Monday, June 28, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 62: April 1975



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

Vampirella #41

"The Malignant Morticians!" ★★★
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Rainy Night in Georgia" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The House on the Sea" ★★1/2 
Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"The Wickford Witches" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye" ★★
Story and Art by Fernando Fernandez

Vampirella and Pendragon are staying in the English village known as Sinkville, utilizing the stop for personal purposes. Pendy wants to visit his sickly Uncle Orsic, who's living out his final days at Eventide rest home, and the duo are taking a well-deserved rest. While walking in the town square, Vampi spies a gorgeous little mutt in a pet shop window and talks Pendy into buying the mongrel. 

The next day, our heroine and her fermented companion visit Eventide, where Pendy is given the bad news by the hospice's bosomy young manager, Eudoxia Varzie: Uncle Orsic has shuffled off to a better place, leaving no cash or valuables in his wake. When Pendragon mentions that his uncle had a special signet ring that he'd promised to his nephew, his inquiry is met with a terse "Brass! Worthless!" The ring was buried with Orsic. Heartbroken, Pendy heads home with his sexy vampiress friend to feed their new dog.

After dumping the Yummy-Yum Dog Chow into the bowl, Pendy notices something gleaming at the bottom of the greasy muck and pulls out his uncle's ring (now, that's a hell of a coincidence!). How could that be if the bauble was supposedly six feet under with Uncle Orsic? Only one way to get to the bottom of the mystery (literally) and that's dig up the old duffer. Once the lid is opened and Pendy is staring at two hundred pounds of sand, the duo decide there's something funny going on in Sinkville.

Our favorite alcoholic magician investigates Augustus and Vesparian, the Brothers Crebble, owners of the funeral parlor that Eventide utilizes, and discovers that the proprietors are indeed mashing up the dead folk to fill cans of Yummy-Yum, manufactured by... you guessed it, the Crebble Brothers (says so right on the can!). But Pendy's tipping the bottle too much and stands out like a sore thumb on a corner across from the Crebbles' office; the Bros. send some muscle to abscond the old sod and Vampi fears the worthless vaudevillian might end up as Yummy-Yum for their new pup before too long.

Meanwhile, back at the Crebbles factory, Augustus is showing off the machinery to Eudoxia (whom he intends to propose to soon) when the beauty innocently asks what kind of meat is used in the Yummy-Yum. Augustus is about to explain when his goons show up with Pendragon. Eudoxia recognizes him and tells Augustus that Pendy had a half-nekkid chick with him when he came to visit the old folks' home. Augustus again sends his bodyguards out hunting but, once they find Vampirella, she makes short work of them and then heads to the factory. Just as the Crebbles are about to can dog food with history's highest alcohol content, Vampi swoops in and knocks the Crebbles and Eudoxia into the grinder. Another happy ending!

How could an entire town be so stupid as to not put two and two together and come up with canned corpse? A mortician company that also cans dog food? Wouldn't that be considered a red flag? There are a whole lot of coincidences going on in "The Malignant Morticians!" (Vampi buying a dog makes absolutely no sense considering her lifestyle but if there's no dog, there's no dog food), but I thought it was enjoyable enough to ignore the stupidity and just play along with it. How else can I get through these things? Nice twist that Eudoxia knew nothing about where her dead residents were ending up but obviously couldn't be bothered to care. When Pendy is about to be ground into hamburger, she stands off to the side as an attentive witness. Bet that dog will be gone next issue.

It's a "Rainy Night in Georgia," such a rainy night in Georgia. Annie Lee Baker believes it'sa rainin' all ovah the world. Having watched her African-American lover (and father of her unborn child) hoisted up and hung by her father and the good men of Johnsonville, Annie Lee hops aboard a covered wagon bound for Macon, little knowing she shares that wagon with Dracula and his vampire squeeze, Cassandra. Since Annie is pregnant, Dracula feels it beneath him to feed on her so the young girl becomes a pal to the two vampires. Once they get to Macon and put up the tents, Annie is free to wander the carnival grounds, eventually coming across the wonderful Hawk-Man, Garuda. Though the giant bird wants nothing to do with Annie or the human race, the girl finds him fascinating and tells him so. 

Meanwhile, back in Johnsonville, Annie's father, Arthur, is putting pressure on Sheriff Buford to find his daughter. The sheriff would just as soon "tear that black baby right out of (Annie's) belly," but Arthur is still undecided about the whole affair. He wants his daughter back. The sheriff puts out the word and very soon he hears back about the girl's whereabouts. The men head to Macon, where they have a confrontation with Annie that turns violent. Dracula and Cassandra swoop in and kill the sheriff but Annie begs the two blood-suckers to spare her father. With a brand new day of enlightenment just over the hill ahead, Annie and her pop head home.

Having successfully raided all the glam and metal albums for cool titles, Gerry Boudreau turns to the soul section in Tower Records for inspiration. I love the image of Cassandra, in her coffin, busily jotting down the day's events in her diary (So, we heard screams and me and Dracula bounded out of the wagon and ripped the bad guys to bits. One of the carnival guys winked at me yesterday!), but the concept of this thing being made up of excerpts from diaries, newspaper clippings, and police reports comes off as scattershot. I'm not sure what Annie's supposed to mean when she tells the Bird-Man, "If I judged by what I saw and not what I felt, I would not be carrying a black man's child," but it comes off as a lunk-headed line from Gerry Boudreau, no matter what he meant. Bar none, the worst Maroto art I've ever seen. Not sure if it's the reproduction or that Esteban was in a hurry, or what, but this is the pits. Sheriff Buford and Annie Lee's pop, in particular, almost look as though someone from the Warren office broke into Maroto's studio and stole the art before it was done. The final sentiment, that Annie Lee's dad sees the error of his ways and, ostensibly, will welcome his black grandson with open arms is a touching one if you brush aside the fact that he just hanged the child's father. What a load of crap this series was. Thank god it's over.

A sea captain and three of his mates are about to be the victims of a mutiny when suddenly they discover they're about to sail into "The House on the Sea." The ship wrecks against the brick building and the surviving quartet enter the huge mansion, where they discover some oddball occupants. As expected, we discover the four men have been killed in the mutiny and are now comfortably residing in purgatory.

I do like that "The House on the Sea" is an eccentric change of pace but it could have been shaved in half and been quite a bit more effective. I'm assuming the final panel that Jack can't figure out has to do with the fact that the same purgatory comes to everyone, regardless of whether they be on sea or in the Wild West. But that's just my psychology major showing off. Great moody art from Auraleon.

Witchcraft has consumed the 18th-century village of Wickford. Well, at least Minister Adam Nilsson believes this is true and the man has begun a binge and purge method of cleansing the town of its evil. If that means every woman of Wickford should die, then so be it. When Elizabeth's father dies suddenly in the town square while a public hanging unfolds, Nilsson takes advantage of the event to remind Elizabeth that her father had betrothed her to him. The young girl refuses (she's in love with another guy) and Nilsson declares her a witch. Wishing aloud that her father was still here, Elizabeth watches in awe as pop rises from the grave and strangles Nilsson, effectively ending the witch hunt. 

"The Wickford Witches" is the kind of clumsy pulp wiring we usually would get from Carl Wessler or Gardner Fox. Boudreau isn't high on my list of top notch Warren writers but he usually stumbles over his pretension rather than moldy cliches. The scene where dead pop explains what's going on and how we got there is expository gold. The finale is a bit abrupt though; we don't get to see Liz and her beau walking off into the sunset.

In 1980, man can have any woman he wants... in android form. After trying several different females, Nicholas finds himself obsessed with his new model, Sonya, but after some time finds faults even he cannot live with. After he "terminates" Sonya, he discovers a diary the girl was keeping that reveals she was a new type of android that contained a human soul. Nicholas sighs and wonders if he'll ever be able to find true happiness.

I'm torn on "Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye," which is much too long at twelve pages. The story is involving and I appreciated that it didn't resort to the usual Warren SF tropes like calling an android a "Flippin-rod" or some silly acronym, but in the end it doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Men are never satisfied. Men just can't live with women. Men... Fernandez's art is really nice despite the fact that it's made up of just about nothing but head shots (looks like a couple of Rock Hudson and Clint Eastwood in there). I'll give this a thumb sidewise but it probably could have used a good editing.-Peter

Jack-An enjoyable, if not sensational, issue. I enjoyed "The Malignant Morticians!" more than many recent Vampirella entries, mainly because of the humor. I laughed out loud when I realized that corpses were being used to make dog food, which makes sense from a recycling standpoint. I was slightly concerned that the villains were clothed when they fell into the grinder, but I guess I can suspend disbelief. Sanchez's art is very nice.

Also very nice is Fernandez's work on "Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye," which I wasn't thrilled with at first because of his habit of drawing posed figures and putting everything in captions with minimal dialogue. But the story, which has echoes of "Marionettes, Inc.," won me over by the end, which was not a big surprise. I thought I'd like the Auraleon story ("The House on the Sea") more than I did; at twenty pages, it's just too long and the many dialogue- and caption-free panels give the storytelling an elliptical feel. I have no idea what the last panel means.

"Rainy Night in Georgia" isn't as bad as prior entries in the Dracula series, but that's not saying much; Maroto still seems the wrong choice for this. Finally, "The Wickford Witches" features some decent work by Ortiz and has a bit of a Jack Davis vibe to it, but the end is abrupt. I would've liked this longer and "House" shorter.

The Spirit #7

"The Big Sneeze Caper" (2/6/49)
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

"Hoagy the Yogi" (3/16 & 3/23/47)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"Cheap is Cheap" (6/13/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc

"Young Dr. Ebony" (5/29/49)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"A Moment of Destiny" (12/29/46)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Jack Spranger & Will Eisner

"The Explorer" (1/16/49)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"A Prisoner of Love" (1/9/49)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"Cheap is Cheap"
Jack-I was not looking forward to revisiting the "Special All Ebony Issue" in 2021 and, unfortunately, it was worse than anticipated. First of all, why did Warren reprint the stories in random order? In "Hoagy the Yogi," Ebony is upset about the Spirit's "marriage" to Silken Floss, which readers may have forgotten about by now. This two-parter features not just Ebony, but also Hoagy and Lt. Gray, a light-skinned black policeman. As if the Black stereotypes aren't bad enough, part two goes after Indians, Chinese, and Arabs before taking a welcome break for some nice, dialogue- and caption-free storytelling involving the Spirit.

"A Prisoner of Love"

I always liked "Cheap is Cheap," with its demonic character on early TV egging people on to commit crimes; the art, by Eisner and LeBlanc, is particularly sharp and the minimal role played by Ebony is welcome. The other decent story, also not focused on Ebony, is "A Prisoner of Love," which features some Spirit action and a great closeup of Ellen.

Not as successful is the Chandler satire, "The Big Sneeze Caper," which tries too hard to be funny and ends up overburdened by excessive dialogue. "Young Dr. Ebony" is a dull attempt at satire that makes me wonder how in the world they chose which stories to color. "The Explorer" adds a caricature of an Eskimo girl to the panoply of offensive stereotypes in this issue. Perhaps worst of all is "A Moment of Destiny," which goes after Italians in between way too many panels with Ebony and Pierpont. It's issues like The Spirit 7 that make me reconsider my lifelong belief that this was one of the best comic series of all time.

Peter- I found this issue to be a real chore to wade through. It's not just the obviously non-PC stuff but, sans the Spirit as lead, this strip really isn't my cup of tea. I appreciated the hardboiled dick satire of "The Big Sneeze Caper," but not having to read what seemed to be an entire novel in the word balloons. Loved the "Glossary of Detective Terms" and the bad guy with a baby bottle. The best time I had reading a story this issue was the second part of the "Hoagy the Yogi" saga. That's probably because, jettisoning the dialogue and captions, Eisner does what Eisner does best: tell the story in pictures. There were other bits here and there that I enjoyed throughout the issue but I also do have to admit to myself that The Spirit strip (even with the big guy) is beginning to be a bit samey (I can see the Eisner fans, led by Jack Seabrook, loading up on their fruit and vegetables to pelt me with).

Creepy #70

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" ★★★
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Man of the Crowd" ★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Cask of Amontillado!" ★★
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Martin Salvador

"Shadow" ★★1/2
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Rich Corben

"A Descent Into the Maelstrom!" 
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"Berenice" ★★★
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Isidro Mones

A second issue of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations might be a case of going back to the well six times too often. Imagine a second volume of Milli Vanilli's Greatest Hits and you see the problem. But if Dube and Jim W. decided it was a great idea to use as a foundation six stories written over one hundred years before and, perhaps, avoid paying a real writer to come up with something original, at least they started the issue off on a high note.

Master sleuth Auguste Dupin investigates the grisly murder of a woman and her daughter in a Paris flat. Mother had been nearly decapitated and daughter strangled and shoved up a chimney. The murderer would have to be very strong and hairy (a clump of animal hair is found in the clenched fist of one of the women) and, since the apartment door was locked, very agile. "Aha!," exclaims Dupin, "The fiend is a minkey!" Genius! Dupin deduces that the ape is the pet of a local seaman. With the help of the Paris gendarmes, Dupin tracks and kills the gorilla before it can murder again.

The reason to read this, besides Ortiz's wonderful art, is the enthralling build-up. For the first time while reading these Poe stories, I'm thinking this is some great story. Not clunky. No flowery prose. Just a good solid mystery. But the wrap-up is way too rushed and abrupt. I think this is one of the times that Hollywood got it right, changing just about everything Poe had written other than the setting and the simian "murder weapon." For the record, my favorite film adaptation would have to be the 1954 version, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, with Karl Malden as the ape's master.

Smells Like Tom Sutton
I'm not familiar with the original version of "Man of the Crowd," but the version that RichMargo puts forth seems more like a vignette. Our narrator finds himself obsessed with stalking a creepy old man walking with a cane and seemingly absorbing his energy from the crowd around him. "Psychic vampire" thinks our narrator. Good enough. What this story needed was some energy of its own. It's perhaps not fair of me to continually bring up the snail's pace of Poe's prose and the familiarity of his themes (especially, I'm quick to admit, since the man created a lot of those tropes) but I can only react to what is put in front of me. I can't pretend I'm a reader of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in December 1840. Bermejo does an adequate job illustrating "Man of the Crowd," but this screams Tom Sutton to me.

Montresor has weathered "a thousand insults" from his friend, Fortunato, and plans to murder the little oaf. He lures the clown (dressed in jester's uniform for a carnival) into his basement with the promise of a new case of Amontillado. Being that this is Fortunato's favorite wine, Montresor is assured that his buddy will follow him to the ends of the Earth. Once Montresor gets Fortunato into the basement, he fills him with wine and shackles him to a wall. Then he bricks in Amontillado and settles back, a job well done.

Again, I've not read the original prose version of "The Cask of Amontillado,” but this version does not work as it doesn't build up a very good defense for Montresor's actions. What could this guy have done to deserve this fate? Insults? And what's with the pile of human bones already in the basement? No explanation for that either. I actually laughed out loud when Montresor comments that the old pile of bones will ensure that "no one could tell that Fortunato was imprisoned behind the new wall..." Um, isn't that actually a red flag when you have a skeleton in your cellar? Salvador's art is neither good nor bad, it's just there.

In ancient Greece, seven soldiers gather before the corpse of one of their comrades, felled by a deadly plague. A "Shadow" enters the room and declares that none of the men can escape him. All seven then die of the plague. Whereas I've called out several of these Poe adaptations as nothing more than vignettes, "Shadow" is based on a very short parable written by Poe in 1850. The Corben art is striking (especially the contemporary-movie-poster-esque full-pager reprinted here) but the "story" comes off as very reminiscent of "The Masque of the Red Death" to me. 

There's an exciting story buried in the overlong "A Descent Into Maelstrom," a rare adventure tale by Poe, but I couldn't care less by the climax. I was bored to tears by the story of a man who's lost two brothers to a gigantic whirlpool while out fishing and we just had a giant whirlpool story by Poe last issue. Someone goofed on the splash and forgot to pop in a headshot of Uncle Creepy; as it is, it looks like the Maelstrom itself is introducing the story!

Our narrator relates the story of how he fell in love with his cousin, the beautiful "Berenice," only to lose her to epilepsy. After the woman's death, the man descends into madness and digs up Berenice's grave, ripping out her teeth as a souvenir. Poe's best works, obviously, have to do with madness and "Berenice" is suitably creepy. Poe has buried so many of his characters alive that I assumed our guy would find her inside the coffin, fingernails broken and mouth agape, but not this time. The final panel is a stunner and so is Mones's art (the montage on page 60, utilizing the skull from the Tales From the Crypt poster, is a humdinger as well). A couple of decent reads this issue but I'll be glad to get back to "original material" next issue (he said, with hope).-Peter

"A Descent Into Slumber"

I think I've about hit my limit for Warren doing Poe. The main adjective I'd use to describe this issue is boring. Oddly enough, no glaring spelling errors jumped out at me. Perhaps having the same person write all of the stories helped. In any case, my favorite was "Berenice," which ends with pages where Mones focuses in on the woman's various features before delivering a knockout when her teeth are disinterred. Next best was "The Cask of Amontillado"; even though Salvador is not among the best Warren artists, the story lends itself to a visual presentation, with the jester costume and the process of walling a man up alive.

Ortiz's art is the highlight of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," where the writer takes a fairly interesting short story and drains all the entertainment out of it by trying to focus on the more ghoulish aspects. "Man of the Crowd" and "Shadow" are just plain dull, though Corben turns in a nice page midway through "Shadow," a story that shows us that Poe went back to certain themes more than once. "A Descent into the Maelstrom!" is a long descent for sure, but there's some excitement toward the end, despite mediocre art.

Next Week...
At last, the truth behind
Robin's frosty new girlfriend!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue Number 30: June 1982


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

Batman #348

"Shadow Play"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan & Klaus Janson

Bruce, Dick, and Alfred have moved back into Wayne Manor but the night is interrupted by two surprise visitors at the front door: Francine Langstrom and her young daughter, Rebecca. Francine is angry at Bruce for failing to follow up on his promise to find a cure for her husband Kirk so, once Francine is fast asleep, Batman takes little Rebecca down into the Batcave and disappears into a maze of tunnels, hoping to find Man-Bat and use Rebecca to jolt him out of his madness.

Man-Bat attacks and nearly kills Batman, not recognizing his daughter at first. However, when she nearly falls to her death, Man-Bat snaps back to sanity and saves her. Batman injects him with a serum that makes him return to human form and the Langstrom family is reunited.

Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon is worried about her father's emotional state and decides to call Jason Bard for help, while Vicki Vale tells her editor that she may have proof of Batman's secret identity, unaware that her boss is passing information to Boss Thorne.

Peter: Man-Bat is in my Top Ten Rogues' Gallery of Bat-Villains, but even I know a problem when it presents itself. These Man-Bat adventures of late have become formulaic. Weepy wife tells the Dark Knight her husband has turned into a flying creature again and Bats heads out to nab him. Langstrom then realizes what he's doing and becomes a good guy again. It's the same kind of formula Marvel ran into the ground with the Lizard. "Shadow Play" is no different. Langstrom will be back before we know it. Colan's art is rough here, looking incomplete in several sections (in one panel, Babs Gordon looks like Dick with a red wig), but I'll take it over the blandness of some of the other artists at DC around this time.

Jack: Batman's decision to use a child as bait to catch a lunatic is ethically questionable, but how about the first couple of pages, where Bruce and Dick have trouble moving the giant penny back into the Batcave? Why not just get rid of it? Like you, I'm always happy to see Man-Bat, but not for one moment did I think little Rebecca was really in danger or that Man-Bat wouldn't be cured. What I wonder is what Man-Bat was doing hiding in the Batcave all this time. Did he eat grubs? Did he fly out at dusk like the rest of the bats? Does he excrete guano? So many questions left unanswered.

"The Man, The Bullet, The Cat, Part One"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Trevor Von Eeden & Pablo Marcos

Walking down a city street, Selina's hat flies off and a little girl runs into the street to retrieve it. Selina rushes to save her from being hit by a car but trips, allowing a man to rescue the child. The man turns out to be Daniel Brown, who is running for president of the CLA Union and who needs a bodyguard. He talks Selina into signing on to protect him from getting shot at a talk he's giving that night. Two hours before the speech, Selina is eating a burger at Hamburger Haven when she intervenes to teach a bully a lesson. An hour later, the bully and his fellow motorcycle gang members tangle with Selina but have to reckon with Catwoman. This incident makes Selina late for her security job protecting Brown and, just as she arrives, she hears that he's been shot.

Peter: The Catwoman back-up continues to be readable, but I'm still confused as to when she became a "superhero-type" and when she reverted back to bad girl. The politician plot is a good one but his stumbling over what to call Selina was old after the second time. This might just be typical backup fare and I'm a Bruce Jones homer.

Jack: Much like the prior story with the disappearing train, this is well above average for a backup feature. Trevor von Eeden and Pablo Marcos's art is better than that of Colan and Janson in the lead story this issue, and Bruce Jones's story is entertaining. I'll go out on a limb here and predict that Brown's running mate, Peter Simmons, is behind the assassination plot. And what's with all of these motorcycle gangs in Gotham? Didn't Batgirl just have a run-in with a similar (but less well-drawn) group?


Detective Comics #515

"The Academy of Crime Part One:
College for Killers"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Frank Chiaramonte

There's this new place in SoCal called "The Academy of Crime," and its big boss, the Headmaster, teaches criminals how to be criminous. We discover via a conversation between the Headmaster and his latest batch of pupils that Mirage (see 'tec #511) was a graduate of the Academy (though not one that would have a little statue under glass in the hallway). While out cracking heads, The Dark Knight gets some 411 on this new prep school and makes immediate flight arrangements, stepping out not as Bruce Wayne but as the sketchy Matches Malone.

Meanwhile, Dick Grayson follows his ex-not-quite-girlfriend, Dala, around town as Robin and discovers she lives in a creepy old mansion outside of Gotham. After watching Dala change clothes (naughty, naughty!), Robin breaks all kinds of laws by entering Dala's house via an upstairs window. When he hears her chanting downstairs, he heads for the staircase and is relieved of his senses from behind by a mysterious robed figure. 

Meanwhile meanwhile, Alfred has decided to not bother his Master about the impending Vicki Vale cover story on "Bruce Wayne: Batman!" and, instead, takes matters into his own hands by contacting the Human Target. What this plan entails is anyone's guess at this point but, hopefully, will be revealed in part 2 of "The Academy of Crime!"

Peter: There's so much wrong with this sub-par mess (and we can start with that horrible splash at right where the faux-Batman strikes a pose that no normal human being could pull off--is he walking in mid-air?) that I question whether one of my favorite Bat-scribes actually wrote the script or handed it off to one of his pre-teen neighbors to work out. Why would a crime college in Hollywood be studying tactics for defeating Batman? Aren't there any DC heroes located closer to L.A.? Why would Alfred think so highly of Vicki Vale that he would do anything to prevent Bruce from finding out she's about to out him ("This way there will be less damage to their relationship!")? As if Catwoman wasn't a shaky enough relationship, now Al wants his boss to get into bed with a blackmailer.

And let's go over this "crush" Dick has on the mysterious Dala, a woman he's never really had a relationship with other than a few stolen goo-goo eyes and maybe a kiss or two. The Boy Wonder turns stalker and commits a B+E just to find out why this girl won't fall as madly in love with him as he has her ("Maybe it's pride, but after the way you dropped me cold..."). And then this erstwhile superhero gets clocked in the head for the 14th time this year by someone he never sees coming. Perhaps Bruce Wayne should open an Academy of Sidekicks? All in all, one of the worst Gerry scripts we've seen so far.

It must have been love/
but it's over now!
Jack: Yep, it's pretty bad. After a great, old-fashioned cover, the inside lead story is a conglomeration of subplots looking for a focus. The Headmaster is a Sydney Greenstreet knockoff and I wondered as I read if one could take out a student loan to attend the Academy of Crime. As for Vicki Vale's supposed "evidence" that Bruce Wayne is Batman, it's pretty thin. It looked to me like all she had were a couple of photos pasted together and some height and weight measurements. That's it? Hardly crack journalism. It's nice to see Batman go undercover again as Matches Malone, but I have to ask why we're suddenly seeing the return of characters from the 1970s like the Human Target here and Jason Bard in Batman. It's like Roy Thomas is in the background, poring over his collection for ideas.

"In the Coils of the Serpent!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

While she's got Batgirl trapped in her gigantic coils, Lady Viper relates how she became "Queen of the Serpents." Once a mild-mannered reptile lover, the poor young girl was found repellent by boys and girls her own age, so she found solace with her snakes at the carnival. While traveling through Europe, the girl stumbled across a statue of a snake goddess in a curio shop and took it home with her. Later, the souvenir zapped the girl with its hypnotizing eyes and granted her the power of a giant snake. The long, detailed, and frankly sad story allows the Darknight Damsel to reach her utility belt and burn a bit of Viper's tail. Batgirl is released but she's bitten, and Lady Viper slinks away. Our heroine feels very tired but knows she has to nab the slithering goddess before she murders again

Peter: Dumb as a box of Fruit Loops and about as healthy for you, "In the Coils of the Serpent!" is also undeniably fun. It's pure purple pulp writing and the entire chapter is given over to Viper's cornball origin. I think it's absolutely amazing that Batgirl knows exactly where everything is in that belt of hers. Ostensibly, the shark repellant and laser eye-beams are in one pouch and the compact and hair spray in the other? Jack and I constantly harp on Messrs. Burkett, Delbo, and Giella (and for good reason), but they accomplish exactly what they set out to do this issue and present some decent entertainment.

Jack: Peter, I think one too many Bat backup tales has scrambled your brain. This is terrible! It's good to know that the one sure way to avoid certain death is to ask a super-villain to tell you their origin story. While the serpent lady is rattling off her tale of woe, Batgirl is sneaking her hand into her utility belt. Maybe she didn't know right where everything was and that's why she had to keep the gal talking as her hand opened pouch after pouch until she found what she needed.

Brave and the Bold #187

"Whatever Happened to What's'ername?"
Story by Charlie Boatner
Art by Jim Aparo

Batman is out on patrol when he sees Iron, one of the Metal Men, being dragged off of a dock and under water by a mechanical creature known as a Floating Fury. Batman saves Iron and surfaces to see Gold, Platinum, and Mercury, three more Metal Men, searching for the missing Tin. Suddenly, bits of Tin rain down on the quartet, who realize that, like Iron, Tin has been knocked to pieces. Tin's head begs forgiveness from "Beautiful" and Batman wonders what ever happened to the seventh member of the metallic team of heroes.

Batman telephones Doc Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, who flies to Gotham City. When the Dark Knight asks the scientist about Tin's forgotten girlfriend, whom he called Beautiful and the others called Nameless, Doc recalls the Metal Women and Platinum Man, robots he once built to serve as companions for the team but who didn't work out and were destroyed. When Lead is located with a message etched on his back saying that "This is for Nameless," Batman is shocked to see that none of the Metal Men remember the female robot that Tin built as a companion for himself.

Mercury, Gold, and Platinum are suddenly attacked by the Gas Gang, creatures that destroy Gold and Mercury and accuse the trio of having left Nameless to die. Doc Magnus arrives and rebuilds the Metal Men, but at the last moment, Batman stops him from erasing their memories. When they awaken, they are attacked by the Missile Men, who are led by Platinum Man, who's not dead after all. After a big battle, Batman escapes and investigates a fissure in the Earth where the Metal Women and Platinum Man were thought to have been destroyed. He finds a giant robot named B.O.L.T.S., an old enemy of the Metal Men, and manages to defeat him.

Back at the lab, Platinum Man orders the Missile Men to destroy the Metal Men, but suddenly Nameless/Beautiful appears and is reunited with an overjoyed Tin. She explains that she and Platinum Man were badly damaged but rebuilt each other. He fell in love with her and rebuilt various enemies of the Metal Men to get revenge on them and Doc Magnus. The Metal Men's creator performs a wedding ceremony to unite Tin and Beautiful, but she gives her life in order to destroy a Missile Man that is about to blow up.

Jack: That was a lot of plot for seventeen pages, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved seeing the Metal Men and all of their obscure enemies (and friends) pop up and I thought both script and art were top-notch. Kudos to Batman for recalling so many details of the Metal Men's adventures!

Peter: The art is fantastic and the hook that Charlie Boatner hangs "Whatever Happened to..." on is a fascinating nugget. That sort of nostalgia digging is what made Roy Thomas and Kurt Busiek so readable. But the script is way too hectic and confusing; I couldn't make heads or tails out of what was going on. At some point, I think my brain went on auto-pilot and I just looked at the pretty pitchers. The climax is sad rather than maudlin; that counts for something.

"Arena of Despair!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

While Kingston has his house rigged with booby-traps, Nemesis works on a new weapon. Kingston's men kidnap Marjorie Marshall and, when Nemesis learns of her abduction, he tracks down Roadrunner in Times Square in order to learn that Kingston is behind it. Nemesis flies to Houston, parachutes into Kingston's compound, and makes his way into the house, unaware that Kingston's men await.

Jack: Another eight pages of The Brave and the Bold gone to waste. This series just keeps going even though it never gets anywhere. The art is terrible and the characters are not interesting. I peeked ahead and it looks like about a half-dozen issues to go with Nemesis.

Peter: Rather than this boring, dim-witted multi-chapter saga we've been forced to swallow, how about Cary Burkett writes a Nemesis installment on how Roadrunner gets his info. That's what I want to see. Do all the bad guys in town call him up and say "Hey, bro, Mrs. Miller's been kidnapped by the Statler Brothers. I know that has nothing to do with you but I just thought you might like to know!" or does he sniff through the streets for his intel? It's nice to see Nemesis doing some line work in his downtime but, coincidentally, the guy draws just as badly as Spiegle! And that panel to my left gives evidence that Nemesis was also working on a growth formula as well.

Next Week...
You'll believe it'sa
rainin' all ovah the world!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part One: Services Rendered [7.10]

by Jack Seabrook

"No Name, Address, Identity"
was first published here

Richard Levinson (1934-1987) and William Link (1933-2020) were one of the great writing teams in television mystery series. They met in school in 1946 and went on to a long and fruitful collaboration on radio scripts, plays, teleplays, and two movies. The team was active in TV from 1959 until Levinson's untimely death in 1987 and together they created Mannix (1967-1975), Columbo (1971-2000), Ellery Queen (1975-1976), and Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996). They also had a number of short stories published between 1954 and 1966 and won four Edgar Awards during their career as partners. After Levinson died, Link continued to write and his short stories appeared on and off between 1996 and 2015. He was president of the MWA in 2002 and has a website devoted to him here. Levinson and Link co-wrote a total of seven episodes of the Hitchcock show.

*   *   *   *   *

The first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a teleplay by Link and Levinson was "Services Rendered," which premiered on NBC on Tuesday, December 12, 1961. They based the script on their own short story, titled "No Name, Address, Identity," that was published in the July 1961 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

Steve Dunne as the amnesiac
As the short story opens, a young man (who is never given a name) is hit by a car on a city street and a crowd gathers, but he insists that he is not seriously injured. "'I have an appointment,'" he says, and walks a few blocks before realizing that he can't remember who he is. Looking in his pockets for a wallet, he finds none, but he does find a thousand dollar bill wrapped around a sheet of paper with the name and address of a Dr. Ralph Mannix written on it. Realizing he is only a few blocks away from the doctor's office, the man hurries to the address.

At the office, he insists on seeing Dr. Mannix, who treats a cut on his head but offers no solution to the mystery of his identity. The young man explains what happened and the doctor diagnoses temporary amnesia, suggesting that the young man go to the police and tell them to publish his photograph in the paper so that his relatives will see it and come for him. Dr. Mannix cannot explain why the young man had his name and address. The young man notices a photograph of the doctor's wife on his desk. He leaves the office abruptly and stands before the elevator door, where he suddenly recovers his memory. Going back into the doctor's office, he tells Mannix that his memory has returned and that he knows where the thousand dollars came from: Mannix's wife paid him that amount to kill her husband. The young man picks up the doctor's letter opener as he breaks the news.

Hugh Marlowe as the doctor
Short and breezy, the story has a surprise ending that is not hard to predict. The brevity of the tale ensured that, when the authors adapted it for television, they had to find ways to expand it. The fact that they did so with such success may indicate why the writing duo were so much more successful as writers of teleplays than as short story authors.

Retitled "Services Rendered," the TV version starts off with a significant change: instead of being hit by a car, the main character is hit on the head by a long board that falls from scaffolding above a city street. (This method of inducing amnesia is quite similar to that used by Cornell Woolrich in The Black Curtain (1941), where the protagonist's amnesia is cured when a piece of molding falls from a building and hits him on the head as he walks along a city sidewalk.) The construction worker who dropped the board rushes down to street level to offer help, but the young man walks off alone, as he does in the story.

Percy Helton as Cyrus Rutherford
In the short story, he finds the paper and money in his pocket as he walks along the sidewalk; in the TV version, he wanders into a city park, where he joins a wino on a bench. The drunk engages the man in conversation, managing to bum a cigarette and convince the young man to join him for a drink at a nearby bar. At the bar, the wino, known as Pop, is a regular, and both men order shots of whisky. The wino introduces himself as Cyrus Rutherford, a name that does not seem to fit his fallen station in life, and it is the young man's inability to respond that makes the him realize that he has forgotten his own name.

He rushes into the bathroom and looks in the mirror, but to no avail; a well-chosen stock music cue creates mystery and suspense. Back at the bar, the two men discuss the problem of memory loss. When he can't find his wallet, the young man walks back to the scene of the accident, but the construction workers claim they have not seen his billfold. He returns to the bar, where Rutherford is still drinking. The young man finds the thousand dollar bill in his pocket and tries to use it to pay for the drinks, but the bartender grows angry at the suggestion that he should make change. Rutherford, of course, is no help--"'I'm fresh out of funds,'" he admits--and, after a bouncer is called over to manage the situation, the young man finds himself expelled from the bar.

Bert Remsen

This scene is quite entertaining and a good addition to the story. The best part of the sequence is the wonderful performance by Percy Helton, who plays Rutherford. When first seen on the park bench, his clothes are rumpled and his hands are shaking, but it is clear that he is single-minded in his efforts to get free cigarettes and whisky for himself. Inside the bar, Helton is focused on consuming as many shots as possible, even switching glasses with the young man when he is not looking. His admission that he is broke comes as no surprise to anyone.

The young man then arrives at the office of Dr. Mannix, who is inexplicably called Dr. Mannick in the show. The characters clearly refer to him that way, the name on his door is Mannick, and the diploma on his wall reads Mannick, yet the end credits of the episode refer to him as Mannix, as he is in the short story. The second half of the episode can't help but drag a bit after Percy Helton's performance in the first half. Steve Dunne, as the unnamed young man, is encouraged by director Paul Henreid to act his scenes in a Shatneresque display of near-histrionics, while Hugh Marlowe, as the doctor, is rather bland. The latter part of the story plays out essentially as it did on the page; when the young man stands before the elevator and recovers his memory, the effect on his mind is conveyed by having the floor indicator become wavy and go in and out of focus.

Karl Lukas

"Services Rendered" is a good start for Link and Levinson as contributors to the Hitchcock series, since they take their own short story and expand it to make it more entertaining. The conceit of having characters go to a bar to have an extended conversation is an old one in pulp and detective fiction, but it works well here, mainly due to the actors involved.

Directing this episode is Paul Henreid (1908-1992), who began his career as a film actor. He also worked as a director, starting in the early 1950s, and directed 29 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "A Little Sleep" and "Annabel." 

Starring as the unnamed victim of memory loss is Steve Dunne (1918-1977), born Francis Dunne. He was in movies from 1945 to 1973 and on TV from 1951 to 1973. He starred on radio in The Adventures of Sam Spade from 1950 to 1951 and on TV in The Brothers Brannagan from 1960 to 1961. He was on the Hitchcock series five times and on Batman twice.

Bernadette Hale

Hugh Marlowe (1911-1982) gets second billing as Dr. Mannick (or Mannix). Born Hugh Herbert Hipple, he started onstage in the 1930s and also appeared on radio. He played Ellery Queen on radio and television and also appeared in movies beginning in 1936. He had a role in All About Eve (1950) and began appearing in TV shows that year. He was seen in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "John Brown's Body." Later in life, he was a regular on the soap opera, Another World, from 1969 to 1982.

Percy Helton (1984-1971) shines as Cyrus Rutherford, the drunk; he was in vaudeville from age two and served in the Army in World War One. He damaged his voice permanently while yelling in a stage play and thus had a distinctively squeaky way of talking for much of his career. He was on screen from 1915 to 1978 and appeared in seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Creeper"; he was also in the classic episode of Bus Stop, "I Kiss Your Shadow," as well as on The Twilight Zone and Batman.

In smaller roles:
  • Bert Remsen (1925-1999) as Jimmy, the bartender; he served in WWII and fought at Okinawa. His screen career lasted from 1952 to 1999 and included appearances in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Bang! You're Dead." He was also seen on Thriller and The Outer Limits.
  • Karl Lukas (1919-1995) as Uncle Ben, the bouncer in the bar; born Karol Louis Lukasiak, he was on screen from 1951 to 1991 and had roles on Batman, Night Gallery, and The Odd Couple. He began his career on Broadway in the 1940s and was a semi-regular on The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1958). He was in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including a major role in Ten O'Clock Tiger.
  • Bernadette Hale as Miss Sherman, the doctor's receptionist; she had a brief TV career from 1961 to 1966 and also appeared in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "The Thirty-First of February."
  • Tom Pace (1934- ) as the man at the bar; born in Yugoslavia, this episode was his first screen credit. He went on to appear on TV and in film until 1976 and had a co-starring role in Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973).
Tom Pace?
  • Ottola Nesmith (1889-1972) as the woman who witnesses the board fall and hit the young man on the head; she was on screen from 1913 to 1969, usually in uncredited roles, but she appeared in three memorable episodes of Thriller including playing the zuvembie in Pigeons from Hell.
Ottola Nesmith
  • Andy Romano (1941- ) as the construction worker who offers to help the young man; 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."
Andy Romano

Watch "Services Rendered" on Peacock here. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the short story!


The FictionMags Index,

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


Link, William and Richard Levinson "No Name, Address, Identity."  Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July 1961, 2-8.

"Services Rendered." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 7, episode 10, NBC, 12 Dec. 1961.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of Richard Levinson and William Link continues with "Profit-Sharing Plan," starring Henry Jones!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Belfry" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Craig's Will" here!

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 61: March-April 1975



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

Eerie #64 (March 1975)

"The Children's Hour"★1/2
Story by Bruce Bezaire
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Exterminator One"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Paul Neary

"Bye-Bye Miss American Dream"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Richard Corben

"Daddy and the Pie"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Toth

"The Caul"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"The Plague"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

The kids at Houndsditch Orphanage have had enough and decide to take the Hyde drug in order to turn into monsters and get revenge on the adults who take care of them. "The Children's Hour" turns deadly and a crowd forms outside the building where the monsters are on the rampage. Once again, the police stand back, but when Bishop and Garson witness a well-dressed woman enter the scene of chaos, they follow in hopes of protecting her. Inside they see the monsters beating men and attacking women; the woman they saw go in is Berthe Astruc, a chemist whose husband was killed in the first Jackass event. She has created an antidote that she needs help testing. An injection in the backside of one monster causes it to turn back into a child, but the boy immediately dies of exhaustion. Though Bishop enjoys killing the beasts, he agrees to help Garson and Astruc develop the antidote in hopes of ending the Jackass menace.

This third episode of the Night of the Jackass series is a welcome step forward from the carnage of the prior parts. The introduction of Berthe Astruc suggests that there may be an end in sight, which is more interesting than one episode after another where the beasts go wild and Bishop kills them. Ortiz's art is decent but, again, it can be hard to follow exactly what's happening from one panel to the next.

"Exterminator One" tries to escape, but the man who shot off his arm follows him and blows off his other arm. The robot with a man's brain tries to run for it and is shot in the knee. The killer known as Slaughter keeps blasting away and turns the robot into a heap of junk. Suddenly, another robot arrives--Exterminator Two, who is part robot and part tank! Number Two is more than a match for Slaughter and Number One lies on the ground, trying to figure out a way to stop the carnage. Exterminator One tosses a grenade that destroys Exterminator Two and now Slaughter realizes that the robots have human brains. He advances on Number One and looks like he intends to shoot it in the head.

Is this the end of the series? I have not peeked ahead. The story is entertaining but the art is a bit static--after the "splash" page, the next seven pages are all six panels each of equal size, heavy on the captions. Still, I don't usually think much of Warren's attempts at science fiction and I like this series. It's funny how similar it is to Deathlok and how close "Exterminator" and "Exterminator Two" are to the Terminator movie character names.

The Gambino and Ponti families are engaged in a gang war in New Orleans, and the Butcher is killing the top men in both organizations! The families decide to make a peace deal and meet at the Butcher's church, but Harry Gambino has assassins wipe out the representatives from both sides so he can be the new czar of the united crime families. He doesn't realize that the Butcher is waiting for him at his home, where Harry becomes the latest victim. The heads of both families wiped out, the Butcher feels remorse for all of the killing and leaves a note for the cops that he's giving up his life as a vigilante killer.

"Bye-Bye Miss American Dream" is violent and there's not much new to the story, but seeing Richard Corben draw a mob slaughter tale is unsettling and weird. It's a good thing this is in black and white, because there's some fairly explicit gore. As with the Exterminator story, this looks like it could be the series finale, but who knows?

In the midst of the Great Depression, a spaceship crashes outside the town of Stillwater, Maine, where a man and his son rescue a tall, blue alien and, with the help of the boy's mother, nurse him back to health. Eventually, they learn to communicate with each other and nickname the alien "Pie," since the symbols he writes resemble 3.14. Pie's ship is destroyed and he can never go home, but he shows the boy a "gadget" that turns thoughts into reality. The townsfolk fear and hate Pie, but Dad protects him until, one night, the townsfolk turn on Dad and beat him. Pie heads into town and destroys quite a bit of it before he is led to Dad. He brings Dad home and dies of wounds sustained in his rampage, but Dad survives and the narrator--his son--remarks that the gadget came in handy years later.

I don't know what we did to deserve an Alex Toth story set in the Depression, but I really enjoyed "Daddy and the Pie." Toth tells the story clearly with elegant panels that mix simplicity with sophistication. I do hope this will be a continuing series, though it seems like the Pie's participation is over.

Crackermeyer is in Africa, where men are being sold into slavery to be taken aboard ship to America. Sailing back aboard the slave ship, Crackermeyer is asked to help a woman in labor; her baby is born with "The Caul" over its face and Crackermeyer takes the prized membrane as a charm. The slaves are being purchased by a mysterious man named Toorean and the Spook wrote to Crackermeyer in Africa to request his aid in infiltrating the house of the slaver to see where all of the Africans were disappearing to.

The ship lands in New Orleans and the slaves are to be delivered to Toorean's house before dawn. Crackermeyer and the Spook enter the house and in the basement they find the slaves, chained or worse. They free the men and confront Toorean, a vampire who uses the slaves to slake his thirst. A stake to the chest ends the menace.

Crackermeyer now receives co-star billing with the Spook and seems to have become a light-skinned Black man, unless I missed this in prior entries. Once again, Lewis and Sanchez craft an exciting tale that is longer than the average Warren story, at twelve pages. The art is atmospheric and the narrative, with slaves being brought back to the U.S. illegally (it became illegal to import slaves to the U.S. in 1808), is fascinating, but I docked the story one star due to the cliched ending where the mysterious bad guy is revealed as a vampire.

A man and a woman run from "The Plague," lamenting their fate. They try to hide in the mountains but find that the plague has already been there. They race to the highest peak but cannot avoid being overtaken and killed. They discover that the afterlife is far better than life on Earth.

Whew! That was some serious overwriting by Budd Lewis. Next to nothing happens, but you wouldn't know it from dialogue like this:

Man: "I never expected the world to end in a blinding flash. And it isn't. It's ending like...the closing of a book. But why does it have to close on our brief chapter?"

Woman: "Maybe... because our running through... running between these last few pages will give us something more profound between us than an entire lifetime of normal existence."

The art is reasonably good but it's clear Ortiz had to stretch out a thin script, since two of the ten pages are full-page panels. So far, these four horseman of the apocalypse are turning out to be nags.-Jack

The Jackass series continues to be almost incomprehensible yet enjoyable. The closest comparisons I can make are the (Rec) and The Raid series of films, where all the action is centered within one building and we watch the mayhem as it expands from floor to floor with no end in sight. I have the same complaints about Exterminator One that I've had with previous chapters (all titled "Exterminator One" so that we don't get confused), chief among them that it's nothing but a poor man's "Deathlok." Now add in a sprinkle of blaxploitation and you've got a big gurgling brew of "homage." Speaking of the blaxploitation angle, it seems as though artist Paul Neary couldn't decide whether to make his version of "Slaughter" an African-American with a 'fro or a straight up white man with flowing mane. 

I found the second (and final) "Butcher" to be a chore to read and infinitely less successful than its predecessor. It's a downright crime Corben not only didn't get his color but had half his art covered up by the mountain of words. "The Pie and I" is indeed a fine fantasy (with an almost western Shane-type atmosphere) and fine fantasies were few and far between at the Warren offices. Doubtless what makes "Pie" fly is the master Alex Toth (back again after a way-too-long sabbatical). Even an art moron like myself can spot Toth from a mile away (he makes it even easier with his signature lettering). We'll see how essential his presence is when we get a "Pie" follow-up in #72. 

"The Caul" is just what the witch doctor ordered, a good reason to read what, 'til now, was just a meandering voodoo series. "The Caul" is a rousing sea saga with some grim twists and an interesting, if rushed, finale. Sanchez's art is just as grim as those twists. Easily one of the top five Eerie series entries thus far. I had to force myself at gunpoint to read the entirety of "The Plague," a maudlin and horribly-overwritten hunk of stale Limburger. Was it the meandering plot or the fact that Budd decided he was writing lyrics for the next Bread album (My life is no gamble with you/I have no life but you/When I found you, my life ended/I became you/Your very essence/Tra la la) instead of a funny book script? Come back, McGregor, all is forgiven (that last bit is sarcasm, I don't really want Don back). This series is like riding a pretension seesaw. What may seem to us to be but dim funeral pyres may be in truth heaven's distant lamps.

Vampirella #40 (March 1975)

"The Nameless Ravisher!" ★1/2
Story by Flaxman Loew
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"The Winged Shaft of Fate" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Face of Death!" 
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Ramon Torrents

"The Man Who Never Was!" 
Story and Art by Fernando Fernandez

"The Time Eater!" 
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Paul Neary

"Home for the Holidays" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Bermejo

As if Mad Jack D'Arcy (from last issue) weren't enough trouble, now Vampirella must deal with his two insane sisters, who conjure a demon from the dark world to avenge their brother's death. The creature, an elemental who calls himself "The Nameless Ravisher" (because The Grim Reaper was obviously taken), tries to drown and burn our favorite Draculonian. When both those powers fail, he commands a tree to strangle Vampi, but the sturdy vampiress proves too powerful and the creature returns to the flat of the D'Arcy sisters, where he takes out his frustration on the two elderly loons.

I sure wish Flaxman Butterworth would let these storylines breathe a bit, rather than the standard wham-bam-thank you ma'am we seem to get every issue. This Ravisher might be more of an imposing figure if he wasn't introduced and dispatched fairly easily in just a few pages. Still, the story is pure pulp fun and I love the art. There's an obvious distinction between Vampirella as envisioned by Jose Gonzalez and Leopold Sanchez. While Gonzalez's Vampi is voluptuous and full-bodied, Sanchez opts for a cuter and more petite version. I see Linda Ronstadt and Karen Valentine instead of Ingrid Pitt or Raquel Welch now. That's not a bad thing, though. Both have their pros and cons. The series of panels depicting Vampi in battle with a killer tree are very erotic.

Dracula and his female vampiress friend, Cassandra Kiley, continue to do what they do at the King Carnival. At each stop, they dine on another unwary villager and write in their journals. Ah, the life of a vampire! Meanwhile, a poor schmuck by the name of Herbert Larkin has embezzled ten grand from his real estate firm (and keeps it in a mighty teensy weensy bag, I should add) and intends to run off with his lady love, the beautiful Evelyn Hicks. Larkin intends to meet up with Evelyn at the Carnival one night, but Dracula gets to the gorgeous blonde first. That sucks, sighs Herbert, who proceeds to walk off with another woman he's just met, the homely but good-hearted Amelia Parrot. Unfortunately, the now vampiric Evelyn Hicks doesn't take the betrayal lying down. She drains both Evelyn and Herbert and then flies off into the night. The King Carnival moves on.

"The Winged Shaft of Fate?" Sounds like a bad porn flick. But, alas, this isn't porn, this is a really dumb series, with some very odd twists and turns. The supporting cast is introduced and dispatched in no time and we are left to wonder why we should care. I think it's hilarious that the local gendarmes can't put two and two together. Hmmmm. Let's see. Victims have terrible bite marks on their necks and are drained of blood. Found in the spot where the King Carnival sat. Top attraction: Dracula and His Vampire Cutie. The Universal mob would have been burning down the carnival with their torches in no time. I don't even care that much for Maroto's art this time out. Did everyone keep a diary in the early 1900s? I will say one positive thing about this mess: at least it provides a connecting tissue with that old Eerie Dracula series, rather than try to claim this is an alternate Drac. 

The king of pulp drivel, Carl Wessler, delivers yet another horrid waste of paper, namely "The Face of Death!" Harry Taylor has never gotten over being dumped by delicious Bianca, who married another guy and broke Harry's evil heart. Now, four years later, Harry invites himself to Bianca's Halloween party by grabbing hold of the first kid he sees on the street, little Mort. Once he's infiltrated the party, Harry gets Bianca alone with her son in an upstairs room and prepares to cleave her in half when he slips on a toy and does a cannonball out the second-floor window. As he lies dying in the street, Harry watches little Mort approach and explain that "Mort" means "Death" and he's really the Grim Reaper! How cunningly clever! Good God, this script is happy load of horseshit. It explodes my brain to contemplate editor Dube reading Wessler's rambling and declaring it a competent story. Pity poor Ramon Torrents, who does his best to ensure the reader will ignore the typesetting and admire the pretty pitchers. That splash is a killer! I think I need another drink.

Jim Sutton finds himself 182 years in the future, in a society that does not want him. How did the jump occur? What will the powers-that-be in this new era do with Jim? "The Man Who Never Was" (just about the most Marvel-ish title ever slapped on a Warren story) is an overlong, wordy sci-fi tale that is neither involving nor entirely cohesive. It's the kind of thing that Philip K. Dick would do on a whim and make work. What was confusing, for me, is that Sutton obviously is dumped into a far future from a future time, making comments about "pleasure pills" and that he was born in 1978. So, when he's asking for "pleasure pills," I wasn't quite sure what the hell was going on. By the end of the story, I still wasn't. The art is decent, though a bit sketchy. 

A space exploration team meets up with "The Time Eater," a giant mass drifting through our solar system, eating everything around it and triggering a bizarre chain of events which causes time to move backwards. Reading "The Time Eater!" is like listening to a joke you've already heard, told by a good friend, and you're polite and patient enough to sit through the inevitable punchline. It's established on page three that this big space amoeba somehow makes clocks run backward but we have to sit still for eight pages of "And then there was a caveman.... and then man was a little lizard climbing out of a swamp..." only to wind up with the cliched "back to page one" epilogue. Yep, no denying that Neary can draw (especially pretty space girls in tight spandex suits) but, again, let's give the guy a decent story to attach his doodles to.

After being released for jail for a crime he committed while serving in Viet Nam, a man boards a plane with his nagging, shrewish wife and heads "Home for the Holidays." Budd Lewis tells the story of our nameless ex-con, ex-soldier in a split-screen fashion: one side from the perspective of the man and his unforgiving spouse on the plane, and the other from the perspective of his young daughter, Cherry Ann, awaiting his arrival. Once in the air, our protagonist notices that the man behind him is carrying a gun (we never do find out what this guy's motive or plan is) and tries to warn the stewardess, only to be shushed. All the while, the Mrs. is giving him an earful about his prison time. Finally, the poor guy confronts the man with the gun and all hell breaks loose. The hijacker (if that's what he is) shoots the pilot and Cherry Ann gets her wish when daddy's plane crashes nearby. Extremely preachy and maudlin, "Home for the Holidays" is another example of the new generation of 1970s funny book writers attempting to save the world rather than tell a gripping story.-Peter

"Home for the Holidays" surprised me as a late Vietnam War allegory with a well-done parallel story structure. The part on the plane is exciting, while the part with the little girl is a bit heavy-handed, but it all works together effectively. "The Nameless Ravisher!" was interesting in that the portions of the story with Vampirella were lackluster but the portions with the two crazy women were creepy and engaging. I did not expect to see them nude and summoning a demon! "The Time Eater!" drags on too long but, once again, Neary's pages look great, kind of like early John Byrne.

Maroto fills up more pages with pictures of people posing in "The Winged Shaft of Fate," and he can't resist drawing naked women with butterfly wings for some reason. This Dracula entry makes a bit more sense than the last one but hardly qualifies as a good story. Fernandez scores points for writing and drawing "The Man Who Never Was," but the art could use more detail and the attempt at profundity rang hollow for me. Finally, Carl Wessler lets us down yet again with the corny "The Face of Death," which manages to be both disturbing and cliched.

Eerie #65 (April 1975)

Story by Bruce Bezaire
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Hacker is Back"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Alex Toth

"Coming Storm... A Killing Rain!"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"El Cid and the Troll!"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

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

Bishop discovers that Madame Astruc not only came up with an antidote to the Hyde drug, she invented the drug in the first place! He takes a dose and turns into a zombie, chasing Garson, Astruc, and Inspector Oates around the chemist's house until they barricade themselves in a room for safety. Astruc tinkers with the antidote until Bishop finds a way into the room. He attacks Astruc but she injects him with the antidote and it works! Bishop recovers and exits, wanting nothing more to do with killing. The others announce that the Jackass menace is at an end.

And there ends the series, just as it was getting interesting. "Endstorm!" doesn't follow the pattern of the prior stories, instead presenting Madame Astruc as responsible for the drug and driven to find a cure. It's all strangely prophetic in the world of 2021, with questions swirling about whether COVID-19 came from a lab or was a natural occurrence. I think this series could have gone on longer; from a quick bit of online research, it looks like it picked up again decades later.

The beheading of a rich Londoner named Terrence reveals that, after ten years of silence, "The Hacker is Back"! Lt. Smythe of Scotland Yard is on the scene and resumes his hunt for the killer, his only clue a silver toothpick found at the scene of the crime. Smythe recognizes the object as being associated with the Gourmet Club, so he visits a woman named Melody, who invites him to join. At the club, he makes his way to the kitchen, where he finds human corpses and body parts hanging, waiting to be cooked and served to the members. Smythe is caught and tied up; he learns that all of the club members were in on the murders committed by the Hacker. The lieutenant manages to escape his bonds and fights to the death with club members, killing several but uncertain if this means the end of the Hacker.

Skeates's script is a mashup of Murder on the Orient Express (multiple killers) and "The Specialty of the House" (a club that serves human flesh to gourmets), with a bit of Jack the Ripper thrown in for good measure. In the hands of a lesser artist it might not work, but the great Alex Toth makes it a feast for the eyes, with beautiful pages where the hacker's shadowy form looms over the foreground panels. Even the scene in the kitchen, where corpses and body parts are displayed, is done in shadow, which (for me) is more effective than gory color.

In 1862, the Civil War is raging but Crackermeyer doesn't see the Union soldiers as liberators. Disgusted by the war, he decides to try to stop it with voodoo. He summons the Spook and the duo sneak up to a Yankee camp, where they steal a Gatling gun and a wagon of ammunition and race off, planning to dump them in a nearby swamp. Pursued by soldiers, Crackermeyer and the Spook turn and start shooting, driving the Yankees away. They discover that the Rebel forces are nearby and both sides are about to meet in battle. Crackermeyer plants himself between the armies and appeals to them, but they ignore his pleas and attack each other. He and the Spook begin shooting both sides with the Gatling gun but, when it jams, the Spook must resort to voodoo to try to hold off the soldiers. It works for a moment but, in the end, the Spook is killed, leaving Crackermeyer to mourn the loss of his younger brother.

Another good series comes to an abrupt end in "Coming Storm... A Killing Rain!" Rats! I really enjoyed the series and I thought this story was very good, despite some moments where Lewis veers toward Moenchian overwriting. It was a shock to see a Black man opposing the Civil War and unimpressed by the Union soldiers; in 2021, we are so used to the black and white view of the conflict that looking at it from a post-Vietnam, anti-war viewpoint is refreshing. The art is superb; some of the panels with soldiers could almost be swipes from the work of John Severin. The only thing that didn't completely work for me was the end, where the Spook and Crackermeyer start calling each other Johnny and Andrew and it seems like the Spook is Crackermeyer's son. It was somewhat unclear and not necessary to make the anti-war point.

Legend has it that there was a certain bridge in Spain under which lived a troll who would capture women trying to cross the bridge and leave a ransom note demanding gold. When the famous knight known as El Cid happened by a nearby cabin, the residents begged him and his friend Tomas to rid the world of the menacing troll once and for all. Tomas disguised himself as an old woman and rode to the bridge, where he found not a fearsome troll but rather an old man, who he killed. El Cid and Tomas find bones and gold under the bridge and realize that the legendary troll was nothing but a greedy, lustful man who spread a legend to scare travelers.

"El Cid and the Troll!" has lovely art that reminds me of the Prince Valiant comics I used to see in the Sunday funnies when I was a kid. Budd Lewis has become Warren's most reliable writer of late (not a high bar, I know) and Gonzalo Mayo's pages make sword and sorcery, my least favorite Warren genre, easy to take.

Plague, Famine, and War meet before "The Death," each insisting that he be chosen the Grim Reaper's favorite. Death sends them off in a contest, to see who can wreak the most havoc. The corpses pile up but, when the trio return to visit Death, he announces that they all create equal paths to his dark door. Suddenly, the quartet are joined by children playing, youngsters they find themselves unable to kill. Death explains that children bring the promise of hope and love, and the only one mightier than the fearsome foursome is the Lord of Lords himself.

Yes, Jesus triumphs to end a surprisingly good issue of Eerie. Lewis doesn't come right out and use the name, but I think it's obvious from the end of this story who he's referring to. This is the best of the Apocalypse series to date and the longest story of the issue, at 13 pages. Fortunately, Ortiz outdoes himself with splendid art. This is the sort of tale Maroto might have done but I don't think his style would be as effective as that of Ortiz is here.-Jack

I thought the "Endstorm" of the Jackass series was soggy cornflakes. Bishop taking the drug doesn't make one whit of sense (and don't give me that "He was feeling helpless, he was losing his friends, and he wanted revenge" malarkey) and neither does his half-hearted apology for doing so. The story line of Jackass might just have overstayed its welcome but Jose Ortiz sure didn't. His art made the pages bearable to turn even when we got some solidly pretentious captions. I wonder if the characters actually spoke the parenthetical "m" that followed "Hyde 25."

How dare Dube take one of my three favorite horror funny book artists of all time off the "Hacker" series and replace him with... oh, okay, it's Alex Toth. Never mind. Toth's wild page layouts remind me of one of those 1930s b&w horror films where the murderer remains in the shadows and all we see is a silhouette now and then. The story is a bit confusing at times but, when Skeates really got a fire under him, he was as good as Michael Fleisher at this gory killer stuff.

"Spook" ends on a high note. Despite all the proselytizing (Lewis can come off like a college grad who just discovered the evils in the world and plots changes with his #2 pencil), there is an almost lyrical quality to Budd's writing in this finale. There's also a healthy portion of humor ("Monsters or not... they just got our Gatling gun!") in the blazing battle scenes. "El Cid and the Troll" is a visual treat (Mayo's art is gorgeously detailed and doesn't suffer from that melty run-together look we're often stuck with) and contains an engaging story as well, far better than the similar (but different) Dax. That bodes well for us, since the next Eerie is a special "All El Cid" issue. Unlike Jack, I was not a fan of the final installment of "Apocalypse," way too long and boring as all hell. Other than that and a couple of missteps here and there, I think Eerie #64 and #65 were both dynamite issues, full of spectacular storytelling. If only this was to be the norm.-Peter

Next Week...
The return of
(God help us)
The Metal Men!