Monday, July 15, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 12: May/June 1967

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

Eerie 9 (May 1967)

"Fair Exchange"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Neal Adams

"Rub the Lamp!"
Story by Allan Jadro
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Terror in the Tomb!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Rocco Mastroserio

"The Wanderer!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Dan Adkins

"Isle of the Beast!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge!"★1/2
Story by Ambrose Bierce
Adapted by Archie Goodwin
Art by Bob Jenney

"Experiment in Fear!"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan

An awesome splash page
from the great Neal Adams
Rich old Mr. Mannix pays disgraced Dr. Courtney to transplant his brain from his sick, dying body into the healthy body of a handsome young man whom Mannix has drugged and had kidnapped. The operation is a success and Mannix murders Courtney in order to keep him quiet and avoid paying him a king's ransom. He torches Courtney's office just to cover his bases. Mannix returns home but when the sun streams through his window the next morning and he disintegrates, he learns that it wasn't such a "Fair Exchange" after all, since the young man whose body now houses his brain is a vampire!

More gorgeous Neal Adams art can only go so far when it is applied in service of a cliched script. Adams does some experimenting with layout, including one entire page tipped on a slight angle (unless this was a printing error), and it reminds me of some of Gene Colan's layouts, but his art is so crisp and beautiful I really can't complain. "Fear Exchange" might have been a better title.

A pretty neat large panel from
Jerry Grandenetti ("Rub the Lamp!")

Rabid antique collector John Coates finally finds what he's been looking for--Aladdin's Lamp! He finds a secluded spot where he can "Rub the Lamp!" and wishes for $50,000, but is distressed when his wife dies in a fire and he gets a check for $50,000 from the life insurance company. Next, he wishes to be immortal. Soon he's bitten by a vampire and his wish is again granted, just not in the way he expected. Finally, he uses his third and final wish to request that he be reunited with his wife. He trips and falls, impaling himself on a jagged piece of wood and joining his spouse in death.

Another vampire story? All stories involving three wishes follow the same path, and this one is no exception; the fun comes in the unusual or unexpected ways the wishes are granted. Coates is not sophisticated enough to avoid what seem like obvious traps, and--help me!--I kind of liked Grandenetti's wacky, highly-stylized artwork. It seems better suited to stories of the supernatural than to realistic war tales.

Now that's scary!
("Terror in the Tomb!")
Archaeologists Carstairs and Bristol find "Terror in the Tomb!" when they discover an Egyptian mummy next to a sealed door covered with hieroglyphics. They blast open the tomb and the mummy comes to life, but a thrown torch succeeds in dispatching it. Too bad the mummy was the only thing guarding the real horror that they have set free--a killer-ghoul Pharaoh!

I must be in a good mood, since I thought this story was pretty cool and even enjoyed the artwork. I was worried that we'd discover the pharaoh was a vampire, but all he has are a couple of rows of sharp teeth, the better to eat you with, my dear.

A surgeon's patient dies on the operating table and is taken to the hospital's morgue, where he soon awakens and causes a ruckus. The doctor rushes to see him and the patient tells a strange story of dying in a car crash and finding himself in Hell, where monsters with long fangs pulled him ever downward. Suddenly, after a long time of suffering, he found himself pulled upward and awoke back in his body! The doctor insists on keeping him in the hospital for observation, realizing that the patient who just died had a heart attack and the car accident victim was from two years before. The doctor encounters a Hell-beast in the hallway dressed as an orderly and then finds the patient, reduced to skeletal remains.

The incomprehensible last
page of "The Wanderer!"
Dan Adkins is in full Wally Wood mode here and Goodwin's story proceeds along with some semblance of clarity until the final page, which is nearly incomprehensible. My short summary was an attempt to make sense of what happened but I'm open to other interpretations of "The Wanderer!"

Amberson is shipwrecked and washes up on the "Isle of the Beast!," where Rochefort tells him he grew tired of hunting shipwrecked men with weapons and so invented a formula to turn himself into a beast who could hunt his prey without weaponry. He sets Amberson loose in the island's jungle and chases him down. To his dismay, the full moon reveals that Amberson is a werewolf, and that werewolves are better fighters than beasts.

Yawn. Referring to "The Most Dangerous Game" in a story that rips it off doesn't excuse the ripoff. The twist ending of "Surprise! I'm a werewolf/vampire/giant bug" is really wearing thin and we're only on the ninth issue of Eerie. Ditko used some kind of wash technique here that blunts his usual effectiveness.

Not what you want to see upon entering a house
for the first time... ("Isle of the Beast!")
Peyton Farquhar is hanged during the Civil War for trying to burn a bridge, but the rope breaks and he escapes under water and makes his way home to his wife. Just as they are about to embrace, he snaps out of his reverie and his neck snaps--the whole thing was a dream in the split second before he died.

It's hard to go wrong with Ambrose Bierce's classic story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." It was done on both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone and I had a super 8 sound film of the Twilight Zone version back in the '70s when it was not in the TV syndication package, even though I did not have a super 8 sound projector. Those were the days. In any case, Goodwin's adaptation is faithful to the original and Bob Jenney manages to do a half-decent job of drawing the events as they unfold. At least the lead character, Peyton Farquhar, doesn't turn out to be a vampire in the last panel.

"An Occurrence at You Know Where!"
Those nasty Nazis are at it again! In a concentration camp, a new "Experiment in Fear!" is being run by Dr. Strasser, who hooks Jewish prisoners up to a gizmo that measures their terror as he tortures them with real and fake poison gas until he finally kills them. The result is a record of terror that the Nazis can use as propaganda to show the weakness of the Jewish race. One night, Strasser gets drunk at a party and decides to check on his experiment. He finds the officer on duty has left his post and, though the prisoner seems to be dead, when Strasser looks more closely he is overtaken by the prisoner and put in his place. Now Strasser is the subject of the onslaught of terror and he reacts as did his prior subjects. When he is released, Nazi Colonel Kolb reasons that Strasser must be a Jew himself, since no pure-blooded German would ever show such fear, and tosses him into the prison camp with the rest of the Jews, who are only too happy to get a chance at revenge on the man who tortured their fellows.

Whew! Archie saved the best for last. This is a powerful story with nary a vampire nor a werewolf in sight, just human monsters who are worse than them all. Colan's art is impressive, as always, and perfectly captures the mood of the concentration camp and the horror of the situation. A strong finish to a strong issue!-Jack

"Experiment in Fear!"
Peter: I liked "Fair Exchange" well enough but it stretches credibility quite a bit to suggest that the drugging, kidnapping, operation, and recovery could be held within a twelve-hour period! I'm no surgeon, but... Allan Jadro (a pseudonym perhaps?) uses his fifteen minutes of fame (and sole Warren credit) to produce "Rub the Lamp!," a bald-faced rip-off of "The Monkey's Paw." Jadro probably had never even heard of the W.W. Jacobs classic and used the EC version for "inspiration." Below I allow for the occasional Grandenetti gem; this ain't it. "Terror in the Tomb!" is a padded mess that feels like so many bits of Archie scripts sewn together for a deadline. "The Wanderer!" is a boring hunk of mumbo-jumbo (perfectly summed up by what must be Warren's worst cover yet) with barely professional doodles by Dan Adkins. A giant letdown. "Isle of the Beast!" is yet another tired variation of "You're a vampire but I'm a (fill in the blank)," and it's obvious Archie is growing weary of pumping out seven or eight scripts a month. If you were anywhere near Ambrose Bierce's grave in early 1967 (well, that is if he had a grave), you may have seen some of the dirt disturbed; that would have been poor old Ambrose rolling in circles after seeing Bob Jenney's art for "Owl Creek Bridge!" The Goodwin/Colan team-up, "Experiment in Fear!" is the best of a very weak bunch this time out, even with its heavy-handed message.

Creepy 15 (June 1967)

"City of Doom!" ★★★
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Steve Ditko

"Adam Link, Champion Athlete!" 
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Adventure of the German Student!" ★★
Story by Washington Irving
Adapted by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The River!" ★★
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

"The Terror Beyond Time!" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Neal Adams

"City of Doom!"
After Ultor and his scurvy Scythians have staked and left him to die in the desert, Thane the Barbarian escapes and seeks vengeance. Tracking the Scythians, he stumbles into Livia, a gorgeous half-naked woman who begs the barbarian to follow her to her nearby city of Kadith, where even now Ultor and his murderers are raping and pillaging. Seeing this as a way to kill two birds with one stone (murdering the Scythians and then pillaging the village himself), Thane quickly agrees and follows the girl to Kadith, where she leads him into a great palace filled with mazes. Thane turns his back for only a second and the girl has gone, leaving him suspicious and a tad nervous as well. Turning a corner, he encounters a mob of slobbering ghouls, who attack him. With his great sword he makes quick work of the monsters and moves on through the darkness.

A familiar voice cries out in the blackness, begging for death, and Thane turns to see his nemesis, Ultor, lying helpless on a slab. When Livia returns, bearing a torch, Thane sees why his fellow barbarian is craving a fast exit; Ultor is being fed upon by a huge, writhing, tentacled creature. Livia spills the beans: the monster is the living altar, the very heart of Kadith, and it must be nourished with a never-ending supply of blood. Thane puts Ultor out of his misery and then turns his attention to the giant blob-thing, piercing it with his magnificent blade. Livia rushes at Thane with a dagger, slips and falls into the monster, who slaps a tentacle on the girl's head and begins feeding. Thane sees this as his time to exit stage left. A fabulous sword-and-sorcery thriller, with Archie doing his very best Robert E. Howard imitation. If I have one very minor quibble, it's with Ditko's art. No, no, no, Steve's as great as always but he's just not right for this strip. It needed a Jeff Jones or John Buscema. Ditko doesn't do muscle-bound oafs very well. Magically, my prayers will be answered next issue. Still, it's a great read!

"City of Doom!"

I won't waste precious space on the (thank God!) final chapter of the inane "Adam Link" saga, save to say this was the worst installment of the bunch. That's not an easy statement considering how awful the previous seven were. "Adam Link, Champion Athlete!" finds the robot and his girlfriend, Eve, acquitted of all charges and craving citizenship. The only way that will happen is to get public opinion behind the couple so Adam (naturally) becomes an athlete. I suspect an eight-year-old might have written and illustrated this better. Good riddance, Adam Link!

"The Adventure of the German Student!"

"The Adventure of the German Student!"
A doctor stops in at a Parisian pub and when the caretaker inquires as to where he's come from, the physician explains he's just been up at the asylum and relates a strange tale. Gottfried Wolfgang, a tender soul, comes to Paris during the revolution to study but is horrified by the acts of violence all around. Daily beheadings in the town square and cheering mobs send him quivering to the safety of his flat. Then one night while strolling the square, he happens upon a beautiful woman sitting on the steps of the guillotine. When he asks if there's anything he can do for her, any friends he can take her to, the woman tells him the blade has taken all her friends. Affected by her sadness and perhaps more than a bit smitten, Wolfgang convinces the girl to stay at his pad, purely platonically of course, and she agrees.

At the flat, the two fall madly in love and all seems to be bliss until the following morning when Wolfgang finds the girl lying across the bed, quite deceased. When the police arrive, they inquire as to how this girl came to be in Wolfgang's flat when she was guillotined the day before. As evidence, one of the officers removes the collar around her neck and her head falls to the ground. Wolfgang screams out loud, never stops screaming actually, and is committed to the asylum, where he dies shortly thereafter. The innkeeper scoffs and asks the doctor if he believes any of that nonsense; the doc's reply is to hold up the girl's collar and note that it was found next to Wolfgang's body.

"The Adventure of the German Student!"

Aside from possibly "The Body Snatcher," "The Adventure of the German Student!" is the most effective adaptation Archie has yet attempted. Yes, we've seen plenty of these obvious ghost stories before but this one has a nasty edge to it. Why is this girl haunting Wolfgang? Was he merely an innocent bystander; would anyone have sufficed? Seems a very cruel trick of fate that a genuinely good guy should come to such a nasty end. I am by no means the world's biggest Jerry Grandenetti fan, but I do have to admit he's having his moments during his tenure at Warren. Nice flourishes here and there, including using the girl's hair as panel dividers, and his exaggerated Frank Robbins-esque herky-jerkyness seems to be kept in tow. A very good chiller.

"Come sail away with me, lad!"
Johnny Craig proves yet again that he's a great penciller but only a mediocre scripter with "The River!," an utterly predictable crime-horror drama about a pair of Greek thugs, Stefan and Paul, who steal a very large amount of gold and then run for the river (with the police at their heels) where their getaway boat lies in waiting. Along the way, Paul poops out and Stefan kills him. As he arrives at the boat, a hail of bullets forces Stefan to jump into the river without his gold. When he surfaces, he sees the police carting off Paul's body and the gold. Once the cops have left, Stefan makes it back to shore but the boat is sunken and he needs to get to the other side of the river. Luckily, an old man arrives and informs Stefan he will take him to the other side and yada yada yada.... you get the picture. Even as a lad of six, I might have caught on very early that Stefan had died in the barrage; he didn't actually see the cops carting off Paul's body; and the old guy has something to do with the afterlife. But at least this cliched mess is accompanied by Johnny's signature penciling (though I do miss the cigarette in every character's mouth -- did Johnny start reading the Cancer Society memos?), and that's something that might keep you turning the pages.

"The Terror Beyond Time!"
While searching for a missing professor in a deep mine, a deputy sheriff accidentally discovers a subterranean world (or possibly another dimension?) ruled by a Lovecraftian blob that reaches out across the ages and pulls in what it wants to craft its world. That includes dinosaurs, gladiators, cavemen, nubile femmes, and our hapless deputy sheriff. Not one to be ruled, our hero confronts the glob and destroys it, sending himself and his lady love back to the surface world. Sure, this has got some nifty Neal Adams work (though some of it looks like nothing more than glamor shots and excuses for Neal to pump out dinosaurs), but the script is horrible and makes no sense. What exactly is this thing's plan? To brainwash its immigrants and then send them back to our world to do his bidding? Why? The whole thing smacks of a bloated young adult novel or a really bad issue of Astonishing Tales. This was, by far, the longest story to appear in a Warren mag yet (16 pages!) and, sadly, the extra space afforded was wasted. -Peter

Jack: I don't know if it's because I'm summarizing the stories in Eerie and just commenting on Creepy, but I'm finding Eerie more enjoyable, issue by issue. "City of Doom!" is mediocre Ditko, but even that is worth a look, despite the tired sword and sorcery setting. For once, Steve does a decent job of rendering a nubile lass, though he can't help drawing those patented Ditko expressions on her face. The Adam Link story is based on the bizarre idea that becoming sports heroes will garner public support for making the robots citizens. I'm glad this is the end of what was essentially a soap opera with machines. "The Adventure of the German Student!" is an old, old tale and I thought Grandenetti's expressionistic art got in the way of telling the story clearly. I love the Eisnerian second page of Craig's "The River!," where two characters converse as they descend a staircase and several views of them are presented in a large, single panel without any confusion at all. The story holds no surprises but is some of the best Craig art we've seen at Warren. Last of all is the double-length Adams story, in which a fairly dull tale is made better by stellar art and visual storytelling techniques. At this point in his career, Adams was not as good as Craig at telling a story lucidly from beginning to end, but there's no way to criticize his drawing.

I really enjoyed the lesson on how comics are put together in this month's fan club page, reproduced below.

Next Week...
Let's join Big Bob in celebrating
Rock's bicentennial...
Even though it ain't!


Quiddity99 said...

A fairly strong issue of Eerie, although I'd agree that the cover is rather weak. In particular I enjoy Fair Exchange quite a lot, as well as Experiment in Fear, one of the best of the early Warren stories. The other stories throughout the issue are all pretty decent too. This issue of Creepy is somewhat weaker, although does at least have a great Frazetta cover. Thane becomes somewhat of a recurring character, and will get a Jeff Jones drawn story in the near future if I remember correctly. I think he appeared in around 4 or 5 stories and each time a different artist drew him. I recall Alex Nino doing one of his stories very far in the future, but can't remember who else did it beyond those two. The Adventure of the German student would be my favorite story from the issue, also having strong artwork from Grandenetti. I appreciate them at least experimenting with a longer story length for The Terror Beyond Time although I agree its not the strongest story.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks! Sounds like we're all generally in agreement on these issues.I'm looking forward to Nino's arrival.