Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews whether you ask me to or not!
It's October, my favorite time of year! It's that wonderful time where I can start wearing a jacket and actually have enough pockets to carry all my stuff! October is also a time for some spooky fun and that's just what we're doing at Longbox Junk!
All this month I'm shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with a little supernatural flavor. It's a Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party!
What's Halloween without some witches and their witchcraft? Not much of a Halloween at all, in my humble opinion. So let's get some witchcraft in the mix! The Longbox Junk paper time machine is fueled up and ready to head back to the Golden Age. . .Let's do this!
COVER: Gene Fawcette (?)
Now that's a great Halloween cover right there! It's a real Golden Age comic rack eye catcher, with the dark skull standing out perfectly against the bright yellow background. I also really like the gradient colors on the title. It really gives this cover a nice finishing touch. This one is another one of my favorites. I probably paid more for this comic than I normally would because I just HAD to have that cover in my collection. Let's get inside the comic and see what else is happening, shall we? We shall!
It's a typical Golden Age comic book heavy load! For one lousy dime readers in 1952 got four full comic stories plus a one page text story under that awesome eye-catcher of a cover. Let's check 'em out!
THE DEATH TATTOO
PENCILS: Norman Nodel
INKS: Vince Alascia
After being caught red-handed for theft, the resident hypnotist of a travelling circus makes a strange confession. His powers come from a parasitic tattoo that slowly drives its host to evil acts and insanity. After the hypnotist kills himself, the tattoo begins pursuing his young assistant and her lover.
Okay, not a bad start. It's one of those "Mysterious happenings at the circus" tales that the Golden Age seemed somewhat fond of. I've noticed that there's a fair chance that any Golden Age "suspense" comic is going to have some sort of circus story in it.
That strange observation aside, the ending of the story is pretty abrupt, but that's really the only complaint I have here. The art on this one is the real star, though. It's a great example of how some Golden Age art really stands the test of time.
THE VAMPIRE PUPPET
PENCILS: Edward Goldfarb
After a trio of disgruntled assistants murder a famous ventriloquist, his spirit possesses the ventriloquist's dummy, slowly transforming it into a vampiric creature that kills the murderers one by one.
It's a well-worn "Revenge from beyond the grave" story, but it's well written and is backed up by some more very nice Golden Age art. I'm not a fan of typeset lettering, but it doesn't distract too much. The only problem I have with this little tale is with the possessed ventriloquist dummy ALSO being a vampire. It seems like putting a hat on a hat. . .one evil thing is good, two things is a bit overdone.
THE DEAD DO TELL!!
(One page text only story with illustrations)
PENCILS: Joe Kubert
A murdered man's ghost reveals the face of his killer to his wife.
It's a pretty straightforward telling of what is supposedly a true ghost story (even though I couldn't find any mention of it from internet searches of the names, etc.). Probably the most interesting thing about it is that if it IS based on true events, then testimony of ghostly visitation leading to capital punishment is a pretty low bar for evidence in a murder trial. Also, it has a couple of illustrations by my all-time favorite comic artist, the late, great Joe Kubert. Unfortunately, they're so badly inked that you can barely see his style.
Overall, not a bad little space-filler.
HOUSE TO LET
PENCILS: Sid Check
A scientist obsessed with the secret of life finally succeeds with one of his experiments, but in the process, he accidentally brings life to his house! As the living house drains the scientist of his life, he finds himself steadily shrinking and is killed when he tries to escape. After the scientist's death, the house puts itself on the market in order to lure more victims.
It's a sort of strange combination of well-used "Science gone wrong!" and "Inanimate thing comes to life" story paths, but it's pretty well written and not too bad of a little tale. But, like the "Vampire Dummy" story above, it sort of puts a hat on a hat by the house draining the life from people AND making them shrink into non-existence. One or the other would have been fine. Both is a little much. But back on the good side of things, this story continues the track record in this issue of having some very nice Golden Age artwork backing it up.
THE NORTHERN HORROR
PENCILS: A. Albert
INKS: Joe Kubert
An expedition searching for uranium in the arctic comes across evidence of ancient Vikings, but soon find themselves stalked and killed one by one by vengeful spirits angry at their rest being disturbed. After finding the Viking's ship with long-frozen bodies and a hold full of gold treasure, the leader of the expedition ends up being the lone survivor when his greed gets the better of him and the ship sinks.
It's another "Vengeance from beyond the grave" story mixed in with some "You should have listened to the natives" thrown in. Aside from the well-worn story path, this one is just sort of awkward for some reason. It feels a bit rushed, and is probably the worst story of the bunch. Even so, it's not BAD.
I was a bit excited to see there was some inking by Joe Kubert on this one. Unfortunately, the pencils aren't that good, and Kubert's inks can't do much to improve them. Overall, not a great way to finish the comic out.
Not bad. Not bad at all! Not great, mind you, but still a very readable comic even after 68 years! The stories all have minor problems, but nothing big enough to call any of them bad. The art is mostly the best part of the stories (with the exception of the final story, and even there it's not too bad), with a great, darkly-inked Golden Age style that does most of the heavy lifting in this issue, bringing "okay" stories up a notch.
If I have one gripe with this comic is that there's no Witchcraft in it! The series is called "Witchcraft", where's the witches and their craft? Instead of Witchcraft, we get a handful of decent "Supernatural Suspense" stories with nary a witch to be found!
Lack of witchery aside, I liked this comic. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone interested in some very nice Golden Age artwork backing up some pretty good suspense stories under a great eye-catcher of a cover.
Unfortunately, it seems that only the first story has been reprinted (in a 2006 collection of Golden Age stories called "Chamber of Mystery") and this issue is surprisingly pricey for an original in good condition. I discovered that even in the somewhat rough shape mine is in, the forty bucks I spent was actually a very sweet deal indeed.
Up Next. . .
The Longbox Junk Halloween party ain't over yet! Not even close.
How about heading back to 1977 for a look at Marvel's take on a classic tale of terror? I'm talking about Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and The Pendulum (and two other stories)!
Be there or be square!