Monday, October 21, 2019

The Warren Report Issue 19: May-September 1969

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

Vic Prezio
Eerie #21 (May 1969)

"Point of View!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #6)

Story by Bill Parente
Art by Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico

"Terror in the Tomb!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #9)

"Fatal Diagnosis"★1/2
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Ernie Colon

"Warrior of Death!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #10)

"House of Fiends!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #10)

A thrilling panel from
Dr. Phizer is shocked when his giant computer spits out a punch card informing him that the U.S.S.R. is about to launch the ultimate weapon and destroy the U.S.A.! It can't be a "Miscalculation," since the computer is never wrong, so the generals resolve to attack immediately. Meanwhile, in Russia, their super computer has told them the same thing and they make the same plan. Phizer thinks of how mankind had feared destruction by aliens from outer space, but he soon realizes that the only aliens ensuring the destruction of humanity think in ones and zeroes. The bombs are launched, everyone is killed, and only the machines remain.

Predictable, boring, and poorly illustrated, Parente's tale of computers convincing humans to kill each other must have seemed tired even in 1969. Dr. Strangelove mined similar territory earlier in the decade and I'm sure science fiction writers had come up with this idea even before that.

Suspecting that a hospital patient who was drained of blood and had two puncture wounds in his neck must have been the victim of a vampire, clever Dr. Flemming confirms his suspicion by waiting around for the creature to strike. He drives a stake through the heart of the corpse, just to make sure it doesn't return to life, then outs Dr. Finch as the vampire and kills him with a stake as well. Dr. Flemming and his nurse agree that there's not enough blood to go around, since they drink it all themselves, being vampires!

Ouch! ("Fatal Diagnosis")
An extra half star is awarded to "Fatal Diagnosis" only because Ernie Colon's art is competent, even though the story is terrible. Dr. Flemming catches Dr. Finch by pointing out that he doesn't cast a reflection in a mirror and thus must be a vampire. Yet Dr. Flemming does cast a reflection in a mirror--why? He's a vampire, too! These two stories are the extent of the new material in this issue, for a grand total of 13 pages. It's a good thing the reprints are not bad: "Point of View!" is weak, but "Terror in the Tomb!" and "Warrior of Death!" feature good work by Mastroserio and Ditko, and "House of Fiends!" is a particular favorite of mine.-Jack

Peter- I was going to complain about the paucity of new fiction this issue and then I read the new fiction. "Fatal Diagnosis" is just another really dumb vampire story with awful art. Oh wait! Dr. Flemming is a vampire too? Holy cow! And "Miscalculation" would be a really deep look at how things could go wrong if the plot wasn't a lift from D. F. Jones's Colossus. Hey, two stories ain't so bad after all!

Creepy #27 (June 1969)

"Collector's Edition"
(Reprinted from Creepy #10)

"Make Up Your Mind" 
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Bill Fraccio & Tony Tallarico

"The Coffin of Dracula--Part Two"
(Reprinted from Creepy #9)

"Barbarian of Fear" 
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Tom Sutton

"Brain Trust!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #10)

"Surprise Package"  
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Ernie Colon

Harold sits on death row, awaiting his fate. Will it be hanging, firing squad, electrocution? Harold contemplates the pain of each method and it's only in the end we discover he's actually in an asylum, driven mad by guilt, wishing he could die. Bill Parente aims high at something deep and, no surprise, goes no further than the shallows with "Make Up Your Mind." The general premise, of an insane Harold imagining ways to die (each successive method more harrowing) is about as close to torture porn as we've seen in these pages. The Fraccio/ Tallarico team seems to dig deep with each new issue to come up with something infinitely worse than their previous work. And, amazingly, they usually succeed. The Fr/Ta artwork is the absolute nadir of Warren's history, devoid of any craftsmanship or imagination. Come back Joe Orlando... all is forgiven.

Having survived giant hearts and killer wasps, Thane the Barbarian stumbles across a giant bolt of energy which renders him blind and susceptible to the whims of a small village nearby. Chained, Thane is made to feel a prisoner but soon wins the favor of Enor, the daughter of the village's leader, Valon. Enor tells the Barbarian her people are terrorized by an immortal God named Batu, who keeps the people imprisoned in the valley. Eyesight restored, Thane mounts his horse, grabs Enor, and heads out to find Batu.

"Barbarian of Fear"
I rag on Bill Parente's writing skills constantly but there's an obvious gulf in quality between the scripts of the first two Thane adventures (both written by Archie) and "Barbarian of Fear," which is nothing more than recycled Howard bits. Thane is captured, chained to a wall, and told he'll be a prisoner of Valon forever... and then, a page later, he's a free man. The whole script meanders and the payoff is a monumental letdown. I'd rather see Sutton used on the moodier pieces but I can assure you that rating would have been halved should the Tallarico Twins been assigned.

Two astronauts carry a deadly cargo to a distant planet. On board are a werewolf, a vampire, a ghoul, an Italian mother-in-law, and all the other horrible mythic creatures we've been taught to fear. The two space-travelers trade theories on how best to conquer this new planet with their "weapons." When the ship lands and the occupants disembark we discover the two travelers are... Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie.

"Surprise Package"
I wasn't overly fond of "Monster Rally!," that goofy Uncle Creepy origin tale that "borrowed" its riff from EC, but that story was a four-star masterpiece compared to the inane "Surprise Package." Having the two main characters hidden behind spacesuits (while on board their ship!) tipped me off we were heading for some lame reveal, but (and I guess I have to credit Parente for this) I was completely surprised!  Granted, my surprise was that Parente would use such a dopey twist, but it was a surprise. The rest of this dreck is equally mind-numbing but the dialogue and captions are a low-budget highlight:

By the 28th Century, global disaster already witnessed fields of ghost cities... powdered beneath the charred ashes of extinction...

Huh? The charred ashes of extinction? What the hell does that mean? Or how about Uncle Creepy's inexplicable beatnik narration ("Watch out you don't bing-bong your ding-dong..."). I think "Surprise Package" is Bill Parente's way of reaching out to me and Jack, through the decades, to remind us we should actually use a "zero" in our ratings now and then. This stellar issue (which almost earns a "zero" grade in my book) also includes a reprinting of Part Two of "The Coffin of Dracula," just because it fit, I assume.-Peter

The best page in this issue!
Jack-I had started to have a glimmer of hope for improvement in the last post, but this is the second issue in a row this time out that's not worth saving. Despite the new cover by Frazetta and a very cool page devoted to Boris Karloff written by Forry Ackerman, this issue is a train wreck. "Make Up Your Mind" is not so much a story as a catalog of methods of execution and, as is often the case with Parente's efforts, I did not understand the ending. I must admit the page where the main character imagines being hanged was pretty good.

Who thought it was a good idea to assign Tom Sutton to illustrate a Conan knockoff? This type of story is all wrong for him, though the full page illo is not bad. Again, the end left me scratching my head. The best thing about this one is Uncle Creepy's remark at the conclusion: "Thane! Come Back Thane!' That made me smile.

Is it any surprise that I didn't follow "Surprise Package" at all, especially the end? Does this mean that Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie are from another planet and brought all the ghoulies and ghosties here in a spaceship? I don't buy it. I want my 40 cents back.

Eerie #22 (July 1969)

"H2O World !"
(Reprinted from Creepy #1)

"Family Curse"★1/2
Story by T. Casey Brennan
Art by Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico

"The Devil to Pay!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #11)

"Permanent Members!"
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Tom Sutton

Story by Bill Parente
Art by Ernie Colon

"The Spirit of the Thing!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #9)

"No-ooo! No-ooo!" Not another Fraccio/Tallarico story!
("Family Curse")
Anton and Eva make a curious choice of locales for their honeymoon, but it's at Eva's insistence. She feels compelled to investigate the rumors of monsters at Borak family castle in the old country. Finding a hidden diary, Eva discovers that her dad was a werewolf and her mom, a vampire. A mute old woman shows up and tries to give Eva a basket of fruit, but the crone recoils when she sees the diary. The next day, Anton heads to the village and tracks down the old woman, intent on getting to the bottom of the "Family Curse." While he's away, Eva sets fire to the castle and kills herself, determined not to burden Anton with her family's terrible gene pool. Anton returns too late to tell her that her parents were not the monsters but rather she was descended from their servants and the old woman is her grandmother.

The GCD identifies this as the first published work by T. Casey Brennan, and it's slightly better than what we've been getting from Bill Parente; I was able to follow the story from start to finish and the conclusion made sense. Fraccio and Tallarico's art is as bad as ever, though. You know you're in trouble when a drawing of a nubile young lass in a flimsy nightgown lacks excitement.

"Permanent Members!"
Toby and his little brother Kevin want to join the kids' gang, so they have to pass an initiation by gathering items from the graveyard. While copying down information from a tombstone they are frightened by bats and Kevin runs for it, finding himself among the other gang members. Toby is left alone to finish his task. He finds his way back to Kevin and the gang and reveals that he's a vampire, but they won't let him join the club and become one of its "Permanent Members!" because they're all werewolves!

This is a story that should have been better. Tom Sutton is the best artist regularly contributing to the Warren mags, the graveyard setting is promising, and the notion of a kids' gang requiring spooky things to join is a good setup. Unfortunately, Sutton's art is inconsistent (on the first page, I thought Ernie Colon drew it) and Parente's script is as bad as ever, with a terrible "twist" ending that relies on the vampire/werewolf bit for the umpteenth time.

Allan walks out of a bar into the rain and wonders if he's imagining things when he sees an alien creature transform into human form right on the sidewalk. Nearby, he finds a dying man who identifies himself as Dr. Stalzer and who tells Allan that aliens have arrived and taken the place of him and his assistant. Allan reports to his colleague Raymond that he plans to speak to Dr. Stalzer and find out what the aliens want. The next day, Allan visits the lab where the aliens are hiding in human form and they reveal themselves to him, admitting that they're here to help. To prove it, they hand over their only weapon, and Allan kills them, since he is an alien himself and already has plans for an invasion!

Reading Bill Parente's stories makes me feel stupid because, although I go over them two or three times, I still can't quite figure out what happens and have to resort to vagaries to summarize them. In "Scooped!," Allan says he's going to visit Dr. Stalzer, but when he gets there, it's some other doctor. At least Ernie Colon's art is pleasant to look at. He's a bit of a chameleon, judging from what we've read so far--this time, his style resembles that of Neal Adams. Other times it's reminded me of Alex Toth. There are worse people for an artist to model himself on!-Jack

Peter-Does anyone else find it odd that this issue's cover is inspired by a reprint (and not that great of a reprint, to boot)? "Family Curse" is a muddled, confused bit of nonsense, never mind the unsightly Fraccarico art. By its climax, I needed a wordy expository. Bill Parente's duo of dumbness this issue comes complete with borrowed "twists" and awful dialogue, never mind the persistent typos. "Permanent" is far from Tom Sutton's best but I'm assuming that's due to a lack of excitement. "We're vampires and you're a werewolf!" indeed. And how many times did EC use a variation on the final panels of "Scooped!"? Too many. Early Len Wein art can be found on the Eerie fan page.

The insanely detailed (and, sadly, long out-of-print) Gathering Horror by David Horne reminds us that this issue's ad (see far below) dropped the scintillating news that future superstar Vampirella was actually Uncle Creepy's niece. That news makes it a little bit clearer who Creepy is an Uncle to but is Eerie Cousin to Creepy or to Vampirella? My brain hurts.

Creepy #28 (August 1969)

"Madness in the Method!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #13)

"In the Subway" 
Story by Reuben Reid
Art by Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico

"The Worm is Turning" 
Story by Kim Ball
Art by Ernie Colon

"Grub!" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Tom Sutton

"Valley of the Vampires" ★1/2
Story by Ron Haydock
Art by Steve Stiles and Bhob Stewart

"The Doorway"
(Reprinted from Creepy #11)

"The Adventure of the German Student"
(Reprinted from Creepy #15)

Believe us when we say
this is more interesting than the art.
In a not-too-distant future, a shape-changing monster terrorizes a tube station until he's foiled by another shape-changer. The only positive I can point to with "In the Subway" is that rookie author Reuben Reid is certainly no worse a writer than Bill Parente. But Reid, who somehow won a Creepy Fan Club "Cauldron Contest" to rate a contribution to the zine, followed the same "old tropes guideline" Parente had tacked to his wall in the Warren offices. Indeed, had I not the proof, I'd have assumed this was yet another in a seemingly unending string of bad BP science fiction scripts devoted to a lousy future that, in some ways, mirrors our own.

How proud Air Force Sgt. Reid must have felt when he got the news his script had won him first prize (and lifetime subscriptions to Creepy and Eerie), but how did Sgt. Reid not commandeer one of his squadron's bombers when he discovered it would be Tony ("How about another one of my tusked ogres for the main character?") Tallarico assigned to his pride and joy rather than Tom Sutton? Tallarico not only reuses that fanged beastie over and over but his main "human" character looks just like the guy in "Make Up Your Mind" last issue and the subway locale obviously taxed Tony's perception skills as half the action here is difficult to sort out, to say the least.

"The Worm is Turning"
Orim Snell loves his black magic (he practices as much as he can) and the villagers below despise ol' Snell for his beliefs. But a handful of the villagers want to see Orim dead so they can "inherit" the old man's riches... occult be damned. Orim makes a pact with the great God Gnarlphtyr to grant Orim the gift of immortality in exchange for the souls of five of the men who wish him harm. The giant wormy God agrees and promises Orim eternal life as of midnight the next night. At the stroke of midnight. Orim's roof caves in on him and he's killed. Then the vultures descend.

"The Worm is Turning" is problematic script-wise (some of the details are very sketchy and not well thought out) but Ernie Colon's art carries the day. I haven't had many good things to say about Colon so far (too cartoony for my tastes), but he works wonders with the page design here (atmospheric borders and slightly off-kilter panels) and the final reveal, while admittedly pretty lame, is hilarious.

The travelers on a spaceship board a drifting satellite only to discover that the craft is actually a being waiting for food. Tom Sutton does his best Wally Wood imitation in "Grub!" but that doesn't salvage a bad, nearly unreadable script. Sutton's not without blame as well, though, since a few of the pages have progression issues (Do I go from the second to the third panel or from the second to the fourth? Give me some more of those dang arrows!), rendering the narrative a complete mess. Though his first published Warren script is a skunk, Nick Cuti will go on to become one of Warren's most prolific writers.

Professor Conrad is searching the jungles of South America for "The Valley of the Vampires." Conrad's aim is to bring one back to civilization and prove, once and for all, that the legend is real. His guide, Forbes, scoffs at the Professor's theories until they come across the tracks of a man-sized bat (in South America, the bats tend to walk rather than fly). Conrad explains to Forbes that they have nothing to fear since he came prepared with wooden stakes, holy water, and garlic wreaths. But, when the men are seized by a group of bloodsuckers, the real truth about vampirism and methods to dispatch them comes to light.

"Valley of the Vampires"
This was the first issue during the Dark Age not to feature work by Bill Parente (perhaps he was busy editing) but, never fear, Ron Haydock (aka Arnold Hayes) was there to pick up the baton and run to the finish line. It's not that the script is horrendous, it's just that it's so doggone plain and familiar. We know all the turns before we get to them and that's the kiss of death for a horror story. The wrap-up is delivered with such a matter-of-fact tone that... well, never mind, you're asleep by that point anyway. Haydock was far from a hack, though, as his articles for the Famous Monsters rival, Fantastic Monsters of the Films, were much less juvenile than Ackerman's fluff, and his soft-core porn paperbacks of the early 1960s are, from what I hear, undiscovered gems. Steve Stiles (in his only Warren appearance) would go on to modest success with DC and Marvel, but here his work is the epitome of amateurish (akin to the stuff we're seeing on the Fan Page), with no style to call his own. Bhob Stewart lends a hand inking. Warren raises his cover price to fifty cents (or $7.37 adjusted for inflation). To put that in teenage terms, I would have had to mow Mr. Wilson's lawn twice to buy this dreck down at Arnone's Market. Boy, was I a gullible kid.-Peter

Jack-I'm so glad you figured out the relative cost of one of these for me, Peter, though when I plugged 50 cents into an inflation calculator online I got $3.50. I've been buying the new DC 100-pagers at Walmart for $4.99 and wondered what the equivalent price would've been when I was a kid. Anyway, my hopes were yet again dashed by this issue of Creepy. I saw that none of the new stories were by Bill Parente and thought maybe things might be better. I saw that there were four new stories rather than three and wondered if the reprints were going away. Then I read the darn thing.

Poor Sgt. Reid never had another credit in the comics publishing world and it's a good thing, since "In the Subway" is awful. What must the other entries in the Cauldron Contest have been like if this won first prize? I agree that the best thing about "The Worm is Turning" is the random art by Ernie Colon; the story is a mess but he livens it up with illos in the margins. Too bad the actual story didn't warrant such care. I love Nicola Cuti's E-Man scripts but "Grub!" is just plain dopey, despite Sutton's best Wally Wood impression. Finally, "Valley of the Vampires" is tired and features yet another sub par art job. I'm so tired of vampires. I hope Warren doesn't decide to put out a mag with a vampire as the main character ...

Eerie #23 (September 1969)

"Beyond Nefera's Tomb"★1/2
Story by Bill Parente
Art by Ernie Colon

"The Dragon's Tail"
Story by Kim Ball
Art by Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #9)

"Soul Pool"★1/2
Story by Edward E. French
Art by Tom Sutton

"Fair Exchange"
(Reprinted from Eerie #9)

"Space Age Vampire"★1/2
Story by James Haggenmiller
Art by Mike Royer

"Beyond Nefera's Tomb"
In Ancient Egypt, the high priest tries to warn Pharaoh about Princess Nefera, but Pharaoh doesn't listen and has the high priest tortured and killed. Nefera realizes that she'll be next on Pharaoh's hit list and tells her leopards of her suspicions. In present day, a beautiful woman named Veronica who looks just like Nefera is strangely compelled to purchase a statue of the cat princess Bast from a curio shop. Back in Ancient Egypt, Nefera knows she's marked for death and boards a barge to sail to her death tomb. In present day, Veronica feels like she knows the ancient princess, but her boyfriend Michael scoffs at her feelings. In Ancient Egypt, Nefera heads for her tomb, while in present day, Veronica finds herself drawn to the Museum of Cairo. Back then, Nefera prays to Bast to avenge her and her spirit leaves her body; right now, Veronica feels like she's being mauled by leopards. Michael destroys the statue and sees that Veronica's body is consumed by flames and suddenly appears to be a thousand-year-old corpse.

I was bound and determined to make sense of "Beyond Nefera's Tomb," and I think I succeeded, though it wasn't easy. Reading stories by Bill Parente makes me appreciate all the more how 99% of comic book writers can manage to present a cogent narrative, something that he had a very hard time doing. Ernie Colon does his best with this mess.

"The Dragon's Tail"
Vlackmar the Invincible is a big, bad dude who slays dragons. He kills one called Grimorer and bathes in its blood to become invincible. He then kills the king of Moordoom and takes over as king, following this achievement by killing the king of the neighboring kingdom of Bloodyax. He then marches on Grimoon, a third kingdom, where he finds the king, a giant, in mourning for his wife. Vlackmar returns to the corpse of the dragon Grimorer and announces that he'll use it to build his castle. He is challenged and beaten by a dragon named Baroom, who exacts vengeance for the murder of his mother, Grimorer.

It's really bait and switch to put that fabulous, classic, Frazetta cover on a magazine that includes something as ugly as "The Dragon's Tail." I have no taste for sword and sorcery stories, especially when drawn by Fraccio and Tallarico. Ball's simple script makes sense up to the end, when I have to wonder what happened to Vlackmar's immortality. Baroom seems to breathe fire on him and it's all over.

"Soul Pool"
Alec, Jeannie, and Shoat wander through a post-apocalyptic landscape, as Shoat kills everything that could present a danger and Alec recalls his happy childhood before the war and angrily exclaims that now there is no beauty. In the woods, they happen upon the "Soul Pool," and when Shoat explores it he transforms into a frog.

Yes, that's what happens! This is another amateurish piece of work by another Cauldron Contest Winner who, like his predecessor, seems to have sunk into obscurity after his moment of glory. I can only imagine Tom Sutton's puzzlement at being handed this script to illustrate. He does his best Wally Wood impression (though one panel looks like Gil Kane's work) and draws a hot chick (who is described as one of the "children"), but even Sutton can't force this to make sense.

"Space Age Vampire"
Kanton is a "Space Age Vampire," pursued by robots that shoot stakes! Tired of always running and hiding, he mixes a potion that puts him into suspended animation for 50 years, allowing him to sit out a nuclear war and awaken to prey upon the survivors. He awakens, finds humans clad in fur skins, and attacks. He did not count on the magic tree that the humans worship; it grabs him with one of its branches and drives a wooden spike through his heart.

By default, James Haggenmiller wins most easy to follow story award for this miserable issue. The only thing I can't fathom is why there is a magic tree. Kanton tries to explain to us in a thought balloon: "This tree can <gasp> act on the wills of these primitives." Hm. That explains it. I did get one benefit from reading this: I always wondered if Mike Royer ever did anything but ink Jack Kirby. Now I know! The GCD tells me he drew for Western Publications for several years before this story for Warren.-Jack

Peter-"Beyond Nefera's Tomb" is a head-scratching mess, with no flow to its narrative and an ending that reeks of mold. The less said about Fraccarico's art for "The Dragon's Tail" (Fraccio and Tallarico are George Tuska without restraints), the better. "Soul Pool," by contest winner Edward French, is certainly better than the previous "award winner" in Creepy #28 (and it covers more adult ground than any of Parente's bad sci-fi nonsense), but what are we to make of the incredibly dumb reveal in its last panels? What the hell is the green light and how does it transform human into frog? I suspect French himself had no idea. And, I'll beat that dead horse again, Tom Sutton does not thrive with normal-appearing human characters. Like "Soul Pool," Haggenmiller's "Space Age Vampire" ends with a roll of the eyes rather than wonder and awe. So, in just fifty years, humans have become telepathic and can control vegetable life? The climax is, at least, good for a laugh when the vampire works the entire twist out in his head while being gored by a branch.

Creepy #29 (September 1969)

"The Summer House"  ★1/2
Story by Barbara Gelman
Art by Ernie Colon

"Angel of Doom"
(Reprinted from Creepy #16)

"Spellbound" ★1/2
Story by Ron Haycock
Art by Bhob Stewart, Will Brown, and Mike Royer

"Bloody Mary" 1/2
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Tony Tallarico

"The Devil of the Marsh" ★1/2
Story by Don Glut
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Frankenstein Tradition"
(Reprinted from Creepy #16)

"The Last Laugh" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Ernie Colon

"The Summer House"
Sloane is hell-bent on marrying his sweetheart, the adorable Sylvie, despite protests from his wealthy mother. After the couple elopes, Sloane comes to his mother for a handout; he wants "The Summer House" that belongs to the family. Sloane's mother reluctantly agrees but warns the couple that the house just "isn't right in the winter!" Sure enough, as soon as Sloane and Sylvie move in, weird things start to happen and Sylvie becomes convinced the house hates them for intruding in the off-season.

"The Summer House" is not a great story but it's a much-needed change of pace. If I was to guess, I'd say author Barbara Gelman (in her only Warren appearance) was trying to create a Gothic suspenser a la The Haunting of Hill House and wound up in the backyard of DC's Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love instead. Though the finished product comes up short of the mark, there are still some interesting twists in its climax, such as the window pane that traps Sylvie's image. Ernie Colon's art takes another leap forward but there's still too much white space. The cover proves that Vic Prezio could produce some nice cheesecake when he needed to.

Annabelle and Sir John will soon be wed and that's driving Annabelle's sister, Isabel, right up the wall. Isabel believes she should be on the receiving end of the riches and prestige marrying Sir John will bring. To ensure the right woman gets her man, Isabel visits the local witch and agrees to the old crone's terms. In exchange for a place in Isabel's court, the witch will transform Annabelle into a common house cat and Isabel will be free to marry Sir John. Everything goes as planned until Isabel double-crosses the witch and, instead of marrying her guy, becomes an ornament at the wedding of Annabelle and Sir John.

"Spellbound" is a cute little fairy tale with so-so art and a nice twist in its tail. The art isn't awful, it's just inconsistent. Some of the panels, such as Annabelle's transformation into feline and the witch's conversation with her familiar, are stylish and have a nice flow to them, while some of the strip looks amateurish and rushed. The script is nothing new; with a bit of softening it could pass as a Disney short.


"Bloody Mary"
Ben and Take, two prospectors on the planet Pyrogelare, run across an abandoned spaceship on the side of the planet given to blazing heat. The duo plunge into its innards and discover hundreds of corpses lying in peace. Ben explains that decades before, the planet was plagued with vampires until their race was exterminated and these sleeping figures, Ben surmises, must be the last of their lot. Luckily for the greedy pair, vampires always carry jewelry and cash, and their haul is a healthy one. Take decides that two partners is one too many and offs Ben but then receives a rude surprise when he discovers that Pyrogelare has a sudden eclipse right about noon. The vampires awaken and do what comes naturally.

"Bloody Mary" is a bloody mess, with its sinkholes in logic. Chiefly, why is there a spaceship filled with vampires in the middle of the desert when the powers-that-be had rid Pyrogelare of bloodsuckers years before? And if the ship had been there for decades, how did these vampires survive? I'll admit that, despite the usual abysmal Fraccarico doodling, the premise hooked me. I liked how author Buddy Saunders (who was a major force in comics fanzines of the 1960s and then went on to great success with Lone Star, a comics retailer that survives to this day) introduced his two main characters without wasting time on exposition; Saunders simply asks us to swallow the fact that these guys are prospectors on an alien world (sans any breathing equipment) and gets on with the narrative. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is a turkey.

"The Devil of the Marsh"
After a long absence, Jerry Grandenetti returns to Warren to illustrate "The Devil of the Marsh," a strange fairy tale about a man obsessed with a beautiful woman who lives in a foggy swamp. When he comes to her to ask for her hand in marriage, he discovers that she is actually a witch who somehow lives off her lovers, transforming them into huge frog-like creatures once she gets her way. I liked "The Devil of the Marsh," despite its predictable climax but was disappointed with Grandenetti's art. Yes, I am the same guy who was whining as loudly about Jerry's early chicken scratchings as I do now about Fraccarico, but Grandenetti somehow transformed himself into an atmospheric and (sometimes) exciting talent in time. Here's he's back to the exaggerated faces and goofy monsters that populated his early work and the irony is not lost on me. Jerry, come back!

"The Last Laugh!"

Finally, with a rare four-page shock short, Archie Goodwin returns with "The Last Laugh!," about a duke who tires of his court jester and has the dwarf's tongue cut out. Rising from the grave, the jester gets "The Last Laugh!" Though the tale obviously suffers from its brevity and obvious climax,  "Laugh" is carried along by Colon's art (the resurrected jester sure looks a lot like a certain villain over at the Distinguished Competition). Cartoony works perfectly here. All in all, probably the best issue during the Dark Age we've yet encountered, but I still have to give a quick shout out to the proofreader. Hey, dude, it's the bowels of the castle not bowls!-Peter

Jack-I agree that this is a pretty good issue, certainly in comparison to the issues we've been reading. Barbara Gelman is a rare female contributor to the Warren mags (at least, so far) and this is her only credit on the GCD, but it looks like she also wrote a book or an article here and there, including something on Soupy Sales that was illustrated by Tony Tallarico! "The Summer House" could be read as a metaphor for a long marriage: the house gradually falls apart, beauty fades, and finally the girl he married is gone.

"Spellbound" is simple in story and art--nothing special, but at least it makes sense. I liked "Bloody Mary" more than you did, Peter, and was actually waiting to see what happened at the end. Despite the spaceship and the vampires, two things that have been done to death, I enjoyed it, though the twist ending wasn't very effective. God help me, I was happy to see Jerry Grandenetti return with "The Devil of the Marsh," which just goes to show how bad things have gotten. The GCD lists this as Don Glut's first story credit, so that's a milestone of sorts. Finally, "The Last Laugh!" shows that Goodwin could write, even in a weak story like this, and Colon's art continues to impress me.

The unveiling of an icon
and a sneak preview of our next Warren post!

But First...
Next Week...
Will Jack and Peter finally agree
on a Best of the Year Story?
Tune in and find out!

1 comment:

andydecker said...

I am so glad I never bought the DH reprint of these issues. With iconic covers like Eerie 23 by Frazetta I was often tempted.

Speaking of which, it was a few times imitated by other artists. It must be one of his most known after Death Dealer.