Joe to find Mrs. Gillespie and tells him to take along his wife so she can protect him from the femme fatale.

Kathleen Maguire
as Helen Rogers
The scene then shifts away from the city to the bucolic, rural town where Mrs. Gillespie lives. There is another establishing shot, this time showing the charming small town, nestled in a valley. The camera looks down from a hill overlooking the town and the music fits the languid, country setting. There is a dissolve to the exterior of a large, country hotel, then another dissolve to Helen Rogers sipping coffee at a table in the hotel dining room. Joe's wife, a character who does not exist in the short story, is played like a romantic young female lead from a 1940s' film, with a tailored suit and a perky attitude. In the first scene, she is used as a dialogue partner for her husband and little more. She notices the other investigator staring at them and Joe follows him into the lobby, where the man is heard inquiring about Mrs. Gillespie. Joe and Helen discuss Joe's certainty that the man has been sent to check up on him, but here--unlike in the short story--the events of the first scene make his concerns seem reasonable.

Joe and Helen then visit a real estate office and ask if the Gillespie home is for sale; inexplicably, Joe insists on visiting Mrs. Gillespie alone, without his wife. He does so and finds Mrs. Gillespie to be a somewhat older woman than the one described in the story; she admits that she is "'house proud'" and she is delighted to show off her home to the stranger. The scene between Joe and Mrs. Gillespie features a shot of the sort that often appears in episodes directed by Robert Stevens--the camera is placed in a low position, looking up at the characters, with an inanimate object positioned in the foreground to draw our attention. The object this time is a teapot and, as the widow serves tea to her guest, we wonder if this is how she poisoned her husbands.

Coincidentally, Mrs. Gillespie takes this opportunity to discuss the loss of her two bridegrooms. At this point, Howard Fieldstone arrives (he was there already in the story) and asks Joe if he wants to buy the house. They had been keeping their wedding plans a secret but Howard is anxious to tie the knot.

After some amusing dialogue among Joe, Marguerite, and Howard, Joe opens the front door to find the other investigator waiting on the porch and Joe gives him the cold shoulder. Another interesting shot follows in the next scene, as Joe brushes his teeth before a hotel room mirror and we see Helen, sitting up in bed, reflected in the glass. She comments that Joe always feels protective and sentimental toward old folks, but when a bellhop brings a telegram the mood changes: it's a report from the home office that Mrs. Gillespie has requested a $50,000 life insurance policy on Mr. Fieldstone.

Cavanagh adds another new scene where Joe and Helen sit together in the hotel dining room and discuss the lack of proof that Mrs. Gillespie has done anything wrong. The other investigator is stationed at a nearby table and Howard Fieldstone wanders in. Joe introduces him to Helen, suggesting that Fieldstone looks healthy and surely could pass an insurance physical. Fieldstone diverts suspicion by commenting that he has no use for insurance but he and Marguerite both passed physical exams that morning, at her insistence. He mentions that other people are interested in buying his fiancee's house and that the wedding is imminent.

Hal K. Dawson as
the real estate agent
Later that evening, Joe and Helen are back in their hotel room as Joe is on the phone, still trying to get damaging information about Mrs. Gillespie. He gets a call and learns that her house sold that afternoon; once again, he rushes off alone, leaving his wife behind. At Mrs. Gillespie's house, the real estate agent answers the door and the couple is gone. The other investigator arrives and the final conversation between him and Joe plays out much as it does in the story. The dead wife count has been reduced from six to four and Joe responds that Mrs. Gillespie had two husbands cremated "'before we could find out how she poisoned them.'"

James P. Cavanagh's script for "The End of Indian Summer" succeeds in taking a very short story that has little dialogue and turning it into an entertaining short film with plenty of interaction between characters. Adding Sam Henderson, Joe's boss, strengthens the credibility of Joe's belief that the other investigator is watching him; in the short story, this was something that had no foundation. Joe's wife, Helen, gives him someone to talk to when he is investigating Mrs. Gillespie; unfortunately, she is forced to miss key scenes, and thus her character's function is less clear. By expanding the character of Howard Fieldstone, Cavanagh makes the surprise ending even more delightful, since both the male and female murderers have been presented as charming characters.

Robert Stevens (1920-1989) does another fine job with the episode's direction; he clearly sets the scene twice with establishing shots and uses unusual camera placement more than once to increase visual interest and to suggest menace that is not evident in the dialogue. Stevens directed 49 episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Place of Shadows."

Ned Wever as Saunders
Starring as Joe Rogers is Steve Forrest (1925-2013), who was born William Forrest Andrews, the younger brother of Dana Andrews. Steve Forrest fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and had a long screen career, mainly on TV, from 1951 to 2003. He appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("Post Mortem"), as well as on The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. He starred on the series S.W.A.T. during the 1975-1976 TV season.

Dame Gladys Cooper (1888-1971) shines as Marguerite Gillespie; born in London, she began acting on stage as a teenager and started her film career in the silent era. After juggling stage and film roles for decades, she focused mainly on film after 1940 and began to appear on TV in 1950. She appeared three times on the Hitchcock show, including "What Really Happened," and she also was on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Hitchcock cast her in Rebecca (1940). She was made a Dame in 1967 and kept acting until the year she died.

Mike Kuhn as the bellhop
The doomed (or is he?) fiance, Howard Fieldstone, is played by veteran character actor James Gleason (1882-1959), who started out on stage and who served in the Army in WWI. He appeared in film from 1922 to 1958 and on TV from 1952 to 1958; he was very busy in films in the 1930s and 1940s. This was one of two appearances he made on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Giving personality to an underwritten role is Kathleen Maguire (1925-1989) as Joe's wife, Helen. She appeared almost exclusively on TV from 1949 to 1981, including three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Philip Coolidge (1908-1967), who appeared in a total of seven episodes of the Hitchcock series, plays Sam Henderson, Joe's boss. He was on screen from 1947 to 1967 and had a part in North By Northwest (1959).

In smaller roles:
  • Hal K. Dawson (1896-1987) as the real estate agent; he played bit parts on screen from 1930 to 1980 and also was seen in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "You Got to Have Luck."
  • Ned Wever (1899-1984) as Saunders, the other investigator; he was a star on radio in the 1930s and 1940s and played Dick Tracy. He was on screen from 1955 to 1968 and appeared in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Night the World Ended." He also had success as a songwriter.
  • Mike Kuhn (1932- ) as the bellhop; as Mickey Kuhn, he played children in classic films such as Gone With the Wind (1939) and Red River (1948). His career petered out in the 1950s and he appeared in his final film in 1956. He was on TV three times, all in 1957 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and then he left show business.
Read "The End of Indian Summer" for free online here. Watch the TV version online here or order the DVD here. Read the Genre Snaps take on this episode here.

Baudin, Maurice. "The End of Indian Summer." Esquire, Apr. 1945, pp. 54–55, 151.
"The End of Indian Summer." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 2, episode 22, CBS, 24 Feb. 1957.
The FictionMags Index,
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Heller, Joseph, and Adam J. Sorkin. Conversations with Joseph Heller. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1993.
Hoffman, Mary. At Home Anywhere. New Rivers Press, 2010.
"Ned Wever." Dick Tracy Depot,
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Nov. 2018,

In two weeks: One More Mile to Go, starring David Wayne!

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 2: Creepy! (1965)

The Critical Guide to 
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Creepy #3 (1965)

"Swamped!" ★★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Tell-Tale Heart!" ★★★
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"Howling Success!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Haunted!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Incident in the Beyond!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Return Trip!" 
Story by Russ Jones
Art by Joe Orlando

With a posse hot on his tail, escaped con LeRoy Kane stumbles across a gen-you-wine Southern estate in the middle of the swamp but, as most Kane luck goes, he also comes across somethin' bad. Inside the mansion resides a family of vampires, who quickly attempt to put the bite on the nonplussed refugee. Kane makes a deal with the bloodsuckers; he'll lure the posse to them if they'll spare his life. The vamps follow along in bat form and ambush the posse but everyone knows that vampires are notorious for going back on their word. Kane is taken back to the mansion and locked up, but he escapes the following day and stakes the family while they are resting in their coffins. Confident in his ability to survive, he heads back into the swamp as the sun goes down and is set upon by a new peril: the posse, now transformed into vampires! I like that Archie didn't make the big twist that the family was something other than what we thought; he puts it right out there halfway through the story. The real twist to "Swamped!," the undead posse, is handled very well and is a legitimate surprise. Angelo Torres's art has always been hot or cold with me (it's either just right or too sketchy) but it here it's perfectly adequate.

"Tell-Tale Heart!"

Archie's adaptation of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," the story of a man who dives headlong into insanity because of his master's "evil eye," is faithful, but the obvious attraction here is Reed Crandall's iconic artwork. Unlike George Evans, Crandall's fellow alumnus at EC, Reed only seems to have gotten better with the passing decade. The black-and-white presentation only makes the shocking reveal that much more effective.

"Howling Success!"
Joe Schneider's a no-good bum who can't even pick the right horses and he's got a nagging wife, Ethel, who reminds him of said fact every night. One night, after a round of drinking, Joe heads out into the night and stumbles onto a werewolf enjoying its latest meal. The creature chases Joe into a cemetery but the terrified runt is able to squeeze through the bars and escape disembowelment. Joe gets a great idea and tells the werewolf to meet him back in the same spot the following night and he'll feed the nagging battle-axe to the monster. The next night, Joe coaxes "big mouth" out to the spot but the beast is a no-show. That is, until Ethel emerges from the car as... the werewolf. Supremely silly (so Joe lived with this woman for how many years without discovering her secret?) fear fiction has some atmospheric Torres art but little else.


Despite warnings from his cousin and his lawyer, Mr. George decides to hold on to the "Haunted!" hotel he has inherited from his uncle. George hires an "authority on ghosts," Mr. Ransome, to spend the night with him in the hotel to dispel any fears. Almost immediately, the pair are subject to three separate occurrences of what appear to be ghostly suicides, reenactments of deaths that had taken place in the hotel decades before. Ransome isn't buying it, so he digs a little deeper and discovers George's cousin and lawyer behind a curtain with a film projector. When George asks Ransome how he could be so sure the hotel was not haunted, the supernatural PI disrobes down to his skeleton and exclaims, "It takes one to know one!" Like "Howling Success!," "Haunted!" is a really nice story to look at but don't dare read the words. The climax is inane (not much word of mouth for a ghost PI who gives away his secret and then kills his employer, is there?) and the plot might be as skimpy as the salary Warren had Archie on.

"Incident in the Beyond!"
A space ship attempts a long journey by testing a new warp drive that will enable the ship to travel millions of miles in a short time. The previous ship, launched twenty years before, disappeared without a trace. Just as the ship is about to make the jump into warp-drive, an alien vessel approaches. Despite several transmissions, the aliens fail to respond and are destroyed when the captain deems them a safety risk. The journey resumes; the rocket enters warp-drive and exits into an entirely different solar system mere minutes later. Their mission a success, our heroes head into a "reverse-warp" and find themselves back at Point A, where an alien ship sits, waiting. A voice on their radio identifies the ship as being from Earth but our crew discovers that their radio has been damaged and can't respond. As they are fired on and destroyed, they realize that the ship in front of them is the next test rocket sent to find them after they disappeared twenty years before. And so on and so on.

"Return Trip!"
If anything else, "Incident in the Beyond!" proves teenager Archie Goodwin was a Weird Science/Fantasy fan and took copious notes. "Incident..." has the same structure and twist as a dozen Al Feldstein "time is a string" stories that ran in those two titles. Gray Morrow's work on this (as well as on the previous story) is nicely done, with a look of photo-realism to some of the panels. As a Monday Morning Quarterback (who's already read most of these Creepy and Eerie stories a couple of times each), I'll just say that the Warren titles excelled at the horror and fell a little short when it came to SF.

As his decaying corpse shuffles toward his old homestead, the resurrected Arthur Forrest flashes back to how his wife, Gloria, and her lover, Fred, murdered him and inherited his fortune. "Return Trip!" limps along to a cliched and abrupt climax: Arthur gets to his house, strangles Fred, and gives Gloria a great big kiss. The End. Re-reading these stories for the first time in three decades, I'm struck by how weak and pirated these scripts are but, as I recall, the writing got better a little further into the run. At least, I hope it did. -Peter

Jack: Reading these for the first time, I'm enjoying them more than you are! I like how "Swamped!" mixes classic themes, with a convict lost in the swamp finding an old mansion full of vampires. The art is excellent and the finish satisfyingly gruesome. "Tell-Tale Heart!" is a classic story with great art and a nod to EC when one policeman exclaims, "Good Lord! --Choke--" I wasn't too impressed with Goodwin's new frame, though. I was surprised by the ending of "Howling Success!" and the art is good but I had trouble with the scene where Joe has an extended conversation with the werewolf. Since when do werewolves understand English and listen patiently? "Haunted!" is a familiar tale with a silly ending but I love Morrow's shadowy art. I agree with you, Peter, that the sci-fi stories are a disappointment; I knew what was going on in "Incident in the Beyond!" right away. The biggest surprise in this issue was the decent art job by Joe Orlando on "Return Trip!" His rotting corpse is well done and the story's end made me laugh.

Creepy #4 (1965)

"Monster Rally!"★★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Blood and Orchids!"★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Al McWilliams

"The Damned Thing!"★★
Story by Ambrose Bierce
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gray Morrow

"Moon City!"★1/2
Story by Larry Engleheart
Art by Al McWilliams

"Curse of the Full Moon!"★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Trial of Adam Link!"★★
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Joe Orlando

"Monster Rally!"
Chased by villagers wielding pitchforks, a ghoul accepts refuge in a horse-drawn van driven by a hunchback. They ride to Transylvania and the hunchback locks the ghoul in the dungeon of a castle owned by Dr. Habeas, who is busy replicating Dr. Frankenstein's famous experiment. Also in the dungeon are a werewolf, a mummy, and a witch, but the vampire has escaped! Dr. Habeas is trying to unlock the monsters' secret of immortality, but when the rogue vampire kills a woman in the nearby village, the villagers storm the castle gates. Dr. Habeas tries to use his monsters to protect him but they turn on him and the villagers burn the castle to the ground. Over time, from the "slime and muck of the wreckage," something emerges--a little baby Uncle Creepy!

"Blood and Orchids!"
I LOVE this story! An homage to EC's "A Little Stranger!," Goodwin's aptly-titled "Monster Rally!" uses the Universal monsters and a swipe of Vincent Price to tell a ridiculous tale that combines many of our favorite elements of classic monster movies and ends up as a wholly unexpected origin story for our host. Torres's art is gorgeous and the final image--of a baby with scraggly gray hair on a balding head--is absurd and priceless.

When a man is found in the bog with two puncture wounds on his neck and his body drained of blood, the local constable summons the doctor, who wonders if the body is that of a sailor who delivered items from the nearby port to the home of the countess. The doctor visits the countess, who is oddly pale and hates mirrors. She shows him her prized orchids and tells him that they grow at night and only in their native soil. After another corpse is discovered, the doctor checks his handy-dandy book on vampires and puts two and two together. He rushes to the countess's home and finds the constable newly-dead but, to his surprise, the countess is not a vampire--she is using the victim's blood to feed her blood-eating orchids. The tendrils of one of the plants strangle the poor physician.

More terrific art by Al McWilliams does not save "Blood and Orchids!," a story that points the reader squarely in the direction of vampires but then makes an inexplicable left turn at the end and reveals bloodthirsty orchids that strangle their victims. One problem: who killed the sailor in the bog? Did the orchids take a little stroll? And why did he have puncture wounds in his neck? Do the orchids have fangs? What about the second victim? None of it makes any sense. Maybe we're supposed to think the countess is skulking around pretending to be a vampire in order to feed her plants.

"The Damned Thing!"
Just what is "The Damned Thing!" that Harker claims killed Hugh Morgan? The dead man's diary tells the story of an invisible creature that made itself known in the area around Morgan's cabin; when Morgan tried to shoot it, it ripped his throat out. The men at the coroner's inquest insist that the deed was done by a mountain lion, yet Harker insists that the creature bears a color outside the spectrum visible to the human eye. After Harker leaves and the men head outside, the creature kills the coroner and is visible to him at the point of death.

Ambrose Bierce was a wonderful writer and Gray Morrow a superb purveyor of sequential art, but Archie Goodwin's adaptation of the classic horror story seems to go nowhere and be over in a flash. There's very little suspense and no surprise when the title monster appears at the end, nor did it make sense that it was suddenly visible, though I guess it was necessary to have the final shock.

Easily the highlight of "Moon City!"
"Moon City!" took years to design and build, and young couple Will and Jennifer Chambers wait patiently for the day when they can move there to start their new life together. They arrive at Moon City and are met by ravenous German Shepherds.

Yes, that's it. Perhaps the most anticlimactic story we've seen yet in Creepy. It goes without saying that McWilliams's art is excellent, but the story is about as thin as it could be. Moon City is built, they move in, and bang--hungry dogs. The end. Really? These sci-fi stories are not fitting in well.

A Red-Riding-Hood-esque scene
in "Curse of the Full Moon!"
Riding through 19th-century Bavaria, Sir Henry Langston's coach driver is killed by a werewolf and Sir Henry wanders into the woods, where he finds a gypsy camp. An old woman reads his palm and pronounces that he is marked with the "Curse of the Full Moon!" due to a scratch on his palm in the shape of a pentagram. He will die at the next full moon at the paws of a werewolf, says she, so he goes to his well-appointed hunting lodge and enlists the aid of his lederhosen-wearing pals, Fritz and Oskar, to melt down all the silver into bullets so he'll be ready for the werewolf's attack. Waiting alone by the light of the full moon for the wolf man, Sir Henry is attacked but manages to kill the big furry guy, who turns into the old gypsy woman's son after he dies. What Sir Henry did not predict was the fact that, as a victim of a werewolf attack, he now turns into one himself, and is promptly shot by Fritz and Oskar.

A classic werewolf story, set in Bavaria in the 19th century and featuring an old gypsy woman, this is hard not to like. Throw in some Germans in shorts and suspenders and I'm hooked, especially when Reed Crandall is translating the words into pictures. Funny how quickly the curse works on Sir Henry, though--he turns into a werewolf in no time and stands there talking to the gypsy woman in his new state. Suddenly, the unusually attentive female werewolf in last issue's "Howling Success!" is not so unusual after all.

Doesn't this look like Sekowsky's work?
("The Trial of Adam Link!")
Yes, it's "The Trial of Adam Link!" again! Accused of killing his creator, the sentient robot stands trial and is sentenced to death in the electric chair. No one seems to care that he's saving people left and right--he's a monster and must die. Stay tuned for more yawn-inducing events in the robot's life!

Some of the panels in this tired retread made me think Mike Sekowsky was doing uncredited inks over Joe Orlando's pencils. Not possible, is it?

In addition to the INCREDIBLE Frazetta cover, the last story is followed by--no lie--13 pages of ads, including the back cover. The ads are fantastic but the best has to be hawking the 8 mm movie projector for $9.98. Did anyone buy this?-Jack

Peter: What a racket Joe Orlando had going with this Adam Link nonsense, illustrating the same stories a decade apart (we covered the equally dreary EC version of "The Trial of Adam Link!" here). Perhaps the then-recently-aired Outer Limits adaptation had convinced Archie that Adam Link was the way to go. "Monster Rally!" comes off as lifeless instead of the fun shindig it should have been. I'd lay blame right at the feet of Angelo Torres's use of monster movie stills (perhaps borrowed from the pages of Famous Monsters), as his images look just like stills instead of depicting movement. The still swipes are random as well. "Moon City!" begins with an intriguing concept, spins its wheels, and then dumps its abrupt and out-of-left-field climax right in our laps. The rest of the issue is equally weak, with the clear highlight being Reed Crandall's fine art for "Curse of the Full Moon!" Nice to have Maria Ouspenskaya show up for a cameo as the gypsy woman. The familiar plots and the predictable climaxes were doubtless down to Goodwin's huge workload (which would triple in a very short time with the coming of Blazing Combat and Eerie!).

Get your orders in quick!

Next Week..
Jack has had enough of George Evans
Look for our 150th Anniversary Issue of
Star Spangled DC War Stories
at a finer Internet stand near you!

In Two Weeks...
Get Ready for
Blazing Combat!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Journey Into Strange Tales! Atlas/ Marvel Horror! Issue 28

The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 13 
January 1952

Suspense #13

"The Strange Man!"  (a: Joe Maneely) 
"When Willie Woke Up!" (a: Pete Morisi) 
"Speak to Me"  
"The Serpent" (a: Mike Sekowsky) 
"The Man Who Built the Ark" (a: Bill Walton) ★1/2

The Farrel Brothers freak show in Atlantic City has hit hard times. Seems no-one wants to see fat ladies and pincushion boys anymore; the Brothers need a new hook. So, brother Johnny grabs what's left of the cash and heads out on the road to find that next big... thing. He finds it in New Mexico and excitedly writes brother Ken a note to let him know the new attraction is on its way. As Ken is reading the note, the new attraction, the Man from Mars, enters his doorway and introduces himself. Just days later, the freak show is overflowing with paid customers, folk who are just dying to get a look at "The Strange Man!"

Soon after, the freak show muscleman is found dead, his blood drained, and Ken wonders what ever happened to his brother; the cards and letters abruptly ended. The speculation ends when a cop shows up at the tent to let Ken know Johnny's body has been found in New Mexico, and in the same condition as the recently departed muscleman. Ken confronts the Man from Mars, who confesses to the murders, a certain fondness for blood, aand the ability to morph into any person he desires (the only aspect of a Martian that can't change is the six fingers on each hand). Ken heads to the cops, and as the Martian warned, they think he's a loon and have him committed. No one will believe his story except his asylum doctor who, curiously, has six fingers on each hand. Another in the seemingly unending supply of carnival/circus/freak show tales, "The Strange Man" falls comfortably right in the middle in terms of quality. There's nothing terribly original here but at least we get to eye Joe Maneely's graphics while we wait for the totally predictable outcome.

In "When Willie Woke Up!," Willie can only escape his tormenting wife when he snoozes and magically brings forward a gorgeous gal who treats him like a million bucks. Willie's shrewish ball-and-chain catches on and wakes him every few minutes to end his little paradise, but the poor little man summons a gorilla who strangles Willie's wife and makes living a whole lot easier for Willie. In the equally disposable "Speak to Me," George Moreland wakes up one morning and notices his maid has packed his things and his wife is holding hands and talking about marriage with a man in the kitchen. If that's not enough to raise a man's ire, George can't get anyone to talk to him on the street or at the office. You'd think he was a ghost or something. Oh, well, that's because he is as George stares the utterly predictable proof right in the face in the final panel.

At the Connors Carnival (located just west of the Farrel Brothers Freak Show), strongman Bruno just can't understand why he can't get trapeze artist Simone to fall in love with him, but the girl spurns his every advance. Losing her patience and more than a little nervous that the situation could escalate, Simone sees serpent tamer, Lois, for her advice. Lois visits Bruno and tells him that if he doesn't stop the stalking, she'll feed him to Bobo, her pet boa. Deathly afraid of snakes, Bruno quickly agrees but the carnival magician has a better idea: he'll sell the muscleman a love potion for a hundred clams. Bruno spikes Simone's milk in her trailer and then heads for his own quarters to wait for the girl but he gets the surprise of his (short) life: turns out Bobo escaped his cage, visited Simone's trailer and downed all the milk on the table! "The Serpent"is like a good, quick joke with a funny punchline; who would name their boa Bobo? Since it's only four pages, I didn't mind Mike Sekowsky's crude doodles that much but I sure wouldn't want to take a second look.

The planet Arcturus is heading for a collision with Earth and only one man has the wealth and knowledge to provide an answer. Unfortunately, that man is Professor Mark, who also holds the Gold Cup for Most Selfish Man on Earth as he throws aside down his assistant's advice to aid his fellow scientists ("What? You know they expelled me from  their group because I refused to stop working on my zombie experiments!") and begins work on an ark that will carry him and a select few to another world. The ship is built and blasts off but experiences a hiccup (to put it mildly) at mid-journey when the controls freeze and the craft is thrown off course. Only Mark and his comrades are surprised when they make a landing on a gorgeously vegetated planet and claim it as their own. Only one problem: they've landed on Arcturus! It's safe to say that "The Man Who Built the Ark" is the only successful attempt at mixing the sub-genres of "Colliding Worlds" and "Scientist barred for immoral zombie experiments." The wild thing is that the zombie angle is brought up and then completely discarded; I thought for sure the Ark would have landed on a world full of the critters but, no, there's just the derision of his former colleagues. A bit of a stretch that the pilot (hand-picked as the best in the business) wouldn't recognize Arcturus, especially since it's supposed to be hurling towards Earth! But, whatever... excuse or revel in the inanities; "The Man Who Built the Ark" is goofy fun and Bill Walton contributes some nifty visuals.

 Mystic #6

"The Eye of Doom" (a: Basil Wolverton) 
(r: Weird Wonder Tales #1)
"Nothing" (a: Manny Stallman) ★1/2 
(r: Vault of Evil #21)
"The Old Lady's Son" (a: Vernon Henkel) 
(r: Beware #5)
"She Wouldn't Stay Dead!" (a: Bill LaCava) ★1/2 
(r: Chamber of Chills #8)

Spaceman Hoyt Gilpin returns from Venus with a strange tale for the scientist who greets him: his partner, Lon Ullrich, had been attacked and absorbed by giant eyeballs. Naturally, his tale is met with doubt, until he opens his knapsack and reveals the giant orb within. The thing absorbs Ullrich and then the scientist. As with most of Wolverton’s comic book stories, the script is secondary to the fabulously eccentric art. An argument could be made (and I’m sure I’m not the first to make it) that the underground comix “style” was created by Wolverton. One glance at "The Eye of Doom," or any of his pre-code work, could convince even the most staunchest naysayers. Wolverton may be one of the most aped horror/science fiction artists of the 1950s (the other being, of course, Graham Ingels). The absurdity of floating eyeballs that suck humans into their innards is pushed aside by how cool these absurdities look when rendered by Basil. Imagine Don Heck or even Jack Kirby attempting this stunt. Wouldn’t work.

No one knows why brilliant scientist Richard Phillips has stepped out onto his ledge and threatened to jump until he tells his sad, but fantastic, tale: Dick has created a time machine and, on his first trip, he sets the dials on his wayback machine to ten years in the past. Of course, he’s a bit confused when he gets to 1941 and he finds… nothing. Literally nothing. No wildlife, no flora, no civilization. Thinking he’s set the dial way too far back and arrived at the dawn of time, Dick guides his gizmo back to his present-day laboratory, only to discover the error he made was to set the dial to ten years in the future! Knowing there’s nothing to look forward to, Richard Phillips steps off the ledge. Though it’s a bit predictable, “Nothing” is still an enjoyable little bit of fluff with nice art from Golden Age regular, Manny Stallman.

Gorgeous “entrepreneur” Lily Wells answers an interesting want ad from an old woman looking for a companion. Hoping to latch onto a rich old spinster she can get rid of in the near future, Lily interviews with the kindly old woman, Mrs. Mason, and quickly receives the job. Once she gets out to the creepy estate, Lily begins to endear herself to Mrs. Mason, who tells the girl that she’ll really like her son when he comes home. Now the dollar signs are flashing and Lily does everything she can to earn the old woman’s trust. Things begin to get spooky though when one of the villagers stops by and warns Lily she’s the fourth girl to answer Mrs. Mason’s ad and the first three vanished into thin air! And, Holy Hannah, how about those mysterious exsanguinated animals found on the moors? The poor, conniving con artist finds out what’s going on when "The Old Lady’s Son" finally comes home. There’s no mystery to speak of and the climax is anything but a surprise but it’s a nice touch that we never actually see the son (only his shadow); we only hear the carnage.

Walter can’t stand his nagging wife, Amanda, so when she has a massive heart attack and dies, he’s relieved rather than somber. The twist, though, is that Amanda is “reincarnated” into Walter’s favorite statuette, the beautiful Jolie. Lacking Amanda’s awful singing voice and constant nagging, Jolie quickly becomes a wonderful companion to Walter, despite the obvious height difference, but Walter soon feels the need for more than just companionship and falls in love with the gorgeous Elaine. Too late, Walter discovers his landlord accidentally broke Jolie into a million pieces at the exact time Walter met Elaine! It’s crystal clear, once they’re married and Elaine gains that singing voice, that Amanda’s soul is on a multi-body tour. Goofy and all over the map, “She Wouldn’t Stay Dead” is a delightful little romp highlighted by the final panel wherein the frustrated Walter sits, face in hands, thinking, “The rest of my life with this! I’ll go nuts!”

 Astonishing #8

"The Hanging Terror" (a: Russ Heath) ★1/2 
"The Man Eater!" (a: Norman Steinberg) 
"Behind the Wall" ★1/2 
"The Finger" (a: Fred Kida) 

Behind one of the coolest and most graphic covers this side of EC (not only is this guy being drowned... not only is there a group of ghouls as witnesses... but there are lobsters heading for his soft parts!) lie four tales of varying quality. Shall we?

It's 1942. An odd phenomenon has been spotted by noted astronomer Dr. Albert Bell: a square satellite hovering between the Earth and the moon. Even more ominous is the fact that "The Hanging Terror" is man-made! Is it an invasion from space or, as the military believes, the Russians setting themselves up to become rulers of the world by launching the first space battleship? The army convinces Bell and a group of elite specialists to build a canon that can blow the warship from space. It takes "all the atomic power in our reserve stock" plus all of England's supply of U-235 to build a seventy-ton cannon shell but the job is finished and a huge cannon is crafted to propel the bomb into space.

But, as usual, loose lips sink ships and the Russkies get wind of our super-bullet and send their agents to steal the weapon and transport it to (the military was right!) their huge pillbox. They turn the cannon on Earth, with America firmly in their sights, and pull the trigger. Ka-blooey! The space station is destroyed since the Americans knew the dirty Commies would steal the cannon and turn it on us. The world is safe once again! So, there's an odd one for ya. Not that Atlas wasn't in the "We hate Commies!" game that most comic book publishers used to boost sales but this is a story set in 1942, years before the Russians became our arch-enemies. Dr. Bell certainly gives in quickly to the military's idea that the satellite is of Russian construction; none of the usual "mankind has not reached these levels of science yet!" protestations.Still, the yarn is a good one, far-fetched as it is (my favorite bit is the final panel, which explains that the story was "fully explained in the little fire-scorched book" found, ostensibly floating in space!), and provides a lot of smiles and giggles.

A farmer and his wife are the first victims of "The Man-Eater," (actually it should be Man-Eaters, since there are two of the galoots) a menace from space that kills and then devours every one of its victims. It's not long before thousands of people nationwide have been picked to the bone and the public is not being patient with law enforcement. Why can't these things be tracked and killed? Well, very soon we discover why; the monsters can also shape-shift into any human they desire. They could be your next-door neighbor, your school teacher, your butcher, or even your ex-wife (especially your ex-wife)... there's no telling what disguise they'll take next. On a Florida-bound bus, a gorgeous woman is seated and , all around her, the other passengers question her identity. Could a woman as beautiful as this even exist? Luckily, Phil, the "company cop" boards the bus and promises the passengers their safety. But, when the lights go out, the monster's true identity is learned!

The puzzling final sequence of
"The Man-Eater"
"The Man-Eater" starts out promisingly but finishes on a somewhat anti-climactic note, as if the writer was cruising along with some fabulous epic and then realized he had four panels to wrap this thing up. Trouble is, it's not wrapped up. The narrative goes from nation-wide plague to the silly bus twist (and we all know who the monster really is the second Company Phil steps on board) and leaves us without closure. And whatever happened to Man-Eater #2? I have to say though, I really dig Norman Steinberg's art; there's some very graphic stuff here and his drooling creatures are definitely an E-ticket

Sam has had to live in misery for years with his wife and her brother, constantly nagging him and never lifting a finger to help. Then, Sam gets a bright idea on how to get rid of at least half the problem. He decides to brick up the septic tank in his basement and his brother-in-law will never be missed if he should become part of the construction. Sam gives the big dope a fatal clop on the head and dumps him in the drink but then fate plays a trick on Sam; his usually shrewish wife has decided to come home early and brought some workers with her. She's going to surprise Sam for his birthday!  Sam has no other choice than to join the corpse in the muck and keep quiet as the brick is laid over his head.

"Behind the Wall"
"Behind the Wall" is the typical "shrewish wife-mousey husband" nonsense but it does actually wrap up with a stellar climax. Alas, if you take a gander at the (uncredited) artist's work, you'll know that the basement isn't the only thing that smells bad. Last, but certainly least, this issue is "The Finger," a SF tale about a creature from another dimension that gets its finger stuck in a trap. Other than a decent, very Ditko-esque, showing by Fred Kida, this one is a six-page slog barely worth the effort.

Adventures Into Weird Worlds #1

"The Walking Death" (a: Russ Heath)
"The Mad Man" (a: Sol Brodsky)
"The Terrible Tree" (a: John Tartaglione)
"The World That Vanished" (a: George Tuska)

Unfortunately, this is one of the few Atlas comic books I have no access to. If and when that oversight is rectified, AIWW #1 will be covered in a future post and this disclaimer will be replaced by some pithy comments.

In Two Weeks...
the first four-star classic of 1952!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 149: June 1974

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Weird War Tales 26

"The Survivor"
Story by John Albano
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Jump Into Hell"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"A Time to Die"
Story by Jack Oleck
Art by Ernie Chan (Chua)

Peter: During the first World War, French Corporal Deauville racks up some pretty astounding numbers as far as German kills go. He's a one-man wrecking machine (and he prefers hand-to-hand combat rather than from afar), but his comrades are deservedly spooked by the man's elan (and queer cackling) during battle. Then, one day during battle, Corporal Dupree has a deserting German in his sights but Deauville prevents the man from firing. It's as if Deauville wanted this particular German to survive. Later that day, that particular German, Corporal Adolf Hitler, muses with a medic on how lucky he is that the French are such poor marksmen.

"The Survivor"
The Hitler twist has been used a few too many times, but "The Survivor" is not that bad despite the obvious silliness (Deauville - oh how subtle you are, John Albano!) and the shorthand needed to fit all this information into six pages. Alfredo Alcala does his job even if there's nothing special to illustrate (give me Alcala werewolf over Alcala Satan any day). Alfredo does double duty this issue and jumps wars to WWII for "Jump Into Hell," a contrived and cliched mess about a band of paratroopers who literally jump into hell when they stumble on a centuries-old Satanic cult that performs human sacrifices for eternal life (I think). Every century (or so the legends say), the town of Germelshausen rises from hell, takes a few pounds of flesh, and then sinks back into hell. So, why bother performing the act if you have to be swallowed back into the pit again? Who knows. At least it looks nice.

"Jump Into Hell"
A year after abandoning his crew to escape his burning plane, Captain James Davis lies in a hospital bed, drifting in and out of a coma. The doctors can hear Davis's mad ramblings about saving his men, but what the docs don't know is that the captain is in a dream-world, trying to go back and correct his fatal mistake. He connects with his men on the "other side" and discovers the men were fated to die the next day in the desert. Now that he's found peace, the captain dies in his hospital bed. "A Time to Die" is yet another cliched Oleck script; it's also maudlin and forgettable. The finale, when one doctor questions whether a man can live in two places at once and another doctor shrugs and empties desert sand from the dead captain's shoe, is about as predictable as they come.

"A Time to Die"
Jack: I knew you would be happy to see two stories by Alcala! In "The Survivor!," Deauville reminded me of a baseball player who takes steroids. You don't really want him on your team until he hits a home run. The Hitler ending was just dumb. "Jump Into Hell" features some nice work by Alcala, especially in a large panel where blank-eyed peasants attack soldiers. The town that reappears every hundred years reminded me of a Satanic Brigadoon. I liked "A Time to Die" the best, even if Chan drew it and not Alcala. The story kept my interest even though the ending with sand in the shoe was strictly from hunger.

Star Spangled War Stories 180

"The Doomsday Heroes!"
Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Jack Sparling

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Walt Simonson

Peter: Over the Pacific, the Unknown Soldier poses as a pilot and must put his all-around military skills to the test when he's suddenly surrounded by kamikazes aiming for a US battleship. At the moment of truth, the jet's guns jam and US is forced to ram a diving plane, sending both pilots into the drink. US prevents the Japanese pilot from committing harakiri and the two head off in a skimpy life raft to find safer waters. Mines and Great Whites keep the pair busy until they wash up onshore. The two have formed a cautious alliance but, once the duo has landed on a small island, the enemy pilot clobbers our hero and swims out to sea to destroy a crippled aircraft carrier just off-shore. Grabbing hold of a mine, the pilot gets within range of destroying the ship but is eaten by a shark just before completing his mission. The Unknown Soldier swims back to the island to ponder life and wonder why there is war.

The Sparling art that had kinda grown on me by our last installment is grating on me with this one. It's really awful. "The Doomsday Heroes!" is the 28th US adventure and, I believe, the first to omit one of those scenes where our hero takes his face off (I'm assuming he's using a new form of latex since he doesn't seem to have the itching problem that gave him away to the Nazis a few issues ago) and shows those obligatory bandages. That gauze must have gotten a bit wet, no? The plot is one that's been used a million times in war comics and movies and this variation adds nothing new. This strip is heading for a slump unless Frank Robbins can find fresh ideas for "the man that no one knows but who is known to everybody."

Gerry Boudreau's "Return" is a sequel to "U.F.M." (from SSWS #170), and it's more of the same ponderous and cliched science fiction but, like its predecessor, it's nicely illustrated by Walt Simonson, and sometimes that's all that matters.

Jack:  As I began to read "The Doomsday Heroes!" I thought it was just a retread of a similar story we saw awhile back in the Sgt. Rock series, but as it went along I got wrapped up in it and found it exciting. My only complaint is that the hero could be anyone and the fact that he's the Unknown Soldier seems meaningless. This is a rare tale where the writing is better than the art. The opposite is true of "Return." The story isn't much but, once again, I'm thrilled to see Walt Simonson's dynamic pages. Too bad all of the men in this future world wear their hair and beards like it's 1974!

Our Army at War 269

"A Man Called Rock!
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by George Evans

"The Mighty Mosquito"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #49, September 1957)

"The Sergeant and the Gun!"
Story by Robert Bernstein
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #63, November 1958)

"Stop the War--I Want to Get Off!"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #196, August 1968)

"Death Ship of Three Wars!"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #101, February 1964)

"Foxhole Fever!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by John Severin
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #65, January 1958)

"No Loot for the Hellcats!"
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #114, August 1968)

Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

"A Man Called Rock!"
Jack: "A Man Called Rock!" leads three replacement soldiers across the edge of a cliff in North Africa when one of the green apples falls onto a ledge below. The other two new men lower Rock down by a rope to rescue the new recruit, but a German plane happens to fly by and its bullets cause a break in the rope, allowing Rock to slide to the foot of the cliff. When he is unable to climb back up, he wanders off and is taken captive by natives, whose chief leads Rock around by means of a rope around his neck. When a Nazi tank approaches the natives' village and starts blasting away, Rock blows up the tank and saves the chief. Fortunately, Easy Co. locates Rock at this point and the dreadful tale comes to an end.

"The Mighty Mosquito"
When I saw the Kubert cover to this issue, I got excited and thought it looked so appealing that I would buy it today! I love the DC 100-page format. However, the first story is not a good one. I can set aside allowances for changing times, but the idea of a tribe of black villagers in North Africa is hard to accept. Even more surprising, for a 1974 comic story, is the caption where Rock thinks of the villagers as "hairy-lookin' monkeys." This is the same company that published so many stories on race relations in the late '60s and early '70s! Kanigher's script must have been bare bones, because many panels are free of captions or dialogue. The story is uninvolving and borders on offensive.

Not much better is "The Mighty Mosquito," a reprint from 1957 with typically strong Kubert art but also typically cornball writing by Ed Herron. The title craft is a small PT boat that finds itself in the middle of a battle with much larger planes and ships. Of course, in the end, it's the little boat that saves the day and earns the title moniker.

"The Sergeant and the Gun!"
When a Soviet MiG destroys the tractor that pulls a big gun, a lone sergeant must enlist the aid of locals on the move to transport the gun to its destination. Along the way, he has to use his wits and some armaments to destroy any enemy that stands in the way. Leave it to Mort Drucker to deliver the best story so far in this big, fat issue, and it's a reprint from 1958! Drucker's realistic art is so detailed and impressive that I found myself turning the pages in this six-pager to see what happens next. The yellow-skinned locals and the Soviet MiG make me peg this story as happening in the Korean War, though time and place are never mentioned.

We then get a reprint of the classic Rock story, "Stop the War--I Want to Get Off!" from 1968, followed by "Death Ship of Three Wars!," a Johnny Cloud reprint from 1964 that Peter and I had very different reactions to when we wrote about it in 2015. Another former EC artist, John Severin, contributes "Foxhole Fever!," a story new to us because it was first published in 1958, before the 1959 start date for issues covered in our War Comics blog. A soldier named Al is an expert at digging foxholes, but when he finds himself in combat he has to resort to a series of makeshift shelters instead of digging the real thing.

"No Loot for the Hellcats!" follows, a '68 story about Hunter's Hellcats featuring some nice work by Russ Health, before the issue wraps up with another new story, "Horseless!," by the team of Bob Kanigher and Ric Estrada. After the cavalry wipes out an Indian village, a lone brave follows them and steals their horses. They track him and find that he has ridden into a dead end canyon. The cavalrymen can't climb the slope after him at night in the snow, so they decide to wait till morning. In the morning, the brave is still alive, having skinned a horse and worn its skin to keep warm, while the cavalrymen are dead from the freezing temperatures overnight. The title has a double meaning, since the cavalrymen are both "horseless" in the sense of having no horses to ride, and "horseless" in the sense of not having a warm horse hide to wrap around themselves to avoid a frozen death. The story is effective but Estrada's childish art pales next to the likes of Drucker, Kubert, and Heath.

Peter: I disliked Robert Kanigher's script and George Evans's art for "A Man Called Rock!" immensely. Where does Rock find the time to be in all these different places and training so many green recruits and why would he be separated from the rest of Easy? Big Bob's monstrous monthly workload obviously contributed to the cut-and-pasting from past scripts and the silliness thrown in to ramp up the drama (doubtful the Nazis would waste firepower on a bunch of harmless natives and then sit tight inside their tin can while Rock set them ablaze). Best just to forget this sub-par Sgt. Rock and hope for better out of both Kanigher and Evans next issue. Much better is "Horseless!," another grim "Big Bob's Gallery of War" entry, with passable art by Estrada. Yes, I'd rather this was illustrated by John Severin, but there aren't a lot of close-ups of human faces so Ric's art doesn't grate.

The three reprints offer up a lot of nice artwork from Kubert, Drucker, and Severin, along with the patented catch phrases and impossible GI odds and situations that 1950s' DC War titles excelled in. Any of the three are certainly preferable to the main event this issue.

G.I. Combat 171

"The Man Who Killed Jeb Stuart"
Story by John David Warner
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Sword of Blood!"
Story by John David Warner
Art by Ric Estrada

Peter: While rumbling through Italy, the boys of the Jeb Stuart come across a kid named Rod Carson, who's escaped from the decimated town of Carola. He begs the crew to take him to the village so that they can save the men who are trapped by the Germans. After getting the GI aboard, the Haunted Tank heads for Carola, but something about Carson is nagging at Jeb Stuart (the tank commander) and that same nagging extends to the ghost who "protects" the Haunted Tank. The General materializes to his descendant and insists the Jeb should stay clear of Carola and, further, should drop Carson off on the side of the road and leave him be. Jeb (the younger) explains that they can't shirk their duty and the General disappears in a funky vapor. Later, the General appears before Carson and tries to talk sense into him as well, but to no avail. Just then, a sniper cuts down Carson and the crew assumes he's dead, so they roll into Carola to blow the hell out of some Nazi bastards. Carson shows up in the nick of time to save Jeb from eating German shrapnel and Carson's comrades are saved. The General makes another appearance to confirm to the younger Stuart that Carson is the descendant of "The Man Who Killed Jeb Stuart."

"The Man Who Killed Jeb Stuart"
There's a jumble of confusing war action to start off this very-average war tale and Glanzman's art is... well, Glanzman's art, but one aspect of the script interested me and that's the increased "screen time" of our favorite Civil War General. There's quite a bit of interaction with Dead Jeb, but writer John David Warner never explains why Carson is not startled by the appearance of a ghost on a horse. It's almost as though Carson's been waiting for this day. Does his descendant appear to him as well? Unfortunately, Warner doesn't explore these avenues and the whole mess ends up very puzzling. Warner is also responsible for the back-up, "Sword of Blood!," a sequel to "Swords at Dawn" (from GIC #159). I really liked the earlier chapter and this one, about Samurai Zenkiyata (the quickest blade in the East), and his campaign to avenge the murder of his master, Mukaido, is equally involving. Warner keeps the action moving and throws in a couple of interesting twists but I just cannot get on the Ric Estrada train. His art is very cartoony and the subject matter requires something a little more... maybe, Severin-ish.

"Sword of Blood!"

Jack: Another example of an issue where the writing is better than the art, G.I. Combat 171 is hobbled by more sub-par work by Sam Glanzman and Ric Estrada. Twenty-one year old John David Warner brings some fresh ideas to what has become a stale comic book. The increased involvement of the ghost in the first story is welcome, as is the small history lesson. The second story reflects the kung fu craze that was in full swing at the time.



Here's how our favorite war titles did in 1973 (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 three previous years as well. After a growth spurt in 1972, sales of DC war titles are down across the board (in the case of G.I. Combat, drastically so), but then so were sales of just about all comics titles.

                                                        1973         1972         1971              1970         
G.I. Combat                                    161,702    170,557    167,841         178,363     
Our Army at War                            163,221    165,021    161,881         171,510     
Our Fighting Forces                       147,968    156,524    164,142         139,770     
Star Spangled War Stories              144,292    154,716    145,869         136,204

Amazing Spider-Man                     273,204     288,379    307,550        322,195
Batman                                           200,574     185,283    244,488        293,897
Superman                                       240,558     252,317    325,618        329,925

Next Week...
This is what happens when you
read too many comic books every week!