New Reviews of Old Comics
I go back and forth on compilation horror comics. Certainly the idea of short, eerie stories is appealing, but often the execution leaves something to be desired. Then again these stories are early to mid 70’s comics and not much was expected of American comics at that time. If I’m looking for something more in depth I can open my O. Henry collection.
House of Mystery #202 is a 52 page book with 6 stories (ok, five stories and a two page spread that isn’t much of a story) all hosted by the ever present (not Herman) Cain. First up is “The Shearing of a Soul” which starts off with a well-to-do looking man screaming and surrounded by what one can only assume are demons. How did this poor chap get into such a mess? Glad you asked since the butler is telling the woeful tale. An old rich guy had a much younger wife (that never happens) who had a baby and then the old guy died. The young bride made a pact with the devil to bring the old guy’s spirit back to life in the new baby. Sadly the woman died in one of those tragic and under reported night gown fires before she could complete all of her demonic promises, and thereby not fulfilling the spirit transfer entirely. The well-to-do man is that baby all growed up and now haunted by demons every night. That’s it. End of story. I like the names used in the story (Jubal and Abner), but otherwise this was kind of lame. It was written by Gerard Conway who would go on to write much better comics, with art by Mike Sekowsky who was never heard from again; At least by me, and this is my column so that’s all that counts.
After a page of ads we get “A Deal with a Sorcerer!” written by John Albano and art by Nestor Redondo, which starts off with Cain (using an alias because otherwise people would know they’re in for trouble) delivering a spell over an old guy kneeling and sweating in a pentagram; this looks promising. The old guy, Franklin Owen, has received the power to command air borne demons and make them do his bidding. Naturally he makes an armored car crash and steals the cash; wouldn’t that be your first move if you controlled air demons? With stolen money comes misfortune; poor Franklin is subsequently mugged by a bum in an alley, then beaten in a bar by the same bum and other bums he just bought drinks for using the twice stolen cash, a beating that lands Franklin in the hospital. On his way back to Cain to undo the power he comes across a couple of fashionable looking dudes talking about the glories of being rich, so he changes his mind and keeps his power. Cain closes by telling us Franklin then robbed a witch’s house and got his comeuppance anyway, but I like to think Franklin became a US Senator to pull of f his next heist, and therefore never got caught.
“Stay Away From Me – You May Die” is next. Here a famous surgeon picks up a glowing rock in the road (who wouldn’t?) which starts buzzing. He’s so smart he immediately concludes the rock is a bomb (what else could it possibly be), but despite pleas from his wife, he’s too stupid to let go of it. In three panels he goes from big brained super analyst to unable to open his hand; not to mention ignoring his wife is going to be really bad for him later when he wants to get laid. Because he’s a famous surgeon he has smart friends to help him and their suggestion is to wrap his hand in a bag; partially because they don’t want him to loosen his grip, thus causing an explosion, but mostly because they lacked other ideas. I mean how often do you come across bombs that look like glowing rocks? Ultimately they go to Cape Canaveral to put him on a rocket because the weightlessness of space will allow him to release the rock without an explosion. While in space an alien space craft comes by to take their “star bomb” away from the surgeon. Yeah. That’s like the worst ending ever. Eight pages of build up resolved in one contrived panel. No writing or art credits on this one. No one will ‘fess up to it. Can’t blame them.
Next is the two page spread about two old guys trapped on a island for 25 years commiserating about their dire circumstances. One of them turns out to be Hitler. *yawn* Like the previous story, this one is not credited.
The next story really is a surprise because the art is by Sergio Aragones, so it looks more Mad than House of Mystery. A small college is having an issue with posters all over the place warning about “klop.” Problem is no one knows what “klop” means. Groovy new word? Up and coming band? New vegan restaurant? What could it be? Seven pages of investigation by concerned students is all for naught as a nearby mountain explodes, shooting a giant rock into the air on course with the unsuspecting college. The sound it makes upon impact with said college is “klop.” At least Steve Skeates takes credit for writing this one, unlike the cowards of the previous two stories.
We conclude this issue with “The Phantom on Wheels” about a ghost debunker who takes a haunted car for a ride; or rather it takes him for a ride as part of TV special. Through brick walls and on top of water, all with a ghost in the back seat, the man goes on a harrowing ride. When he gets back to the studio the host tells the debunker it was all a set up. Foam bricks and glass covered water to create the illusion and make him admit ghosts are real. Ah, the irony. But wait, there’s more! Turns out the money for those props didn’t come through so the foam bricks and glass were never set up! Double irony!! No one took credit for this story either. What’s up with that?
Best Ads: A small display ad within the last story takes the cake this time. Masculiner Co. of East Orange, NJ offers you the opportunity to look impressive any time! For $6 they will mail you side burns, a mustache and Van Dyke (whatever that is), you just choose your color. Deluxe models of all three are $5 a piece. The ad says they adhere securely, but also come off and on in seconds. Doesn’t that seem a bit contradictory? I don’t know, somehow I’m lacking confidence in the product based on this ad. Anyway, what makes this ad great is the drawing of the goofy looking guy sporting his quickly adhering facial hair; blond hair with dark sideburns, mustache and Van Dyke (is that a 70s version of a goatee?) Even better is his uncanny resemblance to one of the fashionable looking dudes from the second story. Clearly THAT guy is enjoying his purchase from the Masculiner Co of East Orange, NJ. He must have bought the deluxe models.