Friday, March 30, 2007

Number 113

The Weapon To Win The War!

Wow, gang! A genuine Buck Rogers Sonic Ray, with uranium power chamber, fission heat eliminators, cyclotron chamber and sonic resonator…only $2.50! A bargain like that you won't find from the Pentagon, where a weapon like this would end up costing at least $250,000 each.

This ad came from a coverless early 1950s issue of Boy Comics, and looks to be like what we need to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arm our G.I.'s and Marines with one each of these and in no time we'll have our enemies throwing up their arms in surrender and screaming for mercy as the sonic rays cook their brains and turns their internal organs to molten liquid.

Wonder if J. Whitford Gordon Sales Co is still around in Chicago? I'll have to check it out. Maybe I'll send the Secretary Of Defense a link to this blog.

Or this "weapon" could be just a fancy flashlight. But then, you don't think anyone selling ray guns in comic book ads would do anything but sell the real article, would you? I mean, look at the explanation of how this deadly little piece works in the essay, "Here's What Happens When Buck Fires His Sonic Ray." You'll be a believer in no time, just like me. No one would just make this stuff up, would they?

Click on pictures for full-size images.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Number 112

The Ghost Rider and the Fire Ghost!

This is story number two from Ghost Rider #1, 1950, published by M.E. Comics.

As I understand--and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong--Gardner Fox, who wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of comic book scripts in his life, wrote the Ghost Rider stories. This is a story with a supernatural premise that turns out to be a trick, a not uncommon plot device in the Ghost Rider series. Unlike some of his pretend-supernatural enemies, Ghost Rider was a supernatural person, Rex Fury, returned from the dead.

Fox loaded the balloons with comic book sound effects. On tier one of page three, for example, we get "Aieeee!" "Ayah!" and "Waughhhh!" There's no record of what English novelist Evelyn Waugh might have thought of his name being used as onomatopoeia in a comic book.

The artwork by Dick Ayers (and the uncredited assistant, Ayers' cousin Ernie Bache) is up to the usual standards of excellence for this series. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ayers, who freelanced for several of the major publishers, and did outstanding work for each and every one.

I'm not glossing over the racist attitudes toward the Native Americans in this story. There actually were some comic books that used Indians in respectful ways, but not in this story.

Previous postings of Ghost Rider stories were in Pappy's #95 and Pappy's #50.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Number 111

Popped Wheat's Giveaway Smilin' Jack

Smilin' Jack was a popular newspaper comic strip which ran from 1933 to 1973. Forty years is a respectable run for any strip, especially one that was centered around aviation. That field seemed much more exotic in the early 1930s than it was in the early 1970s. The creator/artist was Zack Mosley (1906-1994).

This posting is of a 16-page Popped Wheat giveaway comic book from 1947, with reprints of a 1938 Smilin' Jack continuity. There were four titles in the Popped Wheat series, Terry and the Pirates, Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, all strips from the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. As far as I know there was only one issue of each title.
It was a lot more common in the era of comic strip reprints of the 1930s and 1940s for the reader to get dropped into what felt like the middle of a story. Unlike comic books, comic strips had the luxury of weaving subplots in and out of the action, and taking on a storyline that went on for months.

This issue of Smilin' Jack seems to be pretty typical of the comic strip I read from the late 1950s until its demise in '73; it has its soap opera elements mixed in with comic relief. The gimmick of the lothario Downwind Johnson keeping his face away from the reader was used with great effect for the life of the strip. The gimmick of Fat Stuff popping his buttons into the mouth of a waiting chicken seems like something that should have been ended right after it began. Fat Stuff--and his girlfriend--are pretty awful racial caricatures, but that sort of thing was more acceptable in that time.

It's reported that Boody Rogers was Mosley's assistant for a time, maybe even during the sequences covered in this giveaway. Boody Rogers most famous creation, Sparky Watts, has been posted in Pappy's #96 and Pappy's #32. Another Rogers creation, Babe Boone, shows the influence of Zack Mosley and the nubile, curvaceous and sexy "de-icers" that populated Smilin' Jack.Page 1 (235K) / Page 2 (270K) / Page 3 (273K) / Page 4 (267K) / Page 5 (271K) / Page 6 (242K) / Page 7 (262K) / Page 8 (271K) / Page 9 (256K) / Page 10 (269K) / Page 11 (265K) / Page 12 (280K) / Page 13 (287K) / Page 14 (257K) / Page 15 (213K)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Number 110

Bob Powell's Twice Alive!

When you think about it, you are a sum total of your ancestors. You have their genes, good and bad; you carry their legacy. In this story by Bob Powell from Fawcett's Worlds Beyond #1, November 1951, the main guy carries his ancestors within him…literally.

This story is fairly imaginative. It also breaks some of the rules I have set down previously for horror comics. The lead character isn't unpleasant, unredeemable or a murderer. He's a guy trying to outwit death so his ancestors can live on.

Bob Powell does his usual excellent job on this story, and the use of color in the panels of the man wandering through his own body is particularly nice. Unfortunately, the print job on this comic--on a lot of Fawcett comics of this era--isn't the best. The blacks tend to break up from some unevenness to the printing ink coverage. I have used my photo editing software to reproduce it as best I can. Powell was a great comic book artist, probably a lot better than he had to be in that period. No one would have blamed him for cutting corners on his drawings, but he didn't. I like to be able to look at his artwork without the distractions caused by cheap and indifferent printing from giant web presses.

Previous Powell stories posted include "The Man In The Hood" in Pappy's #90 and "The Shrunken Skull" in Pappy's #35.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Number 109

Howard Nostrand Holds That Tiger!

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! was a very popular newspaper comics panel for decades. It's still being published, now drawn by John Graziano. It was a natural for a comic book, and the title has a history, either as a comic book feature, or in its own title, throughout the Golden Age and beyond.

Harvey's Ripley's Believe It Or Not! #4, dated March, 1954, has a story by Howard Nostrand, who did a terrific job of appropriating Jack Davis's art style. This job looks mostly Davis, although he could sometimes mix in a little of Wally Wood's style for a really nice double pastiche of those popular EC cartoonists. Pappy's #15 shows one of Nostrand's classic Harvey horror comics strips, "Ivan's Woe," done with a mix of Davis/Wood styles.The artwork in the newspaper comic panel of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! used the technique of shading with a grease pencil on the textured surface of an illustration paper called coquille board. Sports and editorial cartoonists used it for years, but it seems to have fallen out of favor. Nostrand's shading on "The Man Who Was a Tiger!" is masterful. As a matter of fact, the whole strip is excellent. I especially love the "open" panels, which emulate the look of the newspaper Ripley's, while retaining the continuity of a comic book story.

As for whether I believe the story, "The Man Who Was a Tiger," despite the last panel's claim, "…wholly attested by the Yearbook of the Residency of Sumatra, 1927!"...c'mon, do I look like my mother raised a fool for a son? Wait. Don't answer that.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Number 108

Scholastic Fantastic!

OK, so this is not a comic book subject. So I'm stepping outside the boundaries of my blog to bring you something that is--gasp!--written in prose, and typeset rather than hand lettered. Hope you guys can stand it. In my defense I'll say I'm doing this unusual blog because I think--or hope--kids who read comics were also reading--gasp!--prose. I'll get back to traditional comics in the next posting, I promise.

Several times a year I encounter Scholastic Book Fairs in the schools I visit. More than 40 years after my first purchases from them Scholastic is still there, pitching books that kids actually want to read. Now they're known as the American publishers of the lucrative Harry Potter series, but in the past they published juvenile editions in several genres. I liked their science fiction books, and a lot of others must've liked them too because they aren't hard to find in used bookstores or thrift shops.

I heard an author say once that he thought juvenile novels were the best novels of all because they were "about something." I appreciate the best of them because they are told concisely, have strong plots and characters. You can fool an adult with a pretentiously written bad story, but you can't fool a kid.

The books I currently have on hand make a partial "Who's Who" of classical science fiction authors. Gordon R. Dickson was a prolific author; Jack Williamson died at age 98, yet was still writing into his old age. He was first published in the earliest days of the science fiction magazines. Lester Del Rey had a publishing imprint, Del Rey Books, which he ran with his wife, Judy-Lynn Del Rey.

Robert Silverberg is a prolific writer in several genres. Besides writing juvenile non-fiction, like Treasures Beneath The Sea (1960), Silverberg also wrote sex paperbacks, and so many short stories he had to use a stable of pen names. Silverberg's main claim to fame is his science fiction, though, and a number of his books are considered some of the best the genre has ever offered. Revolt On Alpha C was his first published novel. I've posted both front and back covers, and it's worth noting that Larry Stark is a real name of a real person, appropriated (maybe as an inside joke) for this novel. He is probably most well-known to comics fans for his insightful and critical letters to EC Comics during their heyday .

Tunnel Through Time was published the same year the television series, The Time Tunnel premiered on television. This book had nothing to do with that series. To add to the confusion, Murray Leinster (another famous s-f author) published a book called The Time Tunnel in 1964, and also did the novelization for the television series in 1968.

Click on pictures for full-size images. Captions below the pictures are from the original back cover blurbs.

Tunnel Through Time By Lester Del Rey (1915-1993). 1966, Scholastic Books. 160 pages.
Has the experiment failed? Why hasn't Doc Tom returned through the time tunnel? "He's hours overdue," says Bob grimly. "Where is he?"

"Back 80 million years in time," says Dr. Miller. "Back in the age of the dinosaurs."

What has gone wrong? Is it too late to save Pete's father? There is only one way to find out. Pete and Bob must go through the time tunnel.

The Runaway Robot By Lester Del Rey. 1965, Scholastic Books. 188 pages. "We're returning to Earth," Paul's father tells him. Paul is wildly excited, for all human beings on the planet Ganymede dream of going back to Earth some day. Then Paul finds out that he cannot take his robot Rex with him. Rex has been his constant companion for sixteen years. Leave him behind? Never!

So begins a breathtaking adventures in space as Paul and his robot Rex attempt to outwit the forces that seek to separate them.

Trapped In Space By Jack Williamson (1908-2006). 1968, Scholastic Books. 128 pages. Astronaut Ben is lost--a million miles from Earth! His last message: "Strange life forms here . . . we're under attack . . .!"

Jeff sets off to rescue him, but soon his own crippled starship is caught in the same eerie web of a monstrous creature from outer space!

Secret Under the Sea By Gordon R. Dickson (1923-2001). 1960, Scholastic Books. 128 pages.
Why is the dolphin acting so strangely? Something must be wrong.

It is the year 2013, and Robby lives in an Underwater Research Station with his scientist parents. Most of the time he has fun exploring the ocean caves with the dolphin who is his favorite companion.

But something has frightened the dolphin, and Robby sets out to investigate. Then he finds the giant footprints. And he knows that something enormous and unknown is walking across the bottom of the sea!

Lost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg (b. 1935). 1960, Scholastic Books. 124 pages.
Are the Old Martians really a lost race--just withered mummies lying in dark caves? Or are they still alive--somewhere on the red planet?

Sally and Jim must find out. They must help their father if the Old Martians still exist. His life work as a scientist is at stake!

But it's not easy. They are only visitors to the Mars colony in the year 2017. And no one really wants them there.

Revolt On Alpha C by Robert Silverberg. 1955, Scholastic Books. 118 pages.

With a mighty twist, the Space Ship Carden lunges into overdrive and shoots out into space. Ahead lies Alpha C IV, eerie world of three suns.

But the
Carden arrives on Alpha C right in the thick of a revolution against Earth. Treason!
Then young cadet Larry Stark finds himself caught up in the revolution...on both sides!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Number 107

Doug Wildey's Bug-A-Boo!

When Doug Wildey died in 1994 at age 72 he left behind a body of comic book work but will best be remembered as the creator of the television animation series, Jonny Quest.

In the 1980s toward the end of his career he did some issues of a title called Classic Jonny Quest
for Eclipse Publishing that showed how good an artist he was.

"Bug-A-Boo!" is a story from Mysterious Adventures #17, December 1953. Mysterious Adventures* used EC Comics as its model, and in this story Doug Wildey uses Wally Wood's artwork as his inspiration.

The artwork is the main saving grace of this story, which pretty much uses for its model Pappy's Rules Of Horror Comics:

  • Horror comics characters shall be as stupid, unpleasant, or unredeemable as it is possible to be in 5 to 8 pages.
  • Whatever fate awaits those characters shall derive from their own stupidity, unpleasantness or unredeemable actions and shall end in death, the more horrible the better.

In this story the characters are in the jungle trying out a new pesticide. As the old TV commercial used to say, "It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature."

Wildey drew this story when he was about 30 years old and despite appropriating Wood's style (not a bad style itself!) shows that his artwork was very mature, even at that early stage in his career. Later on, before Jonny Quest in 1964, he would draw love comics, westerns, mystery and even a run of Tarzan for Gold Key.

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*Mysterious Adventures also used The Law Of Skeletons to guide its choice of cover subjects. It's been well known to publishers for decades that a skeleton on the cover increases sales. The cover for this issue had nothing to do with the contents of the comic, but is a story in itself that the reader can just make up on his own.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Number 106

Walt Kelly's Jack The Giant Killer!

I haven't posted a Walt Kelly story since last Christmas Eve, in Pappy's #72.

"Jack The Giant Killer" is from Fairy Tale Parade #2, 1942. It's one of three Kelly stories in that issue. The others are "Cinderella" and "The Emperor's New Clothes," both of which I'll be posting at some future time. Check back.

The cover of this issue of Fairy Tale Parade is really nice. Kelly does a relatively straight rendering of a prince and princess on a horse, but in the left margin, as well as the entire back cover, he shows us dozens of fairy tale characters in a style that's pure Kelly. Click on pictures to see full-size images.

The story, "Jack The Giant Killer," has the whimsy and fun that Kelly brought to this series of adaptations. The giants are funny-looking rather than scary, and there is an unusual looking dragon. Probably the most untypical version of a dragon I've ever seen.

Since Fairy Tale Parade was done for young readers there isn't anything complicated about the story: farm boy wins princess by defeating the giants, enemies of the kingdom. The couple ends up together and lives happily ever after. I always wondered, though, exactly what a peasant would have in common with a princess? Maybe the "happily" didn't really last "ever after." In later years Kelly explored the absurdities of fairy tales in his surrealistic Pogo comic books and also his trade paperbacks, but during his time at Fairy Tale Parade, he always left his readers "happily ever after."

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Number 105

Goofing On Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon was such a well-known comic strip and movie serial that it was a good target for parody.

Mad did the best parody of all with Wally Wood's excellent "Flesh Garden!"

In Humbug #10, 1958, the next-to-last issue, fellow Mad artist, Jack Davis, took on the job of rendering a parody of Flash as a Russian commissar. In this case Flash is used as a satire on the Soviet Union during the Sputnik era.
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Mel Keefer is an artist who has worked in many fields, comic strips, animation, and on this strip from Drag Cartoons #2, December 1963, where he does a goof on not only Flash Gordon, but Buck Rogers and drag racing.Page 1 (200K) / Page 2 (209K) / Page 3 (211K) / Page 4 (225K) / Page 5 (228K) / Page 6 (211K)

The Keefer strip is scanned from the magazine. I love the color overlays. The Davis artwork is from a photocopy, tweaked with my CompuPic software. I'm sorry it isn't as good as it would be if I'd scanned from the original magazine. The use of a lookalike Cyrillic alphabet for the lettering is a stroke of genius on somebody's part, most likely writer/editor Harvey Kurtzman.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Number 104

Frankenstein Friday: Frankenstein Covers

Frankenstein's monster has appeared in so many places it's hard to just pick a representative sample. With this Frankenstein Friday I've gotten away from my original intent of showing you a Frankenstein monster solely from Golden Age comics, but I like these particular covers, either for their historical, artistic or novelty interest.

Classics Comics #26 was definitely a classic. One of my favorite of the early Classics Comics issues, this Frankenstein was drawn by R.H. Webb and Ann Brewster, who also did the interiors. The issue was commissioned from the S.M. "Jerry" Iger comic book shop.

The painted cover version, which came along some years later when Classics Comics became Classics Illustrated, is by illustrator Norman Saunders. Does anyone else share my opinion that Saunders may have used an African-American as a model for this cover? Click on pictures for full-size images.
In the early 1970s Marvel Comics came out with their own version of the Frankenstein legend, this time drawn by Mike Ploog, one of the best of Marvel's 1970's monster comics' artists. I'm showing the first three issues so you can see the change in the image of the character. The monster on issue #1 is very different from the visualization on the cover of issue #3. I like Basil Rathbone doing the "It's alive!" shout, done by Colin Clive in the 1932 movie.

This issue of Famous Monsters Of Filmland from 1963 has a particularly nice colorized cover, using a still from The Bride Of Frankenstein.

Illustrator Sam Viviano does this funny take on Grant Wood's American Gothic from Thrills & Chills #2 in 1994. Thrills & Chills was a fun magazine published by Scholastic for a dozen-and-a-half issues or so. It isn't a comic book, although they published a couple of pages of comics in later issues. It was published during the time that R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series was very popular. There were a couple of issues with the Monster on the cover, but this is my favorite.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Number 103

The True Story Of John Dillinger

The word "true" in the title of this story is a relative term. There was a man named John Dillinger; he robbed banks with a gang; he escaped from prison; he died in a shootout on a Chicago street. Everything else in this story, from Crime Does Not Pay #45, May 1946, is a comic book fantasy.

In this story most of Dillinger's career is glossed over in favor of a couple of anecdotes. One is an often debated version of how Dillinger escaped from prison with a wooden gun. Some think it was a real gun, smuggled in by a bribed guard, and some think it was a fake gun, also smuggled in. The panels showing Dillinger carving the gun with a big knife are laughable. If he had a knife that big he wouldn't have needed a gun. And if a fake gun had been smuggled in, why not just smuggle in a real gun? The whole story sounds good, but starts to fall apart under examination.

The FBI is only mentioned once, and that's at the point of Dillinger's death near Chicago's Biograph Theater in 1934. It was actually an FBI stake-out. What Dillinger unwittingly did was help to create the modern FBI. The whole story is told well in the book, Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. Through a lot of bumbling and missteps the FBI learned from its mistakes in tracking the criminal gangs that were roaming free in the Midwest. Those gangs, of whom Dillinger's was the most famous, brought about sweeping changes in law enforcement on a national basis. Up to that point most crimes, no matter how big, were handled by the states and local authorities, even when they were out of their league.

The art in "The True Story Of John Dillinger" is by Bob Q. Siege, an artist I'm not familiar with. The story follows the usual crime comics formula, which shows the criminal in action up until almost the last panel, when he dies. It also has the requisite cops-getting-shot panels. In the case of the real Dillinger gang, cops did get killed, as did innocent citizens. The story also features the annoying character, Mr. Crime, who reminds us of the old-time advertising character from the Sunday funnies, Mr. Coffee Nerves.

The crime wave of the early 1930s, which included criminals and gangs like the Barrow Gang (Bonnie and Clyde), the Barker Gang (the Barker brothers and Alvin Karpis), Baby Face Nelson, who was also a member of the Dillinger crowd at times, Pretty Boy Floyd, et al., were holdovers from the Wild West. The crooks didn't ride horses, they rode in cars with horsepower. Besides old-fashioned six-shooters they used modern weaponry, with the Thompson submachine gun being a favorite. They often outran, outgunned and outwitted the rural police forces they encountered. Dillinger and his cohorts escaped capture more than once in bloody shootouts with the police and FBI. All of this captured the public imagination and was big news in the press. But they were really just murdering thugs with no respect for anyone else. They were a continuation of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, the James Gang, Billy The Kid and the rest of the criminal cretins who were given stature by the media of the time; stature that in real life they didn't deserve.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Number 102

EC: Adultery That's Out Of This World!

"The Space Suitors," appeared in EC Comics' Shock Suspenstories #11, October-November 1953. My first take on this issue was in Pappy's #99.

This story, in its short six pages, embodies everything that EC's science fiction and horror comics are remembered for: great art, sex, and gruesome dead bodies. The art is by longtime fan favorite Reed Crandall. He started his career early in the history of comics, doing Blackhawk for many years before moving to EC. In my opinion his artwork took on an air of sophistication as well as inspiration when he was given his editorial freedom to draw it how he saw fit. Crandall could draw anything, and draw it well. If he had a weakness it was that his characters often looked posed, almost like statues. He didn't have the fluidity of movement in his artwork that Jack Davis did, but he more than made up for it in the mood his drawings could bring to a story.

The story plot is EC 101: Guy falls in love with other man's wife, wife and lover plot to kill husband (didn't anyone in EC Comics ever hear of a divorce?), they kill the spouse, and the adulterous couple get the tables turned on them, usually in a most horrible fashion.

In this case we have a futuristic science fiction setting. Lots of things in the future look more modern, but the old standbys of human nature, sex and jealousy, haven't changed. Milt is the cuckolded husband, being two-timed by his partner Don and his cheating wife, Wanda. The story begins in the present, right after Milt finds out that Don's claims of a uranium-rich strike on an asteroid have been a lie, that he's been lured there to be killed.

Click on pictures for full-size images.

Wanda is not only an adulterous wife, she's vindictive, too. Before he dies she wants Milt to know what's going to happen after he's dead. She and Don are going back to the spaceship to do the interstellar-bop! Milt, who's not as dumb as Wanda and Don think he is, tells them he has known for some time about them. Well, let's hope a guy who is able to get rich has some smarts about him.The story moves into flashback, as we find out when Don and Wanda meet they are instantly attracted. Since this is only a six-pager they have to get it on quick, which is represented by a panel of Wanda telling Don how she's hot for his body, and him indicating he has "a plan."Back in the present on the asteroid, when Milt realizes he's going to be killed, he tells them what will happen if they kill him. Milt and Wanda have a quick discussion and decide he's bluffing. So Don shoots Milt with his deluxe-looking Rocket Ranger gun, or whatever that contraption is that's in his hand. It actually looks more like a paint sprayer. But this is where comic book coloring comes in handy. Colorist Marie Severin colored the whole hand and gun scarlet red: red for blood, red for danger, red for sex. Even without seeing any projectile or ray from the barrel of the gun, we see Milt has been hit. This is a particularly effective panel.But Milt wasn't bluffing! He hit the toggle as he died and the rocket ship took off, leaving Don and Wanda staring at each other in shock and horror. Oops! Honey, we screwed up! The next panel is a classic: Milt's "bloated, ruptured face," looking like a tomato dropped on the floor. I'm showing you this in color from the printed comic and in black and white from the Russ Cochran deluxe set of Shock Suspenstories. Once again the coloring by Marie Severin has heightened the shock value of this panel, although even without the color Reed Crandall's inspired drawing has created a terrifying and gruesome portrait of a dead man.The last panel repeats the "bloated, ruptured" theme, as the lovers die with their hands outside the protection of their space suits. Space suitors, get it? A great play on words.

In the Grant Geissman book, Tales Of Terror, the story is credited to the publisher/editor team of Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein. It isn't a complicated story at all. As a matter of fact, it seems almost cookie-cutter in its set-up. It's the visuals that make it stand out. In lesser artistic hands it wouldn't have the ability to shock like it does.

The panel of poor Milt's crushed-tomato face might have been the catalyst to make my younger brother, with rare exception,* never again look at EC Comics. He was about 10-years-old when he saw it. I remember when I first saw it getting that feeling of seeing a dead animal on the road with its entrails splattered over the pavement. But it didn't keep me from looking at EC Comics.

"The Space Suitors" wasn't the first or best horror/science fiction story EC published. But since it was in the first non-Mad EC Comic I ever read, has stayed in my mind for over 45 years. I can still get a jolt when I look at Crandall's superb and ghoulish drawings. It was the sort of thing that made EC great, but it was also the sort of thing that ultimately brought them down.

*This was the other panel my brother was upset by, from Tales From The Crypt #32. This story, drawn by the great Jack Davis, had a lot of humor, and the whole thing was a joke. A really sick joke.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Number 101

Frankenstein Friday: Steve Ditko's Mountain Monster

This is a Frankenstein story that at first glance looks traditional. It has the traditional look, the European setting, and it has the big monster. But without giving away the plot, I can say this story has two surprises: what the monster is, and what he becomes. Other than that, you're just going to have to read it.

The story came as one of two new stories in a book with two reprints, Fantastic Giants #1, September, 1966, published by Charlton Comics. It was an all-Ditko issue, reprinting two of his early '60s books, Konga #1, and Gorgo #1. I bought the original issues of those titles off the stands when they came out. At the time I was familiar with Ditko from the Charlton science fiction and mystery comics, and also from his short stories, back-ups for Jack Kirby's lead stories in the Atlas monster comics. I had even figured out that the name "Kodti," with which some Charlton stories and covers were signed, was an anagram of his name. Duh. That didn't take much brainpower, because Steve Ditko's work looks like no one else's. He never tried to draw in any other style but his.

The cover of this comic is especially enjoyable because of the unique caricature Ditko did of himself, plopped into the middle of the picture.
Even if this seems like heresy to some, I liked Ditko's work much better in the mystery and science fiction comics than I did as a super-hero artist. There wasn't anything wrong with his super-heroes, but it was in the anthology comics, the endless number of five-to-eight pagers he drew that I grew to appreciate him. Nowadays that's where my main interest is in Ditko's work.

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