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!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
*Looks around the room with a smile of satisfaction*  Yep, yep. . . a mighty fine Halloween party this year.  A MIGHTY fine party indeed.  We're all the way up to part TWELVE. 
 
There's been a clunker here and there, and that's to be expected, but overall, the Longbox Junk 2023 Halloween Horror Marathon has been going along very nicely.
 
So let's keep things going with a look at a. . .Halloween comic.  Wait, what?  

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #5

DC (1975)

 
 
COVER: Bernie Wrightson
 
THE COVER:
 
It's by Bernie Wrightson.  It's good.  That's a given.  But this isn't just a GOOD Halloween cover, this is a GREAT Halloween cover!  If I had to pick out a top ten list of Halloween covers, this one would definitely be somewhere on it.  Let's get inside this thing!
 
THE STORIES:
 
THREE stories for one quarter.  That's like eight cents a story!  AND a Bernie Wrightson cover?  THAT'S some good value right there, folks.  Let's check these stories out one at a time.
 
GUNSLINGER! 
 
SCRIPT: Bill Reilly & Guy Lillian
PENCILS: John Albano
INKS: Vince Colletta
 
THE STORY:
 
Kirk Cordell was a mob hitman.  One of the fastest guns around, and he knew it.  He often imagined himself as a legendary quick-draw gunfighter in the old west.  On this stormy night, we follow Kirk as he goes to visit his old friend, Neal.  There's a hit out on Neal and, friend or not, Kirk is going to be the one to collect.
 
Neal welcomes his friend, but quickly learns what Kirk's business with him is.  Kirk allows Neal to go for his gun for old time's sake, but Neal doesn't have a chance against Kirk's speed.
 
 
Seeing some potential witnesses outside, Kirk decides to wait a while before leaving.  He settles in for a nap, with his friend's dead body, still clutching his pistol, laying nearby.
 
 
As he dozes, Kirk has a horrific nightmare of death itself challenging the hitman to a gunfight!  It's a gunfight that Kirk loses.  The sound of a shot brings the police, where they find the two dead men.  They're confused as to how Neal was able to kill Kirk after being dead for an hour. 
 
The Medical Examiner tells them it was rigor mortis.  Neal's contracting muscles pulled the trigger.
 
Or DID they?  DUN-DUN-DUNNNN!
 
 The End.

THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, not a bad start.  It's a pretty enjoyable little "Death from beyond the grave" story that would be right at home as an old Twilight Zone episode.  I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as a "Halloween Shocker" as advertised on the cover, but it's still a decent little story.  The art is also very nice, with lots of detail and a good sense of movement.  Overall, a good start to the issue!
 
NEXT!
 
WHAT AM I BID?
 
SCRIPT: Arnold Drake
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
INKS: Tenny Henson
 
THE STORY:
 
Peggy Marlow was beautiful and ruthless.  An auction agent procuring only the best items, and not afraid of using any underhanded method she needed to get the sale.
 
 
But Peggy was also a bit careless, and people started to notice items missing, or fake items being sold, with the profits going missing.  But still, Peggy was the best, and so the auction house still used her.
 
 
But at an auction in Paris, Peggy is caught red-handed selling a fake Persian vase for an huge sum.  The owner of the actual vase blackmails Peggy in exchange for his not revealing her.  She will conduct an auction for him.
 
And so Peggy travels to the isolated Arabian kingdom of Sakbar, where she finds herself in a palatial palace.  The auction is to take place at midnight.
 
 
Peggy is a bit confused about the revealing outfit she is expected to wear, but is told that it is tradition in that country.  As she is led to the auction, Peggy is horrified to discover that it is HER that is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder!
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little story, overall.  But, like the first, I'm finding it hard to connect this little tale of a woman who reached too hard and paid the price with Halloween.  Hmmmm. . .MAYBE I shouldn't believe everything I see on the cover of a comic book.  Go figure.  The story is pretty good, but the main draw here is the gorgeous artwork!  It has that certain Bronze Age style that didn't seem to last very long. . .a sort of flowing pop art look that I really like a lot!
 
So, not a Halloween story, but not bad.  NEXT!
 
THE STARS, LIKE PALLBEARERS
 
SCRIPT: David Michelinie
PENCILS: Ernie Chan
INKS: Bill Draut
 
THE STORY:
 
A space traveler named Frank Munro is jolted from suspended animation by a malfunction in his sleep tube.  As he heads for another tube to continue his sleep during the long journey, he discovers bodies of his fellow colonists. . .drained of blood! DUN-DUN-DUNNN!!
 
 
As Munro investigates, the culprit makes himself known!  There's a VAMPIRE aboard the colony ship! As he mocks the mortal, Munro runs.  The vampire gives chase, enjoying a bit of sport.  
 
A cat and mouse game between mortal and vampire ensues, with Munro barely escaping several times before he finally realizes the only way out is to destroy the ship so that the vampire can't infect the entire colony.
 
And so he sets a shuttlecraft to self-destruct and resigns himself to his fate.
 
 
Unfortunately for Munro, the vampire was able to guess what he was up to.  As they confront each other one final time, the vampire shows Munro the drifting shuttle, ejected from the ship and harmless. . .OR SO HE THINKS!
 
As the shuttlecraft explodes outside, the brilliant light comes through the observation window, where the shadow of the frame forms the sign of the cross. . .burning the vampire to ash!  
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I want to like this story.  I REALLY want to like this story.  But I don't.  But WHY? It has David Michelinie. . .one of my favorite Iron Man writers! It has the great Ernie Chan. . .the artist who, in MY mind is the definitive Conan artist!  This SHOULD have been a slam-dunk!  A SLAMMIN' Slam dunk!
 
But it's not.  It's the worst story in the issue.  This makes me sad. 
 
The best thing about this disappointing tale from two of my favorite creators is that it's the only story in the issue that's actually sort of a Halloween story, even if it IS Vampires in SPAAAAAACE!  It's still vampires, right? RIGHT?  *sigh*
 

CONCLUSION

 
So. . .two good stories and one bad.  I guess Meatloaf was right when he sang that "Two out of three ain't bad".  You would THINK I'd be happy with a 2 out of 3 result.  But that last story sticks with me for all the wrong reasons.  I can't help but wonder how two. . .count 'em. . .TWO comic legends could let me down like that.  It's like. . .DOUBLE the disappointment.
 
But I guess putting the last story out of my mind for a moment, I can certainly recommend this issue.  Just don't expect Halloween stories in this special Halloween issue of Secrets of Haunted House.  The only thing Halloween to be found HERE is that awesome Bernie Wrightson cover.
 
The stories are clever and the art is really good on the first two stories, so there's enough meat on the bone to save this one.  Too bad I can't get the nasty taste of being let down by two comic greats on the last story out of my mouth.
 
UP NEXT. . .
 
That's right, folks. . .MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
I've got six more to go to beat my October record, and I'm gonna do it!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where you can find all the comic reviews you ever, er. . .NEVER. . .asked for!

 
It's October!  It's that time of year when you can buy a ten pound bag of candy and not feel a single bit of shame!  Here at Longbox Junk, we've been having a fine little Halloween party.  All this month I've been taking a look at some of the older and/or more valuable comics in my collection that lean toward the supernatural.  It's been a bit hit or miss so far, but it's been a lot of fun digging into the darker corners of my longboxes.
 
Let's keep the party going with another visit to the Bronze Age!
 
Ready?  Let's do it!

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #3

DC (1975)

 
COVER: Ernie Chan
 
THE COVER:
 
Another great Halloween cover!  The top is a little cluttered, but that doesn't take away from the creepy image of a hand. . .reaching. . .slowly. . .toward. . .YOU!  Ernie Chan does a great job of bringing this nightmarish scene to life!  Let's see what's inside. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
There's just two stories in here this time.  Let's hope they're good ones!
 
PATHWAY TO PURGATORY
SCRIPT:  Jack Oleck
PENCILS:  Ruben Yandoc
 
A cruel Duke who rules his fiefdom with an iron fist despite being born without legs desires to marry his young and beautiful ward, which is against the religious law of the land.  Determined to win her love by being a "whole man", he tries to gain legs by appealing to a monk purported to have the power to perform miracles.  
 
When he is spurned by the monk after revealing that he wants legs in order to marry his young ward, the Duke flies into a rage and beats and imprisons the monk before throwing in his lot with the powers of evil and going to a witch to try to gain legs.
 

  Initially, the witch refuses, but after she is tortured by the Duke and her daughter is killed by the cruel man, she relents and uses her powers to give the Duke legs, but she also delivers a curse upon him before he kills her to hide his secret.
 

Now whole, the Duke proclaims his love for his ward, but since he has raised her from the time she was a child, she sees him as a father figure and rebuffs his proposal. 
 
 Infuriated, the Duke goes ahead with the wedding plans, even if he has to force the girl to the altar.  The religious authority of the realm refuses to go along with the Duke's sinister plans, but relents after being threatened with torture and death. 
 
And so the wedding takes place, but on the wedding night, the young bride rushes from the Duke's bedchamber, screaming!
 
 
The Duke's subjects quickly seize their cruel ruler and drag him to the gallows, hanging him once it is revealed that he has the legs of a goat.  And so the witch has her final revenge from beyond the grave!
 

The End.
 
Okay, not bad at all!  I really enjoyed this little story a lot.  It follows a pretty well-worn morality play story path of "If you deal with evil, you get what you deserve", but the setting and writing. . .the sinister tone of "You KNOW this isn't going to end well" , grabbed my attention and kept it from start to finish.  
 
But what really brought this little story to life was the beautiful, detailed art!  Just look at those pages scanned above!  I've never heard of this artist, but a bit of research shows me that he's a Filipino artist whose main U.S. comic work was on DC's "horror" titles (such as this one).  I'm definitely going to keep my eye peeled for more of this fantastic artist's work!
 
Overall, a great start for this comic!  A well-written story backed up by amazing art. What more could any comic fan ask for?  Nothing!  I couldn't ask for anything more than what I got right here!  
 
NEXT!
 
THE SWINGER
SCRIPT: Mike Pellowski & Maxene Fabe
PENCILS: Ramona Fradon
 
Carlton Phipps is a "Playboy" Millionaire, but is also a huge coward. 
 
After being embarrassed one night, he trains in martial arts until he becomes an expert.  Wanting to show off his new skill, he goes to the worst part of town and accidentally kills a man. . .worse, it's a police officer!  
 

 
He quickly blames the killing on a nearby homeless man and is hailed as a hero after falsely testifying at the man's trial, which leads to his execution. . .
 

But after the innocent man's hanging, Carlton begins having constant paranoid feelings of being choked and becomes convinced that the ghost of the homeless man is trying to get its revenge by killing him. . .
 

Finally, a doctor tells Carlton that he needs to forget his delusions with a long trip and change of scenery.  But as he pilots his private plane to Rio, a terrible storm strikes, forcing Carlton to bail out.  The next day, he's found hanging from his parachute, dead.  The ghost of the innocent man has finally gotten his revenge!
 
 
The End.
 
A very nice little "Revenge from beyond the grave" story!  It's short, sweet, and a bit predictable, but I really liked it a lot. . .mainly because of the standout artwork from Ramona Fradon.  She's an artist I just learned about not long ago, and I decided to keep my eye out for more of this remarkable woman's artwork.  Her cartoony, yet detailed, style reminds me a lot of Will Eisner, and I haven't seen a single panel of bad art from her yet!
 
Overall, we have another winner!  It's a well-written little morality play story with a "He got what he deserved" ending backed up by some simply amazing comic art.  There's nothing I don't like about this story!
 

CONCLUSION

 
There's only two stories to be found here, but panel for panel they're some of the best I've seen during this little Longbox Junk Halloween party.  They aren't really "Horror" stories, but are more along the lines of something you might see on The Twilight Zone, but both of them are well written and engaging.
 
The best part of this comic for me was the art!  First, some fantastic super-detailed art from an artist I've never heard of, but am definitely interested in seeing more of based on the strength of what I see here.  And then some amazing cartoony art from remarkable female comic artist Ramona Fradon, who is someone well worth looking into for those not familiar with her work.
 
Together, the art and writing deliver the kind of storytelling that is the reason that I'm a comic fan in the first place!  This isn't just a good Halloween comic, this is a good comic, period.  It's definitely a nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
We're going to stay in the Bronze Age, but head back over to Marvel for a look at 1973's Chamber of Chills #5.  Voodo Magic! Ghostly Hitchhikers! Criminal Insanity and More!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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