Monday, May 20, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 8: September/October 1966

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

Eerie #5 (September 1966)

"The Mummy Stalks!"★1/2
Story by Roy Krenkel and Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Jungle"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Al Williamson

"Black Magic"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"A Matter of Routine!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

"Dr. Griswold's File!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"The Swamp God!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

"Vampire Slayer!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti and Joe Orlando

"The Mummy Stalks!"
"The Mummy Stalks!" Or so it seems at the museum after a guard is found dead near the mummy case of Harat-Ankneb, the guard's body horribly mangled. Inspector Nigel of Scotland Yard is on the case! After a policeman is killed in a similarly horrible fashion, Nigel decides to take the next night watch himself. Around midnight, with moonlight streaming through the museum windows, the inspector observes the mummy come alive as a werewolf! Fortunately, Nigel has a silver-handled cane and succeeds in beating the werewolf-mummy to death.

Only five issues in, and how many times have we already seen the werewolf bit? Reed Crandall's art is delightful and I was happily going along with the story, wondering what was killing people and why they were so mangled. I thought that it would not be a straightforward explanation, this being Eerie, but when it turned out to be a werewolf I was let down, basically because it's so stupid. I should have known--at Warren, the big reveal seems to be either "it's a werewolf" or "it's a vampire," and there were no neck puncture holes in sight.

"The Jungle"
Greedy Leo should not have shot the witch doctor and headed off into the Amazon jungle with a bag of valuable shrunken heads, say his two companions. Back in his village, the dying witch doctor comments that "The Jungle" will take care of the evil white man. And he's right! A snake bites one of Leo's companions and Leo, rather than try to suck out the venom, finishes off the poor man with a shot from his pistol. Leo's other companion finds himself tumbling into a lake of hungry piranha. Alone, Leo tries to hack his way through the undergrowth but eventually is strangled to death by vines that almost seem sentient.

Slightly better than the mummy story, this jungle story features more sharp art and a wafer-thin plot. We know from the start that Leo will get his just desserts; the only suspense in the short six pages is how. The conclusion, once again, is a letdown--why do the vines strangle Leo and why is his machete suddenly less than effective? It matters not--all that counts is the final image of him hanging dead in the jungle.

"Black Magic!"
Way back in the Dark Ages, Europe was a scary place! An expert in "Black Magic!" by the name of Valdar holds court at a castle, demonstrating his powers and conjuring up a spirit to kill a man who dares doubt them. He heads for the crypt, only to be met by a very old man, his former teacher, who warns him of the consequences of what Valdar is about to do. Ignoring the admonitions, Valdar heads down to the crypt and raises from the dead a beautiful woman whose corpse has been decaying for a century. Her mind does not seem to come back with her beauty, however, and she attacks Valdar's assistant with fury. Valdar recites a spell to reverse her revivification, but he joins her in decomposing. His ancient teacher reveals that he had raised Valdar from the dead years before, and we are left to assume that Valdar's spell of reversal not only affected the woman, but also Valdar himself, who reverts to skeletal form.

This panel reminds us of the work of Jack Davis
("Dr. Griswold's File!")
I quite like Ditko's work in "Black Magic!" and think it shows why it's such a shame that he had a fit and left Marvel when he did. Valdar is almost a dead ringer for Baron Mordo and his old teacher is a de-Orientalized Ancient One; there are plenty of Dr. Strange-like flourishes, including those special Ditko finger positions. Goodwin's story is exciting and moves swiftly from start to finish; for once, the conclusion is not a disappointment, though for some unexplained reason the woman who is revived seems to have the fangs of a vampire in one panel.

Commuting home from work every day is "A Matter of Routine!" for George Simmons. He sees the same folks on the rush-hour train and utters the same phrases, day after day. But not today! Today, he opens the front door of his home to witness a scene of horror: a barren landscape where violent creatures rip a man to pieces! That man turns out to be his friend Phil, who tells George that he's entered the land of the dead. George insists he's not deceased and makes a run for it, only to be captured and brought before the executioner. But wait! Something's wrong! George's name is not yet in the ledger book! Suddenly, he finds himself back in mid-commute and when he reaches his front door, he wonders--should I open it?

Gene Colan turns in another masterful art job on this intriguing tale of one man's malaise being interrupted by horror. Once again, Colan's page layouts are inventive and follow no panel rules, and the full-page drawing (see below) when he opens the door is quite impressive. I also like how Goodwin ends the tale on a question mark.

We don't actually see Croft being
devoured... ("The Swamp God!")
Dr. Harry Griswold disinters recently-buried criminal Vincent Coe and brings the corpse back to life in his laboratory. Dr. Griswold's lovely wife, Lucille, wants an emerald pendant that costs 4000 pounds (this being 1910 London, that would be just over $600K today), so Dr. Griswold has the reanimated corpse/zombie pull a patient's card at random from "Dr. Griswold's File!" and then go and rob the patient. Coe can't help himself and also kills the people he robs, but this doesn't faze Dr. Griswold, who just needs the money. Soon, he has enough cash to buy the pendant and gives it to his wife, who promptly announces that she wants a 2500 pound fur coat to go with it! Dr. Griswold sends Coe out on another mission, but this time the zombie returns with an emerald pendant, and the doc recalls too late that his wife used to be his patient.

It's not a good sign that Carl Wessler has joined the ranks of Warren's writers, though the GCD tells me he'll only write one more story for the publisher in the '60s. The advent of Wessler coincided with the decline of EC and his work later on at DC was not too great, either. This story is not that bad, though Mastroserio's art veers from what may be swipes of Wally Wood (the doctor's wife) to one panel that really looks like Jack Davis's work (when the zombie pounds his second victim).

Great White Hunters Douglas and Croft sit in a boat as Johnny, their native guide, poles them deeper and deeper into a mysterious bayou in search of "The Swamp God!" After Johnny explains that his people have spent generations offering human sacrifices to the beast, he stops at a spot he calls the killing ground, blows a horn, and summons a Tyrannosaurus Rex, untouched by time, which gobbles up Croft, since Douglas's rifle seems to have stopped working. To Douglas's horror, Johnny blows the horn again and, as the monster heads back for a second course of Douglas, Johnny admits that he removed the bullets from the hunters' rifles. After all, he's tired of his own people being fed to the beast and from now on he plans to use only outsiders!

I got a chuckle from the ending of this story, which plods along without much surprise and which features decent but not superb art by Angelo Torres. Of course, it's tough when the story you illustrate turns out to be the one Frank Frazetta chooses to turn into the cover, which is invariably spectacular.

Yep, she's a vampire all right!
("Vampire Slayer!")
Baron Alexi is a "Vampire Slayer!" and he's so proud of it that he tells everyone within earshot on a luxury liner. Countess DeVille thinks his story is in poor taste and storms out of the dining room, but soon they're cozying up to each other and he's calling her Corrine. When her luggage is unloaded and is the size of a coffin, the baron begins to suspect something's amiss, and when he visits her creepy home, he's certain, especially when he sees a drapery covering a large mirror. He's about to pound a stake into her heart when the drapery falls off and he sees that she casts a reflection, so he apologizes and destroys all the tools of his trade. Unfortunately, she does turn out to be a bloodsucker after all, and the reflection in the mirror was none other than her twin sister, a ghoul!

The bottom of the barrel has officially been scraped by the last story in this fair to middling issue of Eerie. The GCD credits Grandenetti on pencils and Orlando on inks; though Joe signed the final product, it sure looks like Jerry's work to me. Goodwin was really leaning hard on vampires and the end, where a ghoul is thrown in for good measure, is worthy of a groan.-Jack

"A Matter of Routine!"
Peter-"A Matter of Routine!" is far and away the best story this issue and the name Gene Colan has become something of a barometer for quality in these parts of late. Each one of Gene's assignments is like a short noir film, virtually drowning in atmosphere and bad vibes. Runner-up is Steve Ditko's masterful job on "Black Magic," returning to the genre he pretty much created with Marvel's Doctor Strange. Yes, the punchline seems a bit far-fetched (why would the sorcerer revive a corpse as a pupil?) and coincidental, but it works nonetheless. Not so most of the other tales this issue. A mummy who's really a werewolf? Oh boy, I never saw that one coming! A vampire who has a ghoul for a sister? Enchanting! One last gripe on my part: why is that Jack and I are the only ones who seem to realize that putting Joe Orlando art on the final story of each issue is tantamount to tacking on a Yoko One tune to an expanded version of Abbey Road? Didn't Archie want to have the readers closing the cover on a high note?


Creepy #11

"Hop-Frog!" ★★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Archie Goodwin
Art by Reed Crandall

"Sore Spot" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Doorway!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Dan Adkins

"The Black Death!" 
Story by Ron Parker
Art by Manny Stallman

"Beast Man!" ★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"The Devil to Pay!" ★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Norman Nodel

"Skeleton Crew!" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Angelo Torres

The King surely loves his sadistic fun and his court jester, "Hop-Frog!," born with deformed legs, is usually his majesty's target for vicious barbs. Hop-Frog does his best to swallow his pride and continue his pranks and antics but when the king mistreats the jester's young dancer friend, Trippetta, he can take no more and devises a nasty game of revenge. He tricks the king and council into dressing as orangutans to startle the villagers and then acts the hero when he strings the three costumed royals up and burns them alive. Hop-Frog and Trippetta then escape the kingdom to seek out whatever happiness a dwarf and a pre-teen girl can find. At least I think she's a pre-teen... is the girl actually a dwarf as well? Regardless, this isn't Poe's best work but Reed Crandall seemingly could do no wrong.  There are a heck of a lot of checkerboard patterns here and yet nothing Reed draws gets lost in a muck of squares. Poe will get a lot of mileage from the Warren zines in the years to come.

When executioner Henri Arnaud drops the guillotine blade onto the neck of accused murderer Claude Remarque, some of the man's blood sprays onto Arnaud's shirt. When he gets home, he discovers the stain has not only soaked through his shirt onto his chest but that the blood won't wash off. The stain becomes a growth and, by story's end, we discover that Arnaud framed Remarque for a murder that Arnaud himself committed. The finale finds the executioner lying dead on the floor of his flat from a self-induced gun wound, the sore having finally grown into the face of Claude Remarque. For just a few pages, "Sore Spot" actually shows some promise but its inane plot twist and awful graphics sink it fast.

"The Doorway!"
Charles Damon, "secret guard at Project Zeus," discovers that the lab of the Project's top scientist, Doctor Crane, has been destroyed and the egghead is missing. Exploring further, Damon discovers a strange inter-dimensional "doorway" and enters it. He plunges into a vast darkness but finally lands on some kind of platform, where he encounters Professor Crane, running for his life from a winged demon. The creature catches up with the scientist, kills him, and enters his body. Crane is able to hold on to his own faculties long enough to explain to the security guard that he had been tinkering with the black arts and cut a hole into another dimension; he pleads with Damon to kill him before the demon takes over and invades our world.

Damon shoots the professor, but the monster parts ways with the dead flesh and attacks our hero; both stumble through "The Doorway!" Damon awakens from unconsciousness, destroys the doorway, records his final message on tape and, believing the creature is inside him, commits suicide. An officer enters and erases the tape, musing that he'd better get started on opening another doorway so the rest of his demon pals can help him take over this new world.  Sure, it's pretty far-fetched (Professor Crane remarks that "scientific study only takes you so far..." so he had to pick up a copy of the Necronomicon down at the corner bookstore) but "The Doorway!" is also very effective and (even though it's very obvious this is a job for Wally Wood) Dan Adkins does a nice job visualizing the other-dimensional beastie. I love that Archie is exploring those weird in-between dimensions that HPL and Clark Ashton Smith excelled in.

"The Black Death!"
Jacques and Pierre make a living off the dead by dragging victims of "The Black Death!" to the outskirts of their village and burning the bodies in a huge pit. They then rummage for valuables and sell the plague-infested baubles to rich and unaware customers. Their latest stooge is the wealthy (but not too bright) Count Eschelles, who gives the deadly pair lots of dough for the jewels they bring to his castle. The next day, J&P are summoned to the Count's estate, where they are told to haul off his dead body and burn it (this plague incubates just like that!). The two dummies decide to return after their shift to the estate to search for the jewels they had sold to the count the day before. They find the treasure but discover, too late, that the count knew the pair had killed him and set a trap for them.  A bad riff on Stevenson's The Body Snatcher, "The Black Death!" is just too dumb for its own good. Author Parker whips up a plague that must incubate and fully engulf the victim within minutes, since the Count has time (while huge boils grow on his body and he vomits blood) to erect an elaborate revenge trap! Manny Stallman's art is wretched; objects and humans seem to just blend together without any kind of lines to hold their forms in. It's all just a yecchy mess. While I wouldn't exactly call Stallman's pre-code Atlas work (which I'm currently dissecting every other Thursday) ground-breaking, it certainly was better than his limited 1960s' work for Warren.

All eyes are on the "Beast Man!"
"Gorilla" Ames, a carnival attraction who can take any man daring to get in the ring, has a big problem with his new heart. The carnival doc (an animal vet/constant drunk) patches Ames up when his ticker goes bad, swapping out his heart with that of an ape. Only problem is, Ames now dreams he's transforming into a "Beast Man!" and savagely killing innocents at night. Only Ames's boss, Walsh, and the doc know there never was an operation; the men simply told Ames he was getting a good ticker to keep his mind off quitting the carnival. But Ames is convinced he's become savage and, very soon, Walsh will agree. A whole lot of fun without a lot of strain on the brain, "Beast Man!" is a mixture of all sorts of horror cliches but Archie does it in such a tongue-in-cheek fashion that we can forgive the overcooked ingredients. Picture this as a really bad Universal-International flick from the late 1950s, starring Lon Chaney as "Gorilla" Ames and Whit Bissell as Walsh. Ditko's art is great but Steve sometimes has a problem with conjuring up attractive female characters (see the splash), though he's certainly got the headlights down (see page 2!).

Nodel page 2
The same Nodel
four pages later
In "The Devil to Pay!," Lugerio, Duke of Corona, tires of his shabby existence and attempts to make a pact with the devil to trade up to the good life. Unfortunately, Satan is on vacation and one of his grunts gets the task of making Lugerio happy. Explaining that Lugerio's soul is already lost to the devil and that he'll be poisoned by one of his assistants in only a year, the demon offers up a consolation prize: the upcoming poisoning will be postponed if Lugerio can convince another man to offer up his soul willingly. Bribes and threats won't work, so the Duke has to resort to his other vocation, black magic, to come up with a potion that will render one of his subjects weak to suggestion. Subject in hand, Lugerio meets up with the demon, only to learn he has accidentally put a spell on Satan himself. And Beelzebub ain't too happy about it. I didn't care for Archie's script at all; it's way too familiar (yes, I know I'm never consistent, since I just gave "Beast Man!" high praise despite its familiarity), and the twist is just dumb. What's with Donald Norman Nodel's art on "The Devil to Pay!"? The first two pages are filled with very interesting, intricate images (as if done in woodcutting) and then, abruptly on page three, we get the Nodel we saw on "Undying Love" (Eerie #4), cartoony and unimaginative.

"Skeleton Crew!"
A pair of sea pirates, Manuel and Carpenter, pull their small tug up to a huge freighter, ground on a shelf, and board her with an eye to loot. They stumble onto a terrifying sight: the white, skin-free skeletons of the crew! When they stumble onto a skeleton with a log book in its bony fingers (oh yes, you heard me correctly!), Manuel reads the journal while Carpenter goes to investigate the cargo hold. The diary tells a terrifying tale of nightly murders and a black shadow that descends on the crew, one by one. When Manuel gets to the final entry, he screams in horror to Carpenter to get out of the hold but, too late, as he looks down at his partner in crime, writhing in agony amidst a carpet of army ants. I've got a whole boatload of questions concerning army ants and just how smart they are. First of all, we're told (in the journal) that the ants were loaded into a box by angry natives during a stop-over. Fair enough, but how do you get a billion, zillion ants to behave in one box for several hours and only come out now and then to "feed" and then return to the crate? How is it Manuel and Carpenter don't see any sign of the ants when they board? None of the little critters were harmed during their lunch-time activities? And, when confronted by a sea of ants, why not jump into the ocean? This has to be one of the dumbest scripts we've yet read.

Trivia: For some reason, the contents page lists "Trial By Fire" (which appears in Eerie #6) instead of "The Doorway!" And no "Creepy Fan Club" page this issue.-Peter

Jack-"Hop-Frog!" was easily the highlight of this below-average issue of Creepy for me. Archie does a great job adapting Poe's story and Crandall's line work is exquisite. Next best is "The Doorway!," which has art by Adkins that seems like a cross between Wally Wood and Steve Ditko. It's all downhill from there. "Beast Man!" has a weak story and is not Ditko's best work, while "Skeleton Crew!" seems like a fairly good tale of horror in a confined space until the head-scratching climax with the ants. "The Devil to Pay!" is the least bad of the three real clunkers; "Sore Spot" is clearly more ghost work by Grandenetti, while "The Black Death!" seems like a mix of proto-Corben and Sam Glanzman, which is not a pretty sight.

Next Week...
Things go from bad to worse
on the Kirby front!


Glowworm said...

Perhaps it's just me, but I actually love "The Devil to Pay" and actually find the "cliches" to be rather innovative. Usually the Devil pops up right away when someone makes a deal with him, wittingly or unwittingly. Here, one of his subordinates actually shows up instead and has the gall to tell the Count that the Devil is far too busy to deal with the likes of any paltry worshiper like him and that his soul has long been taken so he can't pledge it to the Devil.
I also found the ending where the Count unknowingly enchants the Devil in disguise to take his place to be hilarious.

andydecker said...

The mummy is a werewolf? Yeah, that is kind of dumb - even if I can't remember reading it elsewhere -, but I liked it more than the "my monster killed my wife and I deserve it" pun at the end of "Dr.Griswold's File". This one was a stupid groaner with boring art which could easily have been in one of the DC mystery titles.

Did the magazines ever develop an identity? The stories in EERIE and CREEPY are interchangeable until now, and there are just too many monster tales. "My twin-sister is a ghoul!" Terrible, just terrible.

Glowworm said...

andydecker--brace yourself, there's a continuous series that will eventually show up in issues 48-56 of Eerie, and 61-63 called Curse of the Werewolf revolving around a man who has a werewolf curse. At one point, his body is transferred with that of a mummy--and yes, he still transforms during the full moon!
"Dr. Griswold's File" reminds me of an old Atlas/Marvel tale that I can't recall the title where a man has a zombie kill people and bring back money for him so he can impress his girlfriend/woman he loves--eventually the zombie kills his girlfriend and brings back her jewelry which he recognizes.

Peter Enfantino said...

That Mummy/Werewolf series (written by Steve Skeates) is legendary. If you can't wait a couple years till Jack and I get there, you can read my complete dissection of this hilarious series here: . I pretty much call Skeates's writing insane and loony but, years later, when a writer was putting together a bibliography of Skeates's work, Skeates had him contact me for permission to use one of my quotes I wrote about a story he did for Creepy in the mid-70s. Skeates even wrote me about the troubles he was having with the Werewolf/Mummy series. Classy guy.

Andy- I feel your pain. It's getting tougher and tougher to pump out a synopsis for some of these offerings (don't get me started on Adam Link) but this is a voyage of hills and valleys.

Quiddity99 said...

For the most part agree with your takes on Eerie #5; "A Matter of Routine" is my favorite story of the issue with amazing Colan art, and "Black Magic" is fairly good too. "The Swamp God" is a so-so story but I always love Torres' art (sad that we're almost to the end of his Warren career). Carl Wessler I recall at least doing a few good stories for Warren in the 70's. Granted, I also recall him completely ripping off one of his old EC stories too. I think by this point Goodwin is too overloaded with script and editing duties and needs help, so I'm not totally opposed to him bringing in an old EC vet like Wessler. I think this is the final entry we got Jerry Grandenetti ghosting for Joe Orlando and we'll finally get some stories credited under his name soon.

I'm actually a lot higher on Creepy #11 than you were; I enjoy "Sore Spot" quite a bit, same for "Skeleton Crew". In fact I'm fairly high on all of the stories with the possible exception of "The Black Death", a story for which I've never been able to read the actual ending for as my copy of this issue has the last couple of pages torn out.

Andy: Yes, the Warren magazines definitely form their own identity although it will be quite a while until we get there (early to mid 70's). At this point Creepy and Eerie are pretty much interchangeable aside from possibly certain artist usage (for example Eugene Colan gets used in pretty much every Eerie issue but doesn't appear anywhere as often in Creepy).

I look forward to the eventual appearance of the "Curse of the Werewolf" series which is very, very far off at this point. While the art was often quite iffy, the story was just so ridiculously over the top with the twists that happen.