Monday, May 31, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 60: February 1975


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

The Spirit #6

"Showdown" (8/24/47)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"The Wedding" (5/2/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"The Job" (5/9/48)
Story by Will Eisner 
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc

"The Lamp" (7/27/47)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"Glob" (3/6/49)
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

"The Winnah! (12/3/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"This is 'Wild' Rice" (4/4/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"Taxes and the Spirit" (4/16/50)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

I'm beginning to notice a trend with the Warren Spirit mag. Each issue starts out with a series of great stories, followed by some that are just average, with a strong one at the end. The pattern holds true this time. "Showdown," from 1947, is a superb example of visual storytelling, where Eisner and Grandenetti use light and shadow with few words to tell a thrilling story. The violence is surprising--one crook is shot point blank in the head! As usual, all we see of the Octopus are his gloves and, at the end, the Spirit is blinded. I think there are subsequent stories where he's blind, but they're not included here.

"The Wedding"

"The Wedding" and "The Job" are two stories featuring Bleak from consecutive Sundays in 1948. In the first, we are treated to a real, hardboiled dame and a rare moment where the Spirit takes off his mask to get her to confess. In "The Job," Bleak continues to make poor choices, this time involving a 372-year-old pirate who needs a piece of Bleak's brain to stay alive! More casual supernatural elements pop up in "The Lamp," where a real genie grants wishes and where we get some troubling caricatures and speech patterns from Ebony and his associate, Pierpont. I'm a bit worried about next issue, which is a special tribute to Ebony.

"The Lamp"

Things grind to a halt with "Glob," from 1949, a satire on modern art that isn't particularly funny or visually interesting. I'm not sure why they would choose a lesser story like this to color. "The Winnah!" isn't much better; it's from 1950, and Eisner was running out of gas. The third mediocre story in a row comes with "This is 'Wild' Rice," in which a rich society girl enjoys getting knocked around by a criminal.

"Taxes and the Spirit" ends the issue with a bang, as the Spirit is confronted by the only opponent he can't best: the IRS. The story was published on April 16, 1950, almost eight months before "The Winnah," and our hero has to reveal his true identity to avoid prison for tax evasion. It's a fine tale.

"Taxes and the Spirit"

On a personal note, I was surprised to see a letter in this issue's letter's column from Jeff Kroll, a guy I was friends with in high school. I haven't seen him in over 40 years but I remember hanging out at his house reading comics.-Jack

Peter-Even if the stories are incoherent sometimes (my little brain couldn't keep up with what was going down in "Showdown"), you can always count on Eisner for some incredible, ground-breaking splashes and mind-melting choreography. As usual, I enjoyed most of the tales collected here but two in particular jumped out at me for different reasons. "This is 'Wild Rice'" has a completely different look to it than the other strips (which is odd, because Grandenetti had a hand in several of the Spirits reprinted to this point), one I really dug. As far as story goes, I thought the standout was the two-parter, "The Wedding" and "The Job." I'd like to see more continuity in the future, not this random smattering of reprints from various years.

Creepy #69

"The Pit and the Pendulum" ★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Premature Burial" 
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"The Fall of the House of Usher" ★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Oval Portrait" 
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Rich Corben

"Ms. Found in a Bottle" 
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Leo Summers

"Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" ★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adaptation by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Isidro Mones

Poe is me! Twelve Edgar Allan stories (six here, six next time out) may be a little too much of a "good thing." We'll see. I had never read the prose version of the opener, "The Pit and the Pendulum," but I really liked the Vincent Price-Roger Corman-Richard Matheson film classic. I am so naive. That has nothing to do with this! I shoulda known. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition is thrown into a dungeon and almost falls into a very deep pit. He avoids the drop, only to be drugged by his captors and bound to a table in a room full of rats with nothing but a bag of salty meat to keep him going. Those rats look pretty hungry. That could be a problem. 

As if this wasn't enough to weigh on the poor man's mind, he looks above and notices the huge pendulum blade begin to seesaw across his body, lowering an inch at a time. Luckily, he's able to make use of the salty meat and the rats to cut through his bindings and escape. I would assume the original prose version might fill in a few details (Why, for instance, would the Inquisitors would go to such lengths to torture one prisoner?) that Margo didn't have space for. There's a whole of nothing going on in the first half, but the climactic pendulum scene is well-choreographed by Jose Ortiz. Overall, not bad, but that means three of Poe's heavy-hitters down ("The Raven" and "The Black Cat" having appeared in previous issues) and only a couple to go. Will we scraping the bottom of the Poe barrel?

John suffers from catalepsy, a condition that can render a person, from all appearances, dead even though still alive. John wakes from nightmares of being buried alive and his wife can do nothing to calm his nerves. John is convinced that some damn fool will bury him alive some day. John's butler, Rogers, crafts a coffin with a special rope that can be pulled from the inside, alerting the staff that the boss might not be in heaven just yet. Then, one day, while John is walking in town, he has a seizure and wakes up in the pitch-black. Convinced this is "The Premature Burial," he screams. A light appears and John learns that he had a fit on the wharf and a ship's captain tossed him in the hold for safe-keeping. John's mind is suddenly clear and he realizes he can go on with the rest of his life without fear.

Why? I'm not sure why a terrifying experience in the dark hold of a boat would suddenly make John come to his senses. If anything, it would only add to his future night terrors. For a Poe story, this has an oddly optimistic climax. I took the time to read the original story, going that extra mile for our loyal readers, and I have to say (call me a heretic, if you will) that Poe's version wasn't much better. You can see, by comparison, where Margo had to dump his Moench-isms in to make it his own. That "Darkness... blah blah blah... Light... blah blah blah..." on the splash is all Rich. The Alcazar art is hot and cold, some bits of brilliance and some hairy caterpillars with rattlesnakes coming out their ears. 

The "exciting" climax!
Our unnamed narrator describes what events befall him when he makes a call on his old friend, Roderick Usher. Roderick's sister, Madeline, is dying and the man has come to say goodbye and to try to lift his friend's spirits. That may be impossible though since Usher is a wreck and only becomes more mentally disturbed when his sister dies. Except she really doesn't die (she's got catalepsy just like damn near every Poe character), and a week later, Madeline rises from her tomb and attacks her brother. She dies from starvation, Roderick from fright. Our poor hapless visitor flees from the Usher castle just as lightning strikes and the structure burns to the ground.

What strikes me most after reading "The Fall of the House of Usher" is that Poe was really creaky. A lot of this stuff just doesn't make sense and the guy loved to recycle his ideas. Yeah, I know he's well-respected, but this crap is boring me to tears (now I'm afraid to reread Lovecraft!). It doesn't help that you get a layer of pablum applied in the form of Martin Salvador's bland-as-Bisquick graphics. 

Having survived a gunshot as the result of a duel, a weary and wounded man takes shelter in an abandoned chateau with his valet. When he enters a room for rest, he becomes obsessed with "The Oval Portrait" of a stunningly beautiful woman. Lying down on the bed, he finds a journal under the pillow chronicling the story of the portrait. Years before, the woman sat for her painter/ husband. As the painting progressed, the woman grew weaker and more of a shell of a human being until, finally, she fell over dead.

Sending out an SOS
Sending out an SOS
It's a bit of an abrupt climax, but then this was before the time of O. Henry, wasn't it? And I guess once Poe had run out of steam, the narrative was over. "The Oval Portrait" is somewhat reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (in a reverse way) but was actually published five decades previous. Corben's art is fabulous (especially that moody overhead shot of the two men entering the chateau) but begs for color. I'd have to say that "The Oval Portrait" is the most effective of the Poe adaptations this issue.

"Ms. Found in a Bottle," is the story of a seaman who escapes tragedy during a hellacious storm, only to be picked up by a huge Spanish vessel that might be a "death ship." The whole kit 'n' kaboodle gets sucked into a nightmarish sea vortex at the climax and we're left to wonder why Death would sit on a beach (without a Corona) and read a manuscript when he's Death and knows everything. The tale is way too long and boring for my tastes; nothing really happens, but when it does you're not sure what the hell it all means. Is this a ghost ship our unlucky sailor has found himself on? What deep hidden meaning goes with the gigantic whirlpool the ship is sucked into? And is that supposed to be death reading the diary on the beach? If so, why? Since Margo added that last bit on his own (it ain't in the original story), I assume he probably found the tale a bit lackluster as well and thought "Let's end it with a robed skull-face! That always works!" The Leo Summers art doesn't bother me if I squint and avoid looking directly at the characters' faces.

M. Valdemar has less than 24 hours to live, so his friend (our nameless narrator), a hypnotist, comes to visit and discusses the case with Valdemar's physician. The mesmerist is convinced he can put M. in a deep sleep as he slips from this world into the next. The doctor agrees to the experiment and Valdemar is hypnotized into a deep sleep. The next morning, the patient gives up the ghost and passes but, incredibly, continues his dialogue from beyond the grave. Months later, the experiment continues; Valdemar seems to hover between life and death. The hypnotist decides to end the strange coma but the after-effects are, to say the least, disturbing.

It's been (literally) a million years since I read "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" in one of those Scholastic anthologies of Poe's work, but I remember the real thing being a bit more coherent. I noted that "Ms. Found in a Bottle" is overlong but this one seems too short, as if we're getting a condensed version of the story with intrinsic bits missing. Hypnotist does his thing, undead M. lies in a state, and two panels later it's time to lift that spell. Mones's art is creepy to the max, though, and his final look at Valdemar post-nap is nightmarish. Grade for E. Poe Take One: a solid Meh.-Peter

Jack-I agree with you. While none of the six stories is particularly interesting, the fact that they're based on actual short stories makes them more competently written than most Warren stories. And as we keep saying, with Warren mags, it's usually all about the art. I liked "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" best for the same reason--good images. Ortiz's work is solid and I was not expecting the sudden rescue at the story's end in "Pendulum," and Alcazar simply nails the final page of "Valdemar." The Corben story was such a dud that even half-decent artwork couldn't save it. I don't think a busty young blonde in a low-cut gown was quite what Poe had in mind when he wrote the original.

"House of Usher" has an anti-climactic ending and Salvador's art is wooden as ever, while Leo Summers continues to ape Jack Davis in "Bottle," a tale that is awfully dull for one that involves a death ship, a ghostly crew, and a giant whirlpool. A whole issue of Poe stories is a lot to take, and we have another to look forward to? What's left?

Eerie #63

"Storm Before the Calm!"
Story by Bruce Bezaire
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Hollow of the Three Hills"★1/2
Story by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Stumpful of Granddaddies"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Exterminator One, Part 2"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Paul Neary

Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Joaquin Blazquez

"The Famine"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Storm Before the Calm!"
Four weeks after the first Night of the Jackass, more desperate people have taken Hyde 25 and turned into monsters! They have taken over St. Barnabas Church, holding people hostage, tying the priest to the cross, and generally wreaking havoc. Detective Oates leaves the scene, thinking there's nothing to be done, but Claude Bishop and Samuel Garson make their way inside, determined to stop the carnage. Garson is there to avenge the death of his wife, while Bishop's motive is unclear. They succeed in defeating the drug-crazed creatures, but Detective Oates doesn't seem to understand their heroism.

"Storm Before the Calm," this second entry in the series, is better than the first, in my opinion, but I agree with Peter's comment below that Jose Ortiz doesn't do a great job of clarifying what's happening. I like his work in general and he draws great "zombies," but I couldn't exactly say how Bishop and Garson managed to defeat a church full of monsters with no real weapons to speak of.

Peter, after reading one too
many Poe adaptations.
("Hollow of the Three Hills")
A beautiful young woman meets an old hag in the "Hollow of the Three Hills!" wanting to know what became of the people she left behind. Laying her head on the crone's lap, the young woman hears her aged parents lamenting the shameful departure of their wanton daughter. She next hears her husband, driven mad after she slept with many other men. Finally, she sees the funeral of her child, left to die of the pox after being abandoned. The crone departs, leaving the woman, soulless and dead after learning the repercussions of her actions.

I am a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing and, while I'm not sure if I've read this particular short story before, it shares the same haunting quality that so many others he wrote displayed. Maroto's art is below average, even for him; he has never been a strong storyteller, but at least when he's "on" he draws nice pictures. Not so this time. The art, for the most part, is muddy and looks unfinished.

After seeing his master and mistress safely to bed, a Black butler sheds his finery and ventures into the swamp, where he finds a "Stumpful of Granddaddies!" The next morning, Crackermeyer, the voodoo man, is paraded through town and hauled into court, where he is accused of murdering Mrs. Patrick L. Savoie III. He disputes the charge, and the prosecuting attorney tells the jury that the defendant kidnapped the white woman and took her for use in a voodoo ritual that included cutting out her heart.

"Stumpful of Granddaddies!"
In town, African-Americans listen to the story of what really happened: the white woman's husband was a cruel master who mistreated his slaves, even though Black people rightfully owned his plantation. The slaves sought Crackermeyer's help and the mistress disappeared. The man with the granddaddy spiders takes them to the Spook, deep in the swamp, where a voodoo ritual results in the revival of the white woman's dead husband as a zombie. He marches into court and accuses her father of killing him. The father shoots him, but Crackermeyer is still to be hanged for murdering the woman, until she, too, shows up as a zombie. Since she is technically "alive," Crackermeyer is set free, and he and the Spook wander off into the swamp, astounded at the capacity of white people to heap blame on Black people.

Though it was a bit hard to summarize briefly, this was a most enjoyable story with terrific art by Leopold Sanchez. Once again, the Spook is a minor character, but it doesn't matter because the plot held my interest. The way the Black characters trick the white characters by means of voodoo is funny, but I ended up wondering exactly why Crackermeyer was spared the noose when the woman showed up as an obviously undead zombie.

"Exterminator One"
"Exterminator One" is back, this time in color! Peter Orwell, the killing machine with a human brain, is assigned two murders: a double amputee named Jangles who spends his days begging for drinks in a bar, and a mob enforcer named Turks O'Malley. It's convenient that both men frequent the same bar, so Peter sets himself up in Turks's room across the street and watches what happens in the bar. Turks bullies Jangles, but another mob killer named Slaughter puts Turks in his place. When Turks returns to his room, Peter ties him to a chair next to the window, unaware that Slaughter is (at that moment) upstairs to carry out his mission to kill a mobster named Gambino. Peter shoots Jangles and Slaughter spins and shoots Peter's arm off before murdering Gambino. The cops arrive and shoot and kill Turks, thinking that he shot Jangles. Peter makes his escape, but now Slaughter knows he exists.

Is this the first Paul Neary story to be presented in color? If so, the addition of bright hues really brings out the best in his artwork. I found this second entry in the Exterminator series to be exciting and, at the end, I wanted more, which is somewhat rare for a Warren continuing series. DuBay's script depends on coincidences--why do Jangles and Turks frequent the same bar? Why is Peter able to set up in Turks's room across from said bar?--but the action and visuals are good enough that I didn't mind. One thing that is left unclear is why Peter is told to kill these men. Is it simply because they are "leeches on the society," as his handler puts it? Perhaps that's supposed to be a comment on the dystopian world of 1999.

Linda Robbins has spent her adult life looking for Mr. Right and she thinks she has found him. The only problem: he was an ancient Egyptian who lived thousands of years before her time. In 1975, she comes across a certain amulet and kills to get it; she breaks into a museum and uses an ancient incantation to transfer her spirit into a mummy's body. "Insanity!" Her mind and a male mind share space in the mummy's body! The mummy rises, shambles over to Linda's body, and manages to transfer her thoughts back into her female form. The mummy doesn't appreciate having been brought back to life, so he strangles Linda and then blows out his own brains.

I felt myself slipping into Skeates-speak as I wrote that capsule summary of this, what is hopefully the final gasp of the mummy/werewolf series. As ridiculous as it seems, this entry isn't as bad as usual, probably because the setting has been updated to the present and the main character is a woman. The ten pages have plenty of panels of drawings of a pretty girl, which at least makes it less painful to look at than the episodes featuring the were-mummy.

"The Famine"
Winter is coming soon in southern France and Napoleon III declares war on Prussia, so Louis, Gaston, and Armon leave their village and report for duty. After three months of fighting, France surrenders, and the soldiers begin to make their way home through the snow. Armon's leg is wounded and his friends proceed slowly with him but eventually they become separated from the rest of the army and must take shelter. As the days pass, they search for food and find none. Gaston begins slipping out at night on his own. Armon dies and Louis discovers that Gaston has found a barn where he has been eating corn. Louis murders Gaston and satisfies his hunger through cannibalism.

"The Famine" begins with "the century has turned in all the world," which confused me, since the Franco-Prussian war took place in 1870. The initial pages, having to do with the young men's going off to war, fighting, and beginning to trudge home, were of interest, but midway through the story it became just another slog to the inevitably eerie ending. Peter's comment about Ortiz's murky art holds true once again; even on the last page, the drawing of Luis walking off with body parts hanging out of his bag is hard to make out. Still, an above-average issue of Eerie!-Jack

Peter-The arc of "Night of the Jackass" is so intriguing, I'm begging to be spellbound but, alas, Jose Ortiz's art is so damned confusing, I can't figure out what's going on from panel to panel. Lots of black squiggles that melt into each other and word balloons emanating from the middle of it all. Even worse are the crowd scenes. That's a laugh: I'm usually complaining I can't make heads or tails of the story. Here it's the visuals. Exactly the opposite for "Hollow of the Three Hills," which contains gorgeous pencils by Maroto and a cumbersome script (derived, to be fair, from a cumbersome story), with lots of artistic flourishes and the like. As I get older (and grumpier, obviously), I find I have very little patience for the ancient literature of Poe, Hawthorne, Dickens, and their comrades, but I have to believe that 13-year-old me turned up his nose at this as well.

Though I still can't fake it enough to tell you what "The Spook" is all about, I will say that "Stumpful of Granddaddies" (Doug would be proud!) is the best chapter yet, oozing with atmosphere and tons of great panels. There's still an unhealthy smattering of that word, but what can we do about it other than blank it out with our mind? Sanchez's art is exquisite, moody, and really transports you into those swamps. Man, those cottonmouths get big! "Exterminator One" is a winner as well. It's got a hardboiled Blade Runner-esque vibe to it that predates cyberpunk by nearly a decade. Neary's art is functional and unpretentious but almost feels trapped in its six-frame-a-page format. 

“The Mummy!” What a long, stupid trip it’s been. "Insanity!" would be a great alternate title for the series as well. The final chapter is overrun with over-written captions, contains very little dialogue (but some of it is precious, like when our heroine almost stops herself from reviving the bandaged guy with a hilarious "... what will I say to people?"), and is capped off by the killing of the main character. Oh wait, we don't even see that. The jump to contemporary times may have been a copycat move on Steve's part; Marvel had done it with the Frankenstein Monster just a year before. It's a weird move given this was obviously meant to be the final chapter. As much grief as I've given this series (and it deserves it), at least it can be said that the damned thing was never boring. Inane, yes, but never boring. I found "The Famine" to be much better than the initial "Apocalypse" chapter. It's a grueling story, tough to read, but the grisly climax really doesn't fit in with the first eleven pages. It's as if Dube reminded Budd there should be an eerie element here somewhere. Up to that point, we're talking Harvey Kurtzman/Frontline Combat territory.

Next Week...
Trevor Von Eeden tackles
a full-length Batman!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

William Fay, writer and family man

 by Jack Seabrook

In my introduction to the series of posts on William Fay, I wrote:

William Cullen Fay (1918-1981) wrote 14 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He was an editor at Popular Publications starting in 1935 and he wrote over 160 short stories that were published from 1938 to 1962. His stories appeared mostly in mainstream popular fiction magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, and Liberty. Fay also worked as a sports writer for the Chicago Tribune and, as of 1948, he was the sports editor for Collier's. He wrote for television from 1954 to 1967 and he wrote the screenplay for Kid Galahad, a 1962 film starring Elvis Presley.

However, I have since learned that there were two writers named William Fay, both of whom were writing at about the same time. I corresponded with William Fay, an attorney in Chicago, whose grandfather was William Cullen Fay. This William Fay was not the person who wrote short stories for popular magazines and later wrote teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and other TV shows. William Cullen Fay was a sports writer and editor, who was the sports editor at Collier's magazine before moving to Chicago to become the sports editor for the Chicago Tribune. He seems to have signed magazine articles as William Cullen Fay in the early 1940s and by the late 1940s he had switched to signing them as Bill Fay, which continued thereafter.

The other William Fay worked for Popular Publications, wrote numerous short stories, and wrote teleplays. He moved to Los Angeles in 1957 to write for television. Part of the confusion between the two William Fays stems from the fact that William Cullen Fay was a sports editor and writer, while William Fay's short stories and teleplays often dealt with sports, especially boxing. IMDb lists his dates of birth and death as 1918 to 1981, but these may be the dates for the sports editor, William Cullen Fay, since a birth year of 1918 would mean that William Fay (the TV writer) became an editor at Popular Publications at the age of seventeen.

If anyone knows more about the William Fay who wrote short stories and teleplays, please contact me. He had eight children, as pictured in the photo below.

The University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center holds an archive of the William Fay papers, which are indexed here. Most of the collection consists of short stories or teleplays by Fay, but there are also some photographs, a short article, letters to and from the author, and a handwritten list of short stories that covers the period from 1938 to 1960.

Here is an article about short-story and teleplay writer William Fay (referred to as Bill Fay) and his family, from The Saturday Evening Post, August 27, 1955:

Here is a photo of Fay with his family:

Good Housekeeping, December 1955

Two miscellaneous photos:

Europe, 1950-Researching for article on
"Shrines of Europe"-Fatima, Portugal

Radio interview, Sardi's, New York
(Rocky Graziano is on the right)

This is a letter Fay wrote that references boxing:

Here is his handwritten list of his work from 1938 to 1960:

These documents were provided courtesy of The University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center and I am grateful for their help in preparing this post. If any of the images above are under copyright, the rights belong to the copyright holders.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 28: April 1982

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

Batman #346

"Half a Hero..."
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Frank Chiaramonte

Two-Face escapes from Arkham Asylum using a special silver dollar that hypnotizes the guards. Commissioner Gordon is exhausted and Bruce Wayne tries some tough love to get Lucius Fox to solve business problems on his own. Dick Grayson's love life is not going well since Dala dumped him, but Bruce Wayne's romance with Vickie Vale is hot and heavy. Batman tracks Two-Face to a halfway house in a rundown part of Gotham, fights off the villain's goons, and barely escapes death from traps Two-Face set up inside the building. Batman confronts Two-Face and handcuffs him, only to discover that Two-Face is actually a beautiful blonde in disguise. Her attack on the Caped Crusader is aided by nerve gas that knocks him out cold. Elsewhere, Commissioner Gordon hands in his badge and gun to new Mayor Hamilton Hill. After Gordon leaves, Boss Thorne introduces a man named Pauling as the new commissioner.

Jack: On the one hand, Conway's numerous subplots keep things interesting and make for a good continuity from one issue to another. On the other hand, they don't leave much room for the main story, which is basically Batman finding Two-Face with no effort and then being gassed. The art is pretty good, but Chiaramonte's inks over Newton's pencils aren't as impressive as those of Adkins. The scene on the cover isn't half as interesting when it happens inside (see what I did there?).

Peter: Two-Face is one of my favorite of the Rogues' Gallery, so just about any adventure starring the poor man's Joker is alright by me, but there really isn't much plot to this story yet. I just hope this isn't one of those two-parters that resolves itself quickly in a two-panel finale. At least this time we get reasoning for why Two-fer has his trademarked silver dollar with him in the pen (unlike that loony story months back where one of the Rogues had a Batman stand-up in his cell). I had to check GCD to make sure we hadn't seen Margo before and I'm still not sure. The "Commissioner Gordon No More" and "Vicki Vale Might Spill the Beans" subplots are actually more intriguing than the main event this issue.

"In the Land of the Dead!"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Trevor Von Eeden & Pablo Marcos

Catwoman awakens to find herself being carried off the train by two goons. She is making short work of them when she is suddenly captured by her own cat o'nine tails, wielded by Sergeant Stuart. Stuart explains that Selina's father killed his father years before, when his father was working for the Nazis. The sergeant thinks a diamond was hidden in one of the train cars, so he has been kidnapping and inspecting them to try to find it. The train cars are kidnapped by sending them into an underground tunnel and then projecting a hologram that fools observers. Stuart finds the diamond, which has etched upon it the formula for the hydrogen bomb. He plans to take it to Germany and start the Fourth Reich! Catwoman foils his nefarious plot and saves the day. Unfortunately, Stuart is killed by the very train he thought would be his ticket to stardom.

Jack: This seven-page story has about 25 pages worth of plot! Jones introduces concepts so quickly that it's hard to keep up, but the story is very entertaining and I enjoyed the art, for the most part. Catwoman's vintage costume looks great but isn't very practical. When she's fighting the goons, she kicks one and I thought the colorist made a mistake--but no, her legs really are bare under that skirt!

Peter: Holy cow, this Catwoman tale is a whole lot of complicatin'. I had to read it a couple times and I'm still not sure what the heck it was all about. "My dad etched the entire formula for an H-Bomb on a teensy-weensy diamond and then put it on the collar of a (coincidence... only coincidence) cat but he got killed by your dad and now I'm going to see Germany rise again through the Fourth Reich but first I'm gonna tie you to the railroad tracks and..." Sheesh. At one point, Catwoman thinks: "Well, Selina, old girl... you do get mixed up with goofballs." I love love love Bruce Jones (and you can tell him I said so) but this is close to the bottom of the Jones-career-quality-meter. Great art, though.

The Brave and the Bold #185

"The Falcon's Lair!"
Story by Don Kraar
Art by Adrian Gonzales & Mike DeCarlo

The Penguin is back with a plan to replace wealthy Hamilton Mellor with a robot who will do the bad guy's bidding. While Batman is out on patrol, he is joined by Green Arrow, who is visiting Gotham City. Batman talks Arrow into taking his place at Mellor's 40th birthday party, a medieval-themed bash where the Penguin manages to capture Green Arrow after distracting him with a robot Black Canary.

Batman comes to the rescue, defeating a goon dressed as a knight on horseback, and the two heroes fend off the Penguin's secret weapon, a killer falcon! The Penguin is marched off to prison, muttering "There will be another day."

Jack: "The Falcon's Lair!" is competent, but that's all. The art is pretty good, the plot is pretty good, but it leads nowhere. Green Arrow says he's in Gotham looking for a good time, and the Penguin's nose seems to be getting longer and longer with age. 

Peter: I'm not sure what the Penguin's plot was or why he needed these elaborate automatons. "The Falcon's Lair!" is like so many of these B+B one -and-dones: a decent time-waster, but nothing resembling brain food. 

"Triple Threat"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

A meeting of crime bosses is taking place at the Houston estate of Jay Kingston, where lions freely roam the grounds. The crooks agree to come up with plans to kill Nemesis, and the person whose plan works will be the new head of the Council. Nemesis infiltrates the meeting in disguise but is tripped up when he fails to utter a secret code word. He runs out of the house, unaware that lions prowl outside!

Jack: Another bad entry in the Nemesis series, with another cliffhanger and poor artwork. How many more episodes do we have to suffer through?

Peter: So much of this episode's running time is devoted to reminding us of what has happened in past installments that there's no real advancing of the plot line. It's all "mumble mumble mumble we have to kill Nemesis..." I do have to admit to laughing out loud at the scene where Kingston asks the members to give their code name and Nemesis guesses wrong "... er...Scotch!" Genuinely funny! But the most exciting moment this issue is the full-page ad announcing the return of Swamp Thing! Hey, Jack, no one will notice if we dump Brave and the Bold and substitute Saga of Swamp Thing! Whattya think?

Detective Comics #513

"...Is Better Than None!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Frank Chiaramonte

Alfred and Robin are very worried about the Batman. He hasn't been seen for a week and that's just not normal. Vicki Vale shows up at the door to tell Alfred she knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, so "what are you going to do about it, servant guy?" Alfred mumbles and tries to come up with a good one-line comeback.

Meanwhile, Boss Thorne's puppet, Peter Pauling, has been installed by the new mayor as police commissioner after Gordon had his little snit, and holds his first news conference, commenting to reporters that he believes the Batman's disappearance is a publicity stunt and when he pokes his sharp ears back up, he'll be treated like the vigilante he is. 

Cut to: Gotham Park, where Jim Gordon is sitting on a bench, talking to daughter Babs and generally feeling sorry for himself (which is a character trait we haven't seen before from the usually steadfast JG, so we know his soul is troubled). Babs gives him a verbal slap in the face and tells him to man up. Jim just feeds the pigeons and sighs. 

So, eight pages in we finally get to our titular hero, who's been captured and held in a glass prison by his old friend, Harvey Dent, who makes a lot of threats and then tosses his two-faced coin in the air, landing (for the seventh time) on the clean side. Batman will live another day. But Two-fer has something big up his sleeve in the meantime. He's been gathering up the worst-smelling of Gotham's ex-cons and a crew of well-dressed assassins (the yin and yang of organized crime) to... steal the platinum and gold records from the walls of the Duo Records building (actually the famous Capitol Records in Hollywood)! Robin hears the "all hands on deck" over the police band and foils the robbery. Two-Face escapes the Boy Wonder's ire and heads back to the halfway house where Bats is being kept. With the aid of a bed spring, a plastic tray, and some chewing gum, Batman is able to loosen a "steam-pipe joint" (whatever that is), which melts a plastic food tray into a mask perfectly resembling Two-Face. The resulting charade screws with Harvey's head and he releases the Dark Knight from his prison. Bats KOs Harvey and calls the troops. Later at the penthouse, Bruce tells Robin and Alfred that it's time to head back to the Stately Manor.

There are many logic problems in "...Is Better Than None!" but I'll go over the most glaring. Two-Face assembles the most deadly group of killers ever in a funny book and then utilizes them to steal gold and platinum records (which, for those wondering, are not made of those precious metals but are actually colored plastic)? A bit, um, anti-climactic, no? Taking a page from the book of his TV peers, Two-fer locks Batman in a glass cell but doesn't think to unmask him or even take his utility belt off (he does empty the belt and leave it on his sworn enemy, perhaps after a clean-sided coin toss). 

The assassins and stinky ex-cons are put out of commission by one (admittedly angry) teenager and rounded up by the cops. A bit anti-climactic, no? (And speaking of stinky, special thanks to Messrs. Newton and Chiaramonte for always avoiding that corner of Bats's cell where the loo is stashed.) Bats takes a plastic tray and fashions an extraordinary replica of Two-fer's face with a bit of steam, a mask that even fools the sane Robin. That's going beyond the far-fetched, I would say. Laughably, the tray is perfectly colored to match all the greens of Harvey's face and the whites of his teeth. When designing the glass prison, Harvey musta ignored the fact that a "steam-pipe joint" in the hands of the world's greatest detective might be dangerous. But my biggest complaint about this two-parter is that there's a massive build-up to nothing. Gerry should be able to perform a lot more miracles with 34 pages of build-up than a silly heist and a very easy turning of the tables by the Dark Knight. Alfred doesn't even think to let his master know that Vicki is hot on the trail of his alter ego, fergoshsakes. I do like the subtle warning that Hugo Strange is back.

Jack: I was also intrigued by Boss Thorne's being haunted by the ghost of Hugo Strange, mainly because it reminds me of one of the best periods of Batman in the 1970s. One problem with a story like this is that we all know Batman isn't dead, so Robin's concern about that at the outset creates no suspense. As I was reading this story, I started to wonder where Two-Face gets his clothes. Newton and Chiaramonte do a great job of depicting the ugly side of Two-Face's visage and the return to Wayne Manor promised at the end sounds good, but it's troubling that the subplots are more interesting than the main story.

"Duel With Demons!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

"To Babs! With all my love!"
Babs Gordon is attacked by the biker gang, the Demon Riders, who destroyed her apartment last issue, but a little faux-fainting spell catches the macho Black Sabbath fans off-guard and Babs escapes. She gets up to the rooftop and changes into her Bat-duds, swooping down for some good old fisticuffs. At one point, she's knocked on her shapely behind and a strange man emerges from the shadows and saves her. With her second wind, Babs puts the bikers in the dirt. 

Peter: More awful stuff from Cary Burkett, our resident series hack. I had to guffaw and chuckle at the thought balloon over Batbabe's head after she vanquishes the bikers: "In many ways, this has been one of my most important victories!" Really? You mean saving the world from the Annihilator a few issues ago was an easier task than defeating Ozzy, Tony, Bill, and Geezer? The most unusual thing this issue is that Batgirl stands over a corpse and promises that the cops are on the way to "put the cuffs on these hoods."

Jack: I thought the head biker looked dead, too, but Batgirl's remark made me question what I saw. Bab's fake faint at the beginning depends on an assumption that the biker will be chivalrous, does it not? Kind of a tough assumption to make. This Delbo/Giella art is tough to take but still beats the work of Dan Spiegle.

Next Week...
A Whole Lotta Poe
Goin' On!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Fay Part Eleven: Ten O'Clock Tiger [7.26]

by Jack Seabrook

Mixing greed and illegal performance-enhancing drugs in the boxing world leads to tragedy in "Ten O'Clock Tiger," which first aired on NBC on Tuesday, April 3, 1962. The onscreen writing credit says that the teleplay is by William Fay, "from his story," and this has led to some confusion about the source material.

The TV show, "Ten O'Clock Tiger," is not based on Fay's story, "The Ten O'Clock Tiger," which was published in the August 9, 1947 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. That story concerns a young boxer who meets a pretty young woman at the New York Public Library prior to a championship fight. She helps boost his confidence and he wins the title after having convinced himself that he was being set up to lose.

"Epitaph for a Heel"
was first published here

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "Ten O'Clock Tiger," is instead based on Fay's last published short story, "Epitaph for a Heel," which appeared in the January 20, 1962 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, less than three months before the TV show aired. It's possible that Fay recalled his own story of twelve years' before and decided to reuse the title for his teleplay. This episode is the only one of the sixteen that Fay wrote for the Hitchcock series to be based on one of his own short stories, even though he had been publishing short fiction in popular magazines since the late 1930s.

"Epitaph for a Heel" begins as Arthur (The Professor) Duffy, a "manager of fighters," is approached at McCooley's Midtown Gym in New York City by a former jockey named Boots, who offers a tip on a horse race. Arthur is not interested, but Boots follows him into the dressing room of Soldier Fresno, "a shop-worn heavyweight," who is asleep on a rubbing table. Lamenting that Soldier will "make out like General Custer" at his next fight, against Buster Bigelow, Arthur is upset when he hears that the horse Boots tipped him off about not only won, but set a new track record.

Saul Bass designed this
illustration for the short story

Boots explains that he gave the horse a dose of a new formula that leaves no trace after ninety minutes. Arthur suggests giving a dose to Soldier before his upcoming fight and Boots agrees. They test it out and it works like a charm; Soldier knocks out a sparring partner in the gym who had "bombarded" him the day before. The following Tuesday, with the help of Boots's formula, Soldier knocks out Buster Bigelow in the second round. Arthur wagers heavily on the fight and wins big. Two weeks later, after another dose of formula, Soldier knocks out Luther Felix in the fourth round of a bout in Chicago. Two more successful fights follow and Soldier is set to "meet the champion in June."

Now Soldier is famous and Arthur is reaping the rewards, living in a swanky hotel suite on Manhattan's Park Avenue. On the morning of the championship fight, Boots visits Arthur and suggests that he let Soldier get knocked out and not risk further injury. Yet Arthur is greedy and wants to split the two million dollar purse with Boots. The manager is even more certain when Boots reveals that the two vials of formula in his hand are the last of it--the inventor "'died in Leavenworth last year.'"

That night, at twenty minutes before ten, Arthur gives Soldier a shot of formula, then a second shot, doubling the dose to a dangerous level. Soldier goes wild, losing his sense of place and thinking he is already in the boxing ring. He beats Arthur to death and the police find the manager dead on the floor of the dressing room, where Soldier believes he has just won the championship.

Robert Keith as Arthur (The Professor) Duffy
A headline above the story calls it "a story of the sordid underworld of big-time boxing," and that is the truth. William Fay had written other stories about the sport, such as "The Champ's Last Fight" (1951) and "Nice Clean Fight" (1955), so he was familiar with the characters and setting. He uses dry humor, such as referring to the manager by both his full name and his nickname in parentheses--Arthur (The Professor) Duffy--but the essence of the tale is the way that Duffy sees his fighter as less than human. Soldier is just another animal, no different than a racehorse, to be experimented on and profited from. Even Boots, who Arthur calls "'a known crook,'" shows concern for the boxer's welfare prior to the last fight, but the manager will not be deterred from his determination to abuse the simple athlete and he pays the ultimate price. Duffy is the heel of the title and Fay's story serves as his epitaph.

Frankie Darro as Boots
The TV adaptation of "Epitaph for a Heel," retitled "Ten O'Clock Tiger," follows the short story very closely, scene for scene, and much of the dialogue is lifted from the page. There are bits of business and snatches of dialogue added, but there are no significant changes. In the short story, the formula is injected in Soldier's buttocks ("portside"), while in the show it is given as a shot in the arm. After he gets the first shot, Soldier goes out into the gym and punches a heavy bag, leaving a tear in the bag's side from which sand pours. This visually demonstrates the boxer's newfound power.

After Soldier beats Bigelow, Fay adds some dialogue to the hotel room scene between Arthur and Boots to show Boots beginning to demonstrate concern for Soldier's welfare. This helps set up the final scene, where Boots tells Arthur not to dose Soldier for the championship fight. Boots is portrayed as a small-time crook with a heart, whereas Arthur lacks any sort of love for his fellow man.

Karl Lukas as Soldier Fresno
The biggest problems with the TV version are the performance of Karl Lukas as Soldier and the staging of the final scene. Lukas plays Soldier as a complete innocent, but when he receives a shot of formula he takes a quick intake of breath and becomes a caricature of an animated boxer. In the show's last scene, he loses control of himself, but it would not be possible to show a heavyweight boxer beating a frail old man to death on television, so director Bernard Girard resorts to several tricks to avoid focusing in on what is happening. When Soldier approaches Arthur, swinging punches furiously, Girard films the boxer coming toward the lens with a handheld camera that gives the shots a shaky quality. As in the basement scene in Psycho, a hanging overhead lamp is struck by Soldier's arm, and it swings back and forth above the action to create movement and distract the viewer from what is happening. Girard also cuts back and forth between the inside of the dressing room and the outside, where police try to break the door down. The end result is an unsatisfying scene, where it is clear that Soldier is not really hitting Arthur.

Syl Lamont (?)
The fight scenes are a mix of stock footage for the long shots and close-up shots featuring a limited number of cast members, relying on the soundtrack's cheering crowd to complete the illusion. Robert Keith is perfectly cast as Arthur and fully inhabits his role, looking at first like an old buzzard in a cardigan and slacks. By the scene in the hotel room, he has changed into a suit, taking advantage of the money he has made off of his chemically-enhanced fighter. Yet the fine clothes can't hide the liver sports on his face or his perpetually sour expression. Frankie Darro is also good as Boots; he is a sharper dresser than Arthur and looks every inch the racetrack tout in hat and bow tie. Unfortunately, Karl Lukas portrays Soldier as too much of a mug and overplays the palooka role. In the end, "Ten O'Clock Tiger" is a disappointment, a seedy episode that looks as cheap as its subject.

Andy Romano
Director Bernard Girard (1918-1997) was born Bernard Goldstein and worked as both a writer and director of movies and TV from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. He directed a Twilight Zone as well as four half-hour Hitchcock episodes and eight hour-length Hitchcock episodes, including the Robert Bloch classic, "Water's Edge."

Robert Keith (1890-1966) had a long career on film and TV from 1924 to 1964. He also played many roles on Broadway, from 1921 to 1951, and was in the original cast of Mister Roberts when it premiered in 1948. Keith was seen on the big screen in The Wild One (1953) and Guys and Dolls (1955) and this was one of his two appearances on the Hitchcock show. His last role was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. His son, Brian Keith, was also in several episodes of the Hitchcock series, some scripted by William Fay.

Charles E. Perry (?)
Frankie Darro (1917-1976) was born Frank Johnson Jr. and was the son of circus aerialists. He started out as a child actor on film but only grew to 5'3" as an adult. He was on screen from 1924 to 1975 and had a voice role in Pinocchio (1940). He was also one of the actors to play Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956). This was one of his two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and he also appeared on Batman. A website devoted to him is here.

Karl Lukas (1919-1995) was born Karol Louis Lukasiak, he was on screen from 1951 to 1991 and had roles on Batman, Night Gallery, and The Odd Couple. He had begun his career on Broadway in the 1940s and was a semi-regular on The Phil Silvers Show (1955-58). He was in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Bang! You're Dead."

In smaller roles:
  • Syl Lamont (1912-1982) as an attendant; he was on screen from 1950 to 1975 and appeared in six episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "A Tangled Web."
  • Chuck Hicks
    Andy Romano (1941- ) as the cop who says "he's dead" to end the episode; he was on screen from 1961 to 2003, including an appearance on Batman and parts in eight episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Black Curtain."
  • Charles E. Perry (1900-1967) as a handler; he was often uncredited but he was on screen from 1940 to 1965. He played a corner man in the Playhouse 90 production of Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and appeared in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." He was also on The Twilight Zone.
  • Chuck Hicks (1927- ) is credited as Gypsy Joe, though he is called "Gypsy Boy" in the show; he was an actor and a stuntman who was on screen from 1952 to 2010. He boxed in college, the Navy, and professionally, and he played a boxer in The Twilight Zone episode, "Steel." He was on Batman six times but this was his only role on the Hitchcock show. A website devoted to him is here.
"Ten O'Clock Tiger" is not available on U.S. DVD or for free online, but may be viewed at the Peacock site for a fee. The short story, "Epitaph for a Heel," may be read on the online archives of The Saturday Evening Post.


Fay, William. "Epitaph for a Heel."  The Saturday Evening Post. Jan. 20, 1962, 26-27, 48-50.

The FictionMags Index,

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



Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

"Ten O'Clock Tiger." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 7, episode 26, NBC, 3 Apr., 1962.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of William Fay concludes with Good-Bye, George, starring Robert Culp!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Baby Sitter" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Blessington Method" here!