Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Number 2199: See no, hear no, speak no...

The popular maxim, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” often accompanied by three monkeys with hands over their eyes, mouth and ears, comes from at least the 17th century (Japan) and maybe even further back to the 8th century (China). It has different meanings based on one's interpretation, but for the sake of the two stories I am showing today, it is about people seeking evil.

It may or may not be clever to base a story on such a familiar trope, but it seems a natural for writers of horror or mystery stories. When in doubt, go to what is familiar. And, of course I chose the stories because they feature apes!

“Search for Evil” is from Harvey’s Black Cat Mystery #44 (1953). No scripter is listed by the Grand Comics Database, but the artist is Howard Nostrand. ”Hear, See, Speak Evil” is from Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery #11 (1965), published by Gold Key. Again, no scripter, but the artwork is signed “AW” — Al Williamson.


Daniel [] said...

There is a small joke in 3:6 of “Search for Evil”. The headline reads “Lewis Drops Union Suit”. The Lewis would surely be John L[lewellyn] Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers from 1920 to 1960, and once extremely well known. A “union suit” might be imagined as a legal action brought by a workers' union, but it would also be a term for an undergarment covering the body in the manner of thermal underwear. So we may be imagining Lewis calling a halt to a legal action, or rudely disrobing. The name of the newspaper, “Daily Wash”, deliberately brings to mind the latter thought, as an undergarment would be apt to be included in what is called “the wash” or “the daily wash”.

As detestable as the three principal characters in “Hear, See, Speak Evil” might be, Amiel and Fenwick were essentially passive, and Datonga was not much worse than a sleazy journalist. If I had to choose between their elimination and, say, that of a rapist, then I'd remove the rapist. It's certainly hard to see these three as “the greatest evil in the world of all”, given that Mao Zedong was still on stage in 1965. But I suppose that, if Superman weren't taking care of Mao, then one cannot expect Karloff to have done so either.

I was and remain greatly impressed by some of the work done by Williamson and by Crandall for other publishers. But what they did for Gold Key usually put me in mind of the stale books and magazines sold in the '60s to parents as for children — books and magazines that few children would select for themselves. I infer that the artists were meeting the demands of an editor who either imagined Gold Key comics being filtered by parents of the same sort, or for whom children had become quite alien.

Brian Barnes said...

It's always great to see Nostrand art in his Davis lifting style. The old hag is really close to the crypt keeper in this one! I'm not exactly sure how kidnapping 3 random people (none of whom seemed particularly evil) was going to discover the source of evil, but hey, monster gorillas!

The second story strains belief a little. Like Daniel above, our "greatest evil" seemed more like old bitty gossip hounds!