Monday, April 26, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 26: February 1982


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

Batman #344

"Monster, My Sweet!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan & Klaus Janson

Batman is exhausted from fighting crime and upset that he can't tell anyone about Poison Ivy's hypnotic takeover of the Wayne Foundation. Ivy is lounging in her greenhouse, beating up crooks and chatting with her assistant, Ivor. Councilman Reeves is getting ready to reveal Batman's secret identity to all of Gotham City! The papers are signed to turn over the Foundation to Ivy, but her triumph is short-lived when she starts seeing the Caped Crusader everywhere she goes.

Bruce Wayne runs into Vicki Vale, who is back from a long stint in Europe, and that evening at a press conference, Councilman Reeves reveals that Batman's secret identity is that of mob boss "Big Jack" Johnson! Robin surprises Alfred by returning unexpectedly to the Batcave, while Batman bursts into Poison Ivy's greenhouse, only to find himself under attack by Ivor, who has been transformed into a tree-monster. Batman wins the battle with a bit of help from Robin, who subdues Poison Ivy. Ivor spills the beans about how Ivy tricked Bruce Wayne into giving her control of his Foundation, and a crusading reporter reveals that Councilman Reeves's big revelation was a fake. Suddenly, things are looking pretty good for Batman!

Peter: Whole lot of stuff going on this issue and several subplots come to a head. Thank goodness the silly Poison Ivy arc is through--I couldn't take much more of that stumblebum excuse for why Bruce couldn't say the words he was thinking (how come his brain didn't sputter like his mouth?)--but it ended pretty great, with her Ivor the Plant Monster creation. Talk about a stitched-together Halloween costume! Vicki Vale is back after a disappearance (in comic years) of nearly two decades. What's the story on that? We'll have to learn together. Thankfully, Gerry has listened to me and gone full-out crossover, so we don't have long to find out about Vicki and the election news. Long live the Colan-Janson art and the longer stories.

Jack: "Monster, My Sweet!" is certainly long, at 27 pages, but it's not very good, nor is the Colan-Janson art anywhere near what we've come to expect. There are some very awkward panels along the way and I hope this doesn't signal more slapdash work to come. The story is all over the place, since Conway decides to wrap up some subplots and start some more. I was not clear as to why Ivy is seeing Batman everywhere. Is Batman really following her? Why? Bruce Wayne thinks about his "plan" at one point, but what is it? To drive Ivy crazy? Then he crashes through the glass roof of her greenhouse. Why? He didn't know Ivor was now a tree monster. In fact, Batman would have no way of knowing that Ivor would tell everyone about Ivy's actions and that they'd all be there to listen. Frankly, the whole thing makes little sense and is poor storytelling.

The Brave and the Bold #183

"The Death of Batman"
Story by Don Kraar
Art by Carmine Infantino & Mike DeCarlo

The Riddler is mysteriously let out of prison and invited to play a new game called "The Death of Batman." Ninety minutes later, acclaimed mystery writer H. Rutherford Creighton is kidnapped after giving a speech at a gathering of detective fiction fans. Batman has until dawn to solve the mystery of his abduction and save the writer's life. His partner? The Riddler, who is also receiving clues and instructions.

Together, the old enemies follow the clues and escape death several times until they locate Creighton, who reveals that he planned the entire escapade. He resents Batman for having taken his place as the world's greatest detective and wants the Dark Knight to join him in a fatal conflagration. Only the Riddler can save Batman from certain death!

Jack: After a terrific Aparo cover, I was all set not to like this story, mainly because I don't care for 1980s'-era Carmine Infantino artwork, but I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps Mike DeCarlo's inks softened some of the rough edges of the penciling, but these 19 pages were fun to look at. As for the story, I was also surprised. At first it seemed overly wordy, but the twists and turns drew me in and I enjoyed it quite a bit. For once, the unlikely pairing in The Brave and the Bold works well. Batman and the Riddler need each other to survive this night and to solve the mystery, and their relationship is one that is clearly longstanding and complicated. Writer Don Krarr seems to have gone by various names, including Don Kraar, Don Karr, and Donald Short, and (unless I'm mixing up people) he wrote both comics and academic tomes.

Peter: Lately, The Brave and the Bold has been a chore to wade through and this issue is no respite. Between the tiresome banter, lifeless one-liners, and 1960s'-era graphics, "The Death of Batman" was nearly the death of me. The denouement* (*outcome) was prévisible* (*predictable), the plot was artificiel* (*contrived), and team-up absurde* (*preposterous). 

"Fox and Hounds!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

While Greyfox the assassin tries to figure out how to locate Nemesis, our hero visits underworld stoolie Roadrunner and is suddenly attacked by goons. He knocks them all out and escapes. Meanwhile. Greyfox tracks down the helicopter Nemesis stole awhile back and pressures a mechanic to summon Nemesis to the airport, where Greyfox is waiting.

Peter: Boy, the black stereotypes these comic book writers were foisting on us even into the 1980s were nuts! Imagine a white character saying "Sweet Mama!" and not raising an eyebrow or three. The only supporting character in any of these titles who's African-American and doesn't get the Huggy Bear treatment is Lucius Fox. Actually, come to think of it, Lucius is the only regular black supporting character in the Bat-titles. Anyway, I swear I come to each new chapter of Nemesis hoping I'll find something new to talk about and every time I'm disappointed. 

Jack: Maybe we could talk about the way that this series just keeps going without ever getting anywhere. Nemesis visits Roadrunner wearing one of his false faces, but he also wears a shirt with the big scales of justice on the front, so Roadrunner knows who he is right away, as do the crooks who bust in. I guess the point is that no one ever sees his real face. Yet in the last panel, Nemesis's hair has suddenly changed from blonde to red. What gives?

Buckler & Giordano
Detective Comics #511

"The 'I' of the Beholder"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Frank Chiaramonte

Batman and Robin have very little time to celebrate Hamilton Hill's come-from-behind victory over Arthur Reeves in the mayoral election before jumping into their next adventure. There's a brand new villain in Gotham who goes by the name of Mirage (good moniker this time out). With a special wrist gadget, Mirage can make his victims believe they're high atop a snowy peak or deep below the ocean depths. He's been pulling off high-stakes heists and getting away clean.

Back in town, Vicki Vale has snapped photos of the new kid in town, but the illusions she saw while under Mirage's influence do not translate to film. This raises her ire, but a day out with former flame Bruce Wayne calms her down a bit. But what is Vicki really playing at?

Meanwhile, the eternal student Dick Grayson is back at Gotham University, strolling the campus, when he literally runs into a stunning woman named Dala. Despite their age difference, Dala agrees to Dick's offer of a cup of coffee. Disgraced politico Arthur Reeves visits the den of the man who provided him the pics of Batman's "true identity" and watches in shock as the man in the shadows emerges to unmask himself as "Boss" Thorne, who tells Reeves the election went just as he had planned. 

Mirage shows up to a "Fall Swimwear Gala" celebration, hoping to score another payday. Robin arrives and fisticuffs ensue, but Mirage's illusions are too much for the "Teen Wonder" and he finds himself helpless, fighting off the tentacles of a giant octopus. Batman drives up just as the villain is exiting stage left and also finds himself lost in a dream world. Later, back at the Batcave, the dynamic duo brainstorm and decide that the 7th-tier bad guy's mental images are being created by a "combination of optical and audial stimulation." The Dark Knight quickly whips up a gadget he hopes will eliminate the audial side of the nightmares. 

That night, Mirage pulls an armored car heist, but Bats is waiting for him, earplug and all. The fight is going well for our hero until his earpiece is damaged in the brawl and he must fall back on his wits to save the day. The Dark Knight Detective cleans Mirage's clock and then, as Bruce Wayne, heads over to the Wayne Foundation board meeting, where he announces his resignation. The board is further shocked when Wayne offers up Lucius Fox as his replacement. 

Peter: With Colan/Jansen on one title and Newton/whoever on the other, DC has got its two main Bat-titles speeding along on the right the track. It seems like Gerry is loving these sub-plots and resigning himself to the fact that he has to pop in a villain now and then as well. Conway is especially adept at providing strong female characters who have a role in what's going on. They're not just the window dressing of the past. It's not readily apparent what Vicki is up to, but we know she knows Bruce is Batman (who doesn't at this point?), and new Dick love interest Dala will play a larger and more sinister part in the "Teen Wonder"'s future. 

The "Boss" Thorne reveal is cheezy; not sure how Reeves couldn't figure the man's true identity before, shadows or no. And let's see how long the "Bruce Wayne resigns" thread will go on. I think that one was played as many times as Spider-Man said "I quit!" When faced with a Batman who no longer sees his illusions, Mirage says something that caught my interest: "They never covered this at the academy!" A real nifty website called Batman Wiki informs me that Mirage attended the Academy of Crime! I'd love to see its "Hall of Academia!" How many successful graduates? Oh, and "Most Lackluster New Villain Design" this month goes, by default to Mirage.

Jack: Mirage isn't bad, as new villains go. It's been a problem for some time now that the new villains just don't seem memorable, which means that the writers have to keep going back to the tried and true baddies. Newton's art is excellent, as usual, and Detective as of 1982 is reliably better than Batman. I wondered what academy Mirage attended, so thanks for looking that up. One question: did anyone ever sell Grit? Or even see a copy? Those ads always intrigued me as a kid.

Next Week...
Corben Evermore!
Plus the best of 1973-74!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Fay Part Nine: The Contest for Aaron Gold [6.4]

by Jack Seabrook

"The Contest for Aaron Gold" is based on an early short story by the renowned writer Phillip Roth. It contains no crime and may represent an attempt by the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to dramatize works of fiction that were more literary than the show's usual sources; in fact, two short stories by John Cheever would also be adapted for the series in the sixth season, its first on the NBC television network.

The short story was first published in the fall 1955 issue of Epoch, a literary journal edited by the Cornell University English department. As the narrative begins, Werner Samuelson arrives at Camp Lakeside, a summer camp for boys where he has been hired to teach ceramics. Samuelson was chased out of Austria in 1940 by Germans and has spent the ensuing years running a ceramics shop in Philadelphia; the summer camp job is a way to earn extra money. He observes Lionel Steinberg, who runs the camp, berating Angelo, who is heading a crew that is paving the camp's roads.

"The Contest for
Aaron Gold" was
first published here

Werner also sees Lefty Shulberg, the camp's swimming instructor, dive from a tower into the lake. The boys arrive at camp and the road paving continues. Werner introduces the first dozen boys to the ceramics shop, where they begin to work with clay until the whistle blows and they run off to swim. Of the dozen boys, only one begins to demonstrate artistry, crafting a small figure that resembles a knight. A few days later, Werner meets the sculptor: eight-year-old Aaron Gold. That night, as Werner sees Lionel riding Angelo about the speed with which his paving is being completed, the camp boss tells the ceramics instructor that Lefty, the swimming coach, complained about Aaron Gold having been late for swimming.

Lionel is focused on the day that the boys' parents come to visit and insists that each boy have something completed in the ceramics shop in time for visiting day. Over the ensuing fortnight, Aaron Gold continues to develop his knight sculpture, a passion that makes him late for swimming. Werner is impressed by Aaron's work, but Lionel visits the ceramics instructor one night and chastises him for contributing to the boy's failure to be well-rounded. Though Werner is determined to do what it takes to keep his job, Aaron says that he cannot work any faster and the instructor does not pressure him. Two days before the parents are to arrive, Lionel visits the ceramics shop and complains about Aaron's unfinished knight sculpture.

Barry Gordon as Aaron Gold
After Lionel departs, Werner completes the sculpture himself. On visiting day, Aaron comes to the shop and is furious when he sees that Werner has completed his sculpture and given it arms. The boy accuses his teacher of ruining his work and runs off in distress. Werner destroys the sculpture, packs his bag, and leaves the camp, passing Lefty, who talks to the parents happily.

Roth's story pits an athlete (Lefty) against an artist (Werner) and contrasts both with a pragmatic businessman (Lionel) and a laborer (Angelo). The pull between the different paths open to the boys makes summer difficult for Werner, who tries to cultivate Aaron's artistry but ends up giving in to the exigencies of adult life and the need to keep his job. Aaron's reaction to Werner's attempt to finish the statue is unexpected and Werner reacts by destroying the compromised piece of art and withdrawing from the scene. The "contest" of the title is between the three adults at camp, with Lefty wanting to develop Aaron physically while Werner wants to develop him mentally. Lionel stands between the two, trying to create a balance between them both. Lefty appears to win out in the end, as Aaron's parents appear to listen to him happily while Werner leaves in disgrace.

Sydney Pollack as Bernie Samuelson
In adapting Roth's short story for television, William Fay does a superb job of turning narrative into dialogue, remaining faithful to the source for most of the episode's length before ending it with a significant change. In the short story, all of the characters are clearly Jewish, except for Angelo, who paves the roads. In the TV version, Lionel Steinberg has become Lionel Stern, Werner Samuelson has become Bernie Samuelson, and Lefty Shulberg has become Lefty James; as a result, the all-Jewish camp now has only two members who are clearly intended to be Jewish, and they are the kindred, artistic spirits of Bernie Samuelson, the ceramics instructor, and Aaron Gold, his protege.

Frank Maxwell as Lionel Stern
The show opens with a scene where Stern introduces Bernie to the camp and the contrast in their personalities is highlighted. A scene follows in the ceramics shop, as Bernie tries to show the rowdy boys the potter's wheel and they engage in making "'pancakes, snakes, and ashtrays.'" The repeated scenes with Angelo the paver in the short story have been removed, so the TV version spends little time focusing on the physical labor of the character who works with his hands in a non-artistic way. There is one particularly good shot, after Aaron has refined the knight's legs; Aaron's and Bernie's voices are heard on the soundtrack while the camera lingers on the sculpture, circling around it slowly in order to examine it from all angles as if it were being spun on a potter's wheel.

William Thourlby as Lefty
Fay begins to set up the new ending in the scene where Stern visits Bernie at night to chastise him. Stern ends by saying, "'As long as Lefty's not screaming and this whatchamacallit of Aaron Gold's has two arms on it when his parents come on Sunday...'" The sculpture is shown to have one arm that holds a shield; the other arm is missing. In the story, the focus is not on two arms; instead, Steinberg remarks: "'If Gold has a what-do-you-call-it with real pretty legs, that's all the better!'" The focus of the teleplay thus begins to shift attention to the fact that the statue is missing one arm.

In the next scene, Aaron tells Bernie that only his father is coming on visiting day: "'he isn't married to my mother anymore.'" This is a change from the story, where both of Aaron's parents show up for visiting day, and the TV version thus suggests a reason why Aaron is so focused on his father. The dialogue in this scene is expanded from that of the story, as Bernie tells Aaron that Stern will be unhappy if the knight sculpture is incomplete and Aaron assures Bernie that his father will not be unhappy. Aaron compares his father to Bernie, a comment that clearly has an effect on the ceramics instructor. Aaron adds that "'My father could lick Uncle Lefty,'" the swim instructor, further emboldening Bernie in his support of the boy's artistic endeavors.

John Craven as Herbert Gold
When Stern is examining the finished products in the ceramics shop, he tells Bernie that Aaron's father owns the "'Daisy Dooley chain of supermarkets--47 stores.'" Stern reasons that a successful man like Gold would not be pleased with a son who did not succeed at summer camp; Aaron has not earned his swimming badge, his woodcraft badge, or his softball stripe, so when Stern picks up the knight and sees that it lacks an arm, he angrily tells Bernie to finish the sculpture and threatens to fire him. To Stern, the businessman, the sculpture is the only thing standing between Aaron and utter failure in the eyes of his rich and powerful father.

Suddenly, Bernie speaks to Stern in a way similar to the way Aaron had spoken to Bernie in a prior scene, like a child to an adult, saying "'I couldn't do that.'" Bernie is not shown working on finishing the sculpture, as he is in the story, so when there is a dissolve to visiting day, suspense is created about what Bernie chose to do. After Aaron sees the completed figure and runs out of the shop, Fay's teleplay diverges from Roth's story. In the story, Werner destroys the statue, packs his bags, and leaves the camp, passing Lefty as he addresses the parents. In the TV version, Stern enters the ceramics shop and Bernie confronts him in anger. Stern claims that adding an arm was "'only a suggestion,'" and Bernie replies, "'I got a better suggestion.'" He snaps the new arm off of the sculpture and is about to tell Stern where he can stick it when a well-dressed businessman enters. "'Excuse me,'" the man says with a smile, "'my name is Herbert Gold. I'm looking for Aaron, my son.'"

Buddy Lewis as Angelo
Gold turns, revealing that his suit jacket sleeve is pinned up and he is missing an arm, just like Aaron's knight. The camera zooms in on the sleeve and the shot fades to black. This ending gives the show an entirely different meaning than the story on which it is based. In addition to being a contest between art and pragmatism, or the mind and the body, the love of a boy for his father is now highlighted. Aaron sees the knight as a representation of his dad, who can lick Lefty, who is kind and artistic like Bernie, and who is also a successful businessman, far more so than Stern. In essence, Gold becomes the adult version of the well-rounded boy that Stern seeks to cultivate; the combination of the three sides of manhood represented by Bernie, Lefty, and Stern. The fact that he is divorced and (presumably) raising Aaron alone suggests an even deeper connection between father and son.

In his teleplay for "The Contest for Aaron Gold," William Fay takes a good short story and adds more depth and emotional resonance, with a surprising last shot that makes the viewer re-evaluate everything that has gone before. A third-season episode, "The Return of the Hero," also ends with a surprise when the main character is revealed to be missing a leg, a revelation that suddenly explains his actions throughout the show. In an interview, Norman Lloyd credited Hitchcock with the idea for the new ending to "The Contest for Aaron Gold," but Fay’s script makes it work.

Robin Warga
Director 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."

Giving a memorable performance as Aaron Gold is Barry Gordon (1948- ), a child actor who also had success at a very young age as a singer. Gordon went on to a long career as both a character actor and a voice actor and was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1988 to 1995. His screen career began in 1956 and continued until at least 2017; he was seen in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the other was "The Day of the Bullet") and one each of Thriller and The Night Stalker.

Phil Phillips as Henry
Sydney Pollack (1934-2008) plays Bernie Samuelson; he had a long and successful career as a director and sometimes an actor. He began as a TV director from 1961 to 1965, then switched to movies from 1965 to 2005, winning an Oscar for Out of Africa (1985). He directed two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Black Curtain," and was one of a few people (including this episode's director, Norman Lloyd) to both act and direct for the Hitchcock TV show.

Frank Maxwell (1916-2004), with his distinctive streak of white hair, plays Stern. He was onscreen from 1951 to 2000 and appeared in many TV episodes, including roles on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. His six appearances on the Hitchcock show include "Special Delivery" and "The Hatbox." He was president of AFTRA from 1984 to 1989.

In smaller roles:
  • William Thourlby (1924-2013) as Lefty; he modeled for the covers of pulp magazines and was the original Marlboro Man in the 1950s' cigarette ad campaign. He played various bit parts, often uncredited, on screen from 1951 to 1971.
  • John Craven (1916-1995) as Herbert Gold; he was in the original Broadway cast of Our Town and on screen from 1937 to 1970, appearing in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (including "The Day of the Bullet," with Barry Gordon), as well as Thriller and The Twilight Zone.
  • Buddy Lewis (1916-1986) as Angelo; he was on screen from 1957 to 1981, mostly on TV, including an appearance on The Odd Couple.
  • Michael Adam Lloyd (1847- ) as one of the boys; this is his only screen credit--was he director Norman Lloyd's son?
  • Robin Warga (1949- ) as another boy; his brief screen career lasted from 1958 to 1962, with one last credit in 1975.
  • Phil Phillips as Henry, another boy; he was on screen, mostly TV, from 1956 to 1963.
Watch "The Contest for Aaron Gold" for free online here or order the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here.


The FictionMags Index,

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



"The Contest for Aaron Gold" Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 6, episode 4, NBC, 18 Oct., 1960.

Roth, Philip. "The Contest for Aaron Gold."  Fifty Best American Short Stories. Ed. Martha Foley. New York, NY, Avenel Books, 1986. 549-62.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Gratitude, starring Peter Falk!

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

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "A Bullet for Baldwin" here!

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 57: October/November 1974

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

Vampirella #37 (October)

"Cobra Queen"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #23)

"She Who Waits!" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #18)

"The Cry of the Dhampir"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #22)

"Demon Child"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #26)

"The Vampiress Stalks the Castle This Night
(Reprinted from Vampirella #21)

"Blood Brothers!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #26)

"The Accursed!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #23)

Adam Van Helsing has been put into a deep trance by the "Cobra Queen" (see Vampi #23 or simply read the reprint that immediately precedes) after the dope kills the giant snake's mate. CQ is about to sacrifice Adam but has a change in plans when she realizes how cute the dummy is, so she sinks her fangs into Adam's neck and makes him her slave. When Conrad VH finds his son in a near-cataleptic state, with two puncture wounds on his neck, he naturally assumes Vampi is back in town.

Rather than ask questions, Conrad tries to stake our Drakulonian heroine while she sleeps. Sixth sense (and the fact that the blind dolt trips over three or four pieces of furniture before falling face first into Vampi's voluptuous breasts) awakens the vampiress from her deep sleep just in time to save herself. She and CVH have a long discussion about betrayal and true love before the drunk Pendragon stumbles into the room to point out that Adam would be dead (or -hic- undead, presumably) if Vampi had drained him. The light bulb goes on over Conrad's head and he agrees to call a doctor now rather than jump to any more rash conclusions.

After the less-than-brilliant trio leave the bedroom, a cobra enters and wraps itself around Adam's neck, sending psychic messages deep into his shallow brain. Like a zombie, Adam heads out of the house and straight into the arms of the Cobra Queen. Suddenly, the heretofore on-the-blink psychic powers that have become CVH's trademark begin working again and send him the message that Adam is in trouble deep in the jungle and the entire "Adam killed the Cobra King" montage unwinds in flashback through the old man's skull. The terrific trio rush to the palace of the Cobra Queen just in time to save Adam and burn the Queen to cinders (thanks to the ever-handy flask of brandy belonging to the fully-inebriated Pendy). 

The only new story this issue, "She Who Waits" is a bumbling, rushed fill-in that smells like "Deadline Doom" or "Shelf Story" to me. The Van Helsings' pop-in visit falls between two linked stories (last issue's "The Vampire of the Nile" and next's "The Mummy's Revenge"); Archie hadn't written a Vampi since #16; and a sequel to a non-Vampi story that appeared two years before all back up my uneducated opinion. In any event, it's not a good enough story to spotlight the return of two "beloved" characters and Pendy's Foster Brooks impersonation (Google him) has gone way past annoying and hits cringe-worthy several times here. The buildup is well-paced, but then Archie arrives at page seven and realizes he has to finish this thing right now and does. Going through my notes, I see I wasn't floored by the rest of the contents, though "Demon Child" and "The Accursed" were at least readable. This was another one of those 100-page giants Warren would put together in order to ease readers into paying an extra quarter an issue. Usually, the price would stay the same but the page count would drop back to normal. I never seemed to see through Jim's nefarious plan.-Peter

Jack-"She Who Waits" is an unusually weak story from the team of Goodwin and Gonzalez, who usually turn out much better material. It's certainly jarring to see Conrad and Adam return; Archie throws in a line about Vampi and Pendy returning from their magic tour, but he's not fooling anyone. Of the reprints, I most liked "Cobra Queen," which makes more sense than most stories Maroto worked on, and "The Accursed," which has creepy art by Bea. The rest range from fair to worse and none really deserved to be reprinted.

The Spirit #4 (October)

"Life Below"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 2/22/48)

"Mr. McDool"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 10/12/47)

"Silk Satin & The Spirit"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc
(Originally appeared 5/30/48)

"Ye Olde Spirit of '76"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 7/3/49)

"The Elevator"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti
(Originally appeared 6/26/49)

"The Return of Vino Red"
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 9/25/49)

"The Guilty Gun"
Story by Will Eisner 
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc
(Originally appeared 6/6/48)

"Flaxen Weaver"
Story & Art by Will Eisner
(Originally appeared 12/11/49)

Jack-A classic cover leads into another strong issue. Stories this time out come from October 1947 through December 1949 and feature writing aid by Jules Feiffer and art help from Jerry Grandenetti and Andre LeBlanc. The first five stories are all outstanding, from the great mix of horror and pathos in "Life Below," as the Spirit finds crooks living in the sewers, to the two stories with Silk Satin, "Mr. McDool" and "Silk Satin & The Spirit." The relationship between Satin and the Spirit is great and the attempts by the child, Hildy, to play matchmaker are charming.

"Ye Olde Spirit of '76" is an entertaining look at a July 4th celebration, with another ghost making an appearance, while "The Elevator," this issue's color story, has a gorgeous splash and makes fantastic use of panel design and geometric shapes. Ebony is an unlikely hero!

"The Return of Vino Red" falls flat for me, mainly due to an overuse of dialect, while "Flaxen Weaver" has another femme fatale who is far less memorable than Silk Satin. Throw in "The Guilty Gun," about a weapon with a mind of its own, and you have another superb issue of some of the best comics ever made.

Peter: After ingesting eight stories in just under an hour (Deadline Doom!!), I've got to say that perhaps The Spirit is a vino best sipped at rather than downed in one shot. Since I usually read one or two at a time, the hijinks don't usually get on my nerves, but this time out I've OD'd on the really good stuff. Anyway, of the eight this issue, my favorite would have to be the one-two Satin punch of "Mr. McDool" and "Silk Satin and the Spirit." Eisner definitely knew his way around the female form and Satin is one of his greatest achievements. Close runner-up is the equally gorgeous Vino.

On the letters page, African-American William Williams of New York lets Dube (and Eisner) know that he considers Ebony a "parody of a black human being," and that "his appearance and speech, even in print, cannot be condoned." Hard to argue with Williams's points (DuBay kinda sidesteps the issues with another one of his "It is not, nor has it ever been our intention to portray any faction of our society, minority or otherwise, in a degrading fashion"). Right. DuBay makes me chuckle with his wrap-up line: "Without this basic human dignity for his audience to identify with, Ebony could never have become such a popular character with fans of all races!" I'd love to see the poll done among African-Americans that rated Ebony high on their list of role models. But anyway, it is what it is. I'm sure an argument could be made that the Italian-Americans had a bone to pick with Eisner, too, based on his understanding of IA dialect in the Vino tale. 

Creepy #66 (November)

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Portrait of Death" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Vicente Alcazar

Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Martin Salvador

"Pinball Wizard!" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rich Corben

"Relatively Axe-Cidental" ★1/2
Story by Greg Potter
Art by Adolfo Abellan

Story by Gerry Boudreau & Isidro Mones
Art by Isidro Mones

"Chariots of the Dogs"
Treasure hunter Dern purges ancient Egyptian tombs and sells the relics he finds to the highest bidder. Now, Dern has stumbled upon the resting place of Akhenaton, cursed by Amon-Ra to sleep forever within a pyramid tomb and never see the "afterworld." Dern climbs to the top of the pyramid, discovers a false top, slides it off and climbs down into the chamber via rope. As he's descending, Dern reads ancient inscriptions that tell the legend of Akhenaton and his eternal sleep. 

Reaching the bottom, Dern looks up to see the top of the pyramid slide back into place. Trapped! Suddenly, a door slides open and there stands dog-headed Amon-Ra, who explains to the terrified Dern that he's taking him back with him... somewhere. The pyramid lifts up and blasts off into space. That two-star rating of mine is very charitable. "Desecration" is utter hogwash, with the final reveal making no sense whatsoever. Why has Amon-Ra been sleeping in a pyramid for 2000 years, waiting for one dope like Dern to invade his privacy? Was that the goal? Was Dern an alarm clock? Hell, I don't know. Ask Doug. 90% of the two stars goes to Jose Ortiz for his eye-pleasing visuals.

Artist Delany Bridges seeks to create the most horrifying visions but always seems to come up short in his own eyes. To capture "death," he decides, he must be faced with the evidence. So he and his aide Gregory go grave-robbing one night and haul back a perfectly splendid example of corpus rottenus. But Gregory takes the fizz out of the evening's festivities by announcing that he plans to blackmail Delany. The artist, seeing his bright future ending in a swift hanging, cracks his assistant across the head with a candlestick and then stares in awe and inspiration as the man steps over to the "other side." 

Gripped with an intense drive to create the perfect visualization of the grim reaper, Delany sets to work. Later, at the unveiling of his "Portrait of Death," the artist writhes in horror as his painting pulls him into the canvas, to the utter dismay of his audience. The splash makes mention of Poe and those are the vibes I get from this one. It's a really well-told tale right up to the predictable finish, which drives home the fact that a lot of these Warren writers could come up with interesting plots but couldn't deliver the goods in the end. Vicente Alcazar certainly delivers, though; this is some of VA's best work. The portrait itself is pretty spooky stuff.

Captain Yarnell and what remains of his Civil War Raiders are dying of thirst in the desert when they happen upon the town of "Solitude!" Though the Raiders are gruff and violent, the people of Solitude give over everything that's asked of them, hoping the men will ride on and leave them to their peace. But when the daughter of the town's priest is brutally murdered, the kindly citizens of Solitude show their true colors. They're werewolves! Thank you, Captain Obvious. Who here never saw that one coming? Possibly in a magazine not devoted to "illustrated horror," the revelation might come as something of a surprise but, by now, we know we're going to get a/vampires, b/ghouls, or c/werewolves. Archie simply spun the wheel and it landed on lycanthropes. The real question here is why a whole town of werewolves would go vegetarian (well, obviously dining on the stray cow) and put up with this band of rude renegades, rather than overpower the four men and snack on them later. Not one of Archie's best.

Pop Jonas, owner of Walter's favorite soda fountain, is being muscled by a group of heavies run by mobster Charlie Schmied, who wants Pop to add pinball machines to the very small diner. If Pop says no, chances are bones will be broken.  Walter has an idea on how to send Charlie and his bozos to hell, but Pop's not hearing of it and tells the boy to go home and stop thinking such bad thoughts. But, given a day to reflect, Pop realizes the kid is right and tells Charlie to take a hike. For his troubles, Pop is ventilated. Later that day, Walter visits the diner and discovers Pop's body. Unlike other precocious ten-year-olds, Walter is well-versed in raising demons through black magic rituals, so he calls on Ebon, Prince of Darkness, to rid the world of Charlie Schmied. Ebon rips the mobster apart and then transforms his soul into a billiard ball, where Charlie spends the rest of eternity slapping against bumpers and collecting points for the "lord of scum!"

Leave it to Doug Moench to gather all the cliches ever presented in a funny book and cobble them together to sell Warren a script like "Pinball Wizard," an immensely stupid yarn that wastes the talents of Mr. Corben and simultaneously wastes twenty minutes of my life. We get the usual Moench-isms (seized by inexplicable force... hurled through the bleak immensity of space... nails driven into his eardrums... his throat pinched on sour bile... slammed against an unyielding mass, spasms of excruciating pain shudder the core of his being...), the requisite revenge motive, grimy mobsters, the old man who won't give in to bad guys, the oh-so-hip pilfering of a popular song title, and a dozen other familiar banalities. What we don't get is any rational explanation of why this pre-teen should know how to draw a pentagram and conjure up the demonic equivalent of Tommy. It's schmaltzy. Where the hell was Pete Townshend's lawyer?

The peaceful existence of executioner William Roundside is disturbed when a stranger in a crowd shouts out his name and tells him he knows who he is and he should be ashamed of what he does. Afraid his wife will discover the true nature of his work, Roundside follows the stranger to a bar, where he finds the man reading a book of sorcery. When questioned, the stranger admits that he is a scholar and only has the book for research. Seeing a prime opportunity present itself, Roundside notifies the police that they have a sorcerer in their midst. The stranger is arrested.

That night, William's wife, Jenny, informs him that her brother, Henry, is coming to stay. Oh, by the way, he's a scholar! Yep, the next day, William puts his brother-in-law under the axe and then impales the man's head on a spike for all to see. Jenny confronts her brother's executioner and discovers, to her chagrin, that the headsman is her hubby. Hell hath no fury... and all that, so no surprise, the next day William is picked up for sorcery and beheaded soon after. The last panel reveals the new headsman to be none other than headless Henry! "Relatively Axe-Cidental" is pretty damned dumb stuff and that final twist makes no sense whatsoever (did Henry's headless body go into the office and fill out the necessary employment forms?), but it's the perfect capper to an inane and overlong mess. I'm doubling down on my dislike for Abellan's penciling. This is the type of art that kept me away from the Skywalds.

This really weak issue of Creepy ends on a... weak note. "Nightmare!" sees businessman Harry Magraw wracked by vivid dreams of creatures in the darkness reaching out to him and... -poof- he awakens. He walks out to his car, late for work, and finds he has a flat. Finally arriving at the office, he's called into the boss's for a chat and discovers grotesque creatures in the shadows. Harry is beheaded by the monstrous... -poof- he awakens. "Whoo, that was quite a dream," thinks the overworked Harry. "Guess I better splash some water on my face." More nightmarish monsters invade his bathroom! And so it goes until we reach the inevitable and mind-sucking conclusion where Harry walks out to his car and finds a flat tire. By 1974, this "it was only a dream... no it wasn't" plot hook had been utilized approximately 8000 times in horror comics but, evidently, Boudreau and Mones must have thought their take was something new. It isn't. The only saving grace is Mones's creepy critters. The reseeding of all these hoary old cliches begs the question: are these writers out of fresh ideas?-Peter

Jack-When did Warren writers ever have fresh ideas? These mags have always been more notable for the art than the story. This is a particularly average issue; not terrible, but lacking any standouts. I'm a little bit embarrassed to say "Pinball Wizard!" was my favorite, for two reasons: I did not expect the kid to perform a satanic rite, and Corben's art is funky. I liked the idea of the bad guy reading a spiraling comic strip in hieroglyphics as he descended inside the pyramid in "Desecration," but when Amon-Ra showed up looking like a dog in a spacesuit and then the pyramid blasted off for Pluto and the moon, Moench lost me.

Not much happens in "Portrait of Death" and the scratchy art makes it hard to make out what little is going on. At least Martin Salvador's art is clearer in "Solitude!" I like the Western setting but the setup is obvious. "Relatively Axe-Cidental" was too long and had more not-so-hot art, while Mones's work on "Nightmare!" is scratchy (like that of Alcazar), but I kind of liked the panels with the corpses. Still, no standout stories make this a pretty bland issue of Creepy.

Eerie #61 (November)

"Death Wish!"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Killer Hawk"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Wally Wood

"Something Evil Came Out of the Sea"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Joaquin Blazquez

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Isidro Mones

"Death Wish!"
In the hot desert of 1889 Arizona, a man lies staked to the ground, ants chewing at his flesh. He manages to escape and wanders till he finds three Indians whom he blames for leaving him to die. He kills two and the third curses him, explaining that the man killed the rest of the Indian's tribe for no reason. The man recalls traveling west by stagecoach when Indians attacked; he was the only survivor. He later tracked the Indians to their village and murdered all but three with shots from a rifle. The lone surviving Indian tells the man that he will suffer but not die until he learns to live and respect life. The man is found in the desert and taken to a fort, where he learns that the Indians who attacked his stagecoach were white men in disguise. He promptly kills them.

It's hard to tell if "Death Wish!" was meant as a ripoff of the Charles Bronson film that was released on July 24, 1974; perhaps the Warren version played off the 1972 novel on which the film was based and the pre-release film promotion. In any case, this story features lots of violent killing and a Bronson-like anti-hero. It's hard to like Coffin, who isn't called that in the course of the story, since he murders an entire village of innocent people without making sure they're connected to the people who attacked the stagecoach. Still, it looks like we're stuck with him as a new series character. I do like the Western setting and the art, by Jose Ortiz, shows a good ability to tell a story in panels without too much dialogue, a skill sometimes lacking among Warren artists.

"Killer Hawk"
Americans colonized Mars generations ago, so now their descendants don't want people from other countries joining them on the red planet. The Martians invade Earth, led by Jim "Killer Hawk" Hawkins, who has a bad habit of blacking out when threatened and killing people when he's in a blackout. Hawkins and his fighters quickly conquer Berlin, and he meets a gorgeous blonde named Grechin, who stows away on his rocket ship to join him on the trip back to Mars. Unfortunately, the penalty for illegal entry to Mars is death!

On Mars, Hawkins is summoned to see the president, who tests his fighting skill by having him battle and slay a human killing machine. Killer Hawk's loyalty is tested by having him murder Grechin. Hawkins accomplishes both tasks with ease and is named the president's new bodyguard. Before long, Killer Hawk murders the president and takes his place; it turns out he's an android, programmed for the task. As president, Killer Hawk orders lots of things to be blown up, then flies back to Earth, where he had been programmed originally, only to find that he is seen as being too powerful to live and so he is quickly shut down.

Whew! Twelve pages packed with fairly confusing plot and terrific Wally Wood art. I had to read it twice to figure out what was going on, but the truth is that I am a sucker for a story with Wood's women and outer space scenes. I was wondering if this was going to be a series but when Killer Hawk was turned off at the end I figured it must be a one-shot. Too bad. I'd love to see a sci-fi series drawn by Wood!

"Something Evil Came Out of the Sea"
An old slave known as Cotton Boy raises the corpse of Captain Blood from the water outside the town of Cliffport in 1794, but why? Back in 1772, Coffin Boy had been brought to the colonies aboard a slave ship that was hijacked along the way by the pirate, Captain Blood, who sold the slaves at a premium when he reached port. Blood was betrayed by a woman and killed, so now Cotton Boy uses voodoo to revive the corpse and then directs it to murder the slaveholders, one by one. The last slaveholder recently died of syphilis, so Cotton Boy uses voodoo to revive the dead man's corpse, which will remain trapped in its coffin six feet below ground. Coffin Boy gloats over Captain Blood's animated corpse, but the former pirate kills the slave and returns to his watery grave.

Another story that starts out looking like the first in a series but ends up with most of the characters dead, "Something Evil Came Out of the Sea" is the usual corpse getting vengeance on bad folks narrative, this time enlivened by the slave background, the 18th century setting, and the pirate corpse. Boudreau has become one of our favorite Warren writers lately, and Leopold Sanchez's art is good, for the most part. There are pages and panels that look terrific, then there are panels that just look off. Overall, a fairly enjoyable story.

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts"
The hunchbacked dwarf's mind is in the body of Arthur Lemming and needs money, so he holds up a stagecoach and guess who is one of the passengers? Yes, it's the pretty woman who mistreated the dwarf and who also wears around her neck the magic amulet that holds the power to restore everyone to their correct bodies. Lemming/Dwarf takes the gal to a pub and reveals his true identity to her. Meanwhile, the two mummies happen by and get into a big fight. The gal knocks out Lemming/Dwarf and skedaddles as the mummies slowly punch each other. The full moon rises and Lemming/Mummy turns into a werewolf/mummy, but he can't kill Curry/mummy, who has been dead for millennia. And so it goes.

No, no, no! Not the mummy series again! Did Steve Skeates actually think anyone wanted this to return? It's so darn confusing, with two mummies, the dwarf, and the werewolf. Not to mention the pretty girl whose hairstyle and manner of speaking are more 1970s than 1870s. For example:

"I've come to see your boss, honey! I've got business with him!"

"I can hardly believe what you say, but if it is'd better not blow it...!"

Also, how exciting can a fistfight between two mummies be? They shamble slowly and punch each other. The whole thing is just a disaster, not helped by mediocre artwork by Joaquin Blazquez.

With Miles Sanford dead, Jamaica Jensen offers 5000 pounds to the man who kills Dr. Archaeus. A street tough with a knife fails to do the job, but Joshua Blackraven, a trained assassin with a mask over half of his scarred face, tells Jamaica he's the man for the job. Archaeus manages to pull off one more murder before he is shot in the shoulder by Blackraven; the assassin then chases Archaeus to a monastery. Trapped in the bell tower, Archaeus hangs himself rather than allowing Blackraven to kill him.

Kind of an anticlimactic end to an enjoyable series, don't you think? Blackraven is an intriguing character and I wish they had kept going, since I enjoyed Boudreau's evocation of late 19th-century London and Mones's depiction of the events.-Jack

Peter-I liked the premiere installment of “Coffin” despite its awkward title reminders (“this guy looks like he should be in a COFFIN!”). The character has a nifty origin tale and the art is well done. I wonder if American International knew Warren was ripping off their design for the Colossal Beast. Coffin will last 4 chapters. On the “editorial page,” Bill DuBay announces the creation of three new series this issue. Well, when is a series not a series? When it lasts only one installment like the confusing and ultimately disappointing “Killer Hawk.” There’s a racist undertone to the proceedings (I’m not saying DuBay was a racist), but then some of this is obviously tongue-in-cheek, so maybe I’m overthinking. Wally’s art looks washed out and indistinct. Ten years before, we’d be gazing in awe at Grechin’s female form, but now it’s just there. I’m not really sure what the heck is going on in this story, but it does have a nasty edge to it that I admire.

Ostensibly, one of the other series debuting this issue was “Cotton Boy & Captain Blood,” but its climax makes me wonder how the heck even a single sequel could have been milked out of this meandering but good-looking mess. Like with “Spook” and “Coffin,” I can’t help but smell some funky non-PC stuff going on here. You certainly couldn’t get away with calling your African-American co-lead “Cotton Boy” these days without catching some well-deserved hell. I wonder if this was another DuBay christening.

"A Battle of Bandaged Beasts" is the long-awaited follow-up to the Mummy/Werewolf/
WereMummy/WhoGivesaF**k series last seen in Eerie #56. The fact that absolutely not one person was clamoring for an extension of this nonsense obviously played no part in the story's existence. By this time, Steve is typing without the lights on, hoping DuBay doesn't care (he doesn't). I'll say this: at least until 1984/94, nothing is as goofy and aimless as the M/W/WM/WTF? series. The "Dr. Archaeus" series was like a breath of fetid, evil air that kept me going these last several months. Alas, this is the final chapter and I must say it's a letdown with its abrupt, albeit unpredictable, outcome. At least Boudreau snazzed it up a bit with the disfigured hitman. I'll miss this series a whole lot.

Vampirella #38 (November)

"The Mummy's Revenge" ★1/2
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Gypsy Curse"
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Lucky Stiff" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Out of the Nameless City" ★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Felix Mas

"On Little Cat Feet!" 
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Trick of the Tide" 
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Isidro Mones

Vampirella discovers that the mummy of 2000-years dead Ptolemy has risen from his tomb on display in a Rome museum. Still feeling guilty for her part in the God's death (see "Vampire of the Nile" in Vampirella #36 -Archie), she and Pendy visit the sarcophagus to see what's what. There, our fabulously sexy Drakulonian falls for a handsome hunk by the name of Bruno (think John Carpenter, circa 1978), who fills Vampi in on the rumors of the resurrected mummy. Bruno asks Vampi out on a date and, since she's fallen immediately in love with the Adonis, she quickly agrees.

That night, Bruno takes Vampi into a darkened cellar he affectionately calls "the abode of the ancient dead." Once deep in the labyrinth, Bruno disappears and Vampi is attacked by Ptolemy the mummy. Suddenly, Amun-Ra (on loan from Doug Moench's outstanding sit-com, "Desecration!" (see Creepy #66 above or, better yet, don't!-Archie) appears and destroys the mummy, informing Vampi that the real culprit here is Bruno, who has been using the mummy as a vehicle for his own shenanigans. Outraged that her undying love for this man has not been reciprocated, Vampi heads to Bruno's place, where she drains him of blood.

"Gypsy Curse"
That way-too-generous rating you see above is for the whacked-out nature of this episode and, to be honest, cuz I'm tired of fighting the inanity of the whole thing. I give up and give in. Vampi looks good and Flaxman Butterworth doesn't seem to care if any of this makes sense anymore. Just go with the flow, I says, and it'll go down much smoother. Gonzalez's approach to our heroine this issue is an odd one; Vampi seems to have visited a hairdresser at least three times, including on page 12, where her tresses seem to be made of leaves. She looks dy-no-mite, don't get me wrong, just mentioning it. Oh, and check out the hot dress she's not wearing on that same page. Fashion tips by Cher.

"Gypsy Curse" is a very simple tale, but it's told well enough to keep the interest. Gypsy peasant Marta falls for Count Barak (and, no, just to head off your suspicions, he's not a vampire!), but their love seems doomed from the get-go. While on a super-secret romantic meet, Marta's father attacks Barak and the Count is forced to fatally stab the man. With his dying breath, Marta's pop tells Barak that he may have his daughter but if he ever hurts her, "all the demons of hell" shall feast on his flesh. Fast-forward to: Barak comes home after the war, an embittered man and a suspicious husband. Barak beats Marta based on lies told to him by a scheming butler and his body suddenly pulls apart as if "eaten by a thousand demons." As I say, pretty simple, but Maroto's art is stunning, almost able to tell this story without words. But it's not Moench, so it's safe to read.

Linda is new at work and all the guys are falling over themselves to get a look at her, but Harry Nada keeps his cool. That pays off when Linda asks Harry to come over to her pad and teach her the basics (get it? the basics!), as she hears that he's good with figures (get it? figures!). All the other guys think, "Lucky Stiff!" So Harry Nada heads over to Linda's place, where he's attacked by her cats. Linda arrives and explains that her cats need meat and Harry is just the right size. Meow! But what if Harry didn't make it to Linda's that night? What if fate took him down a different path? Well, then he would have been run over by a truck.

Hard to figure which part of this flotsam was written by Wessler and which Boudreau. It really doesn't matter since all of it is atrocious. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall at the brainstorming for this one. "So, if he doesn't get eaten by cats... hey, I got it, he gets run over by a truck! How ironic is that?!" Ramon Torrents holds up his end of the sinking ship, though; Linda is mega-hot, even for a cartoon girl.
One of the more exciting panels from
"Out of the Nameless City"

A stage actor learns he could be the key to returning the Eternal Ones back to life. There's a whole lot more than just that going on, but "Out of the Nameless City" could very well be the most boring story I've read in a Warren zine since that gothic crap way back when during the "dark ages." Why, oh why, do these comic scripters feel they can pilfer Lovecraft for names, plots, whole scenes, but then lack the balls to go all the way? We get the tease over and over... eternal ones, nameless city, Abner Whately, Arkham, Miskatonic U, "that which is not dead can eternal lie..."... but the big tentacled guy never shows up. Would that have been enough to push Lovecraft's estate (whoever actually represented his estate at this point) over the edge and send lawyers knocking on Big Jim's door? This is the classic "bait and switch," like Best of the Beatles (google it). A whole lot of boring illustrations of people walking around and talking and talking and talking. At least Tom Sutton could rip HP off with pizazz. 

"On Little Cat Feet!" is the bizarre, but well-illustrated tale of two girls: Kitty, a witch who can turn into a cat and has poison claws that reduce her victims to puddles of goo; and Eulalia, an artist who puts up with Kitty's strange ways because they have a bond. There is literally no plot here; it's like a series of cringingly unfunny SNL skits sewn together for a VHS release. There's only the art and a clever twist at the climax, involving Eulalia's true identity, that saves this from being a total dud.

We were saved from the total dud until the final story, "Trick of the Tide," Jack Butterworth's homage to EC Comics. Gabriel Greaves fishes a body out of the Thames, with the large bundle of money in the corpse's pocket as his reward. When the dead man's wife starts asking Greaves questions, he murders her and dumps the body in the river. Later that week, he discovers that the dead woman's wealthy brother has posted a reward for information leading to the woman's whereabouts. Greaves fishes his victim out of the water and she attacks him, disemboweling the con artist. Holy cow, a vengeful corpse rises from dead! Yep, that's it. Perhaps one of Jack Flaxman Butterworth's easiest paydays, right? There's not one iota of imagination behind this six pages of... paper. The Mones art is well-done but I'm kind of tired of ending my sentences with "... but at least the art is good!" -Peter

"Trick of the Tide"
We're sure seeing a lot of Ancient Egypt all of a sudden, aren't we? Vampi falls head over heels again (every issue, it seems) and wears some snazzy outfits, so all is well. Since when does she go around killing baddies by biting them? It really doesn't matter, though, since I am so enamored of Jose Gonzalez's art on this strip. I wasn't as impressed as you were by Maroto's work on "Gypsy Curse"; I just don't think he's a very good visual storyteller and his style is not my favorite.

I prefer Ramon Torrents's art on the otherwise terrible "Lucky Stiff." The double entendres were amusing but the story ended badly, as Wessler's tales so often do. "Out of the Nameless City" was too long but features nice art by Felix Mas. I am always happy to see a story by Auraleon, even one as terrible as "On Little Cat Feet!" John Jacobson's two entries this issue are disappointing. Finally, "Trick of the Tide" is short and fun. Again, I like Mones's work and I put on my little detective hat and figured out that Jack Butterworth and Mike Butterworth are probably the same person (Mike goes by Flaxman Loew)--the real name of the writer was John Michael Butterworth.

Next Week...
At long last...
Batman and Robin!