Thursday, September 29, 2022

Journey Into Strange Tales: Atlas/ Marvel Horror Comics Issue 70


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 55
December 1953 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Adventures into Terror 26

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

“Once a Horse Thief…” ★★★

“Before the Dawn of Time” (a: Russ Heath) ★★★

“The Hanging Man” (a: Chuck Winter) ★★

“The Bear Facts of Life!” (a: Mac Pakula) ★★1/2

Professor Ramson is obsessed with learning the Jivaro techniques of head shrinking and, once he makes the trip, he learns the hard way. If the splash wasn’t signed, you’d mistake the Benulis/Abel art for that of Gene Colan. There’s a lot of very atmospheric shading going on in “The Shrunken Head,” and that’s a plus since the script comes up quite a bit short, especially in its ludicrous climax.

Husein the horse thief is stealing away with one of the most beautiful steeds in Arabia when a young watchman happens upon the theft. Husein buries a dagger in the boy’s heart and hops aboard the thoroughbred, making his escape. But, later that night, the horse goes lame and Husein ties it to a tree to starve. While making his way through the desert on foot, Husein is startled by a spirit who claims he’s there to grant the man his deepest desire. Safe passage into the palace of wealthy Ibn Abdul has always been Husein’s wish and… that wish is granted. But when he’s discovered, the thief must hide out in the hay of Abdul’s stable. Not a wise move. An entertaining bit of fantasy, with a beautifully ironic finale, but “Once a Horse Thief…” desperately needed the talents of a Colan or Benulis (the GCD posits that it might be the work of Sid Greene) to lift it even higher.

A construction crew discovers a strange, ancient metal cylinder buried beneath a road project. When scientists open the relic, they discover notebooks and a video left by the last living members of the civilization that ruled Earth before man. The narrator explains that a mold from space destroyed all life and the video is left as a warning for anyone who finds it. The scientists breathe a sigh of relief that the fungus did not survive the ages but do not notice the green substance growing around the excavation site. Running only four pages, “Before the Dawn of Time” has a necessarily text-heavy script but is balanced out by solid Heath work and a fabulously downbeat climax. The deadly fungus angle reminds one of the Quatermass series.

Little Tad Burrows finds out from his street buddies that his sadistic uncle is “The Hanging Man!” Tad is mortified that Uncle Ben might be an executioner but when he sneaks into the prison yard for a look he’s surprised to discover his uncle is the hanged man! Not much to this other than Chuck Winters’ stark, almost underground, style of art that gives each panel a dark and eerie vibe. 

Carlotta has always been jealous of Bruno, her husband Tito’s trained bear. Even though it’s Bruno who earns the lion’s share of the money, Carlotta hates that her husband fawns over the brute. When Bruno comes down with a case of the sicks, Carlotta devises a way to rid herself of the beast by setting up an arena match with Count Francisco’s ferocious lions without consulting Tito first. All Tito knows is that there’s going to be a special show. When the big day arrives, Carlotta sits in the stands wondering where her husband is, but snickers as the bear enters the arena. Just then, family friend Marco sits down beside Carlotta and explains that Bruno had died the night before but Tito, knowing how much the show meant to Carlotta, gutted his prize possession and entered the arena wearing the pelt. Carlotta’s smile turns to a frown as the lions circle Tito. The build-up is needlessly complicated but the pay-off is a beaut; poor Bruno joins the select few of innocent Atlas victims who paid for the sins of their significant others. 

Adventures into Weird Worlds #24

“The One Who Was Dead” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★

“He Kidnapped a Rocket” 1/2

“The Hunter” (a: Sid Greene) ★★★

“Halfway Home!” (a: Chuck Winter) 1/2

“Look Out for the Martians” (a: John Forte) ★★1/2

Dr. Karl Veblen bursts into the home of his good friend, Alec Jones, with an astonishing proclamation. Karl has discovered a formula for bringing the dead back to life. He demonstrates on a deceased alley cat he’s brought in a brown paper bag and, sure enough, seconds later, the maggot-eaten carcass is meowing and demanding a saucer of milk. Karl begs his oldest and dearest friend to inject him with the remainder of the serum (the only batch left on Earth) should he die. Alec agrees but, when Karl dies, he allows his friend to be interred. 

Soon after, while working on his latest historical novel, Alec sighs and muses out loud how wonderful it would be if he could talk to Cleopatra herself, if only she wasn’t… The next day, Alec is on a plane to Cairo, where the mummy of Cleopatra can be had for a price. Alec pays the price, injects the mummy with Karl’s potion, and watches in awe as the queen of the Nile rises again. But it’s a very short resurrection as the potion also brings to life the asp that Cleo used for her suicide! Though this is not one of Paul Reinman’s best, I thought the script for “The One Who Was Dead” was darkly humorous. One panel after Alec vows “compliance with Karl’s request,” he’s walking away from the grave and, ostensibly, forgetting all about that sacred vow.

In the year 2137, thief Spider Jordan, who’s just made off with “fifty thousand,” hides in a rocket ship bound for unexplored worlds. Deep into space, Spider shows himself and demands a pardon on Earth or he’ll blast the rocket crew to smithereens. The Captain agrees and explains that they have to land on Planet 27 before they head back. Once they touch ground, Spider is arrested by armed guards who surround the ship. The captain explains they’ve landed on a prison colony planet. “He Kidnapped a Rocket” is overlong at four pages, which is not a good sign. The art (possibly by Benulis and Abel) is spotty; sharp in places (like the splash), but ragged in others.

Much better is the similarly outer space-set “The Hunter,” about a poacher named Bruno who provides exotic animals for a future zoo. He uses his two mongrels to corral the animals and load them into his “caravan of space rafts.” After one particularly gruesome beast he caught on a “Jungle Star” nabs Bruno a cool million, he’s looking to fatten his wallet even more. An anonymous tip on the phone sends him to an as-yet-unvisited planet but, once he gets out of his ship, he realizes he’s been conned. The animals here use humans as their playthings, riding them like horses, leashed like dogs, and penned up in cages. As Bruno smiles and exclaims that this planet is about to be liberated, his dogs hold blasters on him and march him down to meet their friends. 

“The Hunter” is a hilarious send-up of all those “heartless explorer” tales we’ve had to endure the past several Atlas-years and predicts Pierre Boulle’s Monkey Planet/Planet of the Apes (okay, I’m stretching that last bit). Bruno’s ship is a clever space train that holds creatures in each one of its “cars,” and there’s some wink-wink dialogue as well (Bruno is told by the voice on the phone to “Turn right at Saturn…”). The Greene/Stuart art is fabulously fit for a sci-fi parody. 

The X-33 uses up most of its fuel attempting to leave the tremendous gravity of Saturn so the crew must land the rocket ship on one of Saturn’s moons and devise a way to get back to Earth. Luckily, they have one of the biggest brains of science on board and Dr. Huron whips up a gizmo that will reduce the crew members to a fraction of their size, thus eliminating quite a bit of weight. Dr. Huron tries the machine on himself, insisting to the captain that he will emerge half the man he was when he entered. The “Reductor” works… kinda. “Halfway Home” is an extremely silly three-pager with a fine Chuck Winter gloss.

A hardware salesman blows off a little steam by attending a science fiction fan meeting. There, internationally famous SF writer, August Dart, proclaims that the Martians have infiltrated Earth and are living amongst us, masquerading as humans. The only thing that will save us, Dart claims, is the Scanners, a group of government agents who can see through the faux-human disguise. Dart is hauled away to the funny farm but our salesman heads to a cafe across the street and there bumps into a fellow SF “fan” who claims he’s a Scanner. Later that evening, the salesman is grabbed by his cafe acquaintance and two other thugs and forced into an abandoned building. It’s there that they reveal their plan… “Look Out For the Martians” has, perhaps, one too many twists in its tall but the final twist is a good one, one that I didn’t see coming. Forte’s art is serviceable but he’s not given much to work with, outside of groups of men in hats. When we finally see it, Forte’s Martian is a cool concoction.

Astonishing #28

“Age Before Beauty” (a: Mort Lawrence) ★★★

“No Evidence!” (a: Louis Ravelli) ★★1/2

“The End of the World!” (a: Al Eadah)

“Death Where Is Thy Sting” (a: Don Perlin)

“The Hidden Planet!” (a: Robert Q. Sale)

Obsessed with his muscle-building regime and keeping handsome for his age, pilot Roger Dean ignores the control panel, puts the spaceship on autopilot, and gets back to his push-ups. Unfortunately, space throws a monkey wrench into Dean’s plans when the ship crashes into “a major chunk of space debris” and hurtles towards the planet Roxx. Dean wakes to find his entire crew is dead and a gorgeous blonde is nursing him. The body-builder makes the best of things by proposing to his caregiver and settling down in a three-bedroom in the ‘burbs.

But Roger Dean begins to suspect something is up with his beautiful bride when Zara begins looking younger every day. Turns out this planet ages backwards and Zara is slowly, but surely, becoming a young child. She’ll need an “age transfusion” to reverse the process. Roger consents but his after-effects are grim. Though the set-up of “Age Before Beauty” is a bit exaggerated (the idea that a spaceman would rather do sit-ups than steer the ship through a life-threatening meteor attack is a bit far-fetched, no?) the underlying message, that age is in the eye of the beholder, is a heady one for a 1950s SF strip. Vanity can kill. I love Mort Lawrence’s graphics, very much in the style of Krenkel and Williamson, which are perfect for this type of Atlas SF.

Turns out Jason, filing clerk who has access to top secret military documents, is swallowing paper and then giving it up (via stomach suction — yecccch!) to his real employers, the stinkin’ commies. His boss is so impressed with Jason’s skills, he assigns him to the most important mission of all time — the brand new, top secret, eyes only project American scientists are working on. Jason worms his way in and swallows the capsule at the lab but is caught exiting the building. Though he feigns innocence, Jason is given up by his own stomach, which begins to glow. He’s swallowed a “concentrated atomic energy pill!” Shouldn’t have done that. Though “No Evidence” is stocked with cliched bloodthirsty, inhuman Russians (and saintly Americans only working for the betterment of mankind), the climactic twist is a snorter and the look on Jason’s face, as he melts from the inside, is priceless.

A crazed man tries to force his way into the White House, screaming that “The End of the World” is only four hours away. The guards call the loonie bin and a van comes to take the crazed stranger away. A tornado whisks the van high in the sky and slams it back down, killing the guards but leaving the madman unhurt. He quickly heads back to the White House but is scooped up en route by aliens from another world. The planet Gruba has sent an army to conquer Earth and our crazed protagonist is a pacifist out to warn our people of the invasion. The aliens kill their traitor and begin the assault. With a lazy script and amateurish artwork by Al Eadah, “The End of the World” looks like something a ten-year-old would whip up in an afternoon.

Amateur hour continues with the truly awful “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?,” about a bum who hops off a train, looking for work, and finds a secluded farmer looking for help with his beehives. When he sees the old man stashing money in one of the bee boxes, the derelict goes nuts and throttles the farmer. The bees attack the killer, stinging him into unconsciousness. When he awakens, for some unexplained reason, he’s inside a honeycomb, drowning in the sticky stuff. Where this out-of-left-field reveal came from (and what it actually means) is lost to the ages. This could be Don Perlin’s nadir.

“The Hidden Planet” sees alien Zo from the planet Attalia meet up with scientist, Professor Kroft, who has a soft spot for gold. Turns out Zo comes from a planet where gold is commonplace and flows like water through the canyons. Smelling a payday, Kroft orders Zo at gunpoint to fly him to Atallia so that he can grab a few souvenirs and come back as the richest man on Earth. Unfortunately, the plan backfires when Attalia turns out to be the Sun and Kroft melts as they enter its atmosphere. Well duh, Dr. Kroft, how else would you have rivers of gold? Some scientist this guy is.

Journey into Mystery #13

“Not Normal!” (a: George Roussos) ★★★

“Keep Off the Grass” (a: John Forte)

“The Living and the Dead” (a: Myron Fass)

“What Harry Saw!” 1/2

“We Don’t Want Your Head!” (a: Vic Carrabotta) ★★

Ludwig Miskolc has spent his entire life purging Bakony, his Hungarian village, of the werewolves and vampires who live in the outlying forests. When Ludwig scores a ten and kills Loki, King of the Werewolves, all the nightmarish creatures who lived in the forest flee for greener pastures. With nothing better to do. Ludwig decides to take a wife. Unfortunately, he discovers that the evil bloodlines of the werewolf and vampire have spilled over into the pretty girls of Hungary; he can’t find a date who doesn’t want to drain him of his blood. So it’s off to Budapest to find that certain girl.

But it turns out that Budapest is filled with witches! What to do? Swearing that he’s “through with women,” Ludwig heads back to Bakony to live out his life a broken and lonely man. That’s when he stumbles onto the lovely American babe, Helen. Having been stung so many times before, Ludwig follows the girl around to see if she sprouts fangs or rides a broomstick. With Helen passing all tests, Ludwig proposes and she consents. In no time at all, the couple are having their first child. Ludwig enters the room and Helen happily introduces him to their son, who closely resembles his great-grandfather, Loki.

I’m on record as championing the stories that bounce around like a pinball, from odd twist to odd twist. “Not Normal!” certainly qualifies, with its almost gleeful tracking of Ludwig’s failed romances and its WTF? twist climax. I’m not sure why Helen exhibits none of her grandfather’s beastly behavior nor his grizzly appearance; it’s not clear whether she knows Ludwig was responsible for Loki’s death. The final panel of baby Loki, fangs bared and one wisp of blond hair atop his head, is hilarious.

Ex-mobster Al Morgan takes the spoils of a life spent in the rackets and buys a huge estate known as Greenlawns, for its huge, gorgeous green lawns. When Al buys the place, he’s warned first by the realtor, then by the groundskeeper, that he should not damage the lawn. No one tells Al “NO!” so the next morning he’s out on the gargantuan green with his nine-iron, showing who’s boss. The next day, a “Keep Off the Grass” sign appears on the lawn and Al goes nuts, threatening his gardener and digging out even more divots. The last straw comes when Al pops on his brand-new extra-long-spiked cleats and heads out to have some fun. That’s when the lawn comes to life and strangles him. 

I’ve never been a fan of the “exaggerated nasty character” syndrome; Al Morgan is an evil extreme that stretches believability and crosses more into hilarity. Obviously no explanation is given for the killer grass (why wouldn’t the lawn strike out at the gardener for “cutting” him so frequently?) but I’d have loved to see the missing panels where the green carpet is penning the warning signs. John Forte’s art is very minimal, with several panels resembling unfinished breakdowns.

The dead come back to life to haunt a cheating swami in the inane “The Living and the Dead,” made worse by Myron Fass’s stark, amateurish visuals. Harry is insanely jealous and suspicious of any man who comes within ten feet of his lovely wife, Nora, so he activates the “Futurescope” in order to have a little peek ten years into the future (even though such an act is illegal!). “What Harry Saw!” boils his blood: Nora in the arms of another man. He races home and draws his ray-gun, aiming to zap Nora from this world into the next. The dope trips and shoots himself in the process. Dying in his hospital bed, Harry realizes that the “other guy” is a man Nora meets after Harry dies so he himself is responsible for sending her into the arms of another man. Oh irony, where is thy sting?

Budding concert pianist Rudolph is told by his teacher that to become a master, Rudolph must practice ten hours a day for ten months and then the stage awaits. Knowing he won’t be able to support himself, Rudolph reaches out to an old flame, the rich and easily-manipulated Sarah. The couple are quickly married but the tedium of practicing soon wears Sarah down and Rudolph realizes he’s going to have to kill his wife. He takes Sarah to Africa for a honeymoon and plots her death with a big-game hunter. The murder goes off without a hitch and, for insurance, Rudolph shoots his partner in crime and dumps the body in the bush. With no one to guide him out of the thick and dangerous jungle, Rudolph is quickly surrounded by natives and he fears the worst. Luckily for Rudolph though, this tribe of savages doesn’t want his head. They’re “hand-hunters!” “We Don’t Want Your Head” has some humorous moments (a pretty elaborate plan just to kill the Mrs., no?) and the final twist is fun, but Vic Carrabotta’s art (like most of the work this issue) is scratchy and hard on the eyes.

Journey into Unknown Worlds #23

“The Vampire’s Fangs” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★1/2

“The Men From Earth” (a: Mac Pakula) 1/2

“The World’s End!” (a: Gene Colan) 1/2

“Weather Balloons” (a: Art Peddy & Jack Abel)

“Crashing Through the Time Barrier!” (a: Russ Heath) ★★

A stowaway on a European freighter is bitten by a bat and becomes a vampire, desiring the blood of the ship’s crewmen. “The Vampire’s Fangs” is not your run-of-the-mill bloodsucker story. For one thing, our hapless hero becomes a giant bat but he also doesn’t seem to be able to control his powers nor adhere to any of the rules of the vampire lore (he can enter a coffin as a mist but for some reason is unable to exit the same way). Still, I found the tale to be unnerving and Reinman’s art to be perfectly moody.

Lepus and his men from Procyon scour the galaxy for slaves and now its Earth’s turn. The aliens arrive quietly on Earth and blast the first three men they come upon. But, once on Procyon, the aliens are unable to thaw the Earthlings out of their deep-freeze and so decide not to go back for seconds. “The Men from Earth” they brought back were statues from a park. 

As the sun approaches Earth at a rapid pace and our world catches fire, one of the last men surviving, John Eventer, is visited by two men who claim to be from the future, here to do a few tests before mankind perishes. After the tests, John asks one of the men how they could be from his future if the world is destroyed. The man explains that very soon the world will right itself but very few will survive; he is named after one of the survivors. The ship takes off and disappears into the void, with John just realizing that the man he was talking to was also named John Eventer. What a coincidence! “The World’s End” is bottom-basement sci-fi with sub-par Gene Colan graphics (Gene’s work looks uncharacteristically rushed here), with a “D’Oh! twist ending that makes John Eventer look like the dumbest last man on Earth.

Scientists discuss the strange phenomena threatening Earth; what was thought to be “Weather Balloons!” turns out to be alien spaceships readying an attack. Simply awful art, ho-hum script, and silly final panel reveal add up to a forgettable sci-fi short. 

Shortly before he is to board a rocket ship designed for “Crashing Through the Time Barrier!,” Lee catches his wife, Anne, in the arms of another man. Lee blasts the guy and storms out of the house, not listening to Anne’s sobbing appeals. The spaceman blasts off and, indeed, breaks the time barrier, landing on Venus only a short time later. But when he disembarks, he notices Venus looks an awful lot like home. In fact, he finds his house and rushes in to find Anne. Relieved, he takes her in his arms just before the younger Lee breaks in and blasts him. The dying Alternate-Lee lies on the floor, pondering the vicious circle. The expository is awfully clunky (Lee hypothesizes that Venus is a mirror image of Earth and that events happen concurrently on both worlds) and there are plot holes, even for a time travel yarn, you could fly your X-7 through. Why, for instance, do neither Lee nor Anne bother to look at the face of the dead man? That might have put a halt to any further nonsense.

In Two Weeks...
The 20 Best Stories of 1953!

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 94: June 1978



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

Eerie #93

"Strangers in the Strangest Places, Part Two"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Abel Laxamana & Alfredo Alcala

"Honor and Blood"
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Leo Duranona

"Kingdom of Ash"★1/2
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Einstein Factor"★1/2
Story by Moreno Casares & Nicola Cuti
Art by Moreno Casares

"The Slime Creature of Harlem Avenue"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

Restin Dane, Bishop Dane, Banjo Feather, and Manners the robot land their spaceship in the old western town of Red Gap. Organ Lo emerges and challenges Manners to a duel but fires first, encasing the robot in concrete. Restin's bullets have no effect on Lo's tough hide, so the gang uses the ship to knock down the wall of Granny Filcher's house in an attempt to reach Organ. Banjo Feather is shocked that Granny Filcher is behind Organ Lo's reign of terror and, suddenly, Organ Lo collapses when hit by bullets from Manners's gun. Granny is whisked off to jail and Organ Lo's body is taken aboard the ship, where he reveals that he faked his own death to get away from Granny. The Danes make use of a time-space teleporter in the Rook Cave to send Organ Lo home and, in Red Gap, Granny discovers that she likes the personal service she receives in jail from Banjo Feather.

Part two of "Strangers in the Strangest Places!" is a letdown. Inexplicably, Alfredo Alcala draws a splash page that depicts the residents leaving town due to their fear of Organ Lo; Abel Laxamana draws the other ten pages and they are nothing special. The story consists of a couple of quick gun battles and some weak attempts at humor.

The Vrykola family's history is written in "Honor and Blood," beginning with a sadistic fighter born in Transylvania in 1605. Count Vrykola liked to torture prisoners, but eventually all good things must come to an end and he retired and had a castle built in Transylvania. Eventually marrying his cousin Ursula, she took sick and died; in her crypt, twin boys were born and survived by feasting on Mom's corpse until they were discovered. As the lads grew, Stanislaw became sensitive to sunlight and his favorite food was blood.

The brothers grew older and left for England to study at a university, but soon Stanislaw realized he was a vampire. Janos began supplying his brother with dead bodies for blood; Stan got curious about what happened to the bodies and followed Janos, only to learn he was butchering and eating the corpses. Stan bludgeons Jan and jumps to his death. Unfortunately, the vampire menace is not over, since a young girl grows fangs and avoids tanning.

This ten-pager felt about 25 pages long and I was surprised when I went back and counted how short it really was. Cuti's script is elliptical, jumping from place to place and event to event too quickly; Duranona's ability to tell a cogent story from beginning to end is sorely taxed. I have no idea who the young female vampire at the end is supposed to be, since the brothers never married or had kids, as far as I can tell. I guess this issue's ugly cover is supposed to illustrate this story. I'm not sure which is worse.

A candid photo of Jack reading "Kingdom of Ash."
Fortunately, Suzanna is not really a rotting corpse--that was an illusion provided by the Changer. She and Moonshadow are taken to meet him and he turns out to be a supercomputer left over from before the nuclear holocaust. The Changer explains that, after all life died on Earth, he was able to use magic to recreate everything, but some problems led to a plague of zombies. The Changer's fuel cells are dying and, when the Changer goes, so does everything else. Moonshadow reveals that he was faking catatonia and agrees to let the Changer transfer all of its knowledge into his mind. Afterwards, Moonshadow flips the off switch on the Changer and heads out into the "Kingdom of Ash" to do some serious thinking.

Even Jose Ortiz can't save this talkfest, and it looks like he was so bored with it that he didn't even try. Having the Changer turn out to be yet another supercomputer from before the nuclear holocaust is a disappointing development, and the first page of this eight-page story is taken up with a lot of text recapping what's happened so far. This series has turned into a complete dud.

Jack's reaction when Peter says
it's time to do another Warren post.
Lt. Roy Crayton, a US Navy test pilot, takes a jet up for a flight. When he applies a burst of speed, he feels like he's being crushed and disappears. A search team is sent out but can't find him; meanwhile, he lands on a mysterious island. Roy spends quite a while talking to himself, feeling sorry for himself, and complaining about his predicament and his past treatment in the Navy, until it turns out that "The Einstein Factor" caused him to shrink to tiny size and the island is really a cow's skeleton. He never learns that he was given a posthumous medal for bravery.

It just goes from bad to worse in Eerie #93! This is our first look at Moreno Casares, who is credited as co-writer with Nick Cuti as well as artist. The story is bad and we've seen it all before, with a character not realizing the island he's on is really something else. The art reminded me of the work of Martin Salvador, who is not one of our favorites. I looked Casares up online and he seems to have a decent reputation, so maybe his stories will improve.

Ablemar Jones and his bro', Sly Stanleystone, are chillin' on a stoop in Harlem when who should walk by but a fine, foxy mama. Their compliments are interrupted by the appearance of knife-wielding Crazy Julius Gore, whose reputation as a mean, tough dude precedes him. The bros make a run for it and soon spy an open window, which they crawl through looking for things to pilfer. Inside, they find a baby left alone in its crib, but the baby resembles a giant pea pod. Before they can escape, the creature latches onto Sly's face.

"The Slime Creature of Harlem Avenue" is dislodged from Sly's face but latches onto that of Crazy Julius as soon as the bros encounter him. Sly and Ablemar take the opportunity to try to make time with the foxy mama, but Crazy Julius escapes from the Slime Creature and threatens them. They make it home safely and hear on the radio that the Slime Creature is from outer space; it looks like it has once again taken up residence on Sly's head as the story ends.

I don't know what Black folks Bill DuBay had met in person by 1978, but I can't imagine they spoke like Ablemar and Sly or behaved like them. These DuBay tales of African Americans read like he watched episodes of Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Amos and Andy and then took all of the worst aspects of each and mixed them together to create his stories. It doesn't help that Alex Nino's creative page layouts eschew things like panels or clear progression from one event to the next--the reader has to squint and use his or her imagination to try to figure out what's happening. At least Nino gets to include yet another of his wormy creatures!-Jack

I liked the first chapter of "Strangers in the Strangest Places" but found the second to be a tedious, confusing mess. What little joy I derive from this series remains (inexplicably) DuBay's dopey dialogue, especially the affronts issuing from elder Dane's piehole ("I'll ventilate his innards till he's holier than thou..!"). This issue, Bishop Dane meets his melon-headed, sandbaggin' female counterpart in the equally sassy Granny Filcher. Odd that we get a splash from Alcala and then nothing more.

"Honor and Blood" is a so-so blending of fact (at least what we know of Vlad) and fiction, but it's got a very abrupt climax. Cuti's concept, that the two baby brothers survived in the coffin, feeding off their mother's rotting corpse, is a genuinely disturbing one. The Duranona art is a seesaw as well, with Leo pumping out some effectively detailed backgrounds but running into trouble whenever zooming in for closeups of his characters, who ofttimes look as if they have to get to a restroom really quick.

I found the monologue of "The Changer" to be laughably complex, yet also fascinating; this was easily the best of the three stories that made up "Moonshadow." Not so good was "The Einstein Factor," with its lead character having a monotonous out-loud conversation with himself that see-sawed between self-preservation and his wife's faithfulness. But anything this issue was better than the final chapter of the offensive "Ablemar Jones" series. Seriously, the fact that Dube got away with the obviously racist dialogue that permeated "Ablemar" blows my mind. While we laud Louise Jones for her editorial work, we also have to wonder if she was on vacation every time Bill turned in one of his scripts.

Attilla Hejje
Creepy #98

"The Alien Factor" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Helen Horror Hollywood" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Graveyard Shift" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Starlet, Starlet, Burning Bright" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Carmine Infantino & Dick Giordano

"The Image Makers" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Jose Ortiz

A weird blob rises from the ground in Dallas and newspaperman Allen Stephens is sure it's extraterrestrial in nature. He begs his editor to let him investigate, but the chief will have none of that UFO nonsense mucking up his paper. With the help of another reporter, Stephens discovers that, eighty years before, a flying saucer crashed in that exact same area and the locals pulled a dead alien out of the craft and buried it. Could this blob somehow be connected to the ancient craft? Before he can crack the story wide open, the Feds fly in and take control. The government releases a statement saying that the blob was a fungus and they have destroyed it. Allen Stephens's big story is dead but the writer looks at the stars and knows there's someone else out there!

"The Alien Factor" isn't a bad story, but it doesn't break any new ground for UFO comic fiction, either. We've seen umpteen examples of the government stepping in and covering up evidence of life outside our little blue planet as well as the roving, morally upstanding reporter who's shut down before he can put -FINIS- to the scoop. Here, laughably, Budd Lewis even uses "close encounters of the third kind" in dialogue, a phrase he doubtless would not have known without the huge success of a certain Steven Spielberg flick. With Wrightson, Heath, Severin, Adams, et al., nowhere in sight, Jose Ortiz has become the go-to guy for solid graphics.

The legendary "Helen 'Horror' Hollywood," filmdom's favorite leading lady in monster movies, is found dead in the movie theater she grew up in. What made Helen come back to her hometown and break into the boarded-up, long-dormant cinema that made her what she was? And why did she look decades older than she was? Her therapist tries to put together the pieces that made up the puzzle known as Helen "Horror" Hollywood. In the end, he discovers that the image and dreams the business projected, the false hopes, have gathered together into a vampiric monster that hides in the shadows of movie halls and sucks the life out of its dreamers. With the help of the town's sheriff and Helen's favorite co-star, the therapist puts flame to celluloid and destroys the vampire once and for all.

Gerry Boudreau does such a good job of building the life of his fictional character, adding nuances we don't usually see in a Boudreau script, that it's a foregone conclusion we'll see the disappointing finale. Seriously, I was absorbed by the early Helen and let out a loud -sigh- when we got to the cliches. Gerry obviously belonged to that "angry young man of the 1970s" clubhouse that believed everything was shit and paradise was a ham sandwich and the company of his fellow Warren cafeteria boys. I've never been a movie star, so I can't speak to its pros and cons, but "Helen Horror Hollywood" seems to opine that the small town where hopes and dreams are born is just as deep a hell as Tinsel Town, so what's the point? Open your veins now before you can act on those hopes and dreams seems to be Gerry's message here. I don't like the mixing of photo and art in these things (and it seems to be a requisite for Warren stories about movies and their stars), but then I don't like Duranona's art, anyway. His faces always seem to be either darkly wrinkled or wide-eyed in surprise. Why do so many of Leo's female characters resemble Little Orphan Annie (see also "Honor and Blood" above)? The celluloid vampire whatsis is one of the silliest conceptions we've seen in the pages of Creepy, and that's saying something.

While doing his late-night rock 'n' roll radio show, D.J. Johnny Rock receives threatening phone calls from the man who tried to kill him years before. That man, Parker, was supposed to be rotting in prison, but the voice is certainly familiar. The caller promises Johnny that he's going to visit the D.J.'s fiancé first and then he's coming for him. In a panic, Rock calls a friend and asks him to visit the woman's house and check on her. In the meantime, the threatening calls continue.

Johnny receives the phone call he dreaded: his fiancé has been attacked and seriously hurt. Just then, the studio door swings open and Sam, the station's news reporter, stands in the doorway with a gun in his hand. Sam confesses that Parker was his brother and died in prison; now, Sam is there to even up the score. Thinking fast, Johnny tosses a live wire onto the puddle of rainwater around Sam's feet and electrocutes him. The police arrive and Johnny is escorted away in his wheelchair.

Like "Helen Horror Hollywood," the setup and back story of "Graveyard Shift" are engaging and enthralling and the second half is dopey and laughable. The idea that the station had no idea that Sam, the newsman, was related to the guy who put their DJ in a wheelchair is astonishing even in the era prior to ultra-intrusive Human Resources departments. Bruce Jones throws in the wheelchair contrivance to silence our exclamations of "Why don't you just get out of your galldang chair and go over there yourself, dimwit?" but it still doesn't explain why Johnny didn't just broadcast what was going on to the public once he had ascertained he was in deep doo-doo. To add insult to injury, Johnny never plays "Misty."

Private investigator Richard Midnight receives a call from an old girlfriend, failed actress Barbi Storm, and meets her for lunch. Barbi tells Midnight she's being stalked by a crazed ex-GI named Charlie Fine, son of an important movie producer. Storm can't get the police to act on Fine's threats, so she's turned to Richard for help. Midnight approaches Fine Jr. and Sr. but realizes the mogul has too much money and too much to lose if the truth gets out. He's bought the silence of everyone in town.

One night, Barbi asks Midnight to stay at her place so she won't have to face the night alone and, unbeknownst to the couple inside the house, Fine Jr. shows up in the driveway. Enraged by the presence of another man, Fine rigs Midnight's auto to explode, but Barbi gets into the car first. Fine tries to warn her off but Barbi starts the car and dies in a fiery blast. As the police cart off a near-comatose Fine, Diamond muses how it wasn't just the damaged vet who killed Barbi Storm; it was everyone involved, including himself.

"Starlet, Starlet, Burning Bright" nicely evokes the kind of private dick fiction that was the rage in the 1950s and '60s, with Richard Diamond a hardboiled equal of Shell Scott, Mike Shayne, and Johnny Liddell, if not Mike Hammer. Gerry includes all the familiar tropes: the beautiful gal, the menacing thug, and Diamond's promises that if Fine doesn't lay off he'll "finish what the war started." I never saw Barbi's death coming, though; it was a stunning shock. I could have done without the hero's closing monologue about the guilt of the population (perhaps the entire galaxy) in the death of Barbi Storm. When Diamond throws blame on himself and then adds that he left his wife and kids to take on a "career of heroism and adventure," he loses me completely. Or rather Boudreau loses me. The story works fine without adding that pretentious extra layer. Though the art is credited in the zine to Ramon Torrents, this is clearly another standout Infantino/Giordano enterprise.

Harlie Dunbar has figured out a way to make a fortune off the invention of his buddy, Chester Metz. Chester has invented a holograph machine that makes images appear almost three-dimensional, so real no one could tell they're illusions. The plan is to convince millionairess Mrs. Vanderloom that her dead daughter, Darcy, wants to speak with her from beyond and each session will cost ten thousand dollars. Harlie and Chester hire Brandy, an actress who looks startlingly like the woman's daughter, and rent out a spooky old house for the seance. At first skeptical, Vanderloom is amazed when Darcy appears before her and promises a fortune to the men if they can produce the girl in the flesh. 

The boys convince their holographic partner that a life in the Vanderloom estate is far better than that of an unemployed actress and the game is afoot. They hold another seance, effectively bringing Darcy back from the dead, and old lady Vanderloom takes Darcy home with her. Months later, Harlie arrives at the estate and tells Brandy/Darcy that the final act of their drama is ready: Vanderloom must die so that Brandy will inherit the woman's millions. 

There are at least three pretty effective twists following Harlie's proclamation, and at least one is a humdinger. "The Image Makers" is a thoroughly entertaining con story (and, no, I didn't miss its obvious tip of the hat to Nightmare Alley) with a couple of nicely fleshed-out main characters and some otherwise outlandish tricks that are satisfactorily explained in the end (I spit out a dismissive "Yeah, right!" when Vanderloom bought that her daughter was back from the dead, only to smile when Nick Cuti pulled the ace from his sleeve), all wrapped up in the usual attractive Jose Ortiz wrapping. I thought for sure I had the twist nailed (hey Jack, how many times have we seen the real ghost show up to the seance and the actress arrive late, begging forgiveness due to traffic problems?) but, thankfully, Nick had me fooled. 

The celluloid monster
This issue has a total of 43 story pages (as opposed to 47 for Eerie #93), which leaves 25 for what's most important: those new Star Wars products Jim Warren advertises on the freakin' cover! Give Jim Warren his due; he was a vanguard in so many ways: publish a catalog and throw in a few funny book strips to keep the complaints to a minimum.-Peter

Jack-This month, Creepy was easily better than Eerie. My favorite story was "Graveyard Shift," which featured a good buildup of suspense, a reasonable mix of words and pictures, art that tells the story effectively, and a surprise ending. I also enjoyed "The Image Makers," which used new technology to breathe life into an old tale. I still think Ortiz's art is suffering from over-exposure, but the twist ending was a good one.

I wasn't as impressed with "Starlet" as you were, but I was relieved to see another eight pages from Infantino and Giordano after the muck we've been wading through of late. "The Alien Factor" read like it had sat in a drawer since 1973, while "Helen Horror Hollywood" was so heavy on wordy captions that pictures were barely necessary. Duranona's mix of line drawings, heavy black shadows, and photos didn't work well and his celluloid monster on the final page was a real letdown.-Jack

Next Week...
Does it get any
better than this?!