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  • 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 back to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

 
It's almost Halloween!  That special time of year when kids taking candy from strangers is actually encouraged!  Here at Longbox Junk, we've been handing out all sorts of Halloween treats. . .a lot of candy corn to be sure, but there's been a few full-sized Snickers bars in there too.
 
Unfortunately, the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party is almost over.  Just this last one to go.  I think I did pretty good this year.  This post is #15. . .one more than my Halloween Horror comic spree last year, so there's that.
 
But enough of that!
 
On to the comic at hand.  We're heading back to the Bronze Age for a look at a comic absolutely STUFFED full of legendary comic talent.  Just LOOK at the credits below!  Bernie Wrightson, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and more. . .All in ONE comic!  How can this NOT be good?
 
Let's dig in!

CHAMBER OF DARKNESS #7

MARVEL (1970)

 

COVER: Bernie Wrightson
 
THE COVER:
 
Bernie Wrightson is rightfully regarded as a legendary comic talent, and a cover like this tells me why.  It's not the greatest cover I've seen from him (My personal favorite is Swamp Thing #9), but it's still a really good cover.  It has an awesome, dynamic style that gives the figures a sense of movement and life that is so recognizably Wrightson that you don't even need to see his signature on it.  A Bernie Wrightson cover is a great start to ANY comic!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Four stories in this one.  Two of them reprints from ten years earlier.  I look at the credits here and find it hard to believe all these great names are under the cover of a single random Bronze Age "horror" comic!  Let's check these stories out. . .
 
GARGOYLE EVERY NIGHT
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
PENCILS: Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
INKS: Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
 
After a series of grisly murders, an old craftsman known for sculpting gargoyles and other strange monstrosities comes under suspicion.  During a search of his workshop, the constable find nothing, but two townfolk discover a solid gold gargoyle hidden in a back room.  
 
They return later, and over the desperate pleas of the old man they have subdued and tied up, the two of them dismember and melt down the golden gargoyle.  But when the clock strikes midnight, the old man transforms into a terrifying creature.  As it closes in on the two thieves, it tells them that the golden gargoyle was the only thing keeping him from killing more people!
 
A great start!  It's a tale following the well worn path of "Greedy fools get what's coming to them", but the writing is engaging and lively.  What REALLY makes this story great is the fantastic artwork by Bernie Wrightson. . .who even puts himself in the story as narrator (see the splash page above).  There's a reason Wrightson is regarded as a legendary comic talent, and it's very plain to see why here.  The detailed, yet exaggerated and darkly inked figures with expressive faces almost seem to move across the page with a life of their own.  Every panel is worth lingering over for an extra moment or two.
 
BONUS:  A little research shows me that this is Bernie Wrightson's first work for Marvel!
 
We're off to a great start. . .NEXT!
 
I WORE. . .THE MASK OF DROTHOR!
(Reprinted from Tales to Astonish #11 - 1960)
SCRIPT: Stan Lee (?)
PENCILS: Steve Ditko
INKS: Steve Ditko
 
A renowned mask maker uses ancient books to mold his greatest creation, the Mask of Drothor, replicating the face of a legendary sorcerer despite warnings of a curse on any who try to do so.
 
Realizing that he has made a mask so lifelike that it actually resembles a human face down to its finest detail, the mask maker decides to use it to get rich by robbing wealthy clients.  
 
During his first robbery, he trips an alarm and is forced to flee the police.  He returns to his shop and tries to remove the mask, but to his horror, he discovers that his own face beneath has taken on the appearance of Drothor.  Unable to disguise himself again, the police catch up and arrest him.
 
Okay. . .not a bad story.  It follows the paths of "Greedy fools get what's coming to them" AND "Fool ignores the ancient curse". But like the first offering in this issue, although the story is well done and engaging, the real appeal here for me was the fantastic art. . .this time courtesy of Steve Ditko.
 
Honestly, I've never really been a fan of Ditko, but delving into some of these older comics in my collection has slowly been changing my mind.  Where I find a lot of his art to be a bit basic (yes, I'm talking about Spider-Man, please don't hurt me), I've seen other examples of his art that show me exactly why Ditko is considered a comic legend.  
 
This little story is a fine example of some great Ditko art that I've seen.  It's dark, fluid, exaggerated, yet lifelike.  There's a great sense of movement and action to the characters.  Ditko's art here elevates an otherwise pretty average story.
 
MOVING ALONG!

THE MASTERMIND
SCRIPT: Tom Sutton
PENCILS: Tom Sutton
INKS: Tom Sutton
 
A mad scientist brings to life his greatest achievement. . .a supremely intelligent creature, impervious to disease, injury, and age. . .presumably immortal.  As the scientist rages with glee that he finally has the means to conquer his enemies and all mankind, his creation turns on him.  If the creature is indeed superior, then he has no need for a master!
This great little twist on Frankenstein takes up only two pages, but Tom Sutton manages to give us a complete and compelling story in a very small space!  I've gone on a bit about the comic legends to be found in this issue like Bernie Wrightson and Steve Ditko, but in my extremely humble opinion, Sutton is a bit of an overlooked legend in his own right. 
 
He's possibly not as well known as the others to the general comic audience because he worked less with superheroes (except the more supernatural ones like Vampirella,  Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night).  But his art has a frantic, cartoony and vibrant style that brings dynamic life to his characters.  It's a style I really enjoy and this is a fine little example of it.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

I FOUND THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN!
(Reprinted from Tales to Astonish #13 - 1960)
SCRIPT: Stan Lee (?) & Larry Lieber (?)
PENCILS: Jack Kirby
INKS: Steve Ditko
 
A criminal called "Big Carl" Hanson steals what is supposedly a genuine photo of the Abominable Snowman.  Deciding that he can make more money off of actually capturing the creature than just off the photo, Hanson heads to the Himalayan mountains.
 
As he begins his search for the creature, Hanson is repeatedly warned that the picture is cursed, but he ignores the warnings as superstition.  Eventually, nobody will come near him and he has to continue his search alone.
 
As he heads higher and higher into to mountains and his supplies run out, Hanson slowly turns more and more savage until he is little more than a wandering beast himself.  He has become the Abominable Snowman.
 
 
Yet ANOTHER story following the "Greedy fools get what's coming to them", but with some "Don't ignore the natives" thrown in. . .officially making this entire comic about the follies of greed, with four out of four stories following the same lines.
 
That aside, this is actually another well written and engaging story that I really enjoyed.  But like the other stories in this issue, what makes this little tale sparkle is the fantastic artwork. . .this time courtesy of comic legends Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
 
I think this might possibly be the first time I've ever seen non-superhero work from Jack Kirby, and I have to say that I liked it a lot!  Maybe it's Ditko's inks here, but this little random story really grabbed me, where a lot of his superhero work doesn't (I know. . .I know! Please don't hurt me!) 
 
I wouldn't mind seeing more of Kirby's non-superhero work, based only on the strength of what I'm seeing here.  Overall, this was a great finish to this comic!

CONCLUSION

 
Just looking at the credits on this one, I KNEW it was going to be good, which is why I saved it for last.  My prediction turned out to be true.  Story for story, page for page, and panel for panel, this comic was probably my favorite of the entire Halloweeen Retro Review bunch!  
 
There is so much great talent on display here, that I am happy that this comic even exists.  The stories are all very nicely done and engaging, but what really shines here is all the great art to be found!  Every page in this comic is a feast for the eyes.
 
If you're looking for a single comic absolutely PACKED with legendary comic talent, then this is what you're looking for.  The actual issue in good shape is a bit pricey, but I found mine in decent condition in a back issue bin for ten bucks, so they're out there.  If not, then it's been reprinted in a couple of different collections as well.  
 
WELL. . .
 
That's it for the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review Party for this year.  I hope you had as much fun as I did checking out a some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics with a supernatural twist in my collection!
 
So what's next, you ask?
 
With all due respect to the fine and friendly folk of Old Guys Who Like Old Comics, I think I've spent enough time on the other side of 1986 for now. It's time to get back into the dollar boxes and some actual Longbox Junk!
 
Something I haven't done in a while that is one of the unique things I do here at Longbox Junk is reviewing an entire series from first issue to last.  I think that's what I'll do next.  But which one?
 
So many to choose from! Suggestions are welcome.
 
In any case, I'll figure it out.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
It's October!  As we head toward the final stretch, just a few days before Halloween, I feel the need to provide a very important public service announcement:  
 
Ladies.  Just because there IS a "Sexy Hand Sanitizer" Halloween costume, that doesn't mean anyone should wear a "Sexy Hand Sanitizer" Halloween costume.  Okay?  I shouldn't have to tell you this.  Just sayin'.  
 
Public service announcement over.  Let's talk about comics!

I've got the Longbox Junk paper time machine prepped, fueled, and ready for a little trip backward 67 years to the Golden Age of comics for a look at some of the late, great Stan Lee's horror writing.  Ready?
 
*Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles*
 
Let's do this!
 
*Pulls gigantic lever*
 
Here we GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


MENACE #7

ATLAS (1953)

 
(Wait. . .is that Phil from Modern Family?)

COVER: Carl Burgos
 
THE COVER:
 
I'm gonna be honest and say that I got this comic in an estate sale auction lot of about a dozen comics I mainly bought for the 1968 Dell King Kong one shot (probably the LEAST "valuable" comic in the lot).  I've never read this comic because the cover just isn't that interesting to me.  
 
Until now, all it got was a quick flip through to judge condition, and then off to be forgotten in the depths of my many longboxes.  The cover is okay, I guess, but nothing special.  Beyond the bold yellow on black of the title and the nicely done female figure, nothing really grabs my eye.  Let's get inside this thing. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
The Golden Age never disappoints when it comes to getting your money's worth out of a comic.  Four full comic stories and a two page text space filler for a single 1953 dime.  Not a bad stack of stories.  Let's see what they're about!
 
FRESH OUT OF FLESH!
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Syd Shores
 
In the future, a bounty hunter tracks and kills humanoid robots after their failed bid to enslave mankind.  At the end of his mission, only one robot remains.  The bounty hunter discovers that it is him.
 

A great start to this comic!  Stan Lee provides us with a tale that is strangely similar to sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" fifteen years before the story it was based on (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. in 1968) was even published!  But even without the similarities, this is a great little nugget of science fiction with a Twilight Zone twist.  
 
NEXT!
 
THE DREAM CASTLE
(Text-Only Story - 2 pages)
SCRIPT:  (?)
 
A writer by the name of Henri Drago is haunted by constant nightmares of being chased through a castle by ghostly creatures. . .the dream always ending at a certain door before he could run through it. 
 
 Eventually, the dreams interfere so much with his work that, on the advice of a doctor, he takes a vacation to Italy.  One day, after a mysterious storm, he finds himself taking shelter in a ruined castle. . .the castle from his dreams!
 
Sure enough, he is pursued through the castle by spirits after being told that he is the last in the family line of the evil nobleman who lived in the castle long ago, and that the spirits can only be free if he dies.
 
He finds himself at the door where his nightmares always end, but when the throws it open and runs through, he falls to his death and frees the innocent spirits.
 
 
 
Actually, this story is pretty long and elaborate, compared to other text pieces I've seen during this little Retro Review journey I've been on.  It's a decent enough story following the well-trodden path of "Nightmares become reality", but what REALLY caught my interest was the "Polio Precautions" public service announcement at the bottom of the second page (scanned above).
 
  It was an interesting reminder that the world has been through pandemics before, and not so long ago.  This tiny little thing in a 67 year old comic book actually brought me a moment of peace and reflection on the ability of mankind to make it through the worst times.  Sometimes, a little hope can be found in the most unexpected places.
 
NEXT!
 
THE PLANET OF LIVING DEATH
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS:  Russ Heath
 
An alcoholic first officer accidentally causes his star ship to crash on the deadly planet of Osirus.  The survivors are met by hostile aliens that telepathically communicate that they will free the humans and repair their ship if they are given the secret of atomic energy.  
 
The rest of the crew refuses, but the first officer (knowing he will go to prison if he returns to Earth) bargains with the aliens to give them the atomic secrets in exchange for a ship of his own and the Captain's beautiful daughter.  
 
The aliens agree, but as the traitor prepares to take off, he finds to his horror that the Captain's daughter isn't HIS Captain's, but the alien Captain's. . .a hideous and deadly creature!
 

Another engaging and entertaining science fiction story from Stan Lee!  It follows the very well-worn path of "The traitor gets what he deserves", but the twist ending actually took me by surprise.  Not an easy thing when you've read as many comic stories as I have!  But what REALLY makes this story is the outstanding artwork of Russ Heath!  It's just a fine example of some great Golden Age artwork, with thick inks and interesting designs.  Every panel is worth lingering over for an extra moment.
 
MOVING ALONG!
 
THE WITCH IN THE WOODS
SCRIPT:  Stan Lee
PENCILS: Joe Sinnott
 
A young boy's father decides to break his son's habit of reading scary comic books by reading him fairy tales, starting with the story of Hansel and Gretel.  But he discovers that the stories from his childhood are even worse than what can be found in comics.
 

During the bit of research I did into this comic, this story is actually the only one that anyone seems to mention because it was written by Stan Lee (along with a few other stories along these lines) in direct response to the unfolding drama that led to the Comics Code.  It ruthlessly mocks the idea of censoring comics by comparing them to "innocent" fairy tales that are actually quite gruesome when you take a close look at them.  
 
The story itself is mostly just a comic adaptation of Hansel and Gretel bookended by the boy and his father.  It's a decent enough story with some really good artwork by Joe Sinnott, who I know more as an inker than a penciller, especially from his work with Jack Kirby.  
 
AND FINALLY!
 
YOUR NAME IS FRANKENSTEIN!
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS:  Joe Maneely
 
Frankenstein's Monster rises from a long entombment and wanders, looking for companionship.  Unfortunately, despite saving a couple from their burning farmhouse, the Monster is judged only on his looks by the townfolk, who attack him.
 
As the Monster lays dying, the couple he saved reflect that perhaps it is they who are the monsters.
 
 
This comic goes out on a good note with a well-written tale following the "Man is the monster" path that Stan Lee followed a LOT during his later years writing superhero tales.  It's a familiar message, but Lee gives this story some interesting pathos by writing it in the first person.  Joe Maneely brings the story to life with some great, creepy artwork that really catches the eye.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I have to say that this was a great comic!  Not a single clunker to be found and very readable despite being almost seventy years old, with lots of great art to be found through the whole thing.  
 
This is probably one of the best Golden Age comics I've read.  I hate to admit it, but a lot of the older comics I have seem like not much effort was put into them.  This one just feels different, like some thought and creative energy was given by Stan Lee and the various artists.  Is this the best comic I've ever read?  Not even close.  That said, it's definitely something I can point to when someone asks about good Golden Age comics I've read.
 
If you're a fan of Stan Lee, Horror comics, Golden Age comics, or any combination of the above, I can heartily recommend this comic.  Unfortunately, good copies of the original seem to be pretty pricey. . .you're not going to find this one in the bargain bin!  The good news is that it's been reprinted in collections a couple of times, and it's also on ComiXology, so it won't break the bank if you want to check it out. 
 
Up Next. . .
 
Halloween is just about here, but I think I have time to squeeze in one more bit of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  
 
Join me on a trip back to 1970 for a look at a comic featuring Bernie Wrightson, Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and MORE!  IN ONE COMIC!  That's a heck of a lot of talent for one comic book.  
 
Marvel's Chamber of Darkness #7.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place where I just keep on writing comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!
 
It's October!  It's that special season where the vegetable nobody cares about any other time of year suddenly costs three bucks a pound.  But here at Longbox Junk, we aren't carving pumpkins, we're reviewing comic books!
 
This year, I've decided to add a little pumpkin spice to the Longbox Junk Halloween party by taking a look at some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with a supernatural twist.  So far, it's been a mixed bag, but I've been having fun.
 
So let's keep the party going with a trip back to 1973 for some more spooky Bronze Age fun from Marvel Comics, shall we?  We shall!
 

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #5

MARVEL (1973)

 
 
COVER: Rich Buckler (?)
 
THE COVER:
 
In my extremely humble opinion, this one is just sort of okay.  It's not bad, the figures of the old man and the woman are nicely done, and I really like the bright red background on the title, but for some reason this cover just isn't connecting with me that much.  I guess they ALL can't be winners, so let's just get inside and see what else is going on.
 
THE STORIES:
 
A pretty hefty handful of stories. Not bad for two thin dimes, even if one IS a reprint. There's some great names on the credits, so here's hoping there's some good stuff to be had!
 
THE DEVIL'S DOWRY!
SCRIPT: Larry Lieber
PENCILS: Jay Scott Pike
 
In a small Central American country a ruthless and ambitious Colonel enlists the aid of a local sorcerer to first gain control of the military, and then to become El Presidente.  Once he has risen to the height of power, he imprisons the old man and forces his beautiful daughter to marry him. . .not realizing that without the sorcerer's power to keep her under control, his new bride changes into a bloodthirsty creature with the full moon.
 

 
 
It's a good old "Greedy fool gets what is coming to him" story.  Even though the path is well-worn, this story is pretty engaging and well written.  The art is very nicely done. . .not the best I've ever seen, but not too bad at all.  Overall, this is a decent story and a good start for the comic.
 
NEXT!
 
HAUNT AND RUN!
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella
PENCILS: Paul Reinman
 
After a drunk driver accidentally kills a hitchhiker, he and his wife are tormented by her spirit and doomed to drive forever, never arriving at their destination. . .
 
A very short, but chilling story that's a twist on "Ghostly Hitchhiker" urban legends.  Tony Isabella manages to pack a lot of terror into a little space here. . .really making the reader feel the growing fear of the doomed couple.  I especially liked the humorous contrast between the caption boxes and the dialogue balloons at the beginning (on the page scanned above). The art here is good, but not great.  It tells the story nicely, but doesn't reach much higher than that.  Overall, the best story in here and a very nice little nugget of spooky fun!

NEXT!

IT CAN'T MISS
(Reprinted from Journey Into Mystery #1 - 1952)
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS:  Jay Scott Pike
 
A desperate criminal on the run to avoid being locked up in prison discovers the solution to his problem in the form of a dead man who looks exactly like him.  Unfortunately, the dead man happens to be an escaped patient of a mental institution, as the criminal discovers when he apprehended and locked up for life. . .
 

Okay, not a bad little tale.  It would make a great episode of The Twilight Zone.  But what interested me most about it was the art, which is by the same artist that did the first story (above), but twenty years earlier.  The difference is so great that it actually looks like two different artists worked on these stories.  It's interesting to me to be able to compare two stories done two decades apart by the same person in the same comic.  I'm not sure I've seen that before.   Truthfully, Pike's earlier art seems pretty crude and basic compared to his later work. 
 
Overall, not a bad story at all.  Moving along!
 
AND FINALLY!
 
A TOMB BY ANY OTHER NAME!
SCRIPT: Don McGregor
PENCILS: Syd Shores
 
After a bank robbery gone wrong with a murdered guard, the robber flees into the blistering hot desert, where his dying mind breaks from reality and convinces him that he is freezing to death. . .
 

Another pretty good story.  The twist in reality between thinking he's freezing while dying from the heat reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode (A little Wiki Walk tells me it's called "The Midnight Sun") where the earth is heating up beyond a livable state and it's seen at the end that the main character actually has a fever and the earth is freezing.  Pretty obvious "inspiration" aside, it's a decent enough story.  The art is good, but nothing spectacular.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, what we have here is a pretty good comic that has a couple of standout moments. . .Tony Isabella's creepy little twist on the old "Ghostly Hitchhiker" story and the interesting comparison of decades-apart artwork by Jay Scott Pike.  
 
This is a fine example of a comic that is good, but not great.  Riding straight down the middle of the road from cover to cover (except for those couple of interesting standout moments).  I'd say that if you're looking for a pretty good handful of  Twilight Zone-style stories, then keep your eye out for this one in the bargain bins.
 
Up Next. . .
 
We're getting close to the end, but it ain't Halloween yet, so the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party keeps going!  Let's take another trip back to the Golden Age, shall we?  We shall!
 
Atlas Comics' Menace #7 from 1953, featuring Stan Lee wearing the writing hat on all the stories. . .
 
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

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!
 
It's October!  I love this time of year, even though in all the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping, Christmas music, and holiday crowds it's hard sometimes to remember to keep the peaceful spirit of the season in mind. 
 
But THAT'S Wal-Mart.  
Here at Longbox Junk, we celebrate Halloween in October. . .I know, crazy, right?  
 
This year for the Longbox Junk Halloween review party, I've been taking a look at some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics with a supernatural twist lurking in my collection.  It's been fun so far, so let's keep the party going!
 
It's just NOT Halloween without a werewolf howling at the moon!  So let's take a look at a comic featuring Marvel's own Bronze Age Lycanthropic anti-hero, Jack Russell, AKA. . .WEREWOLF BY NIGHT!
 
AAAAAAAAH-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! 
 

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #11

MARVEL (1973)

 
 
COMES THE HANGMAN
SCRIPT: Marv Wolfman
PENCILS: Gil Kane
INKS: Tom Sutton
COVER: Gil Kane & John Romita
 
THE COVER:
 
I absolutely love this cover!  The transformation from man to monster reminds me of some of my favorite Incredible Hulk covers.  John Romita's inks bring out the best in Gil Kane's pencils.  I'm not usually a big fan of Kane's art, but this is probably one of my favorite things by him I've seen.  It's just a great Halloween horror cover!  Let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale at an unknown location and in a laboratory of the mysterious organization known as "The Committee".  They have captured Jack Russell's father, Phillip Russell and are torturing him in order to discover the location of Jack.  Phillip refuses and the torture continues. 
 


IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
In Venice Beach, Jack decides it's time to move out of his friend Buck Cowan's bungalow before his personal (and werewolf) problems become everyone else's problems too.  
 
He moves into an apartment complex called Colden House.  There he (and the reader) are introduced to several female neighbors, as well as the mysterious Mr. Coker, who likes reading books about the occult and werewolves (Dun-Dun-DUN!)
 
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
A masked character calling himself "The Hangman" saves the life of a young woman after she is attacked by a drug addict.  After killing the attacker, he brings the terrified woman back to his secret lair, where he claims to be protecting her from "evil" by keeping her (and several other women) in cages.
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .
 
Jack manages to elude his new neighbors, who want to party with him, and make his way to the beach, where the full moon transforms him into The Werewolf!  He stumbles onto a group of young men partying on the beach.  Jack wants to avoid conflict, but they attack!
 
The Werewolf easily takes down the attackers, even though they outnumber him 5 to 1.  Inside the wolf, Jack keeps himself from killing any of them.  The police show up and The Werewolf flees the scene.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
In the Hangman's secret lair, the vigilante removes his mask and reveals his whole origin story to his newest terrified captive.  He was a young man who believed in good vs. evil, but when he went overboard killing Ratzi's during WWII, he was court-martialled and sentenced to prison for six years.
 
After being released, he couldn't find a job because of his criminal record and came to the conclusion that "The System" and all those within it were corrupt, and so he decided to fight back by becoming the costumed crime fighter known as The Hangman!
 
LATER ON. . .
 
As The Werewolf continues to elude the police after the attack at the beach, he runs into his sister, Lissa, and his friend, Buck.  As he approaches, The Hangman (who was patrolling the area looking for evildoers to take down) mistakenly thinks he is going to attack them and jumps down to their defense!  Lissa knows that Jack is the Werewolf, and she tries to stop the fight from  happening, but nobody listens and the Werewolf and Hangman go to it!
 
A brutal battle ensues between The Werewolf and The Hangman, with both of them taking a beating, but still coming back for more!  The police arrive on the scene and Jack convinces the Werewolf to retreat. 
 
 
BUT. . .
 
As the Werewolf flees through the city to avoid the police, The Hangman follows and manages to capture him with a rope, hanging him from a streetlight!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Obviously, this comic is right smack in the middle of an ongoing story, but even so, it was a pretty good read.  The Hangman seems to be a bit ridiculous in execution, but his origin (man whose illusion of good vs evil is shattered by the reality of war) is actually interesting as an idea.  
 
Despite the somewhat weak villain, I really liked the rest of the story.  Like the cover, the storyline reminds me of something that might be found in Incredible Hulk in that the Werewolf just wants to be left alone, but everyone keeps attacking him and he's forced to fight back. . .which just makes people want to keep attacking him!  Marv Wolfman does a great job making the reader feel the frustration of Jack/ The Werewolf, and that's the best part of the story.
 
On the art side of things. . .
 
I have a confession to make.  I'm not a fan of Gil Kane's art.  
 
Look, I KNOW that he's a legendary comic talent that stands SO high on his pedestal of admiration in the eyes of some comic fans that my humble opinion doesn't really matter. . .and I'm not here to try and knock anyone off their pedestal, but I've always found his art to be a bit. . .basic.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I'm more familiar with Kane's work from Silver Age issues of Green Lantern.  The difference between his work there and here is like night and day!  Looking at the cover and the interior art here, and then comparing them to his Silver Age work, I think I can safely say that with a good inker, Gil Kane's art is actually pretty impressive!  
 
Please don't hurt me.  It's only my humble opinion, and I really don't have much of Kane's work to base it on!  Suggestions of issues or series to MAKE me a fan of Gil Kane are welcome.
 
Whether it's Gil Kane or Tom Sutton making it look good, this is one good looking comic!  The Werewolf is snarling and , a truly nasty looking creature of the night unlike some of the later issues of this series.  The opening splash page of Phillip Russel being tortured is just awesome in its creepy detail, and really one of the best splash pages I've seen in a while!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Even though The Hangman is a somewhat weak villain, this story is well written and engaging.  It ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want to see what happens next, so it hits a good mark in managing to draw me in even though it's part of a continuing storyline that I don't know what came before.
 
The art is dark, it's brutal, it's nasty.  For an artist I don't normally like, Gil Kane delivers on the promise of the awesome cover by throwing down some great horror visuals that I wasn't expecting in a mainstream Marvel comic.
 
Overall, this isn't the best comic I've ever read, but I really liked it.  If you're looking for some good Bronze Age Mighty Marvel Monster fun, then I can certainly recommend this issue!  
 
Up Next. . .
 
We've been on the Marvel side of the Bronze Age for two posts now.  
Let's head over and see what DC was up to with 1975's  Secrets of Haunted House #3.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed absolutely FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!

 
It's October!  That great time of year when you see people wearing shorts AND a heavy jacket at the same time.  It's also the time of year when we celebrate spooky comics here at Longbox Junk!  
 
This year, I'm mixing it up a little by shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with a supernatural twist.  It's been a bit of a mixed bag so far, but I've been having fun with it.
 
The comic at hand is part of Marvel's attempt to pick up the mantle of the long-running "Classics Illustrated", which stopped publishing in 1971 after a very respectable 169 issues adapting various literary works into comic form.  
 
Marvel Classics Comics lasted for 36 issues and ( if you like this kind of thing) are well worth keeping your eye out for.  They feature a "Who's Who" of great Bronze Age comic talent. . .this particular issue features the first published comic work of superstar artist Michael Golden on the third story.  
 
SO. . .
 
A Mighty Marvel adaptation of three of the creepiest stories ever written and featuring the first comic work of a notable Bronze Age artist?  How can this NOT be good?  Let's do this!


MARVEL CLASSICS COMICS #28

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

MARVEL (1977)



 
COVER: Gene Colan
 
THE COVER:
 
We start things off with a cover by one of my personal top ten Bronze Age artists, Gene Colan.  I have to admit that I don't like this cover as much as I feel I SHOULD, but it seems like there's a bit too much wasted space.  The terrified face of the victim is great, but it's sort of hidden away down in the corner.  Not a BAD cover (I don't think I've ever seen anything by Gene Colan I'd call bad), but it could have been better.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Although this comic's title and cover leans heavy into "The Pit and the Pendulum", there's also adaptations of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado" in here by the same writer, but with different artists.  Let's give them each a turn. . .
 
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
SCRIPT: Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Don McGregor
PENCILS: Rudy Mesina
 
An unnamed man is brutally tortured by the Spanish Inquisition after being sentenced to death.  Relying on his wits and pure determination to live, he manages to avoid a terrible fate several times before being rescued.
 

 

Widely-regarded as one of Poe's greatest stories, this short tale of terror and torment is a simple one at heart, with no named characters and a pure focus on the torture endured and the mental toll it takes on the main character.  This is actually one of the best adaptations of the story I've seen.  
 
Don McGregor maintains the rambling first-person narrative of the original tale, condensing it down to the bare essence needed to translate into comic form.  Rudy Mesina backs the writing up with dark, horrific art that perfectly captures the desperate, helpless tone of the story.  
 
A simply fantastic re-telling of a classic tale!
 
NEXT!
 
THE TELL-TALE HEART
SCRIPT: Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Don McGregor
PENCILS: Yong Montano
 
After a caretaker murders an elderly man, he cleverly hides the body, but while being interviewed by the police, he is so tormented by the perceived beating of the dead man's heart that he confesses his crime.
 
 
Don McGregor knocks it out of the park a second time by stripping down the original narrative JUST enough to adapt it to comic form, while artist Yong Montano provides some fantastic visuals that take us on the narrator's journey to madness through some really interesting panel forms and layouts.
 
Together, the creative team gives the reader a dark trip into a twisted mind that makes even a story as well-known as this one a gripping read!  Very nicely done.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO
SCRIPT:  Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Don McGregor
PENCILS: Michael Golden
 
After being somehow insulted, the injured man lures the perpetrator deep into a family vault, where he walls him up alive. . .
 
 
Once again, Don McGregor strips a classic tale down to the terrifying essence, taking just enough of the original narrative to adapt the story to comic form, and leaving the rest to the artist. 
 
I mentioned above that this is Michael Golden's first published comic work, and as you can see from the page scan above, he arrived with his unique style already fully-formed!  Often, when you see an artist's early work compared to their later, there can be a significant difference.  This is not the case here.  
 
Golden's signature realistic-yet-exaggerated and darkly-inked style perfectly compliments the horrific tale of a man lured to his death.  He deftly takes over where McGregor leaves off, providing the reader with a fantastic rendering of what normally must be created in the mind's eye.
 
Overall, a practically perfect comic adaptation of what is already a practically perfect story.
 

CONCLUSION

 
When I was ten years old, my introduction to the world of horror was with a gigantic illustrated and annotated volume of Edgar Allan Poe's stories that I got for a Christmas present.  The Pit and The Pendulum and The Cask of Amontillado were two stories that gripped my young attention , and they remain two of my favorite stories today.  Both of them short and simple, but terrifying in a way that no vampire or ghost story could ever be.
 
This comic adaptation of three stories that I have read and enjoyed MANY times are of such quality in both writing and art that they once again gripped my imagination and seemed almost new!
 
Bottom line. . .if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or horror comics (or both), then you should have this comic in your collection.  Despite being Michael Golden's first published comic work, it's not anywhere close to being "valuable" to collectors, so copies can be found cheap. . .I paid one lousy buck for mine.  Plus I see it's on ComiXology, so there's that as well.  
 
If you're looking for some creepy Halloween comic reading, you can't do much better than this.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's time to invite a Werewolf to this Halloween Party!
Marvel's Werewolf By Night #11 from 1973.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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!

WITCHCRAFT #2

AVON PERIODICALS (1952)

COVER: Gene Fawcette (?)
 
THE COVER:
 
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!
 
THE STORIES:
 
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
SCRIPT:  (?)
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.
 
NEXT!
 
THE VAMPIRE PUPPET
SCRIPT: (?)
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.
 
NEXT!
 
THE DEAD DO TELL!!
(One page text only story with illustrations)
SCRIPT: (?)
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.
 
MOVING ALONG!
 
HOUSE TO LET
SCRIPT: (?)
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.
 
AND FINALLY!
 
THE NORTHERN HORROR
SCRIPT:  (?)
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.

CONCLUSION

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!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!
 
You gotta love this time of year.  Pumpkin spice Pringles.  Miserable dogs forced to wear little costumes.  Candy Corn.  What the heck IS Candy Corn anyway? Never mind. . .I don't want to know.
 
In the meantime, in the dank basement of Longbox Junk headquarters, there's a machine that smells like musty paper.  It's the Longbox Junk time machine, and I've got the dial set to 1974.
 
*Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles*
 
Please place all personal belongings under your seat and dispose of all candy corn!
 
*Pulls gigantic lever*
 
HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
 

HOUSE OF SECRETS #123

DC (1974)

 
COVER: Frank Robbins
 
THE COVER:
 
Wait.  How the &$#@ did THIS get approved by the CCA?  Frank Robbins throws down a disturbing, disgusting vision of horror that raises a gory middle finger to the very IDEA of the CCA.  
 
I love this cover.  It's one of my Halloween favorites and has taken a few turns up on the Halloween version of the "Wall O' Covers" at my office, and it's also usually the one that gets enough comments that I debate the wisdom of having it up there in the first place.  THIS is what a Halloween horror cover should be!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Just two stories under that awesome cover.  Let's hope they're good ones!
 
A FUGITIVE APPARITION
SCRIPT: John Albano
PENCILS: Leandro Sesarego
 
When a young boy accidentally discovers a strange spirit, they slowly become friends.  The spirit reveals that he's in hiding after escaping punishment for a crime he didn't commit.  When a ghostly bounty hunter discovers the spirit's hiding place, he manages to escape by using a trick he learned from his young human friend.
 
 
Hmmmmm. . .okay.  It's a sort of "unlikely friends take on the world" story with the most interesting parts being the growing friendship between a boy and a hideous spirit in hiding.  I liked it because (unlike a lot of these stories I'm finding in these anthologies) at least it's pretty original.  On the other hand, the art isn't doing anything it absolutely doesn't have to do beyond telling the story.  
 
Overall, a pretty good read.  It seems like the sort of thing Disney would make into a kid-friendly Halloween movie. Not the greatest story ever, but it's sort of unusual, and that's a good thing.
 
NEXT!
 
A CONNECTICUT ICE CREAM MAN 
IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT
SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher & Russell Carley
PENCILS: Alex Toth
 
After Ice Cream man Ernie Baxter is somehow transported to King Arthur's domain, he avoids execution through the power of delicious ice cream, and is celebrated as a great wizard.
 
Not long after, Ernie decides that even though he is given almost anything he wants, he wants more, and so plots to kill the King and take over Camelot.  Unfortunately for Ernie, he was being closely watched by rival "wizard" Merlin.
 
Merlin warns the King of Ernie's plot and uses his own magic to turn Ernie into ice cream, which is then served at the King's banquet. . .
 

 
Okay then.  Hmmmmm. . .
 
It's basically a good old "Fish Out of Water" story combined with the equally well-worn "Greedy person gets what is coming to them" story path.  It's sort of an unusual mashup, but it actually works pretty well.
 
Like the first story in this issue, this one isn't the greatest comic story I've ever read, and it's certainly not scary in any way, but it IS fun, engaging, and well-written.  
 
That said, for me the best part of this story was the great artwork by the legendary Alex Toth.  Toth brings his signature style to this strange little tale and makes every page worth an extra moment of lingering over.

CONCLUSION

What we have here are two stories that I would describe as "Pretty Good".  One that gives the "unlikely friends take on the world" a supernatural twist that makes it read like a Disney Halloween special.  And a second story that mashes the "fish out of water" and "greedy person gets what is coming to them" tropes together for a comic book repaint of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court".
 
Both of them are well-written and engaging.  With the exception of Alex Toth's typically amazing artwork in the second story, neither of them are great or particularly memorable.  They're just "Pretty Good" and not much more than that.
 
Overall, I'd recommend this comic to anyone looking for a couple of fun stories with some supernatural flavor.  This comic doesn't seem to be very "valuable" at all to collectors, so copies should be out there at decent prices.  I got mine out of a bargain bin for a buck.  I'm sure there's plenty more out there.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's back to the Golden Age for another Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review!
 
Join me as I take a look at Witchcraft #2 from 1952. . .because what's Halloween without some witchcraft?  I say it's not Halloween at all!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me to write!
 
It's that time of year again! October. . .the season of harvest, spooky fun, and questionable costume choices!  Here at Longbox Junk we're throwing a little Halloween party where I'm shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with some supernatural flavor.  
 
This time out, I'm sending the Longbox Junk paper time machine back to the Bronze Age for a look at a comic book that Marvel insisted was actually a "Magazine" because it was a little bigger than a comic and printed in black and white. . .it was an earnest dodge of that pesky Comic Code, of course. 
 
 They put out  quite a few runs of these black and white "Magazines" , to varying degrees of success.  Most of them lasted a year or less.  The most enduring and popular being Savage Sword of Conan, which lasted until 1995 with an astounding 235 issues!  The series at hand only lasted for 10 regular issues plus an annual. Not close to SSOC level, but better than most of the others.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Monsters Unleashed #10. . .featuring that cadaverous cut up himself, FRANKENSTEIN! 
 
Let's do this!

MONSTERS UNLEASHED #10

MARVEL (1974)

 
COVER: Vicente Segrelles
 
THE COVER:
 
It's a very nicely painted cover, that's for sure!  The monster IS a bit horrific, but this actually looks more like a fantasy cover than a horror cover, with a sort of "Beowulf" feel to it.  That doesn't take away from this great piece of art one bit, though.  I always say that Gold Key and Dell had the best painted covers, but it looks like 70's Marvel was at least TRYING to give them a run for the money on their "Magazines" at least.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Three full stories and a one page space filler in this issue. . .with a very nice selection of Bronze Age comic talent on hand.  Just looking at the names on the credits makes me want to jump right in!
 
THEY MIGHT BE MONSTERS
(One Page)
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella
PENCILS: Pablo Marcos
 
A one page appetizer about an explorer who claimed to have seen a gigantic hairy monster-man in Africa. . .with the twist being that he was actually the first white man to have reported sighting a gorilla.
 
 
For a one page space filler I REALLY liked this!  Credit due to one of my favorite Bronze Age writers (Tony Isabella) for doing a lot in such a little space!  The art also knocked it out of the park, making this a fantastic opening for this comic. . .er. . .MAGAZINE.
 
A great start. . .let's get into the main course!

THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER: 
THE 11:10 TO MURDER
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Val Mayerik
 
During a journey without a destination that he knows of, Frankenstein's Monster boards a train and meets a young woman who shows him the kindness that few others ever have, and they become friends in a short time.
 
Suddenly, the train comes under attack by a group of gunmen aboard.  It seems that the President of the United States is aboard the train and is the target of an assassination attempt.  
 
The Monster's new friend insists that they do something to save the President, and so together they make their way through the train to the President's car, defeating any assassins they come across on the way.
 
It turns out that the President being on the train was just a ruse.  The Monster's friend tells him to run away before he gets blamed for all the dead men, and she stays behind to explain what happened.  But as the train leaves The Monster behind, one last assassin blows it up with a grenade, killing The Monster's new friend and leaving him once again alone.
 
 
Although the setup feels a bit forced, with the tale hinging entirely on the coincidence that The Monster somehow finds himself on the same train as the President, I really liked this story.  The spoken dialogue might be a little overblown in places, but the omniscient caption box narration running through the story itself isn't just some fine comic book writing, it's some fine writing period!  Doug Moench does a knockout job setting the scenes here.
 
On the art side, Val Mayerik (Who I know more from Howard the Duck than anything else) gives the story some dark and gritty Neal Adams-inspired flavor with his fantastic, detailed, grey-tone artwork.  Every panel on every page of this story is worth lingering over a moment!
 
Overall, despite some awkward story setup relying on a bit of eye-rolling coincidence, this is a very nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold, with two serious Bronze Age comic talents coming together in a great way.
 
NEXT!
 
BEAUTY'S VENGEANCE
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Sanho Kim
 
After a fisherman rescues a mermaid, she promises that she will be his after one year if he returns home and doesn't find happiness.  As the year goes by, the fisherman only becomes more obsessed with the beauty of the mermaid, ignoring the growing love his homely housekeeper has for him.
 
Upon returning, the mermaid chastises the fisherman for obsessing over her outer beauty when there was a woman with great inner beauty right in front of him.  She turns into a water dragon and kills the fisherman, to the great sadness of his housekeeper, who was actually a mermaid herself.
 
 
Another great story courtesy of Doug Moench!  He imbues this tale with a dreamlike quality, as if it is a fable being told by a storyteller.  It's a pretty straightforward "Greedy person gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural/ Asian twist, but Moench's writing elevates it over the well-worn path that it travels.
 
Korean artist Sanho Kim brings the Asian flavor this story needs in a big way!  His unusual panel layouts and delicate, detailed lines are the perfect compliment to the dreamlike supernatural fable feel of the story.
 
Overall, another winner!  Once again, two great Bronze Age comic talents come together in one place to deliver a story that is captivating and memorable.  An unexpected nugget of Longbox Junk gold!
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE SERENITY STEALERS
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella & Chris Claremont
PENCILS: Tony DeZuniga
 
Greer Nelson (AKA Tigra, formerly The Cat) faces the first test of her new were-cat powers as she tracks a killer taking the form of a monstrous rat through the sewers of the city.  
 
Deep beneath the city, Tigra discovers an ancient vampiric being named Surisha who the Rat-Man worships by bringing her prey that she drains the life force from in order to maintain her youth and beauty.  In particular, she feeds off her victim's happiness and serenity.
 
During the ensuing battle, Tigra manages to turn Surisha's Rat-Man servant against her, destroying the vampire before Tigra kills him in turn, revealing to the reader at the end of it all that Surisha was powerless against Tigra because she knows no happiness or serenity.
 

Do you really need to look any further than the three names credited on this story to know that it's good?  You have Tony Isabella. . .creator of Black Lightning and writer of some of the best Ghost Rider issues of the original run (and one of my favorite Bronze Age writers).  You have Chris Claremont, the writer who brought the X-Men back to life and took them higher than Stan Lee ever imagined.  And on art, you have prolific Bronze Age great Tony DeZuniga, co-creator of one of my favorite comic characters of all-time, Jonah Hex. 
 
If you were looking for a Bronze Age all-star team to write a comic story, you couldn't do much better than this team right here!
 
As for the story itself, it's an interesting mash-up of superhero and supernatural that's everything you'd expect from this creative team.  It has over the top action combined with an introspective inner monologue as Tigra wonders exactly who and what she really is.  In the end, that inner turmoil haunting the character turns out to be what wins the fight for her instead of any powers or abilities she might have.
 
Overall, a great combination of talent gives us a great little supernatural superhero tale to end the issue.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Three for three!  Or really, four for four, if you count the one page Tony Isabella appetizer at the front of things.  But no matter HOW you count it, this comic. . .er, sorry. . .MAGAZINE is a great read from cover to cover!
 
I have a confession.  I'm not a fan of black and white comics.  Except for Savage Sword of Conan and getting on the Walking Dead train after #50 after the constant recommendation/ nagging of a friend, I usually let the B/W comics stay right in the bargain bin.
 
BUT. . .
 
Based on finally reading this comic (which I bought for the cover and have let sit for years unread), I think I might be interested in checking out some more of Marvel's Bronze Age Black and White "Magazines".  That says a lot about the quality of the stories and art in this issue right there.
 
Overall, Monsters Unleashed #10 is a very nice nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  I can easily recommend this one to anyone looking for some supernatural flavor provided by some great Bronze Age comic talent.  It's not a particularly "valuable" comic to collectors, so copies can probably be found for decent prices (I think I paid ten bucks for mine, if I remember) if you keep your eye out for it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
The Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party keeps going!
 
Let's stay in the Bronze Age and head over to DC for a look at  1974's House of Secrets #123.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the comic reviews keep comin' even if nobody asks for them!

 
It's that time of year again, folks!  That's right. . .it's October! Just SMELL that pumpkin spice wafting from every store.  I was in Home Depot the other day and even saw some pumpkin spice-scented fire logs.  Now THAT'S commitment to the cause when HOME DEPOT jumps on the pumpkin spice train!
 
BUT. . .
 
Here at Longbox Junk, the only delicious scent to be found is the decidedly un-pumpkin spice smell of old comic paper as I pull out some of the older and/or more "valuable" issues in my collection with a slant toward the supernatural as part of the first Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party!
 
*Cracks opens plastic bag. . .Takes a deep, deep breath*
 
Now THAT's some vintage stank!  You can SMELL the Golden Age on the comic at hand. . .all 67 years' worth  of being passed from place to place before landing in one of my longboxes!  Mmmmmm!
 
What?  You want me to quit sniffin' the comic and actually READ it?  Well. . .okay, I guess.
 
*Takes one last whiff*
 
Let's do it!


BEWARE #13

TROJAN MAGAZINES (1953)

 
COVER: Harry Harrison (?)
 
THE COVER:
Just LOOK at the terror on that guy's face!  That pistol isn't doing much good, is it?  Nope. . .he's a goner and he KNOWS it!  What a great cover!  I love a cover that tells a story and that's exactly what we have here.  It makes me what to know what that creature is and what the heck is happening.  So let's get inside and see if we can get some answers!
 
THE STORIES:
Once again, the Golden Age doesn't disappoint, giving any kid in 1953 with one lousy dime four full-sized comic stories and a two page text piece under that terrifying cover!  Let's check them each out. . .
 
REBIRTH
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Harry Harrison
 
A hen-pecked man named Clarence is married to a beautiful woman who loves him only for his money.  She's having an affair and he looks the other way because he truly loves her.  When a distant relative leaves Clarence a large inheritance and a castle by the sea, his wife and her lover plot to murder him.
 
After being thrown into the sea by his wife's lover, Clarence is rescued by strange beings and transformed into a hideous creature, who returns to the surface to kill his murderer and to drag his wife down to the depths to undergo the same transformation.
 
Is it just me, or does the boyfriend look like Willem Dafoe?
 
So we start this thing off with a good old  "Greedy lover/relative gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural twist.  It's not a bad little story.  The art is pretty unremarkable and pedestrian, making the hideous creatures that save Clarence look sort of goofy instead of horrible.  The generic typeset lettering stands out, and not in a good way.  Overall, a decent story brought down a bit by some artistic choices.
 
NEXT!
 
THE HORRIBLE OFFERING
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Gerald Altman
 
A famous archeologist returns from Africa with a large wooden statue.  His mind is slowly consumed by the statue's demands for living sacrifices, which start small with birds and begin to escalate.  Finally the archeologist's wife leaves him, fearing for her own safety.  
 
He realizes he's become obsessed with the statue and decides to destroy it to save his marriage. . .but as he pushes the statue toward a cliff to rid himself of it, the statue falls on him, making the archeologist the final sacrifice.
 
 
Okay, not bad.  This one was a pretty good little tale following the well-worn path of "Evil thing kills the person who created/discovered it".  Unfortunately, like the first story, the art brings things down a notch. The art is pretty workmanlike and bland to begin with, but is made worse with some sloppy coloring that really stands out on several pages.  
 
MOVING ALONG!
 
HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER
(Two page text only story)
SCRIPT: (?)
 
A reporter hears the final confession of a convicted murderer just hours before his execution.  In it, the prisoner claims that he and his brother had always been able to communicate telepathically, so when his brother's body was taken over by an evil spirit during a failed ceremony, he rushed to his aid, killing his brother in order to drive the spirit out.
 
 
 
I know that these text features were probably some of the least popular parts of these comics, and most of them were pretty obvious space filler, but I'm also discovering that there's actually some pretty good little bite-sized stories to be found in them.  Truthfully, I found this tale to be the best of the bunch in this comic.  I wouldn't have minded seeing it expanded into a fully-illustrated offering.  Not bad at all.
 
NEXT!
 
WISH FOR THE DEAD
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Vince Napoli
 
When a greed nephew promises his dying Aunt that he'd take her place if he could, in order to get her money, her ghost holds him to that promise, haunting him until he accidentally kills himself inside her crypt.
 
 
Yep. . .it's another "Greedy lover/ relative gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural twist.  Actually, I liked this story better than the first (the opening story in the issue).  Unfortunately, this one is brought down by the art (and generic typeset lettering) in the exact same way, giving us a pretty good ghost revenge story taken down a notch by some pretty pedestrian art.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
KEEPER OF THE GHOSTS
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Henry Kiefer
 
When a poor family moves into an old mansion inherited from a departed Aunt, they discover that the house is haunted by ghosts of pirates who killed a comrade and buried him beneath the floorboards.  The youngest son observes the ghostly figures hiding their treasure behind the bricks of the fireplace.  After checking, the family discovers a hoard of gold and they quickly decide to move out of the haunted house with their new fortune.
 

This story is just kind of. . .there.  It's not bad, but it's also not really memorable in any way.  The art suffers from the same workmanlike style seen in the rest of the comic, telling the story, but not doing it any favors beyond that.  Overall, it seems like there wasn't much effort put into this story.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Unfortunately, this comic didn't really live up to the promise of that great cover.  It's basically a collection of stories that are actually pretty decent, but are brought down by some pretty basic and workmanlike art (as well as some sloppy coloring and bad typeset lettering).  
 
It seems strange that a comic with four different artists can turn out to be so average in the art department.  One would think that at least one art style would stand out, but here every one of the artists straddle that straight middle line of being good enough to tell a story, but not good enough to make it any better.  
 
Overall, this comic is a pretty average read.  Almost completely unremarkable or memorable.  It's not a BAD comic, it's just the sort of thing you read and forget about almost as soon as you're done.  
 
This seems to be a pretty pricey comic in good condition, and I'm not sure that great cover is worth paying TOO much for, but I found mine at a flea market for five bucks, so it's out there if you keep your eyes open.  Because it's so utterly average, I'm a bit hesitant recommending this comic to anyone except specific fans of 1950's horror/ suspense comics.
 
Up Next. . .
 
You guessed it. . .another Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review!
 
Let's jump the paper time machine forward to the Bronze Age for some Marvel Style monster fun with 1974's Monsters Unleashed #10!  It's gonna be Monster-ific!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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