Weird Wonder Tales 6, 1974 “The Man Who Owned a Ghost?”

As the 1970s progressed, Marvel went full on crazy with the reprints. Some were of recent material (Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc.), and others were from as far back as the Atom Age (post Golden Age but pre-Silver Age). Flooding the market was nothing new for them, but it is still astonishing to look back on. Not that you can blame them, after all they were under the constraints of the publisher that was their rival for many years. Once they got out from under those shackles, they went hog-wild, and who could blame them.

The book is all reprints, but don’t discount it on that accord. The first story alone is worth its weight in gold, as Bill Everett is the mastermind behind “The Man Who Owned a Ghost!” Some artists have their work deteriorate as they age, but Everett’s work got stronger, just look! The second story, “Was He Just Seeing Things?,” has art by Manny Stallman, and this is a creator that I’m not very familiar with to be honest (here’s a link to Mark Evanier’s blog from 1997, talking a bit about him). Neat little sci-fi story including dinosaurs! “Homicide” follows and brings an axe murderer! Nothing here you didn’t already see from a publisher like EC comics, but still pretty jarring. The art in that one is by Harry Anderson. Again, a relative unknown today, but I found some info here. The last installment in the book is called “The Man in the Crazy Maze.” A treat for sure, as this has art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks)! It’s always a treat to see some Kirby! The cover is by Larry Lieber (probably pencils/layouts) and Mike Esposito (inks).

 

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Shock Suspense Stories 1, 1985 “EC Classics”

EC comics was no stranger to controversy. That said, putting a racist organization (not in name but visually) on the front cover of one of their books was wild. They were already under fire for their horror covers that featured decapitations, severed limbs, people being strangled to death, and even a maniac with an ice pick chasing kids through a graveyard! This cover was different though, as this wasn’t fantasy for many, but a sad and truly horrific reality. Without going into a social lecture, I think we can all just say that this book showed a very ugly side of our country’s past that should remain there.

The first story shows this “group of hooded men” as they have a woman bound and are going to torture her for consorting with “them” (black people). A grim tale of reality and not a happy ending, Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood, and letters by Jim Wroten. The following story is about a soldier who is afraid of dying in combat. Nothing too crazy here but incredible artwork. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), artwork by Jack Davis and Johnny Craig! Next, we get a sci-fi story where a certain member of a team doesn’t respect the plant life on an alien world…an regrets it. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood, and letters by Jim Wroten. A creepy orphanage and the man who runs it is the subject of “Halloween.” A gruesome ending in this one! Brought to us by Al Feldstein (writer, with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Ghastly Graham Ingels! Another story centered around racism and corruption tells the story of a black man wrongly accused of murder, then gunned down in cold blood! Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood. “Stumped” is a wild story involving a trapper and his demise. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Jack Davis. The old story Hansel and Gretel is the foundation of this tale, and two children end up headed for an old witch’s oven! Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), and art by Ghastly Graham Ingels. Finally, one of my favorite tropes is used, as an insane husband not only kills his wife, but then carves her up and puts her in a meat freezer (“Cold Cuts“). Lets just say later he gets a taste of some bad meat. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Jack Davis.

As time marches on, these EC books get more and more expensive, but the reprints can still be found at a reasonable price. Search them out at shows, or on the web, as they can bring you some of the best (if not the best) horror comics ever made. Both of the covers were done by none other than Wally Wood!

 

 

The House of Mystery 227, 1974 “The Carriage Man!”

After being a Marvel Zombie for many moons, I really cranked up buying DC comics over the last few years. Focusing mostly on horror (and the absurd), the 100page issues are where the bargains live! These books are fantastic and are packed full of comic book goodness. With eight stories, this 100 page book brings it with the heat of a demon, or maybe the hair of the werewolf, or…well, you get it.

This issue has a great list of creators that includes- Michael Fleisher, Nestor Redondo, Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Don Glut, Joe Maneely, Paul Levitz, Alfredo Alcala, and more! Each story has it’s own unique flavor because of the myriad of creators in this one. It also contains one of the best clown stories ever (definitely not as good as “Night of the Laughing Clown” by Steve Gerber though)! Definitely seek out these 100page books, especially the horror titles!

 

 

 

DC Special 12, 1971 “The Viking Prince”

Some people buy books for the writer, artist, characters, or all three. There even times (like this one), where I’ll buy a comic just for the cover artist not even knowing what the interior story or art looks like. When you see a cover by the legendary Joe Kubert, pick it up. Even if the interior content is mediocre, you’ll be in possession of a thing of beauty. The war comics occupy most of my personal Kubert comics, but when I saw this particular cover at a good price, it was a no-brainer.

If you get the chance to buy this book, don’t pass up it up. The interiors are a wealth of gorgeous artwork from Joe Kubert and Russ Heath! The Viking Prince stories are written by Robert Kanigher, Bill Finger, and Bob Haney (Kanigher also wrote a ton of war comics, Finger needs no introduction because he’s the true creator of Batman, and “Zaney” Bob Haney wrote some insane Batman stories). The back up stories were written by these gentlemen as well as Ed Herron. A better collection of Viking Prince, and related stories cannot be found in a single issue! These artists have given us all a gift with this book.

 

Classics Illustrated: The War of The Worlds (1954)

After seeing a post in a FB group a while back, I started to wonder- which is my oldest comic? Well, it took some investigating, but I can now say that it’s this issue of Classics Illustrated that is my oldest comic book (1954). It’s not in the greatest shape, but I’m pretty sure I only paid a buck or two for it at a local show. The film is of course iconic, but when I saw this comics, it called to me.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with the creators of this adaptation at all but after doing some research, I’ve found that the artist (cover and interiors) Lou Cameron is nothing short of a superstar. As far as the writer of this adaptation, I found absolutely nothing about Harry G. Miller. Not sure if that’s because he’s just been forgotten or his work load was minimal. Either way, he did a fine job on this one.

 

 

EC Comics – The Vault of Horror 4 (1990, Gladstone)

To say that EC comics was the fore-bearer of just about everything in horror comics that came after them, would not be too hyperbolic.  Back in 1949/1950, Bill Gaines decided to take the company in a new direction. That direction was horror, crime, suspense, etc. All new material with an edge to it that had never been seen before in comics. EC blazed a trail that made it possible for any other publisher to push boundaries like never before seen in the industry. Not only that, the content was amazing. They just didn’t go for blood and guts with no substance, they had good stories, and excellent artwork by some of the greatest horror artist (and artists in general) of all time. “Ghastly” Graham Ingals, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, John Severin, Basil Wolverton, and more!

In this reprint, we see two issues chocked full of horror goodness. Vault of Horror 23, 1952, and Haunt of Fear 13, 1952. In both issues not only do you get the iconic horror hosts that helped make EC famous, but the pages are full of stories that will blow your mind when taken in the context of the year they were produced. Think about it, The Adventures of Superman, Ozzie and Harriet, and Roy Rogers were on television that year, so just imagine comic books featuring strong, mature content. It was a huge risk, but also ended up being a huge success and put EC comics into orbit.

 

DC Archive Editions: World’s Finest Comics vol. 3

Thanks to a discount store (Ollie’s Bargain Outlet), I grabbed several great trade paperbacks of DC comics’ greatest characters! My library is very much dominated by Marvel Comics (the first 20+ years of reading/collecting I was a marvel Zombie for the most part), so any time I get the chance to grab some DC material from the Bronze Age (or earlier), I waste no time!

A team up book starring two of the greatest heroes ever in comics (maybe the best ever?) during an era that saw comic books under fire from the U.S. government (the misguided buffoons) gave us some of the most ludicrous stories ever. These stories are still very high in entertainment value, and are incredibly well drawn. Aliens are the big threat throughout this beautiful hardcover but also crooks, magicians, a Bat-Jester, Bat-Mite, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and more! Credits include- Curt Swan, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, Jerry Coleman, Sheldon Moldoff, and Stan Kaye.

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Top Ten Hammer Films!

Lets cut to the chase, I’m a Hammer studios addict, and that being said, we all know they’re the greatest studio to produce horror films that ever was, is, and will be. With stars like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Veronica Carlson, then adding great character actors like Michael Ripper, Oliver Reed, Andrew Keir, Andre Morell, etc., and under the direction of Terence Fisher, John Gilling, Anthony Hinds, and Jimmy Sangster, their films have no competition (overall in the broad sense).

Obviously an argument could be made for Universal, but I tend to look at it as Universal being the foundation and Hammer being the house. Yes, you do need a solid foundation but no one looking to be a home owner is excited about stone and mortar. When is the last time a party-goer entered a house and complimented the owner on the cinder blocks? Important, yes. The best part, I think not.

So, with all that being said, here are my top ten Hammer Studio films! Keep in mind, just straight up horror films here for the most part! Enjoy!

 

10. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

  • This film isn’t perfect by any means, and the rape scene is absolutely ludicrous (Dr. Frankenstein would never commit that act). But when there is action a-plenty, gruesome murders, and one scene of dialogue in particular that sums up the good doctor perfectly. Cushing is on top of his game for sure in this film, as usual. Oh, and the gorgeous (and most beautiful Hammer girl in my humble opinion) Veronica Carlson is in this film.

9. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

  • A Hammer film about a Yeti? Yes! This black and white gem is nothing short of incredible. It’s not because a Yeti invades an encampment and starts tearing people’s limbs off, then beating them over the head with them (although that would be cool), it’s because the film builds tension and the suspense is great. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Yes, in that film there are plenty of gruesome moments, but its the suspense he builds that makes the film outstanding.

8. The Reptile (1966)

  • 1966 was a great year for Hammer studios. Five films and four of them were very solid films. This one in particular is a favorite of mine because of Jacqueline Pearce. She portrays a young woman who is seemingly kept prisoner by her own father. We later find out why he’s so overbearing. Her performance is quite good along with a larger than usual role for Hammer stalwart, Michael Ripper. Anytime he gets more screen time, the film is better for it! Good sets and atmosphere in this flick.

7. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

  • Not wanting to be typecast, Christopher Lee bowed out of playing Dracula after Hammer’s first film starring the count (more on that one later). The franchise did suffer without him briefly, but he returned to the role that put him on the map a few years later in this film. With no dialogue (Lee has his version why and so does Jimmy Sangster (the writer) about why), Lee manages to be extremely menacing and cements himself as the best Dracula ever.

6. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

  • In this movie, André Morell shows us just how good he can be in a horror film. Not only is he the “hero,” but also a concerned, loving father, a friend, a smartypants, and a gentleman, all at once. throw in another appearance by the lovely Jacqueline Pearce, along with Diane Clare, John Carson (a great lout in this one!), and once again, Michael Ripper! Great atmospherics, music (James Bernard), and sets in this one.

5. The Gorgon (1964)

  • This one is based on a classic Greek myth of old and stars Cushing, Lee, Shelley, and had Terence Fisher directing, and John Gilling writing. The gang’s all here for this one, and it really does put on quite a show. An insane asylum, a corrupt town hiding a secret, Cushing in more of a heel role with Lee more of the hero along with a fine performance by Richard Pasco. This is a film that can be watched every so often and never get tiresome. Another film with a noteworthy musical score as well as excellent sets.

4. (Horror of) Dracula (1958)

  • The first Dracula film by Hammer, and it’s still probably the best Cushing/Lee team up of all time. Cushing is an excellent Dr. Van Helsing, and Lee was born to wear the fangs and hiss at audiences with blood dripping from his lips. Michael Gough is also on top of his game here with George Woodbridge in a small role as he had in multiple Hammer films. Never miss an opportunity to see this film.

3. The Mummy (1959)

  • Hammer really went away from the original 1932 film (Boris Karloff), borrowing elements from other films and adding in their own ingredients, and mixing it all together. This film is definitely in Peter Cushing’s top five performances of all time. He really commands the scenes and shows why he, along with Lee are the faces of Hammer films. Very good sets, and the action scenes are tremendous.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

  • Another film with the dual threat of Cushing and Lee, we also get André Morell as well! In this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous novel, we see Cushing (Sherlock Homes) and André Morell (Dr. Watson), play off of each other wonderfully. Throw in a solid performance by Christopher Lee, an incredible score by James Bernard, all under the watchful eye of director Terence Fisher, and you get one of Hammer’s best films no matter what genre you compare it to!

And the number one film is…

 

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

  • In this first horror film collaboration between Cushing and Lee, you can see the teamwork and power these two have together. Cushing is perfect for his role as the morally ambiguous doctor, as is Lee in his depiction of the unfortunate creature. Good performances by Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, and Valerie Gaunt, add to the great gift this film truly is for film addicts. The beginning of the film, the flashback that dovetails around right back to the beginning/end is marvelous in every sense that a film can be. This is the one that started it all (the great horror run for Hammer)!

Honorable mention for films that didn’t quite make the cut (pardon the pun)!

Brides of Dracula (1961)

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

Title: The Flesh and the Fiends (Mania- U.S. title)

Distributor: Regal Film Distributors

Writers: John Gilling (and Leon Griffiths)

Director: John Gilling

Producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman

Starring: Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasance, George Rose

Released: February 1960 (U.K.)

MPAA: UR

 

 

By the time the year 1960 rolled around, Peter Cushing was blooming into a horror film star. He’d already launched Hammer Studios into the atmosphere (along with others like Christopher Lee), with films such as Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), and The Mummy (1959). As if his incredible presence wasn’t enough, we get a very young Donald Pleasance (Circus of Horrors– 1960, Halloween– 1978, Escape from New York– 1981) as one of the main players as well!

Based off of a true story (Burke and Hare), this film is considered a horror film but is more like a noir film with other elements, like mystery, crime, etc. Let’s get on with the synopsis!

 

 

The film begins with some grave-robbers in a cemetery. They’re digging up a corpse, but for what purpose, we do not know. The scene then switches to a street in Edinburgh, and the Academy of Dr. Knox (the year 1828). We see a beautiful young lady, Martha Knox,  (June Laverick) the niece of Dr. Knox, as she’s exiting a coach. She knocks on the door, and is greeted by Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell (Dermot Walsh). They exchange pleasantries, and he explains that he didn’t recognize her at first because she’s been gone for three years (she’s matured a lot apparently).

 

Inside the classroom, Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing) is teaching a room full of students hoping to become doctors themselves one day. He jokes with them, but also tries to impress upon them the importance of striving to push forward and break down barriers. He gets a standing ovation, then exits the hall. He’s pursued by one student in particular, a young man named Chris Jackson (John Cairney). He wants some input about how he can get better and graduate, something he believes he would’ve done by now. Dr. Knox tells him that he can get some extra tutoring but must pay for it by helping out around the school to earn extra money.

 

Afterward, Dr. Knox comes into the living room (apparently the school is attached to his home), and i surprised by his niece. Before they can get the conversation going, Chris comes in and tells Dr. Knox that some gentlemen are around back with a “stiff.” Knox chides him for using such terms, and then heads back to inspect the corpse. He pays the men for it, then sends them on their way.

Later that evening, the men are at a local pub (The Merry Duke) getting drunk and tell about how Dr. Knox pays well for cadavers. Two other men that are on hard times financially overhear this. Both William Burke (George Rose), and William Hare (Donald Pleasance) realize this is a way to make a quick buck, so they begin digging up fresh corpses for the good doctor to use at his school. Burke and Hare are an unscrupulous lot, and after a short spell, the fresh corpse market dries up. The two then resort to murder, and their reign of terror haunts the back alleys of Edinburgh.

 

Meanwhile, the good doctor to be, Chris, finds himself a girlfriend. The only problem is that Mary Patterson (Billie Whitelaw) is a rather seedy type herself, and eventually breaks his heart. She just cannot turn away from her promiscuity and drinking, no matter how much Chris seems to love and care for her. As this is going on, Burke and Hare manage even to murder a poor, local boy, Daft Jamie (Melvyn Hayes), but as they do, a witness sees the deed going on, and informs the authorities.

 

Will Burke and Hare pay for their crimes? And what fate will befall Dr. Knox for his role in this murderous scheme? You must watch to find out the surprise ending to this film!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This story is a good one, and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the better. Another fact is that the film being in black and white is for the best as well. As usual, Cushing delivers a rock-solid performance, and his fans expect nothing less. His ability to lift inferior scripts, casts, etc., to greater heights. Not that he needs to necessarily in this film, but the cast isn’t over the top great. There is one other outstanding performance, and that is the one portrayed by Donald Pleasance. He really turns on the creep factor, and is a very evil person in this film. Billie Whitelaw is also quite good in her role, if not slightly outrageous.

The sets, costumes, and music (Stanley Black), are all splendid. There are a couple of surprises in this one, and they’ll not be spoiled in this review, so no worries. The director, John Gilling, is most known for his work with Hammer Studios, as is Cushing, of course, but this film was actually put out by a smaller production company (Triad Productions). But don’t let that fool you, the film is a winner, and more than worth your time! This company had a few good films including one of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, The Trollenberg Terror!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Haunted Horror- A trip into Pre-code madness!

For all those that wonder in amazement over the horror comics they see today, do yourself a favor if you already haven’t. Go back in time (thanks to IDW and Yoe Books), before the CCA (Comics Code Authority) was instituted, and revel in the brilliant, thought-provoking, and outright envelope pushing work that was done in the era before that foolish code was created.

Kudos must be given to the creators of this incredible work, but also to Craig Yoe, for putting this all together, and reminding us all of those great times. Getting this material back in front of comic book buyers in this day through a big publisher like IDW is something to be lauded.

The stories are various in their subject matter, but the resounding theme was horror, straight up. Zombies, murderers, radioactive insects, vampires, werewolves, etc. These wild comic books were carefully hidden under the beds of kids everywhere back in the 1950’s, in hopes that mom wouldn’t find them and throw them away. Don’t let that fool you though, they’re still pretty edgy even in this era. Do yourself a favor, grab these issues before they get too expensive, because we all know how expensive the original comics are from this age!

 

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