Monday, November 1, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 71: February 1976


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

Creepy #77

"Once Upon a Miracle" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Tibor Miko" ★1/2
Story and Art by Alex Toth

"The Final Christmas of Friar Steel" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by John Severin

"Clarice" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Bernie Wrightson

"The Believer" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Richard Corben

"First Snow, Magic Snow" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"The Final Gift" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Paul Neary

"The Final Christmas" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Isidro Mones

Two priests discuss an old woman who steals the baby Jesus from the church's manger every year at Christmas. The older priest tells the younger that the woman suffers from mental problems and that she lost her own child years before. The statue represents her own deceased child. And besides, notes the elder man, they've never actually seen the woman take the statue. He blames it on Christmas gnomes.

As the two men of the cloth walk away, they do not see a wondrous spectacle unfold. The Christmas gnomes slither and fly out of the shadows to kidnap the baby but a squadron of cherubs flies in from above (armed with spears!) and sends the gnomes right back to Hell. The old woman takes the statue away and, as the priests return and look on in wonder, the lifeless doll becomes a living, breathing baby.

"Once Upon a Miracle" is a bit on the hokey side, but I like how Dube jettisons dialogue and captions (you knew I'd like that) for the bulk of the story and lets Ortiz do his thing. Really nice visuals. I'm not sure what a half-crazed homeless woman is meant to do with what is, ostensibly, the rebooted Christ, but my mind won't dwell on those details long.

United States Airmail pilot "Tibor Miko" is flying to Gallup when he is approached by a UFO. The craft follows him for miles even as Miko tries to outmaneuver the stranger. Finally, Miko's biplane sputters and dies out, forcing Tibor to make an emergency landing. The spaceship lands as well and Tibor Miko hops out of his cockpit and approaches the vessel. He fires three shots from his .45 but the UFO remains undamaged. Suddenly, the hatch opens and some kind of creature exits and grabs Miko. The alien drags the pilot back into its ship and flies away. Tibor Miko is never seen again.

I have a tendency to rate anything Alex Toth touches highly; his art is simplistic but exquisite. Here, though, his writing sputters out just like Tibor Miko's biplane. There's no real wrap-up (and, yes, I know that's the point) and the buildup is nothing we haven't seen before. Still, there's that art and a few nuggets of good writing, as when Tibor faces down his adversary and yells out: "My name is Tibor Miko, air mail pilot! You have interrupted official delivery of the US Mail and are guilty of a felony, whoever you are! Now come out of there!" Cocky while terrified, no doubt.

Friar Steel and his merry band of monks have recently been on a mission to rid the Earth of "Ungodly plunderers." Hard work can be tiring, so the holy men decide to rest at an abandoned abbey, but they soon discover that evil forces are at work within the sanctuary. One by one, Steel's comrades are torn to shreds, until he is alone and facing the culprit: a fiery demon who challenges Steel to a battle. The Friar destroys the satanic creature but then complains to his God above for not aiding him and his men. His whining is answered with a lightning bolt and a brand new tattoo on his forearm. Dazed, Friar Steel rises to begin his new crusade, serving his new master, Satan.

Though the climax is a bit confusing (it almost appears as though Steel is working for Satan the whole time and I initially believed the demon was a bouncer for God) and the captions can get a bit preachy, I enjoyed "The Final Christmas of Friar Steel." Budd Lewis tackles a weighty subject and manages to keep the proceedings involving and suspenseful. I've seen firsthand from past Warren stories that it's tough for these 1970s writers not to slip off that ledge of entertainment and fall into the abyss of proselytizing. I know atrocities were (and are) carried out in the name of God, but I don't need it hammered into my head. Lewis does a decent job of walking that thin line and, heck, he could've gone the Archie Goodwin route and revealed that Friar Steel was a ghoul in the end rather than reaching for something a little more deep. Severin's art is gorgeous, some of his best yet at Warren.

Any work delivered by the dynamic duo of Wrightson and Jones is a celebration and "Clarice" (a very simple tale of a man who loses his true love and then refuses to "let go") is no exception. Told in Poe-esque poetry and delivering a truly surprising climax, "Clarice" is a good example of how quickly Bruce Jones was ascending to the top of the horror comic writers in the 1970s. Wrightson's art, though not as detailed as some of his other Warren contributions, is stunning. That final panel, of the lovers finally reunited, is a stunner. 

At Christmas, little John Celery and the rest of the children at the orphanage have nothing but the belief in Santa to keep them going. Their headmaster is a sadistic and vile man, who beats them and keeps them working from sunup to sundown. On Christmas Eve, John Celery hears a noise downstairs and explores. The boy is astonished to see a figure dressed in Santa's uniform, emerging from the chimney. 

The man introduces himself as Shinny Upatree and explains that he is Christmas and delivers happiness to believers such as John. Shinny sets out a grand buffet for the children and then ascends the stairs to suffocate the headmaster. His job complete, Shinny says his goodbye to John Celery and heads up the roof to his sleigh. Unfortunately, it seems Shinny is better at mashed potatoes and gravy than suffocation, and the headmaster empties two barrels in the Faux-Santa. Enraged, John Celery kills the headmaster with a well-thrown tree-topper and then boards the sleigh, bound to take over Shinny's role as miracle worker.

Corben and Christmas seem intertwined in my mind, thanks to quality contributions such as "Bless Us, Father" (back in #59), "Anti-Christmas" (#68), and "The Believer." All three (written by three different writers) contain strong characters, interesting conflicts and, above all, that unique Corben look. I'm not sure murdering the headmaster in front of a young, impressionable boy will inspire that boy's belief in everything magical, but I can put that to the side for now. But John Celery flying away and leaving his little comrades snowbound and alone in a huge house with a rotting corpse outside is not being a responsible big brother. At least the table is set. The sequel will show that the children became ghouls when they ran out of turkey and beetroot.

Sam Bleeker is down on his luck, penniless and selling buttons on the street corner. With his beloved wife long dead, Sam has little to live for except the ritual of buying a Christmas candle to light down at St. Mary's for said beloved, long-dead wife. Then, one Christmas, Sam is approached by a little girl who wants to buy a button to sew onto her dead mother's dress. So overcome with emotion, he hands the girl his entire sales case full of buttons and all the change in his pocket. Feigning gratitude for the fifty-pound suitcase she's just been gifted, the girl wanders away and Sam is left to ponder what his beloved long-dead wife would think.

Later that evening, Sam answers a knock on his door to discover the little girl on his stoop. Ignoring the fact that the little imp somehow managed to find him in a city of millions, Sam invites the girl in and is pleased to see she has brought him a book about Frosty the Snowman (no doubt bought with that spare change Sam had been saving for his beloved long-dead wife's St. Mary's candle). They read the book together and then Sam takes the girl home. As he's approaching St. Mary's, he is startled to see none other than... his long-dead beloved wife... emerge from the shadows and embrace him. Later, a patrolman tells the priest of St. Mary's about the "wino" they found frozen to death on the church steps. He hands the father Frosty the Snowman in hopes the book will help some troubled soul find peace.

Call me a Grinch, but I've got so many questions about this dull, schmaltzy, Twilight Zone wannabe. What's with the scene involving Sam and the shady mobster characters? They appear to be shaking him down for his buttons, but then they just part company none the worse. If this little girl is such a beautiful little cherub, then why does Sanchez give her more of a Village of the Damned look? This girl could be Damien's sister. I feel like Lewis was leading us down that The little girl is really dead! road but seemingly forgot to tie that bow. She's creepy looking. She's got one of the creepiest cover stories ever ("My mommy's dead and I want to sew a button on her corpse before they lower her into the ground"). She turns up unannounced at Sam's place. And where does Sam drop her off at the climax? I thought, for sure, the cemetery. Where's her Pop? But Lewis saves the biggest dose of saccharine for that cliched ending. Never saw that one coming. "First Snow, Mawkish Snow."

Years after the second ice age has arrived and rendered the Earth an icy wasteland, three men push their way through the snow, looking for food and rejecting the idea of cannibalism. In the end, though, they must do what they can to survive. I really hated "The Final Gift" and its wishy-washy message. Is eating human flesh good? No, absolutely not. We should never do it. Well, maybe it's okay if you look at it from the right angle. What is the point of DuBay's script when we know from the very first panel where this thing is going to go? If Dube had written this in the early '80s, he'd have titled it something clever like "When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around!" Neary's art here is up and down (just like his other Warren art) but he gets the message across well enough. 

On Christmas Eve, Father Raymond is about to give his sermon to an empty house when a short, jive-talking demon enters and informs the priest that he's about to claim the world as his own. Thinking fast, the holy man asks if they can bargain for the souls of the world's population. Being a hip, with-it ambassador of Satan, the demon agrees and tells the priest he must give an example of just one good person in the world and the demon will return to Hell. After thinking it through, the priest is about to admit there are no good people in the world when a young boy enters the church and lights a candle for the baby Jesus. The demon throws up his paws and disappears. 

Oh joy! A demon who speaks jive!
Like "First Snow," "The Final Christmas" is more Hallmark Movie of the Week material from Budd, complete with embarrassingly bad dialogue ("Get your stinking hands off me, you jive turkey!") and unbelievable situations. So, this guy is a priest but he seriously cannot produce the name of one good person in his parish? Yikes. Time to turn out the lights, no? I liked Mones's art just as much as Lewis's script. It's muddy, ugly, and looks unfinished in spots. If you can tear the last three stories out of your perfect-bound issue of #77 without destroying the rest of the contents, you've got one damn fine issue of Creepy!-Peter

Jack-While this issue is a mixed bag, two stories rate four stars for me: "The Believer" and "First Snow, Magic Snow." "The Believer" seems like just about the perfect Creepy Christmas story, with superb art, beautiful color, and a narrative that bounces back and forth between heartwarming and horrible. "First Snow, Magic Snow" is another lovely story with outstanding art; it's spooky but not horrible. "Tibor Miko" benefits from the usual, gorgeous Toth panels but the story is only tangentially connected to Christmas and a bit vague. "Clarice" features stunning art by Wrightson and a rather monotonous series of captions in verse by Bruce Jones; I wish Bernie had been less rigid about the page layouts, which are four equal panels on every page.

I usually like wordless sequences, but the dialogue-free pages in "Once Upon a Miracle" did nothing for me and the story seems weak. John Severin is a great comic artist, but perhaps monks were not his strong suit; "The Final Christmas of Friar Steel" left me cold and includes another "vomit" reference by Budd Lewis, who seems to think "vomit" equals "horror." Paul Neary's art can be good, but perhaps he's out of his league in this star-studded issue. "The Final Gift" is a boring, dystopian tale with a rather disgusting finale. The big drawing of the demon in "The Final Christmas" is impressive, but the dialogue is embarrassing and the story unoriginal. I did like the ending, though.

The Spirit #12

"The Jewel" (3/12/50)
"Carrion" (3/19/50)
"R-E-S-C-U-E" (4/9/50)
"Pancho De Bool" (10/24/48)
"The Christmas Spirit" (12/19/48)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"Snow" (12/14/47)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"Tooty Compote" (10/3/48)
Story by Will Eisner and Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

"Big Arky" (5/21/50)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"The Christmas Spirit: A Fable" (12/22/46)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by John Spranger, Will Eisner & Bob Palmer

Jack-For an issue that advertises "The Christmas Spirit" on the cover, this volume isn't very Christmassy! That said, my favorite story is the 1948 "Christmas Spirit," a sentimental tale where a crook escapes from prison only to use his hidden loot to pay for surgery to restore a boy's vision. The 1946 "Christmas Spirit" is a badly-dated dud that makes me wonder just when Eisner got back from his war service and resumed doing these weekly comics. An online article says he got back a year before this, just in time for the 1945 Christmas story, so there's no excuse for the 1946 entry to be so weak.

"The Christmas Spirit" (1948)

The linked trilogy of stories that open the issue are pretty good; I've always liked Sand Saref, Carrion, and Julia (the bird), but the Warren editor left out a story that ran on 3/26/1950, so when the next story pops up here a new character has joined the action and we don't know where he came from. This has been a problem before in the Warren Spirit mags and I don't know why they couldn't get the chronology straight.

The other three stories are average at best--"Pancho De Bool" isn't as funny as it wants to be, "Snow" makes me realize how much I've lost patience with Ebony, and "Big Arky" is rather obvious but has a fitting finish. This is not one of the better Warren Spirit issues.

Peter-I found the three-parter, “The Jewel/Carrion/R-E-S-C-U-E,” to be a thing of beauty, and I love the continuity, but the script, frankly, put me to sleep. A whole lot of nothing going on. In fact, there's not much for me to sing out about in this issue. As Jack says, it's a very sub-par issue of The Spirit, but that may be due to an overload on the character. Maybe once a week was the ideal way to experience Eisner and his brilliance rather than reading nine stories back-to-back-to...

Eerie #72

"Daddy Was a Demon Man"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Valley of Armegeddon [sic]"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Paul Neary

"Beware: The Scarlet Combine"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Howard Chaykin & Bernie Wrightson

"A Thin Dime of Pain"★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"The Pie And I"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Incredible People-Making Machines"
Story and Art by Jose Bea

In the small town of Crucifixion Hill, NM, in 1912, a villainous man in a top hat bursts in on the mayor to demand that he turn over a bracelet, after which the man shoots and kills the mayor and announces to his friends that "the town is yours." Mayhem follows, aided by three demons conjured up by the villain by means of the magic bracelet. It seems the villain's name is Jedediah Pan and he has reason to be angry. Twenty years ago, Pan and his family moved into Crucifixion Hill and he built a house in record time, possibly assisted by demons. When his wife got sick he begged the townsfolk for help, but they tried to lynch him instead because they thought he was a Satanist. The good news for him (and the bad news for the townsfolk) was that they were right, and Jedediah summoned up a demon to do away with the townsfolk.

Carnage followed and Jedediah's wife and daughter were killed, but his baby son Jeremiah was saved by a man and his wife, who raised the boy as their own. Now twenty years have passed and the boy is a man. His father explains that he is really Pan's son and that Pan wants him back, along with the other bracelet he used to summon demons. Jeremiah heads into town to confront his father, wearing the bracelet, but when he tries to summon up a demon nothing happens. "Daddy Was a Demon Man," though, and Jedediah summons up a trio of demons, which Jeremiah destroys using his gun and his fists. He then has a fistfight with his father and ends up throwing the bracelet at his feet. Jedediah leaves town, but before he goes he tosses the bracelet back to Jeremiah, not realizing the young man is his son. Jedediah explains that the bracelet can be used to summon three other demons, something Jeremiah is quite interested to know.

I enjoyed this story, even though the story is somewhat confusing. The art by Jose Ortiz is perfect and fits the Old West setting. I'm glad to see that this will be a new, continuing series, since I like the idea of the bracelet that summons demons and the mix of horror and the Old West seems promising.

Boy is that one ugly cover by Sanjulian!

Hunter and the Exterminator are close to the mountain fortress of Yaust; they just have to cross "The Valley of Armageddon" (I corrected the misspelling in the title), which is guarded by an army of goblin warriors. Down into the valley go Hunter and the Exterminator, only to find themselves in the middle of a conflict between goblins and trolls. After a bit of fighting, Hunter and the Exterminator begin climbing toward the fortress, where they are surprised to find themselves welcomed by the wizard Yaust, who knows that they are there to kill him.

I'm happy to report that Budd Lewis keeps his string of references to "vomit" going in this story, which seems not much different than the last few Hunter entries. Hunter and his mechanical pal travel a bit, see some goblins, have a fight, and travel some more. The art is fair to middling, par for the course with Neary.

In 1932, private eye Reuben Youngblood receives a letter from his partner, who is on assignment in Germany and who has uncovered an organization that is smuggling blood into the fatherland. Soon, Youngblood is hired by a beautiful woman named Kelly to be her bodyguard on a flight to Germany the next day. The flight is by zeppelin, but when Reuben and Kelly get on board, they find a costume party. In the middle of the party, they learn why they should "Beware: The Scarlet Combine"--a woman is slaughtered for her blood! Putting two and two together, Reuben figures out that vampires are behind the plot, and he and Kelly escape in a prop plane and blow up the blimp, incinerating the vampire on board.

Howie Chaykin's art is certainly an acquired taste and I see no evidence of Bernie Wrightson's inks in this ten-pager, which features some of the worst spelling I can remember in any Warren story. That said, I was intrigued by the time period and the setting and Chaykin knows how to draw people (and clothing) from the Great Depression. It was obvious that this was a vampire story right from the start, and nothing very surprising happens, but I have to give him an "A" for effort. This story doesn't look like anything else in a Warren mag.

"A Thin Dime of Pain" is all it costs to see the freaks at Goldnut's Carnival of Wonders! The poor souls endure humiliation and hope to save up their money to escape the circus life and get a place of their own. When a nasty young man throws an apple at Sweetpea, the human slug, that's the last straw for Dramulo, the human bat, who attacks the young man.

Unfortunately, the creep in the crowd turns out to be the son of the carnival's owner, who punishes the freaks by docking their pay for the next six months. That night, they bed down in their crowded wagon, and Dramulo gives his cot to Oscar, the thin man, and goes out for a walk. The owner's son sneaks in under cover of darkness and knifes the body in Dramulo's bed, not realizing it's Oscar. Dramulo returns and, when he and the other freaks find out what has occurred, they take revenge on the son and his father by killing them and stitching their body parts back together haphazardly.

Doug Moench tones down his usual pompous over-writing somewhat for this straightforward tale of revenge, which is nicely illustrated by Leopold Sanchez. The vivid colors add to the story's enjoyment. The conclusion is similar to that of the film, Freaks, but it could be a lot worse.

It's 1942 and Richard Harris has grown up, long after the death of the alien he called Pie. Bullies torment Richard when he refuses to sign up to fight in WWII; he goes to college instead and sometimes pulls out the magical gadget that Pie gave him long ago, which he has never used. When he is beaten up for refusing to fight in the war, his father takes his rifle to town, but is shot and killed. Richard grabs Pie's gadget and plans to destroy the town and kill its inhabitants, but the Pie speaks to him from inside the gadget and counsels mercy.

"The Pie and I" is a surprisingly gentle story from Budd Lewis, though as I was reading it I kept thinking that Alex Toth's art looked a little less impressive than usual. No wonder--the story is drawn by Luis Bermejo! It's another straightforward narrative with little to recommend it beyond the memory of the prior story, which was much better.

Walking to school one day, Peter Hypnos hears a strange melody. He follows it to its source and encounters strange people with large heads, heads of animals, and so on. He discovers his friend Willy Whambanger, whose head has grown very large and who leads Peter to a factory where "The Incredible People-Making Machines" create the unusual folks. Peter does not want to be altered and escapes, but when he gets home and tells his mother what happened she doesn't believe a word of it.

Jose Bea must have watched Yellow Submarine, read Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and then dropped acid when he produced this bizarre story. The art is suitably weird but the whole thing never really goes anywhere and then just ends. Not a bad issue of Eerie, but not as good as it could have been.-Jack

Peter-More and more, I seem to be losing track of what's going on in these Eerie series. That goes double for "Daddy Was a Demon Man," which will see a further three installments in the next few months. Whose daddy is who; whose son is who? I couldn't keep pace and my notebook is filled with more black ink than an Alex Toth story. My decades-old notes remind me that the second installment is actually pretty good. We'll have to see if the older and much wiser me agrees with that young know-nothing. 

My complete lack of perception continues with the latest Hunter II installment (not that I could fathom what was going on last issue, either). Every time one of the characters said something like "What the hell is going on here?" or "This is getting confusing," I would shout at the cartoon, "Right???" There are some serious insults being tossed across the battlefield: "Come down and die, you maggots!"; "the last shot's for you, you vomit!"; and my favorite, "Kill the puking spy!" An adventuresome mangling of verbs and adjectives and how could no one have elbowed the letterer after the umpteenth misspelling of "Armageddon?"

Though the plot of "Beware: The Scarlet Combine" borders on the ludicrous (a company that specializes in importing blood for vampires), I haven't had so much fun reading an Eerie story in quite a while. Youngblood, to me, seemed to be cut from the same cloth as the pulp characters that populated the pages of Byron Preiss's Weird Heroes paperback series. Wrightson and Chaykin make for an unusual team; I'd have preferred one or the other take the reins on the entire strip, but the results are still attractive. We'll have to wait quite a while for a sequel (Eerie #127), but The Warren Companion informs us that the follow-up was written and illustrated shortly after this initial chapter.

"A Thin Dime of Pain" is a very thinly-disguised rip-off of Tod Browning's Freaks, with Doug's adjective-stuffed narration (a seedy backdrop of moist sawdust and moldering straw, disguised behind a garish facade of gaudy greasepaint and spectacular shuck!) perfectly mirroring that of a carnival barker. Moench's gargoyle ("Before I waste you, creep...") could be lifted straight out of one of his Marvel scripts and the plot is typical revenge nonsense, capped off by a predictable "twist" climax. The color is nice, though.

"The Pie and I" is a perfect example of going to the well one too many times. The original story (back in Eerie #64) was a melancholy and sweet tale (a rare one by DuBay), but this sequel reads like Budd Lewis had just emerged from a viewing of Death Wish and felt he had to contribute his two cents on the evils of revenge. Hilarious that Pie waits until our young hero burns the town down before piping up with a "Let's forgive these rednecks for they know not what they do!" I never liked Magical Mystery Tour or Yellow Submarine, but at least there was some good music. “Peter Hypnos” is just as juvenile and nonsensical and but doesn’t have good music. I suspect the script was rewritten by Dube or Budd and they did their best with the goofy panels Jose Bea provided. Not my cup of tea.

Next Week...
It's Brave...
It's Bold...
It's a Blast from
The Past!


Anonymous said...

As usual, if the Warren mag under discussion is one that I didn’t buy fresh off the magazine rack at Cork N Bib Liquors when I was as a teen,
one that i only acquired years later as a back issue, they tend to be indistinct and out of focus in my memory. I own copies of this week’s SPIRIT and EERIE mags, but remember very little about them.

I’m a fan of both Chaykin and Wrightson and recall being somewhat underwhelmed by the Reuben Youngblood story when i finally read it, years after publication. It looks to be from around the same general time period as Chaykin’s first Cody Starbucks story and his two issues of The Scorpion, but much less dynamic overall than any of those early gems. I’d heard that it was a ‘period’ Private Eye kinda thing and the hero is dressed as a harlequin or something throughout most of the story. Hrmmpph. And Chaykin’s page layouts are relatively staid, compared to what he was doing elsewhere. Plus, i think Wrightson’s inks don’t mesh well with Chaykins pencils here — it’s all kinda mushy.

Other than that, I have only the vaguest recollections of the rest of the issue’s contents. I’ve never much cared for Jose Bea’s work, generally— just not my thing. The Peter Hypnos stories certainly did nothing to change my opinion. Jack hits it pretty spot-on — ‘Willy Wonka In The Yellow Submarine’ is an apt description. Add a heaping spoonful of Victorian Whimsy à la CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and AROUND THE WORLD IN THOSE MAGNIFICENT FLYING MACHINES etc — ugh — like I said, just not my cuppa.

More later on IT’S A CREEPY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN later — it’s an issue I’m VERY familiar with.


Anonymous said...

Stupid autocorrect — I KNOW it’s ‘Cody Starbuck’ not ‘Starbucks’….


Quiddity99 said...

"Once Upon a Miracle" was done approximately a year prior but had missed the deadline for the last Christmas themed issue. It is quite the shock as by this point Dubay is overwriting things like crazy, yet this story gives us several pages of no dialogue or captions. Always good to see Alex Toth, but I question why "Tibor Miko" was included in a Christmas issue. I was surprised to see Bruce Jones pop up again, my recollection was that he didn't become a regular writer until Louise Jones became editor. Perhaps Wrightson got him involved with this story as Jones' only Dubay era stories (this and Jenifer) were drawn by him. This guy will very quickly become Warren's best writer and now that Dubay's era is about to end we'll finally get to see a lot of him. Very excited. Another quality Corben Christmas tale with "The Believer". I recall liking "First Snow, Magic Snow" more than you, but yep, the story does fall apart upon further analysis. "The Final Gift" makes me think much of "Snow" which was just printed two issues earlier in Creepy. I know that story had been written several years earlier, but given when it was printed they should have strived for more variety in theme. "The Final Christmas" is also a bit of a disappointment, especially so with Mones' art which lacks the usual high quality. I know Mones' art at soem point starts sinking in quality considerably, but my recollection was it happened later. Maybe it started around here instead. Overall I'm gonna give the nod to the prior all Christmas issue as being the better one.

"Daddy Was a Demon Man" kicks off Eerie in pretty good fashion; Coffin may have recently ended but we've quickly got ourselves another western-themed horror series. Like most "Hunter II" stories, this one kinda melds into most of the others for me and I don't have much to say about it. Having read ahead to issue 73, we'll be getting the finale next time. "Reuben Youngblood" I never recall being much of a fan of and this was a forgettable story for me that I literally fell asleep during the read of it. Chaykin had popped up back in issue 64 for one of the rotting man cover-themed stories, but beyond that and this series doesn't do much for Warren and doesn't really seem to stylistically fit to me. "The Freaks" is another super delayed series that Warren promoted I think going back to 1973 and finally shows up here. Moench was long gone by this point so I think similar to The Spook someone else will quickly be taking over the series. Good art by Sanchez, albeit this is rather predictable for a Freaks-themed story. I'm totally puzzled as to why they had Luis Bermejo draw the Pie sequel story when Toth was doing work for Warren at this time. The first story was great, this one is so-so and comes off as unnecessary. "Tales of Peter Hypnos" was originally published elsewhere and taken by Dubay here for Eerie. Similar to the recently reprinted Luis Garcia stories the original script was largely rewritten. This series is much in the vein of Bea's previous stories like "The Picture of Death" or "Puppet Player", our protagonist gets brought to some bizarre other world and watch the craziness happen. I don't mind the lack of much of a story, the weirdness is enough to make it worth checking out.

andydecker said...

I was this close to liking a story by DuBay. "Daddy was a Demon Man" was quite alright if a bit clumsy with its too long flackback, but okay. But then he blew it with the unfocused last third. He wants his son, no he wants to kill his son, no, he doesn't. The son rides to kill the Demon Man, no, he doesn't want to kill him and is suddenly okay with him exterminating the town. This isn't drama, this is just bad writing. Ortiz' art was nice as usual. What could he have done with a decent script?

I have yet to read an American comic tale about a zeppelin in which it doesn't explode at the end. How lame. I thought the art a bit weak, I am not a fan of the early Chaykin.

Bea's art is nice, but the story really is slight. Interesting that this is another re-written reprint. It explains a lot.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, everyone! I love hearing about where people recall buying these comics back in the '70s. It brings back such memories.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it went something like this…

BD: Alex? Bill Dubay here.

AT: Hi Bill. What’s up?

BD: Oh, just checking to see how that ‘T-Bone Mike-o’’ story is coming along….

AT: Hrrrrmmmmm. ‘Tibo Miko’ is coming along fine. Not a masterpiece or anything, it’s not Roy Crane or Noel Sickles, but I like it. Probably be finished with it in a week or two.

BD: That’s great, Alex. Super. Can’t wait to see it. Um… but, uh…I wanted to ask you….

AT: Yeah….?

BD: Well, see, the thing is, we have this CREEPY Christmas Issue coming up, and, uh…. well…heh-heh, turns out we’re about five pages short….

AT: No.

BD: Wait, what?

AT: You want me to put in some kind of half-assed twist like the guy is delivering Xmas presents instead of the mail, like he’s goddamn Santa Claus or something..

BD: What? GOD, no! Come on, that’s stupid, that’s…well, actually that’s not bad….

AT: Hanging up now.

BD: Alex, wait, wait! Please, Jim’s gonna chew me a knew one if I don’t come up with something to fill those pages. Come on, I’m begging you. Doesn’t have to be anything big, just something to give it a little ‘Christmas-y’ type feeling…seriously, anything at all….

AT: Well….I suppose I could have it happening on Christmas Eve….

BD: Oh YEAH! That’s great! It’s beautiful, PERFECT! Oh man, Alex, I can’t thank you enough…

AT: Yeah, okay,sure.

BD: Seriously, you’re totally saving my ass here. I owe you one, buddy. You’re the best….Hmm. Hmmmmmmmm…Y’know…

AT: What….?

BD: I’m just spitballing here….but what if…at the end, the UFO is flying away, and it passes by this flying sleigh being pulled by these reindeer…

AT. ‘Bye. (Click!)


Anonymous said...

Dubay and Lewis both had a tendency to overdo the schmaltz and the pseudo-Bradbury-isms were often an awkward fit with the fairly intense horror elements. Christmas stories, in general, seem to lend themselves to an abundance of mawkish sentimentality anyways , so having Dubay and Lewis write pretty much an entire issue of them is just asking for trouble. Some of the stories here aren’t bad, and some are just too treacly for my pallette.

‘Once Upon A Miracle’ - The story isn’t entirely coherent but entertaining enough, and gives Ortiz some fun concepts to visualize (Savage Cherubs Vs Demon Battle Action!) and he totally rises to the occasion. The relative lack of excess verbiage (for a change) definitely a ‘plus’.

‘Tibor Miko’ is a trifle, yes. Like last issue’s ‘Ensnared’ , it barely qualifies as a ‘story’. But I like it. This grey-scale technique that Toth was playing with at the time reminds me of old movies — the way old movies USED to look on TV, before digital restoration and all that jazz, kinda fuzzy and grainy. It’s evocative as hell, and I dig it. As a kid I wondered why the pilot had such an odd name. I didn’t realize Tibor is a fairly common Hungarian name, didn’t even realize that Toth himself was Hungarian. He was fascinated with unusual aircraft designs and sketched hundreds of similar weird, chunky but streamlined, bathtubs-with-fixed-landing-gear UFO shapes over the years. IIRC, there are a bunch in ‘Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book’ (long out of print now).

‘Final Christmas of Father Steel’ — Not bad, didn’t like it as much as you guys seem to. Art solid, not ‘bad’ at all. But I liked his art on last issue’s Weird Vampire Western Romance much better.

‘Clarice’ — Gorgeous art. Holy crap. Beautiful. Bernie was hitting home runs every time at bat around this time.The story is okay, though it doesn’t ring true to me. Guy falls (instantly) into such a deep sleep that he doesn’t hear his wife pounding on the door of their tiny cabin? She’s like ten feet away! Did he take too many melatonin gummies or something? She comes back from the dead, in typical EC Rotting Corpse fashion, supposedly forgives him but sucks all the life-force out of him or something? I’m not an expert on poetry, but the rhymes and phrasing sound really clunky to me. Overall, an interesting formal experiment, not entirely successful.

‘Thé Believer’ — The mix of nostalgic schmaltz and horrific violence feels a bit ‘off’ to me, but I think it’s the best story in the issue, overall. Fabulous Corben art, one of his best for Warren. ‘Shinny Upatree’ tho….oy!

‘First Snow, Magic Snow’ — The title itself sets my teeth on edge, Lewis once again hits you over the head with the maudlin
tear-jerkery, and yes, Sanchez’ little girl IS a pretty creepy little thing. But it kinda worked for me anyway. Don’t ask me why.

‘Thé Final Gift’ — It’s…fine, I guess? I hate to say it, but I think Neary peaked a little while ago, and his art is starting to slide downhill a bit. By the late 80s/early 90s, his style had become almost unrecognizable, like Infantino on a really bad day.

‘Thé Final Christmas’ — Lewis straining REALLY hard for sappy effect with this one. The kid at the end is ‘Good’ because he lights a candle to Baby Jesus? It doesn’t convince me — and I kinda doubt little Jive Demon Dude would buy it either. I’m not mad at the art. It’s kinda scribbly and looking at it makes me a little itchy, but it’s funky and gets the job done. Wouldn’t want a steady diet of it tho.


Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks for the detailed comments, b.t. I'm particularly intrigued by your remarks about Toth and planes.

Anonymous said...

Jack—just spent a few minutes trying to find good examples of Toth’s UFO doodles, and surprised to find there aren’t more out there on the internets. Didn’t get ANY good hits with ‘Toth UFO’. Try doing a Google image search for ‘Alex Toth stealth plane’ and ‘Alex Toth plane doodles’, it should bring up a few.


Jack Seabrook said...

I looked at some of the sketches online. Very cool!