Monday, August 26, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 15: November 1967-January 1968 + The Best of 1964-1967

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

Eerie #12 (November 1967)

"The Masque of the Red Death"
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation Uncredited (Archie Goodwin?)
Art by Tom Sutton

Story Uncredited (Archie Goodwin?)
Art by Jeff Jones

"... Nor Custom, Stale ..."
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

Story Uncredited (Archie Goodwin?)
Art by Joe Orlando

"Portrait of Satan"
Story Uncredited (Archie Goodwin?)
Art by Ric Estrada

"The Past Master"
Story by Robert Bloch
Adaptation by Craig Tennis
Art by Al McWilliams
(Reprinted from Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror. Pyramid Books, 1966)

Prince Prospero has welded shut the doors of his castle in order to keep out the plague. After six months, he invites his guests to a masked ball, but an unwanted visitor appears and kills the host before spreading the plague to all within the castle walls.

The wordless sequence from
"The Masque of the Red Death"

The GCD puts a question mark after crediting this Poe adaptation to Archie Goodwin, and it may be that the magazine's former editor had written a pile of stories and left them behind before he departed. In any case, "The Masque of the Red Death" is a solid piece of work in which Tom Sutton's panels (and especially, lettering) remind me somewhat of the work of Jerry Grandenetti. He does not go over the top and there is a particularly effective sequence of several wordless panels that follow the ghostly visitor through a series of colored chambers, though in this case a color comic might have been more effective in depicting the hue change from room to room.

An experimental page from "Vampyrus!"
Kaiser and Rising hack their way through a Central American jungle, intent on finding the Temple of Ardisis where, legend has it, a fortune in gold is hidden. Bats circling overhead lead them to the source and Kaiser is bitten; soon enough, he reveals that he's been turned into a vampire and must stay to guard the temple treasure along with Rising, his next victim.

"Vampyrus!" is yet another variation on the vampire tale, but this time it is enlivened considerably by the fine art of Jeff Jones, who experiments with omitting backgrounds and panel borders and succeeds in making the tired tale more interesting than it should be.

An English doctor named Peter falls in love with his mysterious, amnesiac patient, Elaine. While planning their honeymoon and seeking an exotic destination, they visit the travel agency of Arai Kushni; while there, Elaine is strangely affected by a poster of the Temple of Life in Sumaria, so they book passage to the Middle Eastern land. Peter and Elaine travel by ship to Sumaria, then across the desert by camel until they reach the village of Ranuma. That night, Peter awakens to find Elaine gone, and he trails her to the Temple of Life, where he observes bodies being cremated by hooded figures. He rescues Elaine from being the next victim, carrying her into the desert and walking until he collapses. He is later awakened by the travel agent, Kushni, who explains that Elaine was among those who would have died long ago were it not for the annual visit to the temple to undergo restoration. Years later, an elderly Peter still searches for a way to bring his wife back to life, though she's now a skeleton.

"... Nor Custom, Stale ..."
"... Nor Custom, Stale ..." is a bit of a quote from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and refers to the title queen's ageless beauty; Johnny Craig is a very good writer of comic book stories and this appropriate title might have made some monster kids seek out its source. The writer/artist is in great form here, with the story, captions, and dialogue (for once, in Eerie) being up to the level of the art. I suspected the ending long before it came but that did not diminish my enjoyment of the tale.

It's 1931, and Maurice and Antoine manage to "Escape!" from Devil's Island and make their way to the Amazon River, where a native guide named Ramon warns them of a dangerous anaconda snake. Antoine attacks the snake with an axe and then spends an hour cruelly torturing it with a knife, ignoring Ramon's look of hatred--the natives believe the giant snakes are gods. As the trio cross the river, Antoine shoves Maurice off the raft and into the water, where he is consumed by hungry piranhas. The raft reaches land and soon Antoine finds where he buried a fortune. He is about to shoot and kill Ramon when he is bitten by a deadly scorpion and begs the native to save him. Ramon replies that he can only save one part of the white man and performs a ritual; later, Antoine awakens to find that his spirit has been transferred into the body of a giant Anaconda--and Ramon pins his body to the ground with a large knife.


Joe Orlando is never our favorite artist here at the Warren Report, but this goofy story features some panels where he seems to be channeling Jack Davis. The end, which is completely nuts, is kind of fun, especially the panel (reproduced here) where Antoine's head is inexplicably still human at the end of his new snake body.

Jerry Hacker, a commercial artist, is working so hard that he has no time for his wife or for the serious painting he'd prefer to be doing. he says he'd sell his soul  to the Devil for the chance to do something worthwhile, and--Poof!--the Devil appears, ready to bargain. Jerry offers to paint a "Portrait of Satan!" and, if the Devil is satisfied, he will grant Jerry success. The artist has to deal with a difficult subject who likes the room temperature very hot, but in the end a suitable portrait is produced. Jerry admits that he put his heart and soul into his work, so the Devil gleefully claims his usual fee.

"Portrait of Satan!"
Have we seen another "sell your soul to the Devil" story up to now in either of the Warren mags? If not, I wonder how they resisted this tired old tale. The end is a bit confusing and Ric Estrada's art looks like water colors minus the colors; it's rather different than the more cartoony pages we'll see from him several years' hence at DC. His page layouts and oddly-shaped panels seem to show a Colan influence.

A naked man appears out of the sea on the New Jersey coast to a couple on a dinner date; the stranger hypnotizes the male diner and takes his clothes. The stranger then goes here and there, arranging to buy (by any means possible) many of the world's great paintings. One thing leads to another and the stranger reveals that he's a traveler from 1000 years in the future who has come back in time to rescue the masterpieces before the coming war. He takes off in his ship, which is shaped like a floating silver ball, but it is mistaken for a Soviet weapon and blasted out of the sky. The attack starts the war the stranger had mentioned.

"The Past Master" may be a reprint from a book I've never heard of, but it's more creative than 99 percent of the stories we've read in the Warren mags, undoubtedly because it's based on a story by Robert Bloch. I think Al McWilliams is a terrific artist and, though the ending is predictable, I'm not sure how obvious it would've been to readers at the time.
"I screamed till I thought I'd hemorrhage
or something."--"The Past Master"

I also want to mention the cover by Dan Adkins; it's a nice swipe of a still from The Mummy's Hand but Adkins uses Karloff's face for the mummy rather than that of Tom Tyler.-Jack

Peter-I love Tom Sutton's stuff but his work on "The Masque of the Red Death" is a little too ... busy. It's like reading one of those MAD Magazine parodies where something's going on in every corner of the panel and you ... just ...can't ... concentrate! "Vampyrus!" is typically silly "doomed explorers" nonsense. For a temple that's been hidden for 450 years, it sure is out in the open, isn't it? Johnny Craig's  "... Nor Custom, Stale ..." is the one gem in a bucket of swill, a story so good it's almost unfathomable how it got here. It starts out like an old RKO suspense flick then morphs into some weird low-budget horror before leaving us with one heck of a spooky send-off. Nothing else in this issue shows much life. Joe Orlando's awful art is a constant in the good times and the bad. Good news is that this is Orlando's final contribution to the Warren zines, as he jumps ship to take the reins of DC's mystery line. The only interesting aspect of the numbingly bad ("I got it! Everybody loves a good 'deal with the devil' story!") "Portrait of Satan!" is that it gives us a look at just how bad Ric Estrada's penciling was seven years before he became one of Big Bob Kanigher's favorite cartoonists. I wouldn't have been able to identify this as Ric Estrada if you'd have given me five free letters and a vowel. That leaves Robert Bloch's "The Past Master" (which originally appeared in Bluebook, January 1955), a fun little time travel jaunt that's capped off by one of the master's trademark zingers, but suffers from Al McWilliams's by-the-numbers art. It almost looks like a newspaper strip cobbled together; no excitement whatsoever.

Creepy #18 (January 1968)

"Mountain of the Monster Gods!" 
Story by Ron White
Art by Roger Brand

"The Rescue of the Morning Maid!" 
Story by Raymond Marais
Art by Pat Boyette and Rocco Mastroserio

"Act, Three!" 
Story and Art by Johnny Craig

"Footsteps of Frankenstein"
(Reprinted from Eerie #2, March 1966)

"Out of Her Head!" ★1/2
Story by Clark Dimond and Terry Bisson
Art by Jack Sparling

"Mountain of the Monster Gods!"
Famed explorers, Sinclair and Carl Madison, have spent their lives in the discoveries of antiquities and forgotten worlds but this may be their most amazing find: a mountain rumored by natives to contain sacred sculptures crafted eons ago. But Carl is tired of living in brother Sinclair's shadow and, once the cave entrance has been found and dynamited, Carl ventilates Sinclair and drops his body down a cliff. When Carl enters the cave, he discovers a staircase that leads to a large door. Once through the entryway, the murderer finds a macabre cavern of monsters rising from a black goo. Carl panics and begins firing at the things but the worst is yet to come: Sinclair has risen from the grave! Backing away from his dead brother, Carl falls into the goo and watches helplessly as Sinclair dives in after him. The two rise, metamorphosed into a new monster god.

Roger Brand proves that last issue's "The Haunted Sky" was no fluke; the artist delivers another black-and-white nightmare world in "Mountain of the Monster Gods!" Yes, it's a plot nugget we've seen a gazillion times before, but it's the graphics that save this from being just another jealous archaeologist yarn. I'm glad Ron White offers no explanation for the secret of the cave or what exactly the Carl/Sinclair thing is; it's one of those occasions when I prefer to be kept in the dark. It is odd, though, that a cave full of monsters has been closed up for centuries and its occupants have been doing ... what? That final panel, of the thing rising from the muck, is a classic image. I assume Ron White is the same Ron Whyte who wrote the awful "Big Change" back in Eerie #11; I further assume he changed his name to begin a new career after that cow flop landed. Ironically though, this is the last work either White or Whyte will do for Warren.

"Mountain of the Monster Gods!"

"The Rescue of the Morning Maid!"
Twenty-plus years ago, I wrote the following synopsis of "The Rescue of the Morning Maid!": A young girl is held hostage by an old witch in a nightmare world where everything is decrepit. The girl is rescued by a malformed creature who lures the old woman to her death. As bare-bones as that description might be, I find I can't add much more to a story that really defies description. Time will tell but, as I recall, it stands as the weirdest and most unconventional strip ever to run in a Warren magazine. Rocco Mastroserio and (an uncredited) Pat Boyette must have scratched their collective heads at a script so vague and eccentric and then delivered a queasy nightmare unlike any seen before; the locale seems to shift from other-dimensional to Brooklyn slum in successive panels. That's one of the delights of "Morning Maid": you have no idea where these gentlemen are taking you but you can't stop turning those pages.

"The Rescue of the Morning Maid!"

"Act, Three!"
Poor Lottie Gardner! A beautiful movie star like Lottie married to fellow screen idol, Barry Morton, and the guy's werewolf! Lucky for Lottie that Dr. Schneider has been hired by Barry to find a cure. And Dr. Schneider (or Spider ... or Slider ... or whatever variation Lottie manages) is very close to a cure. In the meantime, Lottie has to keep Barry chained to a wall in the basement lest he rip her gorgeous flesh to ribbons. Finally, Schneider whips up a formula and races over to the couple's mansion to deliver the good news.

Lottie spurns the doc's subtle come-ons, demands a sedative for her frayed nerves, and Schneider delivers, before moving downstairs to inject his patient with the cure for lycanthropy. Barry is overjoyed until he discovers that the jealous doc has given Lottie a lycanthropic cocktail and, after Schneider locks the two up in the basement, the idol of millions turns into a werewolf herself.

"Act, Three!" has a cute and funny script with the usual Johnny Craig flourishes. Lottie looks every bit the vain '60s movie star and her continual evisceration of Schneider is laugh-out-loud funny. Craig's werewolves aren't exactly the most frightening creatures on Earth but their cuddliness actually works well with the light tone of the story.

"Out of Her Head!"
Two young couples grow bored of the party they're attending and one of the men suggests they visit the "old Carraway mansion," long rumored to be haunted since a Civil War officer caught Rachel Carraway, his fiancé, in the arms of another man and separated her head from her body. Now, according to legend, Rachel haunts the halls of the house until she can find a head for her shoulders.The quartet arrive at the house and Andrea, the liveliest of the group, goes off in search of mirth. She decides to wrap herself in a cloth and impersonate Rachel Carraway but the joke's on her when the Real McCoy arrives and liberates Andrea's empty noggin from the rest of her body. I'm not a big fan of Jack Sparling's work but this is about the best I've seen, rivaling some of his DC Mystery work from a year or two after "Out of Her Head!" appeared. In fact, save for the extra grue at the tale's end, that's exactly what "Head" looks like: a House of Mystery highlight.

"Out of Her Head!"

The morning maid is rescued again!
Story for story, this is easily the best Warren issue yet, but my perception may be clouded by nostalgia, as I fondly remember my father laying down the coins for this one at Rexall's in Santa Clara, CA, while I was the ripe old age of six and it scared the wits out of me. Rexall's was like Disneyland to me; they had the Eerie pubs, FM, Castle of Frankenstein, and all the Marvels and DCs you could load into mom's cart. I'm constantly bemoaning (to any poor soul who'll listen) that today's kids are glued to their video games because they have no other outlets for their imagination like we did in those glorious, paper-filled days. Several of this issue's panels still give me the creeps: Andrea's smiling face atop the bones of Rachel; the old hag and terrible fate of the young "Morning Maid," and the Carl/Sinclair thing rising from the ooze. I've probably read this issue ten times over the last fifty years and it never loses its luster. Hard to believe this near-flawless package was delivered on the eve of destruction. Oh, and hats off to cover artist Vic Prezio, who delivers a cover filled with truly original horror and... oops!-Peter

Jack-I had never read this issue before and don't have the same nostalgic attachment that you do, Peter, so I was not impressed. "Act, Three!" features a fresh approach to a tired topic, with the self-absorbed movie star and her werewolf husband both acting like jerks and the nebbishy, love-struck doctor serving them their just desserts. "The Rescue of the Morning Maid!" has a good story and decent art and is mostly notable for being something different. I thought both art and story in "Mountain of the Monster Gods!" were about at fan-level and, I thought "Out of Her Head!" had awful art to match a bad story, with an incomprehensible finish. I thought the gal was decapitated by a tree limb as she rode on the trunk of a car, but the telling is so poorly done that it's hard to be certain. I looked at it again and Sparling's art makes it look like the full moon knocked off her noggin, which then mysteriously appeared on the skeleton inside the house. As I said, incomprehensible.



Best Script: Archie Goodwin, "Collector's Edition" (Creepy #12)
Best Art: Steve Ditko, "Collector's Edition"
Best All-Around Story: "Collector's Edition"
Best Cover: Frank Frazetta, Creepy #4 ->
Worst Story: Archie Goodwin/Hector Castellon, "Hitch-Hike Horror" (Eerie #7)

The Ten Best Stories

1 "Collector's Edition"
2 "Rescue of the Morning Maid" (Creepy #18)
3 "A Matter of Routine" (Eerie #5)
4 "Overworked" (Creepy #11)
5 "Sands That Change" (Creepy #16)
6 "Werewolf" (Creepy #1)
7 "Aftermath" (Blazing Combat #1)
8 "Hatchet Man" (Eerie #4)
9 "U-Boat" (Blazing Combat #3)
10 "The Spirit of the Thing" (Creepy #9)


Best Script: Archie Goodwin, "Hot Spell!" (Creepy 7)
Best Art: Reed Crandall, "Thermopylae!" (Blazing Combat 4)
Best All-Around Story: "Monster Rally!" (Creepy 4)
Best Cover: Frank Frazetta, Creepy 7
Worst Story: Ron Parker/Manny Stallman, "The Black Death!" (Creepy 11)

The Ten Best Stories

1 "Monster Rally"
"Enemy" (Blazing Combat 1)
3 "Hot Spell!"
4 "The Trench!" (Blazing Combat 4)
5 "Collector's Edition!"
6 "The Defense Rests!" (Eerie 7)
7 "Demon Sword!" (Eerie 8)
8 "House of Fiends!" (Eerie 10)
9 "Berenice!" (Eerie 11)
10 "Act, Three!" (Creepy 18)

"But it's been forty years and no one will know!"

Next Week ...
After reading the latest Losers installment,
Peter tries to convince Jack that no one will
miss them if they abandon their post.


andydecker said...

Will you guys keep up the one issue a post approach or pack more into it when the reprint years come?

Peter Enfantino said...

Starting with the very next post, the time will seem to fly even while (as fans) we sink deeper into the mud.

Glowworm said...

"The Rescue of the Morning Maid" is indeed an unusual story. I have not read anything similar to it and it's both well written and compelling. Everything else in this issue pales in comparison to it. "Act,Three!" is fun, but I feel sorry for the poor doctor dragged into this situation as both Lottie and Barry are terrible people even when they aren't covered in fur and howling at the moon.

Grant said...

I know the show very badly, but "The Past Master" has the same general idea as an episode of TALES OF TOMORROW called "All The Time In The World," except for one very big thing, that ending. But that one seems to be credited to Arthur C. Clark instead of Ray Bradbury, so that's a little confusing.

Quiddity said...

Congrats on wrapping up the Archie Goodwin era! These pair of issues are better than I remember; granted it is pretty much them using up most of the inventory left and we'll soon crash deeply (if I remember correctly, the next issue of Eerie is all reprint). "The Rescue of the Morning Maid" is an excellent story, easily the best of this pair of issues and its great to see Pat Boyette's Warren debut. I always enjoyed his work for Warren quite a lot. Although I don't think the story comes anywhere close to being the weirdest or most unconventional Warren strip. Perhaps of this era at best. Just off the top of my head I think of stories like "The Beginning" by Steve Skeates/Tom Sutton, "Gender Bender" by Esteban Maroto, or countless Jose Bea stories (probably most notably "The Other Side of Heaven", or "The Picture of Death") as far stranger. Granted, it will be several year's worth of Warren issues before we get to these and Warren gets a lot more experimental once we hit the early to mid 70's and beyond.

As for my picks of the best of the Goodwin era...

Best Cover: Creepy 7
Best Drawn Story: Werewolf (Creepy 1); hard to top Frazetta!
Best Overall Artist: Eugene Colan
Worst Story: Take your pick of any of the assorted Adam Link stories

Top 10 stories:
1. Soul of Horror (Eerie 3)
2. Experiment in Fear! (Eerie 9)
3. The Spirit of the Thing (Creepy 9)
4. Eye of the Beholder (Eerie 2)
5. The Mountain (Creepy 8)
6. Survival (Blazing Combat 3)
7. The Damned Thing! (Creepy 4)
8. Success Story (Creepy 1)
9. Collector's Edition (Creepy 10)
10. The Adventure of the German Student! (Creepy 15)

Maybe a little cheating there, since 2 are adaptions...