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atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

March 2024




Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I just keep on writing comic reviews nobody asked for!

IT'S OCTOBER!  The change of season is in the air.  Snow on the mountains here in Utah.  The crisp fall breezes.  People driving like they've never seen rain. Christmas music in the grocery store. Pumpkin Spice-flavored cole slaw at the Chuck-A-Rama. But best of all. . .The Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Marathon!
We're up to part EIGHT!  There's been real treats in the pumpkin bucket so far this year. . .but also some candy corn.  Nobody wants candy corn in the bucket.  So let's knock on another door and see what we get next!


Gold Key (1975)

COVER: George Wilson
Hmmm. . .interesting.  I like the white (ish) background, but the rest of it is just sort of underwhelming.  George Wilson is a great, unsung Bronze Age artist responsible for some of the best painted covers to EVER grace a comic book, but this one. . .this one isn't his best work.  It's just okay.  Let's get inside!
Four. . .count 'em. . .FOUR full-length stories in this issue. If we still got four stories in a comic today, maybe I wouldn't mind paying five bucks an issue so much.  But enough of that. Let's take a look at these stories!
PENCILS: Adolfo Buylla
After the nobleman, Count Kalman, rescues a mentally-handicapped young man named Josip from a village mob, Kalman takes him on for an assistant during his experiments into the animal nature of humankind.
After drinking a mixture concocted of wolf brains, combined with an ancient Egyptian formula he discovered, Count Kalman begins to notice his body changing.  Soon, he has transformed into a man-wolf. . .running rampant through the village and brutally killing three men!
As the distraught Kalman frantically tries to formulate an antidote to what he's done to himself, the villagers arrive at his castle in a mob, demanding he hand over Josip. . .believing the mentally-unstable young man is behind the killings.  
Fearful to be seen in his condition, Kalman lets the mob take Josip, even though he knows the young man is innocent.  As the villagers drag Josip away, he manages to escape!
Later, Count Kalman is relieved to see the change reversing and he becomes fully-human once again.  He hears pounding upon the door.  Thinking the mob has returned, he goes to see what they want.  To Kalman's surprised terror, there is no mob, but Josip. . .transformed into a wolf-man!
He had also drunk the mixture, and now he has his revenge on his former master, brutally killing him for handing him over to the mob.

Okay. . .not bad.  Another werewolf story for the Longbox Junk Halloween party.  Nothing wrong with that!  It's got a lot of Frankenstein-style science gone wrong flavor.  I liked this one quite a bit.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but still a pretty good Halloween story.  The art is what I would call serviceable.  It's not bad, but it doesn't do much more than just tell the story.  
Overall, not a bad start at all.  NEXT!
PENCILS: Jose Delbo
INKS: Jose Delbo (?)
In the deep woods of France, near a small village, a brutish, hairy beast has terrorized the villagers for years.  Children are frightened with tales of "The Beast of Bretonne", which is known to steal livestock, but not attack unless provoked, so the villagers have learned to stay away from the beast's cave.
But then, one night a travelling circus passes by the village and is caught in a storm.  The circus-folk have heard the legends of the Beast of Bretonne and are fearful of being caught near its cave.
But when they actually DO encounter the beast in its lair, the circus-folk are surprised to find the ferocious beast is nothing more than a deformed man, much like themselves, and living in misery due to the hate and fear of everyone who has ever seen him.
The circus owner takes in the beast and makes him part of the show.  He becomes their most popular attraction and becomes a beloved member of the circus family. . .proving that beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.
It's a tale as old as time. . .Beauty and the Beast.  I found this story to be surprisingly engaging.  Sweet without being sappy.  Not much of a horror story, but still a nice read.  Once again, the art is just sort of there to tell the story and not much else.  Overall, I liked this one, even though it's not really what I'm looking for as part of a Halloween Horror party.
SCRIPT: Freff  (Connor Freff Cochran)
PENCILS: John Celardo
INKS: John Celardo
On the small Greek island of Aideus, Professor Kurland and his assistant, Fred, discover a beautiful vase.  Upon examination, the Professor is excited to see that it is the culmination of a forty year career of searching.  They have finally discovered the Vase of Circe!
As Fred becomes concerned with the Professor's obsession with their discovery, we learn that Circe was an ancient Greek witch, who used her powers to ensnare the hearts of men to do her evil bidding. 
 As Fred studies through that night, he is startles by a strange sound.  Rushing to investigate, he finds the Professor before the vase, with a strange mist coming out of it.  He tries to warn the Professor, but it's too late. . .before Fred's terrified eyes, Professor Kurland is transformed into a goat-like monster!
The transformed Professor Kurland attacks Fred!  As they struggle in the woods, Fred manages to escape.  Realizing that destroying the vase is probably the best chance of saving Kurland, Fred rushes back to camp, pursued by the goat-like creature Kurland has become!
Fred grabs a hammer and destroys the vase before the goat-creature can stop him.  It explodes in a blast of smoke.  When the smoke clears, Kurland is himself again. . .but has no recollection of his transformation.  They decide not to try and restore the vase, so that Circe's magic won't trap anyone else.

Meh.  Not a very good story.  Magic vase is found.  Magic vase turns a man into a monster.  Magic vase is destroyed.  All is well.  There's not much to like about this threadbare plot.  It's not scary, funny, strange, or interesting at all.  
It's just sort of. . .there. Let's move along.
PENCILS: Frank Bolle
INKS: Frank Bolle
The day after a mysterious light is seen in the sky near the town of Elmont, a young boy named Glen finds what he thinks is some sort of strange rubber doll in the woods.  He brings it home and his father takes notice of his son's new toy.
Glen's father realizes that the "doll" isn't made of rubber.  It's some sort of dead creature!  Glen takes his father into the woods, and near where he found the strange creature they are astounded to find a crashed and wrecked spaceship of some kind, surrounded by more dead bodies.  ALIENS! 
As Glen and his father investigate the crashed ship, one remaining alien survivor stumbles from the wreck!  Terrified, Glen's father tries to shoot the alien thing, but his rifle has no effect. . .and the alien begins to grow!  The two of them rush for town with the still-growing alien in pursuit close behind.

Glen and his father make it into town and try to warn the local Sheriff, but before they can tell the story, the alien, now huge, makes its appearance!  But before the terrified townfolk can do anything, the creature falls down. . .dead.
As Glen's father investigates the body of the alien, he finds a book in its hand, stretched out as if it was trying to give the book to the humans.  As the alien body is taken away, Glen's father realizes that they may never be able to translate the alien language in the book.  
What secrets does it hold?  Mankind may never know.

Another dud to finish off this issue.  Not good.  This story just doesn't make much of an impression at all.  Yeah, I get that they were going for a "Twilight Zone Twist" ending, but it falls flat.  The art on this story is better than the previous three, thanks to comic veteran Frank Bolle. . .whose work I'm a bit more familiar with from Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom.  But even THAT doesn't save this story from being bland and forgettable.


Two pretty good stories.  Two pretty bad stories.  Half and half.  I'm not sure I can recommend this one based on two pretty good (not great) stories.  That's the problem with a lot of Gold Key comics. . .they're usually only halfway good.  Every issue I've ever read of any of their anthology titles has been the same. . .a couple pretty good stories.  A couple pretty bad stories.
Of the two pretty good stories in this particular issue, only one of them (the first werewolf story) can really even be looked at as a Halloween kind of story.  So I guess as part of the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party, I can't really recommend this issue.
I've said it before. . .I'll say it again.  They can't ALL be winners.  This one's barely even in the game.
UP NEXT. . .
The Longbox Junk Halloween party continues!
How about some more of that Mighty Marvel-style horror?
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

It's October, so we're having a bit of Halloween fun by spotlighting some of the spooky stuff in my (and my daughter's) collection.  This time out we're stepping into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and travelling back to 1963 for a Retro Review! 

As you can see from the number of "unknown" credits below, information on this issue is a bit sketchy.  To my knowledge, the review below is the only one that has ever been (and probably ever will be) written.  Once again, it makes me happy to know that writing this blog sometimes gives me the opportunity to fill in some missing comic knowledge out there for people who might be looking. 

The information on this series in general is pretty sketchy.  It had a pretty hefty run of 97 issues, because in those days publishers didn't care much about that sweet, sweet reboot #1 with multiple variant covers money.  They wanted a reliable seller to chug along as long as it possibly could.  Heck, 97 issues could probably be called a SHORT run back then!  This comic series actually outlasted Boris Karloff himself , who passed away in 1969 (the final issue came out in 1980).  But I digress. . .

This is actually a licensed property.  A tie-in to a short-lived anthology show similar to The Twilight Zone called "Thriller" that was hosted by Boris Karloff.  It only lasted 2 seasons. . .but once again, in those days a "season" was about FORTY episodes!  The show actually boasted a pretty stout roster of acting talent (including Karloff himself in several episodes).

I watched a couple episodes of the show last night while looking up information on this comic series, and I have to say I found it was actually pretty good (at least the ones I saw. . .one of which starred a young William "I. Will. Enunciate!" Shatner).  If you like Twilight Zone, you'll like Thriller.  It's a bit obscure, but definitely worth a look.  Full episodes can be found on Youtube.

The comics actually started coming out AFTER the final episode of the T.V. show and, like the show, had Boris Karloff as the host, setting up each story at the beginning and then showing up at the end to deliver a punch line, moral, or similar pithy epilogue.

But enough background.  Let's take a look at this comic. . .



GOLD KEY (1963)


COVER: Unknown (George Wilson?)
As usual, let's take a look at the cover before we get into the stories inside.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  In my extremely humble opinion, Gold Key has some of the best painted comic book covers EVER.  No matter what's inside, Gold Key has some reliably great covers. . .and this one is no exception.
I love the dark sea stretching from top to bottom and side to side, filling almost the entire cover.  In a small space, the artist manages to capture the vast emptiness of the ocean perfectly!  The tiny figures on the storm-tossed boat reinforce the sense of scale, and the beautifully-detailed ring adds a sense of mystery.  
This isn't the BEST Gold Key cover (My personal favorite is on their 1968 one shot adaptation of King Kong), but it stands right up there in the long list of great covers put out by the company.
There's no firm information on WHO painted this cover, but based on the Gold Key covers I DO know the artist of, my best guess would be prolific Gold Key cover artist George Wilson.  Don't take it as absolute, but I'm 90% sure Wilson painted this beauty.
So that's the cover.  Let's get into the stories. . .
SCRIPT: Eric Friewald & Robert Schaefer
PENCILS: Dan Spiegle
16 pages
A trail of murder and betrayal follows those who possess an ancient and priceless Aztec ring, beginning with the death at sea of famous explorer (and the ring's discoverer) John Ruskin.  Ruskin's daughter Mary is convinced that an Aztec curse is at work as those around the ring die under mysterious circumstances.
When the ring finally passes into the hands of her brother, Mary decides to end the curse by throwing the ring into the sea. . .but as she does, she slips and falls down a cliff, almost dying herself.  Mary's brother reveals that the ring is a fake.  The real ring is in a museum vault.  
All the death following the Aztec ring wasn't from a curse, but the result of greed.
The End.
Not a bad story at all.  A bit predictable, but very well-written as it follows the twists and turns of the fates of the men who die for their greed.  The art is also surprisingly good for a Silver Age comic, but once I found out Dan Spiegle was the artist, I wasn't as surprised.  He was an extremely solid and prolific artist  and his fine character work here elevates the story beyond the simple morality tale in the script.
All in all, a very enjoyable story and a great start!
SCRIPT: Unknown
Next, we have the first of three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries in this issue.  This one briefly sketches the true story of the only man known to have been swallowed by a whale and survive to tell the tale.  There's nothing spectacular about this page-count filler.  It's a straightforward retelling of the event with serviceable artwork.  Here it is in its entirety. . .
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Unknown
Next, we come to a text piece that I found pretty interesting.  It's a straight science piece about the danger the Earth is in from being hit by an asteroid, using previous impacts as examples of our imminent doom.  It seems a bit out of place, but it's also probably the scariest thing to be found in this comic.
SCRIPT: Unknown
Now we come to the second of the three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries.  This one briefly sketches out the discovery of the Oak Island Money Pit. . .something my wife is now absolutely obsessed with, thanks to "The Curse of Oak Island" reality show on History Channel.  But I digress!  Basically, a mysterious pit with some strange artifacts was discovered on an island off the coast of Canada, but nobody has managed to get to the bottom of it yet, despite hundreds of years and millions of dollar's worth of trying. 
This brief introduction to the mystery is pretty straightforward (Here, they credit pirates with creating the Money Pit), with art that tells the story, but doesn't try too hard.  Here in its entirety. . .
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Mike Sekowsky
12 pages
Next, we come to the second "feature" story.  It goes like this. . .
In the Amazon Jungle a Witch Doctor keeps the local villagers in constant fear of the evil spirits she can summon.  Only her daughter, Zilma, is free to do as she pleases. . .up to a point.  Zilma is in love with a man named Pablo.  The Witch Doctor doesn't like Pablo.
The Witch Doctor tells her tribe that she has seen Pablo bring sickness to them in her dreams, driving them into a frenzy.  With Pablo's life in danger, he and Zilma run away with the help of two friendly Peace Corps volunteers. . .but the Witch Doctor uses a voodoo doll to make Zilma sick.
Pablo uses a little magic of his own when he throws a rock and tells it to find the cause of Zilma's sickness.  The Witch Doctor is seen falling to her death off of a cliff.  It's uncertain whether it was an accident or if Pablo's magic was the cause.
Pablo becomes the tribe's new Witch Doctor and all ends well.
The End.
Okay, I'm gonna be honest here.  This story is pretty bad.  Unlike the tight and clever narrative of the opening story (even if the ending was a bit predictable), this one wanders all over the place.  In my description of the story above, I just followed the main line of the story.  There are several sub-plots that appear and disappear throughout the story.
There's an alligator that may or may not be a spirit creature.  There's the Peace Corps workers accidentally opening the tomb of Pablo's father with dynamite and his angry spirit wandering around.  There's another spirit that comes out of a stew pot that may or may not have been summoned by the Witch Doctor to attack Zilma.  That's a lot of sub-plot in twelve lousy pages. . .especially since most of it has little to no bearing on the main storyline.
The art also takes a downhill slide compared to the opening story.   There, fine lines and great character work enhanced the story.  Here, the art is clumsy and workmanlike, featuring sloppy colors and Amazon natives with Elvis Presley hair.  There, I found the art unexpectedly good for a Silver Age comic.  Here, it's sadly exactly what I expect.
I realize that comparing one story with another might seem a bit unfair, but even taken on its own and without comparison, this story has an unfocused narrative and art that is okay, but doesn't even try to reach any higher than that.
SCRIPT: Unknown
The comic closes out with the last one page spotlight on true mysteries in history.  This one briefly sketches the mystery of the Count of Saint-Germain. . .a historic figure who made outlandish claims that led people to believe he was hundreds of years old.  I'm no expert, but from what I've read of this, it seems to be a case of someone saying whatever he wanted without fear of anyone being able to prove him wrong.  These days, I'm pretty sure a $30 background check and some Google detective work would be enough to keep his name out of the history books.  Here's the feature in its entirety. . . 


First, I realize this isn't a "Horror" comic at all.  I didn't know that coming in.  Since Boris Karloff was such an influential figure in the horror genre, I assumed that a Boris Karloff comic would be a horror comic.  It's actually more of a "Suspense" comic in the vein of Twilight Zone.  
Does that make it a BAD comic?  Not really.  It's not a great comic by any means, but it has a very nice signature Gold Key painted cover, a really good opening story, and a couple of somewhat interesting features.  Unfortunately, the second story isn't very good, which basically puts about half the comic under the bar.
Good taken with bad, I'd have to say this comic is still pretty good and worth picking up if you come across it for a decent price.  It's not something I'd really recommend putting effort into hunting down, but I'd also say not to pass it by if you happen to see it.
Up Next. . .
I'm fillin' your pumpkin bucket as full of Halloween Longbox Junk as I can.
Be there or be square!

- read more

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