Monday, December 7, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 48: January 1974


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

Eerie #53

"Enter: Mr. Hyde"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jaime Brocal

"To Save a Witch's Soul!"
Story by Al Milgrom
Art by Martin Salvador

Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Paul Neary

"First Night of Terror!"★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alacazar & Neal Adams

"Spawn of the Dread Thing"
Story & Art by Tom Sutton

Looking for the woman who has the amulet that will free him from the ancient body, the mummy breaks into her apartment and reads her diary. In another part of Boston, a scientist named Warren (!) decides to test out his serum to extend life on himself, but he turns into a violent beast! Rushing into the street, he murders the first woman he sees and attacks the first man he sees, but that man turns out to be the mummy, wearing clothes he has stolen in an effort to be less conspicuous. They fight violently and the mummy breaks the beast's neck. The mummy hops a freight car that will take him to the woman; the police find the dead body of the scientist and wonder who killed him.

"Enter: Mr. Hyde"
When you call a story, "Enter: Mr. Hyde," you should find some way of getting Mr. Hyde in there. Instead, Steve Skeates gives us a Boston scientist whose transformation reminds the mummy of reading Stevenson's novel. Really? Is the mummy series going to have a new monster each month for the mummy to polish off after a page of fighting? Next month: the mummy meets the invisible man! At least we have solid art by Jaime Brocal. The idea of the mummy donning a suit of clothes and hopping a boxcar is at once ridiculous and intriguing.

Now that Arthur Lemming understands what we has done as the werewolf, he vows "To Save a Witch's Soul!" If not exactly a witch, he can at least try to prevent his wife from being burned at the stake. He appeals to the police but is thrown into a cell right next to that of his wife, Angela, leading to a speedy reconciliation. She is led out to be burned, but the full moon rises and Arthur transforms into the werewolf again, breaking free of the prison and wreaking havoc on those attempting to turn his wife into toast. He rescues her and runs off. Arthur wakes up the next morning at her side and apologizes for the trouble he has caused, but when the moon rises once again, he returns to werewolf form and kills the woman he just saved.

"To Save a Witch's Soul!"
Martin Salvador is making me wish for Rich Buckler's return. His werewolf looks about as scary as my neighbor's puppy. Arthur sure has a change of heart as soon as he is cursed with the memory of his violent acts; his wife is also awfully forgiving. Didn't they have serious marital problems before he went all hairy, or am I remembering wrong? In any case, the final page of this story is confusing. I'm giving Milgrom the benefit of the doubt with my recap, but that's only my interpretation of what happened. The way it's presented, it looks like the werewolf changed back to Arthur, got cozy with Angela, and changed right back to the werewolf again. The only way to explain it is to assume that Arthur and Angela sat around in the grass from night to morning to night again. And if Arthur knew what was going on, wouldn't he have seen this coming?

Nuclear war in 2001 led to the development of mutant "demons" and, 50 years later, a series of wars between them and humans. When a demon general appears at the farmhouse of James and Elizabeth Hunter demanding help, James refuses and is promptly killed. Elizabeth is then raped repeatedly and, the next year, she gives birth to a half-human, half-demon boy whom she names Demian. Eventually, his mother dies, and the teenaged Demian volunteers to train with the human cavalry and fight demons. A warrior named Jagger teaches him to fight and, when Jagger is killed by demons, Demian takes swift revenge. The Demon Wars come to an end, but the warrior known as "Hunter" fights on against the darkness within his demon half.

This origin story is very well done, both in writing and art, though I could do without some of the made-up science fiction words like "cyclochicks" and "con-crush-ion grenade"s. The first part of the story reads like a prototype for Mad Max and the middle part is like any number of legends with half-breed children. Part three, where Hunter goes out and trains for battle, is nothing new either, but somehow the whole package works. I'm looking forward to more of this series and to more Paul Neary artwork.

Derek Schreck thinks back to when the Chinese and the Americans obliterated each other's nuclear testing sites on the moon and the radiation made its way to Earth, creating mindless, violent zombies everywhere. Schreck fought his way home through a crowd of zombies and found his wife, Paula, incredibly horny and wanting lots of sex. In the middle of the night, she lost her marbles and attacked him with a meat cleaver, cutting off his hand. He cauterized the bleeding in the fireplace and now writes with a hook.

"First Night of Terror!"
Good lord, if I can have one prayer answered, please don't let this be the first entry in a series. "First Night of Terror!" is twelve endless pages of a mixed-up stew of I Am Legend and The Body Snatchers, with perhaps the most explicit topless female we've seen yet thrown in. How in the world did Neal Adams get involved in this? As inker, he has a heavy hand, and some of the panels have that classic Adams look, but the script by Moench is such dreck (rhymes with Schreck) that it saddens me to see the great artist's time wasted. This is truly awful stuff and I only gave it a half star above the dreaded one-star rating because of the technical expertise of Neal Adams.

Victorian-era (?) detectives gather after a pretty young woman is decapitated by a killer. Inspector MacBaine is brought in, having solved a similar crime many years ago, but he defers to the mysterious Fathom Haunt, a wizard who seems not to have aged since he and MacBaine worked together long in the past. Haunt and MacBaine retire to Haunt's house, where Haunt summons up mysterious creatures who nearly capture MacBaine. The duo proceed to a graveyard, where they battle the "Spawn of the Dread Thing," a giant, ghostly baby with magical powers and a bad attitude. Fortunately for all of us, they defeat it and go their separate ways.

I'm happy to see the return of Tom Sutton, whose work has been scarce in the Warren mags recently. I've never been a fan of Lovecraft knockoffs, and this story certainly is that, but it's also creative and beautifully illustrated. Unlike my reaction to "First Night of Terror," I am looking forward to more Fathom Haunt entries, even if I still don't know how to pronounce Cthulhu.-Jack

"God's what?"
By this point, The Mummy and Werewolf plotlines are virtually interchangeable. Mr. Hyde is name-checked in the title, but he makes nothing more than a cameo. Why? Who knows? His appearance is inconsequential and noggin-scratching, as is the climax of this Werewolf chapter, wherein Lemming goes to a whole lot of trouble to rescue his wife and subsequently murder her. Why? Who knows? The only thing I know is that, by this time, Al had obviously seen enough (or written enough) and jumped ship for a very successful career over at Marvel. Steve is going to script the final chapters of Mummy and Werewolf next issue and then do something deliciously radical. 

The second chapter of "Hunter" finds RicMargo plumbing the depths of his inner Moench and spewing forth such pretentious lines as "The ebon night discovered the orphan under a swollen moon..." The promise found in the first chapter is, evidently, on hold. God help me, but I enjoyed "First Night of Terror," Doug's obvious "homage" to Matheson's I Am Legend, a sleazy little vehicle that boasts a strange collaboration between Vi(n)cente Alcazar and Neal Adams. Some of the panels look gloriously Neal and some look Skywaldian in their starkness (but the GGA rates a ten!). I will admit up front that there's very little originality or substance here, but Schreck certainly keeps your interest. Let's see how the remaining two chapters pan out.

"Spawn of the Dread Thing" might be a little shy of a full script, but the fact that the name "Cthulhu" is uttered rather than some second-rate imitation puts me firmly in its corner. Never mind the script, though, this is a Tom Sutton artistic tour-de-force, easily the most intricate tapestry he's unveiled in his Warren years. Every page is a poster for my teen bedroom. Alas, this is the only installment in what was to be a Sutton series; Eerie could have done with at least one more good series.

Creepy #59

"Destiny's Witch" ★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Ramon Torrents

"A Dark and Violent Place" 
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"Spare That Tree!" ★1/2
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Martin Salvador

"Bless Us Father..." ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Richard Corben

"Curiosity Killed the Cat" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Neary

"Not a Creature Was Stirring" 
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Tom Sutton

"Destiny's Witch"
When a series of demonic (some might say vampiric) attacks sweep a small village, suspicious eyes fall upon Mr. Cromwell's pretty handmaiden, Ara, but the girl swears innocence. Well, she's not a vampire, but she is a budding witch, stealing out into the forest each day for a lesson in broom-riding from Mother Hastings. When the creature attacks a tribe of Indians living just outside the village, tensions run high and Ara decides it's time to receive her final lesson. She heads out to Mother Hastings's shack, only to discover the old woman dying and ready to turn her witchy powers over to Ara. 

Ara heads back to the Cromwell estate, where she sacrifices Lizabeth Cromwell and drinks her blood. Unfortunately, she performs the ritual in front of a live audience and the Cromwells, thinking the girl a vampire (rather than a witch), drive a stake through Ara's heart, killing her. Three hundred years later, the stake rots and Ara rises from the grave to take her vengeance. 

What a mess! John Jacobson seems to have wanted to tell three or four stories simultaneously with "Destiny's Witch," but didn't have enough for one. Ara is introduced as a kindly maiden, then we have our doubts, then she's a good girl again, then we discover she's actually a witch, maybe a vampire. Her beau, Oliver, might be a werewolf, but that's never made clear. And you'd think a budding witch would have a good sense of her surroundings, but Ara manages to make embarrassing blunders left and right (not only does she drink blood in front of what seems to be a full house, but she makes a life-threatening admission to Oliver in the forest while three or four men are standing nearby--does she shout her secret out?). The epilogue, where Ara returns to confront her betrayer, Oliver (who's now a tour guide for vampire sites!), is clumsy and raises more questions than it answers. The Torrents art is great but puzzling in spots. One panel seems to meld into the other, not always producing the effect Torrents was striving for.

"A Dark and Violent Place"
Inspector Brannon (the white guy) and Detective Harry Phillips (the black guy) are called to an old, elegant movie theater in a black neighborhood to investigate a bizarre slaying. The murder mirrored the violence happening on screen at the time. Though the two cops have their (racially-centric) differences, both want to catch the killer as quick as possible to prevent a second murder. While strolling through the theater, Brannon is attacked and murdered by a hooded "phantom," who strikes and then fades back into the darkness. Phillips concocts a plan to catch the phantom, involving a street cop and a theater employee, which goes tits up fast. Our harried police detective chases the jive-ass mofo phantom into his lair in the subway, where he watches as the misunderstood (and disfigured) assassin lights himself up on a third rail.

"A Dark and Violent Place"
I've run out of "superlatives" for Don McGregor's Warren work; as soon as I've declared that a current story must be the worst crap McGregor ever produced, he lowers the basement floor yet again. Infused with the type of writing that makes white guys like me shudder (could we actually think black men call every woman "mama" or "sweet sister?"), "A Dark and Violent Place" is an ugly, pretentious, and (hopefully) dated view of racism in the mid-1970s. McGregor wants us to think he's raising cogent questions about the way whites exploit blacks with entertainment but then has his African-American protagonist, a New York detective, mind you, address his partner as "baby." Rather than do some good-old-fashioned detective work, Harry whips up a dangerous and stupid plot to trap the phantom that risks the lives of both cop and citizen. My favorite bit of dialogue:

Harry: You know what your problem is?
Brannon: Not really...! But I do know you're going to tell me... right?

That's my feeling exactly about McGregor's scripts. Preaching via a clumsy re-working of The Phantom of the Opera with dialogue ripped from the pages of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, comes off as just that, derivative and wrong-headed. Awful art as well, muddy and sketchy. Easily a front-runner for Worst Story of the Year.

"Spare That Tree!"
Dr. Parker arrives at the estate of Sir Edgar Holloway to see a most perplexing sight: the hanging body of one of Holloway's servants. Holloway's butler, Jennings, explains to the good doctor that the corpse belongs to his brother, shot and hung for chopping down a tree on the estate. Perplexed, Parker confronts the master of the manor with the question of "Why?" Sir Edgar explains that, when he was a young boy, he became deathly ill and a local druid took him and his parents into the forest and worked a little magic. A certain tree was tied into the soul of Edgar. Little Lord Edgar was completely cured but, to avoid blackmail, his father murdered the druid and buried him at the base of the tree. 

Unfortunately for Sir Edgar, he never did learn the whereabouts of that tree, so a ban on felling was put into force. Just at that moment, Sir Edgar starts running a fever and the doctor exclaims that the man's skin is boiling to the touch. Jennings enters gleefully to explain that he knew where the tree was all along and, as revenge, has it burning in the fireplace. Butterworth's foundation is an interesting one (druid + tree + soul + big mistake = bad trouble), but the delivery is confused and muddled. At one point, Jennings reveals that his brother was buried alive and rose from the grave (a little worse for wear and tear) years before, but this revelation seems to have no apparent importance. It's just an odd occurrence. Further, Jennings, in his final rant, confesses that he knew where the tree was the whole time, so why not stave off such misunderstandings as befell his poor nitwit brother and, oh, I don't know, erect a fence around the magical tree? That ending really is laugh-out-loud stupid. 

"Bless Us Father..."
A detailed synopsis isn't really needed for "Bless Us, Father..." Obviously inspired by EC's "And All Through the House...," Bill Dubay's "Bless Us, Father..." has one of those dual-narrative thingies where two parties are telling stories that eventually merge into one. There's an escaped mental patient named Randolph, roaming the streets of New York, dressed like Santa and wielding a cleaver, carving up anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. At the same time, there's a beat cop, separated from his estranged wife, who saves a little girl from the nasty intentions of a street gang (but then, inexplicably, sends her on her way home, unaccompanied!). The paths of loony and cop finally intersect. The story is "narrated" by the nut's parents and the cop's wife and daughter. While I'd be somewhat hypocritical not to note that pieces of the narration come off every bit as pretentious as Doug and DonnyMac, I do have to say that the style kept me engrossed the entire way and the climax, while violent, was very sweet and avoided the maudlin. Corben's art and color are both gorgeous, with the final six panels brilliantly evoking the menace of Randolph (think Harold from "The Disenfranchised" with a new suit). 

"Curiosity Killed the Cat"

A with-it happenin' hippie heads to Wilmot, Indiana (or Wilmont, depending on what page of the story you're on) to trip out on what's goin' down. Day one, as he's checking into his hotel, the cool cat is busted for murdering the proprietor of said inn, despite the fact that he just got there. Wilmo(n)t is hardly the most tolerant city in Indiana, but our hero is surprised when a gorgeous and sultry brunette named Wendy bails him out and invites him back to her pad. She confesses that she totally believes in the UFOs and the "men in black" and, in fact, she saw a saucer land in the forest a few nights before. It's her theory that the aliens are hunting down and killing anyone who's witnessed their arrival, marking the house of their intended prey with a circled "Z." A bit peeved that the man she bailed out of the pokey is a bit wary of her story, Wendy drives him out to the spot and, holy crap!, there's a UFO parked in the forest. Suddenly suspicious of his benefactor, the hippie tosses Wendy out of her own car just as she's transforming back into a multi-tentacled monster and hightails it back to town. Believing himself safe, the young man writes his story down in a rented shack, unaware that the roof has been marked with a circled "Z."

I had a good time with this dopey little thriller, perhaps because, outside of a few "hippies are people too" reminders, Doug just lets the story unfold. "Curiosity Killed the Cat" contains no environmental warnings from space, nothing about chemical companies poisoning the water, no racial divides (in fact, there's nary a non-Caucasian in sight... shame on you, Doug!)--just fun conspiracy theories and some very nice art. I could get nitpicky and snicker at the thought of a small-time jail that would let a prisoner, accused of first-degree murder, out on bail, and wonder why it was necessary to have such an intricate lead-up to a twist we all saw coming anyway. That last panel is a gem. 

Another annoying DonnyMac
A crazed killer, specializing in street-corner Santas, is terrorizing the city, and Detective David Turner hopes to take the monster out with a bullet to the head. Taking the initiative, Turner dresses like Father Christmas and endures the thirty-below weather of New York. At the same time, Virgil Lockwood, who's paid to be a Santa on the corner, only wants peace and love in the world. At some point, Virgil, Turner, and a very sick Santa-hater are going to pow-wow. In the end, no amount of police work will catch the loony and it's up to the real-life Santa and his reindeer buddies to put an end to the menace.

There's a whole lot more going on here than the slim synopsis above, but "Not a Creature Was Stirring" is not one of those easy-to-explain Creepy stories. There's a subplot about UFOs sighted in the city that kinda ties in to the bizarre twist at the climax (which I really liked), but kinda doesn't. And what's with setting the tale in 1978? Did I miss something there? Anyway, there's not much proselytizing going on and, much like with Moench and "Curiosity..." above, DonnyMac seems to be content just telling a story. Well, aside from the dialogue between two cops riding in a patrol car that immediately reminds one of the similarly annoying scene found in "The Night The Snow Spilled Blood," way back in Eerie #38,  also (not coincidentally) scripted by DonnyMac. Aside from that, though, this might just be the most enjoyable McGregor story to come along in many a moon. This was Warren's entry into the Holiday Issue sweepstakes. Just a toe in the water now, the Creepy Christmas Special would become a much-loved, much-anticipated yearly event, with some of Warren's best stories found between those covers.-Peter

More Sutton goodness!
Jack-I was impressed with the art by Torrents on "Destiny's Witch" and thought, while I was reading it, that it probably works better in black and white than it would in color. The story goes on too long but the setting is interesting and I liked the use of witch and vampire mythology. "A Dark and Violent Place" is pretty entertaining for a preachy McGregor story, though the Abellan graphics are too scratchy for my taste. I enjoyed "Spare That Tree," which seems brisk at seven pages (the first two stories in this issue run twelve and fourteen pages, respectively). The art is average, typical for Salvador, but the twist ending got me.

I really liked "Bless Us Father..." at first, due to Corben's art and amazing color, but the story became too horrifying and gratuitously violent for my tastes. This is the kind of tale that kept me from buying these mags as a kid and I still don't like it. I thought Moench was going to ruin "Curiosity Killed the Cat" with too much hippie talk, but Neary's art carried the day and I ended up enjoying it, especially the panel on the last page with the girl in her half-human, half-alien state. I was happy to see the issue end with another burst of Sutton's creativity, even if it was used with a McGregor story. As with most of the stories we've read this month, the length (thirteen pages) allows the plot to develop and the end is clever. All in all, an enjoyable issue!

Enrich Torres
Vampirella #30

"The God of Blood"
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Jose Gonzalez

Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"As Though They Were Living!"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Richard Corben

Story & Art by Fernando Fernandez

"Captain Death"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Isidro Mones

A new exhibit of Aztec treasure at a New York City museum is marred by the appearance of the corpse of a man with his heart torn out. Soon, Vampirella and Pendragon arrive in Mexico City for the International Convention of Magicians, where magician Deo Huitz gets one look at Vampi and decides that he must have her. His assistant Zapha is the one who left the corpse at the NYC museum. After both Pendragon and Huitz perform their acts, Deo has a vision of Vampirella embracing the sun god. That night, Huitz is warned in a dream by a servant of Chaos that he may be getting too big for his breeches.

"The God of Blood"
The next day passes and, suddenly, Vampi senses that Pendragon is in danger. She races to his aid but comes face to face with a crowd worshipping before the sacrificial temple of the sun god. She is tied to a table and Huitz, wearing a sun god mask, prepares to cut out her heart, when the real sun god appears, vaporizes the magician, and embraces Vampirella with "cosmic passion."

Another poorly thought out script by Flaxman Loew gets better art than it deserves in "The God of Blood," where Jose Gonzalez continues to impress me with how well he draws the gal from Drakulon (and every other character). I guess we've seen the last of the Van Helsings for the time being, since it seems Vampirella and Pendragon have become a globe-trotting team of magician and assistant. Pendy's constant inebriation is tiresome, but I did like the revelation that the handsome magician Deo Huitz was actually a slob wearing a wig and corset.

A beautiful woman goes home with a man she meets in a bar. Later that night, screams are heard from the man's apartment and a black panther is seen leaping from the window. The panther transforms into the woman and the man is found torn to pieces. Thirty years later, an old man sees an exotic dancer and thinks she resembles the woman from long ago who turned into a panther. Her lack of aging puzzles him, and she notices him staring at her (in a way different from all of the other customers). That night, he is ripped apart by a panther. The woman turns up naked at a reporter's apartment and he lets her stay; of course, he is also torn apart by morning. The girl is at first troubled by the realization of what she has done, but she quickly comes to relish the idea of further violent acts.

Like the story before it, "Re-Birth!" features outstanding art and a mediocre story. Fortunately, Skeates's plot is slightly more coherent than that of Loew. Auraleon sure can draw beautiful women, though, as we've noted before, they all look the same. This riff on Cat People doesn't go anywhere and seems to be the start of another series, like the werewolf and the mummy, where people get killed violently every few pages. Violence is no substitute for good storytelling, but at least this young lady is prettier than the bandaged or furry stars of those other series.

"As Though They Were Living!"
In Salem, Mass., in the year 1794, it was not wise to spurn a witch like Karyn Haining. Holland Wingate refused to dance with her and she was embarrassed, so she joins with other witches and summons up a demon named Sidhe to take revenge. Villagers attack during the ceremony and Karyn is killed, but Sidhe in turn kills the villagers before assuming human form as handsome Nathan Browne. He appears in the village and quickly kills Holland Wingate, but Wingate's fiance, Shelly Allan, figures out what's going on and invites Nathan to her house, where she locks him in the cellar and burns him to death, returning the demon to Hell.

Less violent than"Bless Us Father..." but more sexy, in line with what appears to be Warren's emerging embrace of drawings of busty, topless women, "As Though They Were Living!" is a gorgeous fantasia of Corben color where each page is a delight for the eye. The story makes sense and the demon is appropriately scary; happily, Corben resists the temptation (unlike in the mummy and werewolf stories) to display panel after panel of people being torn to bits by the demon. I also like the variations in his page designs; no two pages have the same panel layout, and the final page features five panels arranged around a central panel shaped like a pentagram. Excellent work!

Two inmates who share a cell in Ellswood Prison are burned to a crisp in a fire, and the warden is given the "Memoirs!" that one of the victims had written. The man was an escaped mental patient who details his killing spree, starting with a young woman and continuing on through more and more people, until he became an anonymous celebrity, feared for his brutal acts. Finally he was caught, and he wrote his story in blood drawn from his cellmate.

Fernando Fernandez writes and draws another violent tale with an artistic style that I'll describe as elliptical. There's a lot of white space and harsh black lines, with the mind filling in the missing parts. The overall effect is to suggest extreme violence while not depicting it as graphically as it could be depicted; I'm thankful for that, but I still don't care for the trend we're seeing this month toward stories of people being murdered in horrible ways. There's really no plot to "Memoirs"; it's just a catalogue of killings.

"Captain Death"
Walt Marley is a fairly successful syndicated cartoonist who draws a strip titled "Captain Death." His wealthy sister, Nora, refuses his request for an advance on his inheritance, so when his girlfriend Sally and her brother Andrew, who secretly live with Walt, suggest murder, he jumps at the idea. Walt kills Nora and buries her in the cellar, but when he gets home he finds that Sally and Andrew have disappeared and taken his comic strips with them. Walt goes to the police to report the theft and confesses to murder. The cops dig up Nora's body and find two strange things: she is already a skeleton and she clutches the missing comic strips, in which they find the characters of Sally and Andrew. It seems they exist only in Walt's mind and Nora's murder happened some time ago.

Leave it to Carl Wessler to bring a good issue to a close with another of his confusing scripts. He throws a bunch of things into the cauldron and stirs them up, coming up with a mess that makes very little sense. The art by Munes is decent but can't cure the problems with the script.-Jack


The pitchers for "The God of Blood" are pretty enough but I'll be darned if I can make heads or tails of the words. Especially in that climax, which I read a couple of times and still can't decipher. One thing's for sure: Pendy's jokey alcoholism has worn out its welcome. Could you imagine this sub-plot flying in any funny book these days? There'd be all sorts of asterisks and little caption boxes that read "If you think you have a drinking problem..." An answer to a reader on the letters page answers a question I was going to throw out there: what the heck ever happened to the Van Helsings? According to the letter's page answer man, "Adam Van Helsing has been temporarily dropped from the Vampirella series to give our heroine a greater diversity of adventures." 

The opening chapter of Pantha is certainly nothing new (Cat People, anyone?), but it did pique my interest and did what so many series before it could not do: make me want to read the next chapter now. Auraleon's art is gorgeous but it's odd as well; it's as if Bill DuBay told the artist he wanted to see boobies but backsides were out of the question. Pantha's human butt lacks a (how should I say it?) crease (insert smile emoji). Skeates has always been ruthless with his characters and "Re-Birth!" is no exception; Skeates introduces characters we think might have something to do with the story and then he quickly rips their throats out. My kind of guy.

"As Though They Were Living!"
Having never read Vampirella as a kid, there are a lot of stories I'm discovering for the first time with this blog. Finding a Rich Corben tale I'd never read before is like finding the acetate for that rare never-released Flock of Seagulls album (be still my beating heart), but "As Though They Were Living!" has a sketchy, hurried script that begins like a house on fire and then sputters out at the climax (ironically) with a house on fire. We don't always need a twist ending, but we do need a finish that makes us consider the time we spent reading eight pages of illustrated horror worth it. Not sure "Memoirs" does that for me. Both art and script are sketchy; did I miss the part where Fernandez explained how the madman set himself and his bunkmate on fire? Some striking images here and there (that skull over the city, for instance) but, overall, I'm left cold.

"Captain Death" sees the return of EC/Atlas vet Carl Wessler, after a vacation of several years (Carl had been concentrating his energies on horror strips over at DC) and I'll be the first to welcome him back. "Captain Death" doesn't make a lick of sense but at the very least it's original in its wonkiness.

From Vampirella #30

Please do not attempt to cut this
page off your computer screen.

Next Week...
Batman Unmasks
The Man Who Shot Mlle. Marie!


Quiddity99 said...

I kinda feel by this point Skeates had run out of ideas about what to do about the Mummy leading to this chapter having the guest Mr. Hyde character. I do love the end twist of the Werewolf story, as this series all appears to be about endless tragedy for Arthur (he's now killed his daughter, lover and wife), but the writing is a mess. Especially with how back and forth they go with the werewolf transformations; its as if he turned human for an hour or so then right back to being a werewolf. This is essentially the end of the first main arc of the werewolf story, with Al Milgrom departing. Things will get quite crazy as Steve Skeates takes over next time. Warren does seem to do pretty good at least with the origin part of its series, and the Hunter story is no exception. Schreck indeed is the start of a new series, although it isn't that long of one, only appearing in 2 more issues after this. This is totally based on "I Am Legend"/"Omega Man". I am also puzzled at how Adams got involved, Vicente Alcazar (making his Warren debut here) is solo for the rest of the series. "Fathom Haunt" is an interesting story and has some great Sutton art. Alas, this is the opposite of "Schreck", while it appeared intended for a series this is the only entry. I assume because its Tom Sutton will leave Warren in the near future, with us having only a few more stories left from him. We will get what I consider a strong new series starting next issue though. :P

Love the Torrents art, but yeah, "Destiny's Witch" is a total mess of a story. "A Dark and Violent Place" is even worse, with McGregor basically trying to again do what he tried with his story in the last issue of Creepy. I enjoyed "Save That Tree" more than you had, but will admit you bring up good points of criticism. "Bless Us Father" is a great effort by Corben and Dubay; I think this is the first time we see this dual narrative style pop up in a Warren story; it will be used to great effect later on in "Thrillkill" which many consider the best Warren story of all time. "Curiosity Killed the Cat" is another pretty good effort. "Not a Creature was Stirring" is a rare good effort from McGregor, basically the opposite of "Bless Us Father" with the Santas being the victims rather than the killer. Some great Tom Sutton art again. As for McGregor, I've done some research and have wonderful news, beyond an inventory story that pops up in Creepy #72, this will be his last Warren story for a good 5-6 years or so.

Quiddity99 said...


Love the cover for this issue of Vampi, one of my all time favorites. The Van Helsings will be out of the Vampi storyline throughout Flaxman Loew's run as writer if I remember correctly. His stories occasionally have some continuity (this one continues into the next issue; we also saw that with the 2 Loch Ness based stories) but most are stand alone with Vampi and Pendragon visiting various places and encountering various monsters and potential love interests. "Pantha" is the start of a new series and she will have many appearances in the magazine throughout the years although also lengthy absences. And dare I say it, Pantha is even more attractive than Vampi to me, at least when we get Jose Gonzalez and Jose Ortiz drawing her. I think this initial series with her is probably her best in terms of writing, which is kinda unfortunate as its not that great a story! I wouldn't give "As Though They Were Living" 4 stars, but agreed that it is a very strong effort. This is also the return of Gerry Boudreau, who appeared for one story in Eerie #46; he will go on to be one of Warren's most prolific writers the rest of their run. Really enjoyable effort by Fernandez as well with "Memoirs", his art continues to amaze considerably. I liked "Captain Death" a lot as well with its unexpected twists, and I always enjoy seeing Munes art. Wessler will turn out at least a few good stories, although he'll later totally recycle one of his EC stories too.

Anonymous said...

“Not A Creature Was Stirring” : that Unidentified Flying Object that’s been spotted throughout the city is Santa on his Xmas Eve gift delivery rounds, innit?

And as for the obvious lack
Below the lady’s lower back
A shortage of ink
Might explain, I should think
Why she’s missing a naked butt-crack


Jim Stenstrum said...

Because my family crest is a big clump of sour grapes, I feel it necessary to set the story straight concerning Bill DuBay’s BLESS US FATHER and the dual narrative technique he used. Truth is I pitched THRILLKILL to DuBay two months BEFORE he wrote his Christmas story. I explained to Bill that I thought comic book captions were usually a waste of space, particularly when they described things that the reader could already see for themselves in the artwork, and that my idea was to use a double narrative technique for THRILLKILL, essentially telling two stories at the same time.

DuBay loved the idea so much he quickly cobbled together BLESS US FATHER using this technique and sent it off to Rich Corben. THRILLKILL, which was written in 1973, did not appear until mid-1975 because it took that long for Neal Adams to fit it into his schedule.

I hate to speak ill of the dead, but it is easy to make an exception in Bill DuBay’s case. He made no bones about stealing ideas. When I was new at Warren he swiped several of my story ideas, and I stayed quiet about it because I was a dopey kid and I thought that was just how the comic business worked in the Big City. After a while I put my foot down and he stopped this crap with me, but I have no doubt there are other Warren writers who experienced similar abuse from DuBay.

One last note: MARVIN THE DEAD THING (Eerie #49) was a big “fuck you” to Marv Wolfman, who worked with Bill DuBay at the Warren offices before I came on board. I have no idea DuBay’s beef was with Marv (never met him myself), but Bill’s dickatude was legendary.

Oh, also, Bill DuBay had weird hair. Just sayin’.

andydecker said...

I came rather late to the Warren magazines. Must have been 1977 when I discovered them at some international bookstall. I can remember that I thought Pantha as a boring sidekick to Vampirella. That changed when I got the opportunity to read the first stories. So different to the later ones. Much more serious in tone. Skeates is hit and miss for me, but this is one of his better efforts.

I find the Vampirella Butterworth stories mostly poor, but Gonzalez is wonderful. It is still worth a grin how he patterned his villain here after the likeness of Aleister Crowley, right down to the famous pose with the mask on the 10th page of the story. I wonder if this was his idea or Butterworth's.

Corben was nearly the only one who liked his drawn woman (ridiculous and I guess satirically) busty. The European artists tended to slim.

"Schreck" is dumb and over-written as we come to expect from Doug Moench. Most of the series are derivative, this is Warren's thing. But I still like this a lot. It is like the action-adventure novels of the time, right down to the macho-manly "let's cauterize my bleeding stump and be right as rain tomorrow" BS. The story is done like a Italian horror movie, unashamedly gory, violent and a lot of sex and nudity. As it should be.

I have a soft spot for the short interior page stories. This one is drawn as Hammeresque as possible.

Thank you, Jim Stenstrum, for the memories!!

Quiddity99 said...

Thanks for the info Jim! Always great to hear from you!

I think the net result of what gets published is very strong (Bill Dubay's era as editor is the peak of the Warren magazines for me), but it doesn't really surprise me; Dubay has a bad reputation about how he dealt with creators and just people in general. I always think of that Wally Wood story that he totally butchered for 1984 (I think I've mentioned the details in the comments before). In the very near future Archie Goodwin will come back, the future for Warren is looking so bright, but he and Dubay don't get along and Goodwin quits after only a few issues.

On the other hand, Louise Jones' era as editor is nearly as good as Dubay's and I don't think I've ever heard someone say a bad thing about her.

Peter Enfantino said...

Being dim-bulbed, I'd never connected "Bless Us, Father" with "Thrill Kill." I see it now thanks to the men helping me down the path, but I can appreciate both. I obviously dig "Bless" more for Corben's art but the story's ok too. "Thrill Kill" hits the bullseye with both story and art but I'm getting ahead of myself. If I had a time machine, I'd risk the butterfly effect to try to talk Tom Sutton into contributing more to Warren. His Charlton stuff is creepy and atmospheric but necessitated his toning down the horrific stuff quite a bit. You wouldn't have seen "The Disenfranchised" at Charlton.

Thanks, Jim, for stopping by now and then and giving us a behind-the-scenes.

Grant said...

It's funny to see the phrase "Men In Black" so much earlier than the movie franchise. Of course, that idea has been well-known among ufology people since the early '60s, but it's a little stranger to see it in pop culture. Though I know there are other exceptions.

Jack Seabrook said...

Grant, I had the same thought and have been humming the movie theme song ever since.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that Richard Corben has passed away at the age of 80. Damn it.

He was made of awesome.


Peter Enfantino said...

Yeah, bt, this year continues to suck.
Little bits of my childhood keep dying away. Eddie, Sean, Rich. No more!

Grant said...

I really hated hearing this too.
I'm worse at recognizing an artist than almost any other comics fan on earth, and yet I can spot something by Richard Corben immediately. That might sound like faint praise, but I think it says something.