Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sign of the Smiling Spectre

We’ve reached the halfway point in our Ghost Stories Marathon this week; hope you’re enjoying the grim ghastliness… here’s a really creepy one from the August 1951 issue of Web of Mystery #4.







TOMORROW: Howard Nostrand--- and Emily Ghost!
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Bonus Quickie (same issue)

18 comments:

Horror pariah said...

Gotta admit i was a bit dissapointed, i was expecting Helen to be covered in blood and grinning evilly from the way it was all built up(that said,if she looks SO pretty as a ghost after impalement,she and that chick from HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL can hover outside my window any day!).still,it's hard to hate a story with such nice art,especially one that begins like this.

blackwalnut2001 said...

Quite a range of dishes is being laid before us. After stories like "Rotting Demons," "The Bone Man" and "Jelly Death," it seems downright tame that the impalings occur just out of the frame in this tale. Was this common to ACE? Did their comic lines tend to downplay the more gruesome aspects? [As you can see I'm gradually working my way through the archives. Quite an education.]

prof. grewbeard said...

like a soap opera gone horribly, terribly wrong...

todd said...

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: these are The Days of the Week.

Doomsday, maybe?

Anonymous said...

I liked this one and I don't think it'd work if the impalings had been shown (or Helen had been more gruesome).

Karswell said...

I agree with anon, I'm not so much interested in graphic violence as much as a well told story (with nice art), and I think this is one of the better, almost classier, early era Ace tales. Can't please you all I guess.

Todd, are you questioning my abilities to define a week? I usually mean a "work week" which is Mon - Fri. You guys are on my ass today-- WTF???

Time for a vacation...

The Vicar of VHS said...

I also was disappointed with this one--I didn't mind the out-of-frame violence (Helen's end was especially well done, I though), but to me it just seemed kind of half-there narrative-wise. Oh, here's the incriminating manuscript no one noticed before! Hey, Betty's here for NO REASON, and disappears just as quickly! Just didn't work for me.

Also, the art was kind of "special" in several places, imo, and not in a good way. Helen's leap out the window looks rather slapdash (esp. her face), and on pg. 2, the Doctor's jaw is Elephan Man-like, and Pete's head in the last panel...not that great.

Still, I did enjoy Martin's expression on the first panel of p3, and the AMAZING number of straps they use to restrain him in the last panel on that page. And is he wearing a priest's collar for some reason? And finally, they make a point of talking about Helen's dripping wounds, and then when she shows, they're not there. I'm not saying I want all blood all the time, but when it's a story point, it needs to be there, it seems to me.

Anyway, Helen gets a bad rap here--they talk bout her "evil" plan, but didn't they establish Martin was the bastard? Wasn't she just getting justice?

Oh well, I won't begrudge others' enjoyment of this, but give me more mouldering corpses and bondage babes! Just, you know, as a matter of principle...

Anonymous said...

While I have to admit the story has its problems (such as Betty showing up just long enough for exposition, as Vicar points out) it's still surprisingly effective, and more surprisingly ambiguous. "Is Helen evil, or is it my brother?" Not the sort of stuff you saw in comics then.

Personally, I'll forgive that slightly sloppy writing because those poor funnybook scribes were under tremendous pressure to get as many pages written as possible if they were expected to make even a meager living. That this fella took the time to inject any kind of sophistication at all is to be commended.

Kitty LeClaw said...

To Karswell: Time for a vacation...

Penetentiary Museum doesn't close for the season until Hallerin -- there's still time!!!

Emby Quinn said...

I kind of liked today's tale. The art was a bit hit-and-miss (or rather the "action" sequences were a bit stiff) but I think the story held together fairly well. It did seem to change direction in midstream, however...On the first page it almost looks as if Martin is pushing Helen out of the window, and that's what I thought had happened at first. Then up crops the whole business of Martin driving Helen to suicide and then feeling remorse afterwards (not uncommon in real murder cases, by the way). Finally, the question at the end--was Helen an innocent victim or a scheming bitch of a ghost?

No, Karswell, you can't go! I need my daily pre-code horror fix! *cling*

goblin said...

I, for one, really liked the story. Okay, we've seen better art, but I didn't mind. This one actually sent shivers down my spine and that doesn't happen all too often when I read pre-code horror comics. And I also agree that it was a good thing that the impaled bodies of Helen and Martin weren't shown – it just fitted better with the tone of the story, IMHO.

Hugomarink said...

Awwww, that was a perfectly good pre-code yarn. I enjoyed it for sure!

The Fortress Keeper said...

I really liked the moral ambiguity of the tale. To be honest, I found it a lot more sophisticated and appropriate than modern attempts to make super-heroes all "grey" and stuff ...

The art reminded me of Don Heck in spots, so it definitely worked for me. Nice post!

Horror pariah said...

Aw,c'mon you know that i'm not a drooling gorehound,i just was expecting what i thought was being built up,and i still said i liked the story.I also agree about the Heck-like qualities in the art,somenthing about the way the faces are turned.

Dane said...

I really liked this one. I thought it was a real page turner ... uh, page clicker?

Anyway, I was all caught up in it, and as anonymous up there said, the ambiguity about who was the real villain was an unexpected touch.

The panel at the bottom of page five, where he realizes it couldn't have been his blood - I like the composition there.

Dane said...

Oh, and:

You guys are on my ass today-- WTF???

Welcome to my world, Toots. :/

Anonymous said...

NICE AND SPOOKY, I'M NOT REALLY A FAN OF WHAT YOU DONT SEE IS MORE SCARY THEORY BUT IT WORKS PERFECTLY FINE HERE FOR THE VIOLENCE. I JUST LOVE GHOST GIRL STORIES NO MATTER WHAT I SEE OR DONT SEE.

todd said...

Finally, the question at the end--was Helen an innocent victim or a scheming bitch of a ghost?

"Scheming Bitch of a Ghost" would be an excellent rock song.