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Friday, March 27, 2015

Number 1714: Mystery Tales...or mystery fails?

Both of these short stories are from Atlas Comics’ Mystery Tales #1 (1952) and represent to me what is both fun and yet challenging about these types of comics. “The Little Black Box” is a variation on the genie mythology. The wishes granted to the one who releases the genie come with a hefty price...sometimes a life. What bothers me is that the characters, the Seven Sisters of Evil, appear on page 1, and then are just dropped. Personally, I thought they were interesting and it disappoints me they didn’t bookend the tale. They could have shown up in the last panel and said, “Hee-hee, we warned you!” or something equally as trite, just to complete the circle. I think the writer missed on this one. The art by Joe Maneely is excellent, as always.

“The Horror on Channel 15” is a story from the early days of television. The main character conducts a search of haunted places to find inspiration for his new horror programming. In both a haunted house and cemetery he sees what appear to be genuine ghostly manifestations. So why not just film the real ghosts, eh? Nowadays there are hours of “reality” programming showing people wandering around “haunted” places after dark, using their night-vision goggles, only to come up with nothing. And yet this guy sees ghosts his first time out! Too bad he didn’t bring a camera. The terrific art is by Pete Tumlinson.












17 comments:

Ryan Anthony said...

I think the main problem with both of these stories is that they are too short and end too suddenly. Not very satisfying. With the first one, there's no foreshadowing, not even a hint, of what's coming at the end. And the second one isn't even really a "story." It reminds me of those tales where the dead guy just comes back to life with absolutely no explanation. Anyway, the most interesting part to me was the naked statue on page 2, panel 5 of the first story. Even though it's a statue, it was unusual to see female nudity of any kind in comics back then. And I wonder what that shambling Ashman is going to do now--just go about his business as if he's like everyone else? Why in the hell is he so happy to be free?

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I'm glad to know ther IS a "land of the cremated". I considered the possibility of being reduced to ashes afer my departure and it's nice to know I'll have a proper place.
Yes, the big fail of the story is the disappearence of the Sisters, otherwise I think the plot is quite clever for an "Aladdin's lamp" story. Who are the sisters? Why they are seven (the seven sins maybe)? They could have been great hosts for a series , each episode, one gift from one different sister, related to greed, luxury etc.

The second story is a bit confusing towards the end. Of course the police will believe, as the monster starts committing mass murder. But it takes us back to the days of early TV in a nice way. The guy could be a sort of young Rod Serling, who worked for local radios and TV stations before hitting the jackpot with "Patterns"
Speaking of the art, Maneely has an incredible skill for showing the evil in ordinary people rather than in "monsters". By the way, where will that "Mr. Ashes" go now that he's "free"?

Mike said...

Wow those were creepy, really. Thanks!

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

The non-reäppearance of the Sisters in “The Little Black Box” was likely an artefact of trying to cram as many stories as practicable into each Atlas issue (to make it seemed to the reader that he or she were getting more for his or her dime). As far as quality was concerned, that policy was a dual-edged sword, reducing padding but inhibiting development.

At the time that “Horror on Channel 15” was published, most television sets only supported VHF reception (channels 2 through 13*), UHF television (channels 14 through 83) was around, but a bit exotic. And the range of UHF broadcasts was much shorter than that of VHF broadcasts. So we're really talking about a tiny audience here. It's hard to imagine Larkin's television station working as a commercial venture. Perhaps it were a hobby horse of a few wealthy townspeople.

If the Monster were powered by 'lectricity, then maybe it eventually ran outta juice. Not sure why Baxter got in its way, except in-so-far as the writer (Lee?) somehow held him responsible.
__________

*Channel 1 was ended in 1948.

Brian Barnes said...

"Stinks from here to Kalamazoo!" Hey, I live in Kalamazoo! Atlas tales guesses at Stan, and they are usually right on ... I'm going to have to rethink my long standing worship of Stan Lee! :)

Both fun little tales. There's very little else to say about Maneely, who should have been one of the greats. Tumlinson is good, too, but next to Maneely, it's hard to compare.

Channel 15 is well paced and a good script. Black Box is OK, but the ending is unannounced so it looses a couple points there.

Honestly, I'm the most curious person ever, but if I got a magical box that gave me everything I wanted and it had one rule -- don't open it -- I wouldn't open it. Sure, it would be maddening, but a box with that much power is probably something I shouldn't crack open!

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

Oops! Gotta correct myself! The FCC didn't allocate VHF channels until July of 1952, and this issue was for March (so probably published at the start of the year). Larkin's audience wouldn't merely have been small.

Pappy said...

Ryan, occasionally an artist could sneak something like nudity into a panel. It was overlaid with a color that made it blend in with the other objects. I hadn't even noticed, and maybe some others didn't either. (It also might have something to do with my eyesight, too, weakened by decades of comic book reading. Mom was right! They ruined my eyes! Not able to see nudity, oh...the horror...)

Pappy said...

Brian, catch me singing around the house today, "I got a pal, in Kalamazoo..."

Also catch me erring on the side of caution with magic boxes, or magic lamps...or anything that could turn against me. Even if I opened a magic box I would spend so much time worrying about consequences I would probably never make a wish.

Pappy said...

J D, sure there is a land of the cremated. Not that long ago I showed the story of a drowned man coming back, so I guess it isn't much of a stretch to figure the burned have a place, also.

Which reminds me...my brother lives alone, and he is divorced. I asked, "In case the cops break down your door because you haven't been to work in a month and your coworkers start to get worried, what would you want me to do with your corpse?"

He said, "I want to be cremated." (He then apprised me he had already paid for such a service, and all it would take would be a phone call from me to send him down the conveyer belt into the flames.)

I said, "And would you like your ashes spread somewhere?"

"Yes, on my ex-wife's couch."

Pappy said...

Daniel, I wondered during the fifties whether some of the people writing about television actually owned one. It took a few years for them to become ubiquitous, with channels all over the place, VHF, UHF, Cable, Internet...

Anyway, my family got a television very early, 1950. In those days they were a rare thing. Dad put the TV aerial in the attic because Mom didn't want neighbors knocking on the door asking to watch Milton Berle or Friday Night Fights.

There was local programming in those days, but nothing as elaborate as in the story; mostly kiddie hosts in the afternoon showing old Western movies with Bob Steele or Johnny Mack Brown or Buck Jones...several cartoons, and maybe a serial chapter (where I first saw Flash Gordon).

My brother, Robert, and I watched television with no restrictions from our mom and dad. Rob likes to tell people, "My brother and I were part of a government experiment to see if children could be raised without parents, by television alone."

Pappy said...

Mike, you're welcome!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

You made me think of a story I found somewhere when I was a little kid in the 70's. Some evildoers (maybe warlocks or satanists) actually made BREAD using flour mixed with the ashes of the cremated. I remember only this, details and purposes were probably so disgusting, that I completely erased memories of them. It was from a lurid comic magazine called "Oltretomba" ("Beyond the Grave").

Kirk said...

I think Maneely's art makes that first story more cringe-inducing than it really deserves to be. Too bad he died so young.

Pappy said...

Kirk, I agree. Maneely died in an accident, age 32. From my viewpoint, an impossibly young age to die...and cheating us of perhaps thousands of pages of great comic art from him over the next thirty years.

Grant said...

It's nice to hear that Brian Barnes lives in Kalamazoo. I've always been interested in it, partly because it's the site of several 1890's UFO type stories (the "1897 Airship" ones)!

It's funny that the artist works "cheesecake" into the story at the last minute, in the form of that blonde girl slumped over a chair. It's too bad you don't get to see her alive.

Pappy said...

Grant, Brian may or may not have been dropped from a UFO...he is a very talented guy with a sense of humor. You will enjoy his website and his ongoing video series, "Your Final Answer", Parade of Horrorables.

Grant said...

Thank you.