Monday, February 28, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 79: October 1976



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

The Spirit #16 

"The Inheritance" (4/11/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"The Moment of Glory" (7/2/50)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"Olga Bustle in 'Outcast'" (9/1/46)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by John Spranger, Will Eisner, & Bob Palmer

"The Fix" (5/4/47)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"The Fly" (3/10/46)
"Who Killed Cox Robin?" (8/4/46)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by John Spranger, Will Eisner, & Bob Palmer

"The Springtime of Dolan" (7/11/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc

"Dulcet Tone" (7/7/46)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by John Spranger, Will Eisner, & Bob Palmer

Jack-This last issue is a mixed bag of post-war stories. There's a quartet from 1946, with pencils by John Spranger and inks by Eisner and Bob Palmer. The best of these is "Olga Bustle," a spoof of Jane Russell that features a noticeably different art style, more early 1940s broad lines and cartoony looks than the late 1940s look of subsequent Spirit strips. "Who Killed Cox Robin?" has a terrific sixth page that looks very noirish. There are a couple of stories from 1947-48 inked by Eisner and Grandenetti; "The Inheritance" leads off the issue and is a perfect mix of crime and humor as the Spirit once again manages to elude marriage-minded Ellen. There's 1948's "The Springtime of Dolan," inked by Eisner and LeBlanc, which starts out great but loses focus midway through and, last of all, from 1950, we have "The Moment of Glory," in which Eisner mixes ghostly doings, crime, and humor with the focus being on a little guy's heroic act.

I'll admit it, Will Eisner is one of my comic book heroes--I view him and Carl Barks as the two greatest all-around talents in comics history. But what re-reading these 16 issues of Warren's The Spirit has taught me is that, even after he came back from the war, he wasn't doing it alone--despite the lack of credits given to anyone else in the strip's initial run. Grandenetti, Feiffer, LeBlanc--they all contributed to this fantastic strip, and I'm indebted to the comics historians who have unearthed their hidden contributions.

Peter-The thing I'll miss most about The Spirit, as we salute the 16th and final issue of the Warren incarnation, even more than the hit-or-miss humor and the weird supporting characters, will be those gorgeous splashes. Even if the story is a snooze, chances are Eisner's art will carry the day and that begins with his trademarked splash, usually incorporating "The Spirit" in some strange landscape or architecture. Jim Warren has said he would have loved to continue publishing the Spirit's adventures, but the magazine couldn't move enough copies to keep it going.

After the axe fell at Warren, Eisner returned his character to Kitchen Sink (which had published two issues of reprints just prior to Warren's version), continuing the numbering at #17. That version resembled Warren's, magazine-sized and black-and-white (with color added later) and lasted 25 issues, until 1983. The Spirit then was reincarnated as a comic-sized zine, also published by KS, for 87 issues, until 1992. Perhaps the most lavish version was DC's complete reprinting (in order), The Spirit Archives. If you're serious about The Spirit, that's the way to go.

Vampirella #55

"The Resurrection of Papa Voudou!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #15, January 1972)

"...And Be a Bride of Chaos"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #16, April 1972)

"The Corpse with the Missing Mind" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Lurker in the Deep!"
(Reprinted from Vampirella #13, September 1971)

As is her custom, Vampi always likes to tell one original story to round out the reprints in her annual "Super Collector's Edition!" The retreads are highlighted by the superior "Papa Voudou," one of the best installments of the decidedly lukewarm Vampi series ever written. The other two aren't bad either.

In the new Vampirella adventure, "The Corpse with a Missing Mind," Vampi joins Pen in attending the funeral of Henderson Hunt, an old friend of Pen's, a billionaire he'd fallen out of contact with. After the service, the pair are approached by another of Pen's old friends, Charlie Juggles, who tells an odd story to the magician. The trio pack into a limo and are driven away. According to Juggles, Hunt's brain and eyeballs were stolen while the pair were flying in Hunt's private jet. Juggles believes that Hunt is still alive somewhere. Suddenly, gas fills the backseat of the limo and the three passengers lose consciousness. 

When Vampi and Pen awaken, Juggles is nowhere to be found, but the pair are soon confronted by strange characters such as the Seven Dwarves, pirates, and space heroes. Vampi wonders aloud if they've fallen into Alice's Wonderland and Pen suddenly exclaims "I've got it!" They are in Wonderland... or at least a theme park variation on Wonderland. The voice of Henderson Hunt emerges from the shadows, confirming Pen's suspicions. 

Vampi and Pen enter a laboratory and there, sitting upright in a chair, is the body of Hunt; in a tank beside him float his missing brain and eyeballs. The billionaire has devised a way to live forever but wants to atone for the waste he feels his life became after he inherited his riches. He will build Wonderlands all over the world with free admission and children will come and play and smile. He admits to his friend Pen that it will be the first time in his life that he will be truly happy. 

For a Pen/Vampi solo short that doesn't seem to fit anywhere in the current chronology (what else is new?), "The Corpse with a Missing Mind" is not bad; it is, in fact, better than any of the Vampi stories we've been fed lately. It's goofy and derivative and doesn't make a lot of sense (so why the elaborate ruse, gassing his buddy, when he was going to tell him the truth anyway?) but it's a pleasant five-minute read. Sharp color, too, due, according to the credits to Bill DuBay.-Peter

Jack-I'm surprised you liked that mess by DuBay. I thought the story and color were terrible, and the art by Gonzalez made me wonder just what happened between 1972 and 1976. When we first reviewed "Papa Voudou," I wrote that it was entertaining from start to finish and had gorgeous art. I wasn't as impressed by "Bride of Chaos," which I found unsatisfying, but I called "Lurker" thoroughly enjoyable, well-told and with great art. The cover, by Sanjulian, is reprinted from Vampirella 36--or at least the illo is.

Creepy #83

"The Strange, Incurable Hauntings of 
Terrible Phinneas Boggs" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by John Severin

"Process of Elimination" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Russ Heath

"Country Pie" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Carmine Infantino & Bernie Wrightson

"In Deep" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Richard Corben

"Harvey Was a Sharp Cookie" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Now You See It..." 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Al Williamson

"The Last Super Hero" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Carmine Infantino

A novelist buys the mansion that once belonged to a famous movie star/stunt double and discovers that the actor's ghost still haunts the hallways, craving attention. A nice change of pace, devoid of any real violence or fatalities, "The Strange, Incurable Blah Blah Blah..." had me smiling through most of its text-dense and typo-riddled length. It's the kind of thing that might have been dramatized on Night Gallery, a wink at the viewer and reassurance that there won't be any real scares tonight, but you'll be entertained, nonetheless. My only nit is that the writer doesn't come off as a contemporary scribe, using an almost stilted form of prose, a la Poe or Lovecraft. There are no African Americans to insult here, so Dube throws in a random "faggish" when describing one of Phineas's more "feminine" guises. Severin's art is, obviously, a gigantic portion of my affection for this one.

Chris heads home from his "government job" and puts bullets in his wife and two kids, then meets up with his secretary, Madge, for a fling at a motel. Once the lovemaking is over, the two park on a viewpoint overlooking the town. Chris kills Madge and then settles in for the main event: a nuclear holocaust.

I vividly remember reading "Process of Elimination" for the first time as a teen and being (pardon the pun) blown away by its hazy conclusion. What kind of job was Chris doing that he knew the precise time of "the end of the world"? Why was using a handgun (with silencer!) more virtuous and merciful than sleeping pills? And, more important, did Chris know he was married to Florence Henderson? My teen mind whirled around the savagery and really deep thinky stuff.

Now, having read the story for a third (or possibly fourth) time, I have to say the element that shows through strongest is pretension. We're supposed to hate Chris (I assume), since he's selfish enough to off his family so that he can die in the arms of his deflowered lover, so why is Jones painting the guy as a wonderful family man doing the right thing? Maybe that's not Bruce's intent, but that's the vibe I get. Russ Heath's art is awful, a mere shadow of what the man was capable of in his younger years. Those panels of Gwyn dishing out some pie and taking some lead between her breasts are cringe-worthy (if I saw those panels reprinted somewhere sans credit, I'd guess Dick Ayers). A big, big disappointment and, I have to believe, one of Warren's more controversial, divisive tales.

Things are a little more clear in Bruce Jones's next story, "Country Pie." A psychic helps police track a serial killer who's about to score his (her?) next victim. Meanwhile, a slick city man stops on a country road to give a lift to a pretty young teenage girl and her little brother. Will the police arrive in time to prevent the murderer from striking again? Thankfully, Bruce disposes of the "mystery" of the killer's identity halfway through the story (it's fairly evident who the fiend is), so there's no foolish "Aha!!!" in the final panel. But what does arrive in the climax is a bit abrupt and disappointing. It's still an entertaining read, and Bernie and Carmine make a decent art team, with Bernie being more evident in the last couple pages.

While far out at sea, a young couple find themselves in deep trouble when their small sailboat sinks and the pair are left to drift, clinging to a life preserver. Though they fight to stay awake, both drift into slumber and, when he awakens, the man finds his wife dead. From there, it's only a matter of time before the gulls and sharks begin to pick at her corpse. After several days, a freighter comes along and picks the man up. In the hospital, doctors are able to pry the man's hands apart and discover he's holding a human heart.

Looking back now, I think "In Deep" was the first time I became aware of this new kid on the block, Bruce Jones. I won't lie and say that I was keeping track of the writers of these things, not back then, but I do recall being very impressed with a few stories that carried his name and then looking forward to reading anything he pumped out. That extended into the 80s, when Jones reinvented the horror anthology funny book with Twisted Tales

It's obvious Jones took his inspiration from Jaws, which had shattered box office records the summer before, but the story doesn't rely entirely on the attack of a Great White. There's a lot of stuff going on here. Some of it I ain't buyin' (like how our hero ended up with Peggy's heart and why the sharks didn't come back for some live meat), but that won't spoil a tale so filled with suspense that the reader is literally on the edge of their seat. Though I'm sure the black-and-white prologue and epilogue in the hospital were a necessity due to Jim Warren's cheapness, I would argue that the colorless bookends are actually pretty effective as is. Oddly enough, when "In Deep" was reprinted in Creepy #101, it was presented in all B+W (even weirder, when "In Deep" was reprinted in Comix International #5, the story was printed sans prologue and the epilogue was printed on the back page in red ink! See far below), and was followed up by a needless and silly sequel that same issue.

Then some idiot turned out the lights!
After Harvey Baggins refuses to sell his amusement park fun palace to a land investor, the man assaults Harvey's daughter and warns him that the worst is yet to come. Rather than give in to his tormenter, Harvey heads to Home Depot and buys thousands of razor blades, a hammer, and nails. He lines the walls and floors of the fun house with the blades and waits for company to come. Fun and blood follow.

The umpteenth "homage" to "Blind Alleys," Bill DuBay's "Harvey Was a Sharp Cookie" is a chore from the first panel to the last. Dube's not even trying here; the goal is to pump this thing out as fast as possible with as little effort as he can muster. Apply several layers of sadism and the kids'll love it, right? Harvey's the prototypical good guy pushed too far, but the extremes he goes to stretch the boundaries of believability. How could Harvey guess that the bad guy was going to walk into his hall of mirrors and smash the glass with his bare hands? Bit of a stretch. Wouldn't it just be easier to blow the guy away with a shotgun? But that one-star rating extends to the art as well, which is about as muddy and indecipherable as Ortiz has ever been. There's a muddiness to it that resembles a fifth-generation VHS-tape. 

Poor Harry only wants to spice up his dull marriage, so he continually sets the Selector-Hologram remote control to remote planets and dangerous creatures, all the better to play hero in front of his bored wife. All that Della wants to do is watch Al Pacino movies; that takes her mind off the fact that her husband spent all their savings on the silly hologram gizmo. But then Harry plays a trick on the Mrs., taking her to a prehistoric planet and confessing that he drugged her and motored the family spaceship to a distant star. Unfortunately, the ship crashed and they're stuck; might as well make the best of it.

After Harry's sexual moves on Della go nowhere and he tires of her endless whining ("You're a child, Harry... a thirty-year-old drop-out from a Burroughs novel!"), he hits a button on the remote and they're both back in their home. Harry admits it was all a trick to get Della involved. Amazingly enough, the machination pays off for the King of the Nerds as Della admits she kinda felt a little naughty in front of a fire in a cave without much on and she grabs the remote, setting the dial for "Killer T-Rex!"

"Now You See It..." is a lot of fun; you can tell Bruce was raised on some good ol' EC science fiction. It's got a very familiar flavor, and that could be due chiefly to the art of Al Williamson, who should be the perfect choice for a sit-com about a guy who likes to dress his wife in leopard skin onesies and threaten her with giant lizards. Alas, this isn't the Williamson we saw in the EC days, but a shell of his former self. True, some of his art is still pretty cool (that giant insect-dinosaur-monster reprinted above), but a lot of the panels just lie there with no energy to speak of. Still, this is a hugely entertaining sf-comedy.

In a future where war no longer exists, superheroes have hung up their capes and masks and blended in with the general public but, when he perceives an invasion of militant forces, the hero known as Furyfists laces them up and heads back into action. The enemy is ready, though, and Furyfists is killed in action. Meanwhile, another hero sees the news on TV and decides he's Earth's only hope.

I liked "The Last Super Hero" a lot but I won't lie; I can't say I fully understood the climax. That might be due to my density or because some info got left out of the little caption boxes. Is the "secret invasion" all in Furyfists's head? Who is the new last super hero in the final panels and why is there a beat-up corpse tied to a chair in the hero's HQ? It's all a bit hazy. Regardless of the ambiguity, I thought the script was strong and exciting and Carmine's pencils (and inks--the only Warren story he flies solo on) only add to that excitement. On his excellent Warren blog, our good friend and correspondent, Quiddity, questions "why this completely non-horror story appears here in Creepy."

It is very unique but also in keeping with some of the other unique trails the Warren writers have explored now and then (such as the goofy "Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit" back in #79). And thank God for the variety, a rest from the crap DuBay and Boudreau were (sump)pumping out of their Warren offices. And that finale (even as hazy as it is) is pretty horrific, wouldn't you say? As for Carmine, who begins a long (and some would say fruitful) partnership with the Warren zines this month, I'm on record as saying I dig his stuff. Always have. One of the only Silver Age DC artists I can stomach. So, I'm really looking forward to some of the bizarre matchups coming down the pike: Carmine with Alex Toth, Alfredo Alcala, Dick Giordano, and several others.-Peter

Jack-I was pleasantly surprised (all right, shocked) to read such a good issue of Creepy at this point in our journey! Gathering together John Severin, Russ Heath, Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corben, and Al Williamson in one mag, with seven new stories, was an embarrassment of riches. Sure, the DuBay prose drags things down a bit and the Ortiz art is muddy as heck, but this issue stands out among the junk we've been reading for far too long.

I thought "In Deep" was terrific, in part because Corben is such a better colorist than DuBay. This is a good example of what a Creepy story should be. Next best was "Country Pie," which had some surprises along the way and in which Wrightson's inks took some of the scratchiness off of Infantino's pencils. "Now You See It..." has some bad, DuBayish dialogue (from Bruce Jones, of all people), but the Williamson art is wonderful to see. DuBay's endless narrative captions drag down "Phineas Boggs," in spite of the usual solid art from John Severin; someone should have told DuBay that a good comic book story is one where the words and pictures depend on each other. This could be read without pictures and nothing would be lost.

I thought Heath's art on "Process" was not that bad, Peter; I was grateful he did not depict the murders of the children and the wife's body only exists in comics drawn for young guys. "Harvey" surely was written thinking of Palisades Amusement Park, which closed in September 1971 and was replaced by high-rise condos. The "Blind Alley" rip-off is inexcusable. And Quiddity is right about "Super Hero"--why is this here? The Frazetta cover is nothing special, but the Brancatelli column offers a fascinating look at the comic book distribution system.

Eerie #78

"The Death of a Friend!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #49, July 1973)

"The Mind Within"
(Reprinted from Eerie #50, August 1973)

"Ghoulish Encounter"
(Reprinted from Eerie #52, November 1973)

"Enter Mr. Hyde"
(Reprinted from Eerie #53, January 1974)

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #54, February 1974)

"...And An End!"
(Reprinted from Eerie #48, June 1973)

"The Hope of the Future"
(Reprinted from Creepy #57, November 1973)

Peter-Well, I guess it could be worse: an all-Oogie issue? Though I savaged Steve Skeates's epic of lunacy when we first reviewed it, I must add that the man himself seemed to be in on the joke the entire way. Way back in, I think, the early '00s, I wrote a piece on this series for a Warren fanzine (the name of which is honestly lost in my brain), extolling the virtues of flying by the seat of your pants when you write for a Warren funny book. I was generally positive in a snarky way and Steve Skeates got my e-mail address from someone and wrote me a long essay on how many roadblocks and landmines came with overseeing the Mummy and (later) the Werewolf series. A lot of writers would have bitched about how much work goes into their craft and how dare a nobody like me make fun of their children. Not Steve. He agreed with several of my points and countered several more. I exited that exchange with a mountain of respect for this guy. But the Mummy is just as dopey and indecipherable on a third reading as it was on the first.

Jack-It says a lot that Warren reprinted the stories out of order. They made little sense to begin with, so why not put the first story in the series last in this issue? The GCD tells us that some of the stories have pages deleted and other pages reordered. I did not read the whole thing over again to see if it makes any more sense--I'm not that dedicated. Still, in looking back over my initial comments on these tales, I always liked Brocal's art. So at least we have that. Oh, and the usual terrific inside cover by Wrightson.

"In Deep" gets the special Warren treatment in CI5

Next Week...
CatMan is Back!
But is that a good thing?

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Lewis Davidson Part Two: Misadventure [10.8]

by Jack Seabrook

"Misadventure" begins with a stylized shot, as a beautiful housewife named Eva Martin is shown in her kitchen, her image reflected on the shiny side of a toaster! This domestic scene will soon be turned upside down by the arrival of a man who is not what he seems.

Eva is preparing breakfast for her husband, George, when the telephone rings and she rushes to answer it; the voice on the other end is that of a man, and the look on Eva's face during their brief exchange suggests that she is speaking to her lover, who tells her that he will "'be over in about half an hour.'" George enters as Eva hangs up the phone. Bespectacled and balding, dressed in a suit and ready to go to work at his office, he polishes the silverware in front of him and waxes rhapsodically about the provenance of his fork, knife, and spoon, musing about how these "'little gravediggers'" must have gone in and out of his father's mouth thousands of times. In the midst of his inane commentary, George remarks that he will be coming home for lunch today, news that clearly comes as an unpleasant surprise to his wife. Thinking quickly, Eva tells George that she will be out shopping, and he at first replies that he can eat lunch at the coffee shop, but then changes his mind after he laments having to spend money on lunch when they have good food at home.

The initial scene begins to outline the characters' personalities and their marriage; Eva is a beauty who is starting to show age lines around her eyes; she is stunning in a flimsy robe and either tanned or heavily made up. George is clueless as to his wife's apparent other life, unaware of her infidelity and concerned with saving money in everything he does. On the surface, their marriage appears happy, yet there is distortion underneath, much like the reflected image of Eva on the side of the toaster.

As George kisses Eva goodbye, the camera pans over to a window and we see a man peering in at the Martins. George leaves for work, but not before stopping and turning to Eva. He takes out his wallet and pulls out two dollars, hesitates, and then pulls out a third, giving her the money to buy herself lunch while she is out shopping. That momentary pause between dollars two and three tells us all we need to know about George's attitude toward cash.

The man who had been peering in the widow hides behind a bush until George leaves. Inside, Eva hurries into her bedroom, presumably to get herself ready for her lover's arrival. The man outside knocks on the kitchen door and Eva opens it; he identifies himself as the gas man, and his uniform, hat, and toolbox fit the bill. Eva directs him through a door and down the stairs, where he is supposed to read the meter, but instead he takes a wrench, unscrews a nut, and turns on the gas, letting it begin to flood the basement. Returning to the kitchen, the man accuses Eva of having fooled with the meter and takes out a cigarette as she begins to smell the odor of gas. Eva opens the door to the basement and both smells and hears the rush of gas escaping, but the meter man pretends to smell nothing. He is rude and unhelpful, so she goes down to the meter herself and shuts off the valve. Eva shows spunk when she slaps a cigarette and lighter out of the man's hand; she will need this spunk very soon.

Barry Nelson as Colin
Back in the kitchen, Eva calls the man incompetent and takes out the telephone book to look up the number of the gas company so she can report him. He claims to have an attack of fever and begs her not to report him, afraid that he will be fired. The gas man even pulls out his wallet and shows Eva a photograph of a woman and three young children, presumably his family; she is sympathetic to his entreaties and hangs up the phone, but when he kneels before her in thanks, she has no time for him and tells him to fix the meter. Eva is clearly watching the clock, anticipating the imminent arrival of her lover and anxious to dispense with this unwanted visitor.

The man's continuing protestations of illness lead Eva to offer to make him a cup of coffee. When she puts a jacket around his shoulders to keep him warm, he tells her: "'I've always considered you a very kind and sensitive person.'" Eva questions how he would know and he quickly explains that he has seen her before when he came to read the meter. Yet we suspect there is something more going on here, and our suspicions will soon be proved correct. The man continues to try to portray himself as worthy of sympathy, referring to his "'old wounds'" that he sustained while fighting in the South Pacific, claiming to have been tortured in a POW camp. He accidentally knocks his toolbox to the floor and, among the items that fall out, we see a revolver, which he quickly replaces before Eva can see it. Finally, the man collapses on the floor but, when Eva suggests calling a doctor, he asks if he can take a hot bath or a shower, insisting that he will be fine in ten minutes. A quick cut to the clock shows that it's 8:30--15 minutes have passed since Eva's lover called and said he would be there in half an hour.

Eva is distracted by another telephone call, and the gas man heads through her bedroom and into her bathroom, where he turns on the water in the shower. Wandering back into the bedroom, he unzips and removes his gas company jumpsuit, revealing that, underneath, he is dressed in a suit and tie! Eva rushes her friend, Marge, off the phone, saying that she has a cake in the oven (and failing to mention the gas man in her shower!); she enters the bedroom and the camera shows things from her point of view, panning back and forth across the seemingly empty room. 

Lola Albright as Eva

She pulls back the bedcovers to find the man laid out on the bed, his feet at the head, clad only in his boxer shorts! He is so still that she fears he is dead, but when he says, "'I think I'm going to be all right,'" she is relieved. Eva tries to get him to leave but, when the doorbell rings, she pushes him back down onto the bed and tells him to stay put. She tells him that if he makes a sound, she'll kill him, but they both realize the absurdity of the statement. Eva closes the bedroom door and hurries to the front door to let in her lover, who immediately begins to kiss her passionately. She pushes him off and lies that her husband is on his way home; the handsome, young man makes a hasty exit. Eva begs him to call her tomorrow and he says, "'If I got the time.'" Poor Eva! For such a lovely woman, she is in quite a predicament.

Back in the bedroom, the gas man (or is he?) has put on George's robe, but he quickly removes it and returns to the bed, still wearing only his boxer shorts. Suddenly he holds the upper hand. When Eva threatens to call the police, the man responds by telling her that he would love to tell her husband about her boyfriend and his mid-morning visits--or, in the alternative, she can tell her husband that there is a strange man in her bed and he will not leave.

Suddenly, the man admits that his presence is no accident: he has been watching her, and he produces photographs of her boyfriend visiting three times the week before. (Eva remarks that her boyfriend is a "'landscape artist'" who came two months ago to install a fishpond--for such a stunning woman, she certainly seems desperate for male attention!) Eva seems to warm up to the intruder, sitting down and smoking a cigarette as she complains about her husband, a tightwad who gives her little money. The stranger claims to have only seen George once in his life, a comment that will turn out to be untrue.

The man denies that he is a blackmailer and tells Eva that she is very beautiful and he is not after her money. He takes her cigarette and stubs it out; there is then a dissolve to the next scene, where Eva sits, smoking another cigarette, the implication being that the two strangers have had sex in the interim. The man sits at Eva's makeup table in tears, but she tells him that if anyone has something to cry about, it's her! She calls him a "'most unusual gas man,'" and he admits what we have suspected from the moment he disconnected the valve: he is not a gas man at all! He says that he has been watching her and that he bought a gun. When he observed her boyfriend make regular visits, he was consumed by jealousy, wanting to kill both her lover and her husband.

The man explains his plan to disconnect the gas and rig the basement door so that her husband would be trapped downstairs. Instead of being horrified, Eva is intrigued. The man says that George's demise would be ruled "'accidental death, by misadventure,'" thus providing the title for this episode. The man claims to be madly in love with Eva and once again shifts his identity, telling Eva that he is a private detective who is there to get evidence for the divorce that her husband is planning. Gas man, stalker, private eye--which is his true identity? Eva believes his story each time, despite seeming to think that she is savvy. The stranger's comment that she "'just invested a year of your life for nothing'" goes right over her head--how does the man know that she has been married to George for a year? He must be a detective! In one of the many humorous moments so far in this episode, Eva becomes angry at her husband for suspecting her of being unfaithful, even though such a suspicion would be correct! She takes the china out of the kitchen cabinet and begins to smash it on the floor! Even funnier is the stranger's description of the life she could share with him: "'It's true I'm not rich. Well, I'm in debt up to my ears. But I've got a little apartment. Just a couple of rooms, you know, over a butcher shop, but we can fix it up and it'll be real nice.'" Whether or not this is true or just another part of his scheme, it is obvious that Eva would not last one minute in the setting he describes.

"'Being a widow is the only way you'd get anything out of him now,'" the man points out, and Eva walks over to the basement door and begins to test its opening and closing. "'It was your idea,'" she tells him, and he says, "'Oh no! Not murder!'" Eva is suddenly seductive, calling the man "'Darling,'" and he tells her that his name is Henry. She explains that she can' t live over a butcher shop and tells Henry that she wants him to have nice things, too--Eva is certainly a calculating woman who is used to being successful in using her beauty to bend men to her will. She tells Henry to fix the door before George comes home. She will change her clothes, turn on the gas, and hide in the garden shed!

George Kennedy as George

George arrives home for lunch and is immediately upset to see his father's best bone china smashed on the kitchen floor. The gas man/Henry appears, dressed once again in a suit and tie and, to our surprise, George knows him, addressing him as Colin! They discuss the fact that it's been five years since Colin was last in the house and George appears less than happy to see his brother. He asks if Colin has met his wife and Colin admits that they did meet and got "'on quite intimate terms... during the short time'" they spent together. Colin shows George the photo of his wife and children and tells George that his son Michael died last week. Colin's old car broke down and he could not get his son to the hospital in time to save his life after an attack of appendicitis. Colin reminds George that he refused to give him money for a replacement car two years ago. Colin says it was a case of "'death by misadventure,'" using the episode's title once again. Is he telling the truth about the boy's death? There is no way to know since he lies about so much else, but George does remark that he thought Colin had four children, not the three pictured in the photo.

Colin claims to have broken the china and George accuses him of doing it due to his jealousy of George's mother, whom Colin describes as "'a pleasant hobby my father took up in middle age to occupy and amuse himself with after my mother died'"--the two men, who look nothing alike, are stepbrothers. Colin takes the revolver out of the toolbox and tells George that he came here to kill him but changed his mind. Colin demands his share of the inheritance. When George refuses, Colin gets up to leave and tells George that he has killed Eva and her body is in the basement. George rushes downstairs, coughing due to the gas that is still escaping from the valve, but when he comes back to the top of the stairs the doorknob falls off, leaving him trapped. Colin's plan works perfectly as George succumbs to the gas and we hear his body collapse and fall down the stairs.

Once the coast is clear, Eva re-enters the kitchen, dressed in an expensive suit, her hair coiffed. Colin, whose lies have become so facile that Eva believes every one, tells her that he had to hit George to get him into the basement. Eva tells Colin that "'you practically put us in the gas chamber with your stupidity,'" making her seem like the reincarnation of Cora from The Postman Always Rings Twice. Still claiming to be a detective, Colin tells Eva that he "'wiped up the blood,'" but she calls him a fool and he slaps her, telling her to pull herself together. She tries to call the police, but he convinces her that they would accuse her of her husband's murder. She goes forward with the plan they had previously conceived, first calling her husband's office and then the police, pretending that she is downtown shopping and asking them to check her house, where she fears her husband is injured.

Just as they are about to leave, Colin tells Eva that he can't find the blackmail pictures that he took of her and her boyfriend. He tells her that the pictures must have fallen out when he was in the basement. He says he can't bear to see George, so she calls him a coward and heads downstairs herself. As she calls up from the basement, unable to find the photos, he calls the police, identifying himself as George, and tells them that all is well and they don't need to come. Colin walks to the basement door, where he hears Eva coughing on the stairs, and we see the doorknob fall out once again, trapping her with her husband in the gas-filled basement, her death inevitable. Colin picks up his things and whistles as he exits. The camera fades out on the doorknob that has fallen to the kitchen floor.

"Misadventure" is an elaborately plotted episode that starts out as if it were a comedy but ends up with a double murder. The dialogue is outstanding and the twists and turns that occur in the story make the viewer's head spin. As Colin, Barry Nelson is both engaging and chilling, able to convince Eva of a series of tall tales that don't always seem to be consistent with each other. Lola Albright gives a superb performance as Eva, convincing as a bored housewife, a cheating woman, a seductress, and a conspirator to murder. She believes herself to have the upper hand right up to the end, when she suddenly discovers that Colin has re-used his plot to kill George in order to kill her as well. Underneath her sleek veneer, she is a brash, conniving woman, able to turn on the charm when it suits her.

In a somewhat smaller, less complicated role, George Kennedy plays George as a whining, spoiled, middle-aged man. Like Colin and Eva, he turns out to be something of a monster, as he took all of his inheritance and shared nothing with his stepbrother, who says he blames George for the death of his son. Colin seems willing to give George a chance almost to the end, telling him that he needs only a few thousand dollars, but when George refuses even this his stepbrother goes ahead with his murderous plan. All three characters are motivated by money. George inherited it and won't give it up to his needy stepbrother; he is also a tightwad when it comes to his wife, who complains to Colin that her husband gives her only what she needs to run the house. Eva wants more than her husband has been giving her and turns to other men for attention, sex, and cash. Her plot with Colin is essentially one that she thinks will result in her getting her husband's money. Colin has needed money from his stepbrother for at least two years and claims to blame the man for his son's death; one may wonder if, in the subsequent weeks and months, after George and Eva have been found dead in the basement, Colin will inherit his stepbrother's money? He tells George at one point that, as his only living relative (after he claims to have killed Eva), he will, but is this accurate? If not, was his ultimate motivation money, or was it revenge? And, if so, why the need to kill Eva? Perhaps she had to be done away with because she knew too much about Colin's role in her husband's murder. Colin also gets another sort of satisfaction by seducing his stepbrother's wife, something he alludes to in conversation with George but does not explicitly mention. In any case, one hopes that if Colin is not apprehended, he will turn his obvious talent for manipulation into something profitable.

In many ways, Lewis Davidson's original teleplay for "Misadventure" recalls his teleplay for "See the Monkey Dance," which had aired on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour just four weeks before. Both episodes have small casts and use few sets, so both may have been intended as money-saving shows. The plots also have much in common. In both episodes, there is a love triangle involving two men and a woman. There is a stranger with a gun who takes advantage of another character and pretends to be someone he is not. "See the Monkey Dance" ends with one character killed and another arrested, while "Misadventure" ends with two characters killed and the third escaping scot-free. In both shows, the puppet-master gets exactly what he wants and faces no consequences.

"Misadventure" features an original score by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975), who scored seven films for Hitchcock from 1955 to 1964 and who wrote original scores for 17 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour's last two seasons. (More information about Herrmann may be found here). The score is subtle and unobtrusive, mainly using woodwinds but with occasional strings; the music helps build suspense and a sense of unease.

Joseph Newman (1909-2006), who directed "See the Monkey Dance," directs another of Davidson's scripts with "Misadventure." Newman started out as an assistant director in the Golden Age of Hollywood, from 1933 to 1942, before becoming a director of short subjects from 1938 to 1947, and finally of features, starting in 1942. His most memorable film is probably This Island Earth (1955), a science fiction classic. He worked in television from 1960 to 1965 and directed ten episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Second Wife". Newman also directed four episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Receiving top billing as Colin is Barry Nelson (1917-2007), a busy actor on the large and small screens from 1938 to 1990. He appeared on the Hitchcock show three times, including "Anyone for Murder?" and was also seen on The Twilight Zone and in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). As Colin, Nelson is both funny and menacing, and he succeeds in bringing a complicated character to life.

The ultimate noir housewife, Eva is played perfectly by Lola Albright (1924-2017); her career began in movies in 1947 and she added TV in 1951. She was a regular on Peter Gunn from 1958 to 1961 and she was in three episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Black Curtain."

Michael Bregan

George Kennedy (1925-2016) is cast against type as George, the penny-pinching, doomed husband. He served in the Army in WWII and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and his long career on screen spanned the years from 1956 to 2014. Kennedy was on Thriller and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in Cool Hand Luke (1967). He starred in a series called Sarge (1971-1972), another series called The Blue Knight (1975-1976), and he was a regular on Dallas for three years, from 1988 to 1991. Kennedy appeared in Airport (1970) and its sequels, as well as The Naked Gun and its sequels. He wrote an autobiography called Trust Me (2011) and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Finally, appearing briefly as Eva's boyfriend is Michael Bregan, who had five TV credits between 1964 and 1965.

"Misadventure" aired on NBC on Monday, December 7, 1964, and can be viewed here.


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


"Misadventure." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 10, episode 8, CBS, 7 December 1964.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of Lewis Davidson concludes with "The World's Oldest Motive," starring Henry Jones!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Wet Saturday here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Canary Sedan" here!

Monday, February 21, 2022

Batman in the 1980s Issue 47: February/March 1984


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


Batman #368

"A Revenge of Rainbows"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

Batman and Jason Todd are sitting in the Batcave, trying to figure out a name for Jason's alter ego, when in walks Dick Grayson. Meanwhile, in an abandoned warehouse, the blind villain known as Crazy Quilt has his sight restored by means of a high-tech helmet. He plans "A Revenge of Rainbows" on his nemesis, Robin. Back at the Batcave, Dick says he needs to grow up, now that he's the leader of the Teen Titans, and gives Jason his Robin costume and permission to use the name.

That night, Batman and Robin hit the streets of Gotham and clean up a large number of crooks. Vicki Vale gets wind of the action and snaps a pic of the new Dynamic Duo; the next day, Crazy Quilt sees the photo in the paper and vows to make tonight the Boy Wonder's last. Up in Montreal, Alfred and his daughter Julia discover the dead body of a man named Letrope, confirming Julia's suspicion that her father was murdered.

Night falls, and Batman and Robin again prowl the streets of Gotham. Batman sees colored lights and thinks of Crazy Quilt; he goes off alone to look for him, thinking he's protecting Robin, but while the Bat is away, the Crazy mouse will play--Crazy Quilt confronts Robin and beats Jason to a pulp, leaving his body in an alley to be found by Batman, who fears his new partner has been murdered.

Peter: Back when we were doing the Marvel University blog, we used the Captain America shield for "landmark issues." If we had the equivalent here, "A Revenge of Rainbows" would doubtless earn that award. Doug shows just how comfortable he's become in the role of Bats-chronicler by elevating a tenth-tier villain like Crazy-Quilt into a major menace in the space of a few pages. The dialogue between Bats and Jason, when the kid is wondering why he can't get credit for his actions, is far more dense than that usually afforded a funny book aimed at pre-teens. This was an era of Batman I somehow missed out on (coming back after a decade's absence when Frank Miller dropped in with "Year One"), but I'm really looking forward to seeing what treats Doug has in store for us. Wait, did I really say I'm anxious to see what Doug Moench has up his sleeve to surprise me? Hell has frozen over.  The art is exquisite. 'Nuff said.

Jack: I completely agree with you! From the cool, retro cover to the half-page panel that ends the story, this issue really stood out as a turning point for the Batman saga. Moench's plotting is excellent, and he uses Crazy Quilt perfectly. Even the brief appearances of Vicki Vale and Alfred manage to keep these characters in the mix without being too intrusive. These full-length Bat stories are very entertaining, and the art by Newton and Alcala is quite good. The issue was so good, in fact, that I was wishing it had been illustrated by Adams and Giordano. Now, THAT would have been something!

Detective Comics #535

"One Hole in a Quilt of Madness"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Bob Smith

After Jason/Robin's beating at the hands of Crazy-Quilt, Batman takes the lad back to Stately Wayne Manor to recuperate. When Jason wakes, he argues with Bruce about his capabilities as a crime-fighter. Bruce has the last word when he forbids Jason to suit up as Robin 2.0 for at least a little while. Jason agrees and heads to the Batcave to do some "research."

In the "Meanwhile" department, Alfred grills his daughter on her secret life and Harvey tells Gordon he believes there's a new Kingpin of Crime in town. But enough of that nonsense...

Jason returns to the study after a few hours, dressed in his Robin suit. Batman barely gets out an outraged protest when Jason clocks him in the head with the Joker's scepter and flees into the night. At a seedy bar on Pier 17, Robin finds Crazy-Quilt and his men. A tussle ensues. Back at Wayne Manor, Batman stirs from his unwanted nap and reads a note left by Jason. "Aha!" he exclaims and storms through the door. Mere seconds later, he's at the seedy Pier 17 dive, assisting Robin in purging Gotham of a tenth-tier villain.

You see, Robin explains to Bats, Quilt placed a hypnotic suggestion into the lad's brain, luring him out to the bar. But Quilt didn't know that Robin would be aware of the suggestion and warn Batman with his note. After Robin discovers the secret of Quilt's helmet, he disarms the baddie and uses the headgear against its owner. Batman commends his new partner on his ingenuity and fighting skills.

Peter: A bit of a comedown after the strong first chapter, "One Hole..." suffers most from a confusing expository in its climax and some murky Colan/Smith art. In one panel, it appears that Clark Kent is suiting up as Batman. The sub-plots, as usual, are completely disposable. In the case of the Gordon/Bullock page, there's not enough info given to drive the thread along and all I could think about was the fact that Gordon got out of the hospital really fast. The Alfred/daughter soap opera is gawdawful and should be wrapped up as soon as possible. Still, the main thread, Jason's tutelage, is enthralling. Doing some research, I learned that contemporary Bats-fans hated Jason Todd and, in a revolutionary twist, voted him dead. But we'll cover that in a "couple of years" from now. The point is, I'm stunned (at this point in the arc) that readers disliked the character that much. I wish I had the luxury of calling a 1-800 number when I was enduring Nemesis. And please... let's all welcome back Gordon after a traumatic 48 hours where he had a stroke and slipped into a coma. I need some of those vitamins Jim is taking.

Jack: You and me both. I thought this story was good and that the art was excellent, though I don't know why Moench expanded the subplots even though he only had 16 pages to work with. Credit the writer for bringing back an obscure villain and making him interesting and meaningful in the overall Bat-arc.

"The Black Box III: On the Cheap"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Shawn McManus

Green Arrow infiltrates the junkyard hideout of the Werewolves of London and discovers an old friend there. Yep, the judge was lenient and released Ozone, and the dopey kid is scrounging around the dump looking for spare parts when he stumbles upon the biker gang and is captured. The Arrow discovers that the bikers are led by yet another tenth-tier baddy with the handle of "Cheapjack." This guy's forte is building weapons out of junk! When Cheapjack uses Ozone as a human shield, the Arrow uses some fancy slinging to rescue the kid and then uses one of Ozone's spray cans to escape. The aerosol lifts the Arrow and Ozone hundreds of feet into the air, all the better to watch as Cheapjack and the 'wolves unveil their secret weapon: the shack they'd all been fighting in is actually a helicopter! 

The building ascends in the air and Ozone tells the Arrow to zap it with a can he has in his utility belt. Unfortunately, Ollie uses the wrong can and a stream of glue gobs up the copter's prop, sending it hurtling to the ground. Ollie and Ozone land, only to be confronted by the Detonator, who reminds the pair that he'll do anything to get his mitts on the black box!

Peter: "On the Cheap" continues a very fun, very dumb story that has me, inexplicably, hooked! Scripter Joey Cavalieri continues to throw humor and dopey plot twists in to keep our attention. It's working. The scene where Ollie is supposed to hurl an aerosol grenade at the shack but chooses the wrong can is a gem; laugh-out-loud funny. I have no idea how Joey is going to tie up all the loose ends in one seven-page finale. 

Jack: I'm worried about you, Peter. Maybe you've read too much Warren drivel. This back-up series is awful! The writing is especially bad, with groan-inducing references to pop culture and advertisements. It's absurd that a spray can could lift two people high in the air and that their flight could be controlled. At least the art, by Shawn McManus, is not as bad as we've been used to.


Batman #369

"Target Practice"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

Alfred and Julia are in Montreal, discussing the murder of Jacques Remarque, when they find themselves in danger from a series of near misses: a sign almost falls on them, a car nearly crashes into them, the subway car in which they ride jumps the rails. Julia explains that she had discovered that Remarque was working for the French police to recover art treasures that had been stolen by the Nazis. Julia wants to avenge Remarque's death on her own (after all, she's the daughter of Mlle. Marie!), but Alfred realizes that they need help, so he contacts Batman.

Meanwhile, in a Gotham bar, Harvey Bullock reveals that he may not be such a changed man after all when he announces that he wants in on a big, illegal gambling racket. The Dark Knight rushes to Montreal, where he follows a clue and deduces that Julia and Alfred are being menaced by Deadshot. Hero finds villain and a chase ensues that ends in a park, where Deadshot is about to eliminate Julia when a well-thrown Batarang causes Julia to unintentionally shoot Deadshot in the leg. Deadshot reveals that he was paid to kill Julia by none other than Jacques Remarque!

Peter: "Target Practice" is entirely disposable and incredibly boring. Incredible, to me, because Doug had been riding the rails at 200 mph without so much as a bump in the road until now. Alfred/Julia is disposable soap opera fluff, albeit nicely illustrated fluff. The only bright spot is the final panel, where we discover that the man who paid Deadshot is (supposedly) Julia's adoptive father. I became increasingly annoyed with 'shot's m.o. of shooting stuff around his mark in order to kill the target instead of just making fast work of it (after three fails) and shooting the poor girl. Get me to the other side of this arc quickly.

Jack: It was rather bold of Moench to go almost 11 pages without an appearance by Batman; unfortunately, the first 10 pages aren't very compelling. I had forgotten that Julia was Mlle. Marie's daughter (Alfred, you scamp!), so that was an interesting tidbit, but the opening sequence lasts way too long. At least this allows Moench to fit in the two-page Harvey Bullock subplot between the section with Alfred and the arrival of Batman--that way, it's not too distracting. Once Batman gets to Montreal, things speed up, though I've never been that fond of Deadshot as a character. There is a bit of back-story here about him that I don't recall, and there is no caption directing us to a prior issue, so I wonder if the business about him being a crimefighter in a top hat is new or if I just forgot. In any case, this arc isn't off to a great start.

Detective Comics #536

"Facing the Dark, Blindly..."
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan and Bob Smith

Deadshot has been taken to the Montreal police station, where he is being interrogated. Batman stands to the side, awaiting any nuggets or clues. Meanwhile, Alfred continues to calm and comfort his daughter/not a daughter, who has just been delivered the startling news that her adoptive father may still be alive.

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, we discover the identity of the new mob boss who's elbowing his way into the trade: a creep with a knack for melodrama calling himself Doctor Fang. He punishes an underling who's screwed up by biting him in the neck. "Next time," Fang promises, "It'll be your jugular!"

In Montreal, Deadshot manages to escape the police and steal a car. The police chase but ultimately lose him in the streets. Deadshot returns to his hideout and joins his accomplices, including the man who hired him to kill Julia. The police find Deadshot's car and surround the house but Julia, believing her "father" is inside, breaks away and sneaks into the building. She discovers an entryway through the cellar into the sewers, where she stumbles onto the stolen art. There, she confronts a man who reveals that Jacques Remarque is indeed dead and, soon, Julia will follow. Batman intrudes on the conversation, foils Deadshot's assassination attempt, and saves the day.

Peter: Thank goodness this arc is done and dusted. A long and boring story that went nowhere slowly. Extremely sad to see Alfred utter the lines "But I'm your father, Julia..." over and over again as his somnambulant daughter mumbles "He's alive... my real father is alive!" Deadshot might be a beloved character, but he's strictly a no-show in this arc. For once, the sub-plot perked me up more than the main course. This Doctor Fang guy may turn out to be a wet noodle in the end, but the nibbles we've been given (faux vampire who wears make-up and is trained in Shakespeare? Sign me up!) so far have me wanting to know what's coming down the pike sooner rather than later.

Jack: The best part of this weak story was the brief episode involving Dr. Fang, who inhabits a creepy cave that features stalactites and an arm holding a torch that is straight out of Beauty and the Beast. It's probably not a good sign that I laughed when Dr. Fang introduced himself, but at least it was better than The Adventures of Alfred that took up the rest of the story.

"The Black Box IV: Short Fuse"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Shawn McManus & Sal Trapani

Green Arrow and Ozone battle the Detonator at the Werewolves' junkyard hideout. The Detonator wants the black box, but Ollie won't budge. After defeating the Arrow and searching him, the Detonator decides the box must be somewhere in the bikers' lair. Ozone rushes Ollie to the hospital and reveals to our hero that he has the black box. Ollie listens to the tape and hears nothing. That, the Arrow decides, is the clue to the true identity of the Detonator.

The Arrow assembles Whelmsley and his staff at the billionaire's office building and reveals that the silence on the tape means that the pilot did not radio in the plane's explosion. Therefore, the pilot is the Detonator! Ollie uses one of his special arrows to shackle the baddie before he can don his electric mitts. 

Peter: I love the dialogue between Ollie and Ozone; it's genuinely funny and not forced. But, alas, as predicted in this space two weeks ago, the landing is fumbled. So, the Detonator was the pilot the entire time? How did he know he'd survive an explosion in mid-air? That makes no sense to me at all. Nor does abandoning the Werewolves/Cheapjack thread mid-story. And Joey doesn't even let us in on why the pilot was doing this to Whelmsley. Joey shoulda extended this arc another couple issues and let the story breathe. It's not like there's something more pressing coming down the pike. The art by McManus has gotten steadily better.

Jack: Better compared to what? Nemesis? This story is awful. Ozone refers to "Queekstraw" at one point, a shout-out to the old Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. He later quips, "I'm gonna stay and guard this foxhole against atheists." Finally, in Green Arrow's hospital room, Ozone and Hi-Tek argue over who fought Green Arrow first. This entire series reads like it was penned by a kid in junior high.

Next Week...
Jack and Peter debate the merits of
the controversial "Process of Elimination"