Weird War Tales 69, 1978 “City of Death!”

Now that we’ve managed to escape October with our skins intact, it’s time for #warcomicsmonth (follow this hashtag on Twitter)! So, with that being said, the next five weeks will be saturated with books chocked full of tanks, soldiers, and maybe even some ghouls! The war comic books from all the publishers had their ups and downs, but for the most part, they were great. You had super realistic books like Blazing Combat, and crazy titles like…Weird War Tales!

In this specific issue, we get four stories, and they are fun! The intro page (by Howard Chaykin), shows Death himself, as he asks a simple question- “which war is really the war to end all war?” It’s a valid and scary question, even if it is from a comic book character. It also looks like the Death Star is in the background, so I guess Earth is just about toast anyways.

The first story in the book is called “The Phantom with My Face!” It starts out with a medic that seems like a Nazi sympathizer, but we realize he’s just a good guy with a good heart. He does however get haunted by a ghost soldier that keeps trying to get him to kill. Written by Scott Edelman, art by Romeo Tanghal, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Milt Snappin.

In “The Day After Doomsday,” we watch a war between mutants and what’s left of humanity after a cataclysmic event that has ravaged the planet! Written by Jack Oleck, art by Alex Niño, and colors by Jerry Serpe.

In our last regular length story, “The Soldiers from Heaven” we see some Conquistadors learn a valuable lesson after they savagely kill some natives. The native’s god comes to life to take revenge! Written by Arnold Drake, art by Bill Draut and Bob Smith, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Milt Snappin.

Finally, we have a two-pager called “Atrocities!” A Lovecraftian creature is doing battle with some spacemen, but the monster might not be what it seems. Written by Jack C. Harris, art by Howard Chaykin, and colors by Jerry Serpe.

And of course, as with many many books from DC comics, we get a great cover by one of the best artists to ever put pencil to page, Joe Kubert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Supernatural Thrillers 6, 1973 “The Headless Horseman Rides Again!”

Being one of the last couple issues I needed from this series, it was always higher in price than I was willing to pay. Well, for a while anyway. The condition isn’t the greatest, but it’s complete so that’s all that matters to me. The reason that this comic is being spotlighted is two fold. First, obviously it’s the “season” for such a comic to be read. Honestly, it’s always that season for me, but the rest of humanity is celebrating the Halloween season. Secondly, I made a trip to Sleepy Hollow, New York, last year. Quite a bit of fun, even though I was only there for a quick trip. OK, onto the book.

In this modernized version, we see no Ichabod Crane on horseback, but a cop that recently had a partner die under mysterious circumstances. He was investigating a certain criminal that plays rough, and Duke intends to find out what happened to his buddy. Was it the criminal or was it something even more sinister?

This adaptation (if you can call it one) is a lot of fun. The original story is great, and a straight adaptation would’ve been OK for me as well, but Gary Friedrich (writer) does a great job with this story. The story is very spooky and has a great twist ending. The artwork is awesome as well, and we have George Tuska and Jack Abel to thank for that. The full page splash of the Headless Horseman is nothing short of spectacular. The colors were a big part of the art as well, and Glynis Wein should be lauded for that job. Artie Simek does his usual rock solid job on lettering to complete the creative team behind this incredibly fun issue! Oh, and before I forget, the cool cover is by none other than Gil Kane and Ernie Chan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haunt of Horror 1, 1974 “His Own Kind”

In the year 2020, there have been reasons to be down. But, not only do I try to always look at the positives, it was easier to do that during some tough times because of horror magazines from the Bronze Age. I managed to track down and complete a few different series. One I didn’t complete yet (the last issue is crazy expensive) but did manage to get the first issue, was The Haunt of Horror. This magazine eventually became the home for Gabriel, Devil Hunter after this issue, but for now, lets dive into this inaugural issue! (cover by Bob Larkin)

After a stunning frontispiece by Alfredo Alcala, we get “The Rats!” This tale (by Gerry Conway, writer, and Ralph Reese, artist) follows a few short years after a certain film about rats debuted (Willard, 1971). The lead character also has a striking resemblance to Roy “the boy” Thomas! A fun little yarn for sure!

The following story is a prose piece with a splash page and one other illustration. “HeartStop,” by noted science fiction writer George Alec Effinger, is quite long for a comic magazine (21 pages!), and split into three parts. The tale is about murder and madness in a small Pennsylvania town. The illustrations are by none other than Walt Simonson!

Next up is a reprint from 1953. “The Last Man,” shows a murderous streak of a man named Joe. His murdering streak comes to an end, but not because of why you’d think! Art by Russ Heath (no credits given on script)!

“His Own Kind,” is another story adapted by a science fiction writer, Thomas M. Disch. This is a classic werewolf story that will not leave you wanting! Script by Roy Thomas, art by Val Mayerik (pencils)and Mike Esposito (inks).

A war story called “The Nightmare Patrol” is next. This is one that slightly mirrors the DC comics Weird War Tales, but not exactly. For 90% of the book, it’s just a straight up war story, but then things get crazy! Writer Gerry Conway, art by Ernie Chan!

Finally, we get “In the Shadows of the City!” This is one weird, bizarre story, but I expect nothing less from Steve Gerber (writer) and Vicente Alcazar (art)! A man is telling a psychologist about his compulsion to murder, and it might already have been carried out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 23, 1973 “Panic in the Night!”

In this second week of October fun, it will be my last week spotlighting the Phantom Stranger, sadly. No worries though, as I’m sure he’ll make more appearances down the road. This is my last issue from this run, though. but the other issues that feature a different creative team are still pretty good. The character is awesome but for me, these two creators took him to heights no one else had before or since. Alright, onto the story…

The setting is Paris, France, and the police find a prowler in a cathedral. He’s ringing the bells and laughing at his behavior at the same time. The villain looks like the Gentleman Ghost, but the police refer to him as Quasimodo. A plane lands at the airport, and the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra Craft exit the aircraft, and she tells the Stranger that her powers of perception are telling her this is the place of a disturbance. The Stranger then begins to question some locals about an organization that calls itself the Dark Circle. Later that very same night, a crowd is horrified to see the same ghostly figure from the cathedral sawing through the chain of a huge chandelier. If it falls, it will surely kill a few dozen people at the least. The Stranger jumps in at the last moment to save the day. But he still must contend with the Dark Circle, and they have abducted Cassandra! Awesome story by Len Wein in this issue. He really gets this character perfectly, and I feel it’s one of his best jobs in comics. Jim Aparo (interior and cover art) has done more than a serviceable job on many characters/books, but this one for me is right up there with his best (The Spectre, The Brave and the Bold). What a great team.

The back up story in this book is something to be celebrated as well. Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta (via Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) bring us “The Spawn of Frankenstein!” Two men digging in the Arctic find the remains of the Monster and are hell-bent on reanimating this abomination. A welcomed switch from Dr. 13. for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 21, 1972, “The Resurrection of Johnny Glory!”

October is finally here! As you can see, it might be a new month, but I’m going to continue to spotlight the Phantom Stranger! These issues by Wein and Aparo are right up there with any short run in comics for me. The stories are creepy and moody, and you also get a Twilight Zone vibe from them. This run needs to get more airtime, and I intend to give it to the masses. Both creators are nothing short of legends, and they deserve it.

The story starts out with a guy named Johnny, as he’s being led to the electric chair for his crimes (murder). The switch is thrown, and Johnny is toast. The onlookers flinch from the scene. Later at the morgue, two shady looking individuals show up with paperwork stating that the body of Johnny is now their property. They take the body to an underground cave, where the rest of their satanic buddies are hanging out. They perform a ritual and bring Johnny back to life! The head man tells Johnny he was resurrected to murder a saint! There’s a spiritual leader from a middle eastern country that is touring the area, and this group wants him dead! Written by Len Wein, with art by Jim Aparo!

As usual, we get a Dr. 13 backup story. “Woman of Stone” is the usual set up where he debunks something that appears to be magic/sorcery. Not a big fan of the character, but I do recognize good scripting by Len Wein and art by Tony DeZuniga.

The cover is super cool, but I do have a nitpick about it. It’s the exact same image from the first splash page inside the issue. And I mean exact, no variation whatsoever (except the background). So kudos to Aparo for the cover, but the fact that it’s reused for an interior page is not awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower of Shadows 8, 1970 “They Lurk Within the Tomb!”

Rolling into week three of my Halloween coverage, this book is an interesting one. First and foremost because the lead story isn’t even (really) horror. But that’s getting ahead of things. The first five issues of this series were all new material, but then it changed to a mixed bag including reprints after that until the last issue (9). This specific issue has only one new story, but it’s a good one! And the reprints are nothing to scoff at either. The creators in this book are outstanding, real storytellers that have a track record for awesome output. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the cover is by a master like Bernie Wrightson either!

The first story is called “Sanctuary.” It’s about a warrior king named Hamand, who has just conquered a mystical land known as Cybernia (an REH reference?). He seems to have overtaken all the foreign forces, but there is one thing he didn’t count on, and that is sorcery! This crazy sword and sorcery yarn was written, penciled and inked by Wally Wood! He does an excellent job with this quasi-Arthurian tale, and I feel as though the story and art jump off of the page and right into my mind. This is definitely one of my favorite stories by Wood. Letters by Artie Simek.

The next story is one of those quirky stories from the Atlas Age (pre-Marvel Age, 1961). In “Behold! I Am the Master of Time!,” a antique shop owner decides to use an ancient book of black magic to build an occult time machine! He’s going to try and steal antiquities from centuries past to keep his business afloat, but he didn’t count on his machine running on electricity, which doesn’t exist in the 18th century! Art by Steve Ditko (no writer credits found).

Next up is “I Found the Hidden World!” A man awakens from a nightmare, then thinks to himself about a horrible day he had recently when he discovered a portal to another world that’s inhabited by monstrous looking creatures! Written by Stan Lee (or Larry Lieber) with art by Don Heck!

Lastly we get “My Touch Means Doom!” A young man needs to scare up some cash quickly for an operation for his wife. He devises a plan to rob a bank. He evades the police but crashes near a radioactive test site. He begins to glow and anything he touches immediately dies! Can he escape the authorities and get the money to the hospital? Or does he even need to? Written by Stan Lee (or possibly Larry Lieber), with art by Don Heck!

Well, there you have it! A super cool sword and sorcery story by the legend himself, Woody, a strange tale by Sturdy Steve, and a double dose of Dashing Don Heck (at his best as far as creepiness)! Another week and another horror comic! Stay tuned as next week there shall be even more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Movie Premiere 1, 1975 “The Land that Time Forgot”

In week two of my Halloween bonanza, I’m spotlighting a book that isn’t necessarily “horror,” but one that’s more fantasy. Full disclosure, I forgot I had this magazine (plus a few horror books of the historical/biographical genre), as I’d bought it more for my son than for myself (He was a complete dinosaur addict when he was younger). In the last few weeks, I must have seen this book on social media, and it sparked a memory and I thought I had this book. I looked in all the places it should be, but then I remembered my son has a book shelf in his room, and voila, there it was! It was a feeling of joy I can’t really explain other than to say I felt compelled to blog about it.

For those that haven’t seen the film, don’t worry, you’re not missing much, but I’m sure the novel is excellent (no, I haven’t read it). I can however vouch for the awesomeness of this magazine. You get an adventure beyond belief with dinosaurs, cavemen, etc. The first twenty pages or so, involve intrigue aboard a ship, that ends up getting sunk by a submarine! It’s quite a story, and even includes some panels with no dialogue that are fantastic. Once the Submarine reaches the lost island, the action really ramps up. The dinosaurs are in full attack mode, and the natives are more than just restless!

Movie adaptations can be tricky, but as I said earlier, this book is actually way better than the film. Marv Wolfman (writer) does an excellent job with the script, and quite honestly we should expect nothing less from him. Can you remember the last time you picked up a comic written by him and thought it was bad? Me neither. There is nothing to do but praise Sonny Trinidad equally, as his artwork will dazzle you. His people are perfect, his dinosaurs are delineated perfectly, and his natives are noble (as in splendid). There is also a back up feature, written by Lin Carter ( a sci-fi/fantasy writer, and creator of the character Thongor, which Marvel Comics used in Creatures on the Loose), about films that mirrored this one in content. “Lost Races, Forgotten Cities” shows everything from King Kong (1933) to this film (1975).  This wonderfully imaginative magazine has a cover by long time DC Comics artist, Nick Cardy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey Into Mystery 2, 1972 “Yours Truly…Jack the Ripper!”

September is here, and I couldn’t be happier for a multitude of reasons. First, the temps will be lower, and the colors in nature will turn brown, orange and yellow. Second, it’s getting closer to Halloween! Horror is my friend all year ’round, and a common interest with many of my online friends. The horror community has been nothing but inviting to me (just like the comic book community), and especially the classic horror fans. They’re a warm and welcoming lot, and great for conversation and critical thinking about films. This comic has a few different angles, all of which I’ll explain now!

We all know the story of Jack the Ripper, but this one is slightly different. The scene opens in Greenwich Village (not London), and John Carmody, Sir Guy Hollis, and a beat cop have discovered a young woman, who’s been murdered by “The Slasher.” The police are baffled as to who could be committing these murders, and it looks as though they aren’t going to stop any time soon. Sir Guy has an interesting theory, though. He believes this is the work of Jack the Ripper! Sir Guy believes that Jack is a practitioner of the dark arts, and that’s how he’s still alive today. Written by Ron Goulart(based on a story by Robert Bloch), art by Gil Kane and Ralph Reese, edited by Roy Thomas.

The second story in this issue, “More than Blood,” is about a school that keeps having its sports stars turning up with some affliction no doctor can figure out. In the middle of a sporting event, like a basketball game, for example, two premiere athletes drop over in a vegetative state. By the end of the story, though, we find out exactly why this is happening, and who’s responsible! Written by George Alec Effinger, with art by Billy Graham!

Lastly, we get a reprint, but it’s a good one! “The Girl Who Couldn’t Die!” In this mad scientist entry, we see Dr. Lee Fuller, as he’s living a great life. His career is doing well, and he has a beautiful girlfriend named Lisa. Unfortunately, Lisa died unexpectedly on the eve of their wedding. This was too much for Dr. Fuller, so he decided to exhume her corpse, and attempt to reanimate it! He eventually gets the result he’s looking for, but let’s just say that Lisa isn’t quite ready for the current situation. Art by Mort Lawrence (no writer credit given, possibly Stan Lee?). All kicked off with a great cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer!