Monday, August 15, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 91: February 1978



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

Creepy #95

"The Star Saga of Sirius Sam" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by John Severin

"The Laughing Man" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Bernie Wrightson

"Murder on the Vine" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Esteban Maroto

"The Empire of Chim-Pan-Zee" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Oasis Inn" 
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Old Ways" ★1/2
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Leo Duranona

Treasure seekers Jon Iron and Kid Galileo find the infamous Sirius Sam in a seedy, alien-infested bar on Tatooine in New York. The men need Sam to help guide them to a temple on Cassiopeia III. As the only surviving member of a past expedition to that planet, Sirius Sam is the obvious and best choice. At first reluctant, Sam is forced to join the party when Kid Galileo opens fire on Greedo Salamander's men, who have history with the Kid, Iron, and Sam. The trio barely make it out of the bar and into Iron's nearby star cruiser.

"Rip-off" is "homage" spelled sideways
While on board, the men become acquainted. With his hot head, the Kid can't help but hurl insults at his two comrades. Jon Iron has a glass eye and the Kid sees this as an infirmity of the first order. Jon explains that his eye is bionic (like Steve Austin's!) and is even better than the real thing. Later, Jon explains to Sam that the Kid is his brother-in-law and Jon's wife lies in a coma, thanks to Salamander's men. If Jon and the Kid don't find this fabulous treasure, the woman's life support system will be turned off.

The adventurers land on the planet and quickly make their way to the temple, which lies deep within a lush jungle. They discover the treasure, the Eye of Eoucoui, mounted in a simian statue at the temple. Jon Iron attempts to pry the eye loose and inadvertently destroys it, revealing that the jewel was nothing but glass. Sam explains that the natives, similarly simian in nature, consider glass to be a sacred jewel, since glass is not mined on Cass III. Speaking of angry natives, the trio have to exit stage left before they become part of the jungle floor. The Kid is wounded on the way to the spaceship and Sam tells Iron that the natives will never allow them to leave, since their idol has been damaged. Jon smiles and tells his new friend that they don't have to worry about a thing. It's then that Sam notices that Jon's bionic eye is missing. 

"The Star Saga of Sirius Sam" is a perfectly entertaining sci-fi tale with some nice Severin art. There's not much to it, though, and the intent is obvious. Jim Warren was probably making hundreds, if not thousands, of bucks off of all the Star Wars toasters and toilet paper he was selling through the Captain Company (hell, Famous Monsters was advertising the advertising on its current cover) and the word went out to the bullpen: we need more Star Sagas! Never let it be said that Jim Warren overlooked a trend that might make him a buck. Next issue, we'll see Jim jump sci-fi fads and devote an entire issue to "Alien Encounters!" The fact that this is the "Naked Apes" issue necessitates that there be monkeys involved. So, as with several of these stories, apes are written in, whether the part is negligible or not. Here it's negligible.

Entrepreneurs Briggs and Tanner head into the Ughani Valley region, seeking out a rare, apelike creature that's bound to net them millions. They stumble upon a tribe of the creatures and Griggs sets a trap, but a corpse isn't good enough for the money-sniffing brute. He skins the ape and wears its hide in an attempt to trap a live specimen. Tanner awakes to find the big man standing over him. Unnerved, he tells Briggs he's jumping in a canoe and leaving, live ape or none. When Briggs refuses to board the canoe, Tanner questions him and watches in horror as the man removes the skin from his face, revealing the ape beneath.

When you get Bernie Wrightson art, you somehow forget to question all the logical problems inherent in a story where an ape dons a human skin and the other guy doesn't notice. By the second story, it's clear that the artists (and writers) were instructed to incorporate some little bit of nonsense about monkeys with space helmets, whether it made sense or not. The ape that dons Briggs's skin looks nothing like the cute chimps on the cover (or the ape in the "fuzzy" photo that runs in the Time Magazine article Briggs gets excited about) and the cameo stands out like a sore thumb. The script is straight out of EC but oh, that Wrightson art!

Jane finally gets tired of Tarzan's macho bullshit and puts a bullet in him. She and Boy grab the treasure chest the Lord of the Apes had hidden from them all these years and strap it to an elephant. Unfortunately for Jane and Boy, Tarzan's simian buddies are out for revenge.

Though "Murder on the Vine" never drops names (for legal reasons, obviously), it's clear which jungle family this crime drama centers around. Though I'd have liked a little more back story, I assume that Cary Bates assumed we'd all know the myth and if the tale was bogged down with trivia, you know I'd've complained about that, too. I thought the whole thing was clever and amusing, as if Burroughs had written a final novel and titled it Tarzan: Diabolique.

Half a million years in the past, "The Empire of Chim-Pan-Zee" takes a heavy toll every time its warriors go up against rival species, the Neanderthals. To stave off extinction, head chimp Emperor Gez sends General Kam into the Valley of Lights, a time machine that allows the monkeys to pass back and forth from prehistory to our present. Gez's idea is for Kam to steal a weapon that they can defeat the Thals with.

Kam gets through safely and the time tunnel dumps him right at the gates of NASA. He infiltrates the science department, disguised as an escaped chimp, and steals what he believes to be a superior weapon. When he gets back to Chim-Pan-Zee, he tries the gizmo out but nothing happens. He can't understand the failure, explaining that the humans called the device a "push button." Clever climax to what appeared to be a "borrowing" of several elements from Beneath, Escape From, and Conquest of The Planet of the Apes. Writer Cuti doesn't explain why the door to the time machine remains open in 500,000 BC. The dialogue between the two scientists is a riot, and not in a good way.

Chimp buddies Tokie, Ham, and Scritch end a long, hard day of sentry duty, clean up at the fort, and head to "The Oasis Inn," where Scritch hopes to see his true love, Teena. What the poor monkey gets is an eyeful of his girl sitting on Sergeant Crank's lap. Outraged, Scritch plots with his comrades to win his girl back and put the Sarge in his place.

I don't know what to make of "The Oasis Inn," other than it's utterly charming nonsense. But I tell ya what, this slapstick works a heck of a lot better than most of the supposed scary stuff does. Essentially the Little Rascals (or the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers or...) done in simian form, the story succeeds thanks to some great pratfalls and misunderstandings and, especially, a witty script. Poor Teena gets shoved aside in the end in the best tradition of the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. This is Jose Ortiz's best work in some time, probably because he doesn't have to worry about human faces. I love that last panel.

In the not-too-distant future, mankind has destroyed itself through nuclear war, and scientifically altered intelligent apes rule the world. Four soldiers run across the last human in the world and begin tracking him. But this man is smart and he's armed. He picks the apes off one by one with a high-powered rifle until he's face to face with the last one. He then confesses that he is the scientist who created the smart chimps and shoots himself in the head. The end.

I know Harlan came knocking on Jim Warren's door in the late 70s after being plagiarized, but Pierre Boulle's lawyers obviously didn't read the Warren funny books or else they'd have probably feasted as well. Way too much of this Roger McKenzie cutesy pie script is on loan from Boulle's baby (there's even a nod to the Statue of Liberty scene from the movie), and the rest of "The Old Ways" is pretentious poppycock. Compared to the high quality of the other five stories in this issue, this one stands out like a sore opposable toe.-Peter

Jack-I gave "The Laughing Man" four stars and I'm surprised you didn't! The Wrightson art is wonderful and the twist ending cracked me up. It may only be six pages long but it's an effective story. Next best was "Sirius Sam" which, despite the obvious Star Wars influence, succeeds mainly due to the art by Severin. I totally missed the Tarzan connection in "Murder on the Vine" and didn't really follow what was happening. Maroto draws well and the color looks good, but that's about it. I was getting tired of chimps by "The Empire" and the Planet of the Apes rip-off is helped by nice art from Bermejo. The twist ending isn't bad.

I thought "The Oasis Inn" was terrible, a pointless waste of ten pages. It was just a dumb story with forced attempts at humor and chimps in the place of humans for no good reason. I don't care for Duranona's art, so "The Old Ways" also left me cold; as you say, it's another blatant rip-off of Planet of the Apes. This ape-themed issue was hardly worth the trouble.

Eerie #90

Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The Show Must Go On!"★1/2
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Leo Duranona

"A Woman Scorned"★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Richard Corben

"The Fianchetto Affair Or:
A Matter of Great Delicacy"
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"What is the Color of Nothingness?"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

In a dystopian future world, a beautiful woman in a tiny bikini rides on the back of a giant, talking lizard named Morga through a jungle that is part of the domain of a wizard named Stormtree. The duo are starving and the lizard eats some "Carrion" they find along the way, the corpse of a man. Two ghouls attack and the lizard kills and eats them; their progress toward the home of a healer is monitored from afar by Stormtree, who is responsible for turning Morga from a human into a lizard beast.

It begins to snow, and Morga and the girl take refuge in a cave before Morga must battle a creature that Stormtree has fashioned from ice crystals. The girl hurls a spear through the creature's eye, driving it away, but when they resume their journey, they are beset by the animated corpses of dead men, revived by Stormtree. Morga fights them all off and Stormtree collapses from the effort of his magic. Finally reaching the healer's home, Morga and the girl encounter only his servant and soon realize that he has killed and eaten the healer but remains hungry for female flesh. Morga kills the servant and saves the girl, who has no choice but to satisfy her hunger by eating her protector.

"Carrion" took me two careful reads to figure out what happened, though the ending was pretty clear the first time around. Mayo's art is busy and is marked by the Warren curse of drawing too many panels of a beautiful girl posing and not enough attention to storytelling. Still, the girl is a knockout, so there's that. Do all of these bikini-clad women fighters owe their origins to Red Sonja?

A woman and her four-legged creature have fallen on hard times on another planet. While visiting a bar, they hear of the approach of a bad man known as Sliff. The woman offers to sleep with Sliff in a hotel and her creature crashes through the wall and finds them together in bed. The hungry creature eats Sliff and this makes it and the woman heroes in town; she is appointed the new sheriff.

I took one look at the first page of "The Show Must Go On!" and thought, "oh no, not another story drawn by Duranona!" Yep, I was right--more unfinished-looking panels to accompany a dopey story by McKenzie. It's yet another Star Wars rip-off, this time following the famous cantina scene--the only saving grace is that it's over in six pages.

Pamela, a beauty in a bikini, chats with Sean, a big blue lizard, in a dystopian future world. Sean keeps trying to get Pamela to use her mind and stay smart, having her repeat nursery rhymes and recall simple facts. Suddenly she dreams a house into being; they enter it and find furnishings. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Pamela used to live in our world but had a dangerous gift of being able to create things with her mind. In the future, she dreams a car into existence; Sean tries to force her to remember what he was like when he was a man and not a lizard. In flashbacks, their meeting and romance is portrayed; unfortunately, she remembers when she found him in bed with another woman. She called him a lizard and wished that the world would go away...and they're back where they started.

"A Woman Scorned" is an excellent story, a rare instance in the Warren mags of the writing being better than the art. I was intrigued to learn what had happened, surprised at what I learned, and delighted at the twist ending. I have never been a big fan of Corben's work, but it's certainly better than what we saw from Mayo and Duranona in this issue's first two stories, and the color is a plus.

A big female lizard named Dr. Shike visits an important lizard while he's sitting at a table eating a tasty dinner of human flesh. The doctor explains her dilemma: she's been studying 19-year-old human Lucinda Fianchetto since the young woman's birth and she's become emotionally attached to her. Lucinda never liked playing with other human kids and, when she was old enough to be fattened up for killing and eating, Dr. Shike helped her escape. They flew to New Jersey, where Lucinda could join other wild humans, but a series of mishaps ended with them being caught. The important lizard tells Shike not to worry and the cook serves up Lucinda on a platter for them both to consume.

After not liking "The Oasis Inn," I was afraid that another Bob Toomey story would be a dud, but "The Fianchetto Affair Or: A Matter of Great Delicacy" is clever and funny. Even the title is good, with the double meaning of "delicacy" only becoming apparent as one reads the story. Ortiz's art is very good, and my only complaint is that the depiction of the humans as always naked--they are raised for food, after all--makes for some discomfort with the portrayal of young Linda.

Not satisfied with hopping back and forth through time, Restin Dane has invented the Whizzer, a new time-traveling machine that will allow him to witness the Big Bang. He takes off to the edge of the universe, hoping to watch it expanding, and is shocked upon arrival to see other spaceships engaged in battle. Meanwhile, back at the lab, Bishop Dane decides to use the new robot assembler built by his grandson in order to create a companion for Useless. Things go awry and the machine starts turning out an army of female robots.

At the edge of the universe, Restin's ship is attacked and he is saved by aliens who explain their purpose in blasting ships that venture out too far. The battle over the cosmic energy supply has to pause when everyone sees that another universe is expanding toward our own, promising a cataclysm when the edges collide. Fortunately, the opposite occurs, and when the edges of the two universes meet they stop expanding and start to contract. Restin returns to the lab and is not upset by the mess, having a new appreciation for everyone's place in the universe.

"What is the Color of Nothingness?" is twenty pages long and the pages are turned sideways, so it's hard to read, especially on a laptop. There's perhaps eight pages worth of story here, but Alex Nino takes the opportunity to draw great big panels and lots of space stuff. The story doesn't advance the plot of the Rook series at all and, not for the first time, the sections with Bishop and Useless are more entertaining than those with Restin. At least there was no giant lizard with a girl on its back!-Jack

Peter-It's an okay cover (and Warren will reprint it in just three years!), but would I commission four stories based on the painting? Nope. Turns out I was right. "Carrion" is an unintelligible mess, with Gerry seemingly putting words on a paper because he has to. Several times through the story I lost track of what was going on or why it was going on (I would swear the comely lass was run in by a spear in the opening but she seems to be fine a couple of panels later). "Carrion" builds to a climax that never happens... it just sputters out. I assume it was left open for a possible sequel or series that never happened.

Now I have to throw in the obligatory "But 'Carrion' was Shakespeare compared to..." when discussing "The Show Must Go On," a pitiful and ugly excuse for a sci-fi story. We may as well get used to the alien bar sequence and "clever" writers substituting nonsense words for inanimate objects (see this story's "We'd pack 'em in like Flegs on a month-old Korgle!") in all future Warren sci-fi. Duranona knows better and barely shows up for his paycheck.

With "The Fianchetto Affair," Bob Toomey takes a halfway engaging story and flushes it right down the ol' toilet with his WTF? climax. Where are the panels in between the scene where Dr. Shike defends Lucinda to the death and then the climax where he smiles as he eats her cooked corpse? Obviously, Bob was hanging out in the Warren cafeteria when Dube and McKenzie were having their conversation about how stupid the average Warren reader is. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, leave 'em with a disgusting climax.

I love Alex Nino's art but his stint here on the Rook installment does not click. It's not just that the whole strip is presented sideways but that we've gotten very comfortable with Bermejo's style. When Luis is flowing, it matters not that Dube can't seem to shut his typewriter down. Nino is a distraction, not a compliment.

The Jones/Corben "A Woman Scorned" is the best thing about this issue, a funny and unpredictable fantasy with a more restrained Corben than usual. Well, I mean pre-teen Pamela doesn't have double Ds and present-day Pam keeps her clothes on through the entire length of the tale. Bruce obviously has fun leading us down the usual A Boy and His Dog trail and then pulling a rabbit from his hat in the end.

Next Week...
Robin flies solo!

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Victor Wolfson Part Four: The Ikon of Elijah [5.16] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Victor Wolfson's last teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "The Ikon of Elijah," which is credited to him and Norah Perez. The episode was based on a short story of the same title by Avram Davidson that was first published in the December 1956 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

The story begins in Nicosia, the capital of the island of Cyprus, which was a British colony at the time. Mr. Carpius, a dealer in antiquities, arrives home to his shop and greedily asks his assistant, Paul, what was sold while he was away. Complaining about his own failure to purchase an ikon of St. Mamas that had been removed from a chapel by the bishop for safekeeping, Carpius plans to have it stolen or "'to offer to sell it on commission.'" A man named Calloost Chiringirian arrives with an English customer who is looking to buy a farewell present for his superior officer; Chiringirian boasts about having bought the ikon that Carpius had sought and Carpius recalls fondly the unrest in Russia and Asia Minor that had resulted in many treasures from churches and monasteries being bought and sold.

"The Ikon of Elijah"
was first published here
As he is closing up for the night, Carpius receives a visitor, a young monk named Theodoros from the monastery of Saints Barnabas and Basil, with a copy of an ikon to sell. It depicts the prophet Elijah in his fiery chariot. Carpius buys it and, after the monk leaves, asks his cook about the monastery, learning that it houses monks who have not only withdrawn from the world but also have split from the Greek Orthodox Church. Finding information about the original ikon in a reference book, Carpius decides to steal it. He travels by bus to the mountainous region where the small monastery is located and walks alone down the remote road that leads to its door. On arrival, he asks to see the Father Superior.

Carpius flatters the man and pretends to be seeking "'true religion'"; he is welcomed and given food and a bed for the night. Later that night, he sneaks into the cell where the ikon is guarded by a sleeping monk. Carpius reaches for the ikon, intending to switch it for the copy he bought, when the monk awakens and raises the alarm. Surprised, Carpius strikes and kills the monk with his heavy flashlight. The other monks rush to the cell and Carpius explains that the death was an accident. The Father Superior forgives him and, as Carpius turns his back to switch the copy of the ikon for the original, he hears the cell door close and the lock turn. The Father Superior instructs him to "'Pray without ceasing'" and tells Carpius that they will feed him as long as he lives.

Oscar Homolka as Carpius
"The Ikon of Elijah" is a brilliant, haunting story in which a greedy man gets his just desserts, rewarded by the very people he thought he would rob. Carpius is depicted as morally bankrupt, profiting from war and the misery it brings and happy to take religious treasures from the church and sell them to collectors. When he can't buy them legitimately, he will purchase them illegally or steal them.

Carpius is welcomed by the monks in keeping with their tradition of generosity to strangers, yet he intends to take advantage of them. At the end, the Father Superior promises to "'feed you as the ravens fed Elijah,'" and the command to pray for forgiveness seems apt in light of Carpius's crime of murder. He has been given a life sentence and locked in a cell, just as he would have been if he were convicted in civil court.

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents adaptation of "The Ikon of Elijah" aired on January 10, 1960, but it was not the first time that Davidson's story had been adapted for television. A Canadian TV series called The Unforeseen aired an adaptation on October 23, 1958, and IMDb credits the teleplay to Norah Perez, who is also co-credited with writing the teleplay for the version produced for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I have not been able to find any episodes of The Unforeseen available for viewing, so this one may be lost. It is possible that Victor Wolfson revised Perez's teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and she was co-credited because she wrote the original teleplay. She is still alive and I have written to her to ask if she recalls this project; I will update this post if she replies.

Sam Jaffe as the Father Superior
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents version of "The Ikon of Elijah" is a powerful episode that differs from the short story in certain ways but is remarkably faithful to Davidson's original text. The show opens in the antique shop, with the camera peering between antiques as Carpius arrives home and his assistant Paul tells him that a monk had been there to sell a copy of an ikon. The initial scene setting in the story has been removed and the central event is introduced right away. Carpius complains about his time away from the store, saying "'How I despise this miserable island! It's a filthy prison cell, but someday I shall break free!'" The teleplay plants the seed of a prison cell in the viewer's mind, but Carpius does not know that his metaphor will soon become reality.

In addition, while the story has Carpius complain about his inability to procure a different ikon on his trip, the teleplay eliminates that potential source of confusion for the viewer and has Paul introduce the ikon of Elijah right at the start. After the initial conversation between Carpius and Paul, the TV version introduces a new scene and a new character in Malvira, a beautiful young woman who appears to be Carpius's wife. In the short story, there are a few references to "old Eleftheria in the kitchen," who seems to be Carpius's cook rather than his spouse. He questions her about the monastery before she totters off to bed. In the TV version, Malvira enters and appears bored; Carpius strokes her cheek and kisses her neck. She serves him food with a cynical demeanor while he expresses excitement over his dinner; he promises her more but she has heard it all before.

A.E. Gould-Porter as
Major Parslow
After adding a pretty woman to the story and suggesting a motive for Carpius's later acts in his desire to please her and keep her by his side, the teleplay returns to the scene in the story where Chiringirian brings Major Parslow to the shop to select a gift. A large, Christian statute is displayed prominently in the store, foreshadowing the later scenes in the monastery and, instead of Chiringirian boasting to Carpius that he bought the ikon Carpius had set out to purchase on his recent trip, Chiringirian takes Carpius aside and asks if he has found an item for another client, who wants a genuine ikon and who is not particular about its provenance. This gives Carpius another reason to want to pilfer the ikon from the monastery; now, both his wife and his business associate demand more from him. Chiringirian's approach also demonstrates that Carpius is not alone in his willingness to pilfer religious treasures for profit.

In the story, even though Carpius agrees to Chiringirian's reduced price when he sells an item to the major, it is revealed that he still made a "four hundred per cent profit," while in the show, it seems likely that the two colleagues are secretly working together to take advantage of the representative of the country's colonizers. Malvira returns for another scene that is not in the story, as she tells Carpius she is leaving him. At first, he flatters her and counsels patience, but when she is not swayed he reminds her that she owes everything to him since he took her out of the marketplace and brought her into his home. He threatens to kill her and they both laugh, suggesting that this exchange has occurred many times before.

Richard Longman as
As in the story, Carpius is about to close up shop for the night when Theodoros the monk arrives with the ikon copy. The exchange between the two men follows that of the story closely and it is Theodoros who tells Carpius the history of the monastery; in the story, Carpius questions Eleftheria after the monk departs. In the TV version, Carpius rushes in to tell Malvira about the ikon, planning to travel to the monastery and return with the treasured item that Chiringirian has asked him to procure.

The first half of "The Ikon of Elijah" is set in the secular world of Carpius's antique shop, where he is in charge and makes deals with both his customers and his wife to maintain his lifestyle. He sees religious ikons as simply more items to profit from and he is willing to do whatever it takes to get them. The second half of the TV show is set in the sacred world, and the story's description of Carpius's trip from his home to the monastery is deleted. Instead, the scene fades in on a shot of mountains, then dissolves to a shot of the exterior of the stone monastery, and finally dissolves to a shot of Carpius knocking on its wooden front door. In three wordless shots, all of the information the viewer needs to know is provided.

David Janti as Paul
Carpius is admitted by Brother Constantine, a monk who has taken a vow of silence, and when Carpius meets and speaks with the Father Superior, his words carry the same false piety that they do in the short story. In the TV version, Carpius successfully petitions the old monk to let him see the original ikon before retiring to his cell; he is taken to a downstairs room where he looks through a small window in a door and sees a monk praying before the ikon, which is displayed on a wall. Entering the room, Carpius sees that Brother Damianos guards the treasured object and the Father Superior tells the antique dealer that it is "'An honor not lightly earned--Brother Damianos would give his life for it.'" This turns out to be more foreshadowing of later events since the monk will later be killed while trying to guard the ikon.

The expression on Carpius's face as he regards the ikon is one of naked greed. Hours pass and, at midnight, we see Carpius sitting alone in his cell, eating, when a bell tolls the hour. He takes a cloth and a bottle of ether from his bag, along with the copy of the ikon and a heavy flashlight. Carpius removes his shoes and exits his cell, but he does not see a monk observe him, though we witness it in shadow. This moment of near discovery is not in the short story, but in the TV version, Brother Constantine follows Carpius and they struggle in silhouette. Constantine takes the flashlight and Carpius insists he is just walking about because he couldn't sleep. He returns to his cell. This scene succeeds in increasing the suspense of the situation and it is followed by a similar one, where Carpius again sits in his cell and a bell tolls two a.m.

William Green as Brother Theodoros
Sneaking out once again, he sees Brother Constantine asleep in his cell and approaches the room where the ikon is kept. He peers in and sees brother Damianos asleep, then creeps in silently and switches the copy for the original. Carpius suddenly stumbles and awakens the monk; the antique dealer grabs a heavy candlestick and bludgeons him with it. The candlestick replaces the flashlight as the murder weapon and symbolizes Carpius's willingness to turn a sacred item into a secular weapon. The final moments of the concluding scene follow those in the story closely, with one exception: in the story, Carpius turns to switch the copy of the ikon for the original, while in the TV version he turns and kneels down to pray for forgiveness before the copy on the wall.

"'As long as you live, this will be your world,'" says the Father Superior, and the show ends with a shot of Carpius staring out of the small window in the locked door as the Father Superior walks away and the screen fades to black. The expression on the antique dealer's face is one of puzzlement--what is happening to him? He seems amazed at the suddenness of his fate and how things have turned against him. Minutes ago, he was a successful businessman who was confident in his ability to steal a religious treasure and get away undetected. Now he is a prisoner for life, his fate dealt to him by the very monks whose piety he inwardly mocked. The sense of divine retribution is delicious!

Danielle de Metz as Malvira
The adaptation of "The Ikon of Elijah" for Alfred Hitchcock Presents is outstanding, keeping all of the important elements of the short story while adding new emphases that help to tell the story in a visual medium. Oscar Homolka gives an excellent performance as Carpius and is totally believable as the grasping, greedy character whose motivations in the TV version seem a bit more complex than they do in the short story. Perez and Wolfson's teleplay succeeds in making the ending both unexpected and inevitable, and Paul Almond's direction contrasts the more brightly lighted secular world of the first half with the shadowy confines of the monastery in the second half. The honest behavior of the monks is contrasted with the dishonest behavior of Carpius, and each of their acts generates different results.

Avram Davidson (1923-1993), who wrote the short story, was born in Yonkers, New York, and served in the Navy in World War Two in the Far East. He went on to fight in the Israeli Army in the 1948 War of Independence. His first short story was published circa 1947 and, from 1954 until his death, he wrote over 200 short stories and at least 15 novels. He was prolific in science fiction and detective fiction and ghost-wrote two novels featuring Ellery Queen. He won a Hugo Award in 1958, an Edgar Award in 1962, and World Fantasy Awards in 1976 and 1979. He also edited The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1962 to 1964. There is a website about him here. One other episode of the Hitchcock TV series was based on a short story by Davidson: "Thou Still Unravished Bride," on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. An article about Davidson states that he visited Cyprus in 1952 and subsequently used it as the setting for "The Ikon of Elijah."

Robert Richards as
Brother Constantine
Norah Perez (1933- ) is a Canadian author whose first credit was as an actress in a 1948 film written and directed by her father, Leslie MacFarlane, who wrote the first 21 books in the Hardy Boys mystery series under the pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon. Perez co-wrote an episode of a TV show with her father in 1954 and is credited with writing the teleplays for three episodes of The Unforeseen, a Canadian suspense TV series that ran from 1958 to 1960. She seems to have stopped writing for TV and focused on writing novels for young adults, and she has published at least eight of them since 1968. Perez is still alive at age 89 and living in upstate New York, near the Canadian border; her most recent novel was published last year.

The director of "The Ikon of Elijah," Paul Almond (1931-2015), was also Canadian. He wrote for TV from 1955 to 1966 and for film from 1968 to 1992; he directed for TV from 1955 to 1979 and for film from 1962 to 1992. He also worked on the Canadian TV series On Camera and The Unforeseen, as did Norah Perez, and it's possible that he directed the 1958 TV version of "The Ikon of Elijah," whose director is uncredited in available sources. It is possible that the producer of Alfred Hitchcock Presents was aware of the earlier adaptation and used Perez's teleplay and that version's director to craft a new version. Like Perez, Almond was also a novelist.

Fred Catania as
Brother Damianos
Starring as Carpius is the great actor Oscar Homolka (1898-1978). Born in Vienna, Homolka served in the Austro-Hungarian Army in WWI and began his career on the Austrian stage before leaving Germany when Hitler came to power. He was on screen from 1926 to 1976 and his films included Hitchcock's Sabotage (1936), Ball of Fire (1941), and I Remember Mama (1948). He was on TV from 1951 to 1976 and he was seen on Thriller and in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Hero."

Sam Jaffe (1891-1984) plays the Father Superior; born Shalom Jaffe, he was on screen from 1934 to 1984 and appeared in films including The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and TV shows such as Batman and Night Gallery. He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Greatest Monster of Them All."

In smaller roles:
  • A.E. Gould-Porter (1905-1987) as Major Parslow; a British character actor, he was onscreen from 1942 to 1977 and appeared in Assault on a Queen (1963), Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966), and ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Back for Christmas" and "The Glass Eye."
  • Richard Longman (1914-2002) as Chiringirian; he was also born in England and appeared on screen from 1947 to 1978.
  • David Janti (1941- ) as Paul, Carpius's assistant; he was born in Iran and had a brief career, mostly on TV, from 1959 to 1964.
  • William Green (1893-1962) as Brother Theodoros; he was onscreen from 1945 to 1961.
  • Danielle de Metz (1938- ) as Malvira; born in Paris, her screen career lasted from 1959 to 1972 and included a role in Return of the Fly (1959) and an appearance on Thriller.
  • Robert Richards as Brother Constantine; he was on TV from 1955 to 1961 and appeared in a few films.
  • Fred Catania (1909-1978) as Brother Damianos; he was born in Sicily and played small parts on screen from 1952 to 1968.
Truly an international production, "The Ikon of Elijah" had a crew from the U.S. and Canada and a cast from Austria, England, Iran, France, Sicily, and the U.S.A.! read "The Ikon of Elijah" online here or watch the TV version online here. Buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here.


"Alfred Hitchcock Presents - 'the Ikon of Elijah' (1960)." Alfred Hitchcock Presents - "The Ikon of Elijah" (1960), 30 Oct. 2021,

Davidson, Avram. "The Ikon of Elijah." The Investigations of Avram Davidson, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1999, pp. 55–70.


Fox, Margalit. "Paul Almond, Who Directed First 'Seven Up!,' Dies at 83." The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2015.

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

"The Ikon of Elijah." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 16, CBS, 10 Jan. 1960. IMDb,

Lupoff, Richard A. "My Friend, This Stranger.”"The Investigations of Avram Davidson, pp. 1–12.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

*  *  *  *  *

Victor Wolfson on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Victor Wolfson wrote or co-wrote six episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that aired between 1956 and 1960, two each in the first, second, and fifth seasons.

In season one, "The Perfect Murder" is a superb adaptation of a classic crime story. The teleplay mixes humor and horror and turns narrative into dialogue, following the source closely and making it more entertaining. Wolfson next adapted Stanley Ellin's "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" with Robert C. Dennis and the teleplay streamlines the story's plot and makes the central character more a victim of circumstance than a Bluebeard.

For season two, the source for "Toby" is unavailable, so it is not possible to determine how Wolfson altered it, but the episode is flawed and features an unlikely twist ending. More successful is "Malice Domestic," based on another classic crime story, where events are compressed and structure is strengthened in order to improve the effect of the ending.

Finally, Wolfson was involved with two classic episodes in season five. "Specialty of the House," which he co-wrote with Bernard C. Shoenfeld, makes important changes to a famous short story, toning down religious themes in a classic, unforgettable half-hour. "The Ikon of Elijah," Wolfson's final teleplay to be broadcast, is based on another classic short story. Again, he focuses on making improvements to story structure and this time religious themes are central. This episode is an outstanding example of how to translate words on a page into a visual medium.

                                                            *  *  *  *  *


Episode title-"The Perfect Murder" [1.24]

Broadcast date-11 March 1956
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson
Based on "The Perfect Murder" by Stacey Aumonier
First print appearance-The Strand Magazine, October 1926
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

"The Perfect Murder"

Episode title-"The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" [1.29]
Broadcast date-15 April 1956
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson and Robert C. Dennis
Based on "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" by Stanley Ellin
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1950
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

"The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby"

Episode title-"Toby" [2.6]
Broadcast date-4 November 1956
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson
Based on an unpublished (?) story by Joseph Bates Smith
First print appearance-unknown
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes


Episode title-"Malice Domestic" [2.20]
Broadcast date-10 February 1957
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson
Based on "Malice Domestic" by Philip MacDonald
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, October 1946
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

"Malice Domestic"

Episode title-"Specialty of the House" [5.12]
Broadcast date-13 December 1959
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson and Bernard C. Shoenfeld
Based on "The Specialty of the House" by Stanley Ellin
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1948
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

"Specialty of the House"

Episode title-"The Ikon of Elijah" [5.16]
Broadcast date-10 January 1960
Teleplay by-Victor Wolfson and Norah Perez
Based on "The Ikon of Elijah" by Avram Davidson
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 1956
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

"The Ikon of Elijah"

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Toby" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Ikon of Elijah" here!

In two weeks: Our coverage of Kathleen Hite begins with "Disappearing Trick," starring Robert Horton!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Batman in the 1980s Issue 59: February-March 1986


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

Batman #392

"A Town on the Night"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tom Mandrake & Jan Duursema

Three tough guys, armed with a baseball bat, a broken bottle, and a hockey stick, menace Batman in an alley, but is he worried? Not one bit, especially when Catwoman swoops in to help mop up the drunken bums. The men tied up and left for the cops to find, Catwoman flirts hard with the Dark Knight, who takes her to dinner in back of an Italian restaurant.

Their idyll is interrupted when someone is shot inside the bistro; they catch the shooter and tie him up, too. A romantic walk through the park is interrupted by a pair of muggers who menace a nurse; Batman and Catwoman make quick work of them and tie them up before Catwoman drags Batman to Glitterati, a dance club where she thinks their costumes won't stand out.

Wouldn't you know it? A coke dealer approaches them and more dumbbells have to be knocked out cold. Even a trip to the liquor store finds BM and CW facing a gun-toting robber. The pair finally decide to round up all of the felons they've tied up over the course of the night and deliver them straight to Commissioner Gordon in order to prove to him that Catwoman is now on the right side of the law. Gordon has spent the night listening to Harvey Bullock try to convince him that she remains a crook so, in his contrary way, the Commish had decided to accept her even before she and the Caped Crusader delivered the bunch of crooks.

Peter: Some may find "A Town on the Night" to be a refreshing, madcap change of pace; I found it to be silly and infinitely disposable. All of Doug's scenes work up to punchlines that aren't very funny. The bumbling side of Bullock is getting old, as is the shuffling of Bruce/Batman's preferred choice of woman. And I'd love to see the blueprint on how you tie up fifteen-plus criminals into a bundle and hang them umpteen stories up... just for effect, by the way. The best you can say about this one-shot is just that: it's a one-shot.

Jack: Why does the cover say, "A Night on the Town," but the title inside is "A Town on the Night"? Perhaps the person in charge of covers decided that the title must have been a mistake and changed it. The story is relatively entertaining, but it's annoying that we don't know what happened with all of the red rain and hail unless we go and read Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is where I assume it was explained. This story opens with a caption saying that the Crisis is over! Jan Duursema tries to clean up Mandrake's pencils and succeeds to an extent, but the underlying poor art can only be fixed so much.

Brian Bolland
Detective Comics #559

"It Takes Two Wings to Fly"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Bob Smith

As Batman is chasing a robbery suspect, an arrow is shot from out of the blue, impeding his way. The suspect gets away and Batman is left with a very large frown on his face. The arrow, of course, was delivered by a certain green fella who usually rents the back pages of Detective Comics but thought this adventure so important that he traveled to Gotham. He didn't come alone, as Batman soon discovers, when the Black Canary emerges from the shadows decked out in her new costume.

The Dark Knight calmly asks the Arrow what the hell he thinks he's doing impeding the right arm of the law. Ollie explains that the escapee, one Curtis Samples, stole money from the very company that killed his father. The dad had been a worker at the Kemson Corp., handling deadly materials, and developed incurable cancer. Curtis blames Kemson for the death and hopes to throw light on the factory's shortcomings.

After a few elevated and irate conversations, Batman and Green Arrow decide to join forces (with the Canary and Catwoman) and look into the matter. Bruce Wayne arranges (through Lucius Fox) a shady deal with Kemson, sending Selina Kyle to deliver a suitcase full of money in exchange for some of the man's illegal chemicals. Kemson gets suspicious and orders his men to kill Selina, but Batman arrives in time to save her. A full-blown melee ensues, but Green Arrow gets the upper hand when he threatens to blow up a vat of toxic chemicals unless Kemson surrenders. The Canary and the Cat leave the boys arguing over politics and toast to a job well done at a nearby java shop.

Peter: Politics (and Doug's obvious left leaning) be damned, this was one heck of a fun story. I could have done with 22 pages of nothing but the boys arguing at the coffee shop and Arrow's continued derogatory use of the word "Bat" as in Bat-Nazi and Bat-Ronnie. Hilarious! Joey Cavalieri's handling of Green Arrow is not so overtly political (but then Joey doesn't have the luxury of 16 pages an issue) so, while reading the back-up feature, you don't really get the sense that this guy hates the "system" and the "man." Yeah, there are those funny books from the 60s by O'Neil and Adams to chew on but, at least in 1986, those leanings have fallen way into Arrow's background.

I was just wondering when Jason would pop his head into a corner of a panel and start whining about how little his talents are utilized when Alfred agrees to pick the kid up from elementary school. It's so much more peaceful around without the brat. 

Jack: I liked this story too, but I wonder just who demanded Batman and Catwoman vs. Green Arrow and Black Canary, as the cover blurb claims? Fortunately, there's no battle of the teams inside, as there might be in Marvel Team-Up for a few pages until some misunderstanding is cleared up. Instead, we just get 22 solid pages of Colan/Smith art and mid-'80s political anger from Moench. I've noticed that they've stopped numbering the pages, which signals a page cut they were trying to hide from readers. The house ads show a new trend of limited series emerging at DC. Overall, I like the direction this is going, even though this issue is really just a warmed-over Brave and the Bold story.

Shadow of the Batman #3

"The Malay Penguin!"
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #473, November 1977)

"The Deadshot Ricochet"
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #474, December 1977)

"Calamity from the Clyde"
(Reprinted from Weird War Tales #52, April 1977)

Jack: More terrific work from Englehart, Rogers, and Austin; the first reprint features the Penguin and the second features Deadshot. I gave each story four stars when we reviewed them almost a decade ago. The third story is a continuation of the one in the prior issue, with excellent Rogers and Austin art and a so-so story about talking dogs warring in future Britain. Apparently, it's the same world that we saw in Kamandi, which explains the talking animals who behave like humans. This issue has a gorgeous wraparound cover by Rogers.

Batman #393

"The Dark Rider"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy

Commissioner Gordon has big news for Batman: the CIA wants the Dark Knight to travel to Venice, Italy, to meet a man named Voorloper. In Italy, Voorloper asks Batman to track down a stolen statue. Batman learns that the statue will be the subject of a black-market auction in Bonn, Germany so, three days later, he attends the auction and bids ten million dollars, causing the statute to be withdrawn and sent back to the warehouse in Moscow.

Batman heads to Russia to look for the statue and has to fight off gun-toting Commies; Katia, the attractive female auctioneer from Bonn, helps him escape by wielding a machine gun and hopping on a motorcycle. She explains that the Dark Rider is not just the name of the statue but also the code name of the former KGB agent assigned to steal it. The problem is that this agent has gone rogue. The KGB found out that the statue was tampered with and now something is hidden in the horse's belly--it may be plutonium.

On a snowy mountaintop, the Dark Rider reveals that he plans to use the plutonium to blow up an American city and trigger World War III. Katia and Batman fly to Switzerland by helicopter, hot on the trail of the Dark Rider; she leaves and Batman continues his mission. He locates the statue and meets a CIA agent, who confirms what's in the statue and tells Batman that he's mucking up everyone's plans. It seems the CIA is working with the KGB to foil the Dark Rider and Batman keeps getting in the way. Batman thinks it's all over until he finds the CIA agent dead and learns that the Dark Rider has the plutonium and is heading for Gotham City to cause chaos!

Peter: I dug the Paul Gulacy art and, I assume, his stint on the similarly espionage-tinged Master of Kung Fu is what got him this job with his old padnah, Doug. The script is another animal entirely, way too complicated and confusing. The story is obviously Bond-influenced and I just can't see Batman slipping into that role as much as I tried. Halfway through, I couldn't remember why the Dark Knight was even in Germany. Something about a Dark Rider guy. But I'll give this a thumbs-up for the fabulous graphics and for the fact that Doug's swinging at the seats rather than pumping out another Night-Slayer snoozer.

Jack: I don't quite know what to make of this! We've shifted from a Lady and the Tramp-like dinner in an alley with Catwoman to an adult story with Batman as a secret agent, though it's hard to be secret in a huge blue cape. I am very happy with the Gulacy art, which is at least as good as what we're seeing from Colan and Smith in Detective, especially that snazzy cover. I agree that the story is confusing and I don't know if Moench or Gulacy is to blame, but this is a huge upgrade from what we've been seeing from Mandrake in recent issues.

Detective Comics #560

"The Batman Nobody Knows"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Bob Smith

Harvey Bullock's calling the Dark Knight on the Bat-phone but our hero has something very important he has to attend to so he tells the detective to turn on the Bat-signal and the call will be answered "twice." Sighing, Bullock hangs up and turns the big light on.

Meanwhile, Jason Todd is looking all over Wayne Mansion for a missing glove (Alfred has hidden it to keep the kid out of the Bat-Cave for a while) and Catwoman can't wait to show off her new Cat-cycle to her beau, the Bat-guy. Jason is told by Bruce that he'll not be making patrols tonight... it's going to be up to Robin! Catwoman arrives at her cycle to find a note from Bats telling her he's busy tonight and she's on her own. Both answer Harvey's call on the roof of Gotham police headquarters.

Seems the Savage Skulls are acting up and the new Dynamic Duo of Catwoman and Robin must team up to put the young rebels down. Despite some early verbal sparring, the match-up turns out to be a success (just as Batman thought it would be when he orchestrated the evening) and Robin finds a new mother figure in the arms of Selina. And we discover in the end, the entire story was narrated by one of the bats in the cave!

Peter: "The Batman Nobody Knows" (a really dumb title if you ask me) is a bit corny, but I have to admit the Cat/Robin interactions were very poignant and funny. It'll be interesting to see where this whole Dynamic Trio thing goes, not having read most of the Bats-titles in this era (and I can only remember the upcoming Miller arc vaguely), since we know Catwoman has to resort to villainy again at some point, right? As those of you who followed our coverage of the DC war comics might remember, one of the gimmicks we hated most was the "Inanimate Object/Animal" narration. Here, Doug handles it well, although there are a few points that come up that no bat could know about. Overall, not a bad little one-off.

Jack: Doug's florid prose put me off at first and I didn't understand the point of all the spiders, but by the end I got it and thought it was pretty good. Having Gulacy drawing Batman likely puts the kibosh on stories being continued from one title to another, in part because the art styles of Colan and Gulacy are so dramatically different. I like both, however, and I especially like Colan and Smith's rendering of Bullock, who could not look dumpier or more rumpled. I'm intrigued by the attempt to get Catwoman and Robin to tolerate each other and I look forward to seeing this play out.

"...Me a Bad Guy...?"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Jerome Moore & Dell Barras

There's a lot going on this time, so keep up. A new superhero calling himself "The Champion" arrives in Star City and he works for profit alone. The fact that the flying, costumed hero bypassed an apartment fire to nab some stolen device for the reward has Oliver Queen up in arms.

Speaking of Ollie, he does no favors for his love life when Dinah asks her beau about switching public awareness of her alter ego, the Black Canary, from hero to bad girl. She argues that the switch would allow her to get in on the ground floor of some major criminal activities. Ollie tells her it's a dumb idea and to eat her breakfast and Dinah storms out. Men!

Meanwhile, across town at a villainous retreat, some bad guys are discussing the disbursement of a huge shipment of "junk" in Star City in the coming days. Their business meeting is interrupted by the arrival of yet another new villain, this one calling himself Steelclaw in reference to his... wait for it... steel claw! The dope dealers want no part of 'claw and let him know in so many words that he'd better get his cliched costume out of Star City before sundown. 'Claw emits a gas that chokes up the felons and issues his demand: fifty per cent!

Peter: The Steelclaw segment is triple-A ball amateur but the breakfast table discourse between the two lovers is Dinah-mite! What can I say? I really like Dinner with Andre-esque interludes in my funny books this time out. Perhaps because the dialogue in these segments is crisp and funny, while the action scenes have become ludicrous and boring. "Boy, am I in trouble," he sighed, while realizing there are at least four years' worth of fight scenes yet to come.

Jack: Perhaps part of the reason you like the scenes at the breakfast table is because Moore & Barras draw Dinah as utterly gorgeous! On the other hand, I still can't get over Black Canary's terrible new costume. Champion and Steelclaw are two more examples of bad new characters; this episode features very good art but the story is heavy-handed.

Shadow of the Batman #4

"The Laughing Fish!"
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #475, February 1978)

"Sign of the Joker!"
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #476, April 1978)

(Reprinted from Mystery in Space #111, September 1980)

Jack: This terrific issue reprints the classic, two-part Joker story by Englehart, Austin, and Rogers that we wished went on for a few more installments. These Shadow of the Batman comics reprint some of the best Batman stories of the 1970s! There's an interesting if rather unfortunate essay by Englehart in this issue in which he agrees with those who say that he wrote the "definitive" Batman and then answers people who argue that Batman has to be crazy. This must have been a big topic of discussion circa 1986, since Frank Miller was about to deal with it in his Batman run.

Next Week...
Can even Bernie Wrightson save us
from this flood of mediocrity?