Monday, June 30, 2008

Sons of Satan!

The earliest issues in Trojan’s entertaining Crime Mysteries series contained cover blurbs promising “Chilling Tales of Crime and Terror!” and occasionally the series delivered big with the horror chops. Today’s pick is like kid’s stuff though compared to the last two tales we’ve had here but it possesses a groovy satanic gimmick and features the heroically named Lance Storm (a re-occurring character in the CM run) battling his evil arch nemesis Professor Zarno and his devil-garbed gang of goons. This isn’t rocket science folks, just good ‘ol crime bustin’ fun from page one, and the cover of this issue is one of my all time pulp-ish favorites!

From the May 1953 issue of Crime Mysteries #7


Bonus one-page quickie from Ace Comics' Hand of Fate series.


With God (AD)Not to reign on anyone’s satanic parade today but here’s a wildly inappropriate, completely out of place religious ad that one could commonly find in pre-code comics… this one for example can be found in Dark Mysteries #13 on the inside cover page opposite the insanely evil, gore soaked opening splash for Horror of the Mixed Torsos! Let’s see, shall I open a whole new world of faith and spiritual understanding through Jesus Christ, or scare myself silly with brutal acts of depraved torture and dismemberment?


Coming Next in July: We’ll be spending the entire month celebrating the first year of THOIA! (July 12th is the actual anniversary.) And to mark this momentous occasion we’ll be featuring not one, not two, not three, but 4 FULL ISSUES! Add to that a entire week of zombie tales, a sci-fi weekend, and more! This could be our scariest, hairiest month ever!

And starting tomorrow its the complete Dec/Jan '52-'53 issue of Eerie #10 featuring stories and artwork by Everett Raymond Kinstler, A. C. Hollingsworth, Harry Lazarus, and more! Here’s a preview…

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ray Harryhausen

Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen! Famous for his imaginative stop-motion FX in countless film classics, his unique personal touch adds a visual strength to motion pictures as no other technician has, before or since. Born this day in Los Angeles CA in 1920.

Wild Spree of the Laughing Sadist

If you’ve got a thing about cruelty to animals you may want to skip this post, (or at least the first couple pages), in fact our subject today makes the killer in that Zebra story from a few months back look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. And as the level of brutality displayed here reaches almost cartoonish proportions, you can’t help but laugh at the excessive picture they’re attempting to paint of this lovely chap. But guess what? It’s all based on a “TRUE” story! Check the link after the story below...

From the November 1947 issue of Crime Does Not Pay #57

In 1949, Maryland adopted a pioneering “defective delinquent” law when a young legislator was moved by a series of senseless, violent Baltimore murders. The 19-year-old son of a wealthy family, Herman Duker, held up a milkman, father of two, and without provocation shot him dead. As a small child Duker exhibited appalling cruelty to animals and deviant sexual behaviors, both of which persisted for years. Arrests for thefts and burglaries began at an early age. At 16 he was diagnosed as a psychopathic personality, and two years later committed his sensational murder.The judge sentenced Duker to hang because, he said, if given a life sentence the violent young man would be a lifelong danger even to the prison guards.

Click HERE for the full article.

Vintage 50's ad

And don't forget to head over to Chuck's Comic Book Catacombs today for another look at the "lighter side of crime", this time an Atlas spoof on Gang Busters and Crime Does Not Pay. It's a silly classic illustrated by future MAD Magazine legend Dave Berg!

Interview with Matthew Maxwell

Matthew Maxwell, creator of the exciting new werewolf western graphic novel Strangeways: Murder Moon, answers a few questions about horror comics:

How did you get tangled up in horror, as opposed to more traditional comics fare? Was it a childhood thing or something you came back to?

I blame my television. I blame Saturday afternoons when I could sit in front of the gigantic Zenith set that had knobs which popped and snapped audibly, the whining hum of the electronics as they warmed up and brought all this wonderful stuff to my hungry eyes. Sure, I read a lot as a kid, but never comics, not until I was older, and not any sci-fi or horror stuff, again, not until my brain got exhausted by reading encyclopedias and fact books. And when I’d absorbed The Real until I was stuffed, I became fascinated by all The Unreal stuff that flooded in on the cathode ray tube.

My childhood was ruled by giant monsters, moreso than Frankenstein and Wolfman and Dracula. Godzilla and King Kong and all those radioactive mutations (remember the guy in THEM plainly reading off that Los Angeles was now under a state of martial law?) rampaged through my subconscious in this sort of savage, slow-motion ballet. Except for Harryhausen’s monsters, which were infused with a peculiar grace, even if it was sometimes hidden in the shudder-steps that they took.

I’d say it was a childhood thing that I never grew out of, even if I lapse from time to time. Certainly through my adolescence, though, when grownups were up in arms about the hyperviolence of DAWN OF THE DEAD (which seems oddly quaint given today’s offerings). I dallied with written horror, but it never delivered the same way the motion picture did. After reading SALEM’S LOT, I never checked behind the door for lurking vampires, but Romero’s zombies made me leery of plate glass sliding doors (a fixture of California life) from the age of 12 or so.

First horror-related memory?

I’d have to say the original KING KONG, which I watched at my father’s urging (as I recall), a couple years before the bizarre remake that Dino De Laurentiis put out in, what 1976? 1977? Like a sap, I wondered why the humans couldn’t leave that poor, dumb, sweet monkey alone. Maybe I figured around then that humans were the bad guys and the monsters were really where our sympathies lied. CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON cemented that for me.

But not the original GODZILLA, who was a fearsome and unrelenting force of nature. I still try and carry that around with me, that understanding that the monsters are us and that we’re the monsters more often than not.

Printwise? One of the digests of the BORIS KARLOFF HOUSE OF HORROR or somesuch Gold Key comics. There was a story about magic sand from a beach that when sculpted would come alive and bad things happened (though it melted away in the rain), and a story about an astronaut who was not one, but THREE different monsters by the moonlight. Three monsters for the price of one? Sold.

Are horror comics scary or engaging in a way that’s different from movies or books? I always found that the reader’s ability to control time in comics made them a totally different experience, and often not as immersive or frightening as horror movies at their best.

Movies are scarier than books. Period. I’ve got a good imagination, but the levels of abstraction between inky squiggles and the werewolf on the screen always let me keep the written word at arm’s length. Not so with film. With film, I’m subjected to a vision (even if I can’t help myself from trying to dissect it—to varying degrees, depending on my level of involvement in the story). The action unrolls at twenty-four frames a second whether I’m looking or not.

Sure, I could pause the movie now, but only do so when forced to. But back then, if you got up and left, you wouldn’t see the Big Finish. In a way, broadcast television then was a very demanding medium. It was on their schedule not yours. The movie controlled the viewer, not vice versa. You can get that with big-screen movies now, but I don’t get to indulge that vice as often as I’d like.

Comics are great media for visualized imagination, but I’ve yet to be downright scared by any of them. Engaged, entranced, enthralled, yes. Not scared. Perhaps I’m broken.

I’ve often thought of superhero comics as literature of the imagination, where anything goes, no matter how big or crazy it gets. The more I look at pre-code horror, the more I get that feeling is at work there as well. No monster was too out there, too crazy not to be put to work. Is that part of the appeal of the pre-code stuff?

I still maintain that we’re missing out, now that comics have stepped up from “junk culture” status. The possibility of anything goes is far more constricted than it used to be, whether you’re in superhero comics or in horror or nearly any other subgenre. There was a time when the audience would accept anything put in front of it, but increased “sophistication” has certainly taken an edge off the imagination.

So yes, I cherish pre-code horror for the sheer “Can I really be reading this?” factor. Some of it is silly on its face, some of it inane, but even the worst of it DARES. Granted, some of that came from “What the hell can I do to beat the deadline this week?”, but you can’t make a fire without friction (unless you cheat and use gasoline.)

Is there any modern stuff that captures your imagination as well? Or do the different sensibilities call for completely different responses?

I’m almost afraid to say that critical acceptance of horror films (and comics to some degree) was one of the worst things to happen to it. Outlaw genres sometimes have difficulty adapting to life in a zoo. At its best, this stuff is wild and untamed. Taming it by copying the most easily accessed surface traits is like, I don’t know, domesticating it.

But not that old stuff. It’s very much stone axes, blood and gore and guts and veins in your teeth wheras we’re sitting around now with double lattes and talking in a very civilized manner about the rules that define this genre. I blame SCREAM, mostly.

Cronenberg is still outstanding. THE GOON is great, though it’s often not playing on my horror receptors. Same with HELLBOY. Oddly, Moore’s SWAMP THING, for the first half of it or so, plays quite well as straight horror, though that bled into metaphysics against a horror backdrop before too too long.

What’s more important to the kinds of stories you feature, good art or good writing?

Well, not that I feature anything, but I’m pretty partial to the writing side. If the story’s weak then all the art in the world won’t hide it (though it can prettify things).

Click the banner to learn more about Strangeways: Murder Moon, and thanks again to Matt for the duel interview!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Excuse For Murder

We’re going to finish out the month on a wild, 3 day detour into the realm of horrific crime horror. And if you’ve already glanced down at the splash panel then you’ll probably agree that shooting someone point blank in the face is pretty horrific, but also add elements concerning heroin addiction, excessive corpse violence, hints of rape etc, what you wind up with is one stunning bit of sensibly illustrated, extremely well written, non-supernatural pre-code. That’s right, no ghosts or ghoulies this weekend, just bloodcurdling violence from the back alleys of evil... and the phenomenal Johnny Dynamite series was one of the most notorious of them all.

From the September 1953 issue of Dynamite #3

Vintage 50's ad

Wanna see more kooky pre-code crime comedy? Chuck’s Comic Book Catacombs is hosting a “lighter side of crime” special all this weekend, where you can see other random odds and ends from Karswell’s Kollection that won't be found on THOIA! Don't miss it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Alice in Terrorland

Time to wrap up our Alex Toth fest this week with our final terror tale, I hope everyone enjoyed this tribute. Have a Toth story that you didn't see posted here this week? Care to submit the scans? Please contact me so we can add it here, thanks!

Originally presented in the October 1952 issue of Lost Worlds #5

Reprinted and recolored in Seduction of the Innocent #1

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Peter Lorre

He was and still is one of the oddest, yet most influential actors of all time (how many cartoons can you think of that use his unique voice style for a character?) Happy Birthday Peter Lorre! Star of countless incredible genre classics of film and television, born this day in Rózsahegy, Austria-Hungary in 1904. R.I.P.

Images of Sand

Toth Tribute Day Four! As we drool over another pre code classic we should also take a moment to compliment Mike Peppe who consistently weaved a fabulous ink job on much of Toth’s pencil work for Standard Comics. In fact, Peppe also worked on Murder Mansion, The Hands of Don Jose, and The Phantom Ship as well, among others.

Originally presented in the March 1954 issue of Out of the Shadows #12

Reprinted / re-colored in Seduction of the Innocent #4


Ever wonder how persistently aggressive and dedicated Toth was about the craft of comic book illustration? Check out this startlingly blunt, but 100% correct critique by Toth on Steve Rude’s Jonny Quest comic.

Click HERE for the FULL critique. Big thanks again to Brian Riedel for the new link.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Hands of Don José

Two Toth tales to totally take your breath away (whew!) in honor of his 80th birthday today, and our first tremendous story is from the April 1953 issue of Adventures into Darkness #9 ---and not a reprint! Hurrah!