Monday, March 20, 2023

The Warren Report Issue 106: August 1979



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

Vampirella #80

"Slaves of the Alien Amazon" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Like Father, Like Son" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Leo Duranona

"Transference" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Eternal Triangle" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Martin Salvador

"John Donne and the Asteroid Pirates!" 
Story by Chris Adames
Art by Pablo Marcos

Vampirella and Pantha are enjoying a night out at a party given by the Hollywood leeches hoping to cash in on the sexy, sultry siren's screen success. Their glee is interrupted when both are teleported to the spaceship belonging to Slandra, an outer space assassin who patrols the galaxy searching for stray Drakulonians. Seems that in ancient history, Vampi's planet Drakulon waged war with Slandra's home world of Lupae and the annihilation of Drakulon's population wasn't enough to sate the appetite for destruction the Luapaens felt. Just as Slandra is about to throw the lever that activates the death-ray, Vampirella tries a stalling tactic used in the pulps by asking her tormentor about the history of said war.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Pendragon decides the only way to get his beloved vampiress back is to open the Book of the Dead and conjure up the dreaded N'Gorath, "mightiest of the lower demons" (!). The occult ritual goes sour when it turns out that, lower demon though he may be, N'Gorath will not be contained by a simple pentagram. He grabs Pen's suddenly muscular form, lifts him off the ground, and tells the magician it's a good time to say his prayers.

As an intro, we're warned that this is not the conclusion to the "Dragon Queen Saga" we'd all been waiting on pins and needles for, but instead the beginning of another Vampi yarn! Dube blames the mail (as they all do in these situations) and promises the conclusions of both epic sagas next issue (unless his dog eats the script). The adventure we're left with is not awful but it's not very good, either. The script is as juvenile as any Dube/Vampi installment, so I'll turn my attention to the skills of Pablo Marcos instead. 

We all know Pablo has an aversion to clothing, so it's no surprise that Pantha is dressed like she was just beamed in from the Enterprise and that Pen has doubtless interrupted N'Gorath's time at L.A. Express (seriously, a demon in a thong?). The female form on display is why we endure the words in these things and Pablo definitely knows how to appeal to the animal in all of us. But at the same time, Marcos reminds us that he has no idea what a seventy-year-old alcoholic's build would be. We all know that the only thing Pen lifts is a bottle and Conrad is a stooped old fossil, but with Marcos Magic, both are transformed into studs. I'm with Jack, who proposes that Dube gives Pantha new shape-shifting powers to make up for the fact that every issue a new artist draws her differently.

The brilliantly stupid climax to
"Like Father, Like Son."

In the future, Consolidated CEO Howard Napier has a target on his back. Someone is trying to assassinate him every time he steps out of his home or office. It may be a rival businessman or an enemy Howard has made along the way, but the likely culprit is Howard's son, who happens to have been cloned from Howard's tissue. That's a good place for me to stop. Not just because "Like Father, Like Son" has a ridiculously complicated plot and a truly head-shaking "twist" ending, but because I've made a pledge to myself (and to our readers as well) not to dwell on the negatives. If I were to harp, though, I'd resubmit my master's thesis that Leo Duranona + Science Fiction = used Charmin.

It begins when bodybuilder Lee Rogers notices his facial hair is not growing back, then he begins to lose his muscular build. Slowly but surely, it seems as though Lee is transforming into (in his own words) David Bowie. But it's worse than that, because very soon he's got a great set of boobs as well. Through it all, Lee's girl, Glory, is supportive and maybe even a little turned on. 

The final straw is when he and Glory throw a big shindig for all his rich pals and Lee ascends the staircase into the ballroom decked out in a gorgeous Versace with a divine tail and plunging neckline with matching handbag and boa. Lee's entrance is a smash until he hits on one of his masculine buddies and ends up in the punch bowl. Afterwards, depressed, Lee puts a gun to his head and prepares to pull the trigger when he notices he has a five o'clock shadow! The curse has lifted! Elated, he bursts into Glory's room and awakens the sleeping beauty, only to discover Glory's stubble is heavier than his!

I'm tired of searching for new ways to say "tired and stupid" or "boring and padded," but if I were to expend the energy this time out, I'd proclaim that "Transference" is "fatigued and mindless" and "tedious and upholstered" (that last one shows just how fatigued I am by this project). There's not much sense to the plot. Things just happen and then they unhappen. If there's a transference going on, why isn't Glory bulking up the whole time Lee is minimizing? And what reverses the whole process? You probably won't see this one in any of the Bruce Jones reprint books. At least the art is great (ergo my extra half-star rating); I wanted to see a whole solo spin with pre-goatee Glory!

There's something wrong with teenaged Leonard. He pushes girls into the family well, puts out cigarettes on their foreheads, and spends way too much time with his grandmama. It just isn't healthy. On his sixteenth birthday, Leonard reveals all to his concerned mother and father: he's the reincarnation of his own grandfather, a man so irate about his own death (in a way, caused by his son) that he's come back to mete out his own form of justice. As he's about to put a bullet in his spineless son's head, his wife (grandmama... try to keep up) buries her darning needles in his throat. She loved the guy but couldn't stand the nasty individual, so he had to go. But, weeks later, the family receives word that mother is pregnant with her son/father-in-law's baby!

If you thought that cockamamie synopsis was hard to follow, I invite you to write a better one. "The Eternal Triangle" is nine pages of utter waste; a sleazy, unfocused mess that just gets worse as the narrative weaves to its ridiculous conclusion. I think the only bright side is that we were spared the panels of Leonard coupling with his mother, a rare moment of taste for 1979 Warren. If this was a story published in 1984, I dare say we'd have seen the whole event in glorious black-and-white. 

Speaking of 1984, the finale of Vampirella #80 (perhaps one of the worst issues in the magazine's run so far, but keeping in mind there are four years' worth of rubbish yet to come) would have felt comfortable within the pages of Warren's landfill title. "John Donne and the Asteroid Pirates" is juvenile fantasy at its lowest tier. Perhaps scripter Chris Adames thought no one would notice there's no story to speak of, instead focusing on the panels stuffed with muscles, thongs, nipples, and double entendres. This is embarrassing crap but obviously, by 1979, Jim Warren had his mind elsewhere and couldn't be bothered.-Peter

Jack-Thank goodness we only have four more months left in our Warren journey. I couldn't take many more comics like this one! I can't believe the conclusion to the Vampi story was delayed in the mail and instead we get part one of an equally boring story. Do you think they threw in the bit about Pantha changing her hair style and color at will because they can't seem to keep her look straight from one artist to another? "Like Father, Like Son" is a pointless story with more lousy Duranona art, while "Transference" reaches new lows in writing, but at least the art by Jose Ortiz is decent. "The Eternal Triangle" was awful until it got worse with the tasteless ending, while "John Donne..." displays more amateurish writing from Chris Adames and more butts and thighs from Pablo Marcos. Did anyone find anything redeeming in this mess of an issue?

Patrick Woodroffe
Creepy #110

"Snapper" ★1/2
Story by Bill Kelley
Art by Leo Duranona

"Sunset Farms" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau & Alex Southern
Art by Rudy Nebres

"Take Your Child, Please!" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Demon Hater" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Horror is a Highrise" 
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Leo Duranona

"A Knightmare to Remember" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Joe Vaultz

"The Clockmaker" ★1/2
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jesus Blanco

Pirates run afoul of a giant sea turtle in "Snapper," a mindless giant monster tale that contains none of the charm and wit of the similar "Snaegl" (from Creepy #97) and is sunken by the nearly incoherent art of Leo Duranona. When 95% of the panel is black ink, some details naturally are lost but the details that emerge are not worth noting.

In the future, the mafia sends its oldest members to a rest home called "Sunset Farms," located on a moon dubbed "Skyroid." The mobsters are all heavily sedated to keep them out of trouble but one top hood overhears the plan to destroy Skyroid and eliminate the hassle of caring for a bunch of old hoods. The boss grabs his right hand man and escapes the satellite in a rocket ship, watching Skyroid explode from their window,

A very abrupt climax, hinting at a sequel that wouldn't come. The script isn't bad but there's not much to it (I say that a lot lately); it's a half-baked idea delivered quarter-baked. But for a Warren science fiction tale, it's a decent time-waster. Rudy Nebres is a good, competent artist (certainly more dynamic than, say, Martin Salvador) and I may just complain too much about his style but it's that style that will reign in the final Warren Dark Age (that and the awful "typewriter" font that would supplant the hand lettering give me headaches) and so it's that style I cringe at. Proofreader napping yet again. The sentence "Even if the bars are guilded" takes on a completely different meaning than desired, I assume. 

The Barkers visit Marleyville Orphanage and take a liking to odd little Dwayne, whose pointed head makes him fodder for the other children and a usual pass at adoption time. Dwayne sees the Barkers as his salvation until Pa Barker starts doling out a bit too much discipline with his hickory switch. That's when Dwayne puts his foot down and disciplines the Barkers. Shocked by the child's proclivity towards violence, the Barkers sedate Dwayne and drive him out into the desert with an eye to abandonment, but the kid has got a different idea altogether. Meanwhile, back at Marleyville Orphanage, Dwayne's real parents (aliens from another planet?) come looking for him.

I guess you could think "Take Your Child, Please!" a cute little fairy tale if wasn't so predictable. Cary Bates hints at an extraterrestrial origin in the final panel but nothing is really set in stone. That's a plus as far as I'm concerned, as another couple panels of expository is not welcome in this treehouse.

Dr. Robert Bale has always wanted to see a real demon up close. When a mine explosion unearths a dead demon known as Bergammen, Bale naturally offers his help. While examining Bergammen, several other demons show up at the doctor's flat, demanding the return of the corpse. Bale uses a religious dagger to frighten the creatures away. 

Shortly thereafter, a woman named Bella Dunn shows up to offer her help in Bale's studies. As the doctor grows to trust Bella, he confesses that his mother was seduced by an incubus and Bale was the result. Since the child was only half-human, the demon rejected him and kidnapped another child to take to hell. The demons return to kill Bale and Bella disappears. Fearing he's been betrayed, Bale fights the monsters with all the knowledge he has accrued through the years and finally defeats the army. Bella returns and admits she almost gave Bale to her master, Ashmodesus, but couldn't bear to see him suffer. When the scholar quizzes her, she admits she is the child taken to Hell in his place.

It's all a bit too convoluted and I could have done without the dopey reveal, but "The Demon Hater" is certainly more enjoyable than anything else contained in this issue. It's a lot like those satanic novels that flooded the market in the wake of The Exorcist, dumb as a box of rocks but with enough pizazz to keep the pages turning. Auraleon continues his shameless swiping, this time even stealing from an old Frazetta Creepy cover!

Al Ciano finds himself publicity man for a haunted high rise. Pipes scream out eerily, rust that looks uncannily like blood oozes from the taps, and then there's the story about the building's architect who took a header from the top floor while the skyscraper was under construction. Ciano first suspects that the man was despondent over changes in the building's design, but he digs a little deeper and discovers the owner had skimped on safety features. As a party rages, Ciano argues with his boss about the dangers behind being a penny-pincher just before the building collapses. 

"Horror is a Highrise" is low-tier Archie, something along the lines of the pap he was forced to pump out during the first "Dark Age." The illustrations by Duranona are, as usual, murky and hard to make out; what is going on in the panel where Ciano looks into... what? It sorta kinda looks like a face but nothing in the caption mentions such an apparition. I'll give it an extra half-star for making me laugh when the building falls apart due to a loud musical combo. 

In the quickie, "A Knightmare to Remember," a young demon enters a princess's bedroom and terrorizes her, only to discover the girl is an illusion conjured by a demon-slayer. As the slayer, garbed in chainmail, prepares to cleave the creature in half, it awakens. It was only a bad dream! There's not much to it but it's kind of cute and I like the weird Vaultz graphics (computer generated, or was this too early for that?). 

A clockmaker's assistant is convinced his boss is actually made up of cogs and gears. Slowly (but surely) the nagging doubt turns to obsession and then madness. He murders "The Clockmaker" and buries the body under the house's floorboards. When the police visit to investigate the report of a scream coming from the house, the assistant goes mad and confesses he thinks the old man's clockwork insides now reside in him. Who is Gary Null fooling with this lukewarm "Tell-Tale Heart" rip-off? The art also seems to be an homage; if you squint, you can see some Reed Crandall in Blanco's work. Well, you have to squint sideways, but it's there.-Peter

What a relief! This issue of Creepy is nowhere near as bad as this month's issue of Vampirella. There aren't any great stories, mind you, but at least it's not unrelentingly awful. My favorite was "Take Your Child, Please," which features more moody work by Ortiz and a genuinely creepy child as well as a final panel that made me smile. "Horror is a Highrise" is not a bad story, it's just a shame it was assigned to Duranona to illustrate. One character uses the expression, "heavy," which makes me think it's a file story by Goodwin, yet there is also a reference to disco. As I read "The Clockmaker" I got a feeling like I was reading a tale from Creepy circa 1965, and that's a good thing. I also got such a strong Poe vibe that, by the end, I was wondering if Blasco had illustrated "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Toomey had written a new story to go along with the illos.

"The Demon Hater" is also not bad; I liked seeing all of the demons and the twist ending was decent, but (again) Auraleon's art can be wooden at times. "A Knightmare to Remember" is a forgettable story with fairly cool Corbenesque art by Vaultz. By the way, has Cary Bates ever written a memorable story for Warren? I always liked art by Rudy Nebres, so "Sunset Farms" is passable, though the ending makes me worry that it might be part one of a series. Worst of the issue was "Snapper," with art so muddy it's not always clear what's happening, even in key panels. I was happy to see a horror tale set in NJ but the giant turtle wasn't very scary.

Eerie #103

"Terror of Space"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Lee Elias

Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Trespasser"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Paul Gulacy

Story by Larry Hama
Art by Val Mayerik

"The Damned & the Dead"
Story by Leo Duranona & Cary Bates
Art by Leo Duranona

On the destroyed ship, Restin finds a single survivor (Cryssie) and brings her back to his ship, which is soon under attack from Blue warships. Since his ship is unarmed and can't defend itself, Restin jumps forward two weeks in time to the great confusion of the people manning the Blue warships. The Blue commander thinks that the Reds have invented a cloaking device and sends his ships out to find it.

Elsewhere, the old man's ship starts blasting away at Red warships, which fight back. The old man's ship is damaged but he manages to escape. On Restin's ship, he balances trying to repair the damage with worrying about Cryssie, who is so damaged herself that she sits and sucks her thumb. Before you know it, Restin is comforting her with his big, strong arms and his soft yet firm lips. Restin tries to solve the problem of his damaged ship by blowing the bad part of it apart from the good part. Unfortunately, Cryssie is knocked unconscious and Restin is stuck, drifting alone in space.

The Blue ships, which have been looking for Restin's ship for two weeks, finally locate it and rescue Cryssie; they examine what's left of Restin's vessel and determine that it's a time machine. Restin awakens on the ship of the old man, Spunky T. Bolt, who tells Restin that he's dying but has succeeded in alerting the Reds and the Blues to the fact that the common man does not support their war. Restin contacts the Blue ship and Cryssie learns that he's okay; the ship heads off to meet him.

Is that the end of "Terror of Space"? The last panel doesn't say anything about it being "the end" and the way it's left off, there could be more. The story is adequate and the art by Elias is above average, but there's nothing special about it and it seems more like another space story than part of the Rook's ongoing narrative. Restin's ship jumps ahead two weeks to avoid being blown up but, other than that, there's not much to separate this from umpteen other space stories.

A young woman named "Arianne" dwells in a cave, recalling long ago when a winged beast called White Blaze killed her father as he emerged from the cave to gaze upon the open sky. One day, Arianne is near the cave entrance when she is spotted by Moonshadow, a warrior on horseback, who drags her out and shows her that there's a whole world outside the cave. They are suddenly attacked by White Blaze and his band of flying bat/demons; when Moonshadow and Arianne take shelter, White Blaze challenges Moonshadow to single combat. Moonshadow prevails and Arianne slits the throat of White Blaze as he lies on the ground. The rest of the bat/demons fly off with the corpse of White Blaze and Arianne sets off on horseback with Moonshadow to see the world.

This is not the same Moonshadow who appeared in a three-part series just last year, even though those stories were also drawn by Ortiz. This time out, Ortiz provides ten impressive pages and, although the story is a bit confusing at first, the visual storytelling is good enough to hold my interest. This looks like part one of a new series, so we'll have to wait and see how it goes.

Our man Flint?
Dr. Ward Cavanaugh has been sent into the Louisiana Bayou to make a house call on wealthy Rebecca Cope when a man comes running out of the swamp, pursued by angry Dobermans and two security guards wearing mirrored shades. It's 1998 and the Affluent Age ended violently in 1980, so the Copes live like recluses in an old mansion. Dr. Cavanaugh meets Rebecca, a beauty who explains that the security guards are twin brothers Rurik and Rush Averdeen. Rebecca leads the doctor up to the nursery, where he sees baby Joshua, who has congenital defects. Father Cope enters, smacks Dr. Cavanaugh, and berates Rebecca for letting a stranger visit. Cavanaugh tells Cope that he has a clear case of advanced skin cancer and Cope responds by telling the guards to lock Cavanaugh up with Kelley, the man who rushed out of the swamp.

Oh boy, I can't wait to read what Peter has to say about this pretentious tale by one of his least favorite Marvel scribes, Don McGregor! I usually like Gulacy's art, but the swipes from photos are too obvious, with Dr. Cavanaugh obviously modeled after actor James Coburn. At the top of page one of "The Trespasser," it says the story is "Dedicated to Dave Kraft, who supplied research material and who fought the good fight at the Green Kitchen." Does anyone know what this refers to? Was the "research material" a few stills of Coburn?

A young Japanese swordsman visits an old priest/archer, anxious to receive his first assignment as his lord's official assassin. Neither man trusts the other's "Credentials" until both show their mettle by dispatching three ninja assassins. Retiring to a chapel to chant dirges and burn incense, the swordsman is overcome by opium fumes and awakens to find himself locked in a cell, where the priest tells him he must gain knowledge by reading ancient tomes and solving wooden puzzles.

During the swordsman's fourth year of study, the priest enters the cell and orders him to travel to the castle of his lord's sworn enemy and slay the man's son. The priest tells the swordsman to choose the single correct token that will gain him admittance to the castle; the swordsman swiftly chops off the priest's head and, with it in a box to represent the token, heads off to the castle.

This is by far the best art we've seen from Val Mayerik recently, perhaps ever! The story is a winner as well. I always liked Larry Hama's work at Marvel on Iron Fist and at Atlas on Wulf the Barbarian, and this story set in ancient Japan has many aspects that recall those earlier series. There's a subtle humor to the nearly impossible task that the priest sets out for the swordsman, yet it's all treated with seeming seriousness. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to part two. Wait, did I just write that sentence about a Warren series?

With a resounding "BroomBroomBroom," the masses of creatures approach the fortress where Allison and Jesse await. The creatures quickly overwhelm the giant who attacked the fortress and the Horizon Seekers observe, in the distance, another huge fortress that is being carried on the backs of millions of the approaching creatures. Jesse and Allison hide with Merlin in his chamber and let in a straggler who has been attacked by one of the approaching creatures, which Jesse kills.

The creatures overwhelm Merlin's fortress and Jesse, Allison, and Merlin only survive by smearing blood from the dead creature all over their bodies. They discover that the creatures have only a sense of smell and thus can't detect Jesse and co.; our heroes are subsumed within the onrushing hordes and march with them through the night and into the next day. The horde approaches a village and overruns it before pausing in a valley, where Jesse and Allison observe the queen of the creatures sitting on a throne in the fortress. They enter the fortress and Jesse kills the queen, leaving the hordes with nothing to do but continue onward until they rush off the edge of a cliff to their death. Jesse, Allison, and Merlin remain atop the cliff, safe for the time being.

And starring Kevin McCarthy as Dog-Meat!
For some reason, I thought that "The Damned and the Dead" was going to be the finale of the Horizon Seekers series. No such luck. Still, it's unusually gripping for a 17-page-long Warren story by Bates and Duranona. The relentless forward movement of the creatures is rather chilling and the murder of the queen is well thought out. For once, we don't get a preview of the next adventure.-Jack

Peter- "The Rook" series continues to be a load of sci-fi hokum to me but at least Lee Elias makes it good-looking hokum (though I still think Ortiz has a hand in the inking of Elias's pencils). Politics has never been a good jumping off point for Warren writers and in the hands of Dube it becomes laughable. Add maudlin to the menu as well; Restin and Cryssie find true love in a matter of panels. 

If it's possible, I might like Warren high-concept fantasy even less than their sci-fi, but "The Open Sky: Arianne" is not awful. Jose Ortiz is always at least interesting and his bat-men give off a heavy Harryhausen harpies vibe. I was sure Arianne would break into a few choruses of Cat Stevens when Moonshadow introduced himself. Thankfully, I have David Horne's Gathering Horror to remind me that "The Open Sky" is a prequel to the short-lived "Moonshadow" series.

Available now from Captain Company:
The "Marching Millions" poster!
After a much-too-short absence, Don McGregor returns to Warren, pretension absolutely intact, and brings along his Sabre compadre, Paul Gulacy. "The Trespasser" is chock-full of eye-rolling dialogue ("I sometimes wonder if what's happening to us... if it's happening to all the families? Have all the married lovers lost each other... can our children know what we felt -- feel."), more McGregor class struggles, and stock still swipes. Over this swill, I'll take space opera any day. 

While I didn't rate "Credentials" nearly as high as Jack, it's easily the best story of the month (but then look at our star ratings this post and see how high that bar has risen). Hama's script is clever and, yep, that's some real good Mayerik there. "Samurai" will see four installments here in Warren, then go on hiatus until 1987, where the series will be resurrected at Now Comics. "The Horizon Seekers" makes one thing abundantly clear: Leo Duranona should not be drawing any comics that feature human characters. I will say, though, that his fortresses are pretty keen and that second page (of the "marching millions") may just be the best Duranona work I've ever seen. I'll agree with Jack that the script is above-average for an Eerie series, but I have such a hard time remembering what happened in previous installments that I have no idea what's going on here. For an ongoing series, that's not a recipe for success.

Next Week...
"Why so serious?"

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 82: Atlas/ Marvel Horror


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 67
June 1954 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Adventures into Weird Worlds 30 
Cover by Carl Burgos

“I Saw the Vampire” (a: Manny Stallman) 1/2

“The Worm Turns” (a: Bill Walton)

“Inside is Ty” (a: Seymour Moskowitz) ★★★

“The Impatient Ghost” (a: Dan Soprano)

“When Worlds Meet” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★★1/2

While walking home from work one evening, a man steps into the wrong alleyway and witnesses a vampire drinking the blood of his victim. The monster flees but the dying man cries out in pain. Our main protagonist spends a page wrestling with his conscience before deciding that, if he goes to the police, the vampire will stalk and kill him. So he runs back to his apartment and spends three more pages wondering what might happen, when he hears a scuffle downstairs, a woman’s scream, and heavy boots coming up the stairs. His door is flung open and there stands… the victim! “I Saw the Vampire” has a predictable script and, for the most part, rough pencils by Stallman. But there are flashes of… no, not brilliance, but cool. The panel of the man with his back to the door as he’s just gotten home is a creepy image. The rest is not so creepy.

Bill Walton’s art makes “The Worm Turns” almost unreadable but the script doesn’t help either. Joe is tired of his wife, May (you know, the one who hides a box of money somewhere in the house), calling him a “worm,” so he finally gets up the nerve and kills her, burying her body in the basement. That night, Joe is surrounded by millions of worms crawling from May’s corpse; he heads down into the cellar where he trips and cracks his head open. The cops find his body days later, and we discover it was yarn from May’s scarf that was “attacking” Joe. Right. “The Impatient Ghost” sees Sir Edward Eton moving into a lovely new British cottage but haunted by the titular spirit. In the end, it turns out the spook is Eton himself. He dies of a heart attack and his ghost finally “catches up with him.” 

Alex Karnoff has been Professor Widmire’s assistant/gopher/bone-digger/coffee-maker out in the Arizona desert for months now, and the suspense of what’s going on inside the strange pyramid-like structure the egghead built is driving Alex nuts. Whenever he knocks on the door and hands the Prof another pile of bones and asks what’s inside the building. “Inside is Ty!” is the repeated reply. One day, while digging bones, Alex watches as lightning strikes the top of Widmire’s structure and the building catches fire. 

    Realizing this is finally when he’ll get to learn the origin of “Ty,” Alex scurries to help his boss extinguish the flames. But when he requests a face-to-face with the mysterious “Ty,” Alex is denied and the long Arizona days finally crack him. He plants his shovel in the scientist’s cranium and heads toward the workshop. But just as he gets to the door, the building collapses and there stands “Ty!” A reconstructed and (for some reason) resurrected Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton! The creature reaches down and squeezes the life out of Alex and then cradles the Professor in its little T. Rex arms, heading off to “take care of the professor… the way the professor took care of him!” Whatever that last line means, “Inside is Ty!” is wacky fun, the kind of simple-minded yet strangely clever entertainment that could only come out of a comic book. Seymour Moskowitz’s art reminds me of Russ Heath if inked by Ralph Reese; nothing clunky or scratchy here.

After scientists have at last perfected space travel and a rocket is built and prepped to blast off, Earth receives a message from Mars: “Let’s do lunch!” The very next day, a similar message comes from Venus. This is too good to be true! Think of all the incredible data that could be derived from a meeting between three worlds. So word goes out to both planets that separate Earth emissaries will meet their astronauts on the moon. Martians, being the suspicious type, have plan B: if the Earthlings turn out to be treacherous, lying dogs, Martian ships will drop bombs on Earth. 

The big day comes and, like it will, things go tits up. Our ship experiences some malfunctions and cannot take off. Inadvertently, the Martian ship lands close to the Venusians and a really big case of mistaken identity occurs. Mars takes an immediate dislike to Venus and they blast each other with ray guns. The dying Martian makes it back to his ship in time to get off one message to his superiors: “These Earth people are ugly! We can’t work with them! Earth must be destroyed!” And so it is.

With its very last tale, “When Worlds Meet,” Adventures Into Weird Worlds delivers a deliciously dark and pessimistic tale of the future that doesn’t let up in the end, sentencing doomsday to a world that, for once, didn’t actually deserve it. The planetary mix-up is pure poetry and Sinnott’s joyous, happy Earthling faces put the perfect bow on the apocalyptic package.

Astonishing 33
Cover by Carl Burgos

“Once a Werewolf” (a: Sid Greene) ★★★

(r: Chamber of Chills #17)

“Point of View” (a: Al Carreno)

(r: Vault of Evil #23)

“Til Death Do Us Part” (a: Sheldon Moldoff) ★★

“The Evil Eye” (a: Pablo Ferro)

(r: Vault of Evil #19)

“I Ain’t Got No Body” (a: Chuck Winter) 1/2

(r: Tomb of Darkness #15)

Finding true love with a human woman, Franz decides to give up his birthright but his werewolf brethren show him that leaving the club is not an option. “Once a Werewolf” has some sharp Sid Greene graphics (although Greene’s werewolves wouldn’t frighten a pre-teen Atlas reader) and a shocking final panel where we learn the fate of Franz after his buddies have gotten through with him.

In “Point of View” a grumpy lab janitor accidentally stumbles upon a serum that shrinks humans to doll-sized (yep, just like in Dr. Cyclops) and pours the stuff on the scientists who’ve treated him like dirt. The inexplicable climax (as he’s about to squash the tiny professors, a giant hand comes through the roof and squashes him) is not the only problem with this one. The art is dreadful; for no apparent reason, the janitor has long pointed fingernails and jagged teeth.

Dancing girl Terry Gabbard catches the eye of a rich Maharajah and, seeing how Terry’s favorite color is green, she quickly accepts the wealthy man’s proposal. Once they move back to the Maharajah’s palace in Salustan, Terry calls her ex-boyfriend, Mike, and talks him into flying to the palace to knock off her hubby. Once the deed is done, Terry feeds Mike to the tigers and awaits her inheritance. Alas, the dopey dancer never looked at the fine print on her wedding vow. “Till Death Do Us Part” has an Atlas rarity: an honest-to-goodness bitch of a protagonist. Terry is one mean-spirited and black-hearted dame, who has no problem sticking around and watching while her pet tigers lunch on Mike.

A witch walks through a village, the populace cursing her for “The Evil Eye” they say she wields. She doesn’t believe them until she looks in a mirror and dies from the plague. Inexplicable but mercifully short. In the equally weak “I Ain’t Got No Body,” a down-on-his-luck vagrant agrees to help a scientist with his personality switcher gizmo in order to get to the egghead’s gorgeous wife. Bad idea. 

Journey into Mystery 16
Cover by Harry Anderson

“Vampire Tale” (a: Doug Wildey)

(r: Monsters Unleashed #1)

“Man Alone!” (a: Al Eadah) ★★★

(r: Tomb of Darkness #10)

“The Man Who Wasn’t” (a: Bill Walton)

(r: Where Monsters Dwell #30)

“The Vultures” (a: Mannie Banks) ★★

(r: Tomb of Darkness #10)

“The Question!” (a: Vic Carrabotta)

(r: Journey Into Mystery #12)

A man comes to town, bandaged from head to toe, and murders a man he claims was a vampire. When he’s put on trial for murder, no one will believe his “Vampire Tale” until he unrolls his bandaging and reveals a rotting corpse beneath, a past victim of the bloodsucker. Pretty silly stuff; for instance, the man is wearing the same bandages and trousers he wore months before when he staked the vampire. What jail allows this? Yes, I know it’s only a comic story…

The Chinese Red Secret Police train and then install a spy named Husu Ko in the hills of North Korea but the training session has gone too well and Husu Ko becomes a homicidal killer. “Man Alone!” is a rare “red scare” tale that actually provides a jolt. The transformation of Husu Ko is frightening as is the rough art of Al Eadah (contributing what might be his finest Atlas work); the climax is EC-worthy grim.

Dr. Wright comes to the Home for the Aged, looking for an inmate to test his new youth serum on, but his number one option, Adam, refuses to be a guinea pig. When Wright checks Adam’s charts, he discovers the man has been a resident of the home for over one hundred years. Holding the patient down, Wright injects the serum into the struggling old man. Adam explains that once he reaches “his age of youth,” it will trigger an invasion of Earth. Sure enough, once the medication completes its work, Adam is a young Martian and space ships begin their assault. “The Man Who Wasn’t” is a messy concoction of bad science fiction and plodding art. Have the Martian ships (which bear a remarkable similarity to George Pal’s creations) been hanging out down at the wrecking yard for a hundred years, just waiting for Adam’s return to youth by any means possible? At what point would the little green men throw up their flippers, admit the invasion was a lark, and head back home? That’s the story I want to see.

In “The Vultures,” three sons wait for what seems like years for their father to die and leave them his fortune. Only their sister spends time and cares for the old man and when the time finally comes and the last will is read, the boys are outraged by their father’s actions. There’s a clever twist at the climax involving the old man’s funeral and it’s unique that, in the end, it’s revealed that the girl genuinely loved her father but there’s entirely too much familiarity to the script. In the cliched finale, “The Question!,” electronics whiz Paul Jessup creates a mechanical brain and then asks the machine when his wife will die. “In ten minutes,” answers the machine. Hoping to prevent the catastrophe, Paul heads home, only to find his wife in the arms of another man. So he shoots her. 

Journey into Unknown Worlds 28
Cover by Harry Anderson

“The Creature!” (a: Pete Tumlinson) ★★★

“The Missing Men!” (a: Ed Winiarski)

“Brain Wash” (a: Bill Savage)

“The Corpse Lives!” (a: Seymour Moskowitz) 1/2

“The Vampires’ Master!” (a: Al Eadah) ★★★

A space explorer dreams of the farm he’ll be buying once he gets back from his latest mission: investigating a new world. He lands in a lovely wooded area and is then blasted by shotgun-wielding farm hicks. Of course, he’s landed on Earth and is twelve feet tall compared to the humans around him. Every once in a blue moon, Stan and Atlas would strive to do a science fiction tale with “brains” a la EC Comics. With “The Creature!,” the company succeeds most of the way but the climactic reveal is just a variant of the twist we’ve seen dozens of times already. Pete Tumlinson’s art has that feel of an Al Williamson/EC classic.

“The Missing Men!” involves an agency that murders vagrants and sell their bodies to science for dissection. Less said the better. Equally bad is this month’s “red scare” drama, “Brain Wash,” about a rebel within the Iron Curtain who uses hypnosis to force members of the KGB to commit suicide. It sounds much better on paper than is actually realized.

Biographer Vincent Dufrac becomes obsessed with Baron Emile de Sevigny, a man who mysteriously died years before, and decides the only way he can learn the truth is to go right to the source. Dufrac digs up de Sevigny’s grave and discovers that it’s empty. At that moment, the writer looks up to see de Sevigny himself staring down at him. The dead man explains that he’s actually a vampire and is honored to be the subject of Dufrac’s next book; he’d be delighted to help in any way he can. The two men return to Dufrac’s flat, where de Sevigny confesses he’s murdered 85 innocent people to keep himself “alive.” Dufrac runs the vampire through with a hot poker and explains to the dying vampire that he, Dufrac, was one of deSevigny’s victims. “The Corpse Lives!” is the type of story that, if you read it a second time, fails the “fairness test” miserably. The whole lead-up to the revenge is a cheat; Dufrac does not act like a ghost (why would a spook bother physically digging up a grave?) nor does he behave as if he knows the dead man is a vampire.

When a plague of vampires descends on Hungary, sheep herder Armal discovers his eyes have the power of destruction. One careful stare at a bloodsucker by Armal and the creature is reduced to dust. No one, including Armal, has an explanation but, very soon, Armal is a hero to his country. He also, very quickly, becomes as rich and arrogant as any celebrity in Europe, refusing to blast vampires unless paid a king’s ransom. Then one day, Armal is told of a “king of the vampires” and challenges the creature to a “duel,” only to discover this king has no eyes! A loony idea that somehow works its magic and keeps you turning those pages. I love Al Eadah’s art here; it’s got that heavily inked, shadowy noir look to it and Al’s vampires are creatures to fear rather than snicker at.

Marvel Tales 124
Cover by Harry Anderson

“Behind the Door!” (a: John Forte) ★★★

“He Waits at the Tombstone!” (a: Joe Maneely) ★★

“The Man with Wings!” (a: George Roussos) ★★

“A Box Is a Box!” (a: Sy Moskowitz) ★★

“He Died Too Soon!” (a: Sid Greene) ★★

Felix has grown frustrated with his father, who keeps himself locked in a basement dungeon and refuses to let his son see him. Felix is about to be married but his fiancé refuses to go through with the nuptials until she and her parents meet the elusive dad. At the end of his rope, Felix drugs his dad one night and breaks down the dungeon door, only to be horrified by the sight of his dad… the centaur! The sight is too much for Felix and he shoots himself in the head. Pop Horse wakes up, spends a few remorseful seconds in honor of his fallen son, and then rides off into the sunset, bound for “the land of centaurs.”

“Behind the Door!” is gloriously goofy, a genuine WTF? with a twist that I guarantee no one would see coming (except you, because I spoiled it!). It’s beyond belief that Felix could live for 25-30 years (however old this character is) in the same house as his father and not have known the big secret. And, seriously, if fiancé Anna won’t commit just because pop is playing hard to get, what kind of wife would she be anyway?

Harry Dalton has been waiting to plug Craig Torrance since Craig stole Harry’s dame, Lola, ten years ago in Panama. Now Lola and Craig are happily married and Harry wants fifty thousand in cash or things will get dicey. Evidently, Harry has no intention of letting Craig live since, after the man delivers the aforementioned big green bundle, Harry ventilates him. But, on his way to get Lola, Harry runs into what appears to be a walking corpse… Craig! So he pumps him full of lead yet again. What gives? Don’t ask. The reveal at the climax of “He Waits at the Tombstone” is silly to the extreme (hint: there was more than one Torrance brother!) and almost wastes the talents of the great Joe Maneely.

Birdbrain Professor Horatio is sure he's only a few steps away from perfecting flight but the wings he’s testing just don’t make the grade. Finally, he finds the perfect formula and soars like an eagle. In fact, he makes friends with an eagle who saves him when his wings give way. Problem is, the bird now considers Horatio its mate. “The Man With Wings!” is a harmless bit of nonsense that might actually bring a smile to even the most hardened of Atlas readers. Pay close attention to the savior eagle, which is larger than Horatio himself!

In “A Box is a Box!,” Professor Langdon stumbles across a box from the future but, even given a million dollars in government money, can’t figure out what the hell it is. After exhausting all possibilities, Langdon and his crack team of eggheads throw up their hands just as a mother and her son appear out of thin air to retrieve the boy’s box, which he identifies as a pencil sharpener. Larry is accidentally taken by Death too soon but the Reaper gives him a chance to pick a new body as reparation. Larry doesn’t choose wisely. “He Died Too Soon” is an out-and-out rip-off of the classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan, with the added twist that Death and his right hand man deal Larry a losing hand (almost like a devil’s bargain yarn) after they’ve made the fatal mistake. Why give the poor sap a second chance if you’re going to screw him over?

In Two Weeks...
The second part of June offers up
three bonafide classics of horror!