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.
As Stevecember chugs along, we get a classic horror tale from none other than my favorite Dr. Strange writer, Steve Englehart! Before his time on The Avengers and Dr. Strange, and long before his Justice League and awesome Batman (with Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin) work, he wrote some off-beat horror stories for Warren, DC, and of course, Marvel comics.
In this issue of Journey into Mystery, we get “House!” We see Jim Staton (a riff on Joe Staton?) wandering onto a certain property, as his car has broken down in the Kentucky wilderness. He shows himself inside, and it appears the home is abandoned. He notices how odd the entrance is, and that it sports a gate, as a castle would. Jim throws his coat on the floor, and gets ready to fall asleep for the night. He was all but asleep, and then his hand touches something on the floor. There is some sort of viscous material seeping from the walls and floors, and it freaks Staton out. He attempts to run out of the house, but the gate slams shut. Suddenly, the carpet begins to jump up and down like the waves in the ocean. It pulls him back, further into the house. He tries to run down the hall, but there’s a huge drop off into a bottomless pit, barring his way. As he turns around towards the living room, the opening begins to close, and Staton begins to piece together what’s happening. He believes the house is alive, and it is about to eat him!
This little horror story is very reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode. And we know that’s a good thing. Englehart is more known for writing multipart stories that can last for a few issues in a row, tying continuity together from the past and present as well. No need for that here, but that’s the point. He can write any kind of story and that’s why he’s on my Mount Rushmore of comic book writers.
Story by “Stainless” Steve Englehart, and art by Ralph Reese! Tune in next week, for the conclusion of Stevecember!
There are certain creators that invoke a feeling of excitement for me. One of those names for sure, is Tom Sutton! Of course he’s one of those guys that mainstream comic book fans might not recognize, but the old school/hardcore fans know it well. His work in the horror genre is legendary, and rightly so, but he’s also drawn superheroes, war, westerns, etc., but horror is his forte. At Marvel comics, you saw his excellent version of Ghost Rider, all sorts of horrific scenes in the black and white magazines, and more. The same over at DC, as he did solid work on House of Mystery (I, Vampire) and other titles.
The focus of this week’s post will be not on the work Sutton did for the big two, but for Charlton comics. Some may not recognize the work when compared to what he did at Marvel, but they kept a house style and smooth lines for their artwork. The work is fantastic (see episode 9 of Into the Weird for some thoughts of mine and The Longbox of Darkness), but again, isn’t his developed style. Once he started working at Charlton though, he really brought his own unique work to the horror genre. These images are just a small sample of what Sutton did there, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them!
Sometimes you just have to take a look at something off the beaten path. Even if it’s in an ancillary way, like in this case. Anyone that’s a fan of this blog knows how I feel about swamp monsters. I prefer the Marvel version but also like the DC counterpart. One other version is The Lurker of the Swamp! In his Gold Key issue of Dr. Spektor, we see not only a crazy swamp monster, but a meteorite that can hypnotize people, and of course a fight between said monster and an alligator. Few know this comic book fact, but every time a swamp monster crosses paths with an alligator, they must fight.
In 1976, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing were both already a big deal. So, it was a no-brainer for other companies to try to create a knock-off. The visuals of this beast are certainly different enough than the other two, and Jesse Santos (art, interiors and cover) is the reason why. A cross between the two more popular creatures, this one has a little bit of a difference not only stylistically, but also in the way it behaves as well. The other characters in this story seem kind of bland, but there definitely enough action and intrigue thanks to Don Glut (writer). Definitely grab this book if you see at a decent cost, even if for nothing more than the awesome cover!
During the 1970s, there were a few different things that were hot commodities. In comics, one of them for sure was horror. Vampires, monsters, demons, mummies, witches, and of course, werewolves! In 1972, Marvel decided to create their own werewolf character that would be not only a creature of destruction, but one of tragedy as well. Jack Russell would turn twenty-one years old, and turn into a werewolf under a full moon from here on out.
Early on, the book centered around Jack trying to figure out why this happened to him. He very quickly realized that a certain book was involved, and that unless he finds The Darkhold, he may never get any answers. In what’s basically a werewolf dropped in the middle of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Jack is confronted by a strange island full of surprises, and by the end of the issue, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place.
In this early second age of horror for Marvel comics, Gerry Conway (writer) is one of the men that was tasked with writing these titles off and on (between his epic Spider-Man run and other superhero titles as well). Not to belittle Conway’s efforts, but Mike Ploog (cover and interior art) was outstanding during this period with his horror work. He had runs on this title/character, Monster of Frankenstein, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider, and they were all exquisite. The creative team is rounded out by veteran Sam Rosen (letters).
*Note- there was also a lot of input on the early issues of the horror books by Writer/Editor Roy Thomas, and he definitely deserves credit as well.
It’s time once again, to spotlight the best comic book title from the Bronze Age! Yes, you read that correctly. Not the best horror comic, THE best comic book, period. The Tomb of Dracula ran for 70 issues, from 1972 until 1979, and was without a doubt one of the best series ever. This little reprint book from 1992 has three issues in it. Two of the issues are back to back (45-46) and one is a standalone (30). The two consecutive issues revolve around Dracula using his influence on a satanic cult, and getting married. Good stuff, but I love the standalone issue better. That one shows Dracula reminiscing about some adventures he had in the past. One in particular where he meets a blind girl is quite fascinating.
The dream team of Marv Wolfman (writer), Gene Colan (pencils), and Tom Palmer (inks and colors), was in place for a while when these issues were published. They were on a roll by this point, and churning out fantastic stories. You add John Costanza (letters), and the crew is complete. This creative team would go on for 70 issues total in this series, and Wolfman and Colan would do more Dracula work in the future as well (Tomb of Dracula, 1991-92 – Epic, and The Curse of Dracula, 1998 – Dark Horse). Whatever the format, get out and grab one of the best books around!
It’s been a little while since I presented a horror comic, so I thought, “why not now!” Of course, when you make that decision, it must be a good one, so today we have Vault of Evil #14! This series presented some older material (mostly from the 1950’s), and showcased some of the greatest artists of all time! In this issue, we see some eerie stories, some of which don’t even have proper credits attached to them. We do know the artists, but not the writers. Four weird tales of horror adorned this issue, and believe me when I say, they nothing less than awesome!
The first story is rendered by Steve Ditko, and we all know that he can do “creepy” as well as anyone! The last story is one that is quite spectacular, and features artwork by none other than Gene Colan! Wedged in the middle of those two stories is one (The Albatross) by long time DC editorial stalwart, Joe Orlando. He was actually an assistant to Wally Wood early in his (Orlando’s) career! Any way you slice it, this title is one that every collector needs, provided you don’t have the originals! Cover by ‘Rampaging’ Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia!
As I wind down this look at some of the great horror titles in comics from the best decade of comic books (stop arguing, it is!), I wanted to give a wider variety than what I’ve posted so far in the previous three installments. There definitely must be contributions from Werewolf by Night, Monster of Frankenstein, Son of Satan, and a nod to the great black and white magazines, as well! Let us send this tribute out with a bang, and see books starring the likes of -Steve Gerber (RIP), Mike Ploog, Gil Kane (RIP), Sonny Trinidad (RIP), Billy Graham (RIP), Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Jim Steranko, Don McGregor, Tony Isabella, Jim Aparo (RIP), Carmine Infantino (RIP), Nick Cardy (RIP), Ross Andru (RIP), George Tuska (RIP), and more! Enjoy!