Monday, February 27, 2023

Batman in the 1980s Issue 73: March/April 1988

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

Mike Zeck
Batman #417

"Ten Nights of the Beast!"
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Aparo & Mike DeCarlo

DEA agents meet a pair of Russian spies arriving by boat on Gotham City's beach; unfortunately, one of the men is a massive beast who kills all of the agents with his bare hands. The KGB is not happy, since these are rogue agents sent on an unsanctioned mission of assassination, so a Russian bigwig briefs the powers that be in Gotham about Operation Skywalker, which targets the U.S.'s Strategic Defense Initiative.

It seems the Beast (known to the CIA as the KGBeast) is a master of martial arts whose strength has been cybernetically enhanced. He's already done away with two people in the Gotham area and is expected to kill more. The FBI wants nothing to do with Batman, but the Caped Crusader and the Teen Wonder are on a rooftop listening in on the meeting, courtesy of a microphone hidden in a button on Commissioner Gordon's jacket.

Soon, the Beast appears at the office of agent Jason Greene and commits a brutal attack; Batman arrives just in time to see the Beast toss Greene's body off a high building and, despite some incredible acrobatics, Batman fails to save the agent. Batman meets up with Gordon and a CIA agent who has no problem working with masked vigilantes; he reveals that the President of the United States is on his way to Gotham and is last on the Beast's list of targets!

Peter: Do we really need another overly-dramatic (some might say bordering on pretentious) Bat-espionage "thriller?" To me, Starlin was always a better illustrator than writer and this script seems to fall back on all the old George Smiley cliches. The Beast looks like a precursor to the much-more famous Bane (who won't show up until 1993). The art is okay but Aparo could do with a different inker; facial features are almost indistinct. Hopefully this four-issue arc gets better.

Jack: I thoroughly enjoyed "Ten Nights of the Beast!" I like Mike Zeck's cover a lot and have always been a fan of the artist since seeing his work in '70s fanzines. Aparo does a great job on the interiors, using varying panel sizes and some wordless sequences effectively. It's always a bit hard to put myself back into the '80s U.S. vs. Russia mindset, but this issue's spirit of collaboration between enemies is well presented. I thought Peter would be more excited about the page where the motorcyclist's head is severed by a thin wire across the road; it reminded me of something from a '50s Atlas horror comic. Robin is used just a bit and it works; he sits in the shadows a couple of times with Batman but doesn't do much else. The four-page sequence where Batman tries to save Greene while in freefall is thrilling! My only complaint is the Beast's silly costume! Why would a trained assassin dress like a male stripper? 

Detective Comics #584

"Fever Break!"
Story by John Wagner & Alan Grant
Art by Norm Breyfogle & Steve Mitchell

Scarface and his boys are smuggling Fever into Gotham from Tijuana via a very obese corpse. Batman gets wind of the plot and breaks up the party but gets dosed with the drug. His brain on fire, he beats the Ventriloquist and his dummy to a pulp (pun intended) before coming to his senses. Thanks to the Batman, Gotham streets are safe from the Fever.

Peter: That seems like a very simplistic synopsis but there really isn't much to the story. Despite that, it's a very enjoyable bit of fluff thanks mostly to the Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy knockoffs. Since I'm not familiar with the careers of these nuts, I don't know what becomes of them or whether we'll find out if Scarface is more than just some fine teak, but at the very least it gives us a couple more quality Rogues to watch for. 

This short arc really could have stood a couple more chapters to let it breathe. The crisis is introduced and eradicated way too fast. A couple of chuckles to note: our man in Tijuana has obviously been watching Al Pacino's Scarface a lot, since he's got that realistic Hispanic dialogue down pat ("Say hello to our frien', the Fatman. He gonna be takin' some stoff back to Gotham.") and, though we've noted it quite a few times before, I think it was good to be reminded that Gotham allows its jailbirds a vast amount of leeway when it comes to personal belongings allowed in their cells (see below)! Though I still have some problems with Breyfogle's penciling (at times, too cartoonish), Steve Mitchell seems to be one of the artist's best assistants so far.

Jack: I agree. Either Breyfogle is growing before our eyes, or Mitchell is doing a lot of cleanup, or I'm just getting used to the style. Whatever the case, I thought this was a strong issue with one exception--the need to have every word that starts with a "B" start with a "G" when the dummy speaks, presumably because "B" is such a hard letter for a ventriloquist to utter. Also, Breyfogle needs to tone down some of the expansive cape shots! The scenes are very good, though, especially the one at the restaurant where Batman threatens the Ventriloquist, and the one at the funeral parlor. I even liked the final panel, where the dummy is attacking the Ventriloquist. This guy is really committed! 

Bingham & Giordano
The Saga of Ra's Al Ghul #3

"Bruce Wayne--Rest in Peace!"
(Reprinted from Batman #242, June 1972)

"The Lazarus Pit!" 
(Reprinted from Batman #243, August 1972)

"The Widow's Walk"

Jack: The highlight, of course, is "The Lazarus Pit," a key story in the Ra's al Ghul legend and one that benefits from 24 glorious pages of art by Adams and Giordano at their peak. "Bruce Wayne--Rest in Peace!" is not bad, with decent work by Novick and Giordano, but the Adams/Orlando art in "The Widow's Walk" is disappointing. Oh, and another gorgeous cover by Bingham and Giordano! I can't say it enough times--Dick Giordano is underrated and a major factor in some of the best DC comics.

Batman #418

"Ten Nights of the Beast, Part II"
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Aparo & Mike DeCarlo

The KGBeast has killed four of ten people on the list of key players in the Star Wars program; five more are in protective custody. The KGBeast quickly locates person number ten and replaces the OJ in her boyfriend's fridge with a canister of poison gas. Five down, five to go!

The next day, at a Republican Party fundraiser, the KGBeast's assistant, Salari, eliminates person number six by posing as a chef and poisoning the soup; nearly everyone else at the banquet is also killed, just for good measure. Although Batman catches up to Salari and the KGBeast, they manage to escape in a van. Batman deduces that there is a spy somewhere among the scads of law enforcement officials failing to protect just about anyone.

With a senator and a congressman hidden, Batman and Robin began questioning all of their underworld contacts and learn that someone sold the KGBeast a bazooka! That night, the Russian positions himself atop a building and fires a shell at what he thinks is the senator, not knowing he's blowing up a dummy. Batman confronts the giant and, after some fisticuffs, a chase across the rooftops ends with the KGBeast escaping yet again.

Peter: "Ten Nights of the Beast" comes off as a low-grade mid-80s political thriller, starring Dolph Lundgren as the Beast and Chuck Norris (or Arnold or Sly) stepping in for Batman as the hero. The US/Soviet point/counterpoint over disarmament vs. inspection reads like it could have come right off of an episode of 60 Minutes back in the day. I am impressed with the wholesale slaughter Starlin was allowed to drop into his script (and Batman thinking, "The Beast has shot his wad!" also pushes the PG-13 envelope) but it's still a four-colored Tom Clancy cliche. Wow, it's been decades since I heard the terms "SDI program" or "Star Wars Defense." Love how Batman allows the Beast to blow up a hotel room just to show off his switch trick. Wouldn't it have been a lot less dangerous to folks on the street and a lot less damaging to the hotel if Bats had knocked the assassin across the head with, I don't know, a mallet before firing? 

Jack: I'm still enjoying this arc but part two wasn't quite as exciting as part one. The art is as good as any I've ever seen from Aparo and he succeeds in delivering some great action sequences. The only problem is that the KGBeast keeps escaping Batman! Yes, the Dark Knight, who has caught everyone else for over 400 issues, can't seem to catch the musclebound Russian. It'll be interesting to read the last two chapters to see if they keep having Batman fight the KGBeast briefly before failing to capture him.

Detective Comics #585

"The Ratcatcher"
Story by John Wagner & Alan Grant
Art by Norm Breyfogle & Ricardo Villagran

Below the city streets, three men are being held captive by a looney calling himself the Ratcatcher, a fiend who can control the sewer's rat population. One of the men manages to escape but the Ratcatcher and his little pals catch up to him in a Gotham alley. The Ratcatcher orders his followers to "Tear him up!"

Meanwhile, not far from that terrifying scene, Batman puts the kibosh on a gang selling military weapons and, during the ensuing battle, notices the rodents swarming their victim. Quickly, he races over to the carpet of death and the rats flee, as if called away. Actually, Batman notes to himself, he did hear a high-pitched whistle. Could this be the Pied Piper of Gotham? Itching to discover the origin of the whistle, Batman follows the retreating vermin and spots the Ratcatcher himself.

He follows the costumed fanatic back into the sewers and confronts him, but the Ratcatcher is not impressed. He orders his pals to "tear him up!" and retreats back into the catacombs, where he uncorks a pipe full of raw sewage. Too late, Batman is swept away in Gotham's waste.

Peter: Like the previous story, "The Ratcatcher" doesn't have much plot. There are two storylines advancing at the same time and we have little to no information on what's going on in either one and yet here I go again admitting I enjoyed the whole thing. The Wagner/Grant duo manage to reel me in with what little they reveal and, again like last issue, the boys create an interesting (and, it would seem, insane) villain. I just hope this isn't going to end up being a Scooby-Doo mystery where the Ratcatcher is revealed to be a Waste Management employee who wasn't given a promotion and wants revenge. The fact that his three prisoners have something to do with the judicial system points to a reveal something along those lines. Still, the strip is entertaining and Breyfogle's art continues to improve.

Jack: I thought the art regressed this issue, probably due to having Ricardo Villagran (not Steve Mitchell, as the cover promises) inking Breyfogle's pencils. Way too many panels look like bad cartoons, though I will admit that some of the panels are nicely laid out, even if Breyfogle continues to go overboard with Batman's cape. The story itself is pretty exciting without any slow bits. Too bad Bingham only does the covers!

Adams & Nebres
The Saga of Ra's Al Ghul #4

"The Demon Lives Again!"

"The Bruce Wayne Murder Case!"
(Reprinted from Batman #245, October 1972)

"A Vow from the Grave!"

Jack: Adams and Nebres are an odd pairing for the cover, which is a good example of how Adams's art looked from then on. "The Demon Lives Again!" features some of the best Adams art we ever saw on Batman; "The Bruce Wayne Murder Case!" doesn't feature Ra's but has more nice work by the same art twosome. "A Vow from the Grave!" is a memorable story with more stunning art. These comics may be expensive, but this one is a real feast for the eyes.

Next Week...
Peter and Jack vomit up
their thoughts on what might
be the most oddball Warren story ever!

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Oscar Millard Part One-Consider Her Ways [10.11]

by Jack Seabrook

Oscar Millard (1908-1990) was born in London and began writing articles for British periodicals in 1934. He wrote a biography in 1936 and a novel in 1937. After the war, he was hired by Fox as a contract screenwriter and wrote films from 1949 to 1972 and TV shows from 1955 to 1975. In addition to an episode of Thriller, he wrote two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His papers are at the University of Wyoming.

*   *   *   *   *

"Consider Her Ways" was a novella by English writer John Wyndham that was first published in the 1956 volume, Sometime, Never, which was a collection of three novellas; the other two were by William Golding and Mervyn Peake.

Awakening in an unfamiliar place with no memory of the past, a young woman sees that she is one of several women lying on trollies, their bodies enormous. She believes that she must be dreaming or hallucinating and wonders what it all means. After small women take her to a van, she is transported along a road and sees women who look like Amazons working along the roadside. After the van passes blocks and blocks of pink buildings, she is welcomed home as Mother Orchis, one of several enormous women lying in beds. She is said to have recently given birth to four babies and is fed a huge meal; one of the other women, Mother Hazel, is skeptical of her claims of amnesia.

Oscar Millard
Mother Orchis is mocked when she asks for something to read; the other women insist that all that matters is having babies. She is frustrated and calls for help from Donald, suddenly remembering that she has a husband. The other women are not familiar with the term "husband," nor have they ever heard of the word "man." More memories return and the woman recalls having grown up as Jane Summers until she married Donald Waterleigh, who was killed six months later. A doctor, she was slender and attractive, in contrast to her current shape. Two women called Servitors begin to massage her but, when she shoves them away, she is visited by a doctor who examines her and takes her to the sick bay after she demonstrates her ability to read and write.

Jane argues with the doctor, insisting that she is having a hallucination; the doctor replies that she was developed to be a mother. She is left alone and manages to make her way outside, where she falls down some steps and passes out. Though Jane is arrested and accused of Reactionism, the doctor refuses to let Amazons take her and she is interrogated by a group of women. She recalls that her husband was a test pilot, and after he died she returned to her profession as a doctor. She volunteered to try a new synthetic drug called chuinjuatin; Indians in Venezuela had taken the original form of the drug and believed it liberated the spirit from the body, "'setting it free to wander anywhere in space and time.'" Jane took the drug and woke up in an unfamiliar body and an unfamiliar world.

Barbara Barrie as Mother Orchis
She is transported to a Regency-style house, where she meets an elderly historian named Laura, who suggests that Jane represents "'a genuine case of transferred personality,'" a rare occurrence and one where prior cases have been associated with chuinjuatin. Laura explains that all of the men on Earth got sick and died, leading to a collapse of civilization. She adds that, in the past, men had developed the notion of Romance in order to subjugate women and support an economic model of society where women were exploited by and dependent on men.

Laura explains that order was restored eventually and men were forgotten. Various ways to organize an all-female society were studied until it was decided to follow a model found in the Bible, summarized by the line, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways." Jane is shocked to learn that society is now organized like an ant colony, with an educated ruling class, mothers, servants, and workers all doing their respective tasks. Laura tells Jane that the eradication of men came about after a biologist named Perrigan was working on developing a virus to exterminate rats when a strain capable of attacking humans got loose and wiped out the male population.

Gladys Cooper as Laura
Jane is taken to a hospital-like building and told that her memory will be wiped out by hypnosis. At her request, she is injected with a dose of chuinjuatin to see if her condition can be reversed, and she finds herself back in present-day England with a memory of her sojourn into the future. She tells no one of her experience and, discovering that Perrigan is real, she finds, shoots, and kills him, burning down his lab to destroy all traces of his work. Jane is arrested and her solicitor finds a document she had written explaining her motive; he remarks that Jane was unaware that Perrigan had a son who is determined to carry on his father's work.

John Wyndham's "Consider Her Ways" is a brilliant novella that tackles serious issues and looks forward to a number of themes that will appear in books and stories in the following decades. Jane, the central character, finds herself so obese that she can barely move without help. She thinks that she is "trapped in this huge carcass..." and feels "a great surge of loathing for [her body] and a feeling of helpless frustration...," calling her body a "horrible mass of flesh." In a reference to a line from Hamlet, she thinks that "'I am trapped in flesh that is very palpably too, too solid.'" Did Jane's predicament appeal to Hitchcock, who may well have felt that he, too, was trapped in a body he loathed?

Robert H. Harris as Dr. Perrigan
The references to classic literature mark this novella as a serious work. The title comes from Proverbs 6.6, and the Shakespeare reference mentioned above is from Act One, Scene Two of Hamlet, where the prince asks, "O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew," contemplating suicide but also echoing the desires of Jane in "Consider Her Ways" to be rid of her obese form. When Jane speaks with Laura, the two educated women trade quotes from classic works: Jane laments the fate of babies born into this world by quoting Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard": "'Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air'"; Laura later compares the death of all the men on Earth to the "Death of the Firstborn," referring to the story in Exodus where God kills all of the children of Egypt but spares the children of Israel.

The battle of quotes continues: Jane slyly revises Romeo's line from Romeo and Juliet when she says, "'It is the east, and Laura is the sun,'" and Laura mentions Goya's series of early nineteenth century etchings, which she calls "'The Horrors of War.'" It is ironic that the two women are so well read, since this future world has made reading a crime among mothers!

Gene Lyons as Max Wilder
The dystopian, post-apocalyptic future of "Consider Her Ways" presages many science fiction works, including Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which posits a future where women are subjugated and put into circumscribed gender roles; Atwood listed the 1950s works of John Wyndham among her favorite things to read as a young woman. Jane's murder of Perrigan, committed to prevent future disaster, suggests the plot of The Terminator, where an assassin is sent back in time to kill a woman whose son will grow up to save mankind.

Finally, the drug chuinjuatin is said to liberate the spirit from the body; in this way, it looks forward to the writings of Carlos Castaneda, who claimed to have used drugs in conjunction with indigenous people in order to explore the nature of reality. And the biologist who is working on a synthetic virus that escapes the lab, mutates, and attacks humans? Anyone living through the COVID-19 epidemic of recent years recognizes this narrative as something more than fiction.

Leif Erickson as Dr. Hellyer
Born John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris in 1903, John Wyndham published short stories in the pulps beginning in 1931 under the names John Benyon or John Benyon Harris, but it was not until the novel The Day of the Triffids was published in 1951 that he became a well-known science fiction writer. He also wrote The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), filmed as Village of the Damned (1960), as well as many other short stories and novels. He died in 1969.

"Consider Her Ways" was an unusual choice for adaptation on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, but the climax, where Jane is said to have hunted down and killed Perrigan to prevent the future world from coming to pass, has a criminal aspect to it that must have appealed to the show's producers, and the final twist, where Perrigan's son's plan to continue in his father's footsteps is revealed, is the sort of unexpected development that fit perfectly into the show's format. The TV version aired on NBC on Monday, December 28, 1964.

Ellen Corby
Oscar Millard's teleplay for "Consider Her Ways" is remarkably faithful to the novella for about seventy percent of its running time. The only narration comes in the opening, where we see a light in darkness and hear Jane's voice talking about awakening from unconsciousness. The scenes that follow hew closely to Wyndham's work. Jane's first sense of her enormous body is when she sees her own giant arm; the rest of her is covered in clothing and her hair is long and girlishly styled, tied in a ribbon. The hospital where she wakes up looks similar to the sets on "Eye of the Beholder" from The Twilight Zone, though nothing is bathed in shadow. Bernard Herrmann's eerie music helps set the mood and underlines the sense that Jane is in an unfamiliar and strange locale. She is taken from hospital to home in what looks like a hovercraft bus, but there is no journey from one place to the next, so the sequence in the story where Jane looks out of the window and observes Amazons working along the roadside is deleted. Of course, since the show is in black and white, the overwhelming use of pink that she notices is also absent.

Virginia Gregg
At home, Jane joins the other two mothers; the sight of the three enormous women is bizarre and unforgettable. The first act ends with Mother Daisy asking, "'what's a man?'" and the viewer begins to realize that this is a single-gender world. Act two continues to follow the novella closely and ends with Jane's interrogation by the doctors. The name of the drug she took has been changed to Sonoden (that's what it sounds like), which sounds much more like something manufactured by a pharmaceutical company in 1964 than the novella's chuinjuatin. As often happens on the Hitchcock show, the location has been moved to the United States; when Jane says that she was born in 1938, Laura displays her historical knowledge by referring to FDR, the New Deal, Pearl Harbor, and WWII, while in the novella she refers to George VI and Elizabeth II, since the story is set in England.

Dr. Perrigan and his virus are mentioned earlier in the show than they are in the story and then referred to a second time to make sure that the viewer doesn't miss it. The long conversation between Jane and Laura is condensed from the novella, but the teleplay follows Wyndham's outline and uses quite a bit of his dialogue. All of the references to classic literature are removed except the mention of the Bible as the source of the "consider her ways" quotation. The passage where Jane is taken from Laura's house back to her home is removed and replaced with a dissolve; the doctors tell her that they will induce amnesia and there is no discussion of alternatives. In the novella, Jane asks for a dose of chuinjatin and gets it; in the TV show, the doctor advances toward her with a syringe and she cries, "'No! No!'" before there is a sudden cut to the present, where Jane has short hair and a trim figure.

Barbara Barrie as
Jane Waterleigh
At this point, Millard's script deviates from Wyndham's novella. Jane is screaming and temporarily out of her mind, unaware that she has returned to her prior time and place. While the novella's last six pages contain Jane's written testimony and a discussion between her solicitor and Dr. Hellyer, Millard's teleplay shows things as they happen. Jane is in Dr. Hellyer's office and soon grows calm; she tells him that the events in her hallucination or nightmare either really occurred or will occur in the future. In the novella, she keeps quiet and tells no one what has happened to her; in the TV show, she relates it all to Dr. Hellyer and he writes it down in his notebook. She looks up Dr. Perrigan in a directory and proves that her experience was not a hallucination.

There is a cut to Perrigan's lab, where he gives off a creepy vibe as he refers to rats in a cage as "'my babies'" and explains his work to Jane. He confirms that he is working toward just what Laura related and, when Jane questions him on the stability of his virus and asks him to abandon it, he refuses, causing her to take a gun from her purse and shoot him before she sets fire to his office. These events were related by the solicitor in the novella, but Millard's decision to show them on TV is a more effective use of the visual medium.

Carmen Phillips
The final scene starts with just Hellyer and the lawyer, Max Wilding, using more dialogue from the novella. Unlike the story, however, in the TV show Jane enters and explains her motive for killing Dr. Perrigan. She refuses to plead insanity and maintains her integrity. Having Jane present for the shattering final revelation about Perrigan's son is perfect and the show ends with a close up of her horrified face as she learns that she has given her life for naught and failed to prevent the horrifying future she witnessed.

"Consider Her Ways" is a superb adaptation that follows the source novella closely and dramatizes it, changing the last act so that we see events play out rather than learn about them after they have occurred. Bringing Jane into the final scene makes the ending stronger and underlines the nightmare of the survival of Perrigan's son and his determination to continue his father's work.

Diane Sayer
Much of the credit for the uncomfortable sense of displacement the viewer feels during the scenes set in the future must go to director Robert Stevens (1920-1989), who worked in television from 1948 to 1987 and directed 44 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and five episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He won an Emmy for "The Glass Eye." He also directed 105 episodes of Suspense in the early 1950s.

The show would not work nearly as well without the strong performance by Barbara Barrie (1931- ) as Jane Waterleigh. Born Barbara Berman, she began her acting career in the mid-1950s and continues to this day. She was on the Hitchcock show twice (her other episode was "Isabel") and The Twilight Zone once, but her most memorable roles were as the title character's wife on the TV sitcom Barney Miller and as the young cyclist's mother in Breaking Away (1979).

Dee J. Thompson
Gladys Cooper (1888-1971) is authoritative as Laura, the historian; born in London, she began acting on stage as a teenager and started her film career in the silent era. After juggling stage and film roles for decades, she focused mainly on film after 1940 and began to appear on TV in 1950. She appeared three times on the Hitchcock show, including "What Really Happened," and she also was on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Hitchcock cast her in Rebecca (1940). She was made a Dame in 1967 and kept acting until the year she died.

Giving a slightly creepy performance as Dr. Perrigan is Robert H. Harris (1911-1981), who was born Robert Hurwitz. He began in Yiddish Theater and moved on to roles on Broadway before embarking on a screen career that lasted from 1948 to 1978. His special brand of creepiness can be seen in nine episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Dangerous People," and he was also on Thriller.

Alice Backes
Gene Lyons (1921-1974) portrays Max Wilder, Jane's lawyer, and makes the most of his brief time onscreen, delivering the show's final lines with authority. A member of the Actors Studio, he appeared on Broadway in the 1940s and 1950s and then extensively on TV from 1950 to 1974, with only a handful of film roles during that period. Lyons was seen on The Twilight Zone and Star Trek and he was a regular on Ironside from 1967 to 1974. He was seen in three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Evil of Adelaide Winters."

Leif Erickson (1911-1986) plays Dr. Hellyer. Born William Anderson, he began his career as a singer and trombone player before trying vaudeville and ending up in Hollywood. His movie career began in 1933. He first appeared on TV in 1949 but remained busier in movies until 1957, when he began to take regular roles on TV. He was in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Equalizer." He was on Night Gallery twice and his TV career ended in 1984.

In smaller roles:
  • Ellen Corby (1911-1999) as the head nurse who snaps her fingers and orders around the servitors; born Ellen Hansen, she started out as a script girl in Hollywood and played many uncredited roles on film from 1928 until she got her first screen credit in 1948. Her career continued until 1997 and included appearances on Thriller, Batman, The Odd Couple, and Night Gallery. She was in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and she was featured in five episodes of the Hitchcock TV show, including "Party Line." She is best remembered for her role as Grandma Walton on The Waltons (1972-1980), for which she won three Emmy Awards.
  • Virginia Gregg (1916-1986) as the older doctor who injects Jane with the syringe to erase her memory; a busy actress on radio, film, and TV, she was one of three actors to voice Mrs. Bates in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and she was on the Hitchcock TV show seven times, including "Nightmare in 4-D." She was also seen on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and The Night Stalker.
  • Carmen Phillips (1937-2002) as Mother Daisy, the brunette mother; on screen from 1958 to 1969, she had a bit part in Marnie (1964) and appears in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Motive," which was her first credit.
  • Diane Sayer (1938-2001) as Mother Hazel, the blonde mother; she had a fairly brief career on screen from 1962 to 1971 and was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Gentleman Caller."
  • Dee J. Thompson (1920-2009) as the doctor with glasses; she was on screen from 1949 to 1967 and appeared in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Three Wives Too Many."
  • Alice Backes (1923-2007) as the doctor who questions Jane about her ability to read and write;  after serving as a WAVE during WWII, she worked in radio and then in film from 1948 to 1978. Her busy TV career lasted from 1952 to 1997 and included roles on Thriller, The Night Stalker, and six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Jar."
Read "Consider Her Ways" online here and watch the TV version here.


Barajas, Joshua. "Margaret Atwood on the Dystopian Novels That Inspired Her to Write 'The Handmaid's Tale'." PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 9 Sept. 2019,

"Consider Her Ways." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 10, episode 11, NBC, 28 Dec. 1964. 


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


"Oscar Millard; Novelist and Screenwriter." Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 10 Dec. 1990, 

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

Wyndham, John. "Consider Her Ways." Consider Her Ways and Others, Penguin, New York, 1961, pp. 7–73.

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Rose Garden" here!

In two weeks: Our brief series on Oscar Millard concludes with a look at "One of the Family," starring Lilia Skala and Jeremy Slate!

Monday, February 20, 2023

The Warren Report Issue 104: June 1979



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

Terrance Lindall
Creepy #108

"Hole in the Head" ★1/2
Story by Frank Salvatini
Art by Alex Nino

"Camelot Crosstime" ★1/2
Story by Jean Michele Martin
Art by Val Mayerik

Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Pepe Moreno Casares

"Going by the Book" 
Story by Kevin Duane
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"House of Magic" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Hell's Playground" ★1/2
Story by Pierce Askegren
Art by Leo Duranona

A crazed man, who believes Lovecraftian demons exist all around him, relates how he went from doctor to inmate at the Ellison State Hospital. "Hole in the Head" suffers from an incomprehensible, almost unreadable, script delivered in a cliched fashion. It doesn't help that Nino's art, once so fabulously unique and thrilling, has become almost equally incomprehensible. Panels melt into each other and muck up the reader's attempts at extracting some kind of plot. I'm not saying I can't handle non-linear storytelling, but Nino's visions of tentacled, winged, wormy things with two million eyes have become almost passé since he first came onto the scene. We've seen it all before. It doesn't help that Frank Salvatini (in his one and only Warren appearance) caps it all with the most overused "shock ending" in funny book history. 

Hank Clemens uses a time machine to travel back to Camelot and the time of King Arthur. Once there, Clemens uses "sorcery" to become a very powerful man, but two "Temporal Transtator" agents also travel back in order to stop Clemens from messing up history. What a mess "Camelot Crosstime" is, almost as though pages are missing. The splash shows us Clemens tied to a stake and about to be burned, but then a couple pages later he's on the loose, jousting with knights. The organization that sends the agents back in time is given no back story whatsoever. We jump from Camelot to a futuristic headquarters as if we're supposed to know what's going on. The climactic panel, where Clemens heads off to fight a mythic dragon he snickers at only to find a T. Rex waiting for him, is a keeper, as is Mayerik's art, but the script is muddled. And where's the vision of Hell?

Decent art is all that props up "Sultana," Budd Lewis's perplexing story of the sultan's daughter who watches her father's army destroyed in front of her eyes and later finds out the slayer was her own mother. There's a lot of confusing dialogue and scene switches in between those two events but, take my word for it, it's all better left ignored. The fact that these scripts become more and more muddled makes me wonder if Louise Jones was having lunch with other publishers about this time.

A sorcerer's apprentice accidentally unleashes a horde of demons on a small English countryside and it's up to the wizard and his right-hand man (a kinder demon) to put the rats back in their cage. Luckily, the demon has been studying the book of spells, since the riff-raff get the drop on the boss. But all's well when the proper incantation is read and the marauding demons are sent back to Hell.

A genuinely delightful fantasy, a description I don't use regarding too many Warren strips, "Going by the Book" is both witty and funny; even the pop references work (One minute the Green Bay Packers were tap-dancing on my face, the next moment I'm under 40 empty sausage skins), a skill not utilized by many of the typewriter-users in the Warren cafeteria. It's also got some of the best Alcala work for Warren in years. 

Bernardo is the greatest escape artist in the world but his final trick, being buried alive in a casket for 36 hours, goes horribly wrong and the magician suffocates. Rumor has it that Bernardo kept detailed notes about all his tricks, so Edward Montressor spends his entire life savings on Bernardo's abandoned mansion, in hopes of finding those notes. One night, while asleep, Montressor's bed is catapulted through the upstairs window, Edward and all. He survives the fall but comes across the corpse of a man in the snow outside his house. Thinking nothing of it, Montressor does what any right-thinking person would do: he drags the corpse to his basement and heaves it into a coal bin.

Just then, nails from a nearby workbench fly at Montressor, burying themselves in his leg. While he lies in agony on the floor, he sees the corpse rise from the coal bin. The robed dead man (think DC's Spectre) explains that he is a magician named DeVore and that Bernardo stole his magic tome, the Book of Ishmael. Now DeVore has come for the book. But Bernardo is not lying still either; his apparition appears before the men and the two magicians do battle. Montressor escapes just as his great investment comes tumbling down behind him. 

"House of Magic" is warmed-over Poe, a slow Gothic burn that never really delivers any kind of excitement. The story would have felt very welcome within the pages of late 1970s' House of Mystery. The novelty here, of course, is the fact that Pablo Marcos was forced to draw characters with their pants on, surely a first for the artist. 

Property manager Henry Wilson gets a dismayed call from one of his clients; seems a crevasse has opened on her property and a bunch of demons are playing poker in her backyard. Henry heads over on the double and tries to reason with the demons, but they're too happy to be out of that hot place and basking in the Cali sun to give him much notice. Even an exorcist can't get rid of these evil imps. Henry finds the perfect solution and peace returns to Serenity Acres. I can't deny that "Hell's Playground" made me smile a few times; the dialogue is witty and doesn't overstay its welcome. I also can't deny I'd like it a HELL of a lot better if it weren't drawn by 1978's Best Artist winner.-Peter

Jack-From the hideous cover to the final page, this issue was a chore to read. Nino's crazy, full pages without panels are terrible--he's not telling a story, he's just drawing weird stuff. Jean Michele Martin's "Camelot Crossfire" is worthless, as you note, but Mayerik's art is passable. Maybe the writer and artist understood what was happening in "Sultana," but I sure didn't. "Going By the Book" features still more weak attempts at humor, but Alcala's art is okay, I guess. I thought "House of Magic" would be a relief from all of the sword and sorcery nonsense, since it's ostensibly a horror tale, but the story is dumb and the Marcos art is meh. And finally, what better (worse?) way to end a dreadful issue than with a Duranona story? Allegedly the second story by Martin in this issue, "Hell's Playground" is really by Pierce Askegren, and he follows the rest of this issue's writers in his use of incongruous dialogue--here, demons play cards in a suburban back yard. This issue should be tossed in the recycling bin of history.

Jim Laurier
Eerie #101

"The Martians are Coming! The Martians are Coming!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jim Starlin & Alfredo Alcala

"Gotterdammerung!" (II)
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Isidro Mones

"The Horizon Seekers"★1/2
Story by Leo Duranona & Cary Bates
Art by Leo Duranona

"Three Flames of the Phoenix"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Pepe Moreno Casares

When Restin Dane hears a news report about the unearthing of a 19th century mechanical man, he hops into the time castle and heads into the past to investigate. In an 1894 Austrian village, he's attacked by robots and meets Heinrich Stutgardt, a former watchmaker who has spent 15 years building a still-unfinished robot. His former clerk, Alois Schicklgruber, has shanghaied a quartet of watchmakers to build cut-rate robots in a factory to aid in his quest for world domination. Restin completes Heinrich's robot and ends the menace.

Meanwhile, in 1979, Bishop Dane sees on the TV news that "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming," and giant alien ships are destroying Washington, DC. He and Manners fly there in a jiffy and put up a big fight. It turns out that the Martians are actually homegrown "patriots," led by a general who just wanted to show Americans how wasteful the government can be.

Restin arrives home to find Bishop sitting in front of the TV, the Martian problem solved.

It certainly helps to have Starlin and Alcala drawing the Rook, though this story looks much more like Alfredo's work than Jim's. I was happy for the brief, final page appearance of Katie and Jan, two characters virtually forgotten of late, but the parallel structure DuBay always uses in these stories is too predictable. The speech by the General could have been lifted whole and transposed into the mouth of our former president on January 6th, but at the end of the story DuBay has the rebel general lauded as a truth-teller. What I thought was satire was simplistic politicking.

"Gotterdammerung!" continues as Juda's ship flees through space, chased by enemy ships. After plenty of flying and blasting, things aren't looking good for the home team until the ship finds itself being pulled to safety by a tractor beam. Jericho the robionic and Chaddo are beamed off of Juda's ship and onto the ship of General Nightshadow, old friend of Jericho and father to Juda. Nightshadow had been sending the "Soon" signals to Earth. Chaddo beams back to the ship where Juda remains and the two ships succeed in blowing up all of the bad guys before father and son reunite.

This Star Wars rip-off is fairly entertaining, even though it jumps around a bit and isn't always crystal clear as to what's going on. For example, in one panel Chaddo is on Nightshadow's ship, with him telling her she has to get back to Juda's ship, and in the next panel she's standing next to Juda on his ship; the reader has to assume she beamed back over between panels. The art by Mones is serviceable.

Jesse and Allison, "The Horizon Seekers," climb down the mountain into a valley, where they find precious water. They also find a band of African savages riding zebras and attacking with spears. A combination of fighting back and running away works pretty well, but the duo find their backs to a stockade wall when suddenly arrows fly from above and kill the savages.

Jack and Peter debate whether to end this blog in 1979 or 1983.
On the other side of the stockade, Jesse and Allison find a fort and castle straight out of the middle ages, manned by knights in armor and overseen by Merlin--not that Merlin. The old man explains that he's as befuddled as everyone else and set this place up when he stumbled on a museum of the Middle Ages. After a good night's sleep, Jesse and Allison awaken to find that the castle is under attack by a giant.

Bates and Duranona seem to be making this up as they go along, since it veers from one locale to the next without any real logic. The Black savages seem like they came over from a DuBay story and Duranona's art is as ugly as ever. This series is the definition of page filler.

A decade after Hunter's last adventure, he's back in "Three Flames of the Phoenix." Ragan, his gal pal, has been kidnapped and taken to the underworld, so Hunter must once again don his goofy helmet, join forces with the Exterminator Robot, and go after her. Find her he does, after much verbosity and dangerous travel; he discovers that her abductor is none other than Mandragora, the wizard who raised him and whom he thought had been killed. Mandy gets the upper hand and is about to finish Hunter off when Browne Loe appears and falls into a lava pit with Mandragora.

I was reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as I read this ("What is your name? What is your quest?") but, alas, the Hunter story isn't funny or interesting at all. Moreno's art is oddly wooden and not as smooth as the work of Paul Neary, who wasn't that great of an artist to begin with. The story in this unwelcome return of our hero is a jumble of Lord of the Rings elements (I think), which is fitting, since the LOTR ads start on the page right after "the end." Eerie 101 is better than Creepy 108, but not by much.-Jack

I thought the Rook story had some interesting pieces to it (as Jack notes, Dube might actually have had a time machine of his own and teleported to 2016 for inspiration for General Wells), but it's just too darned long and drags way too much. It doesn't help that I can't stand the grandpa character--ironic, since I thought he was the best part of the early adventures--his hillbilly dialogue gets under my skin and pulls my nails out slowly. The art is kinda funky--I love Starlin's work and Alcala is (suhprize suhprize suhprize) my all-time favorite horror artist, but when the two talents combine there's a bit of a blandness to it. It ain't horrible, it just ain't memorable.

"Gotterdammerung!" continues to be a low-rent rip-off of a high-rent rip-off, so the less said the better. I find I have less and less to say about these Eerie serials; there's a scarcity of fresh ideas or at least a new angle on old themes. The space battles in "Gotter" look as though they've been pulled right from the silver screen. I have no problem admitting that I have no idea what the hell is going on in "The Horizon Seekers." One may say that points to a series that is compelling and not predictable but, no, it just means that Duranona is as clueless a scripter as he is a doodler.

Speaking of complicated and indecipherable, one only has to point to the first page of "Hunter II" to strengthen one's argument about the emptiness and needless complications of the Eerie serials (Eerials?). It's best to just wade into the installment without the prologue. Why? Because you save two or three minutes of precious time. Never mind that this is a new chapter of "Hunter II" after we've already been put through a "Hunter III!" I find Moreno's work to be confounding, alternately exciting and amateurish, and the script to be mind-numbing. In fact, the entire issue could be summed up as confounding and mind-numbing.

Next Week...
Starlin unveils his latest epic!