Friday, January 22, 2016

A Game with Lucifer

During the 1950's pre-code era, Ace Comics was home to some of the most imaginative of Devil Tales. Now as we continue spiraling down into the fiery pit of Hell itself with satanic stories of eternal pure evil, we let loose with another eerie example from the March '52 issue of Baffling Mysteries #7, highlighted by art from the always amazing Lou Cameron! Today's post is also rounded out with a baffling bonus one-page excursion into Hades from the July '53 issue of Baffling Mysteries #16.


Brian Barnes said...

I just adore Cameron's devil -- the way the horns work around the window's peak make it look like a mask, and the way he's always crouched in the cloak.

That said, the story, it's interesting right up until the nonsense ending. So, what happened? Our grand master beat the devil, heck, he beat everybody. Yet the devil won? How? What? Hunh???

Mr. Cavin said...

Say, that Devil really is a bastard, huh? Loved the story; pretty neat cheat on Satan's part, too. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And I really dug the art, even if Cameron's take on Budapest doesn't much match the real thing. Interesting that they've dated the story, to about seven years earlier than it was published, by the use Hungarian pengős--currency only available for about twenty years, and replaced by the florint, according to Wikipedia, in forty-six when it flamed-out in a shocking demonstration of postwar hyperinflation. Sounds like somebody ended up in Hungary during dubya dubya two and didn't realize just how fast stuff was changing as the old kingdom succumbed to Soviet control. Pretty neat little history lesson packed into one word balloon there.

My other favorite word in this story was "granted", in that first big pink block of narration under the Pont Neuf (?) in the splash. Crummy doctors. I can't believe they'd only allow this guy one more month of life. Maybe they are the ones he should have been bargaining with?

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Brian, The Devil granted Archer ONE chance to conquer death per year.
Archer took for granted that he was now immune to heart disease, but he survived the train wreck, so, one chance is gone.
Well, not much of a bargain, and not very well explained by Mr. D.
I also suspect that the train wreck was not exactly accidental. After all, the Devil IS a cheater...
But what's with the owner of the bookshop? The writer seems to have forgotten him. Now that's a real mystery.
And yes, that Devis IS a bastard.

glowworm2 said...

Yeah, the ending is a little bit confusing, but I assume that since the Devil never revealed to Archer what would happen if he won, he basically fulfilled his end of the bargain by granting Archer a chance to beat death--but not the one he had wanted to avoid which was his heart disease. After all, if the Devil can find a way to cheat his way out of a pact, he will.

As for the owner of the bookshop, well maybe that was the Devil in disguise. After all, just how many ancient occult book stores just happen to be hanging around in plain sight?

Mestiere said...

How did Darius Skalna managed to publish his little book, The Devil's Gambit, if he actually lost the match? And how did he benefit from publishing?

"Here is another moth to be caught in the flame". That comment by the bookshop owner—who, mysteriously, never interacted with Barry—made it seem like this book gambit had been tried before. That the bookshop guy would appear again at the end to recover the book and repeat the cycle. Instead he appears for exactly one panel, never to be seen again.

When Barry Archer was spotted "playing by himself" I though that he had gotten his wish to go on living but not to continue to be Grandmaster, since people would believe him crazy. But no, instead the story went off in a weird tangent with a train wreck and a Devil chess piece.

Brian Barnes said...

Ah, thanks J_D_La_Rue_67, that seems to be the case as I read it again, what is confusing is that was never the rules set down at the beginning, the game was for "life" period. And then Satan mentions it -- to himself only (what a cheat!) -- as "once" after the train wreck, where that comes in.

This story needed an editor!

Guy Callaway said...

Wow, who knew someone could be killed over a cheesy dark ride? Scary!