Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for! Wait. . .did that make sense? You know what, I don't care! Welcome!
We're in the last week of October and it's the Halloween Home Stretch for Longbox Junk before we get back to our random business as usual. So sit back and enjoy a few more posts where we spotlight some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.
I was sort of on the fence about labeling this one as a Longbox Junk "Retro Review". It sits solidly at the end of the Bronze Age in 1980. . .and at 40 years old, it's not exactly a new comic. But on the other hand, the art and the stories inside definitely have a more Modern Age feel to them. . .despite paying lip service to the CCA by sporting the (then increasingly toothless) seal of approval on the cover.
In any case, no matter where this comic may fall in terms of defining "Age", at a top value of twelve lousy bucks for a mint copy (according to Comic Book Realm) it's definitely what I would call Longbox Junk. . .so let's take a look!
COVER: Luis Dominguez
So before we get into the comic itself, let's linger a moment over the cover.
In my extremely humble opinion, that's a fine Halloween cover right there! I mean, just LOOK at it. It's so wrong. . .yet so right! This is the sort of cover that makes me buy an old comic without seeing or knowing anything else about it. And that's exactly how I ended up with this. How could I possibly pass up a comic with a cover like this? I can't! I just can't!
This is just a great horror comic cover. It's one of my favorites and it makes regular appearances as part of my Halloween comic cover display on my office wall at work.
Let's get into the comic itself. There's four stories in here for the fifty cents this cost in 1980. Plus each story has an introduction page starring The House of Secrets' Abel or The Witching Hour's trio of witches. That's a pretty hefty pile of pages for two measly quarters.
SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Torre Repiso
After an inmate escapes from the local insane asylum, a police captain's wife receives a visitor claiming to be an investigator on the case. She becomes suspicious and tries to escape the house, narrowly avoiding death when her husband arrives just in time to shoot the disguised inmate.
There's not really much to this story. It's basically a "stalker chase scene" horror trope with the twist that the Captain's wife became suspicious in the first place because the inmate was female and she could tell the disguised "investigator" was female by the way she held her arms.
Even though it's light on actual story, it's well written and the art is very nicely done. Not a bad story, but not great. It feels like page-filler more than anything. I'm not sure this should have been the lead-off here.
HOPPING DOWN THE BUNNY TRAIL
SCRIPT: Michael Uslan
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
Three kids join the festivities after signs advertising an Easter Egg hunt at an old mansion pop up around town overnight. At the party, the three are invited inside the mansion for a "special" hunt with a big prize. Instead of prizes, they fall into a trapdoor that drops them into a vat of chocolate.
One of them is pulled out by a giant Easter Bunny, who immediately bites the head off of the chocolate-covered kid. . .leaving the other two still trapped in the vat of chocolate watching as the first is devoured, horrified and knowing that they will die the same way. . .
Wow. . .just. . .wow. Even toward the end of the CCA's influence, I find it hard to believe that this story made it past. It's not ambiguous at all. . .the Easter Bunny gets his revenge by biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid. It's a classic "Turn-about is fair play" horror comic trope.
It's a very short little tale, but it's just SO random that it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why does the Easter Bunny choose THIS Easter for his revenge? Wait. . .is that the Easter Bunny at all? Why does the Easter Bunny Monster live in a trap-filled mansion? What does the Easter Bunny eat the rest of the year? So on and so forth. . .so many questions!
This strange little nugget of horror was written by one of my top 5 old-school comic writers, Michael Uslan. I stand here and give him a round of applause for giving the world this unexplained and probably unexplainable piece of hidden Longbox Junk gold.
Bravo, Mr. Uslan! *vigorous clapping*
THE MIDNIGHT MESSENGER
SCRIPT: Peter John Palmer
PENCILS: Ken Landgraf & Joe Orlando
A pet shop owner being harassed by an extortionist performs an occult ceremony as a last resort, trading his soul to the "Agent" he summons to rid himself of the hoodlum and restore his ruined store.
Over the coming years, he regrets his deal and tries his best to be a good and righteous man, hoping he will be able to bargain his way free at the end. Later, as he lays dying, the "Agent" comes to collect on the bargain. The man tries to plead his case, only for the "Agent" to reveal that he had summoned supernatural help from Heaven, not . .and that his good behavior has indeed saved him.
The twist that the shop owner had summoned an angel instead of a demon was pretty good here and actually caught me by surprise. Another thing that caught me by surprise is that even though the late Joe Orlando is credited on art, this story actually has the worst art in the comic. It's not BAD, it's just. . .very average and workmanlike. Maybe I was just expecting better after seeing Orlando's name on the credits.
AND FINALLY. . .
THE CREATURE OF THE PARK
SCRIPT: Ms. Charlie Seeger
PENCILS: Arthur Geroche
At Milestone National Park, a Ranger and his Deputy investigate a camper's death they believe was caused by a renegade bear. When a close examination of a second victim is made, it appears that she was killed by rabbits!
Now convinced the Ranger himself is killing the campers and making it look like animals are responsible, the Deputy tries to protect himself, but when the Ranger is also killed, the Deputy finds himself facing a small horde of animals. . .including rabbits, deer, and birds. . .that kill him as well.
At the end of things, it's revealed that the Park itself turned against humans for revenge against littering, forest fires, and bad treatment of nature.
Allrighty, then. It's a horror story with an environmental message! Unfortunately, that message falls flat. Really flat. It's actually a pretty decent story with some great, darkly-inked artwork. . .until the "twist" that the Park itself was rebelling against human abuse of nature. It's just sort of cringeworthy.
What I DID like about this story (besides the very nice artwork) is that it's the second story in this comic with killer rabbits (even if these are off-panel instead of biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid). Even though it has a September publishing date, I'd have to say that the two killer bunny stories make this issue a great unsung Easter Horror comic! I don't think there's many of those out there, so there's that.
Overall, I'd have to say that this was a pretty good comic. At the time it was published, the comic horror anthologies were well on their way out the door. This issue still has a nice little spark of life to it that I liked a lot. Generally-speaking, the stories were all pretty good and nicely-illustrated.
The Michael Uslan killer Easter Bunny story is the definite star here, just for its complete randomness and for seeming like something that was sort of sneaked in under the radar. The final story has the best art, but the worst story. The other two are just sort of "pretty good", but everything in this comic displays little glints of gold here and there in single panels of art or lines of dialogue.
This is a comic that I absolutely love for the cover. That said, what's inside isn't bad at all. If you spot this one for a decent price (as in five bucks or less) then definitely pick it up and enjoy a strange little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
Up Next. . .
Halloween ain't over until the 31st!
So there's still a little more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to come.
Be there or be square!