Friday, October 30, 2015

Number 1807: Hooray for Halloween Horror: While the Cat’s Away

Here is the third posting in our Halloween week offerings. Today, a tale from Jack Davis and Al Feldstein, published originally in The Vault of Horror #34 (1953).

Let us get one thing straight: this story is a joke; it is what I consider a shaggy dog story. It builds and builds and then...the end. I don’t want anyone writing and asking me how these two dolts could hide out in the tunnels under an old house, all the while being chased by vampires, werewolves and zombies, and eventually escape. It’s a joke!

Jack Davis had the ability to draw horror comics, and also draw some of the funniest stuff ever published in comic books. It is a gift.

More Davis horror, featuring the infamous “Foul Play,” which was represented by an illustration in Seduction of the Innocent. Just click on the thumbnail.

IT WILL BE HALLOWEEN IN JANUARY with the release of Craig Yoe’s latest Chilling Archives of Horror Comics: Devil Tales, edited by Mr. Karswell himself, Steve Banes!

Stories of Satan from obscure issues of horror comics of the early 1950s. Wild and weird tales served up at His Satanic Majesty’s Request, featuring art by Gene Colan, the team of Brown and Gantz, Dick Ayers, Ken Rice, among other lost souls, including the infamous Iger Shop, the original “little shop of horrors”!  These artists and creators worked in the hellish pages of America’s shame, the cheap and often sleazy (it’s why we love ’em!) 10¢ comic books of an otherwise more innocent and conservative age. And while they brought joy to hundreds of thousands of readers in their time, oh, the terrors these horror comics wrought with parents and teachers... also a certain psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham, M.D., who led the crusade to strike the comic book scourge from the land. They were even investigated by the United States Senate!

But now these stories have been conjured from the fiery pit where they had been consigned over 60 years ago. We have Steve “Karswell” Banes (of The Horrors of it All blog to thank (or curse) for bringing back these forgotten stories from the mouldering mounds of horror comics, published in that time before they were exorcised from the American newsstands by the Comics Code.

I have seen an advance of this book, and it gets my highest recommendation. Release date is January 14, 2016, and the retail price is $24.99.


7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

All the irony and twice the hoke —what a swell horror comic. What I want to know: the lane they drove their station wagon down, was it the tree-line that was rotted or the road? Rutted roads, sure, but rotted roads are more rare.

Daniel [] said...

So, really, a heart-warming tale of two friends who stick-out a tough situation together, and eventually emerge from it as changed men.

As you've noted, the horror stories from ACG tended to follow a formula of a couple menaced in some supernatural way, with the man usually overcoming the menace, and the couple presumably living happily ever after. The stuff out of the Iger studios seemed to be natural and supernatural forces delivering terrible punishments to people, uncorrelated with justice.

EC, whose stuff is most remembered, generally followed a formula in which punishment which would not come otherwise is delivered to bad people by dark, supernatural forces. There are a few exceptions, such as “Chatter-Boxed!” (the tale of the blabbermouth wife who caused her husband to suffocate in a coffin, which tale was surely written to fit its punning title), but usually the EC stories are about the punishment of bad people. However, EC didn't always have the punishment fit the crime. A person who was no more than a jerk might suffer terribly at the denouement.

These two guys get off rather easy, by EC standards. I think that this result, too, were because the story were written as a joke.

(Some of the EC stories just create the illusion of a terrible fate for the villain, with what actually amounts to some other party degrading him-, her-, or themselves by abusing a corpse, “Taint the Meat” is one example, “Foul Play” another.)

Pappy said...

Daniel, changed men indeed! The muttered "eh eh" was something my brother and I used to mimic when we wanted to pretend we were scared.

Going way back in literature, many stories, especially those written for children, were full of dire punishments for misbehavior. They were trying to scare the kids straight, I guess.

Punishment often didn't fit the crime, especially in horror stories. I am used to that in horror comics, seeing it as an extension of an older form.

Pappy said...

7f7, good catch on that "rotted road" line. I missed that. Could have been the writer's error or the wielder of the Leroy Lettering Set who did the lettering. Either way, it is a funny mistake.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Well, if it makes you feel better, you can always think that each "tunnel" was in fact a section of an inter-dimensional multiverse connected by "safe" intersections. The creatures can roam in their own tunnels but cannot enter the other tunnels. And as long as those two dolts stay IN the intersections and eat their bats, they're safe and sound. So, Keep Calm and Stay in the Intersections. Or maybe TCK just ordered the creatures to scare them to death, without doing no harm. Creatures are just a sort of spooky anti-theft device. OR it was just a joke, probably because is one of the few stories where the host is involved (Uncle Creepy's origin story was a sort of joke, too).
When I was young, there was this comic strip about an old lady tycoon named Agatha Crumm. She was cunning, those two guys wouldn't have fooled her. Maybe Miranda was her dumb sister.
When I think about EC horror, I visualize Davis art. That is fun, because I happen to like Ingels much more than Davis.

Ryan Anthony said...

Thanks for the warning, Pappy, cuz I certainly would've been complaining about the ending of that story. Hell, I'm not sure Feldstein thought through the plot before scripting it; any fool cop would've put 2 and 2 together pretty quickly and collared those two jerks before their 3rd burglary. And the whole thing seemed pretty rushed: here are some zombies, now some vampires, now some mummies...! Felt like a filler piece to me. Nice art from Davis, though, as always. His cartoony style was appropriate for this one.

Well, Pap, I think this is my first Halloween as a commenting member of your blogzine, and I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how you've influenced my reading and collecting. You already know I bought that Boody book on your recommendation and that I've opened up to acquiring coverless issues, but I don't think I've mentioned the fact that I'm often on eBay and Amazon now browsing for classic collections and reprints, such as the set of 90s Basil Wolverton Spacehawk reprints I just got (as well as a 3D issue with his apocalyptic art in it), and the two thick books of ME crime comics I just ordered. I've been a golden-age fan for years, but my fandom has intensified since becoming "active" on your blog. I don't read so many new comics anymore--I keep up with the Superman books out of a sense of loyalty, I guess--but I do spend a lot of time and money on the classics, and I'm having a ball doing it. Thanks for really deepening this world for me, Pappy, and increasing my appreciation for some terrific writers and artists.

Speaking of Superman, I'm dressing up as him (in a cobbled-together costume, complete with red shoes) and giving out candy Saturday evening. Don't poison the kids, Pap!

Pappy said...

J D, I think you should be a science fiction writer. Interdimensional multiverse tunnels, wow. I'm sure on his best day Albert Feldstein, who wrote the story, would not have thought of that. Of course, that wasn't his intention, either...just another jokey story to lighten the sometimes oppressive and grim tone of the EC horror comics.

I think the EC artists inspired each other. I know Jack inspired Johnny Craig, who wanted to be able to emulate Davis, or at least his speed. Jack could draw a story in a couple of days, then save it for a few days before turning it in so the editors didn't think he was rushing it. Craig was very slow by comparison. As for Ingels, he certainly influenced later artists like Bernie Wrightson, from my generation.

Pappy said...

Ryan, I appreciate your note more than you know. Knowing that someone is getting something out of my blog lets me know I must be doing something right. It is a good feeling.

What I would like to do with this blog in presenting what I do is just communicate the sense of fun in the old comics. Even when I am complaining about them I am still having fun reading them.

So, good luck on your collecting. You are doing what I did, collecting comics in less-than-perfect shape, just for reading. I see no fun in just collecting and putting the unread comic on a shelf or in a safe deposit box. Might as well collect stamps or coins if that's all you want to do.

Karswell said...

Thank you, Pap! I have to say, you still have the best comic blog on the web-- the rest of us blahhgers only hope to someday archive the awesome amount of excellence that you have!

Daniel [] said...

Pappy, your theory that these are Grimm(er) fairy tales is certainly worth pondering.

J.D., I got a brief note of thanks from Bill Hoest after I wrote to the syndicators of Agatha Crumm, hoping that they'd collect those strips into a book. (There was later a mass-market paperback book.)

Pappy said...

Ah, shucks, Karswell. I'm blushing. Thanks, pal, for the compliment. Right back atcha, too.

Brian Barnes said...

Happy Halloween Pappy!

I wish I could get to reading your blog quicker, I hate to leave comments a couple days after that fact. I don't really think of this one as a shaggy dog story because it's basically a comedy piece. The ending is a punchline, not a grisly comeuppance. Something Al knew well from his days of silly headlight humor comics. It also gave Davis the chance to go through all his monster types!

Al didn't do very many of these types of stories during EC's days. This is almost fan-fic-ish.

And double what Karswell says!