Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Number 2253: The Marvel Family and the School for Witches

Halloween today. Time for me to sneak up behind kids and steal their Halloween candy.* Or maybe not. I am too slow moving, and they can see me coming.

If I only had a magic spell to make myself invisible. I could learn it from the School for Witches, but the witch is Ichabod Vort, who comes from a long line of witches, yet is unsuccessful with spells from his book of black magic. They just don’t work for him. Ichabod has a school to train witches, and could be an example of the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can't, teach.” However, I don’t believe that adage. I think Ichabod is just a crappy witch. Maybe he needs a teacher because he can’t read very well.

The story is written by William Woolfolk and drawn by Pete Costanza, according to the Grand Comics Database. It comes from The Marvel Family #52 (1950).

*This is a joke, sensitive ones.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Number 2252: Bernie Wrightson and the nightmare horror

In the early 1970s, when picking up comics with Bernie Wrightson’s artwork, it was with an eye toward Wrightson’s influences, including Graham “Ghastly” Ingels of EC Comics fame. At the time EC Comics were very chic among many of the comic book cognoscenti, imitated in both fanzines and underground comix. I liked Wrightson’s work, even when it was mainstream, for Marvel or DC. I was pleased when I picked up House of Mystery #204, attracted by the blob-monster cover, and the story’s artwork, both by Bernie.

The art is good, but the story is weak. The shrewish wife tells her beleaguered husband of her nightmare, which turns out to be a premonition. That is not a new idea, and even at that time seemed hackneyed. But, I loved Bernie’s artwork, so I don’t care if “All in the Family” does not live up to the drawings. That was a common failing in DC’s so-called “mystery” stories (can’t call them “horror” because of the Comics Code). Joe Orlando, a former artist at EC Comics, was the editor of House of Mystery. I consider the cover for this issue to be in the EC tradition.

This past Saturday, October 27, 2018, would have been Bernard Albert Wrightson’s 70th birthday. Bernie got taken by brain cancer last year, a real-life nightmare and horror story. It took away his ability to draw, then took his life. Read the Bernie Wrightson obituary by his widow, Liz.

 I mentioned Joe Orlando and EC Comics above. Here’s a Halloween bonus for you, the original art for “The Craving Grave” from Tales from the Crypt #39 (1954). The story is written by Bill Gaines and Albert Feldstein, and drawn by Orlando.

The tale has an added dimension to its dead body digging her way out of a grave to go after her killers: it is told from the point of view of the grave. If you can believe that a corpse can drag living people into the grave, then you can also believe a grave can think.

What we know is true about “The Craving Grave” is it was sold on Heritage Auctions (from whence came these scans; thank you, Heritage) for $7,760.50.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Number 2251: Not-so-alarming Alarming Tales

I bought a copy of Alarming Tales #1 from a drugstore comic book rack in 1957. I tried to keep it away from my mother, who was a born censor. Printed material she didn’t approve of would be tossed into the incinerator.

I loved the comic, which came from the Simon and Kirby studio. The stories, six decades later, still carry a punch. I especially liked “The Fourth Dimension is a Very Splattered Thing.” Grand Comics Database gives Kirby credit for both pencils and inks and the script. Jack got a chance to draw some surrealism and have a boy-meets-girl romance, all in five pages!

Mom did find it, and disposed of it. [Sound effect of my gnashing teeth.]

Alarming Tales is not a horror comic. To Mom it was. (The title, Alarming Tales, and the dark cover probably pushed her inner Dr Wertham button.) Publisher Harvey Comics decided not to confuse their usual young readers and not chase away older readers; they put a different colophon in the upper left corner of the cover, calling it a Thrill Adventure. It gave me a thrill...especially when Mom reminded me of her parental disapproval with her comic book burnings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Number 2250: Three heroes for the price of one

The heroes, collectively known as“Triple Terror,” were the Brandon Brothers, rich siblings with special talents. Here is how Public Domain Superheroes describes them:

“The Triple Terror team included:  Chemix (Barton Brandon), the chemistry expert who wore a beaker symbol on his chest and back. Lectra (Richard Brandon), the electronics expert who wore a lightning bolt symbol on his chest and back. Menta (Bruce Brandon), the master of men's minds, who wore an all seeing eye symbol on his chest and back.

In addition to their respective expertise in the sciences, the Brandon boys were extremely athletic, good climbers and exceptional fighters. Menta could pilot an aircraft and they all seemed to be familiar with military weapons, equipment and tactics.”

The brothers also had a collective eye for pretty girls, based on the women they encounter in this four-part story, Diana Walters and the villainous vamp, Vapine.

The brothers lasted in comic books from 1940 to 1946, from Tip Top Comics #'s 54 through 119. Tip Top used comics from United Features Syndicate, including “Fritzi Ritz/Nancy“ and “Li’l Abner”, still under copyright, which is why you don’t see them included in scanned collections from Digital Comics Museum or Comic Books Plus. What I am showing today are the first four episodes, from Tip Top #’s 54-57. I got them from scans of the reprints in Jim Hardy Comics Book, a giant comic published in 1944, with two other features reprinted from Tip Top: Jim Hardy by Dick Moores, and Dynamite Dunn. Triple Terror’s creators, according to Public Domain Superheroes, were Fred Methot and Paul Berdanier, who are credited by the Grand Comics Database with the story and art here.