Monday, September 27, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 37: January 1983

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

Ed Hannigan & Dick Giordano

Batman #355

"Never Scratch a Cat"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

Bruce Wayne is out for an evening drive with Vickie Vale along the shore when along comes Catwoman in the Catmobile to run Bruce's car off the road. Catwoman jumps in the water to rescue Bruce but he thinks she's trying to do him in. While Vickie recovers from a concussion in the hospital, Bruce chats with Jim Gordon and Jason Bard and learns that Boss Thorne has been indicted for the murder of Police Commissioner Pauling and the mayor wants to see Gordon.

Bruce goes home and dons his Batsuit before heading to Selina Kyle's place, where he encounters her angry panther. Bat bests cat in a brief fight but Selina is nowhere to be found. Mayor Hamilton Hill gives Commissioner Gordon his job back and complains that the people of Gotham City want to hold a recall election to get rid of the mayor.

Batman tracks Catwoman to an old warehouse, where she attacks him and confesses her jealousy of Vickie Vale. She gets the upper paw hand but stops herself before killing the man she loves. 

Peter: This is a light and breezy and, most important of all, fun installment. Yep, there's still some room for improvement (Don and Al together can't draw a human face to save their lives) and I don't know about you, but I've had it up to here with the monthly round of "Bruce, let me help you!" and "No, Dick, this is too dangerous for you!" but having Catwoman back to her old ways and the exit of those crappy subplots has me smiling and whistling a happy tune.

What does that climax mean, exactly? Is Bats going to turn Cats over to the cops? She did, after all, attempt to kill him and Vicki Vale. Or will he release her for a rematch at a later date? Also, just let me say that my complaints about the art do not extend to the boys' depiction of the costumed characters. Those are aces. 

Jack: I agree. Newton and Alcala do a fine job drawing Batman and Catwoman. The subplots are still here, just not as intrusive, perhaps because Conway has 23 pages to work with. There's room for the main story and a few side trips involving Gordon, Bard, Hill, and so on. I like the Catmobile (which Batman refers to as the Catillac) and its cat-eye headlights. 


Detective Comics #522

"Snow Blind"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Irv Novick & Pablo Marcos

While waiting for Vicki Vale to do her editorial thing, Bruce Wayne thumbs through the latest issue of Picture News Magazine and happens upon a startling sight: a photo of mutant Klaus Kristin (whom Bats battled way back in Batman #337) on Mt. Kalais, Kristin is a man he thought had died in a fall from a snowy Switzerland peak.

Realizing he has to bring Kristin back to Gotham to stand trial for his crimes, Batman gasses up the Batplane, accepts some cold pastrami sandwiches from Alfred, rudely ignores Dick's plea to accompany him on the trip, and hops in the plane for China. Once he lands, the Dark Knight hires a guide to take him up Mt. Kalais and search for Kristin. They quickly discover the mutant living in a temple at the base of the mountain. Kristin sees his enemy and hightails it but Batman catches up to him. The Caped Crusader engages in fisticuffs with the outlaw and is knocked unconscious. Kristin saves Batman from drowning, which perplexes our hero. Kristin is shot and seriously wounded by the mountain guide.

Kristin hoofs it up the mountain, with Batman and his guide in hot pursuit. Unexpectedly, it becomes apparent to the Dark Knight that there are actually two snowmen atop Mt. Kalais and, once they catch up to Kristin, he learns that the bigger Yeti is the mutant's father! Seeing that the man is dying from blood loss, our hero gives Kristin the choice of going back to Gotham and getting medical help but also standing trial, or dying here with his Pop. Kristin chooses the latter.

Peter: This is a very confusing one-and-done but, putting that aside, it's just not that well told. I'm not sure what Batman's goal was here. If it was bringing a criminal to justice no matter what the cost, he failed miserably. The Yeti brings to my mind Jack's comments last time out about the plethora of disposable villains we're having to deal with in this run. You have to laugh when Gerry throws in the obligatory "No, Robin, this is a dangerous mission and I must go alone" scene and then has his hero comment on how lame these debates are. Poor Robin is itching to get some playtime.

Jack: I enjoyed this story more than I thought I would when I saw the penciller and the villain. Marcos smooths Novick's rough edges. In both this month's Batman and Detective Comics there are mentions of the Teen Titans, probably because the book was red hot at the time.

"Automatic Pirate!"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Trevor Von Eeden

Green Arrow tracks the villainous Hi-Tek to a junior high school where he discovers, to his amazement, that the cyber-robber is actually a brilliant fourteen year-old student. 

Peter: I gotta say the build-up was a snooze (yet another whoopdie-doo villain) but the pay-off was dynamite. Cavalieri peppers his script with some very smart dialogue (when the Arrow takes a dig at Hi-Tek's low ambitions as a criminal, the baddie replies: "'Oh, didn't you hear? They cut government grants to super-villains! I need all the spare parts I can get!'") and the last few panels, where the kid mocks Green Arrow's primitive weapons, is a laugh-out-loud hoot. Green Arrow has never been a superhero I paid much attention to, but if Cavalieri and Von Eeden can keep the tone light and humorous, I'm all in.

Jack: In addition to the nice art by von Eeden, I also liked the surprising ending. I'm looking forward to seeing if Green Arrow really does team up with the teen wunderkind.

The Brave and the Bold #194

"Trade Heroes--and Win!"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Carmine Infantino & Sal Trapani

Second-rate villains Dr. Double X and the Rainbow Raider accept an invitation from Professor Andrea Wye to her self-help seminar on an island in the West Indies, where she teaches them to power of positive thinking and urges them to "Trade Heroes--and Win!" They repeat "'I believe in me'" and head off to battle each other's nemeses.

First, Dr. Double X encounters the Flash at the dedication ceremony for a new generator that ends up allowing both parts of the villain to challenge the speedster. They seem to succeed in the mission to defeat the fastest man alive.

Next, the Rainbow Raider goes on a spree of robberies and battles the Batman, seeming to best him by encasing him in a giant crystal.

The villains transport the heroes to Dr. Wye's island so she can pry their secrets out of them. However, Flash and Batman quickly escape and defeat the villains, though Dr. Wye manages to get away.

Peter, is it getting warm in here?
Peter: A perfectly silly, perfectly disposable DC superhero strip, comparable to a Marvel What If? funny book. The art immediately sends you back to the 1960s, neither great nor horrible. I prefer Infantino without a lot of inks and Trapani isn't a great inker based on the evidence provided. The superheroes look just fine but the humans (in particular, Bruce and Gordon on pages two and three) could've benefited from a second pass. 

Jack: Infantino in the '80s is not my favorite, but Trapani makes his work look much better than it ever did over at Marvel on, for example, Star Wars. I enjoyed this silly story, which hearkens back to the straightforward storytelling style of the '60s, with a prologue and three chapters. Will we see the lovely Dr. Wye again? I certainly hope so!

Next Week...
Well, um, we're gonna level with you.
Not a lot of exciting stuff next week.
But that Vampi back cover is pretty cool!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-Joel Murcott Part Three: Flight to the East [3.25]

by Jack Seabrook

"Flight to the East" is based on a story called "Night Flight" by Bevil Charles. The story was published in the August 1957 issue of The Creasey Mystery Magazine, a British digest, and it has never been reprinted.

The author, Bevil Charles, is himself a mystery. The FictionMags Index lists one other story under his name ("The Brief Return," in the December 1956 issue of Combat, "Britain's Top Action Magazine"). It is possible that Charles had other stories published in publications that have yet to be indexed. Morgan Wallace suggested that Charles may have been a British journalist, and the genealogy website Geni lists a journalist named Bevil Charles Bertram Richard Nance-Kivell (1930-1963) who died in London. I queried whether Mr. Nance-Kivell is the author of "Night Flight" and learned that his family does not know. He lived in Southern Rhodesia before moving to London in his early twenties and he worked as a journalist until his death at age 33.

"Night Flight" begins as three men sit side by side on a plane during the title flight: they are Pilbean, a nervous man who sits by the window; China, a journalist in the middle seat, and a "heavily built foreigner" in the aisle seat who is asleep with an overcoat thrown over him crookedly. Pilbean offers China a cigarette and the duo smoke quietly until Pilbean introduces himself and remarks that he lives in Nairobi and is traveling to London on business. China listens with little interest to his neighbor's tale of having left his wife after nearly murdering her by poisoning her tea before deciding against it.

Gary Merrill as Ted Franklin
China lights another cigarette and tells the story of Abdullah Ismail, known in the papers as Abdul the Damned, who was hanged years ago after a celebrated trial. China explains that he was a reporter for the London Evening Mail who stumbled on Abdul's case while in Kenya. The case involved "'Diamonds, dope, guns, blackmail and finally murder.'" China attended the trial and noticed an "old man in black" who was also in daily attendance. After Abdul was hanged, China went on to South Africa and Australia before returning to Cairo for a few days before he had planned to leave for London the prior Thursday. In a backstreet bar, China saw the mysterious old man who had attended the trial. China bought the man a drink and they tried to converse in French. China mentioned Abdul Ismail and described him with the word "hashshash," which is Arabic for either "'Hashish-eater,'" according to the man in the aisle seat, or for "'assassin,'" according to China.

Suddenly, the old man hit China with something "that felt like a chink of granite" and a knife flew by China's ear and "stuck in the woodwork just in front of his face." China and the old man fought and ended up in the street outside the bar; China kicked a gun out of the old man's hand, pulled the knife from the wood, and killed the old man in self-defense by throwing the knife, which lodged in the old man's back just as he turned to pick up his fallen gun. China explains that the old man was a cocaine addict who had been a famous scholar until he was consumed with sorrow after the death of his son, Abdul the Damned. China escaped and got on the next plane out of Cairo.

Patricia Cutts as Barbara Denham
Pilbean asks China why he is flying back to Cairo so soon after his escape and China pulls up his arm to reveal that he is handcuffed to the man who is sleeping beside him.

A well-told tale of a misunderstanding that leads to violence and death, "Night Flight" shows the tragic result of an accidental mistake in translation: the Arabic words for "hashish-eater" and "assassin" are closely related. China used a word to describe the late Abdul the Damned that caused an extreme reaction in the man who turned out to be Abdul's father, a man whose life had fallen apart after the death of his son. China tells the tale to portray himself as an innocent man, yet he admits that he threw the knife that lodged in the back of the old man and killed him. Is China telling the truth? If he acted in self-defense, why did the knife lodge in the old man's back? Joel Murcott must have asked himself these questions when he adapted the short story for Alfred Hitchcock Presents as "Flight to the East," since the TV version retains the skeleton of the story but makes major changes.

The show opens with a title card that reads, "Nairobi, 1958," superimposed over a plane that has just landed. Inside, Ted Franklin (as China has been renamed) and the policeman next to him sit with the window seat empty. The policeman asks Ted, "'Shall we get off?'" but Ted declines. More people board the plane, including an attractive blonde named Barbara Denham, who takes the window seat next to Franklin; the male Pilbean in the story is replaced with the female Barbara Denham in the show. The plane takes off and Ted asks Barbara for a cigarette. She gives him one and he remarks, "'That's luck--my own brand!'" The viewer does not realize that this exchange of cigarettes and Ted's identification of the brand is the episode's "Chekov's gun"--the cigarette and its brand will be important at the show's climax.

Konstantin Shayne as Abdul
Barbara tells Ted that she is a governess who worked as a nurse's aide during the war and Ted replies that he was a war correspondent. Barbara recognizes his name and tells him that she read his articles, including those about the trial of Sasha the Terrible (as the story's Abdul the Damned has been renamed). Ted claims that Sasha was a puppet who was taken advantage of due to his race and social standing. Franklin recalls the trial and there is a flashback to Sir Robert Walton, the Crown prosecutor, standing in the courtroom, declaring that Sasha robbed corpses on the battlefield in North Africa to sell weapons to a tribe that engaged in "'rebellion, bloodshed, and mass murder'" and he was said to have been paid in stolen diamonds.

Scenes alternate between those of Ted telling the story to Barbara on the plane and flashbacks showing the events surrounding Sasha's trial. Evidence piles up against Sasha and Abdul, the old man, is shown sitting in the courtroom every day, watching the trial. One day, Abdul approaches Franklin to identify himself as Sasha's father and to claim that Sasha is innocent. (In the short story, China did not learn the old man's identity until years later.) The old man requests that Franklin speak to his son outside the presence of the prosecutor and the conversation between Franklin, Sasha, and Abdul in a witness interview room is depicted.

Anthony George as Sasha
Franklin tells Barbara that Sasha claimed to be innocent of supplying weapons to the Mau Mau and explains that a powerful man named Arthur Smith hired Sasha to make a single delivery. Sasha told Ted that Smith paid all of the witnesses to lie in court to keep his name out of the trial and allegedly tried to bribe Franklin into silence by leaving a diamond in his hotel room and promising more. Franklin claims that he refused the bribe and instead began to write articles about Arthur Smith, making Sasha a symbol of "'injustice and persecution.'" This led to Franklin being fired from his job and deported from Kenya. Sasha was found guilty and hanged and Franklin spent the next few years searching for Arthur Smith.

Barbara listens to his story and remarks that Franklin's description of Arthur Smith could fit the man sitting on the aisle next to him. They share more cigarettes and his story continues. Franklin claims that his search for Smith led to Cairo, where he entered an antique store by chance and came face to face with the proprietor, who was none other than Abdul, Sasha's father. Franklin claims that the old man accused him of causing Sasha's death when he stopped writing articles about Arthur Smith. Abdul picks up a knife and throws it at Franklin but misses. He picks up a gun, but Franklin grabs an antique vase and throws it at Abdul, knocking him down. The old man picks up the gun again and Franklin grabs the knife and throws it, killing Abdul. Ted is seen running out of the shop by a patron who is just coming in the door. Franklin claims that he left Cairo and flew to Johannesburg, where he met the man in the next seat; Ted lifts his arm to reveal that he is handcuffed to the man, who is identified as Inspector Khafir of the Cairo police.

Mel Welles as Inspector Khafir
The short story ends here, but the TV show takes the story in a new direction. As Ted gets a fourth cigarette from Barbara, she reveals that she is not who she claimed to be at the start of the flight. She is a governess for the Crown prosecutor and she tells Ted the version of events that her employer believes to be true, a version that is in sharp contrast to that which Ted has just related to her. She says that when Ted had his private interview with Sasha and his father, Ted told Sasha that he knew he was guilty but offered to write a series of articles about a fictitious man named Arthur Smith in order to turn public opinion in Sasha's favor. He demanded one diamond in advance and half of Sasha's diamond fortune later.

Barbara claims that, after Sasha was hanged, Ted spent years searching for Abdul in order to collect the diamonds he had expected to receive from Sasha. The flashback to the scene in the antique store plays out differently in Barbara's telling. This time, Ted confronts the old man and demands the diamonds. The knife and gun that were used in the fight belonged to Ted and it was Abdul, not Ted, who acted in self defense when he threw the knife. A fifth pair of cigarettes are shared (perhaps a record for the most cigarettes smoked in the least time) and Ted tells Barbara he will prove his innocence. He explains that the knife and gun that were found in Abdul's shop were German war weapons of the type that Sasha was hanged for selling. Ted claims that this will show that they belonged to Abdul, who got them from his son.

Harvey Stephens as the
European bureau manager
But Barbara has one more damning bit of evidence to share. She explains that the knife and the gun were traced to a particular Nazi general who was killed at El Alamein. She was a nurse's aide during the war and she fell in love with a dying lieutenant after that famous battle. He had captured the Nazi general's gun and knife and traded them to an American war correspondent for two cartons of cigarettes--cigarettes that were Ted Franklin's brand. He then gave the cigarettes to Barbara as the only gift he had to give. The show ends with the understanding that Barbara will testify at Ted's trial and give evidence that will prove that the knife and gun were his and that he murdered Abdul rather than acted in self-defense.

The unusual number of cigarettes smoked by Barbara and Ted thus turns out to have a purpose in that it keeps the viewer's attention on those very cigarettes, which turn out to be the key to establishing Ted's guilt in the murder of Abdul. 

In adapting "Night Flight" for television as "Flight to the East," Joel Murcott expands on incidents and themes only hinted at in the story. He begins by changing the identity of Pilbean, who tells his own story briefly at the outset before becoming a listener to China's story. In the TV show, Barbara Denham takes the role of listener throughout the show until she takes over the role of storyteller. Unlike Pilbean, whose dull tale of his marital woes pales in comparison to China's story, Barbara's story corrects the falsehoods told by Ted Franklin and she unexpectedly has an important role in his future.

Ralph Clanton as Sir Robert Walton
As in "Bang! You're Dead," the screenwriter of this episode uses current events in Africa as a backdrop to the tale. Here, Sasha is on trial for his acts involving the Mau Mau rebellion. The overall effect is to portray Sasha as an opportunist who profits off of the misery of the people of the war-torn continent. Murcott's decision to take the story further and make the final surprise one that involves a Nazi general and his weapons is interesting, although the revelations in the show's last minutes can be hard to follow and we benefit today from the ability to rewind the video and watch carefully to understand what happens. A comparison of the two versions of the scene in Abdul's store reveals that, when Ted is telling the story, Abdul produces the knife and gun, but when Barbara is telling the story, they are produced by Ted. Barbara's final confession about the exchange of weapons for cigarettes appears to seal Ted's fate.

The episode is the first of the series to be directed by Arthur Hiller (1923-2016). Born in Canada, Hiller had a long career as a director, from 1954 to 2006, starting out in TV and ending up in film. He was president of the Director's Guild of America from 1989 to 1993 and directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Forty Detectives Later." He also directed three episodes of Thriller and the classic comedy, The In-Laws (1979).

Ted Franklin is played by Gary Merrill (1915-1990), who was on film from 1943 to 1977 and on TV from 1953 to 1980, appearing in Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends and the classic, All About Eve, both in 1950. He was on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and "Flight to the East" was one of seven episodes of the Hitchcock TV show in which he is featured.

Patricia Cutts (1926-1974) plays Barbara Denham. She was a British actress who appeared on screen from 1946 to 1974, including a bit part in North By Northwest (1959) and a role in The Tingler (1959). She appeared in one other episode of the Hitchcock series, "Body in the Barn." Her death was ruled a suicide.

Abdul, Sasha's father, is played by Konstantin Shayne (1888-1974). Born in Russia as Konstantia Veniaminovich Olkenitski, he fought for Russia in WWI and emigrated to the U.S. in 1928. He began appearing in films in 1938 and on TV in 1952, and his career on screen lasted until 1965. His films included The Stranger (1946) and Vertigo (1958). He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and two episodes of The Outer Limits.

Anthony George (1921-2005) plays Sasha. He was born Ottavio George and he was in films from 1950 to 1957 and on TV from 1951 to 1988. He was a semi-regular on Dark Shadows in 1967 and on One Life to Live from 1978 to 1984 and he also appeared in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

In smaller roles:
  • Mel Welles (1924-2005) as Inspector Khafir, who spends most of the episode sleeping next to Ted Franklin; Welles was in film from 1953 to 2002 and on TV from 1954 to 1996, and his best-known role was as Mushnik in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
  • Harvey Stephens (1901-1986) as the European bureau manager who fires Ted Franklin; he was on screen from 1931 to 1965, had a bit part in North By Northwest, and appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Alibi Me."
  • Ralph Clanton (1914-2002) as Sir Robert Walton, the Crown prosecutor; he was on screen from 1949 to 1983 and he was seen in seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Dip in the Pool." He was also on Thriller three times.
"Flight to the East" premiered on CBS on Sunday, March 23, 1958. It is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here. Thanks to Morgan Wallace for providing a copy of this rare short story!

"Bevil Charles Bertram RICHARD NANCE-KIVELL." geni_family_tree, 10 Sept. 2021,
"Bevil Charles Bertram RICHARD NANCE-KIVELL." geni_family_tree, 10 Sept. 2021,

Charles, Bevil. "Night Flight." The Creasey Mystery Magazine, Aug. 1957, pp. 75–82. 
"Flight to the East." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 3, episode 25, CBS, 23 Mar. 1958. 
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred HITCHCOCK Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 
Stephensen-Payne, Phil. "Galactic Central." Galactic Central, 
Wallace, Morgan. Bevil Charles-NIGHT FLIGHT, 25 Aug. 2021. 
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

In two weeks: "Death Sentence," starring James Best and Katharine Bard!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Mink" here!

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 68: October-November 1975


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

Eerie #69

(Reprinted from Eerie #52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57)

Jack-With the new "Hunter II" series running in Eerie, it makes sense that they chose to rerun the entire "Hunter I" series as a summer special. Fitting in six stories required Warren to forego some of the usual features, such as the letters column; the six stories total 58 pages and that leaves room for 23 pages of ads.

Looking back at this series I see that I was impressed with its consistency. I gave each story either two and a half or three stars and liked Paul Neary's art. The bang-up final chapter is presented here in color, though the color doesn't add much to its effectiveness. One might question whether it was too soon to reprint stories that ran from November 1973 to June 1974 in the October 1975 issue, but I hope the Hunter II series will continue and keep the story going.

Vampirella #46

"The Origin of Vampirella"
(Reprinted from Vampirella Annual #1, but rewritten by Budd Lewis)

"Death's Dark Angel"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #12)

"Isle of the Huntress!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #14)

"Monster Called Vampirella" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Zesar

The annual, as usual, contains one "new" story, this one made up of stand-alone panels eschewing, for the most part, dialogue and captions. The plot, such as it is, details the events after the shooting of Vampi and Pen at the airport. There's nothing new here so I question why Dube put the effort into crafting a story told entirely out of newspaper reports. "Monster Called Vampirella" would make a lousy newspaper story, I gotta tell you.

There are too many diversions the writer couldn't possibly know; further, why the hell would Adam pretty much confess his sins to the reporter as he does? This kid needs a better lawyer. The art by Zesar (in his Warren debut) is not bad, but the environment is static. There's no flow. Perhaps these panels were the artist's samples sent in to get a job or perhaps Dube's instructions were to read a bunch of back issues and then copy some of the panels. What "Monster Called Vampirella" succeeds at is confusing me even more; this series has no chronology to speak of.-Peter

Jack-Yes, it's an odd format for a new story, but on the whole this is a terrific issue. The cover is suggestive, with Vampi kneeling as a phallic spaceship heads for her nether regions. The interior includes a mere 19 pages of ads (including the back cover), which leaves room for three classic reprints and the new, color story. Budd Lewis rewrote "The Origin of Vampirella" from scratch. I compared the original to this version, and Lewis's story is much better. I gave "Death's Dark Angel" three and a half stars when I first read it and I gave "Isle of the Huntress!" four--both showcase Goodwin's skill as a storyteller and feature gorgeous art by Gonzalez. I'll admit that presenting "Monster Called Vampirella" as, essentially, illustrated captions is a strange way to frame a synopsis of events, but I hope that it means that the continuing story will finally move forward in the next issue. Vampirella's 1975 summer special is easily worth a buck and a quarter.

Creepy #74

"Vampires Fly at Dusk"
(Reprinted from Creepy #1)

"Curse of the Full Moon"
(Reprinted from Creepy #4)

"The Cask of Amontillado"
(Reprinted from Creepy #6)

"Hot Spell"
(Reprinted from Creepy #7)

"The Beast on Bacon Street"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Reed Crandall
(Originally appeared--with a different script by Bill Parente--in Eerie #24 as "Wrong Tenant")

(Reprinted from Creepy #11)

"The Squaw"
(Reprinted from Creepy #13)

"Frozen Fear!"
(Reprinted from Creepy #16)

"Keep Your Spirits Up"
(Reprinted from Creepy #25)

A nice package devoted to one of the greatest horror artists of all time, Reed Crandall, who had definitely seen better days (and more respect) in the 1960s Warren universe. His projects were few and far between by the mid-1970s, so it was nice to tip off a new generation that American artists weren't too bad either.

As noted, "The Beast on Bacon Street" has a completely new script and dialogue written by Budd Lewis. I have no idea why Dube decided this should be done since the other eight stories this issue are presented unmolested. Perhaps, with color, the editor thought it needed a more colorful script or maybe he was just pissed at original writer Bill Parente for some reason. Who knows? The art is still great and the story is still so-so.-Peter

Jack-I knew I had seen that story before! The GCD does not list "The Beast on Bacon Street" as a reprint. I got a real Homes & Watson vibe from it and loved the art, but the story wasn't much good either time. The rest of the stories range from mediocre ("Frozen Fear!) to outstanding ("Hot Spell") and I agree that it was great that Warren decided to fill the 1975 Creepy summer special with vintage Crandall.

The Spirit #10

"Heat" (7/15/51)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

"Quiet!" (7/22/51)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Klaus Nordling?

"Death is My Destiny" (3/4/51)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"Help Wanted" (4/29/51)
Story by Jules Feiffer? & Klaus Nordling?
Art by Klaus Nordling & Jim Dixon

"The Origin of the Spirit"
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Chuck Kramer
(Reprinted from The Spirit #1, Harvey, October 1966)

"Sound" (9/24/50)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer

"A Time-Stop!" (1/7/51)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"The Octopus is Back" (2/11/51)
Story & Art by Will Eisner

"Hobart" (4/22/51)
Story by Jules Feiffer?
Art by Will Eisner & Jim Dixon

"The Meanest Man in the World" (1/28/51)
Story by Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

I liked the double-whammy of "Heat" and "Quiet!" and wish that Warren would have run these things in chronological order from the get-go. I realize, as a Monday morning quarterback, that we never would have seen the entire run reprinted but I prefer it to the scattershot approach Will was taking. There's not much plot to "Heat/Quiet!" but I liked the whodunit aspect. These stories also reminded me that, as a young Spirit reader, I could never figure out why getting shot when you're already dead (and live in a cemetery) is such a big deal. Come to think of it, I still can't figure out that aspect of the character. He's always getting shot!

Luckily we get a reprinting of "The Origin of Spirit," which comes from the short-lived Harvey Comics version, to answer all my questions. Except that now I have another one: Denny Colt is shot, falls into a puddle of suspended animation juice and is buried alive a few days later. No one thought to embalm his corpse? Did they dig the bullets out of the body before burying him? But most important of all, how did Denny dig his way out of his coffin and then six feet up through a mound of dirt? I say he's really dead and he's a "Spirit!" Only two issues of the Harvey version were published, but each contained a brand-new Eisner Spirit story and seven color reprints, all for two bits!

Jack-Ten stories and 92 pages of Spirit fun for $1.50? A bargain! "Heat" made me think of poor Kitty Genovese, as the Spirit lies bleeding to death in an alley while everyone goes about their business and fails to notice his presence. "Quiet!" shows Eisner's genius for storytelling as it pivots from suspense to humor in the space of one panel. The rest of the stories are at least good, with the origin story getting top marks just because it's an origin story. Eight of the ten stories this time out are from 1951, which means that they were published late in the original newspaper run of the series. I suspect some of the GCD entries that give sole credit to Eisner may be incomplete; Jules Feiffer, Klaus Nordling, et al., seem to have been doing much of the work by this point. Still, the characters and concept are solid and even the most inconsequential stories are worth a look.

Eerie #70 (November)

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

"Goblin Thrust"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Paul Neary

"From the Cradle to the Grave"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Crooked Mouth"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Oogie and the Junkers"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

Coffin staggers into a Kiowa village and collapses. A village elder takes him in and, the next day, the Kiowa prepare for war with the white soldiers who are expected to arrive to remove them to a reservation. Coffin suggests a solution and leads three braves on horseback to meet a cavalry detachment and warn them of a bloodbath if they enter the village. The soldiers assume that the Kiowa braves are chasing Coffin and kill them; the cavalry men tell Coffin that they were not headed for the village and he returns with the trio of dead braves.

Coffin's next attempt to prevent war involves sending a letter warning of war if soldiers attack; the letter is delivered by a ten year old boy to a nearby fort, but the boy is killed and sent back out on horseback to meet Coffin. His efforts at peace having failed, Coffin leads the Kiowa to war against the soldiers. The soldiers are massacred and Coffin writes another letter, this time to a congressman, begging for help for the Kiowa.

Coffin leaves the village and rides to the location of the medicine man who had cursed him, only to find that the man has died. Realizing he has learned to live and respect life and thus can now die, Coffin lies down and lets ants cover his body, finally putting him out of his misery.

"The Final Sunrise" sure looks like the last entry in the Coffin series, and it's overwritten and maudlin. Budd Lewis fills the captions with flowery prose ("Never was Heaven so vacant, a throne so empty, or a man so alone") and the plight of the Kiowa is sad. At least Jose Ortiz delivers solid art, though Coffin looks incredibly haggard, thin, and worn out. I guess he's supposed to. This would've been a good story for John Severin to draw.

Karas is having a hard time righting the toppled-over Exterminator, but when a group of humans happen by, they assume he's a goblin wearing a helmet and capture him. Eventually they realize their error and team up to fight goblins. The Exterminator wipes out a tunnel of goblins, but the blond, hairy humans are all killed when an army of goblins appear. Karas and the Exterminator escape and continue the journey to kill Yaust.

"Goblin Thrust" starts out with an art mistake and never really recovers. On the splash page, Karas is not wearing a helmet and is clearly a human. On page two, he wears a helmet and is thought to be a goblin until someone thinks to remove his helmet. Paul Neary's art is usually better than it appears this time out; his weak spot seems to be drawing human faces and he is at his best when drawing machines or helmets.

By 2004, overpopulation has made the world a terrible place, and the U.S. government encourages anything that will result in a decrease in the number of living people. A spy calling himself Marshall Ames is sent to Los Angeles to foment violent revolution and infiltrates a rebel group. In time, the righteousness of their cause wins him over, but it doesn't matter when he and they are attacked and killed by raging cannibals.

Nice art by Leopold Sanchez is wasted on a story that goes nowhere. We've seen the dystopian future many times before at Warren and this seems like it is shaping up to be the first part of a new series until the main character dies on the last page. It's odd that the first page features "Code Name: Slaughter Five," since that name is never used again and the title of the story, "From the Cradle to the Grave," appears on page two. The story tries to shock--one character prefers a lesbian lover to no lover at all, since sex is outlawed; an old woman begs the protagonist to kill her; etc.--but in the end it's just another example of crystal ball gazing in 1975 that thankfully didn't come to pass.

After defeating the Moors in battle, El Cid brings back their leaders and puts them up as honored guests in his home. This angers an old man who thinks the Moors should be put to death. He visits a bar and announces to one and all that he wants to see the king to report El Cid's treachery, but he is quickly beheaded by "Crooked Mouth," who hates El Cid and proceeds to start a campaign of whispered gossip that soon reaches the king's ear. The king summons El Cid, who slays a monster during the journey. Arriving at the king's court, El Cid reveals the treachery of Crooked Mouth and kills the villain before explaining to the king why it's better to have the Moors as allies than enemies.

After an entire issue of El Cid not long ago, I thought we'd seen the last of the Spanish hero, but this new adventure is lavishly illustrated by Gonzalo Mayo and ends up being more enjoyable than I expected it to be. Crooked Mouth is a dastardly villain and does his best to smear El Cid, but our hero wins out in the end. I'm looking forward to more El Cid in future issues as long as Mayo is the artist.

On a salvage ship in outer space, Leroy prefers to spend his time consuming the adventures of Buck Blaster and lusting after Prunie, his beautiful shipmate. They explore a planet for material to salvage but find that it is exactly like a setting out of a Buck Blaster story. The planet is run by a creature that calls itself Oogie and loves the Buck Blaster show; it turns Leroy and Prunie into copies of Buck and his lady love, Thelma Starburst, so that they can act out Buck Blaster adventures for the creature's enjoyment. Leroy discovers that he likes the arrangement and sees it as a new Eden and himself and Prunie as Adam and Eve.

Bill DuBay packs each page of "Oogie and the Junkers" with caption after word-packed caption; there are so many words that I thought this story was much longer than the eight pages it spans. The humor is forced and corny and the Vonnegut reference (Oogie's real name is Kil Gore Trowt) is silly. Maroto gives it the old college try and the pages look good, but the effort expended in reading the whole thing isn't worth the trouble.-Jack

Peter Cushing drops by
the El Cid set.
Several years ago, I read all these Eerie series in order; that is, I read all the Coffins in one sitting, all the Daxes in one sitting, etc. I think that was easier on my brain than this time around when I'm reading whole issues because I can't keep track of where one character is from issue to issue. The Coffin series ends in a highly anticlimactic fashion ("Yeah, I've had enough, so I'll lie down and let the ants pick my bones clean!") but then I was never invested in the character or Lewis's plots anyway. 

I'm glad Jack is the man responsible for synopsizing the "Hunter" series as each new installment becomes more and more vague. I assure you I read the entirety of the latest chapter but I'm damned if I know what it was about. Lots of hip 21st-Century machine lingo and not much else. There's a big battle that wipes everyone out in the climax and, oddly, Budd decides to have it play out "off-panel." 

"From the Cradle to the Grave" is borne from that great science fiction trope of the late 20th Century, overpopulation but, whereas Soylent Green was a scary and thought-provoking nightmare, "From the Cradle" is a schmaltzy and meandering fragment of an idea. Here's this hardened assassin who falls for the female rebel at the drop of a "We really want to help mankind!" Sheesh.

Much better is "Crooked Mouth," a dense and well-plotted mythological gem (and this from a guy who coulda done without that whole issue of Cid) with some stunning art by Mayo. My only problem with Mayo's art is that Cid looks like a Backstreet Boy rather than a fearless warrior. "Oogie and the Junkers" is a dumb sci-fi parody that elicited nary a giggle nor even a half-smile. Dube is awarded the 1975 Warren Award for dopiest title of the year. 

Creepy #75 

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

"Phantom of Pleasure Island" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Alex Toth

Story by Bruce Bezaire
Art by Rich Buckler & Wally Wood

"Death Expression" ★1/2
Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by John Severin

Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by Neal Adams

In an unspecified future, Bernard Kedward walks home from his job as a "readings inputter" and hears the unmistakable sound of music emanating from a nearby apartment building. Knowing that music is illegal, Bernard is intrigued and investigates. What he finds is a free-wheeling hippie named Charlie Podge, who makes his own wine and dreams of escaping the city in a balloon.

Charlie talks Bernard into accompanying him on his journey and the two men build a balloon out of flags, but the cops get wind of the plot and follow Bernie back to Charlie's place. Bernie attempts to board the balloon as it's rising but a cop holds on to his legs and he watches as Charlie sails away on the wind.

"The Escape Chronicle" is entirely too long at 18 pages and continuously seems to sway drunkenly between Elia Kazan drama and Coca-Cola commercial. Despite all its pretension and Bradbury riffs, the story still kept my attention and, in the end, I was entertained. I remember being more touched (and not just in the head) when I was fourteen and read this for the first time. I can picture Budd Lewis, reclining in his plush Warren office, thinking he could win a Warren award if that stupid Eiffel Tower thing won one and pumping out the script for this one. In fact, even though it makes no sense, I think the cover is one of Ken Kelly's more powerful paintings. But how was Charlie able to pump loud music out of his apartment window without getting busted? We'll get to the (as I recall) inferior sequel in a few months.

There's a killer stalking the Pleasure Island amusement park and it's up to private dick Hubb Chapin to catch the menace before another murder. Alas, his first day on the job is not a good one, as Chapin witnesses a little girl catch a bullet between the eyes and park owner, Jonathan Norwood, is less than pleased with the bloodstains in front of the carousel.

Norwood offers up two suspects: competitor Graham Short and former employee (and embezzler) Abel Gerber. Norwood allows how a third suspect might be himself, since the amusement business has seen better days and Norwood is losing his shirt. Norwood's wife concurs. Shortly thereafter, a young couple is found murdered in the Tunnel of Love and Chapin spots Abel Gerber fleeing from the scene. The gumshoe chases the man into a train ride but, after the train emerges from a dark tunnel, Gerber is found dead.

Exiting the train, Chapin bumps into suspect number one, Graham Short, but the businessman explains that he's here at the park to sell out to Norwood. Just then, Norwood approaches and a shot rings out from a neighboring rooftop. Chapin tries to push both men to safety but the bullet catches Norwood in the head and he dies. The detective heads to the roof, where he finds the hooded phantom still waiting. The figure removes its hood, revealing Mrs. Norwood beneath. She explains that the park became a noose around her and her husband's necks and that she began the murder spree to force a closure. Dejected over her husband's death, Mrs. Norwood throws herself off the roof.

Talk about a change of pace. How about a Spicy Mystery pulp story, starring a grizzled old Bogie? "The Phantom of Pleasure Island" is not ground-breaking but it does produce a whole lot of smiles (at least from this grumpy comic book reader), thanks to its noir atmosphere and picture-perfect graphics. No other artist could have pulled off the realization of this era and the unceasing grim atmosphere. Yes, it's grim, but it's also a hoot; a violent Scooby-Doo episode. Since both stories spotlight the actions of a sniper, you could say this is the Yin to the "Thrillkill" Yang. And an extra half-star for Mrs. Norwood's impossibly big bow tie!

After nuclear war "alters" our planet's orbit, Luther and his nephew must contend with the freezing cold, hunger, and the threat of cannibals. When Luther is forced to commit murder, the idea of cannibalism becomes a bit easier to stomach (pun intended). "Snow" is little more than a vignette, with sparse details, but the art is not bad. I don't see much Wood in there but Buckler's always been a dynamic illustrator (see Deathlok the Demolisher for proof). Luther's pose on the splash looks straight out of a Marvel funny book. 

Throughout the revolution, Carlos Perez backed his friend, Major Baccado, and when the tyrant General Benedico was toppled, Carlos accepted the job of "vice-dictator" and swore to protect and serve Baccado, the new dictator. But the mass executions of the local villagers, farmers, and shopkeepers, people who could not pose a threat to the new dictator, cast a shadow of doubt over the new leader. When Baccado captures Benedico and has him dragged to a grand party for a public execution, he demands that his second-in-charge deliver the killing bullet. Sickened by the violence, Carlos refuses and immediately becomes a pariah. 

There's a head-scratching twist right about then that's better read than read about. I'm not sure it works but I'll give writer Jim Stenstrum extra credit for not going the usual route (Don McGregor: "He's the harbinger of pollution!" Doug Moench: "He's a poet!" Carl Wessler: "He's a ghoul disguised as a vampire!") and throwing an EC-esque curveball instead. With "Death Expression," Stenstrum literally writes a novel; the captions are dense but avoid pretension and vacuous thought. Jim's telling an interesting story (or an interesting set-up at least) and I was all in. Until that moment. The Severin art is gorgeous; his detail crowds each panel almost as much as Stenstrum's words.

17-year-old Bobby Lang climbs to the top of a Seattle rooftop and begins picking off pedestrians below. After nine kills, Bobby surrenders to a hail of bullets. Ever since beginning this journey, there were a few stops along the way I wasn't looking forward to. One of them was "Thrillkill." It's been a couple decades since I last read Jim Stenstrum's and Neal Adams's acclaimed commentary on society. Would it hold up? Was it like a lot of these old Warren stories and better left to memories? 

I can safely (and sadly) say that "Thrillkill" is even more relevant in the 21st Century than it was in the last. This has become old hat. The only difference between Stenstrum's gripping and frightening plot and today's weekly mass shootings is that the author provides some kind of motive for Lang's actions (true, those motives have been hijacked by lots of nuts since 1975) rather than the rote "He was just an angry guy" excuses we get today.

"Forget it, Jake, it's Pleasure Island"

I'm not here, though, to provide social commentary; I'm just here to rate the stories. "Thrillkill" has always been at or near the top of any "Best Warren Stories of All Time" list and I'd put it in the top five at least on mine (we've got a ways to go before I can put these things in order). Neal Adams (in his final contribution to the Warren mags) provides dazzling graphics that avoid the sensational aspects of a mass killing; no brains splattered on the sidewalk. Yep, it's similar to Peter Bogdanovich's classic Targets but not a rip-off. "Thrillkill" provides even more proof, to me, that Jim Stenstrum might have been the best writer Jim Warren ever hired -Peter

Jack-I thought "Thrillkill" was bleak, nihilistic, and a waste of the talents of Neal Adams. It reads like a catalog of mid-'70s malaise. My favorite story in the issue is "Phantom of Pleasure Island," for all of the reasons you mentioned. The '30s setting, the private eye, Toth's always-creative page design--even the lettering and word balloons are good! This is above-average storytelling for a Warren mag. I saw more Wood than Buckler in "Snow," but I guess that's just me seeking Wally Wood wherever I can find him. The storytelling was weak in this story and in most of this issue. "The Escape Chronicle" was long but interesting and too wordy, just like "Thrillkill." There were so many words in "Death Expression" that they overwhelmed the fine art by John Severin, who doesn't seem to have lost his touch in the 20-plus years since he was drawing for EC. For a special issue #75 this wasn't bad--it really sums up most of the run of Creepy with not great writing and much better art.

Corben & Wrightson
Comix International #2

"The Raven"
(Reprinted from Creepy #67)

(Reprinted from Creepy #68)

"Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
(Reprinted from Eerie #62)

"The Circus of King Carnival"
(reprinted from Vampirella #39)

"The Winged Shaft of Fate"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #40)

"The Manhunters"
(Reprinted from Eerie #60)

(Reprinted from Creepy #73)

(Reprinted from Vampirella #45)

"The Beast on Bacon Street"
(Reprinted from Creepy #74)

"The Muck Monster"
(Reprinted from Eerie #68)

Jack-Yet another all-reprint issue! It looks great, the entire thing in full color, but the quality of the stories is inconsistent and some of them were just published a month or two before. We get three by Corben, the best being "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," a couple of duds by Maroto, some fine work by the great Wally Wood, a beautiful story by Wrightson, and miscellaneous tales by Ortiz, Garcia, and Crandall. The oldest is from September 1974, so it seems like Warren scooped up ten color stories from the last year or so and put out another magazine to make completists part with ... how much? I don't see a price anywhere!

Next Week...
The lady means business!