Monday, March 30, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 30: May-July 1971

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

Creepy #39 (May 1971)

"Where Satan Dwells ..." ★1/2
Story by Al Hewetson
Art by Sal Trapani

"COD--Collect on Death!" 
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Dave Cockrum

"The Water World!" ★1/2
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Death of the Wizard" 
Story and Art by Pat Boyette

"Harvest of Horror!" 
Story by Phil Seuling
Art by Frank Brunner

"The Dragon-Prow!" 
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Richard Bassford

"Mad Jack's Girl" ★1/2
Story & Art by Gary Kaufman

"Where Satan Dwells ..."
Uncle Creepy has become bored of the material found in the pages of his own magazine (and, I must say, I concur) and decides to take a short vacation, but what does a creepy guy like our Uncle do on his downtime? He meanders (like this story) through the streets until he comes across a small bookshop he's never seen before. Inside, the proprietor asks Creepy what he's interested in reading. "Something new!" muses our horrible host. The shop owner tells him that he's got just the ticket and produces a tome entitled (sort of) "Where Satan Dwells!"

Within minutes, the Creep finds he's literally into the book, being interviewed by the lead character, Eric Shores, who is about to thrust a dagger into the heart of a comely maid. Eric beseeches Creepy to find his father and lift a curse that has been placed on Eric by a being known as Groton. After a short adventure wherein Uncle Creepy finds the lad's Pop and saves the day, the host finds himself lifted out of the pages and back in the little shop. As Creepy exits the store, the bookseller tears off his mask and reveals his true identity, that of Cousin Eerie! I don't mind these goofy horror host adventures now and then but I'm not sure, outside of the Vampi stories, Warren ever came up with anything on a par with the EC host-starrers. This is certainly not very good; it suffers from bad art and an unfocused plot that elicits the wrong kind of groans.

"The Water World!"
Only slightly better is Dave Wood's "C.O.D.--Collect on Death," wherein Joey Crane, a failed thief (armed robbery at an opera!), is given a second chance in life as a hit man after Death rescues him from a fatal bullet. The hitch is that Joey must murder one person a day for the rest of his life or that bullet hole will re-open. The Grim Reaper can be a mean son-of-a-gun. "C.O.D." has an interesting hook but doesn't really do much with it. The bright side is that Dave Cockrum is veering away from Amateur Street and easing into that stylist we'll all be celebrating a decade hence.

Three astronauts crash-land on "The Water World," a world seemingly devoid of land, and attempt to survive on a small raft with very little food and water. There's not much else to this SF/fantasy tale other than the requisite shock ending (which is really not all that bad) and the nice Marcos art. The intro and character interaction are obviously "inspired" by Planet of the Apes. This was Pablo's first American work and, of course, he would go on to have a long, celebrated career working on, among other things, Marvel's mid-'70s black-and-white line (Planet of the Apes, Tales of the Zombie, etc.). Marcos would contribute several times to a Warren zine over the next decade.

Pat Boyette is kind enough to donate more of his twisted, malformed, and diseased characters to a fantasy tale surrounding Merlin and his love for a demon-wench. The woman steals The Book of Knowledge from Merlin, leaving the wizard at the mercy of his justifiably-perturbed mentor, Breys. Merlin attempts to retrieve the book but is, instead, transformed into a huge tree, where he waits for the day "he will again be needed to serve Briton." Like some of Boyette's previous work, "Death of the Wizard" features some stunningly macabre art but a feather-weight script. It's all a bit confusing to someone who doesn't follow King Arthur.

"Harvest of Horror!"
Murderer Frank West is running from a posse, right into a field populated by a really creepy scarecrow. Frank runs and runs but never seems to get away from the stick figure. The next morning, farmers harvesting the field run over what they think is a man but turns out to be the scarecrow. Frank is now hanging from the post. No, wait... Frank gets a second ending where he actually just keeps running back and forth in that field, never getting anywhere, until the sheriff and his men come across him in the morning; poor Frank has lost his marbles. No, wait... evidently Frank gets hung on the post after all. Ah, the hell with it (literally). Three strikes and Frank is out. Frank Brunner, in his Warren full-length debut, does not disappoint with his atmospheric penciling and shading; that's one of the creepiest scarecrows you're ever going to lay eyes on. But... then there's the script laid on Frank's drawing board, stitched together by cliches (borrowing heavily from EC's multiple-ending gimmick) and just plain laziness (ending three is pert near identical to the first climax) by comic book convention maven Phil Seuling. Brunner will get another chance to shine very soon and he'll be working with a great script. Can't wait!

"Mad Jack's Girl"
And then didst mine eyes suffer most through the worstest Steve Skeates script ever devised. And then that script was called "The Dragon-Prow!" And it was about this Geat named Weohlac and didst he ever have a biggeth sword? And yes, you betcha. And then Weohlac was sent out of his village for daring to think (or something like that). And then was he cursed to slave upon the really big ship called The Dragon-Prow and he didn't like it too much. And then did he get in a fight with a really big Viking and drown. And then did he surface to find himself on his way back to Geat. And then did Steve Skeates attempt a really bad, verily overused "twist" ending in which we find that Weohlac actually drowned! I think I've reached the end of my frayed rope with these bad Warren fantasy tales.

Mad Jack and his boys split heads and break kneecaps, all in the name of fun, but Alice, "Mad Jack's Girl," has had enough. She makes Jack promise her he won't kill anyone but Jack and his boys break that promise and Alice gathers up the corpses for a tea party. When Jack arrives for a little sweetness, his gal adds him to the party. Bizarre and strangely new-wave (long before it became the rage), "Mad Jack’s Girl" might be best typified as Mod or British. Spare art, at times no more than half-figures or shadows, only enhances the uneasiness of the storyline. I'm not big on vague outcomes, but something about Alice's cozy little party and her insane ranting about the dormouse gives me chills.-Peter

Jack-"Mad Jack's Girl" was a nice surprise at the end of a mediocre issue of Creepy. I really like the sparse art and motorcycle-gang setting, but the ending was a disappointment. Boyette's "Death of a Wizard" is also not bad, with impressive art and a fair story. It bugged me that the book in "Where Satan Dwells ..." was called Where Dwells Satan (proofreading again!) and I thought "C.O.D.--Collect on Death" suffered from poor writing and amateurish art, though one panel with faces in a dream was nice. I'm surprised at how weak Cockrum was; he was a long way off from the X-Men!  "The Water-World!" is a fairly good story with okay art and an ending that came out of nowhere, while 'The Dragon-Prow" has oddly formal writing and art that tries to imitate Wally Wood but falls short. Saving the worst for last, Phil Seuling's "Harvest of Horror!" is a complete mess, helped only slightly by rough, early Brunner art. It is interesting to see these artists who would excel at Marvel in their early, rough stage.

Eerie #34 (July 1971)

"Parting is Such Sweet Horror"
Story & Art by Tom Sutton

"Eye of Cyclops!"
Story by Buddy Saunders
Art by Jaime Brocal

"He Who Laughs Last... is Grotesque!"
Story by Al Hewetson
Art by Mike Royer

"Food for Thought"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Bill Fraccio & Tony Tallarico

"The Vow of the Wizard..."
Story by Ernie Colon
Art by Ernie Colon & Frank McLaughlin

"The Sound of Wings"★1/2
Story by F. Paul Wilson
Art by Carlos Garzon

"Lair of the Horned Man"★1/2
Story & Art by Alan Weiss

"Parting is Such Sweet Horror"
Martin Borvo is terrified to enter Briarcliff, the house where he grew up with his twin brother, Fletcher, but his girlfriend Goldie insists that he conquer his fear, so in they go. Immediately, the walls and ceilings close in on them, creating a tunnel of sorts, and Martin and Goldie have to crawl forward to seek safety. As they proceed, we read their thoughts: Goldie (as in gold digger) just wants the millions Martin will inherit, while Martin admits that he murdered his own brother in this house! After crawling through lots of disgusting slime, they find brother Martin still alive, but now having taken the form of a creature that subsumes things that come in contact with him/it. Goldie tries to kill Fletcher with a sharp piece of wood but is absorbed by his blob-like form; Martin attacks Fletcher with an ax but Fletcher throws him up against a wall, where Martin is impaled on a series of spikes, doomed to remain with his twin brother forever.

Now, if "Parting is Such Sweet Horror" isn't exactly what this magazine is supposed to be all about, I don't know what is! It doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you try to understand how or why these things are happening, but Tom Sutton's art is fabulous and the story goes from one goofy/gross event to the next, ending with the woman being sucked into the blob and the man being impaled on a wall of spikes. Where did the spikes come from? Who cares? I think that, with this story, I have officially joined the club that appreciates this stuff.

"Eye of Cyclops!"
Boris Vallejo's cover is really sharp, by the way, and the masthead for this issue heralds Billy Graham as the new managing editor, replacing Archie Goodwin, who was listed as associate editor through last issue.

The giant Cyclops is terrorizing merchant vessels in Ancient Greece, but Nicanor and Periander have a plan to end the menace. They push boulders down on him from above but he captures them and puts them in a cage in his cave with other Greek sailors. Next morning, he selects Periander for his breakfast and the frightened man reveals that his fellows are cutting their way out of the cage. Nicanor escapes and throws a sharp spear in the giant's huge, single eye, thinking that he is blinding the descendant of the Cyclops that Ulysses once blinded. Unfortunately, this is the same Cyclops that Ulysses blinded and now he has a glass eye and a handy monkey on his shoulder to guide him!

"Eye of Cyclops!" is the first Warren story drawn by Jaime Brocal, a Spanish artist who had been drawing comics in Europe for over a decade as of 1971. His work here is excellent and both serves to tell the story in a clean, crisp fashion and to provide appealing visuals. His work on characters' faces is especially good. I was surprised and pleased by the ending as well, though it's a bit of a cheat to see a big squish when the spear hits the supposedly glass eye.

"He Who Laughs Last... is Grotesque!"
Baron Morag spends his time locked in his Scottish castle, counting his money, but when villagers arrive and break in, they burn him at the stake to punish him for keeping them in poverty. Morag awakens in Hell, where he waits in a long line of people from all times and places until he is checked in. Insisting that he must keep his dying vow to wreak vengeance on those who put him to death, Morag demands to see Satan. The Devil tells him to get lost and then chuckles with Uncle Creepy as they watch Morag create his own personal Hell by agonizing over how to keep his dying vow.

"Food for Thought"
"He Who Laughs Last... is Grotesque!" gets points for being goofy and Mike Royer's art is probably as good as it's ever going to get, which is only fair. He excels (as do so many Warren artists) at drawing scantily-clad beauties, though why Hell looks like such a fun place is beyond me. It seems to be populated with handsome men and beautiful women hanging out together. Sounds like a day at the Jersey Shore.

A spaceship loses power and drifts through space, so one of the three people aboard kills and eats the other two to survive. He soon finds a planet with lush, green vegetation but, not long after he eats some berries, he is himself eaten by a giant plant.

Leave it to Fraccio and Tallarico to deliver the nadir of the issue, at least so far. "Food for Thought" is another terrible story by Steve Skeates, who is not impressing me of late.

Compare with Vallejo's cover!
("The Vow of the Wizard...")
When a warrior named Thargovius takes a beautiful woman named Arella from a wizard named Kanhya Toth, it is "The Vow of the Wizard..." that Toth will someday retrieve the woman at the warrior's cost. Months later, a bored Thargovius hears that a wizard named Akeb-Kur is passing by with a caravan of riches. Knowing that Akeb-Kur hates Toth, Thargovius rides out to see him and is promised gold to kill Toth. Thargovius rides toward Toth and kills one horrible creature on the way. He is then attacked by a harpy, which he also slays. Finally reaching the wizard Toth, Thargovius learns to his dismay that the vow came true: the harpy was none other than Arella, transformed by the wizard.

I don't enjoy sword and sorcery stories and I don't much like Ernie Colon's art, so this one did not impress me much. It's a darn site better than the one that preceded it, though, and at least the plot makes sense. I did not see then end coming but wow, the scene in the story doesn't come close to matching the cover!

"The Sound of Wings"
In the desert, two explorers find the journal of John Asquith, who used black magic to summon Rankhet Morh, the winged god of the Sahara, to do away with the man who had stolen his daughter's heart. Unfortunately, the price for the man's death was that Asquith was supposed to kill his own daughter. He fled to the desert, a place where he could do her no harm, but soon heard "The Sound of Wings" above him, as the enormous winged god descended. The desert explorers dismiss the journal as the diary of a madman, unaware that they are standing in the footprint of a giant bird.

Nothing special about the story, but I like Carlos Garzon's photo-realistic art very much. It's unclear exactly what happens to Asquith, but the giant bird's footprint is a cool image and I tend to enjoy stories set in the desert.

Future star Pat Broderick contributes another drawing to the Eerie Fan Fare page before the final story, "Lair of the Horned Man." Indian chief Ronanka is intrigued when medicine man Taktana tells him of a beautiful maiden who has been seem roaming the mountain forests. Ronanka heads out to find her and, when he does, she is being menaced by a man-beast! Ronanka battles the creature and kills it; the woman, Laneeah, is grateful and says she'll heal him. Out of nowhere, Taktana, the medicine man appears, telling Ronanka that the man-beast was guarding a magic totem that Taktana now may use to create other man-beasts.

"Lair of the Horned Man"
Taktana transforms his daughter into a rattlesnake and then transforms another man into a man-lion, which attacks Ronanka. The chief defeats it but is shot by an arrow; Laneeah the rattlesnake gives a fatal bite to her father's ankle, allowing Ronanka to grab the magic totem, which makes everything go back to normal.

Alan Weiss writes and draws an entertainingly old-fashioned adventure story, leavened with some magic and horror to make it suitable for the pages of Eerie. The art is above-average and I'll take a story of Native Americans over more sword and sorcery any day of the week.-Jack

What the hell is going on in this mess?
("Parting is Such Sweet Horror")
Peter-This is one easily forgettable issue of Eerie, hopefully one of the last before we head uphill into the second Golden Age of Warren. Everything that could go wrong seems to have gone wrong with Tom Sutton this issue. The script is dreadful, the art crowded out by tedious words and typos (what exactly is a spinless man?), and Sutton seems confused as to which path to take us down. More boring barbarian/folklore/fantasy with "Eye of Cyclops!" (which does have a deee-lightfully disgusting final panel), "Lair of the Horned Man," and "The Vow of the Wizard..." If you're going to subject us to guys in loincloth, please have something original to say. Steve Skeates hits a ground ball right to first base yet again with "Food for Thought," but the script is secondary (in a bad way) to the Fraccarico Brothers' latest laugh-riot. Jack and I were befuddled when we became enamored with Jerry Grandenetti's art after deriding the guy for years, but I've got a feeling no such reappraisal is in the works for Fraccio and Tallarico.

A young F. Paul Wilson (in the first of two Warren contributions) was still a decade away from bestseller status, but "The Sound of Wings" has the makings of a good horror story buried deep in its bowels. Unfortunately, it doesn't emerge for more than a couple of dazzling panels before settling back into its Lovecraftian trappings. Carlos Garzon's art is much better than Wilson's script. "He Who Laughs Last..." is the only story this issue I can recommend. It's a funny satire that completely fooled me. Al Hewetson, who has led me down a predictable path several times before, seems to have been writing that story before coming up with a clever hook and delivering a delightful fantasy. You see, there's hope for everyone? Except the Frallarico Bros.

Vampirella #12 (July 1971)

"Death's Dark Angel"★1/2
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Eye Of Ozirios"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Billy Graham

Story & Art by Jeff Jones

"To Kill a God"
Story and Art by Wally Wood

Vampirella spends the night sleeping in a graveyard, but her slumber is disturbed by a pair of grave robbers who break into the Wade family crypt. Inside lurks a winged demon named Skaar, who kills the grave robbers and overpowers Vampirella. Meanwhile, inside the Wade house, rich old Mr. Wade demonstrates what a creep he is by treating his doctor with contempt before he wanders out to the graveyard to chat with Skaar. Wade is terrified of dying and the arrival of the unusual woman from Drakulon gives him hope.

Adam and Conrad Van Helsing happen to be driving along a nearby highway and Wade orders the sheriff to pull them over and bring them in. Skaar has Vampirella chained up in the basement and Wade has smashed her vial of serum, so she is beginning to get very hungry for blood. Wade quizzes the Van Helsings about vampire lore and confirms that a bite from one of the fanged folk will make him immortal. Just what he wanted! Vampirella refuses to comply with Wade's wishes, so he locks the Van Helsings in with her, planning to wait till her hunger grows overpowering.

"Death's Dark Angel"
To pass the time, Vampirella has a chat with Adam and explains about Drakulon, the serum, and his brother, further ensuring his devotion to the scantily-clad hottie. She frees herself from her bonds and manages to resist the temptation to put the bite on her (sort of) beau, when blind Conrad tries to attack her with a stake. Just then, the sheriff opens the door and the old man accidentally stakes him rather than the vampiress. Adam and Conrad set off on foot, stalked by Skaar (at Wade's command), while Wade tries his best to get Vampi to put the bite on him. She gives in and kills him, which immediately causes Skaar to leave the Van Helsings alone and fly to the old man's side.

It turns out Skaar could only be released when he finds a soul blacker than his own to replace him. Now that Wade is dead, "Death's Dark Angel" will take his soul and be free. Oh, and by the way, before he was a demon, Skaar was Wade's father! Vampirella turns into a bat and flies off until her next thrilling adventure.

Amazonia's shirt just wasn't built for battle.
("The Eye of Ozirios")
What an enjoyable story! I love the continuing characters and the way they interact with new people each issue. Skaar is interesting--a demon who doesn't seem to be all bad, kind of like Vampirella. Wade is a one-note, evil old man of the sort we've seen many times before, but having the graveyard, house, and cellar (dungeon?) all conveniently located right next to each other allows for some entertaining drama and shifts of scene. I like Jose Gonzalez's art, just not as much as I liked Tom Sutton's. He does draw a great winged demon, though.

Throkklon the Terrible lives in Castle Grimkrag and is one bad dude, robbing travelers who pass by on the road, killing the men and enslaving the women. Amazonia, Queen of Karkassone, has had enough! Grabbing her magic sword, Excalifer, she rides to Grimkrag and starts swinging that sword so hard that her shirt falls off. She is overwhelmed by sheer numbers and Throkklon ties her to a burning stake. Fortunately, she wriggles free and thrusts her sword into "The Eye of Ozirios," causing Throkklon and his men to disintegrate.

Hoo boy, when I see names like "Throkklon" and "Grimkrag," I know it's going to be a chore to plod through another of Gardner Fox's sword and sorcery epics. Billy Graham's usual nice art makes it less difficult, though the hilarity of Amazonia fighting so hard that her shirt falls off makes it hard to take her bloody battle seriously.

A young Indian brave is on a "Quest" for a woman, the only other survivor after his village was destroyed. Meanwhile, a nubile woman's forest frolic is interrupted by an attack by a hairy man, whom she kills with his own knife. She escapes the man's companions by grabbing onto a woolly elephant, while the Indian continues to track her. Eventually, she is menaced by a saber-toothed tiger just as the Indian brave catches up with her. He throws his spear but--surprise!--kills her, not the tiger. It turns out she was a changeling that had killed everyone else in his village.

Jeff Jones's art is interesting mainly for his use of shadows and the way he suggests rather than shows, allowing the brain to fill in what the eye can't necessarily make out. His prose is nothing special and the time and place of the story are confusing--there is a Native American, a blonde woman, a woolly mammoth and a saber-toothed tiger. This is not what I'd call "sequential art," where words and pictures work together to tell a story and one cannot understand the tale without both items. These, instead, are pictures with captions; the only time the pictures add to the words is in the last panel, where we see the dead girl transformed into some sort of Pterodactyl. I think.

As soon as he arrives in Egypt, the new Roman military governor falls hard for a gorgeous Egyptian princess but finds that it is necessary "To Kill a God!" to win her for his own. She tries to give herself to a priest of Anubis, but the Roman kills the priest. The princess then gives herself to Anubis himself and they fly off on a Sphinx to the land of the dead. The Roman follows, armed with a magical bow and arrow, and succeeds in killing Anubis after a pitched battle. Sadly, Anubis bit both the Roman and the princess and they find themselves turning into werewolves. With nowhere else to go, Marc Antony and Cleopatra sail to the Balkans and settle in what would later be called Transylvania.

In an issue with no shortage of beautiful women, leave it to Wally Wood to draw the most stunning. The censorship we saw only a couple of issues ago that required breasts to be covered chastely by flowing hair has been thrown out the window, and Cleopatra prances around as topless as a Playboy Playmate. Wood has always been great at drawing Roman soldiers and gorgeous women, and he excels here. The story is only fair, and the end a bit of an afterthought, but oh, that art! The entire issue may well have the best art we've seen since the early days at Warren.-Jack

Peter-Before we continue, we should note the striking cover by Sanjulian, an artist who will define the next decade of Vampi. "Death's Dark Angel" is a mixed bag, with Vampirella yet again becoming a supporting character in her own strip. The one important piece of mythology we learn this issue is that Vampi's bite is not infectious. I thought the scene where Van Helsing Sr. thrusts a stake at our girl and hits the crooked sheriff instead must have been some kind of slapstick wink on Archie's part. I love Tom Sutton's work, but artist Jose Gonzalez definitely has what it takes to lift this strip to a higher plane. Is it just me or do his crooked cops look like they were drawn by Mort Drucker?

I'm grateful to Gardner Fox for writing lots of naked boobs into his script for "The Eye of Ozirios," but would it be asking too much for ol' Gar to make some sense out of said script? I sure can't. Barbarian queen sword John Carradine big eye pulpety pulpety pulpety. I'll give "Ozirios" two heaving, sweaty, luscious, globular stars for Billy's fine art. I think, for the most part, Jeff Jones succeeds in both art and script departments with "Quest," a very odd experiment that seems more suited for an underground comic than for a "mainstream" publisher. I like Jones's purposely vague narrative, with no explanation given for its final reveal. Call me a heretic but I think Wally's work on "To Kill a God" is his best since the EC days. The only problem is that half of the gorgeous graphics are hidden by lots of dull words. So, visually this issue gets an A, but the overall prose grade has to be a light C.

Next Week...
The War is Winding Down

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Hitchcock Project-Stirling Silliphant Part Nine: Graduating Class [5.14] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Wendy Hiller as Laura Siddons
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."--Cool Hand Luke

Stirling Silliphant's final teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "Graduating Class," which was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, December 27, 1959, making it the last episode of the series to be shown in the 1950s. "Graduating Class" is a gentle story with an unexpected ending, where one character's attempt to protect another has unintended and harmful consequences.

An establishing shot opens the show, depicting the front of "Briarstone," a women's college located in a beautiful, large house. In the main lobby, as young women scurry to class, a middle-aged woman with a battered suitcase makes her way uncertainly through the crowd to the office of the principal, where she is welcomed. The woman is Laura Siddons, a teacher and former classmate of the principal, twenty-five years before. Laura has been out of the United States for a long time and she has just been hired at Briarstone as the new teacher of European literature. She remarks on how things have changed in the years she has been away and, after she leaves the room, the principal and the assistant principal discuss Laura's past: she wrote a desperate letter seeking employment and she has lived a desperate life, in which both of her parents died and she was left alone to survive World War Two and its aftermath. With no family, no money, and no job, Briarstone was her last chance at survival.

Gigi Perreau as Gloria
We next see Laura enter her classroom, where she teaches a group of young women. After the school day ends, she stands at the bus stop in front of the school and accepts an offer of a ride in a convertible driven by Gloria Barnes, a pretty, popular girl accompanied by four other students. Laura declines an offer to "split a calorie" at the "soda saloon" and instead is dropped off at the Clifton Arms. In the hall outside her apartment, she meets Ben Proudy, a gregarious man who is happy to meet his new neighbor. He invites her to join him at a bar down the street but she says she doesn't drink, so he suggests a movie; Laura is polite but cold.

Time passes, and Laura is back in the classroom, teaching Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, when Vera, one of the students, tries to sneak in late for the third time in a month. Vera confuses Prometheus with paramecium and questions why they are being asked to waste their time on people who have been dead for hundreds of years. As Laura said to the principal, things have changed in the time that Laura has been away. After class, Gloria, the student with the convertible, approaches Laura in the hallway and asks about The Last Man, a little-known novel by Mary Shelley that Laura had mentioned in class. (The Last Man is an obscure novel that was not well thought of until it was reprinted in 1965 and began to receive critical attention. The fact that it was mentioned in a 1959 TV show demonstrates that Laura Siddons had a detailed knowledge of European literature.) Laura offers to look for a copy and praises Gloria's classwork.

Robert H. Harris as Ben Proudy
Laura accepts Gloria's invitation to come home with her for tea and to meet her mother; she learns that Gloria's mother's health is fragile and that her father is in the state department, currently in Iraq. (Iraq was particularly unstable in 1959, after a revolution in 1958 overthrew the monarchy. Many people were fleeing the country at the time of the events of "Graduating Class," and the fact that Gloria's father was there on a mission for the U.S. State Department surely did not help his wife's health.)

Laura visits a used bookstore looking for a copy of The Last Man. Mr. Proudy appears and she declines an invitation for dinner but encourages him to ask her another night. While browsing through the books, she looks across the street and sees a nightclub called "The 7th Heaven." Gloria, her student, drives up in her convertible and walks into the club on the arm of a man. The recently jobless and desperate Laura Siddons is so rattled by the sight of her student entering what appears to be a racy club that she absent-mindedly pays $10 ($88.89 in 2020 dollars) for a copy of The Last Man. She rushes across the street and tries to enter the club but is denied entrance by a doorman, since she lacks an escort.

Jocelyn Brando as the assistant principal
Back in class the next day, Gloria wears dark sunglasses and falls asleep during Laura's lecture. After class, Laura gives her student the book she bought and Gloria explains her fatigue by claiming that she stayed up all night with her sick mother. Is she lying? Laura appears convinced by the story.

Some time later, on another evening, Laura exits a movie theater with Ben Proudy. They walk by the used bookstore and Laura again sees Gloria and the man come out of the club; this time, he kisses her in the dark against a wall next to the club's entrance. Laura tells Ben that the girl is one of her pupils and she is sure that the girl's parents would not approve of her spending time in such a place. Gloria drives off with the man and Ben and Laura follow them in Ben's car to the Cartwright Apartments. They see Gloria and the man together behind curtains in a second-floor flat. The lights in the apartment go off and Laura enters the building in order to slip a note under the door of the apartment for her seemingly wayward student. Ben tries to tell her that young people have different ideas about things today, but Laura says that right and wrong have not changed.

Sheila Bromley as the principal
The next day is Saturday and, early that morning, Gloria visits Laura at the teacher's apartment, angry at Laura for prying into her personal life. Laura explains that she sees Gloria as a special student of the sort who makes years of teaching worthwhile, telling the young woman, "'That is why I couldn't let you be harmed.'" Gloria reveals to Laura that she is secretly married and that she does not want to tell her sick mother for fear of giving her a shock. Her husband's father owns the nightclub and her husband is learning the business. Laura is satisfied with the explanation and pleased to have been taken into Gloria's confidence. When Gloria leaves the apartment, Ben sees her and Laura in the hallway and asks Laura what happened. Laura tells him only that Gloria shared a secret with her.

Back at school on Monday morning, Laura enters her classroom to find the students stone-faced, Gloria's seat empty, and a letter on her desk. As Laura reads the letter, we hear Gloria's voice on the soundtrack telling her that her friend Connie has already read it to the rest of the class. Gloria accuses Laura of being in partnership with Ben Proudy to spy on her. Ben tried to blackmail her mother, demanding $20,000 or he would go to the principal about what he called her "affair." He was picked up by the police and confessed, claiming that Laura had planned the whole thing. Gloria's mother is in a coma from the shock and may die, and the police are coming for Laura. The students stand and exit the classroom, leaving Laura alone.

Madge Kennedy as Mrs. Barnes
"Graduating Class" is the story of an unfortunate woman who means well but whose actions unintentionally lead to tragedy. Laura Siddons is the product of an earlier time and, despite the concerns of the principal and the advice of Ben Proudy, she thinks that she is doing the right thing by slipping a note under Gloria's door, presumably cautioning her about her seemingly inappropriate behavior. Little does Laura know that Ben Proudy is not above blackmail and that he (like she) assumes that Gloria is sleeping with a man who is not her husband. While Laura attempts to help the young woman privately, Ben takes advantage of the situation and commits a crime. The shock of the news--which is untrue--that her daughter is carrying on an illicit affair sends Mrs. Barnes over the edge, though one can assume that she held it together long enough to call the police and tell them about Proudy's attempt at blackmail.

What happens next? This episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is so well done that one would like to see the aftermath of the rather abrupt ending. No policeman in his right mind would seriously think that Laura Siddons had planned a blackmail scheme with Ben Proudy so, even though Gloria writes in her letter that the police are coming for her, Laura will surely be exonerated almost immediately. When that occurs, one would hope that Gloria would forgive her and that she could return to teaching her class. Even the principal, who was in school with Laura 25 years before and hired her when she was in desperate straits, would surely understand that the fault lies with Ben Proudy and that Laura's intentions were good.

This episode is based on a story by Edouard Sandoz (1881-1971) that is the untitled fifth story in his book, Innocent Without Cause (1958). Sandoz was a Swiss sculptor and painter who was also a member of a family that built a pharmaceutical empire. He wrote or illustrated a few juvenile books, but he also had this one collection of stories published. It is very rare and has never been reprinted; only a handful of libraries in the U.S. hold copies.

Josie Lloyd as Vera Carson
In the story, the teacher's name is Gloria Siddons and the student's name is Laura Pope, so Silliphant flipped the characters' given names for his teleplay. The story is very long, at 52 pages, and contains a theme that is absent from the teleplay. It opens with the teacher traveling by train, recalling her childhood in Nazi Germany and her pride at seeing "Germany take her rightful place." She only learned of the Nazis' crimes after the war ended.

The decision to hire her is discussed by the headmistress of the school and her husband, a judge, and there is much attention paid to her time in Germany and to a broadcast that she made the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked; in the broadcast, she attacked "certain Americans whom ... she believed to be slanderers." Once she arrives at school, she is sensitive to a remark by a Jewish fellow teacher who says that "'I ought to hate you,'" though it turns out that the other teacher is just referring to Gloria's taking away various great books to teach in her class. Gloria's background of hardship is contrasted with the lives of the privileged young women whom she teaches. The basic plot is the same as in the TV show, though the story contains much more detail. It takes up the better part of an entire school year, from the beginning in September all the way to the end of the story, which is in early spring.

Instead of the quick observations of her student outside the club, Gloria ends up sitting in a coffee shop across the street, watching her student come and go night after night as the young woman's school work suffers. Gloria enlists the aid of Proudy as her escort and ventures inside the club, where she learns that the man she has seen with her student is the club's manager. Gloria first mentions the idea of blackmail to Proudy when she expresses concern that the student's male friend might blackmail the young woman. Proudy suggests that Gloria approach her student directly and, after Laura reveals the truth of her marriage to her teacher, Proudy assumes that Gloria demanded money from her student and demands his share.

Julie Payne as Connie
In the letter from student to teacher at the end of the story, Laura calls Gloria a "dirty-minded, hypocritical, treacherous, blackmailing Nazi," showing that Gloria's youth in Germany and her problematic broadcast the day before Pearl Harbor have not been forgotten.

In adapting the story for television, Silliphant removed all of the references to Gloria's youth in Germany and thus there is no reason for her to be called a Nazi in the final letter. His teleplay does a great job of streamlining a long story, but reading the source material does help to clear up some of the incidents in the TV show that seem to occur too quickly or without sufficient foundation, especially the abrupt ending. Edouard Sandoz has no other credits in film or television besides this one.

Director Herschel Daugherty (1910-1993) worked mostly in television from 1952 to 1975, directing 27 episodes of the Hitchcock show and 16 episodes of Thriller. He also directed "Little White Frock," from a teleplay by Stirling Silliphant.

In addition to a great teleplay by Stirling Silliphant, "Graduating Class" benefits from excellent acting, especially by the leads.

David McMahon as the doorman
Playing Laura Siddons is Wendy Hiller (1912-2003), the great English actress whose career began on stage in the 1930s. She was on screen from 1937 to 1992 and won an Academy Award for Separate Tables (1958). She was in Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and The Elephant Man (1980) and she was made a Dame in 1975. This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock series.

Gorgeous Gigi Perreau (1941- ) plays Gloria Barnes. A child actress from the age of two, Perreau was on screen from 1943 to 1977 and returned to acting with voice work in 2008, something she still does today. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like Wendy Hiller, this was her only role on the Hitchcock series.

Olan Soulé as the bookstore clerk
Jocelyn Brando (1919-2005), Marlon's older sister, appears briefly as the assistant principal. Trained at the Actors Studio, she was on stage from 1942 and on screen from 1945 to 1983. She was in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) as well as two episodes of Thriller and four episodes of the Hitchcock show, most notably "The Jar."

Ben Proudy is played enthusiastically by familiar face Robert H. Harris (1911-1981). Born Robert Hurwitz, he was on Broadway from 1938 and on screen from 1948 to 1978, mostly on TV. He was on Thriller and he was seen in nine episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Greatest Monster of Them All."

In smaller roles:
  • Sheila Bromley (1911-2003) as the principal; she was on screen from 1930 to 1975 and was also known as Sheila Le Gay and Sheila Manners. She was in two other episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Evil of Adelaide Winters."
  • Madge Kennedy (1891-1987) as Gloria's mother; she was on Broadway from 1912 and in films from 1917 to 1928 before taking a long break. She returned to the screen in 1952 and kept working until 1976. She has a small part in North By Northwest (1959) and was in six episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Help Wanted." She was also seen on The Twilight Zone and The Odd Couple.
  • Josie Lloyd (1940- ) as Vera Carson, one of the students; daughter of producer Norman Lloyd, she had roles on TV between 1959 and 1967 ("Graduating Class" appears to have been her first). She appeared once on The Twilight Zone and six times on the Hitchcock show, including "Coming Home."
  • Julie Payne (1940- ) as Connie, another student; she had a brief career on screen from 1959 to 1965.
  • David McMahon (1910-1972) as the doorman at "The 7th Heaven" club; he played countless bit parts on screen from 1947 to 1965 and also appeared on Thriller.
  • Olan Soulé (1909-1994) as the bookstore clerk; he had a long career: on radio from the 1920s to the 1940s and on screen from 1949 to 1991, he was on The Twilight Zone and in eight episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Faith of Aaron Menefee." 
"Graduating Class" may be seen on DVD here or may be viewed for free online here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here.


"Graduating Class." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 14, CBS, 27 Dec. 1959.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Sandoz, Edouard. Innocent Without Cause. NY: Vantage Press, 1958. 190-241.
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

Stirling Silliphant on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Stirling Silliphant wrote eleven teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents between 1956 and 1959. The first two, "Never Again" and "Jonathan," appear to be instances where he was asked to take a teleplay already written by someone else and polish it up to put it in filmable form. With the exception of "A Bottle of Wine," which was based on a story published in the first issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and "Graduating Class," the stories that Silliphant was asked to adapt were either unpublished story ideas ("The Manacled," "The Return of the Hero") or else older short stories that had appeared in mainstream magazines.

"Never Again" is a tragic story of an alcoholic woman, based on a story from 1934, "The Glass Eye" is based on a story from a British collection published in 1944, and "The Perfect Crime" is based on a 1928 story from Harper's. "The Canary Sedan" is based on a 1930 story from The Cornhill Magazine, "Little White Frock is based on a 1920 story from The Story-Teller, and "The Crystal Trench" is based on a 1915 story from The Strand Magazine. It seems like Silliphant was often asked to adapt stories that were more in the nature of dramas than crime stories; like many other early-TV anthology series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents often showcased tales that were not strictly suspense, even though the series was hosted by the master of that form.

Silliphant's stories did not always contain a murder or even a crime; witness "The Return of the Hero," about a disabled soldier who is not welcome among his wealthy family members, or "Little White Frock," about an aging actor spinning an elaborate story as part of an audition. "The Perfect Crime" and "The Crystal Trench" were both directed by Hitchcock himself, while "The Glass Eye," directed by Robert Stevens, was awarded the only Emmy in the ten years that the series was on the air.

Stirling Silliphant's eleven half-hours for Alfred Hitchcock Presents are marked by high quality and demonstrate some of the highlights of the show's first five seasons.


Episode title-"Never Again" [1.30]

Broadcast date-22 April 1956
Teleplay by-Gwen Bagni, Irwin Gielgud, and Stirling Silliphant
Based on "Never Again" by Adela Rogers St. Johns
First print appearance-Cosmopolitan, April 1934
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"Jonathan" [2.10]
Broadcast date-2 December 1956
Teleplay by-Bernard C. Schoenfeld and Stirling Silliphant
Based on "Turmoil" by Fred Levon
First print appearance-Maclean's, 15 October 1948
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"The Manacled"

Episode title-"The Manacled" [2.18]
Broadcast date-27 January 1957
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on an unpublished story by Sanford Wolf
First print appearance-none
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"A Bottle of Wine" [2.19]
Broadcast date-3 February 1957
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "A Bottle of Wine" by Borden Deal
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine December 1956
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"The Glass Eye" [2.19]
Broadcast date-6 October 1957
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "The Glass Eye" by John Keir Cross
First print appearance-The Other Passenger: Eighteen Strange Stories by John Keir Cross
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"The Perfect Crime"

Episode title-"The Perfect Crime" [3.3]
Broadcast date-20 October 1957
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "The Perfect Crime" by Ben Ray Redman
First print appearance-Harpers August 1928
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"The Return of the Hero" [3.22]
Broadcast date-2 March 1958
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on an unpublished story by Andrew Solt
First print appearance-none
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"The Canary Sedan" [3.37]
Broadcast date-15 June 1958
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "The Buick Saloon" by Mary O'Malley
First print appearance-The Cornhill Magazine, June 1930
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"Little White Frock"

Episode title-"Little White Frock" [3.39]
Broadcast date-29 June 1958
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "Little White Frock" by Stacy Aumonier
First print appearance-The Story-Teller, November 1920
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-"The Crystal Trench" [5.2]
Broadcast date-4 October 1959
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on "The Crystal Trench" by A.E.W. Mason
First print appearance-The Strand Magazine, December 1915
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

"The Crystal Trench"

Episode title-"Graduating Class" [5.14]
Broadcast date-27 December 1959
Teleplay by-Stirling Silliphant
Based on an untitled story by Edouard Sandoz
First print appearance-Innocent Without Cause (1958)
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

In two weeks: Our series on Morton Fine and David Friedkin begins with "Change of Address," starring Arthur Kennedy and Phyllis Thaxter!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn's entertaining discussion of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Dangerous People," on the Good Evening podcast here!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma's incisive podcast about the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "And So Died Riabouchinska," here!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 177: October 1976

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Our Army at War 297

Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Frank Redondo

"The Wild Piper"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

Jack: A famous general visits the front lines and lays out his plan to destroy the enemy stronghold atop Monte Inferno in what he calls Operation Eagle's Nest. He blithely rattles off the "Percentages" of casualties he expects the army to suffer and, soon enough, the deaths begin to mount as Rock, Easy Co., and a line of tanks cross a river and are dive-bombed by enemy planes. The next day, more soldiers die as Rock and Co. approach their objective. Sgt. Rock keeps collecting the dog tags of dead soldiers until one of his men discovers a tunnel that leads into Monte Inferno. Inside, the U.S. soldiers find a hidden ammo dump and destroy it with some well-thrown grenades. When Rock again meets the general, he asks how the senior officer can reconcile all of the soldiers' deaths with the result of having met his objective.

The problem with a story like "Percentages" is that, each time we are introduced to a new character, we know he's going to die. Oddly enough, the Easy Co. regulars seem nowhere to be found. Instead, we get:
  • a nameless lieutenant in a tank who is killed just as he is about to bite into his wife's apple pie;
  • a lanky soldier named Stretch who is killed by an incoming shell;
  • two brothers named Frankie and Johnny who die together right after Rock says he'll send one of them home;
  • a Floridian soldier named Tampa who is killed in the destruction of the hidden ammo dump.

The upshot of all of this carnage is that these soldiers do just become "Percentages," men we've not gotten to know who are set up just to be knocked over like human bowling pins.

"The Wild Piper"
As a boy, Scottish lad Jaimie McTavish is told by his Pa that he must practice those bagpipes so that some day he can lead men into battle like all of his ancestors. Jaimie practices as he ages but the darn things make such a racket that other soldiers run for cover when he plays. During WWII, Jaimie finds himself riding in a bomber jet when a fierce air battle erupts. It's touch and go for the good guys, but we know they'll make it, since there's "The Wild Piper," sitting in the back of the plane, playing those bagpipes and piping his men back home.

Did we ever doubt that those bagpipes would be pulled out at the end of the story? Ric Estrada's work on air battles and planes surely did not make George Evans lose any sleep, and the story meanders along for six pages before we get to see Jaimie with his pipes in an anti-climactic final panel. Kanigher sure loved his fish out of water stories, didn't he? The whole point of this one is to figure out how to get the bagpipes going in an air battle.

Peter: "Percentages" is a weary message-story that pounds its message into us over and over. The constant reminder of the General (Patton?) and his stick-pin board are tiring. Still nothing but kudos from me on Redondo's art; if we can't have Heath or Kubert, let's keep this guy on the Rock. "The Wild Piper" wasn't one of Big Bob's best "Gallery of War"s either, but that may be due to my fondness for his darker fables. This one's definitely on the lighter side.

Blitzkrieg 5

"The Raid"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Lee Elias

"The Devil Waits"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

Jack: Ludwig, Hugo, and Franz, our favorite trio of Nazis, relax on a road in Occupied France when word comes down that Allied paratroopers are attacking headquarters! Trucks of soldiers head for HQ but are attacked by elderly French soldiers left over from WWI. Hugo and Ludwig brutally machine-gun the old men, ignoring Franz's criticism of their actions.

The trio survive an attack by American fighter planes and march on toward HQ past the corpses of fellow soldiers. As they near their destination, they see American paratroopers being blown off course and into the woods and give chase. The Nazis wipe out the Americans with a combination of machine gun fire and flamethrowers, but when they come to a bridge held by Allied soldiers, the Nazi trio are ordered to dive underneath it and set mines to blow it up. This mission is a success and, when the Nazis reach the town where HQ is located, they methodically shoot and kill every American soldier they see. Satisfied at their work and certain any invasion of France is doomed to failure, they rest on their laurels and remark on the date: June 6, 1944. Little do they know what is taking place on the beaches of Normandy.

"The Raid"
I will miss Hugo, Franz, and Ludwig, now that Blitzkrieg has been canceled! "The Raid" doesn't have much of the sensitive portrait of the enemy that marks Kanigher's best work in earlier issues of this series, but it's still refreshing to see the war from the enemy's point of view. I especially like the art by Lee Elias, who (in spots) reminds me of what Frank Robbins could've been had he not been so outlandish with some of his poses.

It's 318 B.C., and when Vertix, the Goth chieftain, is killed in battle, his son, Maric, is given his father's sword and told that, if he can spend a night in the forest, he will be qualified to lead his people. Darkness falls and he fights off a pack of wolves, falling into a hole that leads to a subterranean chamber. Beckoned by a muscular woman in a fur tunic (I kid you not), he follows her and finds a tribe of hungry prehistoric men who look upon him as their next meal. Maric fights the men off and escapes back across a stone bridge that he knocks down, leading the prehistoric men to fall to their doom. Successfully returning from the forest, Maric is hailed as the new chieftain of the Goths.

"The Devil Waits"
I don't know why this story is called "The Devil Waits," but I can say for certain that Ric Estrada is one of the few comic artists who can draw a scantily-clad female and make her look like a male wrestler rather than Vampirella. The whole story is kind of silly and I wonder why Bob Kanigher felt compelled to tell a story of pre-Christian era Goths.

Peter: Blitzkrieg ends its five-issue run with its weakest package. Like last issue's "The Souvenir," "The Raid" feels like something we've seen several times before. The back-up, "The Devil Waits," doesn't even fall into the structure of the title; this is not a story told from the perspective of the enemy. It's just weak sword-and-sorcery. In the letters page, reader Bob Robinson criticizes Bob Kanigher for claiming this title would make the enemy seem "human" and missing the mark. While I think the title overall is a strong one, I do see Robinson's point. Take "The Tourists" from last issue, for example, or Ludwig from "The Raid." These are monsters, seemingly devoid of soul or compassion. Still, I give Big Bob high praise for attempting to present something different to the boys and girls of 1976; evidently, the fans wanted more Haunted Taxi stories instead.

Our Fighting Forces 169

"Welcome Home--And Die!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by George Evans

"Sign in the Sky"
Story by Murray Boltinoff
Art. by E.R. Cruz

Jack: The Losers parachute into Germany with Professor Koenig and his daughter Ursula, avoiding Nazis on the way to returning the duo to Berlin. Captain Storm pilots a boat through enemy fire, allowing the other Losers and their charges to leap into the Elbe River and escape. Climbing out of the river and onto dry land, the Losers, the professor, and Ursula find an abandoned hay truck and head for Berlin.

Johnny Cloud drives the truck right through a Nazi roadblock while Gunner and Sarge jump off of the back and disappear. Cloud thinks back to when the Losers were assigned to this mission; the reason the professor and Ursula must return to Berlin is because a blueprint for a deadly missile is hidden in his house. If the Nazis get hold of it, devastation will follow across the globe! Cloud, the professor, and Ursula reach the professor's house, only to find it leveled. They search through the rubble and find the blueprint, but suddenly Nazis appear and shoot, killing the professor and wounding Cloud.

That is some really red skin!
("Welcome Home--And Die!")
Luckily, the other three Losers show up just in time and gun down the Nazis. Cloud commandeers a Nazi plane and the Losers take to the sky with Ursula, where they hook up with Allied jets and are on their way to safety.

"Welcome Home--And Die!" is twelve pages of almost non-stop action, yet it all seems a bit cliched. For some reason, the colorist decided to make Johnny Cloud redder than ever, which is jarring. I like the way Kanigher uses the skills of Captain Storm and Johnny Cloud to help with the escape; Storm pilots a boat and Cloud pilots a plane. Gunner and Sarge do what they do best--shoot Nazis! George Evans can always be counted on for art that is adequate, if nothing special, at this point in his career, and the characters in his stories always seem to end up in a plane!

Johnny Cloud and his squadron are flying back to base when enemy bombers make a sudden appearance! Cloud escapes an attacking plane, only to find himself alone, his squadron nowhere to be found. Observing damage on the ground far below, the Navajo Ace seeks the enemy bomber but finds himself under attack by a second Nazi plane. Cloud flies into the sun and manages to destroy the plane that was following him, then uses a "Sign in the Sky" to track and shoot down the first bomber.

"Sign in the Sky"
It may only be four pages long, but this short backup story features the finest art so far this month. Johnny Cloud is as red in this story as he was in the Losers tale, but Cruz's art is so smooth it doesn't matter. The plot is quick and consists of a couple of aerial tricks; enjoyable but light.

Peter: But for the welcome twist of liebchen Ursula being the real brains of the family, this Losers story was a loser. Dopey dialogue and manufactured excitement. And what happened to Ona? One issue and she's already MIA again. "Sign in the Sky" continues the trend of weak solo back-ups, but I keep forgetting to shout out loud my praise for the art of E.R. Cruz, who at least makes turning the pages bearable. I love how the colorist is still giving Johnny Cloud that red-skinned look even in 1976, when we knew better. Why not use this vignette series to let us know what Ona's been up to?

G.I. Combat 195

"The War That Time Forgot"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Champagne for a Butcher"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

Peter: The Haunted Tank is packed safely aboard a cargo plane, with Jeb, the crew, and a special guest star, Nurse Anna, heading for Iwo Jima with a super-secret weapon aboard: brand new lightweight tank parachutes, gizmos the Japanese would give anything to get hold of. Suddenly, two Zeroes fly out of the clouds, but their attack is fended off by a pterodactyl! What in the world? The cargo plane is destroyed, but the Haunted Tank manages to parachute to safety, landing in the dormant volcano of an uncharted island in the Pacific (hmm...). It's not long before the boys are attacked by dinosaur monsters from the prehistoric Stone Age. They blast the beasts to hell, but the crew is soon captured by a flock of cavemen who tie them up and bow before the tank as if it was a God. A well-timed T. Rex arrives and the cave guys realize they need help, so they let our boys go to do their duty.

"The War That Time Forgot"
After the T. Rex is blasted to atoms, Jeb and co. escape through a small cave and arrive back on the beach, just in time to be shot at by a Japanese battleship. "As if it expected us," murmurs Jeb, just as he puts two and two together and realizes that cute nurse Anna is really a Fraulein and has been radioing the Japs with her Dick Tracy wristwatch (which seems to have frequency even while in a prehistoric Stone Age). The Haunted Tank IV sinks the battleship and the ensuing Zero and Frau Anna is buried in the rubble. The boys are rescued by a destroyer that happens to be passing by and they all muse about how wonderful it is to have exited "The War That Time Forgot!"

"The War That Time Forgot"
For those of you who had asked, time and again, whatever happened to that crazy little island in the Pacific that managed to lure so many wayward seamen, Allied or otherwise, this dopey little saga's for you. It's harmless (and brainless), just like most of the previous journeys to the island, but it also smells of futility, as if Bob is waving the white flag and admitting he's low on petrol. The draw for the original WTTF strips was, obviously, the dinos. Though we often dragged Andru and Esposito through the mud for all their weaknesses, they could at least pencil and ink some pretty ferocious critters when they wanted to. You're not going to get that with Sam Glanzman and his doodles. I'm still not sure why the Army always went to such great expense to make sure either Rock, the Jeb crew, or the Losers were everywhere something was happening.

This issue's "OSS" concerns pretty agent Rolande, who helps blow the hell out of a train carrying Nazi Colonel Kunzler, aka "the Butcher," to his mountaintop pad. Unfortunately, the plan goes awry and the Colonel survives, so Rolande must execute her orders (and Kunzler) in a much more intimate fashion, by serving "Champagne for a Butcher." Another winner in this new series, Kanigher has hit on a great formula, one where the reader is never sure whether the central character will survive or even finish the mission successfully. And, don't look now, Jack, but Estrada's getting better.

Jack: Better is a relative term. In this case, he's certainly better than Glanzman! "The War That Time Forgot" will be hard to top for worst story of 1976, a year not destined to go down in history as one of the better ones for the DC War Comics. The pterodactyl is enormous (it grabs a plane in its claws) and the Haunted Tank is somehow able to fire at it while dropping through the sky attached to parachutes. Wouldn't the recoil send it spinning off? The dinos and cavemen in the volcano are ridiculous and, like you, I never thought I'd miss Andru and Esposito. Then, suddenly, we forget about the dinos and get a subplot with a female spy and a bang-bang battle with a ship and a plane! Just dreadful. The backup story is only slightly better, in my opinion.

Weird War Tales 48

"Ultimate Destiny"
Story by John Albano
Art by Ruben Sosa

"The Greeks Had a Word For It!"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Bill Draut

"The Day After Doomsday!"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Buddy Gernale

Peter: A Stuka crashes to the ground, but the pilot walks through the burning wreckage, seemingly unhurt. Elsewhere, an arrogant Nazi Colonel believes he has been put on Earth to eliminate the Allied forces; to achieve this goal he disobeys orders and advances into ground held by stronger Allied troops. Very soon, the Colonel's regiment is surrounded and they have no alternative but to surrender. But this Nazi believes in going down with the ship and orders his men to advance rather than retreat. Just as he's giving his order, a stranger appears and informs the Colonel he's a Stuka pilot who crashed but observed a weakness in the enemy lines: he convinces the Colonel they can escape through the hole. It's only after bombs fall and the Colonel's entire regiment is blown straight to hell that the pilot admits to the dying Colonel that he's actually the ghost of a Jew, who died in a concentration camp, now roaming the land for "great conquerors" to foil.

"Ultimate Destiny"

"The Greeks Had a Word for It!"
What a screwy story "Ultimate Destiny" is. Our ghostly "hand of God" appears for a handful of panels in the prologue and then is forgotten until the final few pages. The reveal is a lazy one but the story was enjoyable anyway. Ruben Sosa has an unusual style, akin to Howard Chaykin as if inked by Yandoc. What's left after this jumbo-sized opener is two short-shorts, neither of which has much to discuss. In "The Greeks Had a Word For It!," the Italian commandant of a POW camp falls in love with a veiled woman and discovers too late... she's a Gorgon! Just as lame is another "The Day After Doomsday!" about a boy scout out looking for a pet, not realizing the animals have mutated and even the smallest of critters can be carnivorous. Tell me there was a goal here with these two-page doomsday vignettes.

Jack: I don't think Weird War Tales is ever very good, but I enjoyed "Ultimate Destiny." The art was only so-so but the story was satisfying from start to finish, with a decent plot and a weird element that works. "The Greeks Had a Word for It!" is silly, but Draut doesn't draw a bad Medusa. "The Day After Doomsday!" is as bad as the other entries in the series.

Next Week...
More S&S magic from
Billy Graham!