Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tales from the Crypt #45

Cover dated December 1954/January 1955
Cover by Jack Davis

"Telescope" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Carl Wessler
"The Substitute" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Murder Dream" - Art by Bernie Krigstein/Story by Carl Wessler
"The Switch" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Carl Wessler

Outside of the final story, which is one of my favorite EC stories of all time, this is a rather dissappointing issue. It was originally intended to be the final issue of Tales from the Crypt, although one final issue was published, containing the contents of the comic that was originally meant to be EC's fourth horror comic, The Crypt of Terror.

"Telescope" - A man is in a shipwreck; he and a rat are the only ones to survive. Using a piece of driftwood, they manage to make it out and land on a small deserted island made of little more than sand. At first, they provide company for one another, but the lack of clean water and food soon make the two bitter enemies. The man is fearful of sleeping should the rat try to eat him. He also makes attempts to kill the rat so he can eat it. The local natives refuse to come by, believing he is an island devil. One day the man manages to strike a seagull with a fish in its mouth with a rock, but the rat gets to it before he does and starts swallowing it. The man chases the rat back into the ocean and starts eating it himself, but is attacked by a shark. The natives arrive and kill the shark and find a bizarre sight - inside the shark's mouth is the man's head; in his mouth is the rat's head; in its mouth is the bird's head and in it's mouth is the fish's head. Overall this is a so-so story at best and is a bit dragged out; an interesting looking final panel is about the only notable thing in it.

"The Substitute" - A french prisoner named Henri Duval plots to escape from the Penal Colony where he is being held. Henri finds poisonous Hellebore plant and creates himself a poisonous dart out of it and other materials. He then kills the governor of the Penal Colony with the dart and gets it pinned on another prisoner. Henri helps with the construction of a coffin for the governor, which he puts holes in. The night the coffin is to be transported, Henri removes the governor's corpse, mangles it, then gets in the coffin himself, planning to escape once he returns to France. What he doesn't realize is that the governor has been set to be buried at sea, and the coffin is soon thrown into the ocean, resulting in his death by drowning. An alright story, but it is is essentially just a rehash of the story "Escape" from The Vault of Horror #16, with the protagonist dying of drowning instead of being thrown in a crematory.

"Murder Dream" - A man has dreams of trying to rescue a woman named Cathy. Flashbacks reveal Cathy moving into a house in the English countryside with her husband Howard. A caretaker named  Claude also lives there. Further flashbacks showing Howard preparing to go away. The dreams continue as our protagonist tries to save Cathy, who is seen being murdered by Claude, an axe wielding maniac. Eventually our protagonist sees Cathy sitting by a coffin. He awakes and heads to Cathy and the coffin, which contains Howard. Our protagonist, revealed to be Claude, grabs ahold of Cathy and kills her with an axe. This story was one of the most surrealistic ones done by EC; such stories were usually provided to Krigstein, who did similar surrealistic stories like "Pipe Dream" and "You Murderer"

"The Switch" - Carlton Webster is a wealthy, but very old man who has started up a relationship with a beautiful young woman named Linda, to whom he's kept his wealth a secret. Carlton proposed to her, but Linda tells him that his face is too old and wrinkled. Carlton goes to his doctor who tells him of another doctor named Faulkner. The German Faulkner tells Carlton that he can perform surgery to make his face look young by literally transplanting that of a handsome young man to whom a large amount of money will have to be paid. Through Faulnker, Carlton is able to find a man named George Booth who agrees to exchange faces with him. Carlton returns to Linda, who still refuses to marry him, saying his body is too decrepit. Carlton heads back to Faulkner and goes through surgery again, taking Booth's torso. Linda once again rejects Carlton's offer of marriage, this time blaming his scrawny arms and legs. Carlton goes through one more surgery that wipes him out financially so as to exchange his arms and legs with Booth's. He looks for Linda, only to find that she has moved to a fabulous penthouse. There she reveals that what she was looking for the whole time was someone wealthy, and introduces him to her new husband, George Booth. A fabulous story, one of my top 10 favorite EC stories of all time. It builds upon previous EC body/youth exchanging stories such as "Death Must Come" from the first issue of this comic and "Nobody There" from The Haunt of Fear #16. The story also had a very well done and faithful adaption on the Tales From the Crypt TV show.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mad #23

Cover dated May 1955

"Gopo Gossum!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Scenes We'd Like to See!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Believe It or Don't!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"The Barefoot Nocountessa!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

One of the simplest covers of all time to an EC comic kicks off this issue of Mad, which was the final issue of Mad in comic form before it became a magazine with the next issue. EC's humor comics are still not my cup of tea, but it is by far the best of the 3 that I have reviewed thus far.

"Gopo Gossum!" - This story is a parody of Walt Kelly's Pogo strip. In it, the Gopop Gossum of the title visits some big city cousins and returns home to the woods with his fellow animal creatures, convinced that the animals have to join political parties to make it big time. The remaining pages of the story feature animal parodies of various politicians at the time (many of which are lost to me, since this comic was published almost 30 years before I was born), and all of the animals are blown up. In the final two panels it is revealed that the bit city cousins Gopo met were Disney characters and that they meant an event type of party, not political parties.

"Scenes We'd Like to See!" - This story features a series of typical movie scenes, which are then retold in more interesting and funny fashion. It begins with a romance scene, then also goes into a fencing scene, a battle at a fort with indians, an escape from Nazis and a hero about to get bumped off by some mobsters. While an interesting concept, a lot of this story reeks of laziness to me. For the first 7 pages, entire scenes are repeated in black and white with only the final panel being changed, making for quite a bit of space wasted. Things only get interesting with the final scene, which reduces the 15+ scene of a hero in mortal peril escaping as is the typical cliche, to a 2 panel scene in which he is immediately killed by the bad guy.

"Believe It or Don't!" - This is a short 3 page feature that features various hard to believe people, accomplishments, etc... For example, Stalin was born in the Bronx, the water in Niagara Falls does not fall, but rather travels up, and various others. My favorite is the South American Indian "Symbol of Death" which causes death if gazed upon within a year. After this brief explanation is says "Too bad if you looked".

"The Barefoot Nocountessa!" - This story is about the Barefoot Nocountessa of the title, a beautiful woman who always walks barefoot. The story is told by a Humphrey Bogart lookalike called Humphry Yogurt who is talking about her at her funeral. It features various anecdotes about her, such as a pair of rich men fighting over her, her falling in love with a stench ridden bum and various others. At the end of the story it is revealed that she was murdered due to her smelly feet.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shock SuspenStories #8

Cover dated April/May 1953
Cover by Al Feldstein

"Piecemeal" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Assault!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Arrival" - Art by Al Williamson/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Seep No More!" - Art by George Evans/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

Another strong issue, with no below average stories.

"Piecemeal" - A man named Eric comes to visit his much older brother Sidney and meets his young and very attractive wife, Sally. Once Sidney goes to sleep Sally invites Eric to the pool outside and the two quickly fall in love.  Sidney is a collector of rare marine specimins and the two plot to murder him by getting him to overdose on sleeping pills the night of a big shipment he is expecting. That night the shipment comes but Sally convinces Sidney to go to bed before he can show it to her and Eric. Sally is successful in getting him to overdose on his sleeping pills as planned. She and Eric go outside to the pool to celebrate but Sidney's shipment, a man-eating shark, which he had put in the pool, eats Sally and Eric's arm, killing both of them. This story is a decent start to the issue.

"The Assault!" - Seventeen year old Lucy goes missing for 36 hours then turns up crying, claiming that she has been raped by an old recluse name Hodges who lives in a cabin by the outskirts of town. An angry mob confronts Hodges in his cabin and beats him to death. Days later a man named George shows up at Lucy's home wanting to talk to her about what happened to Hodges and they go to the woods to talk. An extended flashback shows George and Lucy meeting and spending a lot of time together, with her lying to her parents about where she has been. The night she dissappeared she was with George the whole time. George proposed to her, but Lucy claims their entire relationship is just for kicks and she's slept with several other men. She then lied about being raped by Hodges, a good friend of George's to cover up where she had been. George wants to reveal the truth, but she reminds him that she's underage and he'll go to jail if he does so. Knowing how rotten she is, George pulls out a gun and shoots her in the face. As often is the case, the "Shock" suspenstory is the best story of the issue and brought the usual level of controversy a few issues later in the letters column.

"The Arrival" - This story takes place on Mars, where one day the Martians see Earth burst into flames. Thousands of years go by and no life from Earth is seen. One day a light is finally seen departing from Earth. The Martians attempt to communicate with the Earthlings on the rocket ship and are able to through the usage of a translation device. The Earthlings tell the Martians about human history and the fact that there was eventually a nuclear war that occurred that resulted in the destruction of the planet. A few managed to survive and rebuilt the planet, building a greater civilization. The rocket ship lands on Mars and its passengers come out to meet the Martians, revealing themselves to be rats. A fun and entertaining story; my only complaint is that Williamson's artwork seems to falter after the first page.

"Seep No More!" - A man named Mr. Finner is questioned about the dissappearance of a young actress named Irene who lived in the same rooming house as him. Finner had murdered Irene after she spurned his advances and stuffed her body in the attic above his room. One day Finner wakes up to see a large splot of blood on the ceiling. He cleans it up, but it reappears even worse later on, forcing him to paint the entire ceiling to cover it. He is also forced to replace his bed sheets after the blood spills all over it. With the blood dripping from the ceiling he puts down a pail to collect it. All of this odd behavior convinces his landlady to call the cops on him and he confesses to the murder. The cops reveal to him however that he was imagining it all and tip over the pail, revealing it to be empty. A good modern retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's the Tell Tale Heart. EC did another Tell Tale Heart inspired story a few months later in The Haunt of Fear #20.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Frontline Combat #9

Cover dated November/December 1952
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman

"Abe Lincoln" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"First Shot!" - Art by John Severin & Bill Elder/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Choose Sides!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Bull Run!" - Art by John Severin/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

This issue is the first of what was planned to be a seven issue series dedicated to the Civil War, told in chronological order. Unfortunately only 3 issues in the series were published (the other two being Two Fisted Tales #31 and #35) before the change in format and cancellation of both of EC's war comics forced a premature end. Overall its a fairly strong issue, with the first and the last stories being the best storywise. Art-wise things are good throughout.

"Abe Lincoln" - This story tells various anecdotes from Abraham Lincoln's life, including him hunting a turkey, pulling a prank by walking kids' muddy feet over the ceiling, saving a pig from the mud and other stories. It is framed by an elderly black man telling the stories and hoping that nothing happens to Lincoln in the Civil War.

"First Shot!" - This story takes place at Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the Civil War takes place. The story looks at a few soldiers in particular over a 3 day period. The Union soldiers attempt to defend the fort, but later surrender. After 2 days without anyone being killed, some of the Union's bags of gunpowder explode, killing one of their own soldiers.

"Choose Sides!" - This story takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the few states that has not decided yet whether to secede from the Union or not. The story focuses in particular on an old man who watches as a group of Union soldiers march by. The crowd gets riled up, claiming that the Union soldiers are foreigners. The old man gets so riled up that he pulls out a pistol and shoots at the troops. This causes them to fire upon the crowd and the old man dies.

"Bull Run!" - This story focuses on the battle of Bull Run. It focuses in particular on three Union soldiers who like much of their fellow troops figure the war will be over in 3 months. They agree to all stick together and call themselves the three musketeers. One of them is soon shot and killed and the troops are forced to pull back and leave him there. As they retreat another one is killed. The last one retreats in defeat with the remaining soldiers, being forced to sleep by a doorway along with some other soldiers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Vault of Horror #22

Cover dated December 1951/January 1952
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Fountains of Youth!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"The Monster in the Ice!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Gone... Fishing!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein
"What the Dog Dragged In!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

Quite a strong issue of the Vault of Horror, featuring all better than average stories.

"Fountains of Youth!" - Despite warnings from her older brother, 19 year old Eileen interviews for and gets a job as a personal assistant for Madam Dubois, a famous socialite who wears a heavy veil over her face. Eileen heads with Dubois on a cruise ship to Europe but quickly becomes sick. Dubois stays by her bedside as Eileen rapidly ages and passes away. Eileen's brother Kenneth heads to Europe and confronts Dubois, being shocked at how young she is. Believing something fishy is going on, Kenneth stays nearby and spies on another young woman who becomes Dubois's next assistant. Kenneth follows Dubois and the woman as they go on another cruise ship voyage. When the young woman becomes ill, Kenneth convinces the doctor to seperate Dubois from her and lock her up. The young woman soon becomes better, but Dubois, who the doctor explains is some kind of youth-sucking vampire ages to death and crumbles to dust. A decent story to start off the issue, aside from the fact that the doctor at the end seems to know all about what is truly going on with Madam Dubois out of nowhere.

"The Monster in the Ice!" - A couple of Americans, Dawson and Campbell are in charge of a geological expedition in the arctic. The local eskimo Lomo refuses to bring them near a place where they hope to do some geological readings, fearing a monster in the ice. Dawson and Campbell head there and find a frozen body with its face obscured in the ice. They take it back them to their cabin and Lobo claims it is the monster. Campbell, refusing to believe him, orders Lomo to cop the ice off the body and show that it is just a dead human being so he will stop being so afraid. While Lomo works on chopping the ice, Dawson tells Campbell of the original Frankenstein novel where the monster was lost in the Arctic at the end. Dawson wonders if the novel was true. Suddenly there is a scream. Dawson and Campbell rush to see Lomo, who has gone insane and find that the monster has escaped. The two decide to trap it by digging a hole in the ice and acting as bait. Eventually the monster arrives. Upon seeing its horrific face, they lose their minds and are dragged into the water by it, with all three being frozen. A year later a couple of Air Force officers discover the frozen bodies and decide to dig them out. An excellent story inspired obviously by Frankenstein, but with a new twist on things. The monster, whose face is only revealed in a couple of panels on the final page is one of Ingel's scariest monsters.

"Gone... Fishing!" - An expert fisherman, Max, brings his friend Steven to the beach where he starts fishing. Steven is opposed to fishing on moral grounds, but stays for a little while as Max explains the various fishing gear he has to him. Eventually Max catches a giant bass, and Steve, not wanting to watch him cut it up, leaves. Max fishes some more with no success. He pauses for lunch, but realizes that it was in the car that Steven drove off in. Suddenly he finds a candy bar on the ground. Max bites into it, but the candy bar has a hook in it that goes into his mouth, and Max is dragged into the sea as if he was being fished. A strong story featuring one of EC's most common house plots. Feldstein came up with the story himself, making it one of the few stories during this timeframe in EC's history where the story wasn't based on a springboard provided by Gaines. The story would later be adapted into a French film called The Fisherman. It was also used for an episode of the Tales from the Cryptkeeper cartoon. This is one of the rare instances where the main horror host for the comic didn't host the third story, instead it was hosted by the Crypt Keeper and the Vault Keeper hosted the final story of the issue instead.

"What the Dog Dragged In!" - A young blind woman named Betty is dependent on her dog Jerry, who usually goes out with notes from her to get groceries and run other errands. One day Jerry is hit by a car driven by a wealthy philanthropist named Roger. Roger nurses Jerry back to health then returns him to Betty. Roger and Betty quickly become close and Roger proposes to her. As he's leaving however he is hit by a car and is killed. Betty sends Jerry out to find him, with no success for over a month. Eventually however Jerry digs up Roger's corpse, and he returns to Betty. This story was an unauthorized adaption of Ray Bradbury's short story "The Emissary". Gaines/Feldstein made one major change in that the main character of that story was a young boy, changed here into the adult woman Betty. Oddly enough this unauthorized adaption wasn't found by Bradbury, although he quickly noticed some unauthorized adaptions appearing in Weird Fantasy 13 a number of months later.

M.D. #1

Cover dated April/May 1955
Cover by Johnny Craig

"The Fight for Life" - Art by Graham Ingels
"Janie Some Day" - Art by George Evans
"To Fill the Bill" - Art by Joe Orlando
"The Antidote" - Art by Reed Crandall

The second issue I'll be covering of M.D. is the comic's first. Not much different here than the previous issue I covered (#5) aside from the fact that each story (aside from the first) has a prognosis listed above it. Much like the previous issue I covered, its a rather dull and lifeless issue. The writer for all four stories is unknown.

"The Fight for Life" - Rather than being a traditional fictional story, this story instead provides a brief history of illnesses and attempted cures throughout the ages, starting with cave men, and going through various eras of human history. It shows the various ways in which mankind dealt with illnesses, including some very backwards thinking. It also briefly features Hippocrates and the effect he had on the medical profession. Stories told in this fashion were quite a rarity for EC, particularly for comics not edited by Harvey Kurtzman. It was clearly meant as an introduction to the comic, and a similar approach was taken with Aces High.
"Janie Some Day" - The Janie of the title is an orphan girl with Congenital Osteomyelitis, which forces both of her legs to be in casts. Eventually one of the leg gets better, enabling the removing of the cast, but the other leg gets worse and worse until it has to be amputated. The doctor tells Janie of the new leg she will get to replace her amputated one, but she is horrified when she believes she will be given a wooden leg. The doctor shows her the life-like artificial leg that is ready for her, and she is soon able to walk and play with the other orphans.

"To Fill the Bill" - A man is behind on a number of bills, and whenever he is able to pay some of them always ignores the one from his doctor, despite recommendations from his wife to pay them. One day his son swallows a safety pin and stops breathing. Despite the fact that the man was behind on all his bills, the doctor arrives and is able to save the boy by doing a tracheotomy. The man tells the doctor he will pay all the outstanding bills right away. The protagonist's refusal to pay the doctor bills in this story came off as a bit ridiculous and made it rather obvious what the ending of the story would be.

"The Antidote" - A doctor is about to head to meet with a specialist about something when one of his patients comes, hysteric about his kid. Despite having something to attend to, the doctor goes with him to see the child, who has an appendicitis. The doctor goes ahead and operates on him at the father's pleading, despite his other obligations. Once he is finished, he meets with the specialist, who was examining the doctor's wife. A similar type of story was done in Impact, although with much more tragic results.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weird Science #15 (1950)

Cover dated November/December 1950
Cover by Al Feldstein

"Panic!" - Art by Al Feldstein/Story by Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines
"The Radioactive Child!" - Art by Harvey Kurtzman/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"House in Time!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines
"I Created A... Gargantua!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by ???

One of the funniest covers to a non-comedy EC comic starts off this issue.

"Panic!" - A radio broadcast of a story about an alien ship invading the Earth as performed by a man named Carsol Walls causes mass panic when people think it is the real thing. Eventually the police are able to calm everyone down. Years later radio executives in an attempt to think of something to attract an audience decide that they will repeat the famous broadcast. The night comes and news goes across the radio of the alien invasion. In reality, aliens have in fact invaded, but because everyone thinks it is just the Carson Walls radio broadcast, there is practically no resistance and the alien invaders are able to take over the planet and enslave humanity. This story is obviously inspired by the real life incident when Orson Wells broadcast War of the Worlds on the radio, causing mass panic.

"The Radioactive Child!" - A husband and his pregnant wife, upon returning to their home country of Argenta approach the test of a nuclear weapon. The radiation kills the husband but the wife lives and gives birth to a boy named Pedro, who is extremely smart due to the effect of the radiation. She brings Pedro to see the President of Argenta but dies while trying to see him. The President quickly notices Pedro's genius and makes him his prime minister. The President uses Pedro's genius to help build his country's technology and military might while Pedro is given whatever he wants and is unaware what his help to the President is actually causing. The U.N. soon prepares to attack Argenta and the President demands information from Pedro on creating a detonator for a nuclear bomb. When Pedro tells him to wait, the President beats him, which causes him to lose his abilities. Bombs soon hit the capital and everyone is killed except Pedro, who goes to play with the other children. Another decent story suited well for Kurtzman.

"House in Time!" - A husband and wife named Warren and Betty find a house for rent from a man named Professor Koones. They head inside the house which has glass bricks for windows and a back door with the Professor says is never to be opened. Soon Warren and Betty notice some oddities, such as hearing a thunderstorm but finding none when they go outside and buying a radio that works outside but not inside. When they head through the back door they find themselves in the prehistoric era. They return to the house and go outside from the front. By going into the house from the back they find the professor who reveals the truth to them. He has created a time machine that causes them to go back in time 500,000 years when they go inside the house through the front door, and brings them 500,000 years into the future when they head outside through it. Not believing him, they head through the front door, moving them another 500,000 years in the future, stranding them in a bleak, deserted future. This was the only science fiction story that Graham Ingels ever did for EC. Its a fairly strong story, with an excellent ending.

"I Created A... Gargantua!" - A man named John Paulson is extremely small and agrees to be a part of an experiment for Professor Kohlvarb. Kohlvarb has found an ability to stimulate growth on living things by causing a tumor to grow on the pituitary gland. John quickly grows to six feet tall and Kohlvarb applies radiation to the tumor to stop the growth. This fails to stop the growth however and John grows taller and taller. He finds work in a freak show, then helping some logsmen but grows to big for them. He is then put before the public in a stadium in New York. The government eventually decides he is too big and must be destroyed. They send jets after him and he flees thorugh the city, knocking over buildings before eventually being killed in the ocean. An average story, the weakest of the issue.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Haunt of Fear #13

Cover dated May/June 1952
Cover by Graham Ingels

"For the Love of Death!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Fed Up!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Minor Error!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Wolf Bait!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"For the Love of Death!" - A man named Morton is obsessed with funerals, trying to attend as many as he can. He believes that people are provided with tremendous dignity and respect at their funeral, even if they didn't receive it in life. Morton desires to have such feelings being made towards him, while he's still alive, so he murders the richest man in town then sneaks into his coffin so he can experience what its like to be the deceased during a funeral. He pays someone to dig up the coffin once its buried, but hadn't realized that the man he killed was set to be cremated, and is burned to death when the coffin is put in the crematorium. A rare Ingels lead story that features no supernatural elements to it, is is nonetheless a decent story kicking off an overall good issue.

"Fed Up!" - A woman named Sandra works at a carnival as a sword swallower's assistant. She meets a handsome man named Alec who convinces her to break out on her own with him managing him. Eventually they get married. Money is always tight for the two, particularly after Alec starts spending all of their money on food, growing morbidly obese. When Sandra gets a raise she hides money from Alec for several years in an attempt to buy a special sword that will make her act more famous, but he finds the money and spends it all on food. Fed up with him, she convinces him to practice swallowing a sword himself so he can get into the act, then ties his hands up while its still in his throat and leaves him such that any slight movement will result in his death.A rare Craig story that wasn't written by him, but still written perfectly to suit his style.
"Minor Error!" - A trio of boys notice a new boy named Ezra that has moved into town, but always stays inside. The boy's uncle is a cruel man who tells the boys off when they ask if Ezra can play. Ezra tells them that he isn't allowed to go outside and play with them. The boys follow the uncle and find him kill a man and collect his blood in a container. They become convinced that he is a vampire, so one day they head inside the house and drive a stake in his heart. When they head to the basement however they find Ezra sleeping in a coffin and realize that he was the vampire. Kamen was typically the artist tasked with drawing stories featuring kids as main characters, and this was many of such stories.

"Wolf Bait!" - This story takes part in Russia in the midst of winter as 5 people head through the snow on a horse drawn sleigh towards a nearby town. The sleigh's passengers include a mother and her baby, a young officer, an older man and the driver. The sleigh is being pursued by a ferocious pack of wolves. The officer shoots the wolves, which delays them slightly, but runs out of bullets. The old man uses the food he was carrying for his daughter and her family to delay them as well, but the wolves still catch up. With them nearing town, the passengers know there is only one thing they can do to delay the wolves further, to sacrifice one of them. One of the passengers, which is not revealed to the reader, is thrown to the wolves and killed by them, enabling everyone else to make it safely to town. The ending to this story, for which the 'sacrificial lamb' is not revealed made for quite the complaints from some readers in the letter columns in future issues.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Crime SuspenStories #19

Cover dated October/November 1953
Cover by Al Feldstein

"The Killer" - Art by Reed Crandall/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Wined-Up!" - Art by George Evans/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Murder May Boomerang" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"About Phase" - Art by George Evans/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

Al Feldstein turns in his only cover for Crime SuspenStories, making this the first issue of the comic for which Johnny Craig didn't do the cover (as he did the cover for the concurrent issue of Shock SuspenStories)

"The Killer" - A man named Jonathan grew up always being good at creating things and wanted to be a craftsman. He is unable to get into the guild however due to his family not being into the business. His father keeps trying him to go into his line of business, and wanting to be married, Jonathan accepts. His job, which he keeps secret from his wife, frequently forces him to leave the house at night. One night when he leaves their baby is born dead. His wife starts growing cold towards him after this. One day Jonathan returns from his work and finds his house trashed and his wife gone. He is brought to the authorities who tell him his wife was having an affair and murdered her lover. His wife is sentenced to be hung, and Jonathan finally reveals his job to her, that he's the hangman. A strong way to start off the issue, with a terrific shock ending.

"Wined-Up!" - A wealthy man named Charles is paralyzed from the waist down after being in a car accident with his wife Laura. Laura later reveals that she wants to kill Charles, having married him only for his money. She plans on killing him at their summer home by tying a string to his wheelchair and rolling him into the water of the nearby lake. The time comes and Laura pulls the wheelchair into the water as planned. However, Charles reveals that he was never paralyzed after all, having suspected that she was trying to kill him. Laura gets cramps from his tampering with the alcohol she drank prior to heading to the water, and he leaves her to drown. Another strong story with a good art job from Evans, who has 2 stories in this issue.

"Murder May Boomerang" - A man drives through the rain in a car with his father. Flashbacks show the father raising the son alone after his wife died. When the son grows up, he goes to college and becomes a chemist and gets a raise that permits his father to stop working. The two go on a vacation to celebrate where they go hunting, camping, etc... One night when the son leaves his father alone he hears about maniacs that have escaped from a local prison and are where his father is. The son rushes back and finds his father beaten, and that one of the escaped maniacs have stolen some of his hunting clothes. The son heads out and kills the maniac when his father points him out to him. But later when they spot another man in hunting clothes, the father claims he was his attacker. The son realizes that his father has had a nervous breakdown and will point out anyone wearing hunting clothes as his attacker. This story was reprinted from issue 1 and was the only instance in Crime SuspenStories where a story was reprinted. It was used when the story "The Tryst", which was originally meant for this issue, got moved to the concurrent issue of Shock SuspenStories. This occurred when the scheduled 8 page Kamen lead story for that issue, "Three's A Crowd" got reduced to 7 pages, requiring an 8 page story to replace it.

"About Phase" - A man named Wilbur is married to a shrew of a wife who is always complaining and fighting with him. In the local city, a maniac has killed women the night of the full moon multiple times. Wilbur read up on the killer in the newspaper, who is being claimed to have lycanthropy, a mental illness that convinces him that he's a werewolf. Wilbur comes up with a plan to kill his wife the night of the full moon, then confess to it, be sent to an institution and pretend to be cured a few years later. The next full moon Wilbur goes through with it and confesses, but the police do not believe him as there was an eclipse of the moon that night. Wilbur, who had also killed the other women, is jailed and sentenced to be hanged. An average Horror SuspenStory that was originally intended for Shock SuspenStories #11 but was moved here instead as a result of the shuffling mentioned in the previous story.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two-Fisted Tales #24

Cover dated November/December 1951
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman

"Hill 203!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Bug Out!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Rubble!" - Art by Harvey Kurtzman/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Weak Link!" - Art by John Severin & Bill Elder/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

"Hill 203!" - This story features a small group of U.N. troops manning the hill of the title. 4 men are responsible for holding the hill, manning a machine gun. A group of North Korean soldiers come up the hill, posing as South Korean troops and kill one of them. Chinese troops also storm the hill during the night and the men are successful in holding the hill, although they all end up dead. One of the more average Davis Korean stories that frequently led Two-Fisted Tales.

"Bug Out!" - A soldier in the Korean War flees when his forces are encountered by North Korean soldiers. He makes his way to a destroyed Korean village where he finds some North Korean soldiers eating. He shoots all of them with their own guns, then starts stuffing his face with their food. Suddenly a flee of American jets pass overhead and bomb the village. The narrative turns to the present, where the soldier is paralyzed, held in a hospital, remembering the story again from the beginning. A strong story, that was based on a real life event someone told Kurtzman.

"Rubble!" - This story tells the story of the rubble that a U.N. long-tom gun sits on during the Korean War. The rubble was part of land that belonged to the Chun family. The husband of the house works hard to build his home personally. He promises his wife he'll create a well, but he is always occupied by other things. Years pass, and troops head through the area, destroying the home with a single artillery blast. U.N. soldiers eventually come across it and use it to station the long-tom gun. Eventually it is moved off and water starts gushing from an underground spring unearthed by the blast, creating the well Chun always spoke of creating.. Another strong story, done entirely by Kurtzman, with the sympathetic Chun family, who worked so hard to build their home only for it to be destroyed and them killed in mere moments.

"Weak Link!" - this story takes place during World War II in Germany. A group of U.S. troops head through the forest. Two of the men are requested to man a bazooka on a nearby hill to prevent any tanks from crossing the river. One of the men, Pringle is very nervous and wants to flee. Once his companion is killed, he does flee the hill. This results in the tanks getting through and his entire squad is killed, including himself. The only story of this issue to not take place during the Korean War. Its another good story, rounding out an overall strong issue, showing that the actions of one cowardly soldier can result in everyone being killed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weird Fantasy #11

Cover dated January/February 1952
Cover by Al Feldstein

"The Two-Century Journey!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Shrinking From Abuse!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The 10th At Noon!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Thing in the Jar" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"The Two-Century Journey!" - Mankind establishes a giant, 2 mile long spaceship in order to transport a group of 750 people to a planet 193 light years away that mankind hopes can be established as a space colony to save the Earth's overpopulation issues. The story shows the life of those that live in the ship and the Earth-like civilization they establish. Aging is greatly slowed down in the ship due to the strong hull of the ship blocking cosmic rays, forcing the elderly to sacrifice their lives so the ship itself won't become overpopulated. Eventually they reach the planet, only to realize that the planet is overpopulated just like Earth and that its inhabitants have done the same thing they have. Quite a wordy story, but overall a very good one.

"Shrinking From Abuse!" - A scientist named Hugo is working on developing a formula that enables him to shrink matter such that he can use it to shrink tumors and cure cancer. He shows this to a colleague of his, but constantly harasses his weakly wife. Hugo accidentally injects himself with the formula when he falls and starts shrinking. He climbs to a spoon so his wife will notice him, but she doesn't notice him and swallows him. Insider her body, he shrinks more and more until he is killed by a white blood cell. This story is similar in theme to "Lost in the Microcosm" from Weird Science #12 (1950).

"The 10th At Noon!" - This story features dueling story lines. In one, the Eastern Alliance threatens an ultimatum that will cause them to detonate a hydrogen bomb if their demands aren't met by December 10th at noon. In the other story, a pair of scientists work on a device that enables them to transmit a camera into the future and take a picture. They send the camera into the future to see the weather on the day of a football game, incidentally, December 10th, shortly after noon and find the ruins of New York city, destroyed by the hydrogen bomb. This story has an interesting splash panel, but otherwise is a rather mediocre one.

"The Thing in the Jar" - A farmer calls a local chemist to stop by his farm, where he shows him a small pond that causes anything that goes into it to be dissolved, as if it were acid. The chemist takes a sample of the water from the pond and brings it to his laboratory where he and his assistant discover that the liquid is actually an alien creature. They are able to get it to talk by connecting equipment to the flask it is kept in. Not trusting the creature, they get it drunk by pouring liquor into it and the creature reveals that the rest of its race will be invading Earth. The chemists burn the remains of the pond, but while they are out the creature fools the cleaning lady into dumping it down the drain, releasing it into the ocean. An interesting plot to this story, featuring a liquid-based alien.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Crypt of Terror #18

Cover dated June/July 1950
Cover by Johnny Craig

"The Maestro's Hand!" - Art by Al Feldstein/Story by Al Feldstein
"The Living Corpse" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by ???
"Madness at Manderville" - Art by Harvey Kurtzman/Story by Ivan Klapper
"Mute Witness to Murder!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig

"The Maestro's Hand!" - A man named Doctor Hellman comes to a lonely cabin in the woods where he finds a package waiting for him. Flashbacks reveal that Hellman was engaged to a woman named Virginia and had taken her to see the great musician Vladimir Borrstein. Virginia immediately falls in love with Vladimir's talens, which include not just playing the piano, but also painting. Virginia breaks off her engagement with Hellman and instead gets engaged to Vladimir. Hellman is convinced that Virginia is merely in love with Vladimir's talents, not him, and when Vladmir injures his hand, Hellman takes the opportunity to have it amputed. Vladimir is so distraught over losing his hand that he kills himself, and Virginia does the same shortly afterwards. Back in the present, Hellman opens the package, which is revealed to be Vladimir's severed hand. The hand comes alive and tries to kill Hellman. He tries all he can to avoid it, but it eventually grabs him by the throat and strangles him. Later the police find Hellman's body which shows that he actually imagined it all and strangled himself. A strong start to the issue, with good story and art from Feldstein.

"The Living Corpse" - A middle aged man named Jed Bryant works at a morgue. One night a corpse is brought in, but becomes alive, grasping Jed and causing him to be knocked out. Jed wakes up earlier and the corpse is gone, causing him to forge the books as if it was never there. Days later another corpse arrives and the same incident happens again, causing Jed's hair to go completely white in shock. Jed is convinced no one will believe him and instead of going to a doctor he goes to a theatre where a man named Satanus the magician defies death after beind held underwater. Later another corpse is brought to the morgue which is the murdered assistant of Satanus. Satanus himself is soon revealed to be the "living corpse", who had been faking his death so he could be brought to the morgue and the proof of his involvement in his assistant's murder could be  destroyed. The two struggle, and Satanus is knocked out when his head strikes a wall. Jed puts him in the freezer to hold him while he tries to call the police, but the shock of seeing a corpse come to life for the third time is too much and he dies of a heart attack. Locked in the freezer, Satanus freezes to death. A so-so art job, but another strong story.

"Madness at Manderville" - A woman named Marion is continuously nervous, including dropping dishes and being convinced that there are noises and lights outside when her husband Tom doesn't notice anything. Marion continues to go crazier and crazier, as the family dog is found dead. Tom brings her to a mental institution but upon arriving there, it is Tom who is committed as he wasn't noticing any of the things that were really happening. The ending to this story is a bit contrived, with Tom being committed over rather flimsy reasons. A similar ending was done in far superior fashion in the story "My Brother's Keeper" from Shock Illustrated #2.

"Mute Witness to Murder!" - A woman named Pam witnesses a neighbor murdering his wife which causes her to suddenly go deaf in shock. Her husband calls for a doctor to come, but the doctor, Dr. Bask, is the very man who committed the murder. Knowing she witnessed it, he has her committed to a mental institution where he plans to murder her by claiming she needs brain surgery, then murdering her during it. Pam soon regains her voice but keeps quiet, and manages to overpower Dr. Bask when he comes to take her. Bask, who has a heart condition begs her to call for help, but she refuses and he dies. This story was adapted for an episode of the Tales From the Crypt TV series late in the show's run. It is a type of story that would have fit better in Crime SuspenStories, having no supernatural elements to it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Panic #5

Cover dated October/November 1954
Cover by Al Feldstein

"Tick Dracy" - Art by Bill Elder/Story by Nick Meglin & Al Feldstein
"Baseball Jargon"/"Golf Match!"/"Football Terms!"/"Basketball!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al
"Spots Before Your Eyes!" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Al Feldstein
"You Too Can Hook a Zillionaire!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein

My first issue of Panic, which EC brought into play to act as a Mad-imitator, just as many other Mad imitators were coming into the market. Unlike Mad, which was edited by Harvey Kurtzman, Panic was edited by Al Feldstein, who edited most of EC's other comics. Overall I wasn't much of a fan of EC's humor comics and that applies here. This is a so-so issue at best and I don't have much thoughts on the individual stories.

"Tick Dracy" - This is a parody of the well known comic Dick Tracy. In this story Tick tries to
solve the mystery of why his wife Mess Falseheart keeps getting cuts on her face. Tick chases down
and murders various parodies of Dick Tracy villains, despite the fact that they've all gone clean
and are innocent. At the end of the story it is revealed that Dick Tracy's face (which is always
shown from the side) is razor thin and him kissing her every night is cutting up her face.

"Baseball Jargon"/"Golf Match!"/"Football Terms!"/"Basketball!" - This story shows literal
translations of various baseball terms that we're used to hearing, to comedic effect. The story also
covers golf, football and basketball in similar such fashions. The story is more of individual panel
gags than a traditional story.

"Spots Before Your Eyes" - This story features parodies of 3 newscasters. The first covers a sportscaster, who goes through a long spiel before revealing that there were no sports that day. The second covers a weather caster who spends much of the broadcast doing tic-tac-toe. The third covers a garden expert who shows how to have a fine garden by having to spend massive amounts of money.

"You Too Can Hook a Zillionaire!" - This story features a movie that is created that can show ordinary women how they can find a zillionaire to marry. It features the ordinary woman, played by a Lauren Backache who moves into a fancy apartment building with two roommates played by Marylin Mahrone and Betty Graball. Marylin and Betty end up finding zillionaires to marry through dumb luck, while the man Lauren finds ends up being an unemployed bum, showing that an ordinary woman won't be able to hook a zillionaire after all. This story was a parody of the movie How to Marry a Millionaire.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Shock SuspenStories #18

Cover dated December 1954/January 1955
Cover by George Evans

"Cadillac Fever!" - Art by George Evans/Story by Carl Wessler
"The Trap" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Carl Wessler
"In the Bag" - Art by Bernie Krigstein/Story by Carl Wessler
"Rundown" - Art by Reed Crandall/Story by Carl Wessler

The final issue of Shock SuspenStories, which was cancelled along with EC's other horror and crime comics in 1954 due to the controversy over such comics at the time. Unfortunately its one of the weaker issues for what was a usually high quality comic.

"Cadillac Fever!" - A young woman named Ruthie's father (called Pa) wants desperately to ride in a Cadillac. He tries to save up the money to rent a ride in it, but his wife, Ma, is constantly finding the money and spending it, telling him what a waste it would be to spend such money to simply have a short ride in a car. One day Ma turns up dead, having been shot. Pa is put on trial, where Ruthie tells the court that Pa murdered her. Pa is executed as a result, and during his funeral is delivered in a Cadillac hearse. Ruthie then admits that she murdered Ma, all so Pa could get that Cadillac ride. As a result, she is jailed as well and sentenced to death, looking forward to her own Cadillac ride.An average story that's similar in theme to the earlier EC story "Fed Up" from The Haunt of Fear 13, with a cadillac ride substituted for what was a sword in that story.,

"The Trap" - A man named Matt Hall is down on his luck in a new town where he and his wife have moved. His wife, Irene, and the local undertaker, Larry Grover convince Matt to fake his own death such that they can get his life insurance money. Matt grows a mustache and starts wearing glasses. Then, months later they fake his own death, convincing the police that he was mugged and stabbed with a knife. At Matt's 'funeral' his coffin is put in the crematory shortly after he comes out of it. Matt heads to South America to hide for a year. When his wife never shows up as expected, Matt returns to the U.S. and his home where his wife, now married to Grover, refuses to acknowledge him. Matt calls the police and reveals the whole scheme, but no one believes him. With his fingerprints on the knife used to fake his own death, Matt is swiftly convicted then executed for his own murder. 8 page stories by Jack Kamen usually led Shock SuspenStories but this story is oddly in the second spot. Its a decent story, the best of the issue, and was later adapted into an episode of the Tales from the Crypt TV show.

"In the Bag" - On a rainy night, a cop named McLeod comes across a man walking with a bag containing a round object and a stain at the bottom. He chases the man, who flees from him, and eventually traps him in an ally. The man starts ranting about his boss and claims to have chopped off his boss's head with an axe, holding it in the bad he has. The maniac is able to overpower McLeod and run away. McLeod spends a while trying to find him and eventually comes across a man carrying a bag with something round in it. He shoots him without a second thought. Minutes later however fellow cops tell him that they already caught the maniac, and the man McLeod shot was an innocent man carrying around a bowling ball. This story was originally intended to appear in the Vault of Horror (likely issue 41) but instead was used here in the final issue of Shock SuspenStories, cut from its original 8 pages to 6. It is one of several Krigstein drawn stories late in EC's run to use his technique of breaking out multiple panels, and at 77 panels contains the most out of any EC story.

"Rundown" - A man named Joe is told by his wife that she's having an affair and only married him thinking he had money, which he doesn't have. Knowing that he'll lose her without having a lot of money, he decides to withdraw his life savings from the bank and gamble it, losing it all at roulette. There, a wealthy man is extremely successful, winning $60,000. Joe follows him as he leaves them holds him at knife point. When the man struggles, Joe stabs him. He tries multiple ways to dispose the body but always finds people nearby. Eventually he is able to dump the body down into the sewer. When a cop spots him and calls for him soon afterwards, Joe flees, getting hit by a car. It ends up the cop was simply following him because he dropped his wallet and the car was driven by his wife and her lover. A rather disappointing end for Shock SuspenStories story-wise; Crandall's art is strong as usual.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Frontline Combat #13

Cover by Wally Wood
Cover dated July/August 1953

"Pantherjet!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"War Dance!" - Art by John Severin/Story by Jerry De Fuccio
"Wolf!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Jerry De Fuccio
"Frank Luke!" - Art by George Evans/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

"Pantherjet!" - This story takes place on an aircraft carrier in the ocean. The maintenance officer on the ship examines a Grumman F9F jet, which has a damaged nose and can't be repaired since there are no spare noses to use. One of the pilots takes out another one of the jets for a flight and heads over Korea where it is fired on. The tail of the jet is damaged, and the pilot puts in effort to ensure that it makes it back to the aircraft carrier instead of on the land. The maintance officer asks why and he says it was so he could bring him back a spare nose to fix the other jet with. Some interesting coloring on this story, including a page thats almost entirely colored in red to simulate the red lighting under the deck on the aircraft carrier.

"War Dance!" - The Pawnee native american tribe plans to attack the nearby Ponca tribe, led by the warrior Red Knife. Red Knife leads his troops againist the Ponca, but one of them touches him unarmed (known as a "coup"). In order to reclaim his honor Red Knife must battle the man who
touched him. He loses the battle. As a result, the Pawnee must leave and Red Knife is banished from his tribe. This was an interesting story with the concept of the "coup", which on its own was enough to completely turn the tides for the poncas. De Fuccio worked as Kurtzman's assistant and started writing stories later in the war comics' run.

"Wolf!" - This story takes place in 1016 AD in the Schwazwald, the black forest. A teenage boy named Mark Edelblut, son of the local count watches over a herd of sheep along with his hawk. When a wolf attacks, his hawk attacks it and causes it to flee. More animals suddenly pass through, causing Mark to return to his father's castle where he finds it under attack by Baron Von Wolffe, who is leading a large force. The Baron's forces are overtaking the castle but Mark sends his hawk to attack him in the eyes with a knife. This causes the Baron to flee in the opposite direction, and results in confusion among his ranks. As a result, the Baron's forces are driven away. A decent medieval-era story with some good art from Wood.

"Frank Luke!" - This story features the World War I ace pilot Frank Luke and some of his successful battles in Europe during the war, including a record take down of 15 observation balloons and 3 boche planes in a 17 day period. The story which is framed by a pair of French men discussing his accomplishments, focusing on 3 battles in particular. This includes his death when his plane is shot and forced to land and he is shot after getting out of it. This story is one of many George Evans drawn stories featuring World War I aces, a specialty of his (which later resulted in an entire comic, Aces High, built around such a theme). Its a pretty good story with strong artwork, but these types tended to get repetitive after a while.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Vault of Horror #26

Cover dated August/September 1952
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Two of a Kind!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"Graft in Concrete!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Half-Way Horrible!" - Art by Sid Check/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Hook, Line and Stinker!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"Two of a Kind!" - A well known stage actress named Willow will only work at night and any attempts to take a photograph of her ends in failure. Willow starts going out with her latest costar, Brad Phillips and they plan to go on a weekend trip to a ski lodge together. Each holds a secret from another; Willow is a vampire and Brad is a ghoul. They plan to make the other their victim during the trip, but realize that they've fallen in love with each other and can't do it. The two are trapped in a cabin due to the severe snowstorm for several days. Rather than attack each other, Willow drinks her own blood and Brad eats his own flesh until the cabin collapses, killing them. A rare example of a romance horror story featuring different types of horror monsters falling in love. Another horror romance story, this time featuring a vampire and werewolf instead of vampire and ghoul appeared in "A Little Stranger" from The Haunt of Fear #14.

"Graft in Concrete!" - Four crooked politicians including the mayor and three members of the town council conspire to build a new road through the property of and using the construction company of one of the council members. Each of the council members appear to have information on at least one of the others, resulting in a lot of blackmail and kickbacks. One of the council members forces the others to run the new road through the cemetary that he owns. Rather than move the bodies, he simply has the headstones moved to save money. The four of them drive on the road the night before it is to be opened by the public, but numerous corpses burst out of the road and come after them, causing their car to crash. The next morning the construction company has a steamroller go over the road to fix it, but ends up crushing all four of them. The ending of this story is a bit questionnable as you wonder how in the world the steamroller driver completely missed the fact that it was running over the four politicians. A painted version of the cover of this issue, which was about this story, was later used as the cover for the Fred von Bernewitz's EC book "Tales of Terror!"

"Halfway Horrible" - A man calls for an undertaker to come to his apartment, where he keeps himself enshrouded in darkness. The mysterious man tells the undertaker his story. The man had a split personality which would do worse and worse things, starting with simply going out and partying, but escalating to criminal activities. When the man murders his psychiatrist while in his other personality, he flees the country to Haiti. There he finds a voodoo priest who he convinces to destroy the bad side of his personality. The priest does this, but it results in half of his body rotting away, which is why he called for the undertaker. Sid Check did 4 stories for EC around this time. He featured a Wally Wood/Joe Orlando-type style. He was an okay artist at EC and did some good stories, including this one, but didn't last that long. This story was later adapted as an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

"Hook, Line and Stinker!" - A woman named Bernice has been going out with a man named Stanley for 15 years but he always hesitates to ask her to marry him no matter how much she begs. Lately Stanley has grown to love fishing, bringing home a mounted fish after every weekend. One weekend Bernice goes for a walk and finds Stanley in a field with another woman, revealing that he made everything up about the fishing trips. The next week he returns with another mounted fish, and Bernice attacks him with a knife, mounting his body up on the wall. The issue wraps up with its weakest story, but overall this is still a fairly strong issue across the board.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Extra! #1

Cover dated March/April 1955
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Dateline: Cayo Ramono, Cuba!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"Camera!" - Art by John Severin/Story by Colin Dawkins
"Holiday for MacDuff" - Art by Reed Crandall/Story by ???
"Dateline: Key West!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig

Extra! is the second of the six New Direction titles that I've covered on this blog. This one featured the adventures of newspaper reporters and photographers, who often got heavily involved in the action themselves as this issue shows. Overall, like EC's other New Direction titles, Extra! just couldn't compare to those that came out in the New Trend. All of the stories here are average adventure stories at best, and from a story standpoint aren't good enough to warrant any high praise. Overall the artwork is fairly strong though. Johnny Craig was my favorite EC artist and he got 2 stories per issue here (and was editor for the comic's entire run). While EC's line was almost entirely anthology stories, Extra! features a number of recurring characters who are introduced here including Keith Michaels, Vicki, Patrick MacDonald and Slick Rampart.

"Dateline: Cayo Romano, Cuba!" - Reporter Keith Michaels is heading towards Cuba but is late, worrying his boss, Editor Patrick MacDonald as well as his secretary Vicki. Keith and Vicki depart on a plane, having heard that a munitions firm owner, Henry Gavell (a former Nazi) has dissappeared. Upon arriving in Cuba, Keith finds that Gavell has been taken prisoner. Keith is able to rescue Gavell and escape with him, but thinks that it was all an act and takes Gavell captive. This is proven when Gavell reveals he knows Keith's name, despite him not saying it.

"Camera!" - Slick Rampart, a cameraman heads to a conference in Geneva to take pictures of a General May. While there, he spots that another cameraman is carrying an odd camera that he doesn't switch the film for. Rampart follows the man and goes inside his home while he's away. There he realizes that the camera is actually a gun. He is encountered by some thugs on the way out whom he manages to beat off. Rampart sneaks a regular camera back into the man's house. The next day he spots him trying to take a picture of the general and realizes that the man was trying to assassinate him. The criminal is taken captive and pulls out a regular gun, but Rampart shoots him with the camera-gun.

"Holiday for MacDuff" - A Scottish reporter named MacDuff heads down for vacation on the island of Christian. There he hears gunshots going off and bursts inside a house where he sees Dr. Karona and his daughter. Karona has been shot. MacDuff decides to helps out the daughter, Wilhelmina, despite local law enforcement not trusting him. Wilhelmina tells MacDuff that Karona was hiding away from enemy agents while working for his government on a Tinnium project. MacDuff and Wilhelmina escape from their guard and MacDuff finds the man who shot Karona. They do battle on  his boat and MacDuff comes out on top. Wilhelmina convinces MacDuff to keep things a secret by kissing him.

"Dateline: Key West!" - Keith Michaels and Vicki head to Key West where Keith hopes to get some spear fishing in. They attend a party that night where they meet the head of the Miami World Press Service, Mr. Edson. He introduces them to his daughter Nancy and her fiance Rod. The next day, Keith and Vicki go out spearfishing and Keith spots a body in the water. He brings it up and Mr. Edson reveals the body belonged to a private investigator he had looking into Rod. Keith convinces Rod and Nancy to come out spearfishing with him and Vicki. They head to the area where Keith found the body, which he has left there. He has Rod come underwater with him where the 2 do battle, with Keith knocking him out. Once he brings Rod to the surface Nancy admits that Rod was into Narcotics and was blackmailing her. Upon coming to Rod confesses to the murder, and Keith & Vicki decide to enjoy the rest of their time off.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weird Science #17

Cover dated January/February 1953
Cover by Wally Wood

"Plucked" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Island Monster" - Art by Al Williamson/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Off Day!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Long Years!" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Al Feldstein (Ray Bradbury adaption)

"Plucked" - Professor Sidney Hunton gets together with his publisher, James Farnsworth for Thanksgiving along with their wives as they do each year. Sidney discusses his research and the fact that every 200 years it appears that the population of certain parts of Earth decline tremendously despite birth and death rates remaining the same. James comes up with a theory that perhaps Earth is being used as a sort of turkey farm for alien creatures, that come to Earth every 200 years, snatch up a large number of people from the most powerful part of human society in order to eat them, and use techniques to both cover their appearance and make it seem as though those who were taken were never missing. While Sidney thinks the theory is ridiculous, the aliens do infact come to Earth and seize numerous people, including both their wives. A strong story to start off the issue, with arguably the scariest looking alien creatures to appear in an EC sci-fi comic.

"The Island Monster" - A group of men head to a remote island in order to capture a monster rumored to live on the island. The men come across the monster, which is of a gigantic size and are able to knock it out with Anesthetic bombs. The creature knocked out; the men bring it to the United States and plan to show it off at Madison Square Garden in New York. The first time they do so however, the crowd and the flash photography taking place scare the creature, which bursts out of its chains and crashes through much of New York City, eventually being killed by many jets following it. Months later, an investigative team discovers a large rocket on the island and a log which reveals that the creature had come to Earth as a peaceful ambassador. This story is pretty much a sci-fi retelling of King Kong, with the alien twist thrown in at the end.

"Off Day!" - Professor Stanley Dingle steps into his lecture hall one day and is shocked to find only one out of the approximate four hundred students in his class. Dingle thinks that the law of averages has broken down, and that this could lead to the destruction of the human race. The student gets up and says he is simply the janitor, and that the professor came in on Sunday. The Professor from this story was used as a letter page host, "Dr. deRange" in the EC comic reprints that came out in the 1990s. Much of the story is the Professor explaining the law of averages (which leads to the short summary here), and as a result this is not the most interesting story, although it is a funny ending.

"The Long Years!" - An old man, Hathaway, lives on Mars with his wife and three grown children, all that remain on the planet after war broke out and everyone else on the planet departed. One night Hathaway spots a rocket in the sky. He lights the nearby New New York on fire as a beacon and the rocket lands nearby. Out come some crewmembers who were familiar with him from 20 years ago including Captain Wilder and Williams, a crewmember. They eat dinner with Hathaway and his family and soon realize that something is odd, as Hathaway's family has not aged at all in the past 20 years. Williams finds a graveyard nearby containing grave markers for all of Hathaway's family, meaning that those living with him are artificial creations. Hathaway soon dies of a heart attack and is buried with the rest of his family. Wilder and Williams find themselves unable to shoot Hathaway's artificial family since they are so much like real people and depart, leaving them there. This story is the first of many authorized Ray Bradbury adaptions that appeared in EC's science-fiction comics. The story came from the Martian Chronicles and as a result was one of many such adaptions that took place on Mars.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Haunt of Fear #8

Cover dated July/August 1951
Cover by Al Feldstein

"Hounded to Death!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Very Strange Mummy!" - Art by George Roussos/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Diminishing Returns!" - Art by ???/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Irony of Death!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"Hounded to Death" - A woman named Ann is married to an older, wealthy man named Edward. Edward owns many hounds, which he starves so they'll be ready to go on a hunt. During the hunt, one of the men, Steve, who has a bad heart, stays behind with Ann and the two quickly embrace. The two carry on an affair behind Edward's back, but one day he comes home earlier than expected. Steve fakes a heart attack, pretending to be dead, and Ann asks Edward to drop him off by the side of the road to avoid scandal. Instead Edward, who knows that Steve is still alive, throws him into the pen with the hounds, who devour him. Steve's partially eaten corpse comes after Edward however, to seek revenge. A good art job by Ingels, featuring one of EC's most common horror tropes, the corpse coming back to take revenge.

"The Very Strange Mummy!" - An expedition led by three Americans takes place in Egypt. The group comes across a tomb up on a cliff. Inside they find a perfectly preserved mummy inside a sarcophogus that they open. That night, one of the Egyptian natives is killed and two puncture marks are found on his neck. One of the archaeologists thinks it is a vampire, which the others don't believe. When the natives hear that the mummy's tomb was opened they all flee. That night one of the archaelogists is the next to die. One of the others heads inside the tomb and translates the hieroglyphics on the wall which reveal that the mummy is a vampire that was sealed up in the tomb. The vampire almost kills her but is forced inside by the dawn. With it asleep, a stake is driven into its heart, killing it. This story combines a couple of horror monsters into a single one, but is otherwise an only average story, that might have fared better with a better artist.

"Diminishing Returns" - A man named Vincent Beardsley is able to convince a wealthy man named Hagen to head to the Jivaro Diamond Fields where they hope to find a number of large diamonds. Beardsley has a secret deal with the Jivaros however whereas he is given a diamond for each head he brings the Jivaros. Hence, when they arrive, the Jivaros soon come upon them and Hagen is taken captive with his head being shrunk by the Jivaros. Beardsley returns to the US and plans to con another man but receives a wrapped package which contains Hagen's shrunken head in it. The head comes alive and is able to kill him by biting him in the neck. This story is the sole one from the new trend for which the artist is unknown. Its only a so-so art effort at best. The story itself is a bit of a rehash of previous stories such as "Jivaro Death" from Two-Fisted Tales #19 and "The Maestro's Hand" from The Crypt of Terror #18.

"The Irony of Death" - An ambitious man named Jeffrey Slag works as a superintendant at an iron and steel works company. He marries the daughter of the owner, then kills the man, making it look like an accident. The man is dumped into a vat of iron which Slag keeps. Slag uses the iron to make various things, including a safe, chairs, a shovel, etc... always gloating at what his former boss has become. Eventually the last remaining ingots of the iron vanish, upsetting Slag immensely. As part of an advertising campaign an exhibit of the uses of iron throughout the centuries is used, including a torture chamber. Slag decides to try it out by standing in an iron maiden. Suddenly the iron maiden closes on him, killing him. It is soon revealed that the missing ingots were used to make the iron maiden. Another average story; a similarly themed one titled "99 44/100% Pure Horror!" would later appear in The Vault of Horror #23", a story also drawn by Davis.