Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Haunt of Fear #21

Cover dated September/October 1953
Cover by Graham Ingels

"An Off-Color Heir" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Dig That Cat… He's Real Gone!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Corker!" - Art by Jack Kamen & Bill Elder/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The High Cost of Dying!" - Art by Reed Crandall/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"An Off-Color Heir" - An artist named Laura meets a man named Gilbert and they fall in love. Gilbert convinces her to marry him and come with him to his mansion in New Orleans. The mansion is in a remote location and has portraits of his ancestors including one of a Baron Gilles De Rais who seems familiar to her. The mansion has many rooms, but Gilbert refuses to let her go in one of them. Eventually Gilbert starts growing a beard. Laura finds some hair dye in the bathroom one day and realizes he is going gray. Eventually she steals his keys and goes into the locked room, finding numerous corpses in there. She then realizes where she had seen Gilles De Rais before. She rubs off some of the white paint on his beard, revealing blue behind it. Gilbert then reveals himself behind her, showing his own blue beard and holding a razor. He says De Rais was the original bluebeard and he is carrying on the family tradition, A fairly good story, inspired by the bluebeard serial killer folktale.

"Dig That Cat… He's Real Gone!" - A homeless man named Ulrich is approached by a Dr. Manfred who tells him that he can help make them rich by giving Ulrich the 9 lives of a cat. Manfred performs an operation on Ulrich, killing a common cat but transferring its 9 lives to Ulrich. Through his multiple lives, Ulrich and Manfred are able to make a lot of money by showing Ulrich doing crazy, life threatening stunts and taking all wagers against it. Ulrich soon becomes greedy however and purposely gets the two of them in a car wreck. Manfred dies, but Ulrich comes back yet again. Now on his own, Ulrich hires a man to ensure his body won't be embalmed, but the man ends up robbing him and taking one of his lives. Now down to his last life, Ulrich has himself buried alive. However it isn't until he's buried that he remembers that the cat gave one of its lives during the operation and he only had 8 lives, not 9. Ulrich dies for real this time. A very good and original story, which was adapted as one of the first couple of episodes of the Tales from the Crypt TV show.

"Corker!" - A woman named Janet goes to a swami with her fiance Peter. Janet recently underwent a major personality change where she started seeking out evil things. She also has felt some suicidal tendencies. She has tried traditional therapy to no luck. The swami believes that she is infected with a lamia, a type of devil. Upon hearing that she witnesses the hanging of a man during which time his head got tore off, the swami thinks that a decapitation lamia infected her. He says this type of lamia is impossible to remove unless she is beheaded. Janet runs off and Peter chases her. She jumps into an oncoming subway and is decapitated. Peter is then infected himself by the lamia. Another Jack Kamen collaboration, this time with Bill Elder. A fairly good and original story.

"The High Cost of Dying!" - This story takes place in Paris in the 1800's. A poor man named Henri carries around a body with him. Flashbacks reveal that Henri's wife Suzette died in her sleep. A new ordinance requires all bodies to be buried within 24 hours or they will be sent to the conservatory of medicine to be dissected by medical students. Henri is too poor to bury her, especially with his two starving children. An officer tells Henri that the Commissioner of Health makes 75 francs per body and that Henri should consider bringing Suzette to the conservatory himself to pocket the 75 francs. Back in the present, Henri brings the body he is carrying to the conservatory and receives 75 francs. The next morning Henri eats with his children, buys them new clothes and they hold a funeral for Suzette. In the conservatory, it is soon discovered that the body Henri brought them was that of the Commissioner of Health. Another strong story to wrap up this very good issue. Some really good artwork from Crandall here and a sympathetic main character.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crime SuspenStories #13

Cover dated October/November 1952
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Hear No Evil!" - Art by Johnny Craig and Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"First Impulse!/Second Chance!" - Art by Sid Check/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"A Question of Time!!" - Art by Al Williamson/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Forty Whacks!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"Hear No Evil!" - A woman named Rita meets a wealthy man named Fred who is deaf, and communicates by having people write down everything for him. She decides to marry Fred for his money, and often belittles him out loud, knowing that he can't hear her. An amount of time goes by, and Rita starts carrying on an affair with a friend of Fred's named Vance. When Fred gets in a car accident, he comes home and almost catches them together. Rita decides to poison Fred through his coffee, but Fred switches cups with one intended for Vance, and he dies instead. A distraught Rita confesses to the police and is taken away. Fred then turns on some music, revealing that he had recovered his hearing after being in the car accident. A rare team up of Johnny Craig and Jack Kamen in this story, which was there only team up in EC.

"First Impulse!/Second Chance!" - A woman named Helen suspects that her boyfriend is cheating on her with her sister, Joan. She follows them and witnesses them buying a ring. Thinking they are going to get married, she pulls out a gun and when they get home, she shoots them. As they die, she realizes that they were actually buying an engagement ring for her, and her sister was merely helping her boyfriend pick it out. In the second story, things pick off as Helen's boyfriend and Joan are able to explain things, so Helen doesn't shoot them. Joan drives Helen's boyfriend to the station as he is going on a trip, but in actuality they run off together, and Helen's suspicions were revealed to be correct. Another one of EC's "quickies" which appeared most often in Crime SuspenStories. Sid Check makes another rare art appearance.
"A Question of Time!!" - The local sheriff finds a woman named Lila dead. He goes to see her husband Harry, figuring that he did it. The entire town knew about Lila fooling around with other men, but nobody told him about it. They all assumed he'd find out someday and do something about it. Harry refuses to confess, and the sheriff leaves. Later, Lila, who is still alive comes home, and knowing the truth, he kills her. This is a rather confusing story when you read it and isn't the most interesting one either (the vast majority of the story is simply Harry and the sheriff talking). It was later redone in EC's picto-fiction comics.

"Forty Whacks!" - A young woman named Fanny finds an axe in the attic, and enraged with her overbearing parents kills them both with it. When the police take her in, she blames the axe. At the police station, the head detective is greeted by his wife and son. His wife tells her about Lizzie Borden, who infamously murdered her father and step-mother with an axe. His wife tells her that she had moved to this town and had lived in Fanny's house. At that moment, their son looks at the axe, which is revealed to be the axe that Lizzie Borden used, and goes crazy, killing his parents with it. Obviously inspired by the real life incident of Lizzie Borden killing her parents with an axe, which was also featured on the cover of this issue. A rare instance where Graham Ingels did not do the Old Witch's story in Crime SuspenStories.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Two-Fisted Tales #41

Cover dated February/March 1955
Cover by Jack Davis

"Code of Honor!" - Art by John Severin/Story by John Severin
"Mau Mau!" - Art by Bernie Krigstein/Story by ???
"Carl Akeley!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Jerry De Fuccio
"Yellow!" - Art by George Evans/Art by George Evans

Today I cover the final issue of Two-Fisted Tales. By this point in the comic's run, it had gone through another stylistic change and featured a variety of war, historical and adventure-type stories. It was a more interesting style than the John Severin/Colin Dawkins heavy presence that dominated the comic for the previous year. Unfortunately sales were not good and it ended up being the final issue.

"Code of Honor!" - A man named Stephen Graves Ashley is a deadly marksman. He is frequently in duels, for which he has never lost. This is largely because he takes offense at the most minor things and forces people to face him on in a duel. When a man named Benton calls Ashley a murderer, he challenges him to a duel. Ashley easily kills him in the duel, as well as another man who tried to convince Ashley to call off the duel and got called into a duel himself. Ashley later travels to Louisiana and encounters a Frenchman at a dance named Jean Le Poer whom he also challenges to a duel after he tries to step in during a dance with a young woman. Being in the New Orleans area, Ashley soon realizes that he will have to duel with swords instead of a gun. Ashley's cousin warns him about dueling Le Poer, which he ignores. Ashley quickly loses his duel to Le Poer and is killed, not knowing that he is the deadliest swordsman in France. A fairly interesting story to start the issue with a lead character who is easy to dislike. It is good to see him get the comeuppance in the end.

"Mau Mau!" - A pair of white men, McBan and Quantock are in Kenya, working on the filming of a movie. They recruit a member of the local Mau Mau tribe, Limuru, who acts as a consultant for them, and immediately pays dividends by killing a Mau Mau terrorist who approaches them. In the camp, they soon meet another Mau Mau tribesman, Hinga, who repairs their power generator for them. Limuru warns McBan and Quantock about Hinga, who he say swill do evil things. When one of the men is killed by a beast, Limuru tells McBan and Quantock that it was actually a Mau Mau ritual murder, and he blames Hinga. Hinga soon escapes. Limuru is used in a scene to play a Mau Mau oath giver, but when he does so, he riles up the Mau Mau tribesman for real, and they attack.  They are saved by the local military, which incidentally is led by Hinga. A so-so art job from Krigstein, and probably the weakest story of the issue, although its not bad.

"Carl Akeley!" - This story is a historical telling of certain events in the life of Carl Akeley. It starts with his childhood, and then moves into his time as a skilled explorer in Africa. During one incident he is charged upon by an elephant and slammed into the ground. He surprisingly survives despite his major injuries. During another expedition he is attacked by a leopard and manages to fight it off with his bare hands. The story ends revealing that his ultimate fate was dying due to a mosquito bite. Two-Fisted Tales featured a number of tales covering particular people from a historical perspective, and this story was similar in vein, but rather than focus on a particular major war figure, it featured an explorer. An interesting take, with some good art from Wood.

"Yellow!" - This story features a pair of plane pilots during World War I, Stone and Curry. Stone is consistently nervous while in flight and becomes a bit obsessed with outdoing Curry. This is particularly the case after Stone makes a call out of someone being yellow after the death of a fellow pilot. Stone becomes obsessed with matching and beating Stone. He soon surpasses Curry in kills, despite how frightened he is and then helps save Curry in battle. Afterwards when Curry thanks him, Stone says that his call out of him caused him to focus so heavily. It is then that Curry reveals that it wasn't Stone he was calling yellow, but himself. One of the better George Evans World War I plane stories, with some characters and a storyline more interesting than the typical historical fare.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weird Fantasy #7

Cover dated May/June 1951
Cover by Al Feldstein

"7 Year Old Genius!" - Art by Al Feldstein/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Come Into My Parlor" -  Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Across the Sun!" - Art by George Roussos/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Breakdown!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"7 Year Old Genius!" - Seven year old Rufus is not only a genius, but the smartest being on Earth. He has his parents bring him to the White House to meet the President. He is stopped on the way, but is encountered by the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense has Rufus prove him genius to himself and many other people and does a background check, finding that Rufus is this way due to his father being exposed to radiation. Rufus is able to create a cure for cancer and other great things, but is pressured to develop a Hydrogen Bomb. He finds based on his study that such a bomb would destroy the Earth, so he refuses to provide it. He is viewed as a traitor as a result, and eventually relents, but gives falsified data. This results in him being discredited. Discovering some EC comics, he feels that only EC can publish his story and meets Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, who show up at the end of the story. Meanwhile the government has finished the Hydrogen Bomb and plans to test it shortly. This story is okay, but very remiscent of "The Radioactive Child" from Weird Science #16, published about 6 months prior. It features cameos from Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein (who appeared in many early EC stories). It also features a Secretary of Defense character that was a frequently appearing character in many Feldstein-drawn stories.

"Come Into My Parlor" - A man named Stephen Lamb finishes up a report he has written on spiders. Suddenly there is a flash and a beautiful woman appears. Named Wanta, she claims that she comes from 4,000 years in the future. Wanta claims that there are no men in the future and that she and the other women of the future need to serve man. Stephen heads to the future with her where it is seemingly paradise. He can get as much food and drink as he wants and there are beautiful women everywhere. Eventually he gets drunk and Wanta leads him to a room where there is a spitfire grill. Stephen is tied up and put on the grill, as Wanta's civilization wants to literally cook and serve him. Stephen wakes up, with it all being a dream, but Wanta then appears for real. This story is inspired by Damon Knight's short story "To Serve Man" which later got adapted into a very well known Twilight Zone episode. The dream twist at the end seems tacked on, as if they needed an extra page to add to the story.

"Across the Sun!" - Humanity has sent a rocket to Mars, but it has vanished and never returned. A second rocket is set to head out, but minutes before the rocket is to blast off the original rocket returns. The crew from teh original rocket come down and say to not blast off. They tell their story, of how they were captured by a flying saucer and brought to a world that looked identical to our Earth, except that it has 2 moons. There, they meet the alien race that inhabits it. The aliens tell them that their planet is directly across the sun from the Earth such that it can never be seen. They say that they had gone to war with Earth many years ago and destroyed their civilization, which included the destruction of one of the Earth's moons. They tell the men to return to Earth and not head back into sapce or they'll destroy humanity again. Pacing's a bit poor on this story. Things go by very slow for the first 5 pages, then rush to a swift conclusion on the final page with an absurd amount of text in the last few panels.

"Breakdown!" - A woman named Mary comes to the FBI with her husband Donald, who has gone insane. She tells the men from the FBI of how one night at her farm, her brother Larry was visiting and they saw a strange light in the sky. Soon after a strange man named Mr. Trance showed up asking to use the phone. Mr. Trance stays the night, but Mary soon suspects something is wrong with him. Their dog is very scared of Mr. Trance, then soon falls over dead. Mr. Trance also doesn't cast a reflection in the mirror. Larry heads out to find Mr. Trance's broken down car but doesn't find it, only scorched marks in a field. Donald heads upstairs to see Mr. Trance but when he comes downstairs, he has gone crazy. Mr. Trance comes downstairs and explains that he is an alien being using a hypnotic shield. If his hypnotic shield isn't active, such as when he is asleep, his true form appears so horrific that it will cause a person looking at it to go insane. Larry pulls out a gun to shoot Mr. Trance while Mary and Donald flee. Larry kills Mr. Trance, but goes crazy upon seeing his true form. Back in the present, the men at the FBI reveal themselves to be aliens and remove their hypnotic shields, causing Mary to go insane. A fairly good story to wrap things up, the best in the issue. The aliens are pretty horrific looking, even if it is said in the story that they are merely the artist's renditions since their true form would cause the reader to go crazy as well.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tales from the Crypt #24

Cover dated June/July 1951
Cover by Al Feldstein

"Bats in My Belfry!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Living Death!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Midnight Snack!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"Scared to Death!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

One of Tales from the Crypt's most well known covers starts off this issue.

"Bats in My Belfry!" - A stage actor named Harry goes deaf. This results in the end of his acting career and a lot of financial stress for he and his wife, Joan. Harry goes to see a blind friend, John, who reveals that he went to a man who was able to give him cat eyes that permit him to see. Harry heads to see the man, who provides him with the hearing organ of a bat. Upon returning home, with hearing abilities greatly in excess of that of a normal person, Harry is able to hear Joan talking to her lover on the phone. He later notices strange things happening to him. He wakes up in the closet, hanging upside down, notices hair growing on his face and a membrane growing beneath his arms. He returns to see his friend John, who he finds turning into a panther. Harry realizes he is turning into a bat. His wife and her lover plot to kill Harry for his life insurance, but he manages to overtake the lover in an alley. Now fully transformed into a vampire bat, he drinks the lover's blood, then returns home and does the same to his wife.  This story was the inspiration for the Tales from the Crypt TV episode "Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow". The episode had nothing to do with that original story, making me wonder why they didn't name it after this story. It was in the final season of the show, and was still a rather poor episode though.

"The Living Death!" - Two medical students, Lester and Arnold are close friends, even going after the same woman, Laurie. The two head into seperate fields, with Lester focusing on curing illness through psychological means, while Arnold focuses on surgery. Lester is set to marry Laurie, but when she develops a tumor the two conflict over whether to operate on her through psychosomatic means or surgery. Arnold wins out, but she dies during the procedure. Years go by. Arnold develops a brain tumor, and with no one who can operate on him, he goes to see Lester. Lester desires to prove to Arnold that he could have saved Laurie many years before and puts Arnold into a hypnotic trance so he cannot die. Upon leaving however, Arnold is it by a car and is killed. His body doesn't die however, nor even start decomposing. People don't believe Lester at first, but do as time goes by and nothing happens to Arnold. Months pass. Arnold calls out for Lester to help him with the pain. Lester mistakenly says "Laurie", the word he has chosen to break Arnold out of the trance. This causes Arnold to die for real, and he immediately decomposes. This story was inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar".

"Midnight Snack!" - A man reads horror stories late at night. Suddenly his feels dizzy and finds himself out in the middle of town. Hungry, he stops by a restaurant but the scent of cooking meat repulses him. He leaves the restaurant and has another dizzy sensation, waking up in a graveyard. Having a shovel with him, he digs up the body of a recently buried corpse. After another dizzy spell he awakens finding the body partially devoured. He grabs the corpse and starts running, being chased by an agngry mob. He trips and falls, but then awakens at his home, believing it all to be a dream. When he opens his refridgerator however, he finds a partially devoured corpse inside. He realizes that it wasn't a dream, and he's a ghoul. Bit of a drawn out story with an obvious conclusion; this is the weakest story of the issue.

"Scared to Death!" - A man named Ralph is brought to a party held in the honor of a young woman named Cora, whose uncle Alex is quite wealthy. With Cora being the heir to her uncle's fortune, Ralph decides to start a romance with her, and eventually marries her. Not liking the way Alex is treating him, Ralph is able to convince Cora to let him kill her, and he strikes him one night while he is out on a stroll, killing him. Alex's death has a grave effect on Cora, who suffers a heart attack and becomes bound to a wheel chair. Ralph decides to kill her as well, figuring he can do it by inducing another heart attack. He tries to convince Cora that her uncle Alex is back from the grave and wants revenge. He is successful and she has a heart attack and dies. Moments later however, Alex's corpse arrives for real. He grabs ahold of Alex and carries him into the middle of a pond where the mud, acting like quicksand, quickly consumes them. Some only so-so artwork from Wood here, but overall a fairly good rotting corpse story.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Panic #1

Cover dated March 1954
Cover by Al Feldstein

"My Gun is the Jury!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein
"This is Your Strife" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Al Feldstein
"Little Red Riding Hood" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Night Before Christmas" - Art by Bill Elder/Adaption of Charles Clement Moore poem

Today I cover the first issue of Panic, EC's own copy of the very popular Mad. The introduction at the start of the issue jokingly states that Mad was a ripoff of Panic, which sat around unpublished for over a year. In what you wouldn't think to be that offensive a comic, it caused 2 major controversies.

"My Gun is the Jury!" - Mike Hammershlammer, a detective investigates the murder of a man who was shot. Throughout the story he comes across a number of beautiful women whom he shoots, saying that they were criminals involved with other crimes. He is also invited by a woman named Stella to come to her apartment but passes up on it, wanting to continue his investigation. Eventually he comes to see her and realizes she was involved in the crime with the various other women. He shoots her, but then realizes she was a man. Mike removes his cap, revealing that he was a woman. A parody of Micky Spillane stories which was quite an inspiration for Feldstein. This story resulted in a bit of controversy for EC when both EC's business manager, Lyle Stuart, and receptionist, Shirley Norris were arrested over selling "disgusting" literature. The case was thrown out of court rather quickly.

"This is Your Strife" - This story is a parody of the "This is Your Life" show. A man named Melvin Melville is brought to the stage and a number of people from his life are brought before him. each asks if they found his wife, who dissappeared many years ago. It soon becomes very apparant based on these people that Melvin murdered his wife although nobody realizes until the end of the story when her bones are brought out and everyone realizes that he killed her.

"Little Red Riding Hood" - The extremely beautiful Gwendolyn moves to town, but ignores all the guys coming after her, instead focusing on the geeky Melvin. Melvin asks why she is interested in him and she tells her of her childhood, during which she was the real Red Riding Hood. She is told to head to her grandmother's house. There she finds a wolf laying in her grandmother's bed. A woodsman arrives and shoots the wolf. Back in the present, Gwendolyn reveals that the wolf really was her grandmother, and that when they mature her family turns into werewolves. She turns into one and kills Melvin. This story is a Grim Fairy Tale, the sole one to not appear in one of EC's horror comics.

"The Night Before Christmas" - This story is an illustrated parody of the Clement Clarke Moore poem about Santa Claus. Containing very little dialogue, it is a series of comedic panels and sequences done in typical Bill Elder fashion. The story ends showing Bill Gianes as Santa Claus, with all the EC staff coming out of his sack. Surprisingly enough this story caused quite the controversy at the time and Panic was banned in Massachusetts for its offensive portrayal of Santa Claus here (which isn't that offensive).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shock SuspenStories #15

Cover dated May 1954
Cover by Jack Kamen

"Raw Deal" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Otto Binder
"The Confidant" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Jack Oleck
"For Cryin' Out Loud!" - Art by Reed Crandall/Story by Otto Binder
"Well Trained" - Art by George Evans/Story by Carl Wessler

"Raw Deal" - A hospital patient, the sole survivor of a plane that crashed in the Pacific Ocean repeatedly screams out "I hate her!". A couple of doctors try to figure out what is going on with him and by giving him certain medication are able to get him to behave in a normal fashion. They soon find that he is referring to his wife, making them wonder why he hates her so. Through additional medication he eventually tells his story, of how he he met his wife and swiftly within a month they became married. They headed on a plane trip to Hawaii for their honeymoon, but on the way it crashed in the pacific, with them being the only 2 survivors. This surprises the doctors, as the man was the only one found. He recounts the experience of being lost in the middle of the ocean on a raft and how they had no food to sustain themselves on. Eventually his wife started drinking salt water, went crazy and died. The man slips back into his crazed state, but the doctors realize what happened to his wife, since he is not really saying "I hate her!" but rather "I ate her!" A decent start to the issue and the best story here, in an issue that is only so-so at best.

"The Confidant" - A mysterious man wearing a trench coat comes to a town where people are in search of a man who raped and murdered a 19 year old woman. The mysterious man claims to be here to see one of his children and takes a taxi ride to the darkest corner of town. The taxi driver follows him and finds him talking in an apartment to a man he believes to be the killer. He summons a number of other people and a mob grows, returning to the apartment. There they only find the mysterious man, who tells them that he can't tell them anything about the killer. The mob starts beating on him, and the man dies as a result. It is then that they find a note from the killer stating that he has to confess his crimes. They remove the trench coat of the mysterious man and realize that he was a priest. Not that good a story in my eyes as you think it would be so simple for the fact that the man was a priest to be made clear to the mob. Couldn't the priest have simply told them that fact instead of taking a beating until he died?

"For Cryin' Out Loud!" - A criminal named Marty steals $40,000 but becomes sloppy while hiding and is found out by a woman he meets at a restaurant. When she demand over half the money, he strangles her in an alley and flees. He repeatedly hears a voice in his head shouting out that he is a murderer. As he walks down the street people look at him in a strange way causing him to run off, thinking they can hear him. This happens repeatedly. Eventually he decides to head into a boiler factory with an extremely loud amount of noise to block out the voice in his head. This results in him going deaf, but the voice still shouts out. He can't take it anymore and says out loud that he is a murderer. As the story ends it is revealed that he had scratches on his face which is why everyone was giving him weird looks. This story was adapted into an episode of the Tales from the Crypt TV series, with some adjustments made to the story. Kudos to Crandall in finding ways to repeatedly cover up half of the protagonist's face until the final panel.

"Well Trained" - A detective named Tom comes home one day and finds his wife murdered, with the killer standing right over her. Tom chases down the killer and viciously beats him, but decides to not kill him and call the cops. Tom is obsessed with ensuring that the killer, who is named Mike, goes to the electric chair. He meets with him daily as he heals from his injuries telling him in great detail the process for him being executed. The daily abuse is enough to cause Mike to run off. Other cops try to shoot him, but Tom always stands in the way, desiring for him to die in the electric chair. Their chase brings them down to the subway where Mike runs on the track but is hit by the subway car as he steps on the third rail. As a result, Tom will never know if he was electrocuted on the third rail or was hit by the train first. A so-so story. I don't really understand what the big deal was at the end as Mike still suffered a rather horrific death. What does it matter if it was by being hit by a subway car instead of being electrocuted?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Piracy #1

Cover dated November 1954
Cover by Wally Wood

"The Privateer" - Art by Reed Crandall/Writer Unknown
"The Mutineers" - Art by Wally Wood/Writer Unknown
"Harpooned" - Art by Al Williamson & Angelo Torres/Writer Unknown
""Shanghaied" - Art by Jack Davis/Writer Unknown

The final new comic title produced by EC prior to the end of the New Trend, Piracy focused, naturally, on pirates. The comic appeared shortly before the start of the New Direction comics first started getting published by EC and is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a New Direction title (although it was included with the New Direction set in the EC Library). In my mind Piracy has a fairly strong first few issues but isn't as interesting later on, which I suppose isn't that surprising considering later issues had to go through the comics code.

"The Privateeer" - Ballard James, an English Plantation owner becomes a privateer in England's war against Spain. Insistent that he is a privateer, not a Pirate, James insists on directly striking the first Spanish ship they come across rather then feigning friendship at first as a pirate might do. Weeks go by without coming across another ship however, causing James to decide to strike an allied French ship when they come across it. Rather than publicly declare himself a pirate, James attacks ship after ship, regardless of country, reporting only occasionally to England to provide the government the required part of the bounty. Eventually James attacks even a British man-of-war, turning on the very government that commissioned him. His last goal to capture merchant ships such that he can retire, James eventually comes across a trio of them only to be tricked, as all 3 are pirate ships, who defeat his crew and kill him. A decent start to Piracy with a strong art job throughout. Crandall would often do the lead off story for Piracy as well as several covers, and was probably the strongest artist at doing pirate-based stories.

"The Mutineers" - This story features a first mate aboard a ship who frequently finds himself in the middle of the captain and the crew. The captain gets upset with him for not reprimanding a crew member, while the crew wants to mutiny, which he denies them. When the ship hits a big storm, the captain refuses to adjust the sails to help them out of it, thinking it can put off a mutiny. Eventually the mutiny arrives and O'Hara helps the captain in keeping the men from taking over the ship. When the captain sends up a young crew member to climb the top of the ship and he falls to his death, O'Hara has decided he's had enough, and he leads the entire crow on a row boat away from the ship, leaving the captain all by himself. At 8 pages this would typically be the first story of the issue but it has been moved to second here. Overall its a fairly good one, although not as strong as the first and last story.

"Harpooned" - This story takes place on a whaling boat. The first mate of the boat is very upset at the captain, particularly when he comes out with the men on a row boat in an attempt to harpoon a whale. When the whale surfaces the men harpoon it, but the first mate manages to get the rope on the spear tied around the captain's neck, which throws him overboard and causes him to drown when the whale heads below water. The whale later resurfaces however, destroying the boat, and causing the first mate to be impaled on the spear sticking out of the whale. A rather poor story, but some really strong art here by Williamson and Torres. This was one of their rare collaborations in the late days of EC when Torres started doing more credited work for EC. Unfortunately they only did one more for Piracy, in the next issue.

"Shanghaied" - A ship captain named Walton is approached by a man named Pigott who has brought him some shanghaied men that can act as crew members for him once he's on the open sea. Walton is against shanghaiing and is about to send him away but notices one of the men and has Pigott bring him on board. As Pigott carries the man to Walton's cabin, Walton reveals that the man actually shanghaied him over ten years ago. Walton tells Pigott how he was shanghaied and forced to work on the open sea for several years. This started a quest of his where he searched for the man who shanghaied him, and he eventually rose through the ranks, becoming a sea captain. Pigott thinks that Walton will exert some violence on the man when he awakens, but surprisingly he shakes his hand and thanks him for getting a successful career at sea started for him A good story to wrap up the issue, with a decent surprising ending.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Vault of Horror #36

Cover dated May 1954
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Twin Bill!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"Witch Witch's Witch!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Johnny Craig
"Pipe Dream" - Art by Bernie Krigstein/Story by Johnny Craig
"Two-Timed!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Jack Oleck

A fairly strong late issue of the Vault of Horror, principally through the efforts of Johnny Craig. By this point, Craig was editor of the comic, and he wrote 3 out of 4 stories here, the most he'd ever write for a single EC comic.

"Twin Bill!" - A man, Larry Bannister, catches his wife and lover together at their cabin in the woods. He forces them at gunpoint to hike a mile into the woods then dig their own graves. When the lover fights back, Larry strikes him unconscious, and he buries both him and his wife alive. Larry returns to his car only to find that it won't start due to a dead battery. He returns home in his wife's car and it takes him several weeks to be able to return to the cabin to replace the battery. He forgets the keys however, and figures that he will dig up his wife's corpse and take them from her purse rather than have to make the long trip home to get them and risk that his car will be seen. When he arrives at the grave however, he finds it empty. Larry flees back towards the cabin, seeing the figures of his wife and lover in the distance, and when he makes it back, he waits there, hoping to shoot them when they come in. They finally do come in, but when he turns on the flashlight they are revealed to be rotting corpses, fused together, and his gun has no effect as they kill him. Some very strong artwork from Craig on this story, which also does a very good job of providing a very dark, scary atmosphere throughout.

"Witch Witch's Witch!" - A man named Eric who lives in a small European village goes away on business one week and when he has returned, he is now married to a woman named Helena. This upsets Eric's mother, as well as his fiance Alicia and her mother, but Eric will hear none of it. Soon afterwards, Eric's mother dies of a heart attack. The local church group bans Helena from attending and soon after their leader dies. Alicia's mother starts a rumor that Helena is a witch and caused this, and one day while passing her by, Helena stares at her and she drops dead. The rumors continue to build that Helena is a witch and at her mother's funeral, Alicia starts grabbing her chest with pain, claiming that Helena is doing it. A mob rushes to Eric and Helena's house, accusing her of a witch and finding a pin cushion shaped as a human that they think is the cause of Alicia's suffering. Eric tries to stop them, but is shot, and the mob carries Helena to the town square where they put her in the middle of a roaring bonfire. Suddenly, Helena raises her arms, shouts out a chant, transforms into her true form, and the entire mob turns to rats. Another strong story; its not often in these types of stories where someone is accused of being a witch, and then actually ends up being one.

"Pipe Dream" - The old Chinese man Chen Chu Yang spends his days smoking opium in a den and dreaming. He tells of how years ago, he had dreamed of his wife dying after smoking his opium and when he came home she had died. Chen is supported by his son, but he is soon drafted. Chen returns to his smoking and dreams that his son will die as well, and he does, being struck by a car on the way home from his going-away party. Chen's daughter marries a man against his wishes and months later she tells him he unbearable and beats her. Due to Chinese honor Chen tells her she must stay with him and will only be free if he dies. Chen then has another opium-induced dream where he is able to kill his son-in-law and free his daughter. When he awakens the man has died, but with no explanation, his daughter is put to death for the murder. Chen returns to his opium to dream another dream. Another strong tale, and similar to the recently reviewed "Murder Dream" it is a surrealistic, largely dream-based story, although this story is a bit better than that one.

"Two-Timed!" - A boy hears a noise one night and heads outside to the woods, where he finds an adult man who has just beat a woman to death with a pipe. The man grabs the boy, but suddenly there is a bang and the boy falls unconscious. When he wakes, his parents are there with the local constable and the man is gone, but the ground is all burned as if there was an explosion. Years pass. The boy, now an adult, hears that his wife is plotting to kill him, so he plans to kill her instead. He fools her into thinking he is going away then brings her into the woods where he beats her with a pipe. He suddenly notices a boy and grabs onto him, but realizes it is himself at a younger age and lets go. Thinking the bang he heard years before may have been a gunshot, he grabs a gun from his beaten wife and lights her on fire. Suddenly a shot rings out and he topples over. The town constable comes out and reveals that a paper at the scene many years ago had the current date on it, which led him here. An odd, confusing tale which is quite a disappointment after the first three stories in this issue.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Psychoanalysis #1

Cover dated March/April 1955
Cover by Jack Kamen

"Freddy Carter (Session 1)" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Daniel Keyes
"Ellen Lyman (Session 1)" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Daniel Keyes
"Mark Stone (Session 1)" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Robert Bernstein

Probably the most unique of EC's New Direction titles, Psychoanalysis focused on three patients of a psychiatrist, the type of story you would never expect for a comic book. The title was unique from other EC stories for several other reasons as well, such as being the only EC title that was exclusive to one artist, Jack Kamen. Kamen was perfectly suited for the comic, where much of the activity occured in a psychiatrist's office. The title also brought in a couple of outside writers in Daniel Keyes and Robert Bernstein who weren't used for EC's other titles, at least until the picto-fiction era.

"Freddy Carter (Session 1)" - Freddy is a teenage boy that has acted out recently, including stealing a wristwatch from a friend. He also is failing in school and doesn't do well at sports. The psychiatrist soon notices that a lot of blame comes from his well to do parents. His father is obsessed with him being good in sports and going into the same field of work as him. His mother satisfies his interest in arts and other less manly things, but also smuthers him. This makes his father even more upset at him. All of this has caused Freddy to act out and to steal from his friend, whom he is jealous of because he has much better parents.

"Ellen Lyman (Session 1)" - Ellen is a young woman who is frequently having very sever migraines. She is also suffering from insomnia and whenever she does sleep has a bizarre dream. During the dream she is trying to get into a garden but is refused by a man standing there. He gives her a rabbit, which soon becomes worn and lumpy. She is told she can go through the gate if she gets a hundred on a test, but instead fails. She eventually finds the guard of the gate dead and heads into the garden, but finds the garden dark and decrepid. The psychiatrist works through Ellen's childhood, finding that a lot of these things stem from the poor household in which she grew up and the jealousy of her older sister.

"Mark Stone (Session 1)" - Mark Stone is an overweight writer who is frequently having pains in his chest that cause him to pass out. He is a successful writer, making a lot of money, but he typically spends it all and is sick with his work, thinking it is too commercialized. He is always down on any other writer whom he comes across who he thinks has done a better job than himself. Similar to Freddy, he also recounts a bad childhood during which his father was very critical of him.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weird Science #15 (1952)

Cover dated September/October 1952
Cover by Wally Wood

"The Martians!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Captivity" - Art by Al Williamson/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Miscalculation!" - Art by Jack Kamen/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Bum Steer!" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines

"The Martians!" - A rocket takes the first ever expedition to Mars. Upon arriving there, its inhabitants find a desolate world, with occasional signs that a civilization may have existed here. They eventually come across a building that they work their way through, finding books written in a Martian language. They also find a tube with symbols on it that they realize to be a film of some kind. The film displays what they take to be the humanoid Martians, battling a tentacled creatures that they figure the Martians assumed were Earthlings. Once they are able to translate the film however, they realize that the tentacled creatures were the Martians. Some good Wood artwork, but story-wise a bit weak.

"Captivity" - A pair of geologists near the Grand Canyon are suddenly thrown back in time millions of years. They soon find a Tyranosaurus Rex and flee from it, coming across a cliff that they find completely smooth, as if artificial.Luckily for them another dinosaur comes by which distracts it. They decide to follow the cliff and eventually find a rocket coming down from the skies. A group of bizarre aliens come out and attract the dinosaurs to come by them. Human beings are pulled from the ship and thrown down to the dinosaurs. When one escapes, our protagonists realize that this is how humanity got started on the Earth. A choppy at times art job by Al Williamson, with this being one of his earliest stories for EC.

"Miscalculation!" - Nerdy bachelor Melvin Sputterly one day receives in the mail a mysterious package from 1,000 years in the future. The package promises to create a harem of five beautiful women for him who will fall in love with the first man they see after being created from the dehydrated formula. Unfortunately for Melvin, the units of measurement in the instructions use different terminology than those currently used. The first woman he creates is hideously fat due to him using too much water, and the second is extremely thin when he doesn't use enough. Using a formula contained within the package he is able to cause them to dissolve into a pool of colored water. The next two women he creates are too tiny, then too tall when he messes up with the salt measurement. The last woman he creates comes out in perfect form, but when the superintendant arrives, asking why there is water pouring through the ceiling of his neighbor downstairs, she sees him first and heads away with him, leaving Melvin with nothing. One of a few "create a woman" stories that EC did in Weird Science, this is a fairly good one.

"Bum Steer!" - One night a cowboy encounters a pair of horse-like aliens that take him captive and throw in in a rocket. Inside the rocket the man finds a number of other humans. As the rocket ship takes off, one of the aliens comes out and tells them that they are being brought to their planet, but will be given all the comforts of their own planet. The men are kept well fed throughout the journey, with the cowboy being the only one who is suspicious of the aliens. When they arrive at the alien's home planet, they are brought to a large room in which they are kept locked, but they are continued to be provided with lots of food and many of them get fat. One day a beautiful woman comes in the room and tells the men that there are many other women just like her in the next room. The cowboy suddenly realizes what is going on and tells the men that he believes they are being treated just like cattle, being fattened up, then led by a decoy to the slaughter house. None of the other men believe him, but they are quickly slaughtered just like cattle when they head to the next room. A strong story to end the issue, with some of the most bizarre looking aliens in an EC sci-fi story.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Haunt of Fear #5

Cover dated January/February 1951
Cover by Johnny Craig

"A Biting Finish!" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Horror in the Freak Tent! - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"A Tasty Morsel!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Seeds of Death!" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig

"A Biting Finish!" - A man named Bruno flees from the police into an old house by the cemetary, looking for a secret tunnel that only he knows about. Flashbacks reveal how Bruno and another man named Bob had been after the same woman, Ellen. Bruno murders Bob and buries him in a coffin contained in a civil war cemetary. Bruno's guilt eventually reveals itself to Ellen when he talks in his sleep, causing Bruno to murder both her and the maid who witnessed it. This causes the police to chase after him, resulting in his current predicament. Bruno soon finds that the tunnel has caved in, but having a shovel with him, he digs through it. He comes across a coffin while digging and while trying to move it, his hand plunges inside. The corpse inside the coffin grabs Bruno's hand and bites it, not letting go until Bruno bleeds to death. As the story ends, the coffin is revealed to be that where he put Bob. A strong start to the issue. A rare instance where the lead off story had only 7 pages instead of the usual 8, and this story has four 7 page stories as a result (I believe the only time in EC's New Trend that this happened).

"Horror in the Freak Tent!" - This story is told by a man named Henry Hastings, manager of a carnival. At the carnival the owner of the Freak Show, Looey Glantz is an evil man who abuses the freaks and ruins the marriage of the knife thrower, Zolto. One night Zolto pulls a knife on Glantz after he abuses one of the freaks. Glantz responds by shoving 2 glowing pokers into Zolto's eyes, blinding him. The freaks take care of Zolto and train him to continue to be a knife thrower, while blind. What Zolto doesn't know is that when they have him practice, they tie up and gag Glantz, who is killed by the knives and weapons that Zolto throws at him. This story was later redone in the picto-fiction magazine Terror Illustrated #2.

"A Tasty Morsel!" - During a rainy night, a man comes across an inn at the end of the road and heads inside where he is greeted by a brutish looking innkeeper. The man heads to his room, but desiring a blanket goes back downstairs and waits in a chair by the fire for the innkeeper to return. He soon hears a moan and goes to the basement where he finds another man tied up and bleeding to death, his blood dripping into a pan. The innkeeper soon comes down and takes the man's blood, storing it in a freezer, revealing him to be a vampire. The man is caught by the innkeeper and soon suffers the same fate as the other man. He soon awakens though, revealing it to be a dream. Finding himself tied up, he accuses the innkeeper to be a vampire. This offends the innkeeper, who claims he is actually a ghoul and hates the taste of blood which is why he's draining it from him. The story ends with the innkeeper gleefully approaching him with a meat cleaver. This story is told in second person, a common style used by EC. The ending was also a common one, but a bit overused.

"Seeds of Death!" - This story tells the tale of how a dismembered hand ended up at a dump. In flashbacks we see a young woman named Connie, who is married to a brutish husband Basil. She is comforted by the handsome hired hand, Cliff, but Basil spots them together. When Connie asks Cliff to head to town and buy some Gardenia seeds, Basil takes the opportunity to kill him upon his return when he takes out some of the seeds. Basil buries Cliff and Connie, worried about him, heads to town to search for him. This angers Basil, who goes after her and attacks her in an ally. Connie hits him over the head, knocking him out, then puts him in a garbage can. Garbage men later come upon the garbage can and dump it in a truck, where his body is ground up. Connie returns home to find a mound of Gardenias, causing her to realize what happened to Cliff. This story takes an interesting approach to start the story off, with the Vault Keeper not being introduced until the second page, something that I can't recall being the case in any other EC horror story.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Crime SuspenStories #1

Cover dated October/November 1950
Cover by Johnny Craig

"Murder May Boomerang" - Art by Johnny Craig/Story by Johnny Craig
"Death's Double Cross" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"A Snapshot of Death" - Art by Graham Ingels/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"High Tide!" - Art by Harvey Kurtzman/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

The first issue of Crime SuspenStories, E.C.'s New Trend version of a crime comic (EC had a couple of crime comics prior to the New Trend). This issue is a fairly good one, one of the better of the early issues. The first story, "Murder May Boomerang" was later reprinted in issue 19 (as already covered here).
"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.

"Death's Double Cross" - A woman named Ruth is bored with her marriage to John, pining for his twin brother Ronald whom she loved more but had gone away years before. Ronald, who bears a mole on his face, suddenly turns up one day and the two of them plot to kill John so Ronald can take his place. John walks in as they are discussing it, and Ruth wonders if he overheard it. Ronald successfully kills John, making it look like a drowning. Soon however Ronald grows cold and has surgery to remove the mole from his face. His doctor tells Ruth he never had it removed in the first place. Ruth starts fearing for her life and is nearly killed by a safe. She wonders if either Ronald has decided to kill her, or if it has been John the entire time.

"A Snapshot of Death!" A woman named Jean is told that she has an incurable disease and has six months to live. She decides to kill herself, but doesn't have the nerve, so she goes to a man named "Red" Morgan whom she pays to find an assassin to kill her. She is soon told however that she will be able to undergo surgery to cure her illness. She is deathly afraid for her life, especially as a dark figure arpproaches the house. Eventually he is able to make it in, and carries a picture of her with him. Jean passes out. She wakes up later and it is revealed that the man is a policeman, who had come across the photo when "Red" was struck by a truck and killed.

"High Tide!" - Four men depart on a mail delivery ship from a prison island. Soon the radio announces that a killer has escaped from the prison and is on the ship. Each of the men denies being the killer and one of the men on the ship, an accountant is deathly afraid of what will happen to them. Things get worse as both the engine and radio go out. The men accuse each other of being the killer, except for the quiet boat captain. When a gun is found on board, the men agree that they will seperate the gun and ammunition and that two of the men will stay up to keep watch while the others sleep. When the accountant tries to escape, one of the men grabs the gun and shoots him. This gets one of the other men to suspect he is the killer, so they fight each other. Once the accuser has killed the other man though, he is promptly shot by the ship captain, who truly is the killer. He jumps off the boat and tries to make it to shore, but the tide comes in very quickly, and not being able to swim, he drowns.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Two-Fisted Tales #21

Cover by Harvey Kurtzman
Cover dated May/June 1951

"Ambush!" - Art by Jack Davis/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Pigs of the Roman Empire" - Art by Bill Elder & John Severin/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"The Murmask Run!" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Harvey Kurtzman
"Search!" - Art by Harvey Kurtzman/Story by Harvey Kurtzman

A strong issue throughout, with all four stories above average.

"Ambush!" - In Korea, a pair of jeeps carrying American soldiers drives down the road. One of the soldiers, nicknamed 'Lucky' carries a Kewpie Doll in his helmet which he is convinced gives him good luck. Suddenly the jeeps are caught in an ambush and the remaining soldiers are forced to hide in a ditch and exchange fire with the North Korean soldiers attacking them. The American soldiers are slowly killed until Lucky and one other man are all thats left. Lucky, convinced that his Kewpie doll will protect him, fights off the North Korean soldiers, with his companion dying. Some other soldiers arrive on a jeep to pick him up, at which point Lucky realizes that in the chaos earlier his helmet had been exchanged with another soldiers and he never had his Kewpie doll with him the whole time. A good story to start off this issue, this story kickstarted a run of Jack Davis lead stories for Two Fisted Tales taking place during the Korean War.

"Pigs of the Roman Empire" - This story begins in a Collasseum in Carthage, where wine-loving Commander Decius watches one of his slaves be defeated by a gladiator and beheaded. Decius's wisest slave Brennus warns him of the nearby marching Vandal Barbarians but Decius doesn't pay them much attention until they are nearly upon the city. Decius heads out to battle against the Vandals and while they are initially successful, the Vandals sweep around the Roman forces and march upon them from behind. Soon Decius and Brennus are all that is left and are making their way back to Carthage through the desert. Decius leaves Brennus with the remaining water, taking the wine with him when Brennus can go no further. But Decius soon finds that the wine makes his thirst even worse and he is soon dead, being ravaged by vultures. A fairly good story, providing a good example of why the Roman empire collapsed.

"The Murmansk Run!" - This story takes place in the Arctic Circle during World War 2. A Merchant Marine ship heads through the ocean in the dead of night. A crewmember named Uriah Bragg is chewed out by a superior officer for lighting a cigarette on the deck of the ship, since the light could alert enemy submarines to their position. Bragg gets angry over this as he heads back below deck. He is later awoken when it is time to be look out. Disobeying orders, he lights a can of sterno to warm himself, only concerned with hiding it from his superiors. An enemy submarine spots the light from it and launches a torpedo at the ship, blowing it up and killing everyone on board. Another strong story, and similar to "Weak Link" that I covered a few issues prior, with a single man's foolish actions resulting in the death of everyone around him. This story was written by Kurtzman at the suggestion of Wally Wood who had requested a story about the Merchant Marine.

"Search!" - Another story taking place during World War II, this time in Italy. A soldier named Joseph Angliosani is in a trench with a younger soldier, manning a machine gun. The foot of a dead soldier sticks out from the trench. Joe tells his colleague about the fact that he won't take any break from the action since he is searching for his older brother Mario, who supported the family after his father died. He hasn't seen Mario in years but will recognize him based on a ring that he wears. The German soldiers continue to press towards them and after one fire fight the younger soldier is killed. Joe grabs his machine gun and departs. A blast later hits the trench, revealing that the corpse whose foot was sticking out was that of his brother Mario. While not at the level of some other Kurtzman solo stories that I've covered thus far in this blog, it is still another good story to wrap up the issue.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Weird Science-Fantasy #24

Cover dated June 1954
Cover by Al Feldstein

"...For Posterity" - Art by Wally Wood/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"The Teacher from Mars" - Art by Joe Orlando/Story by Otto Binder
"The Pioneer" - Art by Bernie Krigstein/Story by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
"Upheaval!" - Art by Al Williamson/Story by Harlan Ellison

Weird Science-Fantasy was the combination of Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, both of which failed to be popular enough to last past their fourth year. The comic originally started off as a 15 cent quarterly, but soon went back down to the standard 10 cent comic. It changed to a bi-monthly in 1955 and eventually had its title changed to Incredible Science-Fiction. Quality was fairly high in the early issues, with things dipping towards the end of its run.

"...For Posterity" - This story features two prospectors who one night find a flying saucer land nearby. The two men walk up to it and when the door opens, walk inside. The door of the flying saucer suddenly shuts and it blasts off into space. They suddenly pass out and when they awake the door opens. Outside of the saucer they find a civilization made up entirely of women. The leader of the women tells them that they are now in Earth's future. Due to the fallout from nuclear weapons, all males went sterile and eventually died out. The women were able to survive due to a element that allowed them to self-reproduce, but now that element has entirely run out. The women need the two men to help inpregnate then; they will then be returned to the past with no memory of what happened. The men awaken back on Earth and believe it to be just a dream, but discover roses by their sleeping bags revealing that it was true after all. A decent story to start things off, featuring what is probably the ultimate male fantasy.

"The Teacher from Mars" - Martian Professor Mun Zeerohs comes to Earth to become a teacher. Zeerohs finds his student on Earth cruel and intolerant, particularly a boy named Tom Blaine who constantly makes fun of Zeerohs and criticizes both him and the Martian race as a whole. Zeerohs also finds Earth hard getting used to, such as the wasting of water that is such a precious resource on Mars, and his fear of snakes, which are much more dangerous on Mars. Tom Blaine's pranks continue, he wastes water in front of Zeerohs, hides his glasses, pours salt in his food, plants snakes in his bedroom and even starts lynching him and falsely accusing him of murder. Zeerohs decides to return to Mars. The next day a special event is held on the campus and a major in the space patrol announces the heroic act of Zeerohs' son, who saved the life of Tom Blaine's father, being killed in the process. Blaine and the others, now with a newfound respect for Zeerohs start supporting him and he decides to stay on Earth. This story was adapted by one written by Binder and his brother Earl under the name "Eando Binder". An obvious metaphor for racial intolerance, it reminds one of similar such stories told in Shock SuspenStories and is similar in theme to "In Gratitude" from Shock SuspenStories #11 (although with a much happier ending).

"The Pioneer" - A Professor Latham causes a large explosion while testing a type of fuel. After he recovers, he becomes obsessed with furthering his research on the fuel so as to provide man with the ability to travel into space. Latham's students make fun of him for it and he gets so worked up that he ends up quitting when brought before the Board of Trustees. Latham spends his life savings on buying a farm in the countryside where he can work on building a rocket engine without interruption or disturbance. Soon however a neighbor named Jenkins stops by and laughs at his attempts to build a rocket engine just as his students had. Latham eventually gets upset enough that he turns on the engine while Jenkins is standing near it, burning him to a crisp. Latham is soon met by the local state troopers who take him with them. Before a government panel Latham explains the capability of his engine. He is kept in heavily guarded living quarters where his guards relay his directions on his rocket ship, which they tell him is being built. He eventually receives his last meal on Earth and is brought to the rocket where he is strapped aboard He feels electrifying pressure as the rocket blasts off. In actuality, Latham has been sent to jail for Latham's murder, convicted and put in the electric chair, but he deluded himself into believing that he was going into space. A really good story, my favorite of the issue.

"Upheaval!" - A rocket ship in search of a lifeform more advanced than man has had no succes thus far. They start thinking about heading back to Earth, with the conclusion that man is the most advanced lifeform in the galaxy, but stop on one last planet. The ground of the planet is quite soft, and once the men step out of the rocket ship it sinks right through the surface of the planet. The men are soon swallowed up by the surface of the planet as well, finding themselves in a sort of protoplasm-like environment. Suddenly both the rocket and the men are expelled from the planet back to the surface. They quickly get back in the rocket and blast off. One of the men comments that they finally have found a lifeform more advanced than man - the planet itself, which was a single organism. He comments on them facing the ultimate insult, having been vomitted up by the planet. This story was written by Harlan Ellison, who wrote the story while in college and submitted it to EC. Ellison went on to become one of the most well known modern science fiction writers. This was his sole story that appeared in an EC comic.