Tales of the Zombie 1, 1973 “The Altar of the Damned!”
It took me quite a while, but I finally completed this series of magazines. One and four were pretty tough to find in my budget, as was the Annual, but it finally happened! This first issue is quite a treat, as it features not only super cool stories, but incredible artwork as well. Of course, the lead feature and star of the series, Simon Garth, the Zombie, is an interesting character. His stories slightly mirror that of the Man-Thing, because of one simple reason- he cannot speak. Not an easy task for any writer, but if anybody is up for it, Steve Gerber is the writer. Let us begin with an amazing cover by Boris Vallejo!
The zombie stories in this magazines are three-fold. The first, “Altar of the Damned,” shows the second appearance of the character in comics. In this one, we see voodoo rituals, and some sleazy guy (“Gyps“) controlling the whole thing in order to get control of Simon Garth. This story (art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer) serves as sort of a precursor to the second story, which is actually the very first appearance of the character (Zombie! A Man Without a Soul! in Menace 5, 1953, story by Stan Lee and art by Bill Everett). So, in short, they did a retroactive continuity (retcon) story to flesh out the character for the readers. Not a bad idea, but one that has been beaten like a dead horse since (especially in more modern comics).
Next up is a reprint from the Golden Age (Journey into Mystery 1, 1952). “Iron-Head” is a story about a seedy guy that does whatever he can to survive, including murder for money! He spends time on a ship, diving for treasure, but then gets the idea that he can take out the middle men and have all the money for himself! He blows up the ship, and gets the last but most lucrative chest for himself. He then makes his way to a nearby island, but the local natives aren’t very kind to strangers! Art by Dick Ayers!
“The Thing from the Bog!,” is a visually stunning work by artist Pablo Marcos, and the story by Marv Wolfman isn’t half bad either! We see a rotting corpse rise the from the bog, a witch casting a spell, and her untimely death! But her death was not in vain, as we see her “people” slowly rise from their graves! The last page of this story is nothing short of heart-wrenching, and deserving!
There is also a quick little two page story by horror master Tom Sutton! “Mastermind” is a Frankenstein’s Monster homage that has the good doctor regretting his action almost immediately!
The bookend story for Simon Garth, “Night of the Walking Dead!,” picks up where the first half left off, as the sleazy Gyps is dead, and Donna Garth identifies him for the coroner. She then obtains the voodoo coin from the police, and immediately gets a bad feeling. Meanwhile, in the graveyard, we see something or someone, stirring. Simon Garth rises from his grave, and is attacked by a dog (with a hunter). He kills the animal brutally, then makes his way towards the coin, as if its calling to him. Written by Steve “Baby” Gerber, art by “Big” John Buscema and Syd Shores.