Monday, March 29, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 24: December 1981 + The Best of 1981


The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

Denys Cowan & Dick Giordano
Batman #342

"Requiem for a Hero"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin

When Dr. Thirteen discovers Man-Bat attacking Batman in the old Batcave below Wayne Manor, the ghost breaker bonks Man-Bat in the head with his trusty sonar gun, only to find himself attacked in return. Batman uses the sonar gun like a siren at a rock concert and Man-Bat flies off to parts unknown. Dr. Thirteen is rushed to the hospital, where Commissioner Gordon loses his cool with Batman because he received a nasty letter.

Bruce Wayne gets bad news from Lucius Fox about Poison Ivy's bid to take over Wayne Foundation, while Boss Thorne stews about the fact that his favorite mayoral candidate is trailing in the polls. He sees an image of Hugo Strange, a man he killed, and wonders why. Bruce Wayne visits the home of Man-Bat's alter-ego, Kirk Langstrom, in Crime Alley; his wife provides a capsule summary of the history of Man-Bat and reports that hubby went nuts a week before when he overdosed on bat-gland serum.

That night, Batman explores the network of caves around the old Batcave and finds Man-Bat; they fight for a while and Batman gives Man-Bat an antidote that doesn't seem to work, so the hero/villain flies off deeper into the cave.

A surprisingly nice panel in a poorly-drawn story.

Peter: Aside from the overlong and clunky expository, I thought "Requiem for a Hero" was an enthralling thriller. That happens when you've got a great villain and Man-Bat, ambiguous as his status is, makes for a great villain. Glad that Gerry didn't feel the need to wrap the saga up with another miracle cure. Let's just let it hang out there for a while; that way we don't have to read yet another excuse for why Langstrom went bad again. I'd have liked this one even more if the art didn't smell like the salmon you found in your fridge after three weeks. And let's hear it for the superhero's best friend: amnesia! Didn't see that one coming, did we kids? I love Gordon's temper flare: "Blasted caped menace!" indeed!

Jack: Where's Gene Colan? Novick and McLaughlin's artwork this issue is sub-par, even for them, and it detracts from the enjoyment of the story. There are a bunch of subplots interweaving here, and that's a plus, because the main story is a dud. Man-Bat took too much Bat-gland and went off the deep end. Didn't his wife think to let anyone know? And why are they living in Crime Alley, which is now a slum? I'm looking forward to Colan's return next issue.

"Burn, Robin, Burn"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Trevor Von Eeden & Frank Chiaramonte

The devil-worshipers have Robin tied upside-down to a cross and are about to sacrifice a somnolent blonde, but the Teen Wonder manages to rock and roll his way to freedom, steal the truck from the leader of the coven, and take off down the highway with blondie.

Peter: Beating the odds, "Burn, Robin, Burn" (with soundtrack courtesy of Silver Convention) is even better than its opening chapter last issue. That's due 75% to this Von Eeden kid, whose new inker, Frank Chiaramonte, allows his Gene Colan-influenced style to breathe and soar. The plot and outcome could have been stronger but I like this darker-edged Boy Wonder.

Jack: It's definitely better than the Batman story that leads off this issue, but for an eight-page backup story, not much happens. I'm getting a little tired of the Dynamic Duo escaping from being tied up by the old trick of tensing their muscles when the knots are being tied. Wouldn't someone catch on to that? The Von Eeden/Chiaramonte art is not bad but the reproduction could be better.

The Brave and the Bold #181

"Time, See What's Become of Me..."
Story by Alan Brennert
Art by Jim Aparo

Batman has trailed drug kingpin Thomas Kurland to San Francisco, where the crook has turned his heroin business over to his son. The Dark Knight sees the costumed hero known as Hawk attack Kurland on a rooftop in order to break up a drug deal; in the melee that follows, Kurland falls to his death and Hawk, reverted to his alter-ego of Hank Hall, flees, fearing that Batman will arrest him for causing Kurland's death. Batman knows that the drug dealer's father will want to kill Hawk, but can one hero locate the other in time to save him?

Hawk's brother Don, also known as Dove, laments the loss of idealism from the 1960s and the rise of selfishness in the 1980s. Both brothers are trapped in their 1960s' personas: one angry and volatile, the other gentle and less volatile. Hawk sets out to track down Kurland senior, while Batman locates Dove and they track Hawk, who has been captured by Kurland's men and taken to his boat in the Bay. The unseen being that gave Hawk and Dove their powers chooses this moment to strip them of those powers, arguing that they need to mature quite a bit but, with Batman's help, the now-civilian siblings manage to defeat Kurland and plan to sit down together for a long heart-to-heart chat.

Peter: I really wanted to like "Time, See What's Become of Me...," even despite its pretentious Simon and Garfunkel swipe, but I just couldn't understand what the hell was going on. For the uninitiated, this has to be the most complicated funny book story ever written. I give Alan Brennert extra credit for roping me in to the enthralling narrative (especially the see-sawing of Hawk and what appears to be his slip into psychosis) and engaging plot despite being loaded down by a couple of relatively unknown characters. A little research informs me that the duo was created by Steves Ditko and Skeates (for Showcase #75 in 1968). Now, that's an odd couple.

Jack: My memory of Hawk and Dove is hazy; all I remember is that Steve Ditko drew them in the late '60s. This story suffers from the same thing that hurts a number of Brave and Bold stories: the need to explain to the readers who these guest stars are. In the case of Hawk and Dove, it's a complicated story that requires a fair amount of explanation, which takes up more time than it should. The characters themselves are cliches, down to Don's classic Ditko bow-tie, and the fact that they change back and forth from civilians to super-heroes seemingly without warning is unusual, but what's really strange is that when they change they retain their full outfits, ties included. The gorgeous Aparo art makes the story more enjoyable than it would be if it were drawn by Novick and McLaughlin.

Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

Nemesis escapes death from the heart gizmo strapped to his chest and gives the doctor truth serum to make him reveal the location of the device's master control. In disguise as the doctor, Nemesis visits Solomon, who reveals the location; Nemesis knocks him out and dismantles the controls. Solomon finds Nemesis and sics his goon on our hero, who fights him off. Solomon flips the switch to trigger the heart attack machine, not realizing that Nemesis put one on Solomon while he slept. Luckily, Nemesis turned off his own just in time. Now Solomon is dead and Nemesis is out of danger.

Peter: Wash... rinse... repeat. There's not one aspect of "Heartbreak!" to change my mind that Nemesis is the worst DC series we've had to read. The pace is grueling, nothing much happens, and when something does happen it's usually something stupid and boring. I can't wait for this detritus to be cleared away.

Jack: I thought this entry was fairly exciting. I'm glad Nemesis finally got the heart attack machine off his chest. And how about Nemesis's blonde girlfriend? She pops in for a few panels to remind us that she barely knows Nemesis and isn't sure she should trust him. A little late for that, don't you think?

Detective Comics #509

"Nine Lives Has the Cat..."
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Dan Adkins

The Cat-Man is back, looking for revenge against Catwoman for his untimely (but exaggerated) death and her appropriation of part of his costume. Even more complicated is the fact that pieces of the Cat-Man's uniform can grant nine lives (or something like that). The villain survived falling into a Sulphur pit (way back in Batman #324) but received a nasty scar resulting from his burns.

Now he's back to retrieve that piece of his mask, thinking the material will heal his wounds. Alas, it doesn't work that way and the news seems to push the poor dolt over the edge. He and Batman tussle onboard a ship and Cat-Man goes over into the drink, drowning. In romantic news, Selina has decided that her past as Catwoman has ruined any chance she has with Bruce Wayne, so she's going off to spend a bit of time alone.

A perfectly average funny book story with really good art, bits of great characterization, and some sappy soap opera melodrama. The Cat-Man is a more interesting character, with some intriguing rough edges, than he has any right to be. I haven't read those 1960s Batman stories that birthed the 7th-tier baddie but I assume his only real function was to serve as a yin to Catwoman's yang. I'd have preferred that this adventure be spread out over two issues, since CM shows up, attains his grail, and then quickly exits stage left. The sections devoted to the cat-and-mouse between him and Batman are the high points of "Nine Lives Has the Cat..." and the silly, Day of Our Lives nonsense between Selina and Bruce is almost stomach-turning. Having been in love with both Batman and Bruce Wayne, how can this female dolt not know he's one and the same guy? Seriously.

Jack: I assumed she did know, based on the way she acts in the story. We are starting to see Dick Giordano make readers buy both Batman and Detective to follow all of the plots and subplots; Dr. Thirteen wakes up from his coma and doesn't remember the events of Batman #342, and the coming attractions at the end of "Nine Lives" tell readers that the story is continued in Batman #343. I liked Cat-Man's subtle reference to Goldfinger when he had Batman tied spread-eagled to four stakes on the beach, though I wondered (for the umpteenth time) why the villain didn't kill the hero rather than put him in a death trap and leave the scene. It's funny how much the art affects the story--Newton & Adkins make this a thrilling tale.

"The Fires of Destruction!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

The Annihilator continues to draw Supergirl's energies (but not her powers, whatever the heck that means), but Batgirl gets a sudden brilliant idea and tosses a tear gas capsule at the big-brained baddie. The distraction causes him to loosen his grip and Batgirl steals Supergirl away, smartly using her as a shield against the Annihilator's finger blasts. Suddenly, the Annihilator begins to fade and he announces he's off to ponder his new energies (not powers), but that he'll be seeing the two costumed beauties again.

With a little down time, Batgirl decides this is a good time to introduce Supergirl to motor mechanic Jeff Cotton, who is, of course, smitten with the Super-blonde. Batgirl explains to her super-buddy that she needs to be able to hide her Batgalcycle at Jeff's without anyone knowing it. Before Jeff can protest, Supergirl takes it upon herself to dig a huge hole under the garage (wisely avoiding annoying distractions like sewer and gas lines) and, voila, instant Batgirl-Cave! Meanwhile, Annihilator is back at his lab, testing his energies (not powers). The girls use canny instincts (and the phone book) to track the evil genius, but one of his new strengths is precognition and he breaks out some heavy-duty fire-power to greet his vivacious visitors.

Another big-brain!
Peter: This series, which once was promising, gets dumber with each passing installment, and yet there's a twisted charm I can't deny. Highlights here have nothing to do with Brainiac Jr. but with Burkett's oddball detours. I get that Supergirl can drill a hole through the ground, and even out the sides smoothly, but I want to see the discarded panels where she takes the trip to Home Depot to buy the hydraulic lift, secret passage door, and Batchickcycle ramp. The whole building process takes up a whopping three panels. Then, the cherry on top is Batgirl's jealousy when Jeff tells Supergirl she's pretty keen ("It used to be me he complimented like that!"); this soap opera lunacy beats hell out of the Selina/Bruce/Batman tryst!

Jack: What a goofy story. It's like The Brave and the Bold with Batgirl and Supergirl instead of Batman and whoever. I can't believe this dopey tale is continued next issue!

                         THE BEST (AND WORST) OF 1981


Best Script: Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas, "A Man Called Mole!"
(Batman #340)
Best Art: Gene Colan, "A Man Called Mole!" 
Best All-Around Story: "A Man Called Mole!" 
Worst Script: Cary Burkett, the Nemesis series
Worst Art: Dan Spiegle, the Nemesis series
Best Cover >

The Five Best Stories

"A Man Called Mole!" 
2 "To Kill a Legend" (Detective #500)
3 "Who Dies For the Manikin?" (Detective #506)
4 "One of Us Is Not One of Us" (B&B #173)
5 "Murder on the Midway" (Batman #337)


Giordano, et al.
Best Script: Alan Brennert, "To Kill a Legend" (Detective #500)
Best Art: Dick Giordano, "To Kill a Legend"
Best All-Around Story: "To Kill a Legend"
Worst Script: Cary Burkett, "The Tightening Web! (Detective #498)
Worst Art: anything by Dan Spiegle
Best Cover >

The Five Best Stories

1 "Night of the Savage" (Detective #498)
2 "To Kill a Legend"
3 "Who Shot Mlle. Marie?" (Detective #502)
4 "The Joker's Rumpus Room Revenge!" (Detective #504)
5 "Dressed to Die!" (Detective #507)

Next Week...
We are not worthy!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Fay Part Seven: Your Witness [4.31]

by Jack Seabrook

Justice is at the heart of "Your Witness," a short story by Helen Nielsen that was published in the December 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and then adapted by William Fay for an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode that aired on CBS on Sunday, May 17, 1959.

As she sits in a courtroom watching her husband, criminal defense lawyer Arnold Shawn, destroy a witness on cross-examination, Naomi Shawn thinks back a few hours, recalling her husband admitting to an affair with another woman. Shawn is defending 19-year-old Kenneth Jerome, whose car had struck and killed a housewife named Agnes Thompson when he ran a red light at an intersection. Naomi's mind jumps back and forth between the events in the courtroom and her husband's cruel words only hours before.

"Your Witness" was
first published here

The witness on the stand is named Henry Babcock, a good citizen who happened to be sitting on a bench waiting for a bus when the accident occurred. Shawn picks apart the witness, twisting his words and creating a sense of confusion. Naomi recalls how her husband had learned of Babcock's identity and had him investigated, looking for a way to discredit him. In the courtroom, Shawn attacks Babcock's personal life and workplace, insinuating that he cannot be trusted. Shawn is brilliant and ruthless. Naomi watches him work and thinks that the secret to his success is his ability to make the innocent look guilty, much as he tried to do with her when confronted with his own infidelity.

Naomi recalls her own argument with her husband as he moves in for the kill with Babcock. The final flourish comes when the lawyer grabs the witness's glasses from his face and reveals that he recently had eye surgery and is color blind. The jury quickly returns a verdict of not guilty. Naomi confronts Arnold with his character assassination of the witness and his desire to be rid of her, but he brushes her off. Outside the courthouse, he asks her to give him a ride. She gets into her car and runs him down in the parking lot. As she sobs to a police officer that she pressed the wrong pedal by mistake, the only eyewitness, Henry Babcock, admits that he cannot dispute her story, since he has been determined to be an unreliable witness.

Brian Keith as Arnold Shawn

"Your Witness" is a well-plotted story in which the end is foreshadowed in the very first paragraph, as Nielsen writes that "Naomi Shawn settled on murder because it was a word that felt strangely at home in her mind." The murder being discussed is the figurative destruction of the witness, Henry Babcock, but the author plants the seed in the reader's mind right away for the real murder that Naomi commits at the story's end. The tale is told from her perspective, in the third person, as she sits in the courtroom watching events unfold while recalling her husband's callous words.

In this story, appearance is important: Shawn is "more handsome at fifty than he'd been at twenty-five," Jerome "looked more like an honor Bible student than a cold-blooded hit and run killer," and Babcock is "a rather slight man" who "wore thick lensed glasses that magnified his eyes owlishly." Only Naomi is not described, because she is the one doing the observing. The story's title has more than one meaning, as well: it is a phrase typically spoken by a lawyer to opposing counsel in a courtroom, but it also refers to the fact that Babcock is a witness to both accidents. The word witness can even be used to describe the testimony spoken by a person.

Leora Dana as Naomi Shawn

In adapting Nielsen's story for the small screen, William Fay rearranges some events and adds others, opening up the story and making it fit the TV format perfectly. It is a good example of a very good short story that translates well into a powerful short film.

The TV show opens with an establishing shot of the outside of the courthouse, followed by a dissolve to an interior shot of Naomi walking down a hall, looking for the courtroom where her husband is trying a case. A court officer knows her by name, demonstrating that she is a familiar face on the premises. There is a cut to the inside of the courtroom, where Jerome as testifying on direct examination as Naomi enters and takes a seat. Jerome appears remorseful and explains his version of the accident. In the story, this occurs in Shawn's law office; Fay moves it to the courtroom to minimize the number of locations used.

Naomi begins to narrate in voiceover and there is a flashback to a month ago, in her living room at home, when she confronted Arnold about his affair. He brushes it off casually and, in this scene, he is gentle and seems reasonable. She gives in to his kiss and they are interrupted by Carmody, a private investigator looking into Babcock's background. In the short story, Shawn's secretary Fran is in charge of the investigation; for the TV show, Fay creates a new character and makes him responsible for digging up dirt on Babcock. The conversation between lawyer and private eye serves to establish Babcock as a model citizen whom Shawn plans to attack in court.

William Hansen as Henry Babcock

Back in the courtroom, Babcock finally takes the stand; his testimony is already in progress when the short story begins. As Shawn begins to impugn his character, there is another flashback to Naomi and Arnold at home, as she calls him a liar and accuses him of visiting the woman he promised to give up. His gentle approach in the prior flashback is gone; he angrily throws cruel words at his wife, using his verbal skills to demean her in much the same way that he demeans Babcock in the courtroom. The rest of the courtroom scene follows the story closely, as Babcock's time on the witness stand ends in embarrassment.

After the trial ends, Naomi follows Arnold into the judge's chambers and tells him that she is filing for divorce. Arnold refuses and tells his wife that a divorce would be awkward professionally and personally; he suggests that she start seeing another man and tells her, "'You could still be an attractive woman if you tried.'" Outside, Naomi bumps into Babcock on the sidewalk as he exits a phone booth. He picks a coin up from the sidewalk, inspects it, and remarks that its date is "'1947--in God we trust.'" This brief incident is added by Fay to demonstrate that Babcock's eyesight is excellent, despite what Shawn made the jury believe.

Brian Hutton as Kenneth Jerome

Babcock laments that he won't get his old job back as a math teacher after the events in court that day. Naomi walks to her car and gets in, watching her husband as he stands in the parking lot, looking at a newspaper. She starts the car, guns the motor, and runs him down. The show ends with a closeup of Babcock as he makes the statement about his own unreliability.

In addition to its excellent teleplay, "Your Witness" features confident direction by Norman Lloyd, who keeps the story moving quickly and the suspense building until the ending that is both unexpected and fitting. The lead performances are outstanding, especially those of Brian Keith, who is utterly unlikeable as Arnold, and William Hansen, whose portrayal of Babcock is in stark contrast to that of Keith's as Arnold.

Gordon Wynn
as Mr. Jerome
In addition to being an author, Helen Nielsen (1918-2002), who wrote the short story upon which the TV show was based, contributed to the designs of aircraft in World War Two. The first of her 18 mystery novels was The Kind Man, published in 1951, and she had about 50 stories published in the digests between 1954 and 1991. She also wrote teleplays and had some of her works adapted for the screen, mostly on television, from 1959 to 1982. Five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents featured her work as well as a single episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Death Scene."

Norman Lloyd (1914- ) was born Norman Perlmutter and was active in the theater in the 1930s. He had a long career as a film and television actor, from 1939 to 2015, and he appeared in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) and Spellbound (1945). He also directed for television from 1951 to 1984. He acted in five episodes of the Hitchcock series and directed 22, including "Man from the South."

Starring as the reprehensible Arnold Shawn is Brian Keith (1921-1997), who was a very popular actor in TV and on film. Born in New Jersey, he made his film debut in 1924 at age three. He was a Marine air gunner in World War II and then went into acting as an adult after the war. He started on TV in 1952 and eventually would star in no less than 11 TV series and miniseries, the most famous being Family Affair (1966-71). He also appeared in the prison-break film 5 Against the House (1955), based on a novel by Jack Finney. He appeared on the Hitchcock series five times (including "Cell 227") and committed suicide in 1997.

Leora Dana (1923-1983) plays Naomi Shawn. Her career on stage and screen lasted from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s. She won a Tony Award in 1973, appeared three times on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "John Brown's Body," and was in the 1957 film, 3:10 to Yuma.

The unfortunate witness, Henry Babcock, is portrayed by William Hansen (1911-1975), who seems like John Qualen with an edge (both were of Norwegian heritage). Hanson was on Broadway from 1939 to 1963, was a founding member of the Actors Studio and appeared on screen from 1945 to 1975. He was on Night Gallery and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

In supporting roles:
  • John Harmon
    Kenneth Jerome, the young man on trial for hitting the housewife with his car, is played by Brian Hutton (1935-2014). He trained with the Actors Studio and played small roles, mostly on TV, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. His career took a turn when his friend Douglas Heyes (known to fans of Thriller and The Twilight Zone as an inventive writer/director) helped him get started as a director on TV; he eventually directed feature films such as Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970), both starring Clint Eastwood. He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Big Kick."
  • Gordon Wynn (1914-1966) plays Jerome's father, who has a few lines in the middle of the trial after his son finishes testifying. Wynn played small parts on film and TV from 1942 to 1964 and was in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Together."
  • Everett Glass
  • John Harmon (1905-1985) plays Al Carmody, the private investigator who visits Arnold Shawn at home. On screen from 1935 to 1983, he was in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the other was "Help Wanted") and also appeared on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Odd Couple.
  • Everett Glass (1891-1966) plays the judge. He was on stage from 1916 and his screen career lasted from 1948 to 1962. He was in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Place of Shadows," and he was seen on The Twilight Zone and in the film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
  • Wayne Heffley (1927-2008) gets in a few objections as the prosecutor. He was on screen from 1952 to 2006 and appeared twice on The Twilight Zone. This was his only role on the Hitchcock show. He played a part in the remake of King Kong (1976) and had a long-running role on the daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives, from 1988 to 2006.
  • Wayne Heffley
G. Stanley Jones is credited as a character named Dan Irwin; there is a brief shot of a clerk in the judge's chambers whom Arnold calls "'Dan,'" but the character is only seen for a moment and has no lines.  William D. Kruse has an uncredited role as a policeman; he may be the blonde one who speaks to Naomi at the end of the show.

"Your Witness" was remade for East German television as "Der Unfallzeuge," which is roughly translated as "The Witness to the Accident"; it aired on November 23, 1971.

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents version is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the story!


The FictionMags Index,

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.



Nielsen, Helen. "Your Witness." Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Dec. 1958, pp. 2-13. 

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

"Your Witness." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 31, CBS, 17 May, 1959.

In two weeks: No Pain, starring Brian Keith and Joanna Moore!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Gentleman from America" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Landlady" here!

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 55: August 1974



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

Creepy 64

"Forgotten Flesh" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Esteban Maroto

"High Time" 
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Paul Neary

"Only Losers Win!" ★1/2
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Howard Chaykin

"One Autumn at Arkham" 
Story & Art by Tom Sutton

"To Sleepy Hollow... Returned" 
Story by Jeff Rovin
Art by Leo Summers

"An Angel Shy of Hell!" 
Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by Rich Corben

The “story behind the story” on this one is almost as fascinating as the story itself. Larry Todd and Vaughn Bode had painted a cover of a disintegrating astronaut to go with a story Todd was writing called “Philadelphia Pilot” (which, ironically, was never written). Editor Dubay was so fascinated by the decrepit face that he commissioned writers and artists to come up with seven different stories revolving around the visage. The experiment was well- received by readers but not undertaken again.

In the opener, "Forgotten Flesh," the corpses of the poor break out of their graves in Thorndale Cemetery, shuffle over to the graves of the rich, and begin digging. For some reason, on this night, the "poor-dead" have decided they don't like the fact that the "rich-dead" have been lying in silk-lined coffins all these years and they're about to play a game of musical caskets with the snobs. Meanwhile, two grave-robbers are plying their trade in the same acreage, unaware they are about to be inducted into the "poor-dead" as honorary members. 

Well, it is Doug Moench we're talking about here so no real surprise that there's nary an explanation present for what the hell is going on. How long have these dead peasants been stewing? Why the sudden desire for a change of address? Not like it's International Be Kind to Someone Who Doesn't Have Any Money Day or something. The story's also a cheat as far as the figure goes. That panel of a rotting skeletal corpse is as close as we get to our cover guy in this story. But, look at the bright side: more Moench bon-bons to chew on! Dirt has trembled and shifted and burst upward in spraying streamers driven by clutching hands of charnel flesh...! Next!

Looking for the best lay in the galaxy, a traveler heads for the planet Ecdysia, rumored to be populated by the most gorgeous and sexy babes this side of Uranus. Our "hero" crash lands and must fight off some creepy-looking savages before finding the city of the centerfolds, where he gets down to business quickly and frequently. Alas, the next morning our star stud realizes that these babes carry a very nasty strain of VD and he's reduced to... you guessed it!... a creepy-looking savage. Putting aside the misogyny imbedded in Doug Moench's strip (yes, that's right, we're graced with a "Double-Munch" this issue), since the chauvinist gets what's coming to him in the end, it's still not that great of a story. We've seen variations on this plot all the way back to EC days. There aren't even any bon-bons to giggle over. The Maroto art is great but, again, I really must insist his stuff is best viewed in B+W rather than color. And the only tie to that cover is the teensy weensy panel reprinted to the right. Two for two, I feel cheated.

"High Time"
A space warrior lies dying of radiation poisoning on a faraway planet, his dreams of an idyllic paradise the only thing he has left. There's not much more than that to Steve Skeates's "High Time," which makes hardly a bit of sense. The story is so disjointed, in fact, that I had to check to make sure the pages were printed in order or maybe someone down at the plant forgot to print a few pages. The Neary art is good enough but it all kinda melts together into a spaceman pie, doesn't it? The chicks have great boobs and there are lots of big flowers. Obviously, those are the ingredients for a Warren SF/Fantasy tale.

In the future, the world is overpopulated and every inch is fought over. With the grand prize a full year of solitude in Central Park, racers from all over the world converge on New York to participate in a grueling road race through America. Our "hero," Mark Denton, racer extraordinaire, has no qualms with injecting himself with the illegal drug, Hermezine, in order to vacation in the great green expanse. Mark wins the race but the drug takes its toll because everyone knows... "Only Losers Win." Not a bad SF tale (emanating some DR2000 vibes, as Jack notes below), with some stylish early Chaykin work. Oddly, "Only Losers Win" is identified on the contents page as "Speedway."

"Only Losers Win"

Carl Dinian can't finish his research until he gets his hands on the notebook of Dr. Artemus Mundi, a professor whose tragic accident years before left him bandaged and bound to a wheelchair. Luckily, Carl's squeeze, Melany, is the niece of Mundi and the professor grants the young man an audience. Unfortunately, Carl cannot persuade Artemus to hand over his notes but, later, Carl is elated to find that Melany has "borrowed" the book. Turns out that around the time of the tragic accident, Mundi and his partner, Renquist, were working on a "Protec-Suit," a gizmo that allows the wearer to live forever. But, as happens in these scientific tales, there's a battle of egos and Artemus buries Renquist alive in the Protec-Suit. Carl is determined to get his hands on the Suit and digs up Renquist's grave. Big mistake.

Right from the splash, you know what you're going to get from "One Autumn at Arkham," a meticulously detailed, atmospheric nightmare whose story might have seen a few too many tellings, but whose visuals are enough to carry the whole thing over. Reading Tom Sutton's oddities, you almost wonder if the man had Lovecraft buried in a Protec-Suit someplace and would pick his brain every month or so for some new crawling, dripping whatsis. Uncle Artemus is a frog-like creature who could also pass as a demented pulp hero a la The Spider. The bad news is that this is Sutton's last original appearance in a Warren zine and his absence creates a huge gap that will never be filled.

News photographer Richard Reynolds is sent to the town of Sleepy Hollow to snap candids of its residents at their annual Halloween celebration. Reynolds meets up with a comely waitress named Leslie, who is immediately smitten with the shutterbug and retells the man the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. Reynolds naturally scoffs at the tale but talks Leslie into accompanying him to the gala that night, to the dismay of Leslie's boss, who fancies himself Leslie's beau. The dance goes swimmingly and Richard and Leslie get smashed; the photog has more than drinks on his mind and talks the woman into going back with him to his hotel room. Leslie agrees but refuses to drive with the alcohol-soaked sod, suggesting they take a horse instead. 

It's while on this ride that Leslie and Richard meet up with the Headless Horseman, who's holding a glowing jack o' lantern, just as in the legend. At the fearsome sight, the horse bucks its riders and Reynolds hoofs it. The Horseman catches up with the spineless weasel and tosses his pumpkin at Reynolds's noggin. The next morning, Reynolds is found burned to death and Leslie and her boss are never seen again. A rip-snortin' good time, this one is. Updating the old chestnut and adding a few wrinkles, Jeff Rovin does a great job building the suspense in "To Sleepy Hollow... Returned," and leaves the climax with an ambiguous air. Was it really the Horseman, or Leslie's jilted wanna-be lover? Rovin (who warrants a one-and-done "Associate Editor" listing on the contents page) would contribute a handful of stories to the Warrens (and wrote a short-lived column in Famous Monsters in the last days of that magazine's life) before going on to fame and fortune as a novelist and Tom Clancy ghoster. To me, Rovin's greatest achievement was his 1998 novel, The Return of the Wolf Man, a wild Universal monster rally and a direct sequel to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I'm not a Leo Summers fan, but I think "To Sleepy Hollow..." contains the artist's best work yet.

"Sleepy Hollow"

In a post-apocalyptic future, a soldier of fortune named Hard John Apple has been given the keys to all of Kansas. It's his for the taking, but first he has to clear it out of all the damn "Cat-Licks," "Protstints," and "Davidists" who remain scattered throughout the State, most in hiding. Hard John goes about his business like a man doing God's work and, just as soon as he learns how to read the ICBM Missile manuals, he's gonna have himself a real good time.

"An Angel Shy of Hell"
Despite the high pedigree of "An Angel Shy of Hell" (both Stenstrum and Corben would be in my Warren Hall of Fame), this story left me cold. Could be the stylized writing, presenting the thoughts of what is essentially a grown child, or the annoying "nicknames" Stenstrum assigns the various religious sects. It very much reminded me of Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" without the canine.-Peter

Jack-If this is an above-average issue of Creepy, I'd hate to see a below-average one! My favorite story was "To Sleepy Hollow...Returned," perhaps because I've always had a soft spot for the headless horseman. The art by Summers again reminds me of the work of Jack Davis, and the story probably makes the most creative use of the cover image. "One Autumn at Arkham" is not Sutton's best, but he still manages to deliver the gruesome goods with a welcome touch of humor. Maroto provides his usual smooth art in "Mates" and Moench (for once) resists the temptation toward verbosity; the result is fairly entertaining and the twist is a good one.

"Forgotten Flesh," on the other hand, contains Moench's usual, overheated prose and simplistic politics, though Alacazar draws decent corpses. "An Angel Shy of Hell!" is kind of like Warren's version of A Canticle for Leibowitz; Corben's art is below average for him. Not surprisingly, "High Time" is a pointless waste of seven pages with the usual Neary art. Most disappointing is "Only Losers Win!" because I expected more from Chaykin. I was surprised to see that this story predates the film Death Race 2000, since they share some common elements. Overall, I don't think the conceit of having seven stories spun off of the cover illo was worth the trouble.

The Spirit 3

"Black Alley"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared June 5, 1949)

"Fox at Bay"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared October 23, 1949)

Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared November 13, 1949)

"Foul Play"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared March 27, 1949)

"The Strange Case of Mrs. Paraffin"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared March 7, 1948)

"The Embezzler"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared November 27, 1949)

"The Last Hand"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared May 16, 1948)

"Lonesome Cool"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared December 18, 1949)

"Black Alley"
Jack-Another spectacular collection of post-war Spirit strips features the classic, "The Strange Case of Mrs. Paraffin," in which a wife kills her crazy scientist husband in self-defense and then turns herself in. Her composure and eventual suicide are perfectly captured and the color is gorgeous. This issue also contains three related stories from the fall of 1949: "Fox at Bay," in which the Spirit is shot in the legs, "Surgery...," in which Ellen and Satin race to find the only doctor who can save the Spirit's legs from amputation, and "The Embezzler," in which the Spirit is still on crutches. These stories did not follow each other over three consecutive weeks but were spaced out, with other brilliant stories in between. They demonstrate how Eisner could keep the Spirit in the background or bring him to the foreground as the story required.

"Black Alley" contains great use of sound effects and smoke, as well as a brilliant physical depiction of the Spirit's ethics, as he makes a fantastic leap to save the life of a man trying to kill him. Ethics are also central to "Foul Play," where one of Eisner's "little people" weighs the pros and cons of helping what appears to be the injured Spirit lying on the sidewalk below an apartment window. Perhaps most surprising is "The Last Hand," in which a city sharpie takes what looks like a cushy job with an old lady at her house in the country, only to discover that she is Meataxe Mary, a homicidal maniac! The last story, "Lonesome Cool," recalls any number of Bogart or Cagney films in its depiction of the way a wayward boy's life goes bad.

This magazine continues to be a delight; easily the best thing Warren was publishing at the time.
"The Last Hand"

Peter-Yep, another batch of fabulous mini-noir masterpieces. I love how The Spirit can go missing for some of these tales but they remain strong, as in my favorite this time out, "Foul Play" (although the opener, "Black Alley," is a close second). Eisner wisely puts the spotlight on the paranoid protagonist of "Foul Play," rather than our undead sleuth, knowing that "superhero comics" can become cliched and boring after a while. The letters page continues to be an all-star affair, this issue featuring missives from science fiction historian Sam Moskowitz, comics encyclopedia Robin Snyder, Warren vet Greg Potter, and Joe Brancatelli, who would, in a couple years, pen a controversial and essential regular comics column for Warren.

Enrich Torres
Vampirella 35

"The Blood-Gulper"
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Jose Ortiz

Story by Bruce Bezaire
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Our Tarts Were Young and Gay!"★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Pure as Snow"
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Felix Mas

"The Night Ran Red With Gore"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Rafael Auraleon

Story & Art by Fernando Fernandez

Someone is going around town draining bodies of blood, but it isn't Vampirella! Pendragon doesn't believe her, so she fires him as a partner and goes it alone, quite successfully. "The Blood-Gulper" is actually the revived body of the late singer Sammy Bleecher (last seen in Vampirella 34), who has been given a computer brain by a loony scientist. Sammy requires five liters of fresh human blood each day to function, so his handlers rig up a long tube with fangs at the end to do the job. Using the new name of the Devastator, Sammy is a hit, but when he gets a look at Vampi, the revived corpse with an electronic brain discovers what it means to feel desire. His management team captures Vampi in order to put an electronic brain in her head and mate her with the Devastator, but she turns the tables and drains all of their blood. With no blood, the revived corpse of Sammy falls to pieces. Vampi forgives Pendragon and decides to get the band back together.

Summarizing this story underscores just how nutty it is, yet it works for some strange reason, perhaps because it's just so over the top. I was not happy at the prospect of a replacement artist, either, but Ortiz does a nice job and has obviously studied Jose Gonzalez's work on the two main characters. There are some very good close-ups of Vampi that include her fangs, which we don't often see. It's a fun story and not at all boring.

As their spaceship prepares to land on an alien planet, scientists Paul and Cliff debate whether God created intelligent, non-human life. Cliff says that any environment that doesn't support human life doesn't support intelligence, but when they find intelligent life on the planet, Cliff can't deal with it and shoots a creature with his ray gun. Back in space, the ship's computer translates the alien's language and Cliff is shocked to learn that not only did they believe in God, they thought Cliff was Satan! The aliens were mankind's "Relatives!" after all.

This is a rare example of a thoughtful story in a Warren mag that is somewhat hobbled by below-average Maroto art. I was intrigued by the debate between Paul and Cliff and I was surprised that Bruce Bezaire went all the way with his script and had the alien reciting the Lord's Prayer. Too bad Maroto decided to dash off six sketchy pages to accompany the words.

Fleur the witch learns that "Our Tarts Were Young and Gay!" when Mickey, a warlock disguised as a rat, asks her to deliver an envelope to a house of ill repute. The fate of the coven depends on it and they're now living in nineteenth-century Boston. Fleur takes up temporary residence at the "Girls' Boarding House" to wait for her contact and is sent upstairs to service an unusual customer, but their time together is interrupted when her contact arrives, dressed as a priest. Fleur leaves in his company and the house Madam goes up to service the customer, which turns out to be a tentacled creature sent by the rival coven to destroy Fleur.

Truly terrible writing, this Fleur story makes very little sense as part of a continuing narrative. I looked back at our summary of the prior Fleur story, but that didn't help--the two tales have little in common beyond the main character. Torrents draws a gorgeous lead character but his ability to tell Jacobson's "story" in pictures is, as Peter pointed out last time, is sorely lacking. It's more like a series of poses.

Wishful thinking...
A young man elopes with his sweetheart to escape her controlling father and promises not to touch her until they're wed. They become trapped in a blizzard and, by the time they reach a deserted cabin, she has died of pneumonia. She remains "Pure as Snow" as he goes slowly mad, convinced her corpse keeps moving from place to place. Finally, unable to resist her fast-decaying form, he sets off to find a priest so they can be married and he can sleep with her.

There's a fine line between humor, horror, and bad taste, and this story crosses it. I read the whole thing, hoping that it would not go there, but in the end, it did. The only saving grace is that we don't get a picture of the man having sex with the corpse. I don't know why Goodwin chose this to be the color story this issue, but the watercolor palette doesn't do Felix Mas's illos any favors.

In Hungary, in the year 1854, Magda Hortza protects her young daughter, Verna, from the creepy schoolteacher, Franz Kapoyla, who seems to have designs on the girl. They escape by horse and buggy, but the schoolteacher gives chase. An innkeeper demands money to keep their presence secret, then takes more money from Kapoyla and betrays them. A stablehand's body is found drained of blood, and Kapoyla is suspected of being a vampire. He follows them to another inn, where Magda throttles him right before he gets ahold of Verna. Surprise! Verna is the vampire, and she kills Franz.

Now who didn't see that coming? Raise your hand. No hands? OK. Carl Wessler keeps up a decades-long tradition of telling cliched stories with endings that are telegraphed pages in advance. At least this one has lovely art by Auraleon, who draws creepy men and beautiful women in a realistic yet shadowy way. His pictures earn the story an extra star.

In the early 1800s, Europe is torn by war and Eva waits each day for her lover, Hans, to return. She reads his letters and sits in the grove where they last were together. In the nearby village, Franz Muller sees Eva and thinks she is wasting her youth and beauty. One night, she thinks Hans has returned, but it's only the front door banging in the breeze. Suddenly Franz appears, determined to have his way with her. She fights him off and runs to the grove. He follows and, when she shoves him away, he is fatally impaled in a sword held by a corpse, the corpse of Hans, whom Eva killed rather than let him go off to war.

Though the story is a bit too Secrets of Sinister House for a Warren mag, Fernandez does a fine job of merging words and pictures to tell a haunting tale. His style, which consists of lots of half-drawn faces in shadows, forces the reader's mind to fill in the missing portions of each panel. It's certainly better than most of the stories in this average issue of Vampirella.-Jack

Peter- I'm glad "The Blood-Gulper" worked for you, Jack, but it left me dry. I get the feeling Flaxman Butterworth was throwing everything in his scripts and just hoping something would stick (together) but none of it is very good. I always get a kick out of the lyrics these guys provide to their would-be rock stars (Listen, baby/ Listen to the soft night approachin'/ flowin' like sap in the tree of evil); truly awful stuff but, to be fair, pretty close to what Grand Funk was cooking up around that time. Ortiz is a good stand-in for Gonzalez but some of the magic seems to be missing. 

"Relatives" is an interesting and thought-provoking tale; yes, it stands on the ledge of pretension and sways to and fro, but never quite makes that leap, thank goodness. And thank goodness as well that, for once, a Warren space opera does not degenerate into Voyage to a Planet of Prehistoric Women. Not one scantily-clad vixen in sight! But, as Jack notes, this is barely-recognizable Maroto. "Fleur: Our Tarts..." is truly wretched, one of the worst "stories" of the year. At the end of one reading, I almost went back to reread the damn thing to try to make some kind of sense of it, but I thought better of it. Thankfully, this is the last chapter and the character is resigned to guest star status in her last appearances. 

"Pure as Snow" is like a five-minute joke told by someone who doesn't know how to tell a joke, and once you get to the punchline you realize you knew it from the get-go. Holy cow, how controversial is necrophilia in a Warren comic? Worse, the color only accentuates the problems with Mas's art; the stiffness of his characters and boring choreography (although I do like the eeriness of those final panels). This is a misfire in all departments. Carl Wessler draws from his pulp roots for "The Night Ran Red With Gore" (surely, the best title this month) and draws... and draws... Overlong and lacking a climax worthy of that running time, I kept wondering why the two vampires didn't just cut to the chase and kill the vampire hunter way back at the beginning. "Because then there wouldn't be a story to fill those eight pages," I can hear Archie telling my 12-year-old self. As dumb as the script is, I really liked Auraleon's art. 

The finale, "Rendezvous," is a really well-told creepfest, complete with a predictable-yet-not-so-predictable climax. You just know Hans will show up, most likely as a shambling deader, but not as a stiff corpse who was helped along on his journey by Eva herself! The story is well-paced (although I would have cut about twelve pages out of the "there comes a knock on the door" sequence) and beautifully delineated. Easily the best thing to appear in this below-average issue and, perhaps, the entire month's worth of original stories. Oh, wait, that gorgeous cover should warrant a big shout out as well. Sheer erotic menace.

Eerie 59

"Dax the Damned"
(Originally appeared as "Dax the Warrior" in Eerie #39)

"The Paradise Tree" 
(Originally appeared in Eerie #40)

(Originally appeared in Eerie #41)

"Let the Evil One Sleep"
(Originally appeared in Eerie #43)

"The Golden Lake"
(Originally appeared as "Lake of Gold!" in Eerie #44)

"The Witch... The Maneater"
(Originally appeared as "The Witch" in Eerie #45)

(Originally appeared as "The Giant" in Eerie #46)

(Originally appeared as "Gemma-5" in Eerie #47)

"The Lord's Prayer"
(Originally appeared as "The Sacrifice" in Eerie #48)

"Death Rides... This Night!"
(Originally appeared in Eerie #52)

Peter- The same Maroto art as the original Dax appearances but, for some oddball reason, Archie decided to expend a little more effort with the Annual and had Budd Lewis come up with "fresh" scripts. Not my cup of tea. At 100 pages, this was the biggest Warren magazine ever to that point.

Jack-I tried to read these stories again but got so bored about halfway through the issue that I just gave up. The art is pretty to look at but I just can't get interested in Dax. Dax meets lots of beautiful, half-naked girls, has lots of sex, and swings his axe. Or his sword. Yawn.

Next Week...
So what was the best
Batman story in 1981?
Peter and Jack offer some suggestions!