Creepy Presents- Steve Ditko “Room with a View!”

In this, the last week of ‘Stevecember’, it is with great pleasure that I’m spotlighting another chapter from this beautiful archive of horror/fantasy stories by Steve Ditko. Last I looked, this awesome hardcover was still available on places like Amazon, so definitely look for it ASAP, as I’m sure it wont last long! Now, I present, “Room with a View.”

A man walks into a hotel on a rainy night. The clerk tells him there is no room, but the man notices one key still on its hook. The clerk tells him he was told to never give out that room key for some ominous reasons, but the man insists, and the clerk eventually relents. Once in the room, the man fires up a heater, but then glances toward the mirror. He jumps back in surprise, as he sees a frightening looking man behind him. As he turns around, the man is gone. He thinks to himself that the clerk’s story and the long day are getting to him, so decides to go to bed. His dreams become nightmares, though, and as he passes by the mirror, he sees a host of horrors, and he freaks out. He calls the front desk in a panic, but decides to play it cool and just asks for a wake up call. He heads back to bed, but the paranoia is getting to him. He creeps back over to the mirror, and he sees he’s surrounded by a crowd of monsters! Downstairs, the clerk hears a horrific scream coming from the room. He darts upstairs to investigate, but the room appears empty…until he looks in the mirror and sees the man dead, lying on the bed!

While I haven’t read everything Steve Ditko (art) and Archie Goodwin (writer) have done together, this one is probably my favorite. There’s a level of anxiety to the story that is perfect for this medium, but akin to what you’d get in a film or novella. The story reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and that is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Creepy Presents Steve Ditko- “Black Magic”

After hearing about this hardcover on a podcast (The Longbox of Darkness), I made a note to seek it out before too long! It finally arrived a few short week’s ago, and I can’t be happier about the purchase. The only work I’d previously seen from Steve Ditko was 90% Marvel, and the rest from Charlton. All good material in its own right, but when you see the work by Ditko in this format (black and white anthology stories), you’ll come to appreciate his brilliance even more. Huge thanks to Dark Horse Comics for putting out this material!

The story begins in Europe during the Dark Ages. A sorcerer named Valdar is showing off his skills to the kings court. There is one soldier that doesn’t seem impressed, and Valdar conjures up a wraith that strangles the man, and shows him the error of his ways! He then leaves to summon his minion and descend to the catacombs and perform a spell, but before he can reach the tomb in which he seeks, he’s confrontred by his former master! They have a brief duel, but the former student scurries away and ultimately finds his prize! Script by Archie Goodwin, art by Steve Ditko!

Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that this story is very entertaining. It does bear a strong resemblance to the Doctor Strange stories you got from Ditko and Lee in Strange Tales, but it doesn’t really detract from the fun. The evil sorcerer is very similar to Baron Mordo, but other than that, it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Spectacular! Featuring DC comics “The Witching Hour!”

I really struggled with this year’s Halloween blog post at first. Typically I know well in advance what material I want to spotlight for Halloween, but 2020 was different (heh). In this issue of The Witching Hour, we get a ton of content, as this is a Super Spectacular 100 page issue! All started off by a fantastic cover by Nick Cardy! Thirteen unlucky stories reside within these pages (not counting the intro/outro), so there’s no time to waste pontificating!

 

 

First up, we have “Makers of the Mist.” This is a tale of a cursed village, and an unspeakable evil that resides in the nearby mountains! Written by Gerry Conway, with art by Murphy Anderson and letters by Irv Watanabe! Fun little tale, but the ending doesn’t really fit a horror book. Awesome art by Anderson, though.

 

 

Til Death Do Us Join,” is a very strange tale involving grave robbers, and one in particular that marries…a corpse? Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Pat Boyette (he did a lot of work for Charlton).

 

 

The next story, “The Ever Constant Drum” shows a slave trader in Africa that winds up on the wrong (or right) side of the whip! Story by David Kaler, art by Reginald and Stanley Pitt.

 

 

In “Save the Last Dance for Me,” we see a millionaire and former Broadway star that has a bad attitude and an incredibly awful moral compass, named Thurgood Trapley. He’s paid a scientist/inventor to invent a time machine. The man actually does it and we see the future which shows some wild scenes, one of which shows Trapley fighting a Dalek (not kidding here). Written by Denny O’Neil, with art by Pay Boyette.

 

 

The next story is called “Eternal Hour.” In this one we have a haunted clock tower, a diminutive person, and a shock ending! Written, penciled and inked by Alex Toth!

 

 

This next story might have the greatest name in the history of comic books. “The Perfect Surf or How to Make Waves Without Really Trying!” A fun tale that ends in a hilarious way! I can’t help but think of Point Break when I read this one! Art by Jack Sparling.

 

 

On to “The Man with the Stolen Eyes.” This Golden/Silver Age reprint (1956) has no creator credits, but is a gem of a story. Reminiscent of the EC comics stories of the time, it involves a blind man that uses bribery to get his sight back, but eventually, regrets it!

 

 

Other than inks by George Roussos, this is another tale with credits that are tough to find. “Brush with Death”  -Is there such a thing as a haunted painting? Well, after you read this story, you will believe!

 

 

Another reprint is upon us, and “Dream Girl” is one for the ages. A wizard, an occult convention, and a man obsessed with a vision of a woman he’s in love with are the subject of this wild one! Art by Bob Brown and Jim Mooney, with letters by Artie Simek.

 

 

Mildred is our host for this next story. “The Demon in the Mirror” is more of a standard horror story from the time (1952). A hood is taken out by a regular Joe, but he vows revenge by any means possible! Written by Robert Kanigher, art by Alex Toth and Sy Barry, with letters by Gaspar Saladino!

 

 

The Phantom Ship” is about a crook who’s breaking into cabins aboard a ship and looting them. He then slips on the deck and falls into the ocean. What happens after that is absolutely ghastly! Art by George Papp.

 

 

In the penultimate story “Round Trip to the Past,” Cynthia (the host) tells us about a man who inherits some antiques, one piece of which is a diary that tells a spooky tale about a wizard from the year 1297! Art by George Papp, and letters by Artie Simek.

 

 

Finally, we get “Trail of the Lucky Coin!” According to legend, if you find the lucky coin and then give it away to someone, you’ll be brought luck! A bus load of people that end up in a crash might not feel very lucky, though! Writer, Jack Miller, pencils by Mort Drucker, letters by Gaspar Saladino.

 

 

 

Tales to Astonish 5 and 6, 1980 “Tiger Shark!”

For obvious reasons, I don’t own a lot of first appearances of characters from the Golden and Silver Ages. But, reprints are a good way to get your hands on that material without breaking the bank. Case in point, Tales to Astonish, starring the Sub-Mariner! In these two issues we get the first appearance of one of his greatest foes, Tiger Shark!

In issue five, we catch up with Namor, as he’s trying to find his way to NYC and Reed Richards for help. He barely makes it to land, then is accosted by a robot. He destroys it, but in doing so causes it to explode, and coupled with his fatigue from fight Attuma (in the previous issue, he’s knocked unconscious. He awakens to see a beautiful woman, and then his captor reveals himself. It’s a mad scientist guy named…Dr. Dorcas (yeah, I know). He’s put a metal vest on Subby, that he can use to control him through electrocution. Next, we see his sinister plot, as we meet Todd Arliss, a once promising swimmer that had an accident. He was promised to be healed by Dr. Dorcas, but for a price. The Doctor then straps Subby into a machine, and runs wires to Todd and then a tank full of sharks! The switch is thrown, and Tiger Shark is born!

At the end of issue five, Tiger Shark got the upper hand on Subby, and not only knocked him out for a brief minute, but was also able to kidnap Lady Dorma as well (she appeared out of nowhere near the base, after Subby thought her dead in the previous issue)! Diane Arliss (Tiger Sharks sister), comes to the aid of Subby, but he initially thinks it’s Tiger Shark, and knocks her out. He swims to the surface and finds Dr. Dorcas, head bandaged and looking weary. He tells him to treat her wounds and that he’s know going after her brother. The two then have a showdown in front of all of Atlantis to see who will rule!

In 1968 (when these stories were first printed), Roy Thomas (writer) was really cementing himself as the heir apparent to Stan Lee as Marvel’s premiere writer/editor-to-be. This story has a ton of gravitas, and really pulls you into the world of Namor. Yeah, the guy can be a huge, arrogant jerk, but he does have a code of honor, and will fight for his people and justice. He obviously wasn’t written in 1968 to have the best manners towards the ladies, but I think we can all agree it wasn’t written that way with malicious intent. Issue five has art by “Big” John Buscema and Frank Giacoia (inks), and is all sorts of awesome, but in truth, the following issue has Big John penciling again, but Dan Adkins on inks, and looks a good bit superior. Letters by Sam Rosen (5), and Irv Watanabe (6) and colors by Bob Sharen (not originally but in the reprint).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 125, 1969 “Superman’s Saddest Day!”

Alright, look, I’m gonna be straight with you. I might just turn this blog into a crazy Superman blog. OK, I’m not going to do that, but insane Superman stories have become my new obsession. While Marvel was publishing stories about social inequality and Charlton had cool stories of Science Fiction, war, and the Warren magazines were top of the food chain with their edgy, horror stories, then you had DC, on the cusp of a completely new universe thanks to Jack “King” Kirby and his Fourth World (among other ideas), but then still putting out crazy books like this one. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love this type of comic book now (2020), but as a kid, I would’ve thought it was the dumbest book on the rack. Most probably thought so too, as the numbers show people had flocked to Marvel. But, looking back, these silly adventures are a lot of fun and definitely will entertain you!

In the lead story, Jimmy is up to his old shenanigans. He’s on vacation in the Caribbean, and how he can afford a vacation like that nobody knows. He’s scuba diving, and gets caught in some kind of whirlpool that drags him into the depths of the ocean. He sees a sunken ship and a book laying inside it. It’s a book written by Nostradamus, but since its been underwater for so long, almost all of the predictions are faded. He can read one though, and it exclaims that if you can obtain tears from a clown, a king, a criminal, and wait for it…a Kryptonian, you can get an unknown power! So, Jimmy sets out to achieve this goal! An absolutely crazy tale by Leo Dorfman (writer) and Pete Costanza (art)!

The second story “The Spendthrift and the Miser,” shows an out of control Jimmy, spending money like crazy during the day, but then acting like he’s broke at night. At one point, he walks out into the street to pick up a penny and almost gets run over by a car! Superman intervenes and eventually finds out that some crooks have Jimmy hypnotized into doing these insane things. Written by Otto Binder, with art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley.

Get out there and find a copy of this book (and any of these Silver Age Superman comics), because even if it’s a reader copy, it’ll be worth your time for sure! Cover  by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Avengers 63, 1969 “And in this Corner…Goliath!”

A recent pick up, this Avengers book brought quite the surprise when I opened it. It has the artwork of my favorite artist! More on that later! I’ve always wanted to at least try and obtain a full run of the Avengers (Silver through Copper), and even though I can count the number of Silver Age issues I own on one hand, reading this book was pure joy even knowing it’ll never happen.

The story basically only serves one purpose, to introduce a new superhero personality for Hawkeye in the form of Goliath! The team gets a call from Nick Fury that the Black Widow is on a mission for SHIELD, but was captured by enemy forces. Black Panther tells Hawkeye he must remain behind because he’s too emotionally involved. Also, we see Pym tell the team that he’ll no longer be using his formula to be a giant, because it’s causing him to have mental problems. After the team leaves, Hawkeye gets a call from Black Widow asking for help, so in his infinite wisdom, he decides to take Pym’s growth formula and go to the rescue!

This issue is one that has so many fun aspects to it. The beginning shows the team flying in a ship that’s out of control, and going to crash, possibly killing them all. Some interesting comic book physics save the day. Later, we see Goliath (Hawkeye) fighting a giant monster, and they’re right by Coney Island. Interesting and fun back drop for sure. Roy Thomas (writer) really knows how to write a great team book. Of course, this isn’t a news flash, it just needed to be reiterated. The art team here is nothing short of phenomenal. Gene Colan (pencils) and George Klein (inks) give us panels and pages chocked full of greatness. The same combo is responsible for the great cover as well, and the letters are by Artie Simek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawkman 9, 1965 “Master Trap of the Matter Master!”

After searching through my boxes for source material, I came upon this issue of Hawkman! A recent acquisition, as I’ve made it a point to read more DC comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages in recent years, this one fits the bill perfectly for my weird tastes. A villain called the Matter Master, Hawkman and Hawkgirl trapped in a diamond, with the Atom in the corner with a pink burst of energy behind him, all show exactly why this appeals to me!

The story begins with Matter Master (Mark Mandrill) in prison. He’s slowly finding elements in the prison yard to try and construct a smaller version of his wand (it was taken from him by the Justice League, and resides in their trophy room). He succeeds, but the smaller wand isn’t powerful enough to do his bidding. He then asserts that it might be able to draw his original wand to him though, and it works! He then busts out of prison and heads straight for his abode. He immediately hatches a plan to get revenge of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and hopefully the Justice League as well!

This story by Gardner Fox, is a lot of fun. Just a superhero versus villain tale that doesn’t have much depth. It is however entertaining and of course with great characters like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and a crazy villain like this, you can’t help but have fun. I’ll always give Fox credit for that fact. The art is very good, and we have Murphy Anderson (cover as well) to thank for that. He draws a very sinister looking villain here, and even though he’s not the most threatening guy ever, he still poses a real threat to society. The letters are by another standout, Gaspar Saladino! His lettering is legendary, check out his credits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Beyond the Unknown 20, 1972 “Fishermen from the Sea!”

I’m on a bit of a DC kick lately, so I’ll let the train keep rolling. The sci-fi stories they produced in the Silver Age are a blast (off). The talent they had was perfect for the genre, and seeing is believing. Most associate DC with superheroes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t just stop there, because these books (the originals, and reprints like this one) are great fun! You get three big stories in this issue, and a cool cover by Nick Cardy!

The first adventure (“Fishermen from the Sea!“) shows an alien invasion. These fish-like creatures want to take over the Earth by flooding the planet, thereby killing all humans. Not sure where Aquaman was, but it’s up to “Dave” and “Helen” to save the day. OK, they do get a small assist from the U.S. government testing atomic bombs. Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Mike Sekowsky and Joe Giella!

The second story is one of my all time favorite wacky, sci-fi stories! “The Interplanetary Restaurant!”  A new restaurant is opening and everyone is buzzing. Why? Because the owner claims the food is from outer space! Is it really? Or is it a ruse, as many people believe? You must read this bonkers story and find out! Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Gil Kane and Joe Giella!

Lastly, we have “When Did Earth Vanish?” This is a story starring the Star Rovers (click here for another story of theirs I covered). To try and describe this story would not only be near impossible to do in less that a thousand words, but might not even be possible. This story is all over the place and kooky to say the least. Story by Gardner Fox, with art by Sid Greene.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, this is an all Gardner Fox penned issue. Really dig deep into his history in comics (click here for a recommendation), especially his sci-fi work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challengers of the Unknown 39, 1964 “Rocky, the Genius Challenger”

In 1957, we have the brilliant Jack “King” Kirby, creating more heroes from his pantheon of work. The Challengers of the Unknown, although not nearly as popular as let’s say the Fantastic Four, predate them by four years. The Challengers were a group of guys that all survived a plane crash and vowed to help humanity because they’re on “borrowed time,” so Ace, Red, Rocky and Prof, ban together for the benefit of all mankind…or something like that.

In this issue, we see two stories that are both equally ludicrous, but fun! In the lead off, we have “The Phantom of the Fair!” In this adventure, the Challengers get Madame Zaddum (a medium) to look into her crystal ball at the future, to see what their kids are up to. They see how a crook named “Stokie Johnson” is being let out of prison, and is plotting a revenge scheme on the Challengers. This one is part mad scientist, part revenge plot. Art by Bob Brown (cover as well) and possible scripting by Ed Herron.

The next story is (from the cover), “Rocky, the Genius Challenger.” In this one, Wizard Welles builds a machine that can transfer information from a computer into the mid of a human being. Before he can do it to himself, though, Rocky knocks him out of the way, and takes the brain boost himself. His cranium then grows to twice the normal size, and his brain power is now beyond any person on earth. Shenanigans with the team and the Wizard ensue. The awesome art is again by Bob Brown (an unsung hero of comics to be sure). The writing credits are possibly by Arnold Drake (Deadman, Doom Patrol).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spectre 9, 1969 “Journal of Judgement!”

In the late 1960s, DC comics decided to give The Spectre his own series. To say that this series was weird is an understatement. It’s not quite on the level of the Fleisher/Aparo stories (in Adventure Comics), but those are top of the food chain for Bronze Age comics. This title had a few different creative teams on it even though it was only a ten issue run. Some huge names involved and the stories are all over the place (in a good way).

In this issue (the main story), we see The Spectre as he’s chained to a “Journal of Judgement” for his failings in the eyes of the creator. We get to go back in time, as Jim Corrigan and his partner try to bust up a crime ring. The Sargent gets shot and killed and then another crook tries to shoot Jim in the back. The Spectre rises up and kills the man. Corrigan then confronts The Spectre, and the two fight. It appears as though he kills Corrigan, and that’s when he’s forced back to the spirit realm, and gets punished.

This story is pretty wild, but very consistent with the others from this run (and the subsequent Adventure Comics run). We see that the Spectre has no problem killing people, no matter what the cause! Written by Mike Friedrich, art by Jerry Grandenetti and Bill Draut. Another incredibly awesome fact about this issue is that it has a back up story (told by The Spectre) about a magician that runs afoul of the devil! Oh, and did I mention this story was written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson? There’s also a third story (Shadow Show, writer- Mark Hanerfeld, art by Jack Sparling), where The Spectre terrorizes a thief! All of this is kicked off by a great cover by Nick Cardy!