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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!

February 2024




Welcome to Longbox Junk! I write comic reviews nobody asked for!  

And now we're up to part FOURTEEN of the 2023 Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Marathon! Only 3 more after this entry to beat my October record! GOALS!
Looking back over the entries this year so far, I see that it's a sort of ghost and werewolf heavy party this year. . .so how about leaning into it with some more ghosts!  The more the merrier, am I right?  Yes I AM!
I reviewed issue #2 of this extremely short-lived series (only 3 issues) for LAST YEAR'S HALLOWEEN PARTY and really enjoyed it, so I kept my eyes open and managed to snag another one for this year's shindig.  Will we have another certified nugget of Longbox Junk gold with THIS issue? 
 Let's find out!  


DC (1975)

COVER: Luis Dominguez
I like this one a lot!  It's a great Halloween cover.  There's a lot of nice detail and a good sense of movement.  I really like the poltergeist theme, and the contrast between the bright central figure of the woman and the darkened room.  Word balloons on a cover are usually sort of intrusive to MY eye, but this one actually makes the cover better!  
The only think I DON'T like is how the title takes up so much territory.  Don't get me wrong, the logo is cool, but definitely just too big.  All in all a great Halloween cover.  Let's get inside!
The more of these older anthologies I read, the more I appreciate the value compared to comics today.  THREE stories in ONE comic for a single, lousy quarter.  I might sound old, but they don't make 'em like that anymore.  Let's check these stories out!
SCRIPT:  Jack Oleck
PENCILS:  Ernie Chan
INKS: Bill Draut
Medieval Europe, the village of Domray.  Paul and Marie Lebrun are terrified when their son, a slow-witted but gentle giant named Andre begins to exhibit strange powers and a violent disposition. In desperation, they turn to a friend, Trudeau the Scholar, trying to find an answer before their beloved son is arrested for witchcraft.
Trudeau is skeptical, knowing Andre is a slow-witted boy in a man's body.  But then he sees for himself! Andre flies into a rage when he is told to put his dog outside.  He throws benches and cracks the beams of the house, almost killing Truedeau.  
The shaken scholar proclaims that the only explanation is that Andre is possessed by a demon and he must be taken to the village priest for an exorcism.
They bring Andre to Father Bernot, a gentle priest who doesn't believe in witch burnings, and beg for help.  Bernot agrees to perform an exorcism.  As the ceremony proceeds, a howling wind begins to fling the church's furnishings about!  Bernot gives up and forces Paul and Marie to leave with their son.
At their wit's end, Paul and Marie are convinced by Truedeau that the only way to save their son's soul, as well as their own lives, is to turn Andre over to the Sheriff. . .even if that likely means that he will be tried as a witch and burned.  
Indeed, what they most fear happens.  The Sheriff forms a jury and Andre is proclaimed a witch and then burnt at the stake.  Finally, the Lebrun's nightmare is over.  All that remains now is grief over their lost son.
But they quickly discover that the nightmare has not ended after all!  Unseen forces shake their home until it collapses on them, killing Marie instantly.  Paul lives for a little longer. . .long enough to see the true face of the demon in Andre's dog!  
We leave the sad tale as Paul dies while the dog laughs at him.

The End.
And we have a good start to this issue!  A chilling little tale of demonic possession set against the background of medieval witch trial fever.  It's a long chunk of a story and that gives it time to slowly burn instead of feeling rushed like a lot of these anthology stories do.  
It's backed up by some nicely-detailed artwork by the great Ernie Chan. . .here still being credited as Ernie Chua, so it's some of his earlier work.  Not up to his later stuff I'm more used to, but still very nice.
Overall, a dark little tale that takes its time and does everything right.  
SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
PENCILS: Frank Redondo
INKS: Frank Redondo
Family man Tyrone is having an affair with a younger woman named Tina.  When Tina tries to break things off and mocks him for being old enough to be her father, her laughter drives Tyrone to push Tina onto the subway tracks, where she is killed by the train.
As time goes by after the murder, Tyrone is haunted by nightmares of Tina's mocking laughter.  His wife thinks it's the pressure of his job and living in the city, and convinces him to move the family out to the country.
But moving out of the city and to the countryside doesn't help.  Where Tyrone's family sees beautiful trees and a nice house, Tyrone sees a decaying dump and a gloomy landscape.  There's nothing good in anything Tyrone sees.
The first night in their new home, as Tyrone struggles to sleep he hears strange noises.  When he gets up to investigate, he realizes the noise is laughter. . .HER laughter!  He grabs a knife from the kitchen and runs outside, believing Tina has somehow survived and is torturing him!
Tyrone stumbles through the nearby graveyard, following Tina's laughter, determined to finally end it!
The next morning, workers at the graveyard find Tyrone's body inside a freshly-dug grave they had readied for a funeral that morning.  He had fallen in and broken his neck.  The grave?  It belonged to Tina!  DUN-DUN-DUNNNN!
The End.
Okay, not as good as the first story, but still a mighty fine read.  A lot of building tension as Tyrone descends into his own private where nothing is good in his eyes, and then we find out it WASN'T just his own guilt driving him crazy, but Tina's vengeful ghost!  Very nice.  But the REAL star of the show here is the art!  It's just wonderful.  Lots of close-up panels and so much detail.  The art here really pushes the story up a notch.  
So that's two for two so far in this issue.  Will we hit the home run with a third good story? 
Let's find out! NEXT!
SCRIPT:  Mal Warwick
PENCILS:  Bill Draut
INKS: Bill Draut
Robotic aliens descend to study Earth.  They are impressed with them many forms of life they see, metallic like they are.  Such a shame there are so many tiny organic parasites infesting the life forms of this world.
But they have a solution!  They will help the beings of Earth with their infestation problem!  The aliens use gas to kill all the parasites, leaving the machines free of all these tiny little humans.  Now off to help another world!
The End.
And we're three for three folks!  It's a short little story.  Barely more than a filler at 3 pages, but it's a pretty good one.  A nice little twist on the classic "alien invasion" story in which the aliens are just trying to help out a fellow machine race.  The art isn't anything spectacular, but it's good and tells the story nicely.  


Okay, NOW I have definitely keep my eye out for the first issue in this series.  Wait. . .can three issues REALLY be called a series at all?  I guess back in 1975 they hadn't really started doing limited series yet, which this would be if it came out a bit later on.  BUT I DIGRESS!
With two really solid issues reviewed in a row, I almost HAVE to find the third for next year.  I now have a mission.  Tales of Ghost Castle has really been one of the best series(?) of Bronze Age horror anthologies I've read yet.  It's a shame there are so few issues of it.
As far as the issue at hand goes, three nicely-written stories, backed up by some very good artwork means I give this one the official Longbox Junk gold seal of approval!  If you're looking for some cool Bronze Age horror/suspense stories then you won't go wrong with Tales of Ghost Castle (I'm just gonna assume issue #1 is a winner too).  
These issues haven't been reprinted or collected in English (it looks like there are some French reprints), so you'll have to grab the actual comics.  I found both of mine in the back issue bins (Paid two bucks for one and five bucks for the other) so they're out there.  Keep your eyes peeled, Tales of Ghost Castle is some quality Bronze Age spooky stuff!
UP NEXT. . .
I've got a special treat for my Longbox Junk readers.  
I'm digging into the definitely NON-Junk end of my collection to do a GOLDEN AGE horror review!  That's right. . .I've got a gen-u-wine EC horror comic for you!  The kind of stuff that brought on the Comics Code! Because you deserve it!
Seriously, as far as I can tell, mine will be the FIRST review of this Golden Age goodie that's ever been done. EC'S VAULT OF HORROR #36!
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic reviews nobody asked me to write!

The 2022 Halloween Horror party has been going pretty strong so far, so how about we crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for another trip back to the Bronze Age?
This time out, we'll be taking a look at the second issue of an extremely short-lived (3 issues) DC anthology series from 1975. . .Tales of Ghost Castle!
Everybody ready?  Make sure your safety belt is fastened and all belongings are securely stowed beneath your seat.  Please put on the goggles provided for your safety.
*Grasps gigantic lever with both hands and yanks it down*


DC (1975)

COVER: Luis Dominguez
I like this one a lot!  It's dark and moody, it tells a story that I want to know more about.  I can definitely see some Joe Kubert influence in the art, and in MY book, that's a good thing.  I really like the giant and pretty unusual title dominating the top of the cover.  This one is a Bronze Age winner!
Let's get inside and see what's going on, shall we? WE SHALL!
Three stories in here for your 1975 quarter.  You don't get value like THAT anymore.  You're lucky to get ONE story for five bucks these days.  Actually, more likely you'll get the first fragment of a story that's going to take 12 issues to finish up.  But enough of THAT. . .let's check out what we've got here.
SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
INKS: E.R. Cruz
One night, a lab worker that enjoys torturing snakes is bitten by a deadly Bushmaster. She takes an untested experimental anti-venom formula.  It saves her, but somehow turns her into a snake!  When she is discovered, she is unable to speak and save herself from being thrown into the venomous snake pit along with the hated snakes she tormented.
A pretty good story of the time-honored "You have become that which you hate the most" story path. The short tale hangs on an overly worn framework, but Kanigher does a good job with it.  But what REALLY puts this story a notch above the ordinary is the art!  If you don't like snakes, then the art on this story will crawl up your spine and hiss at you!  Just LOOK at the page I scanned above.  The snake-tastic art in this story definitely delivers the creep factor!
A good start.  Let's see what's next!
SCRIPT:  Jack Oleck
PENCILS: Alex Nino
INKS: Alex Nino
2000 years after Planet Earth was abandoned as a radioactive wasteland following a devastating worldwide nuclear war, humans return to their home planet for the first time.  
The explorers quickly discover that Earth is now clear of radiation but is inhabited by brutal savages. . .humans that did not escape and were mutated.  After losing several men, the Captain of the starship decides that the only way for humans to reclaim their world is to completely eliminate the half-human savages.
Once the deed is done, the crew celebrates with a swim in Earth's clean waters. . .revealing that they are themselves scaly mutants and hardly human at all.
Another tale that hangs on a pretty worn story hook. . .this time of the "You're no different than those you hate" category.  But classics are classics for a reason, and this is a well-written story.  But like the first offering in this issue, it's the art that really brings this short story up to a higher level.  The hyper-stylized look of the art REALLY stands out in a bold way.  It's unusual and memorable and I'm definitely interested in finding more work from Alex Nino to enjoy.
Two for two! Hopefully, the last story can keep up the quality.  Let's bring it on home!
SCRIPT: Mal Warwick
PENCILS: Ruben Yandoc
INKS: Ruben Yandoc
Two ruthless mercenaries on the trail of a fortune in hidden Inca gold blaze a trail of blood across South America until they finally find an old man and his grandson who claim to know where the treasure is and will guide the fortune hunters to it in exchange for a halt to their violence.
As they travel, the old man angers the mercenaries and they kill him in cold blood.  They follow his grandson to an ancient mine, pursuing him into its depths until they are taken captive and brought before the Prince of a mysterious tribe. . .the old man's grandson. 
He sentences the mercenaries to a lifetime of labor in the gold mine they were so eager to find.
And we finish off this issue with a tale following yet another well-worn story path, this time it's "Your greed earned you a fate worse than death".  But like the first two stories, it's well written and engaging. The ending of the story actually took me by surprise!  And ALSO like the other two stories in the issue, the art is the real star of the show!  The art in this story is just FULL of fine detail and a feeling of motion that really brings life to the narrative.


Three stories. . .three winners!  Not a bad one in the bunch.  What more could a comic fan ask for?
The three stories in this issue are all hanging on classic, one might say overused, story hooks, but the writers do a great job of keeping them interesting and very readable, even 47 years down the road.  
But even though the stories are enjoyable, the REAL hook for me in this issue was the art!  From the cover to the last page, this comic is PACKED with fantastic Bronze Age art that really brings these stories up to a higher level than you would think a trio of Twilight Zone-style twist ending tales would rise to.
Overall, this comic is a grand slam winner!  It's rare I can't find ANYTHING to criticize in a comic, but this is one of those times.  From end to end, Tales of Ghost Castle #2 is entertaining and enjoyable, and I highly recommend it to any fans of classic comic anthology horror/ suspense titles.
Up Next. . .
Keepin' the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party going with MORE spooky fun!
Be there or be square.

- read more

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