Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Thomas Grant, Part Two-Hooked [5.38]

by Jack Seabrook

Robert Turner's short story, "Hooked," was the source for the last episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to air on CBS; the show premiered on Sunday, September 25, 1960, as the last offering of season five. Two nights later, "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" aired as the first episode of the series to be shown on NBC, opening season six on a Tuesday after five years of being shown on Sundays.

The story begins as Ray Marchand, a handsome man of 27, drives up to a fishing camp to pick up his wife, Gladys, who is almost twice his age. Ray is immediately captivated by Nila Foster, the beautiful young daughter of the camp's owner, Floyd. Ray makes a play for Nila right away, but she resists. Soon, Gladys returns from a day of fishing with Floyd, and Ray makes no secret of his desire for Nila; Gladys is not surprised and reminds her husband of their arrangement: as long as he is discreet, she tolerates his flings.

"Hooked" was first
published here
The next afternoon, Gladys goes shopping and Ray visits Nila, who insists that her father won't let her be alone with Ray. Finally, she tells him to come back on Monday when they go to an out of the way spot where she succumbs to his lust. Afterwards, she says it can't happen again, and he spends the next week thinking about her. On the following Monday, he visits the camp and finds her alone on a beach, where they again give in to passion. Later, he admits that neither he nor Gladys knows how to swim. Ray and Nila discuss the idea of him taking his wife out in a boat and throwing her overboard; if she dies, he'll inherit her money.

Ray pretends to develop an interest in fishing, and eventually he takes Gladys out in the boat alone. He sees Nila and Floyd watching from the dock; as he throws the anchor in the water, he almost loses his balance and, to Ray's surprise, Gladys uses an oar to shove him overboard. As he drowns, he realizes that Gladys must have fallen for Floyd and that Nila must have helped them execute their plan to do away with Ray.

The art on the story's
first page gives away
the ending!
"Hooked" manages to execute a nice surprise twist at the end, even though the narrative is padded with too many pulp cliches describing Nila's beautiful body. The title has two meanings, both the literal one involving fishing and the figurative one about how Ray is hooked by the plotting and planning of Nila, Gladys, and Floyd. Ray's vanity is so great that he does not realize he is a pawn in their game; his hubris and his ego blind him to the fact that he is the fish and they hold the fishing pole.

Robert Turner (1915-1980), the story's author, was a prolific contributor to the pulps and the digests from 1939 until his death. He also wrote for comic books in the 1940s and several of his stories were adapted for TV in the 1950s, including one other for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The TV version of "Hooked" follows the short story closely for most of its length, with some important changes toward the end that make it work better on the small screen. Some extraneous scenes in the story are cut, such as one where Ray and Gladys are in the car and she gives him permission to pursue Nila while also warning him about Floyd. Also deleted is a scene where Ray goes home and paints a portrait of Nila, as well as background about how Ray and Gladys ended up in Florida. One thing that is preserved is the focus on Nila's beauty and Ray's ogling of her; in one early scene, he can't help looking from her face to her chest, and in another, the camera takes his point of view as he follows her along a path, looking her up and down and focusing on her swaying hips.

When Ray returns to the camp for the first time, a scene that occurs outside in the story is moved inside the bait and tackle shop, allowing for a visual joke when Ray stands next to a sign that reads, "Live Worms"--it's hard not to associate the man with the sign. A deaf and dumb Black man who works on the boats in the story is eliminated from the TV show, which includes only four characters. In the story, Ray and Nila go out on the lake in a boat, but in the TV show they are together instead on a beach in a cove. This scene is particularly well choreographed, as Ray repeatedly tries to kiss Nila and she succeeds each time in wriggling away from him.

Instead of having sex, as they do in the story, Ray and Nila just share a passionate kiss in the TV show. Director Norman Lloyd shows her resistance give way the first time they kiss by focusing the camera on her hand, which starts out tense but soon relaxes. The second time they are together on the beach, the TV show diverges from the story when Ray dives into the lake after the young woman, demonstrating his ability to swim. At this point, the viewer who has read the story must wonder how this will affect the ending; in the story, Ray drowns because he can't swim.

Much of Ray and Nila's discussion of how he can make Gladys's death look like an accident is cut, and a short scene is added between Ray and Gladys where she almost seems to believe that he is sincere about wanting to learn how to fish. She looks for a kiss on the lips but is disappointed to receive just a peck on the cheek. Ray's lust for Nila is thus contrasted with his coolness toward Gladys.

Robert Horton as Ray Marchand
The end is set up beautifully and is more effective than the conclusion of the short story. When Ray and Gladys fish together, Nila looks on as if jealous, and Ray and Nila pretend that they barely know each other. When Ray and Gladys return for a repeat fishing trip, Floyd apologizes and says that he can't go with them. Ominous music plays on the soundtrack as Nila is shown watching the couple, looking as if she knows that Ray plans to stage a fatal accident. Gladys reluctantly agrees to go and Floyd tells Nila to give Gladys a basket with lunch that she packed for another couple; none of this is in the short story.

In the story, Gladys drives the boat, but Ray mans the motor in the TV show. They stop and the boat rocks gently on the lake as Gladys takes the basket and asks Ray if he wants a sandwich or a bottle of beer. There is a tight closeup of Ray's eyes as he watches Gladys climb over a bench to get to the anchor; his gaze at her hips is much different than his corresponding gaze at Nila's hips earlier in the show. More ominous music plays on the soundtrack, and suddenly, Ray seems to lunge and the screen goes black. What happened? In the short story, there is no question and no suspense, but in the TV show, this dark screen leaves the viewer guessing.

Anne Francis as Nila Foster
The next shot fades in on Floyd and Nila inside the shop as they hear the boat returning. Nila smiles and looks satisfied, as if expecting Ray to return alone. Outside the shop, she and her father watch the boat return, but since it is filmed in a long shot, the viewer cannot tell who is driving, other than that the person is alone. The boat reaches the dock and the driver is revealed to be Gladys. She climbs up on the dock and tells Floyd, "'I did just what you told me to,'" removing a Billy club from the picnic hamper. The trio agree that it was a tragic accident and walk back to the bait shop smiling, arm in arm.

In the end, Gladys and Floyd get the partners they want, Nila ensures that her father will have money, love, and happiness, and they all get rid of Ray, the "live worm." In the story, Ray realizes that he's been duped as he drowns, while in the TV show, the viewer learns what happened after Gladys returns to the dock. The revelation that Nila was setting Ray up for disaster is a complete surprise, and the realization that she was working in concert with her father and Ray's wife makes the denouement quite satisfying.

Norman Lloyd (1914-2021), the director, was one of the people most responsible for the success and quality of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Born Norman Perlmutter and active in the theater in the 1930s, he had a long career as a film and television actor, from 1939 to 2015, and appeared in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) and Spellbound (1945). He also directed for television from 1951 to 1984. He acted in five episodes of the Hitchcock series and directed 22, including "Man from the South."

Vivienne Segal as Gladys
Starring as Ray is Robert Horton (1924-2016), who had been active in film since 1945. From 1952 to 1989, he was a busy TV actor, co-starring in Wagon Train (1957-1962), and then starring on the short-lived series, A Man Called Shenandoah (1965-1966). A website devoted to his career is here. This was one of seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in which he was featured, including "Crack of Doom," and after his television career ended he spent many years on stage.

Anne Francis (1930-2011), who plays Nila, was born Ann Marvak in upstate New York. She began modeling at age five and was on Broadway by age eleven. Her first movie came out in 1947 and she was on the scene at the dawn of television in 1949. She worked both in movies and TV until 1969; after that, most of her roles were on episodic TV. She is best known for Forbidden Planet (1956), as the star of the Honey West series (1965-1966), and for a couple of roles on The Twilight Zone. She appeared on the Hitchcock show five times, including "What Really Happened."

Gladys is played by Vivienne Segal (1897-1992), who began singing opera at age 15 and performed in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s. She was often featured in Broadway shows from 1915 to 1953 and appeared in seven films from 1930 to 1934. She made four TV appearances between 1951 and 1966, two of which were on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She was married to Hubbell Robinson, who was an executive at CBS from 1947 to 1959 before leaving to produce TV shows, including Thriller.

John Holland as Floyd
Finally, John Holland, who plays Floyd, was born Harold Boggess. He was on screen from 1937 to 1986, but this was his only role on the Hitchcock show. He also appeared on The Twilight Zone.

Watch "Hooked" online here or buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.

After researching the two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where the teleplay is credited to Thomas Grant, I think that the name is a pseudonym for Henry Slesar. After seeing nine of his short stories adapted for the show by other writers in seasons three, four, and five, Slesar began adapting his own stories for TV with "Forty Detectives Later" and "Insomnia," episodes 28 and 30 of season five. He used the pseudonym "Eli Jerome" to adapt his own stories, "One Grave Too Many" and "Party Line," as episodes 32 and 33 of season five. Episodes 31 and 38 of this season, "I Can Take Care of Myself" and "Hooked," were not based on stories by Slesar, but since Thomas Grant has no other credits anywhere, I think that the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents decided to have Slesar use fake names so it did not look like one writer was writing too many episodes in too short a time. Though Slesar's other four episodes in this season were all adapted from his own stories, he did go on to adapt works by other writers in subsequent seasons of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. To date, my queries to the agency for his estate, a family member, and someone who edited a collection of his stories have garnered no response, but perhaps the truth will one day come to light about the identity of Thomas Grant.



Galactic Central,

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

"Hooked."  Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 38, CBS, 25 September 1960.



Turner, Robert. "Hooked." Manhunt, Feb. 1958. pp. 33-42.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The End of Indian Summer" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Richard Fielder begins with a look at "Night of the Owl," starring Brian Keith and Patricia Breslin!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Batman in the 1960s Issue 12: November/ December 1961


The Caped Crusader in the 1960s
by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

Detective Comics #297

"The Beast of Koba Bay"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"J'onn J'onzz vs. the Vigilantes"
Story by Jack Miller
Art by Joe Certa

"Aqualad, Stand-In for a Star"
Story by Jack Miller
Art by Sheldon Moldoff

Batman and Robin fly to Koba Island in the Bat-Plane to arrest a mobster named Albey, who is hiding there (we find this information out from some clunky exposition in the first few panels) from the authorities. When they get there, the local gendarme informs them that a legendary creature, "The Beast of Koba Bay," has risen from the nearby ocean and is terrorizing the inhabitants. Coincidentally, as the two men and the pre-teen Boy Wonder discuss the monster, it rises from the water and attacks the port.

Batman uses his detective skills and grabs a handy fish net to slow the creature's advance into the village. After a bit of snorting and harumphing, the giant turns tail and heads back into the water. An excited cry from the town's police chief alerts Batman to the fact that the mob boss he'd come there to arrest has been killed in the sea dragon's attack. Holy coincidence!

The caped crusaders head to the dead thug's house and find a charred note in the fireplace, directing Albey to meet the scribe at the dock where (not so coincidentally) the criminal would later be killed. Suddenly, screaming erupts from the street; the monster has returned! Bats and Robin head down to the beach and manage to ward off the Beast of Koba Bay with torches, but Bats knows that next time the behemoth will be better prepared (asbestos hide?) and they must come up with a plan, pronto.

A clue leads Bats to suspect that another local thug named Spence might be responsible for both the monster and Albey's killing, so the Dynamic Duo tail the criminal while he dives into the bay and enters a secret cave wherein is stored... ta da... the giant robot Beast of Koba Bay! You see, Spence was afraid his name might come up if Albey were arrested and told the names of his criminal accomplices. After the boys make their appearance, Spence gets the drop on Bats with a heater, but our hero has a few tricks up his sleeve and flips his flipper at the gunman. Bats reveals that he saw some oil leaking from the monster the first time they battled and immediately knew the goliath was a fake (but evidently decided not to share that info with his partner), but then brings down the house by informing Spence that the second attack was carried out by the real Beast of Koba Bay!

As they're swimming to the surface, Batman spots the Beast heading for town, so he swims back down into the cave and hops into the Faux-Beast, using his Greatest Detective in the World skills to effortlessly master the controls. He heads to the surface and engages in a brutal, terrifying battle of the Beasts, finally sending the real monster back to the Bay for a final time. The Beast of Koba Bay is dead and the town suddenly realizes they've lost all hope for future tourism revenue.

It's redundant to mention that these 1960s adventures are fun, but they really do require a mighty suspension of disbelief. How could the World's Greatest Detective not know upon first sight that this monster is a gizmo? Does it have fluid movement? And how did Spence create this creature? Did he build it from scratch out of materials found in the local junkyard, or did he visit the Criminal Store and hand them his specs? At least Bill Finger threw a clever curveball at us with the reveal of a second (and gen-u-ine) dinosaur, albeit one that was easily done in by a creaky robot twin.

When "Fangs" Frazer gets off on a technicality, local businessmen are so angry that they form a vigilante group to take Frazer and his ilk off the streets. Despite being a "vigilante" himself, J'onn knows these well-meaning citizens can't take the law into their own hands. Besides, it's a dangerous business and, when it all comes down to it, these guys are all dopes anyway. They'll get themselves killed. So, it's "J'onn J'onzz vs. the Vigilantes," whether he likes it or not. If these guys are pissed about the weak justice system in their town, they should move to Gotham, where psychotics and terrorists are paroled after three months.

Aqualad is recruited as stuntman for young superstar Barry Blaine, who's making his debut as "Sea-Boy" in a new summer tentpole. The dough the Aqua-boys make will go to charity, so the Lad knows he'll have to grin and bear it, even when spoiled brat Blaine starts hogging the limelight. In the end, though, Blaine proves he's a solid kid when he saves Aquasquirt from a random, floating war mine. The Aquaboys strip is childish rubbish, but at least we were graced with some great Nick Cardy art. This issue's "Aqualad, Stand In For a Star" sees the mediocre Moldoff take over chores. Not a good combination.-Peter

Jack-"The Beast of Koba Bay" could have been titled "Batman Meets Godzilla," or perhaps Mecha-Godzilla. It's a weak story, and the big battle between the real beast and the robot doesn't fit the Batman strip at all. The J'onn J'onzz story is better than the lead story for a change, and that's saying something. The Martian Manhunter finds himself in the rare position of helping crooks, but it all works out in the end. I groaned when I saw that Moldoff drew the Aquaman story, but it's not as bad as I expected. At least they keep the helpful fish to a minimum this time out.

Batman #144

"The Alien Feud on Earth"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Man Who Played Batman"
Story by Arnold Drake
Art by Sheldon Moldoff

"Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Batman and Robin happen upon a couple of aliens who seem to be feuding because they are shooting blasts from their ray guns at each other. Batman tries to intervene but is first sent floating into the air and then imprisoned in a prism-shaped force screen. The World's Greatest Detective deduces that the aliens are dueling, so he dresses up as one of them and is able to get close enough to the other to sock him in the jaw. Just as Batman is about to switch disguises and wait for the other alien, a female alien in a mini skirt arrives and chastises the alien duo for dueling for her honor on a faraway planet to avoid being found out. She tells them to cut it out and says she won't marry either of the louts; the trio head back into outer space.

Batman alien story #400 of 1961, "The Alien Feud on Earth" is thin on plot but turns humorous in the final pages when Rilla, the alien gal, shows up. She sports a very Earth-like hairdo and mini skirt with a cool belt that cinches her outfit at the waist and shows off her out of this world curves. Just what every alien chick should have been wearing in 1961! No wonder Hylk and Zorb were fighting over her.

The Joker is back, and he's determined to build a Batman-proof gang! He dresses up as Batman and uses a mockup of Gotham City to see if his goons can outwit the Caped Crusader, but they fail as usual. Elsewhere, Batman and Robin capture a criminal known as Gum-Ball Burke. Batman deduces that the Joker is planning a big job, so he disguises himself as Burke and is taken to the Joker's secret hideout.

Disguised as Burke, Batman helps the Joker's goons outwit every trap set for them by the Joker, who is dressed as Batman. Batman/Burke does so well that Joker/Batman tells him to put on the Batman suit and Joker will see if he can lead the goons with equal success. Eventually, Joker figures out that Batman/Burke/Batman must be the real Batman and says, "'Grab him, boys!'" Robin arrives just in the nick of time with the cops, having located Batman by means of a radio transmitter hidden in a gumball that  Batman/Burke was chewing, and Batman socks Joker in the jaw, ending the efforts of "The Man Who Played Batman."

Scripter Arnold Drake sets up enough double- and triple-takes in this story to keep it fun and interesting. I'm always happy for an appearance by the Joker! My favorite line is uttered by Gum-Ball Burke when Batman catches him as he tries to escape on a train: "'Ooof! Blast you, Batman--you not only trapped me, but you made me swallow my gum!'"

When Commissioner Gordon tells Batman and Batwoman to go to Washington to testify before a Senate crime committee, he asks Bat-Girl to help Robin patrol Gotham City. Outside City Hall, Batgirl leaps on Robin and tells him he's adorable, but the embarrassed lad confesses that he's devoted to another woman. Bat-Girl retires to her aunt's underground lair to weep, when she's suddenly joined by Bat-Mite, who is delighted at the prospect of playing Cupid.

That night, Bat-Mite remains invisible while he helps Bat-Girl apprehend two bandits at the Gotham Playground Equipment Company, but Robin seems unimpressed. The following evening, a tiger gets loose at an outdoor circus, and Bat-Mite helps Bat-Girl capture the beast. As a reward, she receives a peck on the cheek from young movie idol, Chip Danton, which makes Robin jealous.

Finally, Bat-Mite plans to make it appear that Bat-Girl has been abducted by gangsters, but real gangsters come along and kidnap her before Bat-Mite arrives! Robin shows up and he and Bat-Mite locate and free Bat-Girl. In the end, Robin admits that the other woman is the statue of justice outside City Hall. Batman and Bat-Woman return from D.C., Bat-Girl plants another smack on Robin's cheek, and Bat-Mite pops back to his dimension.

My delight at seeing another story featuring Bat-Girl is slightly dampened by the appearance of the ever-annoying Bat-Mite, but that imp is less troublesome this time around, perhaps because he's trying to help Bat-Girl get through to the stone cold Boy Wonder. In the end, Robin confesses that Batman told him his own crime-fighting career precludes romance, and Robin has decided that he must also sacrifice the joys of young ladies in order to battle the Joker, etc. Eventually, he'll get over this concern and start playing the field heavily, but that's a few years off.-Jack

Peter-This issue elicited several chuckles and guffaws, so it succeeded in its mission. Robin exclaims "Golly, am I seeing things?!" when confronted by the sight of an alien, as if the kid hadn't encountered dozens of them in the last few months in Galactic Gotham City, battleground of the Solar System. Batman's transistorized bubble gum was a hoot but thank goodness he invented new technology that prevented rot from his Bat-saliva. As usual, a baddie (in this case, Joker) spends millions on props he'll never use again to accomplish a goal he could just as easily have reached in an abandoned barn.

But my deepest laugh this time out was reserved for little Larry Fenstermaster of Stockton, CA, who wrote in to scold Bill Finger (?) for including a 1901 Lincoln Head Penny in a previous story. "Any good coin collector knows that Lincoln Pennies weren't minted until 1909!" Jack Schiff does what any responsible editor would do--he blames the fictional villain who created the coin! This issue sees the cover price of DC Comics skyrocketing 20% to the ungodly price of twelve cents. No wonder circulation declined!

Detective Comics #298

"The Challenge of Clay-Face"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Man Who Impersonated J'Onn J'Onzz
Story by Jack Miller (?)
Art by Joe Certa

"The Secret Sentry of the Sea"
Story Uncredited
Art by Nick Cardy

Batman and Robin arrive at the estate of a noted philanthropist to pick up a hefty donation to the Police Benefit Fund, but the gaiety is short lived when a man made of clay steps from the shadows and grabs the bag. Acting as one titanic fighting force, the Dynamic Duo go into action, attempting to corral this new foe. But "The Challenge of Clay-Face" is that he can become whatever his heart desires, and he displays that very quickly, changing from a giant snake to a buzz-saw to, finally, a huge eagle. He grasps the money bag in his talons and flies away, leaving mud on the faces of our heroes.

When he arrives back at his flat, Matt Hagen goes through his origin story in his brain, kindly orating the events out loud for the reading audience to hear. Seems Matt was a lazy skin-diver, hoping to find sunken treasure so that he would never have to work an honest day in his life, when he stumbled on a hidden grotto and accidentally plunged into a pool of chemicals. His entire body became liquid mud, enabling him to take on any shape his mind would imagine. A Clay-Face was born! But back to our story--

Clay-Face's next heist occurs at an art gallery, where he yearns to become a part of high society by stealing priceless paintings. Batman and Robin arrive at the gallery just as Mudman is pocketing a Warhol but, through some advanced trickery (impersonating a Gallery guard!), the fiend escapes once again. With his powers dwindling, Hagen heads back to the pool and takes a dip in its rejuvenating fluids. He then swears to hire some henchmen so he never has to get his hands dirty fighting superheroes. 

The next day, with his new goon squad, Clay-Face rips off a Chinese museum, nabbing a very expensive jade statue but, at the same time, leaving a very valuable clue for the World's Greatest Detective, who arrives later that day. It seems that Clay-Face should have vetted his new employees a little more intensely, since the dopes have tracked rare mud into the museum on the bottom of their shoes. Batman takes those bits back to the Bat-Cave for analysis. Ah-hah! The glop leads our boys right to Henchman #1's abode. There, Batman and Robin follow the trio of dopes to the Natural History Museum, where a heist has been planned.

A terrifying fistfight ensues, and Clay's goons hoof it, leaving their boss to fend for himself. Batman, seeing Clay has escaped, gives chase, leaving Robin on the museum's lawn, apparently unconscious. Clay-Face comes out of hiding (he was cleverly impersonating a tree) and races back to his place, unaware that Robin was playing possum and followed. Robin alerts Batman to his whereabouts and breaks into the house, confronting Clay, who transforms into a horned beast. He tries to run the Boy Wonder through, but his powers begin to fade again. Batman arrives just in time to put the cuffs on Hagen. Later, in his cell, Matt Hagen swears that Clay-Face will return!

Way back when we were writing the Marvel University blog (all three million words are still there for all to enjoy, by the way), we came up with a "Landmark Issue" designation (Captain America's Golden Age shield was the icon) to mark what we thought were important stops along the journey. If Jack and I still applied that icon, it would go on this issue, since Clay-Face is definitely a member of the Rogues Gallery and we're afforded an honest-to-goodness origin (brief though it may be) to boot. The character design is solid and one might say it resembles that of Ben Grimm, the new hero introduced a few months before over at the competition, but I think coincidence is all it is. The fact that our heroes had faced a similar villain named Clay-Face two decades before (Detective Comics #40, June 1940) must have slipped the minds of Bill Finger and the World's Greatest Detective himself. How do you forget a guy like that?

From start to finish, this is one solid fantasy, without the usual traces of inanity. Sure, we have to swallow some strange science (I think the toxicity of the mixed chemicals Hagen falls into probably would have melted his skin down to the bone), but I can live with that. It's odd that, with the incredible power Hagen has, Clay-Face pulls such lightweight heists. He steals one painting, one jade figurine, even a hundred k's seems like chump change to a man who can alter his features and get out of just about any jam. While we're discussing the nuances of super-villain motives, what's this guy's end game? Will he steal just enough to retire to the country? Why does he need all this money? How do you buy a house when you're on the Gotham's Most Wanted List? Do your goons do the grocery shopping? If I were Bill Finger and grew tired of all the alien-visitor yarns, I'd pen a script about Clay-Face's trip to the car dealership.

After Barry Clark, "The Man Who Impersonated J'Onn J'Onzz," sprains his ankle before his big debut on stage, the real Martian Manhunter (swell guy that he is) agrees to appear in the man's place without the audience's knowledge. The act is a success and Barry's even offered a gig on TV, but the merriment is short-lived when hoodlums rob the box office. In a hilarious case of mistaken identity, the hoods run into J'Onn and think he's the impersonator! In the end, the Martian Manhunter is able to round up the guilty parties with the aid of his twin. Again, I laugh out loud as J'Onn scrambles to find some way to mask his powers while someone is staring down the barrel of a .44. "Never mind his death, I can't ruin Barry's career before it gets started. Let me think of what I can do...!" 

The ambassadors to two warring countries are set to meet on a yacht in a secluded spot far off land to sign a historic peace treaty. With Aquaman and Aqualad providing security, all parties involved are confident they can quickly come to an agreement. But there appears to be a spy on board; how else to explain that the yacht comes under attack no matter where it goes? Thankfully, Aquaman solves the riddle (electronically-controlled swordfish beaming the location back to the stinkin' Commies, no doubt) and the treaty is signed. The world is a much safer place to live, thanks to the Aquasquad. Welcome back, Nick Cardy. Oh boy, did we miss you! The script for "The Secret Sentry of the Sea," brief as it is, is pretty good for a change, but I could have told Aquaman that that ever-present swordfish was the culprit almost from the first panel. This guy is definitely not the Atlantic's Greatest Detective.-Peter

Jack-I love when we happen across an unexpectedly good issue like this one! I had the same thought about Clay-Face resembling the Thing, even down to the blue trunks. The story is excellent from start to finish and I'm thrilled to see a new super-villain. The Joker can only do so much! The Martian Manhunter story was better than usual, as was the Aquaman story, thanks in large part to the welcome return of Nick Cardy. Still, haven't we had other stories recently featuring duplicate Martian Manhunters and robot fish? 

Next Week...
We're on Vacation!
But in Two Weeks...
Could this be the best
"End of the World" story 
of the post-code Atlas era?

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Thomas Grant, Part One-I Can Take Care of Myself [5.31]

by Jack Seabrook

As the short story, "I Can Take Care of Myself," opens, Bert Haber, a jazz pianist in Joey Palermo's bar, sits down at the piano one evening and begins to play. His singer, Georgia, doesn't show up for their ten o'clock set, so Bert tells Joey to call Andy and Alice to rush to the bar to fill in and perform for the impatient crowd. At Joey's request, Bert speaks to Detective Jack Burton from Manhattan East, who is sitting at a table.

Burton shows Bert a shocking photo of Georgia, who is dead, and questions the musician about his movements in the last 24 hours. Bert explains that he took Georgia home at 4:01 a.m. and then went home himself and slept till 6 p.m., when he called her but got no answer. Bert insists that his relationship with Georgia was all business, despite her beauty and talent. Burton suggests that Georgia was murdered by a criminal known as Little Sammy, based on how she was killed. Bert explains that Sammy started coming to watch her sing a couple of weeks ago and was smitten, sending her drinks and flowers. She "'couldn't stand the crumb'" and, last night, when he grabbed her arm as she walked past his table, she "'took his drink and poured it down his shirt.'"

"I Can Take Care of Myself"
was first published here
Bert compounded Little Sammy's embarrassment by playing a song called "By a Waterfall"; Sammy, a man proud of his clothes, stormed out with his "'apes.'" Bert went to the bar and, while he had a drink, a man who looked "'like an insurance man'" began chatting with him. The man knew Bert's name and home address and suggested that it would be a good idea to buy some insurance. The man got up and left the bar, and Bert realized that his message was a warning from one of Sammy's associates.

Bert later took Georgia home and suggested that he stay with her, or that she stay with him, or that she call the cops, but she sent him on his way, telling him, "'Don't you worry, baby, Mamma's a big girl.'" Burton offers Bert protection and says that he'll be a material witness. The detective suggests that Bert come with him and Bert follows him to a car. Burton tells Burt, "'get in back with my partner'" and Burt does; once the car is moving, Bert sees that the man next to him is the insurance man from the bar.

This illustration accompanies the story.
"I Can Take Care of Myself" is a short, hardboiled story that takes place in a bar and ends in a car. There is no violence, just its aftermath and the suggestion of more to come. The ending is subtle and depends on the reader to realize that Bert has been deceived into getting into a car with a criminal who will surely kill him. Is Detective Burton a real policeman in league with Sammy, or is he a criminal masquerading as an officer of the law? It really doesn't matter since he succeeds in convincing Bert that it's safe to leave the bar with him.

Fred McMorrow (1925-2000), the story's author, served in WWI and was a writer, editor, humorist, poet, jazz pianist, columnist, and desk chief at several daily newspapers in New York City. He was friends with the writer Jimmy Breslin, who once said that McMorrow could write as well as anyone he ever met. The FictionMags Index lists 12 short stories published between 1958 and 1972, and the author also wrote two books of humor. This was the only time that one of his stories was adapted for film or TV.

Myron McCormick as Bert
"I Can Take Care of Myself" was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, May 15, 1960, near the end of season five. The teleplay is credited to Thomas Grant, who has no other credits than this and one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and who seems to be a mystery man. The name may be a pseudonym for Henry Slesar, who wrote the teleplays for the next two episodes under the pseudonym Eli Jerome; I sent queries to the agent for the Slesar estate and to Francis M. Nevins and I will update this post if I find out more.

The TV version does away with the story's method of presenting the events of the night before by way of Bert's relating them to Detective Burton. Instead, events are presented more or less chronologically, with the first scene featuring Georgia singing a number with Bert accompanying her. At the end, Little Dandy, as Little Sammy has been renamed, claps loudly, and has a drink sent to the performer, who pointedly ignores him as she walks to her dressing room. The insurance man, who appears midway through the story and again at the end, is visible at the bar right from the start of the show and is always in the background in the initial scenes.

Linda Lawson as Georgia
Bert visits Georgia in her dressing room and their relationship is more father and daughter than  potential romantic partners; Myron McCormick, as Bert, was eighteen years older than Linda Lawson, as Georgia. A big lug brings a bouquet of flowers from "'Mr. Dorf'" and Bert and Georgia are rude to him; she ends up giving the flowers to the cook and suggesting that he serve them to Little Dandy in a salad.

Back in the bar, Dandy grabs Georgia's hand as she passes his table and propositions her as Bert plays piano and looks on. Georgia pours a drink over Dandy's head and turns to go back to her dressing room. There is a brief melee as Bert rushes over and Dandy falls to the floor before he and his goons exit the bar. In the story, Bert does not physically intervene, but rather plays a humorous song to underline what happened; the result is the same. After they leave, Bert sits at the bar and talks to Joey, realizing that he is now on Dandy's list of enemies, before the insurance man joins him and they speak. The TV version leaves no doubt about the man's role; after suggesting that Bert should buy insurance, the man adds: "'Little Dandy recommends it'"

Will Kuluva as Joey
The second half of the show picks up where the short story begins, as Bert arrives at the bar and begins to play with no sign of Georgia. Director Alan Crosland, Jr., uses deep focus in this sequence, where Bert is in the front of the shot, closer to the camera, playing the piano, while the viewer's eye is drawn to events in the distance, in the right of the frame, as the detective enters the bar and sits at a table. Bert soon joins the detective, who has been renamed Jack Simpson. The dialogue follows that of the short story almost word for word.

In an effort to make the show more interesting, Bert takes Simpson to Georgia's dressing room to continue their conversation in a more private setting. When Bert discusses his relationship with Georgia, her voice floats onto the soundtrack, singing, as if this is what he is hearing while he speaks. There are more interesting camera setups in this scene, with Bert sitting in front of a trio of mirrors and the mirrors displaying dual images of the detective, who is reflected across the room. The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the replacement piano player and singer, causing Bert and Simpson to vacate the dressing room and return to the bar, where they continue their conversation.

Edmon Ryan as Simpson
There is a bit of rehashing of what was depicted in earlier scenes, as the writer attempts to stretch a thin narrative to fill the time slot. The new pianist and Bert exchange looks as Bert follows Simpson out of the bar; the subtle message is that Bert and Georgia have already been replaced and will not be missed. Outside, Bert gets in back of the detective's car and the car starts to move. The man next to Bert in the back seat holds a newspaper in front of his face, so neither the piano player nor the viewer can see who it is at first. He is soon revealed to be the insurance man. The story ends subtly, with the man simply saying hello, but the TV show leaves no question in the viewer's mind about what is happening. Bert looks shocked when he sees who is riding next to him. The man pulls out a gun, points it at Bert and, instead of "'Hello,'" utters the show's final line: "'Little Dandy says hello.'" The screen  fades to black and Bert's fate is sealed.

Frankie Darro as Little Dandy
"I Can Take Care of Myself" is a straightforward adaptation of the short story that puts the events in chronological order and adds a couple of lines in the scenes with the insurance man to make his role clear. The director tries to create some interest in the rather thin plot with his shot choices, but in the end, there is not much suspense and the surprise ending is not very much of a surprise.

Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), the director, started out as a film editor, working on features from 1944 to 1954 and on TV from 1955 to 1957, then began directing episodic television in 1956. He directed 16 half-hours and three hours of the Hitchcock series, including "The Woman Who Wanted to Live," as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Crosland directed a handful of movies, but his main focus was on TV, and he directed his last show in 1986. "I Can Take Care of Myself" was the first episode he directed for the Hitchcock show.

Pat Harrington, Jr., as
the insurance man
Receiving top billing as Bert is Myron McCormick (1908-1962). He was on Broadway from 1932 to 1957 and had a supporting role in South Pacific from 1949 to 1954, winning a Tony Award in 1950. He was also on radio and he began appearing on film in 1936 and on TV in 1948. He returned to Broadway for a two-year run of No Time for Sergeants (1955-1957) and had a role in The Hustler (1961). He was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Museum Piece."

Linda Lawson (1936-2022) is suitably sexy as Georgia; born Linda Gloria Spaziani, she was on screen from 1958 to 2005, mainly in television roles. She was in the film Night Tide (1961) and she was seen on the Hitchcock show three times, including "Three Wives Too Many."

Leonard Weinrib
as Amos
Will Kuluva (1917-1990) plays Joey Palermo. He was on screen from 1949 to 1988. He appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Money," and he was also on The Twilight Zone twice.

Edmon Ryan (1905-1984) portrays Detective Simpson; he was born Edmon Ryan Mossbarger in Kentucky. His screen career spanned the years from 1936 to 1970 and he also had some roles on Broadway during that time. He was on the Hitchcock show four times, including a part in "Isabel," and he was seen in Hitchcock's spy thriller, Topaz (1969).

Frankie Darro (1917-1976), who plays Little Dandy, was born Frank Johnson Jr. and was the son of circus aerialists. He started out as a child actor on film but only grew to 5'3" as an adult. He was on screen from 1924 to 1975 and had a voice role in Pinocchio (1940). He was also one of the actors to play Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956). This was one of his two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the other was "Ten O'Clock Tiger." He also appeared on Batman. A website devoted to him is here.

William Sharon
Leonard Weinrib (1935-2006) as Amos, the replacement piano player; he started on TV in 1959 and was seen on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, including "The Last Remains." He also had a long career as a voiceover artist, writing and starring as H.R. Pufnstuf in the Krofft TV series, as Scrappy Doo in Scooby Doo, and many others.

The big lug who delivers unwanted flowers to Georgia's dressing room is played  by William Sharon, who died in 1968. He played bit parts on TV from 1947 to 1963 and was also in two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "The Black Curtain."

Finally, Pat Harrington, Jr. (1929-2016) is effective as the insurance man in his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show. He was on screen from 1948 to 2012 and had a recurring role on The Danny Thomas Show in 1959 and 1960. He appeared on The Night Stalker, did standup comedy and recorded comedy albums, and was a voice actor, but his most memorable role was as Schneider, the handyman, on the TV series One Day at a Time, from 1975 to 1984.

Read "I Can Take Care of Myself" online here, watch it online here, or order the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.



Finkelstein, Katherine E. "Fred McMorrow, 74, an Editor." The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Apr. 2000,

Galactic Central,

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

Hammill, Pete. "Jimmy Breslin." New York, 25 April 1988, p. 74.


"I Can Take Care of Myself."  Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 5, episode 31, CBS, 15 May 1960.


McMorrow, Fred. "I Can Take Care of Myself." The Saturday Evening Post, 8 Nov. 1958. pp. 30, 98, 102.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Number Twenty-Two" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Thomas Grant concludes with a look at "Hooked," starring Robert Horton and Anne Francis!

Monday, December 11, 2023

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 101 Atlas/ Marvel Horror


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 86
September 1955 Part 1
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook

Astonishing #41
Cover by Russ Heath

"The Locked Room!" (a: Mort Drucker) ★★
"The Inventors!" (a: Bill Benulis) ★★
"Wings in the Night!" (a: Dick Ayers & Ernie Bache) 
"The Rag Doll!" (a: John Tartaglione) ★★
"The Living Proof" (a: Pete Tumlinson) ★★

While vacationing in India, millionaire Bennett Baker stumbles upon a mystic meditating in a cave. The mystic insists his will pulled Baker to him, but the wealthy businessman (who dresses like he’s heading to the office while on vacay!) insists it was only by chance that they met. The swami explains that he wants to build a temple nearby and that the construction will set him back a half a million bucks. Would Bennett care to make a wager about the old man’s powers?

Baker agrees to pay the dough if the old man can play a chess game "ten thousand miles away" behind a locked door in his mansion. The bargain is made and Bennett heads back to America, stuffing 500 thousand-dollar bills in a safe. Every day, he and his butler check on the board and find that, miraculously, the chess pieces are moving! Bennett calls in a troop of reporters to help him debunk the phenomenon, but none of the writers can find anything that points to a hoax. The old man wins the game, but Bennett refuses to pay. The reporters head to India to get the other side of the story and notify the swami that the millionaire refuses to pay, but the old man produces the money from a safe and begins counting.

“The Locked Room!” (surely, one of the top ten overused Atlas titles) is a clever and well-illustrated fantasy that never wears out its welcome, courtesy of the ever-reliable scripter Paul S. Newman. Even though the rug was pulled out from under these writers, they’ve done a fairly good job of adjusting to a little-to-no-violence policy. I would have liked to have seen the missing panel of the wads of cash flying through the air to India.

"The Inventors!" has an all-too-familiar ring to it: in the future, robots are built to take care of man, but they’re built too smart and soon take over. The striking Benulis art is the saving grace here.

Vagrant Sloan loves to feed the birds, but he’s out of money. Overhearing the man bemoan his situation, the birds take it upon themselves to fly through the park and steal money from passersby. Sloan is arrested for training birds to pull heists, but the judge drops the charges when the winged creatures storm the courthouse. Believe me when I say that "Wings in the Night!" is just as dumb as it sounds and the Ayers/Bache work is hideous (Sloan, for some strange reason, has a little Hitler mustache--surely, the best way to drum up sympathy for your character).

Once they bring her brand-new sibling home from the hospital, it's like her parents have no time for Dorothy and the little girl retreats into her own fantasy world, where her favorite doll becomes her "baby." When Dorothy takes "The Rag Doll" out for a walk in the rain and develops pneumonia, her parents realize they've been neglecting their first-born and change their ways. Maudlin weepie with a child protagonist who deserves to have her little head twisted off. Thanks goodness Mom and Pop saw the error of their ways, or little Dorothy might have gone on a shooting spree in a few years' time. The John Tartaglione art just saves this one from a flush down the bowl.

Reporter Walt Nichols has fallen in love with his editor's daughter, Pat, but the old man refuses to give his consent unless Nicholls can bring back a "headline story!" Walt heads out and stumbles onto a spaceship full of Martians, but when he relates his tale to his editor, the man scoffs. It doesn't help that, when Walt brings the chief out to the landing spot in the woods, there's no longer any proof of galactic visitation. Walt is tossed out of the old man's office but comes back a few weeks later to present his proof: the Martians have made Walt one of their own. Not only that, they've converted Pat to Martian as well! The two lovebirds marry and fly away to their new home on Mars. Deliriously dopey and guilty of meandering, "The Living Proof" might have been a good joke tale had it been cut by a couple of pages. As it is, it's overlong and repetitious. The Tumlinson art falls in the Ayers/Bache camp, barely digestible with hardly any verve.-Peter

Journey Into Unknown Worlds #37
Cover by Sol Brodsky (?)

"The Man Who Didn't Exist!" (a: Paul Reinman) ★1/2
"Those Who Dream!" (a: Art Peddy) 
"The Wreckers!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) 
"The Ship That Wasn't There!" (a: Ed Winiarski) 
"Man Alone!" (a: John Forte) ★1/2

Andy Purvis takes a rough tumble off a small mountain while searching for exotic bird eggs but, luckily, there's a flying saucer just below to break his fall. Hours (or days) later, Andy wakes up and walks into Dalesburg, but no one recognizes him, not even his best friends. It's like he's "The Man Who Didn't Exist!" What's the deal? Well, turns out that flying saucer brought Andy back to Venus, where there's a duplicate Dalesburg and Andy-buddies. How or why is never explained. Nor are we told how Andy survives without oxygen on Venus, nor why the Venusians thought him so important that they'd kidnap him and then disturb their own little town.

Professor Roger Brent believes that the future can be foretold by "Those Who Dream" and he's willing to stake his good name and career on said theory. Now, if he could just present a personal example of that theory, he'd have the Science Board eating out of his hands. The doorbell rings, and it's the postman with a special letter from the Board for Roger: "Nope, we ain't buyin' it. Now, if you had some personal experience..." Roger wakes from his nap to the doorbell ringing. It's the postman with a special letter...

In "The Wreckers," a wrecking crew arrives at the old Merrywell place to start demolition but discovers a startling fact: this house does not want to be destroyed! The Carrabotta art is about the only highlight of this tired tale, one that leaves us with a very predictable "twist."

No one at the Atlas Home for the Aged believes old man Ferris is really building an invisible spaceship, but then he up and vanishes one day, leaving behind a burned patch of ground and little else. "The Ship That Wasn't There!" has no plot (if this ship isn't all an illusion in Ferris's mind, how was he tipped off that he could build it with invisible tools and material?), nor does it provide pleasing visuals.

Newspaperman Fred Barrows is just sitting around one day, trying to think up an angle for a piece, when the thought of his old friend, Peter King, just pops into his head. Not knowing why, Fred hops in his car and heads for King's office. When he gets there, Fred is surprised to learn that King was expecting him. King explains that he sent a message to Fred telepathically and that the journalist must aid him, or the world will be destroyed. Peter has picked up brainwaves from a sinister force somewhere out in outer space, a being who's heading to Earth as they speak.

King's plan is that he will pilot a spaceship and drop bombs all over Earth while Fred writes about the evil entity, in hopes this will join the people of our world as one. The plan works and the monster from space heads back to its planet without so much as setting foot on Earth. Fred sighs and looks out into space, wondering why his friend never returned. Easily the best story this month, "Man Alone!" is a cleverly-crafted little science fiction tale that makes the most of the rut the Atlas titles find themselves in. With no chance of featuring ghouls and demons, the distraught Atlas bullpen must utilize the only tools left to them: vanishing houses and spaceships. We never do see the creature from space, which gives me a small bit of hope that Peter King was actually a crazed telepath who will return to bomb the rest of the planet when the CCA lifts his constraints. The Forte splash almost looks like some creepy remnant of the pre-code era.-Peter

Journey Into Mystery #26
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Wishing Well!" (a: Paul Reinman) 
"The Plane to Nowhere!" (a: Mort Lawrence) 
"The Machine!" (a: Ed Winiarski) ★1/2
"Stormy Night!" (a: Bob Brown (?)) ★1/2
"The Man From Out There" (a: Pete Tumlinson) 

Johnny and Bess Dana buy an old house and enjoy making plans to fix it up until they encounter "The Wishing Well" and ask for a million dollars. Bess receives a phone call telling her that she inherited that very amount, and suddenly all the fun has gone from their lives, since they no longer have any common goals to strive toward. They ask the well to cancel all of their wishes and walk back toward the house. On the way, they meet the man from the phone company, who tells them that he ran into some difficulty hooking up phone service and will have it finished by tomorrow. No longer millionaires, the Danas are happy again.

The moral that money can't buy happiness is one that even I, in my brief association with Atlas comics, recognize as having been used more than once. Paul Reinman's art is serviceable, but the story doesn't contain any surprises. Still, I got a warm, fuzzy feeling reading it, so that's something, I guess.

After an argument with his wife, Ruth, Arthur Wilson heads for the airport and boards "The Plane to Nowhere!" He's all alone as the plane flies through a storm, and when it lands, he's back where he started and the ticket clerk tells him that no planes took off today. Arthur returns home to find himself and Ruth entertaining friends; when he insists that he's the real Arthur Wilson, he's attacked by Rags, the dog, and the police are called. Arthur holds off Rags by grabbing his collar, which snaps off in his hand.

Arthur returns to the airport, takes another plane trip, and arrives home, where Ruth tells him it was all a dream. Yet why is Rags missing a collar and why is the torn collar in Arthur's pocket?

Hoo boy, not the old bit about finding an object that proves a strange occurrence must have happened! Other than a decent, half-page splash, Mort Lawrence's art looks rushed, but not as rushed as the hackneyed plot.

Scientists work together to create "The Machine," a big red computer with a humanoid face that can solve any problem. At first, it solves problems that have stumped mankind for centuries, then it begins to respond that the questions being fed into it are too easy. Finally, it shows signs of movement and soon disappears, leaving a message that it solved the problem of space travel and is headed for a planet where people are smarter!

The art is standard Winiarski, but for a four-page quickie, this story made me smile. I like how the machine quickly outthinks its creators and soon figures out a way to escape the stupidity of those around it.

A man barely makes the drive from Barton to a hospital in town on a terribly "Stormy Night!" He needs to take serum back to Barton to treat victims of a pandemic, but he's too worn out to make the perilous journey, so an ambulance driver volunteers to go and is handed a St. Christopher medal by a nurse. Incredibly, he completes the return trip, only to learn that a bridge he crossed was washed out hours before. The patron saint of travelers must have given him some extra help!

I have nothing against religious themes in comics, but this story is weak. The sole mysterious element pops up in the last three panels of the final page, and it has to do with a bridge that was washed out. The only problem is that there was no panel where the truck crossed a bridge, so we are left to imagine the unusual event for ourselves.

During a visit to the zoo, Prof. Grant Garson observes animals writing on the ground and realizes that they are doing simple mathematical equations. When he joins in, an animal emerges from a cage and transforms into humanoid form. "The Man from Out There" tells the prof that he is a visitor from another planet, here to determine the most peaceful and organized species, so that he can share advanced discoveries. After seeing various examples of mankind's inability to get along, he spies an ant hill and tells Garson that his people will return as ants to share their knowledge with the most intelligent and socially-organized society on Earth!

No big surprises once again, but it's interesting to note that Atlas writers (this time, an uncredited Paul S. Newman) can simultaneously be harshly critical of Soviet and Chinese Communists while also chiding Americans for their inability to achieve peace.-Jack

Marvel Tales #138
Cover by Joe Maneely & Carl Burgos

"Tomorrow!" (a: Mort Lawrence) 
(r: Crypt of Shadows #9)
"Last Seen Climbing a Ladder!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) 
(r: Uncanny Tales #2)
"The Little Men!" (a: Paul Reinman) ★1/2
(r: Weird Wonder Tales #2)
"When Warren Woke Up!" (a: Gene Fawcette) 
(r: Beware #7)
"Crack-Up!" (a: Doug Wildey) 
(r: Weird Wonder Tales #2)

Having just been fired from his job, Harry Dunston is quickly hired by a man who calls himself the Protector to view accidents occurring "Tomorrow" through a pair of futurity glasses and report back on them. Harry notes various mishaps but purposely leaves out one: he sees the man who fired him drowning below a bridge. Aware of his deceit, the Protector fires Harry, who did not realize that his boss was in the water to save Harry, who was knocked into the river by an out-of-control truck. He is rescued and vows to be a changed man.

Some particularly sloppy art by Mort Lawrence hurts this story, which has an intriguing premise. I had a feeling that the uncredited author would flub the ending, and, unfortunately I was right. Still, the idea of a company hiring people to look through special glasses and note down future accidents so that they can be prevented is promising and gives me some hope that Atlas stories might improve.

An asteroid approaches Earth but stops outside the reach of any plane. Everyone laughs at Daniel Farley when he builds a really long ladder, dons a spacesuit, and climbs toward the asteroid. He was "Last Seen Climbing a Ladder!" and eventually sends a message that he reached his destination and found an advanced civilization! He encourages Earthlings to climb up and meet them, but everyone scoffs, so the ladder is pulled up to the asteroid and no one ever sees or hears from him again.

The idea of building a ladder to climb up to an asteroid in outer space seems ludicrous, but the writer succeeds in selling it, due in part to decent art by Carrabotta. As usual, the ending is a bit of a letdown, since a caption reports that no one was able to reach the asteroid to apologize. We are left to infer that the fact that the ladder was pulled up to the asteroid was proof enough that Farley was telling the truth.

Frank Ferris runs a small circus that includes among its exhibits very small people and very large people. After he reads an article in the newspaper about an epidemic of births of "midget children," his wife tells him to fire all of his small employees, since they'll no longer be a draw. He refuses and she berates him for being soft-hearted, so he goes out for a walk, and ends up going for a drive in the country with Cluny the giant, another circus employee.

By a lake, Frank gets out to stroll around while Cluny naps in the back seat. Frank encounters a spaceship, and from it emerge a number of "The Little Men," dressed like jockeys, who explain that their planet of little people has become overcrowded. They plan to colonize Earth and have been spraying a chemical on the crops to ensure that all new children are born small. Once everyone on Earth is wee, the extra-terrestrials will come and populate our planet.

Not wanting Frank to spill their plans, they grab him and head for their spaceship, but he stops them by telling them that their spray isn't working--most people who have eaten the altered crops have become giants! To prove it, he leads them back to his car and awakens Cluny, whose large stature scares the aliens into zipping off back to their planet right away. Emboldened by his success at saving Earth, Frank returns home and stands up to his wife.

What a creative, clever story! The uncredited author had to work pretty hard to get to the payoff, but it was worth it, and for once, an Atlas story ends with a satisfying turn of events. It's too bad Reinman's art isn't better; the story is a good one.

Scientist Matt Warren is tired after participating in the most powerful atomic bomb test in history. He goes to sleep and dreams that nature fights back against man's advances by engaging in a wild period of plant growth. Humans respond by agreeing to cooperate and stop fighting each other. "When Warren Woke Up!" he looked out the window and saw that all of the vegetation outside has gone wild!

Gene Fawcette had been around comics since the early days, and this is one of his very few jobs for Marvel. That's a good thing, because story and art are both of low quality.

Jayson grows up gazing at the stars and hoping to fly one day. He does well in school and soon attends the rocket academy, but his lack of emotional stability under pressure leads to a suggestion that he join the research department. He insists on flying, so he is put in a rocket for his first solo flight into space. Near the moon, he experiences a "Crack-Up!" and has to land; he passes out and awakens on a table at the academy, where it's revealed that the whole flight was a simulation, using a planetarium from the 20th century. Jayson shyly asks his teacher if the research job is still open.

A strong issue of Marvel Tales ends with a decent story that features some art by Doug Wildey that reminds me of Flash Gordon in spots. I wonder if he was swiping from old newspaper strips?-Jack

Next Week...
Our First Gander at the
Silver Age Clay-Face!