Monday, March 20, 2017

Star Spangled DC War Stories Special 100th Issue!: June/July 1968

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Celebrating Our 100th Issue!

 Our Army at War 194

"A Time for Vengeance!"
Story and Art by Joe Kubert

"Second-Best Means Dead!"
Story by Howard Liss
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: In the early days of the Allied invasion of France, Sgt. Rock is given a special assignment by Army intelligence. The Nazis have developed new buzz-bombs that, if used successfully, could change the course of the war. Rock parachutes in alone, behind enemy lines, and hooks up with the boys of Unit 3 to try to derail the train carrying the bombs as it passes through the village where the boys' families were killed.

Nazi Col. Kaltbludt runs the village now and Rock and Unit 3 engage in Operation Diversion. Rock walks right up to the Colonel's headquarters and fights like a tiger before being taken captive. After being tortured, he tells the Colonel that Unit 3 plans to blow up the Nazi ammunition building. The Nazi forces are diverted there, allowing Unit 3 to derail the train carrying the buzz-bombs. Rock and Unit 3, aided by a group of freed villagers wielding pitchforks, know that it's "A Time for Vengeance!" and wipe out the Nazi presence in the village. Rock bids adieu to Unit 3, suspecting he'll see them again soon.

"A Time for Vengeance!"
Taking over the writing chores from Bob Kanigher, Joe Kubert turns in an exciting story with stunning art on every page. I wonder if the secret agent/spy craze of the mid-1960s is reflected here, since Sgt. Rock is operating solo and acting more like a super-spy than an Army sergeant. The lads of Unit 3 are featured prominently on the cover and the splash page, where they are given individual names, so I expect they will be regular characters for the near future.

Peter: I must say that "A Time for Vengeance" took me by surprise. I was just complaining last issue about little kids with lollipops and machine guns and here Joe Kubert, in his first solo effort, manages to work up the pathos and the excitement. I actually cared about these little crumb crunchers this time out. I must also say that, having seen the "Next Issue" blurb on the final page touting the return of Unit 3 yet again, I'm pretty sure the novelty is going to wear out quickly.

Jack: In Germany in 1913, the great pilot Hans Hesse trained an American named Tom Watkins and a German named Rudy Krauss how to fly biplanes. When war breaks out, Hans becomes a squadron commander and Rudy soon becomes an Ace. As the war continues, Tom also becomes an Ace, and Rudy sends him a message, challenging him to an aerial dogfight. When their planes meet over No-Man's Land, a pitched battle results in a victory for the American, but this is followed by a new challenge: Hesse wants to fight Watkins. Knowing that "Second-Best Means Dead!" Tom takes the challenge, and another dogfight in the air concludes with Tom surviving a crash landing. He does not realize that his skills result in a crash landing for Hesse as well.

"Second-Best Means Dead!"
Jack Abel often rises to the challenge of a good script, and this is a good one. The cliche of friends in peacetime being forced to fight in wartime has been over used, but Liss and Abel make the air battles exciting and the conclusion satisfying.

Peter:"Second-Best Means Dead!" looks like a reprint but it's actually a fairly effective variation on the old "German buddy/American buddy meet on opposite sides of the war" chestnut. I had to look at that final panel a few times before it dawned on me just what had happened. Very "Enemy Ace"-esque.

With the war comics dated June 1968, Robert Kanigher handed over the editorial reins to Joe Kubert. In an interview that appeared in The Comics Journal #172 (Nov. 1994), Kubert explained that, though he didn't think Bob Kanigher's scripts glorified war, his new policy was that he "wanted the readers to understand that (Kubert) wasn’t doing war books for the purpose of glorifying war or killing." Very soon after taking the job, Kubert initiated a policy of running a "Make War No More" logo on every story in the war titles. Joe goes on to explain to interviewer Gary Groth that then-DC publisher and editorial director Carmine Infantino offered the job to Kubert because Kanigher was having a nervous breakdown, ostensibly due to his tremendous workload. Joe would retain the title of editor until 1977.


G.I. Combat 130

"Battle of the Generals!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Landing Postponed!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #49, August 1956)

Peter: After a brutal tank battle ends in a victory for the good guys, General Jeb Stuart pops up to warn his descendant, tank commander Jeb Stuart, that both Jebs will be fighting a battle to the death today and the outcome of both battles is dependent on each other. The General turns and is greeted with the hard steel of Attila the Hun. The two specters clash while, below their feet, Jeb Stuart watches in awe the "Battle of the Generals!" Jeb's lunch break is cut short, however, when the Haunted Tank is attacked from above; a Nazi fighter plane with an Attila emblem strafes the men and then flies away.

The men of the Stuart are given the command by their C.O. that they are to "hold Vecy bridge open at all costs" until their comrades can arrive to cross. The job becomes extra tough when the Attila-tagged plane comes back for more, this time intent on blowing up the bridge as well. The Jeb destroys the buzzard just as the General delivers a nasty sword slash, sending Attila the Hun back to hell. Russ Heath's art makes even the worst of scripts palatable; "Generals" isn't even close to horrible but it could have used a few more pages. As it is, the promised "Battle of the Generals" gets so little coverage, it might have been closer to the truth for Bob to have christened this "The Slight Skirmish of the Generals." It is refreshing, though, that the co-star of the strip gets more than just his requisite two panels and actually participates in the action.

Jack: We've seen Attila's ghost before in this series but it's been a long time. I think the real Attila would've made short work of Jeb Stuart. Peter would know better than I, but can a ghost be killed? If so, where do they go next? The story's not half bad; there are no surprises but it's good to see the ghost get more panel time.

Peter: In the reprint, a young man finds civilian life taxing since he can never seem to get anywhere on time; there's always a delay on his train, plane, or boat. So, it's with great happiness that he joins the war effort in anticipation of getting to his destination in a timely manner. That's not how war works though, is it? And our poor young friend finds that out very quickly. "Landing Postponed!" is a dopey, badly-drawn waste of time that will surely give any reader a headache after its twentieth reminder that this kid is not going to be delayed! And what's with that odd splash page that almost hints at some kind of supernatural or extraterrestrial presence? On the letters page, Joe Kubert introduces himself as new editor (see reprinting far below) and then answers an excited reader's plea to know who writes the Rock stories. "The Sgt. Rock stories has (sic)  been and will continue to be written by Robert Kanigher," writes Joe, the same month that he kicks off writing some of the Rock stories himself!

Jack: These early DC War stories are more straightforward battle tales with less characterization than we'd see develop in the '60s. Andru and Esposito's art is better here than it would be later on, when they got into some bad habits with bulging eyes. There's one particularly nice, large panel of a ship getting torpedoed.

 Star Spangled War Stories 139

"Death Whispers--Death Screams!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

Peter: While involved in an air battle, Hans von Hammer thinks back to his childhood, when his father planted in him the seed that would produce the Enemy Ace! Living in a castle with his father, Hans has become accustomed to a grand life but the elder von Hammer reminds his son that the castle has withstood many invasions, thanks to the "honor" of the von Hammers. Hans begins mastering the art of killing through fencing and firearms, training that will come in handy years later. The Hammer is jolted back into the present by the sight of the French ace, the Hangman, perhaps the only pilot in World War I who could shoot down the infamous Hammer. During the dogfight, Hans's Fokker becomes damaged and he has to crash land, forcing the Enemy Ace to watch as the Hangman heads after one of Hans's new recruits, Ludwig. With his plane in flames and heading Earthward, Ludwig steps out of his cockpit and salutes the man who has just killed him; von Hammer can only watch in horror. The Hangman drops his rival a note, promising to meet with him over Crecy in five days for their inevitable face-off.

Von Hammer heads back to the base, where he tries to relax by heading into the woods to meet up with his lupine companion for a bite to eat, and then travels to the Austrian Alps for a bit of skiing. The rest seems to do him good and, five days later, he keeps his appointment with destiny. The two aces circle each other and the Hammer gets the drop on the Hangman, forcing the Frenchman to land on the river below. The Enemy Ace flies away, promising the two assassins will meet again. On the way back to his Jagdstaffel, von Hammer comes upon a British dirigible out for a bombing run and dives down toward his next kill.

Behind what will probably be my pick for Best Cover of the Year lies what will, no doubt, be my pick for Best Story of the Year (unless the next installment knocks it down a peg). To say that both Kanigher and Kubert are at the top of their games with this series is an understatement. The meetings between the two aces make for compelling, edge-of-your-seat reading. We're fairly certain the Hammer will survive since this series is only just beginning but what of the Frenchman? Hopefully, Joe and Bob keep him hanging around for quite a while.

Art highlights: the atmospheric splash; the two-page dogfight that opens the story; the Hammer's walk to the woods while his men talk behind his back; and perhaps the most gripping image we've ever seen in the DC war comics: Ludwig stepping out of his flaming cockpit, falling calmly to his death, while saluting the Hangman. Absolutely top-notch story-telling. And, to think, just a couple months ago, we were trying to come up with new adjectives to describe the dino-stories. This issue also features the debut of a new "Battle Album" centerfold, presenting the blueprints for the Spad and the Fokker.

Jack: Peter, I agree with you completely. This issue blew me away and will be hard to top for Best of 1968. The splash page reminds me of something Jerry Robinson would have done in a Golden Age Batman, with the giant figure of death holding the Enemy Ace in his hand above a chessboard. The sight of Ludwig falling to his death made me click over to Wikipedia to see if German pilots had parachutes in WWI. It seems they did not, at least not yet and not handy. They weighed too much, took up too much space, and didn't work all that well. This is a GREAT comic book, and it doesn't hurt that one of the house ads shows what I recall was the first comic I ever read!

Our Fighting Forces 113

Story by Howard Liss
Art by Jack Abel

"Tanks Are More Than Steel"
Story by Howard Liss
Art by Jack Sparling

Jack: Once again, the Hellcats are sent behind enemy lines, this time to blow up a Nazi factory where a new secret weapon is being made. The initial plan, which involves swimming through pipes to get inside the factory, fails when an alarm is tripped and Nazi gunmen open fire. The backup plan, to destroy a nearby dam and flood the factory, goes more smoothly. Now the fun begins as the Hellcats will stay behind enemy lines for the duration of the war. Can they survive?

It doesn't seem fair to have to compare these Hellcats stories to the work of Joe Kubert and Russ Heath, who draw between them the other four issues we read this time around. The art is Abel at his worst and the stories all seem the same. At least we don't have any offensive Asian stereotypes.

Is this physically possible?

The soldier's face on
the left expresses our
opinion of this story
("Tanks Are More Than
Peter: Howard Liss introduces an interesting concept, one that might actually make for good reading--someday, but not this issue. The concept of the Hellcats staying behind enemy lines and living off the fat of the land can't help but inject some pizazz but this issue's action is just more of the same. The art is bad Jack Abel (with a lot of panels showing a big fist and a Nazi head flung back at the reader) and the dialogue is atrocious (in particular, Brute's faux-New Yawk accent). I sure miss Pooch.

Jack: Two new tanks roll off the assembly line and are itching for combat; they refer to themselves as Hot Shot and Tin Can. They see action in the North African desert and are ordered to hold a pass near an oasis. Damaged in battle, they make a last stand until their crews decide to scavenge parts from one to get the other moving. Tin Can and its wounded crew are left to fight to the death as Hot Shot rolls off to fight another day. The sentient tanks are awful and Sparling's art is worse. It's hard to believe Howard Liss, who could write some very good stories, could also follow some of Bob Kanigher's worst traits.

Peter: Just when you think it can't get worse, Howard reaches back into the ol' Kanigher bag of tricks and pulls out the "thinking weapon" plot. Toss in a typically sketchy, amateurish Jack Sparling art job and you've got a contender for Worst Overall Story of the Year. Yeccccch!

Our Army at War 195

"Dead Town!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"A Promise to Joe!"
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #97, January 1963)

"Nobody's Friend!"
Story by Howard Liss
Art by Frank Springer

Jack: Sgt. Rock is back with the boys of Unit 3 in occupied France. Henri, one of the boys, is convinced that his pretty cousin Mignon will keep her appointment to be married that day in a country village, but when Rock and the lads get there they find it to be a "Dead Town!" with Nazis hiding in the remnants of the buildings that remain. After defeating the enemy fighters, Rock and Unit 3 locate the wedding party, hiding behind a waterfall in the nearby woods. But wait--the groom was among the young men from the village taken by the Nazis for slave labor! Rock and Unit 3 intercept the Nazi trucks transporting the laborers and, after a quick fight, the groom is rescued and the wedding goes ahead as planned.

"Dead Town!"
This pose recalls the very first Sgt. Rock story,
as he stands in the middle of the road like a wall.
Last issue, it made sense that Rock was dropped behind enemy lines to work with Unit 3 on a specific mission. This time, he just happens to be hanging out with Unit 3, wandering around occupied France. It can't be a continued story from last issue, because we went from snow to nice weather, and Rock said goodbye at the end of the previous adventure. Also, Kanigher wrote this one and Kubert wrote the last one. Perhaps they just liked the idea of Unit 3 and decided they didn't need to explain.

Peter: Though nowhere near as good as last issue's Sgt. Rock/Unit 3 team-up, "Dead Town!" is enjoyable enough, but I'm wondering what the thought process was behind these "Rock and the Little Rocks" installments. "Dead Town!" is certainly lightweight material (Rock and the boys saving a groom and getting him back to the altar before the vows are spoken is about as lightweight as an enlisted mule) and ignores (for the most part) the gritty "War is Hell" message we've come to count on from Bob and Joe. The Unit 3 lads will take a little time off, though, and next issue we'll see one of the most celebrated Rock stories of all time.

"Nobody's Friend!"
Jack: When new recruit Rick Blair arrives in Europe to fight in WWII, he tries to make friends with everybody, but gruff Sgt. Yablecki doesn't have time to be his buddy. Rick's gun jams during a fight and his sergeant is killed; Rick soon becomes jaded and no longer looks to make friends with his fellow soldiers, who are likely to die on him. Promoted to sergeant, he is as gruff as Yablecki until the war ends, when he suddenly reverts to his old, friendly self. It's unusual that the story is better than the art in a DC War comic, but this is one of those times. Blair's puppy dog-like efforts to make friends are ground down over time through bitter experience, but Frank Springer's art just can't keep up with the changing emotions in Liss's script, and the last page is particularly unfortunate.

Peter: I didn't like this one at all, script or art (Springer and Starling are just as bad here as they were over at the DC mystery comics). Liss is getting way too comfortable with the catch phrases that added to Hank Chapman's eventual downfall.

Next Week
We welcome the New Kid on the EC Block!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Caroline Munro Archive: Ace, September 1970

by John Scoleri

Welcome to the latest installment of this semi-regular feature on bare•bones in which I share rarities from my Caroline Munro collection. This time out I'm pleased to offer up a very rare article that appeared in Ace: The Magazine For Men of Distinction. This recent acquisition was the first time I had seen any of these photos, and this may very well be their first appearance online.

Vol. 12 No. 6
September, 1970 

Chastity Belts May Put An End To The Women's Liberation Movement

A Medieval Novelty is Getting A 20th Century Revival
Or—how are you going to stay in business once the door is locked?

Chastity belts, like women used to wear in the 17th century, are getting some sort of fashion revival in England (where the women's lib movement hasn't reached the same frenetic peaks as in the U.S.A.).

Shown on these pages are photos of British actress Carolyn Monro (sic), modeling this modern knock-off of female restraint. And not too incidentally, this check on a woman's freedom was designed by a woman. There must be a moral in that somewhere. The designer, Mrs. Anne Huguessen, an antique shop owner (now that ought to tell you something), claims that she's sold over 1,200 chastity belts.

Now, there's no predicting how far this fad will go. One would think that a free-loving, free-spirited chick isn't going to take being locked in-laying down. Although, after having taken a good hard look at some of the birds in the women's lib. movement, the belt may not be a bad idea—not for their protection, but for the guys'.


But as for you Carolyn (sic), tell us it isn't so!

According to Carolyn's (sic) enterprising publicity men, it is said she likes wearing this uncomfortable device. It is claimed she has given the key to her fiance, who lives in New York. But somewhere, we are told, on reliable authority, there's a duplicate key. 

As you can seen, the belt can be worn stylishly, simply, for fashion or out of necessity (?)

It's difficult to believe the whole idea isn't just a put-on—no pun intended! The idea of anyone taking seriously the idea that Carolyn (sic), or any reasonable substitute, would find her freedom behind a lock and key is totally ridiculous. 

Anyway, there are no bad side effects, and no sign reading that 'Chastity belts may be dangerous to your health.' But, is that living!!!

Stay tuned for more rarities from my Caroline Munro Archive!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Hitchcock Project-James Bridges Part Six: The Cadaver [9.8]

by Jack Seabrook

The title card for "The Cadaver" states that James Bridges wrote the teleplay based on a story by Robert Arthur. The TV show was scheduled to air on CBS on Friday, November 22, 1963, as the first episode written by Bridges to be broadcast in the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, but the assassination of President Kennedy earlier that day meant that all scheduled programs were pre-empted and the episode did not air until January 17, 1964.

The short story on which it is based is "The Morning After" by Andrew West, first published in the February 1964 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. According to the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Andrew West was a pseudonym for Robert Arthur, who registered the copyright with a publication date of December 1, 1963. It seems likely that Arthur wrote the story and sold it both to the producers of the TV show and the magazine editor at the same time, since the magazine came out right after the TV show was supposed to air.

"The Morning After" begins as Paul Baxter, a student at a Midwestern law school, awakens one June morning in his two-room apartment, having gotten drunk the night before while celebrating graduation. Engaged to beautiful Susan Davenport and set to go to work at her father's Chicago law firm, he worries that his fall off the wagon will hurt his prospects, since he has been sober for an entire year. His friends Bert and Steve tried to stop him, but to no avail, and he recalls little of the night before; he slept till noon and has a lunch date with Susan and her father at 12:30. Getting up from the couch where he spent the night, he observes the figure of a blond woman lying in his bed, but when he tries to wake her he discovers that she is dead and that the marks on her throat show that she was strangled.

Paul assumes he brought her home while he was drunk and killed her in a rage; he thinks of how this will ruin his plans to marry well and become a successful lawyer. Bert and Steve knock at his door but he does not respond, so they leave to catch a plane to the Coast. Deciding that he has no choice but to find a way to dispose of the body, Paul realizes that this will prove difficult, since the campus is crowded with students and their families visiting for graduation. Old Annie, the maid, comes in to clean his rooms but he convinces her to give him more time by telling her that a friend is asleep in his bedroom. Frantic for a way to get rid of the corpse, he spies the dumbwaiter that leads to the basement garage where his car is parked.

Michael Parks as Baxter
After buying himself some time when Susan telephones, Paul stuffs the body into the dumbwaiter and leaves his room, running into his neighbor Ruppert but ignoring the young man who wants to tell him something. Paul rushes to the basement and manages to distract Charlie, the janitor, from bringing down the dumbwaiter by telling him that there is half a bottle of booze waiting for him upstairs. Alone in the basement, Paul removes the body and crosses the room to a door that leads to a series of maintenance tunnels running beneath the campus. He carries the body uneasily through the dimly-lit, cramped tunnels, finally emerging in the basement of the medical school building, where he intends to dispose of it among others in a large vat of preservative, but he is caught by Jensen, another janitor, who tells him that the body is Number 87, a strangling victim just brought in from the County Morgue. Jensen tells him that it's "One of the oldest jokes in medical school--to plant a cadaver on someone!" and Paul collapses to the floor in laughter.

Ten years later, it is 1964 and Paul meets up with Bert and Steve at a school reunion. They admit having planted the corpse in order to try to scare him out of ever taking another drink. Shocked to learn that his best friends were behind the prank, Paul attacks them, "screaming with laughter," before men from an ambulance come and take him back to the asylum--a nurse explains that he has been confined there for ten years and slipped away while on an outing.

Joby Baker as Doc Carroll
"The Morning After" is an effective story of a practical joke gone wrong. Paul is a problem drinker who has turned his life around, but when his carefully constructed new world is threatened, he makes the wrong choice and tries to cover up what he thinks is his own crime. He is caught and his mind snaps when he learns that it was a prank. His efforts to dispose of the body are suspenseful and the ending is a real surprise.

In adapting Robert Arthur's story for television, James Bridges took bits and pieces of the source and used them to craft an outstanding script that changes the focus of the original and expands it, completely reworking the ending and hitting on themes that had been touched upon in prior episodes of the Hitchcock TV series.

The show opens in an anatomy class at a college, where the lecture is disrupted when a cadaver covered by a sheet suddenly sits up and is revealed to be practical joking student Doc Carroll, who corresponds to Bert and Steve in the short story. In the Bridges version, the students are in college rather than law school, and much is made of the fact that Doc, the prankster, is a brilliant student with a love for playing jokes that threatens to endanger his academic career.

In a residence hall late that night, Doc's studying is interrupted by the arrival of Skip Baxter, his roommate (who corresponds to the story's Paul Baxter, who lived alone); Baxter is drunk once again and determined to throw his girlfriend Barbara in the shower. Skip is a chronic drunkard, unlike Paul in the story, who has been on the wagon for a year, and Skip is comfortable with violent acts toward women and men--he holds Barbara under the shower and attacks Doc when he pulls Skip off of her. Right from the start, Skip is shown to be out of control.

Martin Blaine as the professor
The next morning, Doc is up early grading papers and we see that he tied Skip to the bed the night before. Skip, hung over, jokingly asks: "I didn't kill anybody, did I?" The next scene is at the annual Halloween Carnival, where Skip tries to break the record for drinking the most beers in a single sitting. He has barely escaped being expelled from school but the experience did not change his self-destructive behavior. The carnival is held at a tavern, where there is a waitress named Ruby with platinum blond hair. Doc sees a fellow male student in drag wearing a platinum blond wig and has an idea: if Skip is made to think that he killed someone during an alcoholic blackout, the shock might be enough to make him quit drinking. Skip comments that he has a date with Ruby, the waitress, after she gets off from work. Late that night, Doc visits the morgue.

The next morning, Skip awakens with another hangover and sees a woman in his bed; actually, all he sees is the platinum blond hair covering the back of her head. Doc tells him that it is Ruby the waitress and she is dead. As usual, Skip recalls nothing and Doc tells his roommate that he found her that way in Skip's bed that morning, strangled. This marks a significant departure from Robert Arthur's story, where Skip lived alone and discovered the body himself. His friends tried to tell him it was a joke but the message was never delivered. In the TV version, Doc purposely lies to Skip, whose reaction is understandable.

Skip leaves his room with the body in the rug
Doc goes to class, promising to return in a half hour and telling Skip not to look at the corpse; again, Doc goes beyond a simple prank by encouraging Skip to believe that he committed murder. Outside Skip's room, in the hallway, Doc and another student share quiet laughter, demonstrating Doc's cruelty. The TV show begins to follow the story as Skip is left to wait alone in his room with the corpse when Doc is delayed in getting back from class. There are a couple of close calls: first, two students come to do a room check (replacing the Irish maid in the short story) and Skip puts them off; next, a student athlete named Ed Blair enters Skip's room to tell him that his place on the school football team is in jeopardy due to his having missed so many classes due to his drinking. Skip has hidden the body in a closet and we see it reflected in a mirror on the back of the closet door when Ed opens it. Throughout this scene, there is cutting back and forth between the events in and around Skip's room and the class where Doc is helping out; suspense builds as it becomes clear that Doc cannot return in time to help his roommate.

After the class is done, the professor discovers that a corpse is missing from the morgue, and Doc admits having removed the body. This is a departure from the short story, where no such thing occurs. The professor, taking the place of the medical school janitor in the story, tells Doc that this is an old prank and orders him to have the body back in its drawer by the next morning. Meanwhile, Skip has wrapped the body in a rug and carries it out in full view of other students, explaining that he is taking the rug to be cleaned. Gone is the entire episode with the dumbwaiter and gone is the fear Paul feels in the short story about how he will get the corpse out of his room. Skip does not go to the basement and carry the cadaver through the maze of underground tunnels in order to return it to the morgue. Instead, Bridges takes the show in a completely new direction.

Ruth McDeVitt as Mrs. Fister
Doc returns to the residence hall and finds Skip gone. That evening, we see Skip driving through town in his convertible, the rug sticking out of the car's back seat. An old woman wheels her garbage can down her driveway to the curb and loses control of it; it rolls into the street, where Skips car bumps into it. Skip meets Mrs. Fister, a chatty woman who is happy to carry the conversation for both of them, since Skip is nearly silent. She mentions that a new law requires that all garbage be wrapped and Skip is initially agitated by her chatter, but when she offers him a drink he agrees to follow her into her house. "I'm 67 years old," she tells him, "my intentions are honorable." Mrs. Fister is a charming character, which makes what happens later all the more horrible. One should note that Doc's attempt to cure Skip's alcoholism by making him think that he committed murder is a failure, as Skip jumps at the first chance he gets to resume drinking.

Skip pulls his car into Mrs. Fister's garage and we see her late husband's work bench, where she demonstrates a circular saw that he used to use in the evenings to do wood work. She mentions how they used to be able to burn garbage and we can see Skip's mind working on a way to dispose of the body. He barely speaks while she chatters on and on. Mrs. Fister calls her neighbor to remind her to wrap and put out her trash and she remarks that it will all be thrown into a truck and ground to a pulp, meaning that it will disappear before anyone is awake the next morning. The camera zooms in on Skip's face as he continues to formulate his plan. In a nice piece of editing, he begins to turn his head and there is a cut to the tavern, where Ruby's head completes the turn. We are reminded that, while Skip thinks she is dead, she is very much alive. There is more cutting back and forth between the tavern, where Doc has gone to look for Skip, and Mrs. Fister's house, where Skip is drinking his host under the table. Before she passes out, she again mentions her husband's saw and the importance of wrapping the garbage.

Skip prepares to cut up the body
Once Mrs. Fister is asleep, Skip goes out to her garage, where he lifts the rug onto the work bench. There is a cut back to Mrs. Fister, who wakes up, goes over to the couch and lies down to sleep. Back in the garage, Skip selects a large circular saw blade and lays down some newspaper. Back on the couch, Mrs. Fister hears the saw start to whine and smiles, recalling her late husband. The screen goes dark and we are left to imagine what happens next in the garage. Early the next morning, Skip stands by the window watching as the garbage truck collects the evidence of his supposed crime. The job done, he shuts his eyes in relief. Later, Mrs. Fister has fixed them both a big breakfast, but Skip refuses to eat and leaves for class, prompting anger from Mrs. Fister, who comments that "You men are all alike--inconsiderate, vicious, cutting . . ." (a great pun). She says that they "trample on other people's feelings . . . crush the beautiful"; this is great writing, as her verbal attack on men unknowingly reveals the truth about what Skip has done in her garage.

Back at school, Skip is in the locker room, where he watches each piece of his football equipment being cataloged and tossed in a bucket. Very quickly, we realize that this parallels his own acts of the night before, where he took the pieces of the body and tossed them in the garbage can. The last piece of equipment is the helmet, and when it falls on the floor Skip jumps, recalling the cadaver's severed head. Skip refuses to pick up the helmet, even though Ed tells him "It won't bite." What superb work by James Bridges to come up with these scenes, which are completely new to the story!

Doc has taken the place of the cadaver
The conclusion of the show occurs when Skip returns to the tavern and is shocked to see Ruby alive. The ordeal he has been through was for naught and, when Doc comes in and admits the prank, Skip tells him that he never looked at the woman's face, "not even in the garage." He promises to take Doc to see the body and leads him out of the tavern by the hand. The show's final scene is a classic: the anatomy class is in the morgue and, when the drawer is opened where the woman's cadaver should be, it has been replaced by the dead body of Doc, whom Skip has killed. Unlike the story, where Paul returns ten years later and is shown to be insane before he can do any harm, Bridges has Skip kill Doc in revenge for the prank. The professor asks "Why?" and there is a cut to a skeleton hanging on the other side of the room. We hear Skip laughing and see him standing behind a pillar, clearly insane.

"The Cadaver" features an outstanding script that benefits from the usual careful attention to structure by James Bridges. Alf Kjellin's direction is quite good and the performances are entertaining, especially that of Ruth McDeVitt as Mrs. Fister. The theme of cutting up a body recalls other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents such as "Bad Actor," "The Hatbox," and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Jennifer West as Ruby
Robert Arthur (1909-1969), who wrote the short story, was born in the Philippines, where his father was stationed in the Army. He earned an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Michigan before moving to New York City in the early 1930s and becoming a prolific writer of short stories. He later was an editor at Dell and Fawcett, but is best known as the ghost editor of many of the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. He also wrote a beloved series of books about Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators for young adult readers. In 1959, he moved to Hollywood to write for television and edit screenplays. Before that, he won two Edgar Awards as a writer for radio. Many of his stories were adapted for TV; three episodes of the Hitchcock series were based on his stories and he wrote one additional teleplay himself. There is a website devoted to him here.

Alf Kjellin (1920-1988), the director of "The Cadaver," directed twelve episodes of the Hitchcock series; the last one discussed here was "A Tangled Web."

Starring as Skip Baxter is Michael Parks (1940- ), whose career onscreen began in 1960 and continues today. He starred in the TV series Then Came Bronson (1969-1970) and also had a singing career. He played Jean Renault on Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and later was in both parts of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (2003-2004). There is a website devoted to his career here.

Don Marshall
Ruth McDeVitt (1895-1976) is wonderful as Mrs. Fister. Born Ruth Shoecraft in Michigan, she was on Broadway and radio before her screen career began in 1949. She was active until 1974, with a role in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), two appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and a regular role on Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975). I have never seen her in a role where she was less than delightful.

Playing the doomed prankster, Doc Carroll, is Joby Baker (1934- ), who was born in Montreal and had a career on TV and in film from 1952 to 1978. He was on the Hitchcock show four times, including "The Right Kind of Medicine" and "Madame Mystery," and later had a career as a painter, as shown by his website here.

The working class sexpot waitress Ruby is played by Jennifer West
(1939- ), who played a similar role (with short shorts) in "The Star Juror." She was on screen from 1958 to 1970 and later wrote a memoir called Thora Ann. She now travels and performs with her husband, as is shown here.

The professor is played by Martin Blaine (1913-1989), who had a career on screen from 1958 to 1973 but not many credits. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

Rafer Johnson
"The Cadaver" also features two African-American actors of note. Don Marshall (1936-2016) plays Tom Jackson, who comes to check Skip's room. Marshall had a long career on screen, from 1962 to 1992, and was seen in three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, including "Isabel." He was also on Star Trek but is best known for his role on Land of the Giants (1968-1970) as one of the marooned crew.

Finally, Rafer Johnson (1935- ) plays Ed Blair, the team manager on Skip's football team. An athlete turned actor, he won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 and was one of three men who tackled Sirhan Sirhan after he shot Robert Kennedy in 1968. Johnson was only on the Hitchcock show once but had a career on screen from 1960 to 1989.

"The Cadaver" is not yet available on DVD or online.

Thanks to Peter Enfantino for helping to find this elusive story and for providing a copy to read.

ADDENDUM: After this article posted, a comment from someone identified as "Blakeney" revealed that the short story was based on a radio play from 1949. Robert Arthur and David Kogan were the directors and producers of Murder By Experts, a radio series that premiered June 13, 1949. The first episode, "Summer Heat," is almost identical to the short story titled "The Morning After." The story is credited to Andrew Evans and the radio play is credited to Arthur and Kogan. I think it very likely that Andrew Evans is another pseudonym for Arthur, who later copyrighted the story under his own name.

The radio story differs from the published short story in a few ways. It begins at the ten-year reunion, then mostly occurs in flashback before returning to the reunion at the end. Rather than finding a dead woman in his bed, Paul finds a dead man in his bed, and in the man's chest is Paul's hunting knife. Instead of carrying the body through tunnels, he puts it in the back seat of his car and covers it with a blanket. He has a couple of close calls with a policeman and a gas station attendant before returning and meeting the janitor at the morgue. I have not been able to find any evidence of publication prior to 1949, so it seems likely that Arthur took his old radio play and dusted it off for TV in 1963. The title refers to the heat that Baxter must endure as he drives around with the corpse. Coincidentally, Alfred Hitchcock became the host of Murder By Experts toward the end of its run in 1951.

Many thanks to "Blakeney" for this tip. If you would like to be credited by name, please let me know. Listen to the radio show here.

Arthur, Elizabeth. "Robert Arthur, Jr. Bio." Robert Arthur, Jr. Bio. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
"The Cadaver." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 17 Jan. 1964. Television.
Catalogue of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1965: July-December. Vol. 19. Washington, DC: Copyright Office, Library of Congress, 1968. Print.
"The FictionMags Index." The FictionMags Index. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
West, Andrew. "The Morning After." Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine February (1964): 31-50. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

In two weeks: "Murder Case," starring John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands!

Monday, March 13, 2017

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Part 27: October 1952

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
                   27: October, 1952

Frontline Combat #8

"Thunderjet!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Alex Toth

"Caesar!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Wally Wood

"Chickamauga!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

"Night Patrol!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by John Severin and Will Elder

Stan is one of five American soldiers stationed in South Korea who is left to man the “Night Patrol!” The rest of their squad departs into the wet, rainy night with wishes of good luck, and Stan morosely considers that some of their number probably require it more than others. The job they are tasked with seems relatively easy: watch out for North Korean troops and report back if any are found in the vicinity. But the thick, damp darkness that ensnares the group on all sides makes it nearly impossible for the soldiers to see two feet in front of their faces, let alone their entire surroundings. Stan’s depression gets the better of him as they squelch forth in the mud, convinced that this will be the night that he dies. The sergeant halts the procession at the sound of others up ahead, taking young Junior with him to investigate while the other three hang back. They return shortly, confirming the presence of a whole company of the enemy hunkering down next to a burial slope, when suddenly the Americans hear someone muttering in Korean closely behind. Realizing they’ve been followed, the night patrol scatters and ducks for cover as bullets whiz through the downpour. Fear begins to eat at Stan’s heart as he realizes the sergeant and Junior aren’t with them, but the Yankees gain the upper hand when they see the gathered silhouettes of the Koreans and then lay waste to them. The boys run back to base and are happily received by their comrades. The next morning Stan awakens to see their squad heading in the direction of the burial slope to “wipe out” the Korean company. He muses that the countryside would look serene and peaceful if it weren’t for the sight of the army. One of Stan’s comrades suggests mailing headquarters to find out if the sergeant and Junior were received elsewhere, but Stan thinks it unlikely. As he grimly intones, “We… we didn’t even get to know their last names!”

"Night Patrol!"
“Night Patrol!” is one of the more harmonious collaborations between John Severin and Will Elder in the pages of EC Comics, a powerful story served greatly by understatement with dynamic, crackling art and exceptional coloring of deep and washed-out blues by Mrs. Severin herself that places you right in that soaking paddy field next to our huddling heroes. Kurtzman’s ever-handy moral compass guides the piece on a much more subtle level than is the author’s norm. Stan’s thoughts are fatalistic but scattershot; we can’t quite get a line on just what the “point” of his grim musings are outside the fact that he’s scared of dying, which is more than enough to work with, but typically Kurtzman’s procedure has been to “set us up” for the delivery of a spiritual lesson at the tale’s conclusion that acts as a “punchline” to the events that preceded it. Here, Stan’s assessment of the Korean landscape’s beauty and the ominous presence of the troops in the last few panels feels much more natural and off-the-cuff. The story isn’t about the incongruity of nature and war, yet the final send-off feels apiece with what came before. The story’s last lines are just as delicately wrought. You can hear the stunned silence that follows them and know intrinsically exactly what Stan means. Kurtzman doesn’t even add a “The End” caption to it, as if to do so would be to desecrate all the unspoken emotions stirred up by Stan’s simple response.

As the opening lines to “Thunderjet!” tell us, this story is based on an actual Air Force mission from the Korean war that has hewed as closely to the facts as is possible. This comes through most strongly in the depiction of the verbal exchanges between Capt. Wood Paladino, our second-person protagonist, and the rest of his mates, as they take to the skies first to destroy a hung-up train and then to bat off the fleet of “MiGs” that come soaring after them. As is the norm with “air battle” stories, “Thunderjet!” is mighty lean on plot but heavy on aviary action that, even when rendered with the masterful pen of Alex Toth, can’t help but strike me only as intermittently entertaining. That being said, there are more than a fair number of excellent panels here, my favorites being all the cockpit shots with steely-eyed Paladino squinting and grimacing through his face mask. Even if this strain of war story isn’t your bag, you can’t deny the mighty, mighty powers of Messr. Toth!

Jack shows Jose what happened to the last guy
who said "no" to participating in an EC Comics marathon.
Also in this issue: not one but two history courses courtesy of Dr. Kurtzman. The first, “Caesar!,” reads like a loving profile of Roman warfare and the might of the emperor before the latter’s collapse at the bloodied blades of his conspirators. This is another entry very light on narrative intrigue, detailing Caesar’s wrath upon two factions of German and French tribes who didn’t accede to his will after the third date and thus invited holy destruction upon their people and cities. The first affair gives us a good idea of the emperor’s vicious thoroughness—one soldier wearily complains at one point of his arm growing tired after helping to chop literally every man, woman, and child in half—while the second battle outlines Caesar’s cold cleverness as his foot soldiers barrage the French castle stronghold with a volley of arrows, stones, and flaming pots while simultaneously draining their water supply. And to think we eat a salad named after this guy! The story’s only misstep is a shoehorned conclusion that has Caius and Marcus commenting on the civility of Rome as they ingloriously stuff their faces with meat. Like Toth’s before it, Wally Wood’s art is the saving grace of a middling tale.

We cried "More, more, more!"
“Chickamauga!” fares better, but only by a thin margin. Jack Davis makes for a natural fit in illustrating the battlefields of the Civil War—one wonders what he could’ve done with an adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage—and this six-pager features some primo shots of the artist’s prototypically grizzled bastards with corn cob pipes stuck in gritted teeth and moon-eyed Southerners letting rip with hearty rebel yells. Like some other stories before it, “Chickamauga!” outlines the series of seemingly small mishaps and miscommunications that led to the veritable slaughter of that battle’s losing side. Here, it’s the preemptive pulling-out of a few key Union divisions that leave the Northern army’s ranks wide open for a Confederate reception. Our key point of sympathy is a young Union buck whom we don’t learn much about other than gleaning that, in spite of his apparent fear, the youth remains resolute in holding his ground until the final minute. This minute comes all too swiftly and shockingly as a Southern general leading his troops through the gap in the Union formation makes the youth his first victim with a clear cut to his skull with the point of a saber. It’s an offsetting moment that Kurtzman brings us back to in the last panel as we contemplate the boy’s body bleeding out in the dust. Or as it’s known in the context of EC’s war titles, the usual. --Jose

Peter: It's a doggone crying shame that Harvey Kurtzman was only able to enlist the talents of Alexander Toth three times in the EC era (the first was "Dying City" back in Two-Fisted #22) as Toth has an undeniable command of his craft and I would have loved to see more of that craft on display around here. Not that the other artists are anything to dismiss (no Jack Kamen or Sid Check around these parts), but Toth's was a style you could spot a mile away; a style so keenly synced with the war story. And, holy moley, take a look at that final panel (right) and wonder no more where Howard Chaykin got his inspiration from. "Caesar!" is one of the better history lessons but that may be due to my lack of knowledge. (I, um, was sick that month my high school teacher taught Roman history.) The only fault I can find is that some of Wally's panels are so packed, it becomes hard to focus on what's going on. I found "Chickamauga!" to be a chore, especially with that annoying Southern dialect, but the panel where our young hero gets a sabre in the skull is pretty brutal. "Night Patrol" gets a high star rating from me for its thick tension and the Severin/Elder art which never fails to put across to us that these are really just a bunch of kids out there giving up their lives.

Jack: I was thrilled to see Alex Toth added to the EC stable of artists and disappointed when I read Peter's comment and learned that he only drew three stories. His work on "Thunderjet!" is gorgeous and he and Kurtzman succeed in conveying a sense of the great speed at which these air battles happened and the short reaction time allotted to the pilots. I am a student of Roman history and I also enjoyed "Caesar!" although the moralistic ending seemed forced. I was looking for a glimpse of Asterix and Obelix in the panels where the Romans occupied Gaul but to no avail.

After the panel in "Kamen's Kalamity!" where Jack Davis is portrayed with a southern drawl and a Confederate cap, stories like "Chickamauga!" have new resonance, though where Davis's own sympathies lie is never clear. Best of the issue for me is "Night Patrol!" where the colorist may be the star, using blue and black to show night action and then bursting into full color when the sun comes up. Like so many Kurtzman tales, this shows the utter confusion that reigns during battle. Overall, a satisfying issue with stunning art from start to finish.

Weird Science #15

"The Martians!" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Al Williamson

Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"Bum Steer!" ★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

Melvin Sputterly is a confirmed bachelor who has devoted his life to science but yearns for the warm touch of a female companion. This Melvin dreams of frequently throughout the day, even entertaining a romantic thought or two about his downstairs, old-maid neighbor, Miss Winkleman. The good lady comes up one day to give Melvin a package left by the mailman, but to Melvin’s supreme shock the parcel is actually addressed to a “Melville Slutterly” (!) and carries a postmark dated June 6, 2952. Great cats! Melvin’s received a delivery from the future! The nerd is too flabbergasted to figure out the space-time continuum mechanics of this snafu, especially after he discovers that the package is a “De Lux Personal Harem Kit.” Fitted like a box of sexy Whitman’s Samplers, the kit contains the dehydrated remains of five fabulous ladies just waiting for the right pinch of salt and water to be brought to a life fully dedicated to romancing the first man they lay their eyes on. Melvin’s mother raised no fool; he’s locked himself in the bathroom with his powdered courtesans faster than you can say “Zowie!” The futuristic measurements are a little tough to decipher, but Melvin thinks he’s got a good handle on it. Except the first skimpily-clad babe comes out weighing 700 pounds. Too much water! Thankfully, the kit has come equipped with a dissolving solution that when imbibed painlessly reduces the pulchritudinous lass into human soup. The next woman Melvin conjures resembles a walking skeleton. Not enough water! Confusion over the correct amount of salt results in the next courtesan being as tall as Melvin’s knee and the one after towering over him at 12 feet. With only one powdered lady left, Melvin nails down the formula but is suddenly interrupted by the building’s superintendent and Miss Winkleman, who has complained of the melted dames leaking through her ceiling. The gorgeous, busty blonde that rises from Melvin’s tub gets one look at the elderly superintendent and walks off arm-in-arm with him, leaving a weeping Melvin to the lascivious attentions of Miss Winkleman.

Chunk-a, chunk-a burning love.
It seems evident that, by this point, Feldstein had taken note of Jack Kamen’s suitableness in the more tongue-in-cheek vein of SF tales that populated Weird Fantasy and Weird Science. Kamen, whose beautiful women and overall nicey-nice aesthetic seemed so dull and lifeless in straight dramas that came off as misfired soap operas, is perfectly at home in these screwball and oh-so-risqué parfaits. His shapely dames and helpless nebbishes are made to be part of the joke and, for the most part, stories like “Miscalculation!” succeed on multiple fronts. I can only think what a charge this one must have given pubescent boys who came in expecting material more in line with Wally Wood’s laser guns and dinosaurs from the front cover. You can detect the influence that stories in the camp of “Miscalculation!” had on John Hughes when he made Weird Science 33 years later, the SF teen sex comedy that paid homage to EC’s title and featured two anatomy-minded students constructing their very own 1980s version of a Jack Kamen hottie.

But the question we must all ask ourselves is
who are the *real* monsters here?
("The Martians!")
The first two stories in this issue are both only occasionally interesting but have ace art to draw the eye. “The Martians!” follows a team of four space explorers as they make the virgin voyage to the angry red planet. Marveling at the dried canals and signs of vegetation, their hope that intelligent life forms exist is snubbed when a search of Mars comes up empty-handed. What they do find are some old ruins half-buried in the scarlet sands that they eagerly break into and enter. They stumble into an odd laboratory of sorts with cylindrical gramophone-type recordings, metal-paged books, and a room housing the frozen figures of a humanoid adventurer dueling with a horrible, tentacled creature. After performing some very boring investigations, the team’s leader concludes that they are in a Martian film studio where a scene from the SF epic The Invasion from the Third Planet reveals that the native Martians viewed the "normal-looking" Earthlings as disgusting monstrosities. Yes, thought-provoking. The limited scene changes mean that Wood is confined mostly to indoors this time out, and the story desperately limps towards a conclusion that packs all the punch of a deflated whoopee cushion. Skippable.

Aliens! Dinosaurs! Everything else is irrelevant!
In “Captivity,” two mineralogists are taking radiation readings in the Grand Canyon when suddenly they are transported back in time to the age of dinosaurs. Chalk that up to the “freak combination of magnetic force fields and radioactivity.” Or don’t, and see if anyone cares. Our heroes only have a short time to take in the wonder of a prehistoric era-Grand Canyon before they’re being chased by a snappy Tyrannosaurus Rex. Fortunately, a Triceratops stops by to engage his “natural enemy” in mortal combat so that the boys can slip out. Traveling to the cliffs of the canyon, our heroes look on, astounded, at the canyon’s oddly smooth and sheer walls when rocket ships suddenly touch down in the distance. All the dinosaurs in the land happily line up at the ships as the alien zookeeper shows off the animals at “feeding time.” The menu specials? Neanderthal men and women, naturally!

Confused? Indifferent? Like the cause of time travel, it really doesn’t matter. “Captivity” serves as a great excuse to let Al Williamson go buck wild and fill his panels with all manner of reptiles great and small, which he does, all too happily. Definitely one of those stories where you can block out all the text and just enjoy it for the pretty pictures.

Things pick up a bit in the end with Joe Orlando’s reliably trippy (albeit predictable) assignment, “Bum Steer!” A cowboy putting his feet up by the campfire after a day of ranching gets literally picked up a horrific, equine monstrosity one night and dumped into the bowels of a spaceship. There are a number of gentlemen in there, all as clueless regarding their presence as the cowboy. One of the aliens enters and explains that all of them have been selected for an all-expenses-paid voyage to the aliens’ home, wherein they will be fed only the most delicious delicacies and relax in splendid luxury. Fat chance, says the cowboy, who smells a catch stronger than a stepped-in cow pie. The men are indeed fed (and fed and fed) to the point of chubbiness, and just when they’re wondering when the trip is going to pay off a buxom, stunning Earth woman joins the group with promises of a whole harem full of expectant ladies waiting for them in the next room. But the cowboy, you see, knows this setup all too well: years of watching steer being led to their bloody deaths in the slaughterhouse by a decoy steer has clued him into the aliens’ game plan. The other men poo-poo his paranoia and eagerly lumber into the next room, where the aliens wait with their braining mallets and their throat-cutting knives.

They Shoot Humans, Don't They?
("Bum Steer!")

As my esteemed colleagues point out below, anyone who’s seen the “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone (and if you’re reading bare•bones e-zine, that’s probably a foregone conclusion) will know the climax to “Bum Steer!” well in advance. Even for all that, Joe Orlando’s freaky Minotaur mutants are a real sight to behold, with their skeletal faces, perfectly coiffed manes, and burred scorpion tails. And although we realize what awaits for our fatted-up bovine on the other side of the curtain, it’s a special accomplishment on Orlando’s part that he manages to make the scene feel like a hellish abattoir without showing a drop of blood. --Jose

Jack: As usual with the science fiction comics, the art far surpasses the stories in this issue. Wally Wood's work on "The Martians!" is superb and having Florence grace most panels is a huge bonus; the story seemed unpredictable for much of its length but the ending was a letdown. Williamson's faces are a bit rough in "Captivity" and the twist ending, where the Grand Canyon of long ago is revealed to be a zoo, has been done to death but perhaps was not so tired in 1952. I really enjoyed Kamen's story and thought his art was a perfect fit for the humorous tone--I laughed out loud when the first harem girl popped up. "Bum Steer!" was a chore to read, since I got a "To Serve Man" vibe right away and it never left me.

Peter: "Bum Steer" would have been a good sub-title for this issue as none of the stories included were stellar. Sure, we get the requisite glorious Wally on "The Martians!," but the story just kind of limps along until it reaches its anti-conclusion. "Captivity" is a really dumb story with fabulous art (I know, I know, just give me Williamson dinosaurs and screw the script, right?); we're never really told if it was the "freak combination of magnetic force fields and radioactivity" that transported Hank and Lou to the zoo or whether they were beamed up by the aliens. A galactic zoo? Wow, that one's been used almost as much as the fattening up of the humans in "Bum Steer!" Al spills the beans on what's going on halfway through the story and then expects us to recoil in shock when Joe Orlando shows us the results. I'd say it was a foregone conclusion, wouldn't you? "Miscalculation!" is like a long, elaborate joke told in a bar; not a very good joke at that. Are those quadruplets on the splash (left) you ask? Nope, just a Kamen stencil.

The Haunt of Fear #15

"Chatter-Boxed!" ★ 1/2
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Graham Ingels

"All Washed Up!" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by George Evans

"Marriage Vows!" ★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"Death of Some Salesmen!" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Davis

One day in November 1941, Jacob Filburt keels over dead on the sidewalk. It takes a while for the morgue to get through to his wife on the telephone, since she likes to chat at length with her friend. At Jacob's funeral, he suddenly sits up in his coffin and shocks everyone in attendance. His doctor tells him that he had a cataleptic fit that mimicked death, so Jacob decides to give specific instructions to the funeral director to prevent his being buried alive the next time he has a fit. Soon, he appears to be killed in a car crash and, when he is buried, his wishes are followed: he is not embalmed and he is buried with a telephone that is connected to the outside world. Sure enough, he wakes up in his coffin underground, but can't get through to anyone because they're all talking on the telephone. He tries to call the operator but finds that all the circuits are busy. He suffocates and dies, not knowing that the telephone lines were jammed because the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.

The best panel in the story!
When a story like "Chatter-Boxed!" starts in November 1941, you just know the war is going to figure into it in some way. The story is predictable up until the final twist, which is not really worth the trouble. Ghastly's art is always steady but there is nothing here that stands out--I've noticed a pattern with his stories where the initial, large panel is sometimes the most impressive.

Marcia tells Harry he's "All Washed Up!" because he hasn't proposed to her. She agrees instead to marry wealthy Gregg Sanders, so Harry kills Gregg by bashing his head in with a rock. Harry picks up the expensive diamond ring that Gregg dropped and puts it in his shirt pocket. When he pushes Gregg's body over the side of a deep well, the ring falls out of Harry's pocket and follows the corpse to the bottom far below. In the months that follow, Harry tries night after night to fish it out but finally has to get a rope and climb down. Marcia hears screams and rushes to the well, where Harry begs her to pull him out, since Gregg's corpse is pulling him under the water. The rope breaks and Harry falls to his doom, destined to spend eternity at the bottom of the well, decaying with Gregg.

How Peter got Jose to do this blog.
("All Washed Up!")
We haven't seen much of George Evans's art so far, but his work on this goofy tale is not half bad, especially the gruesome/hilarious panel reproduced here. It's not clear why Harry feels the need to fish the ring out of the well, but I can say I would not go down there if the rotting corpse of a man I murdered was also down there, ring or no ring.

King Kindheart's daughter, Princess Buttercup, wants to marry Prince Dashing, but her dad is broke, so he has to borrow money from King Blackheart, who insists on getting Princess Buttercup's hand in marriage if he'll agree to the loan. The big day arrives and King Blackheart is shocked to see that "Marriage Vows!" are to be exchanged between the Princess and the Prince and all King Blackheart gets is what he asked for--her severed hand on a pillow.

Jack Kamen has his talents and, lately, it seems the editors have decided he is most useful in illustrating humorous stories. This one is just okay. It goes on way too long and the payoff--which is not really one I saw coming--should have been a lot more gory to be included in a horror comic.

Why we put up with Jack Kamen.
("Marriage Vows!")

"Death of Some Salesmen!"
Traveling salesman Stuart Thatcher is driving through a remote area on a rainy night when his car gets stuck in the mud. Hiking to a nearby farmhouse, he meets Eban and Henrietta, an old couple with a shotgun who show him what they did to cause the "Death of Some Salesmen!" who visited their house. The freezer salesman's corpse is in the freezer, the oven salesman's corpse is in the oven, and so on. Eban goes out to Stuart's car and brings in a sample of his wares--a "handy-dandy meat slicer"! To quote Stuart: "choke . . ."

Jack Davis rescues this issue from mediocrity with a home run of a story, featuring a tasty selection of things I love: a traveling salesman, a remote area, a creepy old couple, clever twists, gruesome deaths, and a horrible end promised right after the last panel. Now THIS is what I signed up for! --Jack

More fun from Jack Davis.
("Death of Some Salesmen!")
Peter: Even though it rates an eleven out of ten on the ludicrosity meter, I had a lot of fun with "Death of Some Salesman." Al dispenses with the "suspense" and tells us what's going on very quickly so that it's only a matter of working that punchline. My only thought was that Thatcher dodged a bullet by hawking meat-slicers and not marital aids. "Chatter-Boxed!" is the latest pilfering of a classic but it's harmless enough. One question, though: why wasn't Jacob embalmed the first time? "All Washed Up!" has a great build-up but then peters out in the finale. The story is secondary to the gorgeous art, though; this is the first George Evans work for EC. Evans will quickly ascend to the first-tier horror level currently occupied by Ghastly and Davis. In her opening monologue for "Marriage Vows!," The Old Witch explains that a story in Vault of Horror #16, "a story I called 'A Grim Fairy Tale'," went over so well the editors decided to pump another out. There's no story in VOH #16 that is so labeled, so I have no idea what Al is talking about, but "Marriage Vows!" becomes the first of fifteen Grim Fairy Tales to see print in EC over the next two years and across the three horror titles. Never one of my favorite off-shoots of EC, the Grims are, for the most part, a waste of precious space. You can see why Mad was launched; these guys are itching to unload something that will tickle our funny bone. Harvey Comics, one of the better EC rip-off houses, would ape the Grims with "Mother Mongoose's Nursery Crimes." You can read all about the Harveys here.

*choke* *splutter* *fart*
Jose: Color me obtuse because I could not foretell the ending to “Chatter-Boxed!” Usually, I tend to get worried any time the GhouLunatics start cropping up too frequently within the stream of the story itself; their constant interjections and “banter” with the reader typically have served as manifestations of Feldstein’s insecurities about the story, basically inserted to say in our horror-host’s colorful language, “Yeah, this one’s not so great, but it’s our mag and we have to fill it with something.” Thankfully the conclusion to this one was pretty good, but the story’s slightly cheeky tone felt out of step with Ghastly’s art this time around. (That opening splash is great, though. With her crooked beak of a nose and stockinged claws, Ingels renders the Old Witch as if she was a giant chicken!) “All Washed Up!” was memorably and fondly recounted by Stephen King as one of his favorite EC tales in his seminal genre study, Danse Macabre, and it’s easy to see why. I believe Steve might have misattributed the art to Ingels, which is a shame since George Evans proves to be a lively and game draftsman whose work will happily adorn future issues across the genre titles. This one would make a suitable double feature with “A Biting Finish” (HOF #5), another story of a ne’er-do-well meeting justice at the skeletal jaws of his romantic competitor. As Peter said, “Marriage Vows!” is clearly desperate to be goofier than it really is, an itch that would be appeased with the release of Mad as well as some of the later Grim Fairy Tales. As it stands, this entry from Storybook Land makes for comparatively weak sauce. It feels like we should have gotten more from the finale than just a lobbed-off hand, but I have to admit that there’s something richly perverse and naughty about the idea of Prince Blackheart retiring to his conjugal quarters with nothing but Buttercup’s digits. While we’ve sung the praises of Jack Davis in the war comics over his horror work, “Death of Some Salesmen!” finds him in that gonzo, cartoonishly violent strain that I particularly love and find suits him so well. Here, it’s all about setting up that one-note joke and delivering the bloody punchline again and again. Happily, the effect never gets wearying, and Davis even wisely conceals some of the grimier remains to the shadows in order to prey on the reader’s imagination. (The mind wonders at how that vacuum salesman was refashioned!) A great, gory, brainless affair to end the issue.

Weird Fantasy #15

"Revulsion!" ★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Quick Trip"  ★ 1/2
"The Long Trip" 
Stories by Al Feldstein
Art by Al Williamson

"He Who Waits!"
Story by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"By George!!"
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Al Williamson and Jack Hearne

Just another day at the Olive Garden.
Commander Kreeger and his small crew of astronauts, scientist Larson and mechanic Bellman, bemoan the condition of their star-spanning vessel when Bellman announces that roaches have eaten away at the gyro-control and the ship will now glide through space without the ability to land. Larson tells his comrades that insects are extremely intelligent and could have ruled the world had the Big Bang happened a little bit differently. Luckily, the crew manage to find a planet with an atmosphere and the ship makes an emergency crash-landing. Larson is killed but Kreeger and Bellman survive to explore the strange new world. They are quickly set upon by strange creatures but manage to fight them off with the blasts from their uranium-destroyer. Just as they put the kibosh on a winged beastie, they hear the huge rumble of something big approaching and they head for the underbrush. Bad judgment call: the foliage they duck under turns out to be a huge head of Romaine lettuce and the two are scooped up into the salad bowl belonging to a giant cockroach. Some of the EC yarns have subtle "tell"s; not so with "Revulsion!" Several panels are given over to a discussion on how disgusting roaches are and "hey, you know that roaches could have been the dominant species on Earth!," so that we know immediately what the reveal will be. Joe Orlando does his best Al Williamson impersonation but the silly script sinks this one.

A Quickie.
("The Quick Trip")

In “The Quick Trip,” Philip Donnel commands a space-ship traveling to the planet, Pollux, in another solar system thirty light years away. In order to survive the journey, the crew will be put into suspended animation and revived when the planet nears. Donnel revives to find one of his crew has died due to a malfunctioning S.A. unit and that Pollux is nowhere to be found. When Donnel revives the scientist on the team, the men are dismayed to learn that, according to their calculators, Pollux exploded fifty-five years ago, twenty-five years before the ship had launched!

A Longie.
("The Long Trip")
In “The Long Trip” (an “alternate version of “The Quick Trip”), Donnel is offered the trip to Pollux, but this time without the use of suspended animation. The trip will take all of thirty years and the men will have to bide their time in whatever way they can. The men arrive on Pollux (which, obviously, has not exploded) to a welcoming party of English-speaking Polluxians. When Donnel explains that his ship is from Earth, the friendly “aliens” explain that they’re from Earth as well. Several years after Donnel’s crew left Earth, a scientist invented a gizmo to enable travelers to planet-hop in only two days!

Both stories are entertaining and clever but the reveal of “The Quick Trip” relies on some complicated theorems and I barely made it through high school. Two questions though: In “The Quick Trip,” engineer Jim Murtha rots away to bone when his unit doesn’t seal. Why would that kill him? Ostensibly, there’s oxygen pumped into the ship at all times, correct? In the second story, Donnel is told that “Pollux is our only chance!,” but we’re never told why we need to make the trip. Is Earth dying or are we just bored of our little playground?

Tom gets thumbed.
("He Who Waits!")
Percy finds a wondrous discovery perched atop his Mariposa Lupina Lumina, a plant gifted to him by his dear friend, Alec Burnside, who traveled the backwoods of Africa on a secret expedition. There, lounging on the lush green plant, is a gorgeous lettuce-bikini’d brunette. Though the girl cannot speak, the two become quick friends (he names her ‘Petite’) and then … well, the relationship progresses as far as it can before Percy realizes that something must be done. The scientist hightails it over to Burnside’s estate to grill him on his knowledge of the plant. Burnside allows how the African trip ended  mysteriously, with the disappearance of famed Doctor Arnold Digby. When Percy exclaims that he really must become nine inches tall in order to be with the woman he loves, his old pal explains that there might just be a way: Hornstone’s Aqueous Atomic-Compression Formula, known only to he and Dr. Digby (Hornstone must be deceased, I guess), a serum that can shrink a man as far down as he wishes. Percy jots down the ingredients and prepares the rest of his life: he withdraws his life savings, builds a huge wall around the estate, and stocks up on as much food as the loving couple will need for the rest of their lives. Percy downs the formula and before you can say "Richard Matheson," he incredibly shrinks! The honeymoon is on and the gaiety lasts for weeks but then one day, Petite takes ill and, within a week, she dies of old age. Grief-stricken, Percy buries his love out in the garden and begins a life alone. The next summer, a plant pops out of Petite’s grave and, suddenly, it all becomes crystal clear to Percy: Petite was a flower that blooms for one season and then dies. The nine-inch bachelor sits and waits for a new bride to grow. “He Who Waits” is fabulously dopey and I usually don’t take to such inanity but, for some reason, this one kept me entertained and, I must say, Kamen’s art was perfect for this kind of fluff. How did Fred Wertham miss the not-so-subtle sexual undertones in the panel on page 2 (above)? The mailman must not have delivered this issue to Fred, who found sex in everything!

Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .
("He Who Waits!")

It's Pee-Wee's Slayhouse.
("By George!!")
In 1952 Beirut, two archaeologists, Alan and Marvin, discover a strange cubed-shape object covered with foreign inscriptions dating back to the 6th Century. Marvin, being the brains of the outfit, takes the cube home, deciphers it, and excitedly calls Alan over to discuss the revelations. The cube is the plaything of a giant young extraterrestrial, stranded on Earth when he takes the family spaceship for a spin. Though he tries to make friends with the locals, they persist in stabbing him with their swords and the poor critter has no choice but to fight back. At some point, the locals decide that human sacrifice is the way to keep the "beast" at bay. Though the alien tries to release the captives, something always goes wrong and the sacrificed end up dead. One day, a gorgeous brunette is left for the monster and, shortly afterwards, a knight approaches the visitor. Rather than stab the creature, the knight beckons it to follow him. At this point, the inscription ends and Marvin finishes the story himself. The alien is lured to a castle and then beheaded by . . . St. George! "By George!!" is hard to criticize;  a clever little sci-fi tale, but the twist would have been more effective if it hadn't been given away in the title. The panel where the big nipper loses his noggin (below) is a heartbreaker; I always assumed St. George slew a big nasty, man-eating dragon, not a poor, defenseless space urchin. Al Williamson's art is, as usual, a highlight and our old friends, Spa Fon and Squa Tront, are joined by their new siblings, Bas Crod, Frud Nyuk and, my favorite, Chaz Furnd. --Peter

What a drag(on).
("By George!!")

Jack: It's funny, but in an issue with two stories drawn by Al Williamson and one by Joe Orlando, I think the most consistently enjoyable tale was the one drawn by Jack Kamen. Williamson's art still wavers between brilliant and clunky and the best thing I can say for his stories is that they're uneven. The GCD credits an artist named Jack Hearne with drawing some of the faces on "By George!!" but I don't know if they're the good ones or the bad ones. Williamson is at his best here when not drawing humans at all. The half-splash on "He Who Waits!" displays another stunning gal courtesy of Kamen.

Jose: This was certainly one of the more wholly entertaining issues we’ve read from the SF titles. There seems to be a concentrated tonal shift just to the left side of gravitas and into wryer territory. I can’t help but wonder if the imminent arrival of Mad—cheerfully ballyhooed in an advertisement at the front of this issue—has infected Feldstein’s stories with a touch of the absurd. Whether it was orchestrated or accidental, I’m happy with the results. The conclusion to “Revulsion!” might be more predictable than a sunset, but the journey in between is quite enjoyable; I especially love Feldstein’s early descriptions of the junker rocket-ship and the bickering banter of its on-edge crew. “The Long Trip” and “The Quick Trip” could easily have been real drags had they run the length of a standard story, but thankfully Al took an abbreviated approach that gave his two “Quickies” the feel of a pair of complimentary knock-knock jokes. “He Who Waits!” is easily one of the most jubilant jobs Kamen has turned in under the science fiction banner. As Jack says, this story plays up his best qualities: bespectacled nebbishes and plant girls in two-leaf swimsuits! My favorite story of the issue was “By George!!” After working through a creaky and familiar framing story, we’re treated to a tale at turns deliciously zany and adorably sweet that features one of the darn-cutest reptilian ankle-biters from beyond the stars that you’re ever likely to see. Had our joy-riding alien been a grown emissary from another galaxy, the ending would have been merely surprising, but making the creature a harmless child who just wants to play with his new friends and get the car back to the house before Dad finds out leaves his decapitation at the blade of St. George feeling incredibly harsh. Can you imagine if E.T. had ended that way? Brutal!

Two-Fisted Tales #29

"Korea!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

"Red Knight!" 
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by John Severin

Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by John Severin and Will Elder

"Fire Mission!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Dave Berg

Four American soldiers are ambushed in "Korea!"; two of the men are killed and their jeep is stolen. The two survivors hop into another jeep and track the enemy until they get a good shot at them. When the boys unloose a machine gun barrage at the enemy, the jeep is destroyed and all but two of the men killed. The Koreans hightail it into a rice paddy but once they emerge, our boys mow them down. One is wounded and surrenders but one of the U.S. soldiers, who lost a good buddy in the initial ambush, wants to murder him. He's talked into sparing the "gook" 's life and they take their prisoner to a field hospital. There's not much to this "Korea!"; it's more of an incident. I respect that not every "slice of war life" is going to have three acts but it becomes tough to rate something fairly that's hard to synopsize in the first place. The climax is muy preachy, with the kind-hearted U.S. soldier looking to the sky and pondering life on Earth.


Two British soldiers watch as a red Fokker flies over them, without strafing their foxhole. The identity of the pilot is then revealed to us: Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous Red Baron. We witness several of the Baron's celebrated "kills" before the narrative returns to the field, where von Richtofen has landed. The Brits advance, approaching the plane with much caution, but soon discover that the Baron is inside the cockpit, dead from two bullet holes to the chest. The Red Baron is dead! Another of Harvey's history studies and not one of the better ones; the framing is interesting but the "guts" are simply the Baron writing reports on his latest missions. "Red Knight!" does have stellar work from John Severin but it would have been nice to have had some kind of storytelling to hang that art on.

"Red Knight!"

George "Washington!" suffers a bitter early defeat when the British invade Manhattan Island and Washington's men hightail it in fear. Washington tries, in vain, to rally his troops but the men retreat until George is the only one standing (well, sitting on his horse, actually). Washington's victory will have to wait for another day. Like "Red Knight!," "Washington!" comes across as nothing more than facts yelled out in a classroom. Although, it's a bit of a kick to see the guy on the dollar bill swearing like a dock worker and threatening to kill his "rag tag" miscreants if they don't stay and fight.

Jack Seabrook in his usual Sunday evening address to Peter and Jose.

"Fire Mission!"
In Korea, a mortar crew waits (not so) patiently for the word to become a "Fire Mission!" It's dangerous work (especially when the boys have to put themselves out in the line of fire to figure out where to fire the mortars). After taking on heavy casualties, a green GI volunteers to climb a hill to get a read on the enemy and he succeeds where so many failed. "Fire Mission!" seems like a few other EC war stories we've read recently: the jaded pros and the courageous newbie, all hung on a skeleton of a story. If Harvey Kurtzman's cartoony art turns you off, you'll have major problems with the style of Dave Berg. Way too exaggerated and sketchy for my tastes (as if the artist of Archie had taken the reins for seven pages). Berg will justifiably become a star years later when he becomes a mainstay in the pages of MAD Magazine with his "The Lighter Side of . . ." feature. "Fire Mission!" was Berg's only work for the four-color EC. --Peter

Jack: A very disappointing issue of Two-Fisted Tales, this features sharp art by Jack Davis and not much else. His story is great up until the last page, when a preachy finish replaces the usual twist. Severin gives us a lovely depiction of WWI planes but the Red Baron story represents a rare instance where the DC War comics topped the EC War Comics--Kanigher and Kubert's Enemy Ace is much better than Kurtzman and Severin's Red Baron. Adding Elder's inks always helps Severin and it's interesting to see George Washington portrayed as something other than the stiff figure we know from portraits but, as Peter said, the story falls flat. I always liked Dave Berg's cartoons in Mad and was surprised to find his work here. It has an underground comix/Robert Crumb feel to it and just seems weird in the context of what we're used to. Once again, Harvey gets too preachy at the end.

Jose: Kurtzman could be a writer of great control and composure, but “Korea!” finds him forgoing all pretense and laying his Great Big Message right out in the open during the conclusion. The sympathetic US soldier might as well have been drawn looking out at the reader saying, “I learned something today, and I hope you did too.” John Severin’s grungy pencils look rather fitting in “Red Knight!,” but sadly the story has nothing else going for it. If you’ve seen one aerial dogfight in an EC comic book, you’ve seen ‘em all. I didn’t even know the story was based on a historical figure! Truth is stranger than fiction and all that. If nothing else, “Washington!” makes for a rib-tickling six pages of rampant cursing and impotent fury that not so much tells a whole, compact story as it gives us a brief glimpse of a George Washington who was just as likely to bite somebody’s hand off with his wooden teeth as he was to lead and command a nation. My favorite bit from his the profanity-filled final pages is when ol’ George threatens to kill one of his men but, upon whipping out his revolver, curses as the bullet catches in the stock. So what does our First President do? Hurls the weapon at the jerk’s head, of course! “Fire Mission!” is another so-so story (does that make it a one-fisted tale?), and as my compadres have mentioned, Dave Berg’s horsey, bug-eyed characters aren’t really simpatico with the overall vibe of Harvey’s series.

Next Week:
Hans von Hammer returns to help celebrate our
100th Issue!