Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Phantom Puppet

More knife wielding Tiny Terrors for you today (on the 72nd anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s death no less), the THOIA theme slightly shifting from Evil Dolls to Evil Puppets now… and here’s a typically well-illustrated tale from the September 1953 issue of Web of Mystery #20.

(Note to GCD: This is the missing story entry.)

Vintage AD

TOMORROW: Not so tiny terrors...


+One-panel, wind-up gag from the great Priscilla


Anonymous said...

Wow!! This was just a great story. No sarcastic comments, no slams at faulty logic. It was just plain good comics. From that lively, beautiful splash panel (where the two puppets in the foreground seem to be sharing the joy of seeing Lucas get his) to the tortured faces in the flames of the fire in the last panel, this kicked ass!

What I really dug about this was the way the writer (and artist) made the comparison between the human Lucas playing God with the apparent power of "life" and "death" over his wooden puppets, and the murdering puppet playing God with the actual power of life and death over his human victims. In fact, his rage against Lucas's power is what drives him. Really tight and thought provoking writing with well woven internal logic.

A big, big thank you for today's story, Karswell! And if anyone has an idea about who the artist is (clearly influenced by Cole and Kirby) please pass it on.

Mr. Karswell said...

Also wanted to remind everyone that we're coming up on the final week of Rondo Awards voting... if you haven't voted for THOIA yet please do, the drawing is on March 21st, not the 31st like I incorrectly stated last month.


Emby Quinn said...

Okay, straight out of the gate, I have to ask...WTF is a "blood-curdling accent"?! Besides somebody saying "I vant to drink your BLUDD!" a la Bela Lugosi?

Oh, yeah, Luke, make a puppet in honor of one of Scotland Yard's greatest and most famous failures. They'll love it!

Isn't it convenient how comic book writers tend to forget that Saucy Jack only went after, ah, working girls? In fact, even back when I was growing up there was a common misconception that Jack was just a mad slasher who went after anyone rather than a slayer of prostitutes. Where did I learn differently? None other than a comic book. A mainstream comic. An issue of Lois Lane, IIRC. In that story, the supposed knife of Jack the Ripper was on display in a London museum and naturally the future Mrs. Supes was there to cover the story. The knife was stolen, the thief was possessed, and girls started dying on the streets. But only certain girls, mind you. It was never explicitly stated, but the implication was so clear even a naive twelve-year-old (me) couldn't miss it. Inevitably, Lois came face to face with the killer...who couldn't bring himself to harm her because she wasn't "like the others". (Hmm, maybe Lois was a virgin on her wedding night?)

Forgive my digression, back to the story. It wasn't a bad take, really, apart from the false information about Jack's crimes. I liked the little twist at the end where you're not realloy sure whether or not something supernatural has happened.

And Kars, silly boy, of course I've voted for you! You know I would.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...


blackwalnut2001 said...

Greetings, Kars.

I'm playing catch-up here with all these tales of malevolent manniquins and pernicious puppets. Funny how so many of them end up in flames. Maybe 'cause they're wood, hunh?

Simply terrific slate o' tales this week. My own fave was Doll of Death.

If anyone is interested in celebrating HP's B'day by listening to a few old-time radio shows of his stories, go here:

Then go to the Old Time Radio homepage for LOTS more radio horror. I just discovered this one and wanted to share it.

Here's another:

Thanks again, Kars, as always.

blackwalnut2001 said...

Sorry. All the string didn't take, for some reason. Go here, click on "View All" and pick yer poison, HP et al.:

Prof. Grewbeard said...

he didn't have to put his finger in her mouth! p-tooey!

Smilodonna said...

Even though my thoughts on this tale have already been summed up in the previous comments (I'm usually beaten to the punch, thus the infrequency of my comments), I HAD to say thanks for posting probably my favorite story of the past couple months. I was also a little bothered by the historic inaccuracy of the Ripper's choice in victims, but all else (the story, the art, the pacing, etc.) was bellissimo! Love the first panel on page 7 with the newspaper headlines. Good stuff.

Mr. Cavin said...

Those were newspaper headlines? They looked like Miss Universe sashes to me.

I'm not as head over heels about this one as the others seem to be. I thought it was a little slapdash with very little evidence included in the actual story arc to justify that tacked-on mystical existential coda:

Was it the puppet, or the puppet master? Ceci n'est pas une pipe. Go take philosophy one-oh-one, kiddies, spooky-doo!

I do love the idea that Jack the Ripper might've dressed as an authentic French mime or maybe a Russian sailor. Or both. The bit where he pretends to sink with the invisible Potemkin is always such a hoot.

Unknown said...

I like Cavin's cranky review better than the story itself. The ventriloquist wasn't a very sympathetic figure and seemed to throw up his hands in resignation when his dummy went all killing spree. I think the problem was a lack of character development: there was no one here to care about. Not a bad story, but one distinguished only by obituaries that look like fortune cookies. Don't you hate it when you have Chinese and get "Peddler killed in Soho" with dessert?

Anonymous said...

No one to care about? See, this is the damage that Syd Field and his ilk have wrought in the world, where adults feel the need to identify with characters to enjoy a story. Who is there to identify with in "Last Exit to Brooklyn," or "Naked Lunch?" For that matter, who was there to identify with in stories like "The Weird Dead" or "Killer Lady" that Karswell ran in late February?

And quite frankly, I cared a lot about the puppet.

I'll admit, I'm usually more interested in the craft of these stories than the actual content. Still, I contend that the content here (in the context of the "Pre-Code Horror" oeuvre) is more than one cut above the flock.

Hey, I just used contend, content, and context (parenthetically) in one sentence. Looks like college finally paid off.

Mr. Karswell said...

Lots of interesting comments on this one, and alas, I too could care less about caring about characters, unless of course they ask or require for me too. My only other bit of imput would be about the panel at the top of the last page... isn't that simply the mode of ticker tape breaking news coming over the wire? I've seen this in a ton of old movies.

Everyone have a great week, got a Bernie Wrightson Flash Forward coming up tomorrow maybe, and lots more on the burner... Monday's post will be up in a bit.

Mr. Cavin said...

"Who is there to identify with in 'Last Exit to Brooklyn,' or 'Naked Lunch?'"

Anonymous, your comment borders on the tautological, by concentrating your point on your definition of Todd's reasons for using the word identify rather than taking issue with his stated reasons for his using that word.

I also felt the characterizations were pretty skinny, and there are times when that flies and times when it does not. In Naked Lunch, it flies. The Phantom Puppet it does not, at least for me. As for Last Exit to Brooklyn, there isn't a two-dee character in the bag, and whether or not they're likable isn't what we are talking about here.

If I were to take it upon myself to interpret what Todd meant by "care about" in his review, I'd say he was more concerned by this story's inability to foster his interest in its characters, not whether he could "like" them (or, as you say, "identify with" them). I can care about global warming, for example, without liking it.

Ah but one man's poison....

Anonymous said...

As I said, I cared a lot about the puppet. And it may be asking a bit much of the poorly paid writer of a short Pre-Code horror story to give us fully realized characters, EC being (occasionally) the exception.

Speaking of rhetoric, I noticed how you went after "Last Exit..." (obviously I agree with you on that) but you deftly avoided commenting on the two earlier posted pre-Code horror tales I cited -- both of which you enjoyed, if your comments were any indication. Of course, it's fine to be mercurial about the things you like (we all are), but when you try to put together a system of logic for it, it can be assailed. I tend to like these things for how well they're crafted, and everything after that is gravy -- usually dependent on my mood that day.

Always a joy, Mr. Cavin. You keep my debating skills sharp.

Mr. Cavin said...


If you're going to use logic like that, then you'll have to eventually point out that my whole platform is "let's you and him fight." I don't mind at all the wafer-thin unlikable and uninteresting characters here, I just wanted to clear up a foggy point in your post. But touché anyway: I am inconsistent with Todd. I'll admit it.

"I tend to like these things for how well they're crafted"

Oh yeah, me too. And if I'd said that, by "well" I'd have meant nearly anything from "peculiar" to "whiskey-tango-foxtrot" with my favorites probably being whatever I could snark at the most.

Well, and voodoo dance club stories. Holy crap, voodoo dance clubs are cool.

Thank you too, Anon. The only thing better than reading a dumb comic book story is having a conversation with smart people.

Unknown said...

Unexpected discussion!

Just to clarify: I definitely didn't say "identify with." I would worry if I identified with characters in these stories too often, since those who are human turn out to be either murderers or murder victims if they turn out to be relevant at all.

I said "care about," because if it takes effort to get to the end of a story and I'm utterly indifferent to whether anyone in the story lives or dies or becomes a lawyer, I don't consider the story a success.

I see now it's Web of Mystery, which often feels formulaic to me. Anyway, I didn't mean to disparage it, just say I liked the comments more than the story. And continue to!