Thursday, July 21, 2022

Journey Into Strange Tales Atlas/ Marvel Horror Comics Issue 65


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 50
September 1953 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Adventures into Terror #23

“The Invisible World” (a: George Roussos) ★1/2

“The Cannibals” (a: Bill Benulis & Jack Abel) ★★★

“If I Had the Wings Of…” (a: Al Luster) ★★1/2

“The Ghost Walks” (a: Tony DiPreta) ★★1/2

“The Cowards Meet” (a: Larry Woromay) ★1/2

Lab assistant George Corliss discovers an entire world living on a microscope slide. As he zooms in on the world, he comes across a beautiful girl in peril. Remembering that (on the other side of the lab, mind you), his boss, the professor has invented a machine that shrinks items down to a microscopic size, George grabs a gun and heads for his little crush. The love-starved egghead arrives just in time, fending off a coup in Micronesia! The girl is none other than Princess Hydma and she falls immediately in love with her savior. George is in heaven until the city starts flooding and he remembers he’s actually on a slide. Jumping back up to regular size, he tries to stop Professor Clutens from doing any more damage but the old timer just keeps cleaning away. Enraged, George strangles the old coot and then tries to figure out how to relocate Micronesia.

I’m not sure why I should consider this any sillier than the stories populated by female werewolves but “The Invisible World” just seems to have an enormous amount of logic problems that stick out like a square basketball. For instance, how does George shrink down on a machine across the room from the microscope slide and then enter that world? And why is it that he suddenly reverts back to regular size just because it pops into his head? The strangling of Professor Clutens is a bit extreme as well! If the story was engaging though, I think its logic faults could easily be dismissed.

Captain Mason’s ship goes down and only three survivors (including the Cap) make it to the lifeboat. When Jenkins and Bob ask the Captain what they’re going to do, he answers that there’s an island nearby but it’s full of cannibals and he’s not partial to being eaten alive. The next land is a thousand miles away. They begin drifting. With water and food running out, Bob goes a little nuts and jumps overboard, immediately scooped up by a nearby shark. Days pass, Jenkins dies, and the boat drifts into a shipping lane, with the Captain eventually rescued by a passing boat. When he’s asked how he survived so many days at sea without food and why he didn’t stop at the first island, the Captain “answers only the second question.”

A fairly harrowing tale of the sea, “The Cannibals” sees Benulis and Abel contributing some very good graphics again after a few missteps in quality. Bob’s descent into madness, where he mistakes a shark for the dog he lost at sea, is particularly memorable. The final panel, with the Captain sporting a full beard after only a few days, reminds one just how different the 1950s were. 

Professor Harmon is obsessed with flying but, unlike most people, the egghead wants to do the flying on his own, sans airplanes. To reach those lofty heights, the Prof has injected himself with vulture hormones and orders his gorgeous wife to drive him to their remote cabin. Seven days later, she returns to see how things went. Not very good. Harmon is one of those Atlas characters you root for even though you know he’s not quite balanced; he’s got a babe of a wife (who doesn’t even have a guy on the side or a huge insurance policy out on her dopy hubby) but the face of a caveman and some delusional goals. Why a vulture? Why not a sparrow or raven or woodpecker? The final panel of "If I Had the Wings Of...", where Harmon emerges from the shadows to give Stan Lee inspiration years later, is the answer.

Actor Jay Anton is starring in a new version of Hamlet and, while on stage one night, is visited by the ghost of his father, who claims he was murdered by Jay’s new step-father. Now dad can’t rest until Jay brings him justice, so the thespian guns down his step-father in cold blood. Unfortunately, the police arrive and Jay is killed while escaping. Back at the graveyard, Jay Sr. reveals that he’s just a dead actor’s ghost who gets a kick out of screwing with the living. “The Ghost Walks” delivers more evidence that Tony DiPreta was either on the downward slope of his career or forced to hurry as his work here looks sketchy at best. The script is a hoot though and that reveal is one of the (intentionally) most funny twists we’ve seen in some time. The final story, “The Cowards Meet,” is a short-short about two Parisian journalists who challenge each other to a duel, only to give in to cowardice and commit suicide the night before. Larry Woromay’s art has a nice Jack Davis-esque style to it but the script is skeletal.

Adventures into Weird Worlds #22

“The Vampire’s Partner!” (a: George Roussos) ★★

“The Man Who Lost an Elevator” (a: Russ Heath) ★★1/2

“The New Boy” (a: Bill Walton)  ★

“Out of My Life” (a: Bob Fujitani)  ★

“Keeper of Cats” (a: George Oleson)  ★1/2

Roco the Ragman makes a partnership with a vampire; Roco helps the blood-sucker gain entrance to the house and then he gets to steal the clothes after the home-owner is drained dry. The partnership works until Roco’s house is full of rags and he loses enthusiasm. The vampire decides Roco will be his latest victim but the ragman has a big surprise for his former partner… he’s actually made of rags! The script, by Carl Wessler, for “The Vampire’s Partner!” makes absolutely not one lick of sense but it’s undeniably amiable and goofy enough to bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded of pre-code horror scholars.

Jeff Haycox loves the hotel elevator he tends and operates but not all the folks at the hotel are fans. Mob-connected Mr. Garrot says it’s not fast enough and if he has anything to say about it, the hotel will replace it with one of those new-fangled speed demons. One day, while Jeff is tending to the elevator motor, the mob comes gunning for Garrot and he flies into the lobby, ordering Jeff to fire up the willing engine. Kindly old Jeff explains it’s not safe but Garrot cold-cocks him and hijacks the cage. The elevator flies up and through the roof. Jeff sits on the stoop of the hotel, moaning to anyone that will listen that he’s “The Man Who Lost an Elevator.” Like “The Vampire’s Partner,” the script for “Elevator” doesn’t go to the top floor but it’s very charming and Russ Heath’s graphics are very precise and refined. It’s a comedy noir.

“The New Boy” and “Out of My Life!” are short but deadly doses of dumb. Gorillas dress their intelligent little son as a human and send him off to school in “The New Boy,” but the kid knows nothing about numbers so he ends up in the dunce chair. “Out of My Life” is a cheat from the start: old guy and a beauty are having dinner… thought balloons trick reader into thinking she’s his girl and she’s dumping him for a younger guy… turns out the chick is his daughter and she’s getting married. Bob Fujitani obviously thought Boris Karloff was the perfect model for his drama. What this soap opera is doing in a comic called Adventures Into Weird Worlds is anyone’s guess.

An old hag with a strawberry birth-mark on her face is forced to steal milk from grocery stores to feed the hundreds of feral cats she keeps in her apartment. One day, she’s arrested for shoplifting and sentenced to a week in jail. The old woman pleads with the female guard to visit her apartment and feed her cats but the woman refuses. After four days, the cats are insane from hunger and throw themselves at the window pane, escaping to the street below. Some “fantastic instinct” leads them to the jail, where they release their master, the hag, and lock the guard in a cell. The next morning, a detective arrives to re-arrest the old woman but finds nothing but the feral cats, led by one with a strawberry mark on its face. “Keeper of Cats” is the kind of nonsense story that filled the pages of Harvey horror comics. The old woman’s transformation isn’t explained nor is the reason why she couldn’t simply have changed into a cat to avoid jail in the first place. The saving grace, if there can be such a thing in a strip this bad, is the sequence where the feral cats break free and answer their master’s call, much like what Willard would do a decade later in Ratman’s Notebooks.

Journey into Mystery #12

“A Night in Dragmoor Castle!!” (a: Al Eadah) ★

“A Witch in Love” (a: Dick Briefer) ★★

“All About Mars” (a: Pablo Ferro) ★★

“The Sight of the Ghost!” (a: Tony DiPreta) ★★★

“The Strange Boy” (a: Ed Goldfarb) ★

A cad talks a sweet young maid who works up at Dragmoor Castle into leaving the back door open for him so that he can steal a few paintings off the walls. Turns out the house is filled with ghosts and the cast of spooks includes the pretty maid. “A Night in Dragmoor Castle” is an absolute drag and seems like a story that might have been
on the shelf for years. A simple-minded witch falls in love with the town statue and begs her sisters to transform her into a beautiful mortal woman for just a few hours, not knowing the stone cannot give love. “A Witch in Love” is charming but doesn’t have much meat on the bone.

Willy Gregg is the ugliest man on Earth; women and children run in fear from Willy. But the last laugh is Willy Gregg’s when he invents a rocket that can take him to Mars. There, Willy is confident the Martians will not scamper nor scorn. Meanwhile, famous plastic surgeon Doctor Bralt mixes something with something and his hospital is reduced to ashes, patients included. Knowing he’ll go to jail for life, he flees to Willy’s place and begs the budget scientist to take him to Mars. As payment, he’ll make Willy the handsomest man on Mars. Willy bites, goes under the scalpel and, weeks later, the pair head for Mars. But the welcome is anything but warm when Willy disembarks. Much like back on Earth, the natives hightail it in the other direction. The doc explains to Willie that on Mars, his handsomeness is ugly. This guy can’t win! "All About Mars" is three pages of enjoyable silliness and some stark, Jack Davis-esque art from Pablo Ferro, who would only stick around long enough to contribute three times to the Atlas horror titles and then disappear from comics altogether.

Joe Harvey, a ghost in good standing for over one hundred years, comes across a boy trapped in a pit and must find someone to rescue him. Problem is, “The Sight of the Ghost” leaves everyone he encounters shaking with fear and turning tail. Then Joe manages to find a trio of good-hearted citizens who listen to his story and then follow him to the boy. Child rescued and brought safely home, the three wander off happily, leaving Joe alone to ponder the kindness in mankind. What Joe Harvey doesn’t see is the eventual destination of the three good samaritans: the county’s insane asylum. A wonderfully entertaining and imaginative fantasy tale, “The Sight of the Ghost” is nicely illustrated and full of interesting twists. A well-deserved break from vampires and werewolves.

“The Strange Boy” is a tedious and overlong fantasy about a boy rescued from a burning building and taken in by a greedy old couple who see only dollar signs in the form of a young child. Turns out the kid is the child of aliens and they show up at the story’s climax to claim their son and give the couple what they deserve.

Journey into Unknown Worlds #22

“The Death House” (a: Russ Heath) ★★★

“Two Frightened People!” (a: Hy Rosen) ★

“Davey and His Dame” (a: Cal Massey) ★★

“The Devil’s Day Off!” (a: Joe Maneely) ★1/2

“Too Timid to Live” (a: John Forte & Matt Fox) ★1/2

Joey is waiting for his execution day in “The Death House” and hears about a mystic who can transport a man into the future. Escaping prison, Joey hunts down the mystic and forces the man to send him into a safer future. But the joke’s on Joey when he “lands” in the future… on the day he’s to be executed! Clever wrap-up and some solid Heath work.

In “Two Frightened People!,” a young couple become stranded in a remote Balkan village known for its werewolves. In the end though, they discover the threat is imagined, which is a relief since the couple are vampires. Golddigger Catherine spends the last of her money to vacation at a seaside hotel, hoping to attract a rich, attractive sucker. The man she finds is David, who quickly takes a liking to the pretty blonde and promises to take her to the paradise where he keeps his wealth. Turns out Davey has this locker… “Davey and His Dame” is corny to the max but the twist is not expected and Cal Massey’s panels are gorgeously choreographed, like a B-movie set at the beach.

“The Devil’s Day Off” is a three-page bit of commie claptrap courtesy of Stan Lee. Satan takes a holiday on Earth, is captured by Russkies, put on a rack, and returns to Hell a satisfied man. From now on, “every human who comes (to Hades) is to be sent up to the Communists for a few days! Then they’ll know what hell really is!” It bears repeating that Joe Maneely is wasted on these short-shorts but he really is the only redeeming feature to this tale.

The same can be said of “Too Timid to Live,” with the unique artwork of Forte and Fox. Casper Little has had sand kicked in his face all his life and he just takes it. That includes eating a field full of crap from wife Dora. When Casper discovers Dora has a man on the side, he suddenly becomes a take-charge guy by chopping her up and stuffing her in a suitcase. There’s no rhyme or reason to the shifts of “Too Timid to Love”; Dora’s murder is handled off-panel and, other than becoming a murderer, Casper seems as meek at the climax as he was at the opening.

Marvel Tales #118

“Moon Madness” (a: Russ Heath) ★1/2

“Typhoid” ★1/2

“Noah” (a: Hy Rosen) ★★

“The Magic Word” (a: Dick Briefer) ★★

“When a World Went Mad!” (a: Gene Colan) ★★

In "Moon Madness," newspaper tycoon Amos Benton believes if he can become the first man on the moon, he’ll grow even richer by laying claim to all the minerals and precious stones found there. Benton hires a squad of “tough guys” to man the ship. Only problem is that the American government is building a rocket ship at the same time and Benton needs a couple months time to stall. He instructs his reporters to flood his own newspapers with wild stories, of werewolves on the moon and spaceships filled with lycanthropes landing on Earth 200 years before, to build dissatisfaction amongst the public towards the budding space program. The “fake news” works and Benton and his specially selected crew land on the moon ahead of schedule. Too late, Benton discovers his fake news about ancient explorers was actually right on the money when his crew doff their faux earthling disguise.

A greedy couple attempt to make a killing off a “Typhoid” outbreak in Chicago. The dopes bilk an insurance company and then inadvertently expose themselves to an actual typhoid victim on their way out of town. 

Nezra gathers together male and female of every species on a rocket ship and prepares to take off for parts unknown when Torus, the king of the world, demands an audience. Torus tells Nezra that his latter-day version of “Noah” is silly and that his expert weathermen have promised that no floods are on the way. Nezra blasts off and years later, remembers Earth before the great drought destroyed all life. 

An arrogant magician travels to India to discover the secret of levitation. He witnesses the great Rashu levitate without aid of wires and demands to know the secret. When Rashu refuses, the magician threatens bodily harm until the old man relents and tells him the secret incantation. The American showman utters the phrase and, sure enough, begins drifting upward but, too late, realizes he doesn’t have “The Magic Word” to get him back down to Earth. Some nice Briefer art and a clever finale.

Scientist Jordan Craig has invented a formula for immortality and believes it the greatest gift he can give mankind. His wife, Sue, is convinced that if man believes himself immortal, all social restraints will drop by the wayside and atomic war will be inevitable. Jordan poo-poohs his wife’s naysaying and hands out vaccines willy-nilly. Soon, the whole world is inoculated against death and, as Sue forecast, the bombs begin dropping soon after. For some strange reason known only to our uncredited writer, the radiation from the bombs devolves mankind back to his apish beginnings. Jordan whips up an antidote with the hope the vaccine will bring things back to normal but the Neanderthals are not hip to the hypo and, after discovering Sue is now a monkey-girl, Jordan is resigned to being the last man on Earth who doesn’t say, “Yikee Yak Bom Yakeedak!” The usual great Colan work but the script is as unfocused as Jordan Craig’s endgame.

Menace #7

“Fresh Out of Flesh!” (a: Syd Shores) ★★

“The Planet of Living Death” (a: Russ Heath) ★★★

“The Witch in the Woods” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★

“Your Name is Frankenstein!” (a: Joe Maneely) ★★

Glenn Towers is tasked with hunting down the fifteen thousand Mark IV androids that went rogue and plan to conquer mankind. Armed with his electronic robot detector and fire-gun, Towers manages to eliminate 14,999 of the robots in very little time but that one final humanoid is proving to be elusive. One night at dinner, Glenn’s detector starts buzzing and he realizes his wife is the final piece in the puzzle. After attempting to burn his wife alive (he doesn’t have the guts to shoot her down with his fire-gun so he lights the house on fire!), the undercover dope begins to melt and discovers that he is the hidden android! Stan’s script is predictable but entertaining, but Syd Shores’ work is so obviously weaker than his three fellow artists this issue that “Flesh Out of Flesh!” sticks out like a sore steel thumb.

After dipping too much into his special brew, spaceman Derk Collin forces his ship, “The Space Queen,” and all aboard into a treacherous landing on planet Osirus, aka “The Planet of Living Death.” When the crew disembark, they are met by a pair of creepy locals, emissaries of the snake-like Osirusians. The creatures explain that they will fix the “Space Queen” and see the Earthlings off safely if they will share the secret of atomic energy. If the crew refuses, they will die painfully. Knowing he’s going to be court-martialed back on Earth, Derk makes a deal with the Osirusians to save his own skin, but the pact might as well have been with the devil. Hilarious climactic twist and some super-duper Heath outer space graphics. Collin is one of the sleaziest villains Atlas has showcased, morphing from simple alcoholic screw-up to dangerous would-be rapist in two pages time.

In “The Witch in the Woods,” a father scolds his son for reading horror comic books (Uncanny Tales!) and offers up an alternative: fairy tales. But after reading Hansel and Gretel out loud, the man decides comic books might not be so bad after all. "Your Name is Frankenstein!" and you only want to make friends but your big, strong arms keep getting you into more mischief. After accidentally setting a house on fire and nearly killing the occupants, the Monster decides that suicide is the answer and he enters a bog, never to return. Stan adds melancholy and sympathy to the usual old Atlas Frankenstein Monster mash, as if that wasn’t Shelley’s intent in the first place. Joe Maneely is an artistic genius and has very few peers in the Atlas horror universe but his Monster looks like a bobblehead.

In Just Two Weeks...
Could it be?
Yet another ant-infested plantation?

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