Friday, July 10, 2009

They Crawl By Night! / Terror Below

THOIA has a bad case of the crabs, as we deliver a much promised Basil Wolverton story that we’ve been talking about for a few days now, (*thanks to Brian Hirsch for the scans again), this one from the Feb ’53 issue of Journey Into Unknown Worlds #15 --- plus another demented Ajax / Farrell tale of creeping crustaceous terror from the Nov. '53 issue of Haunted Thrills #12.

Want to see this crazy story again, but told in glorious black and white? Plus even MORE Basil Wolverton? Then head on over to Pappy’s today and go wild! Click HERE!
Terror Below


Daniel [] said...

As with “Trumpet of Doom”, I first encountered “Terror Below” in one of Myron Fass's reprint/redraw magazines.

Unknown said...

Are crabs anywhere in the real world known to behave as those in Tortuga? I'm not sure which story was more ridiculous.

Mr. Cavin said...

Todd: Ah, no. My favorite use of this little trope is in Ian Fleming's Dr. No, where the villain is so convinced that crabs can be used in this way that he stakes the Bond girl out on the beach. But then when the crabs do arrive en masse, they act the way crabs really would instead: they march menacingly over the helpless damsel and continue on their way. It's an awesome anticlimax.

Honestly, both stories today were a little so-so. Seemed like excuses to overuse funny crab jokes (my favorite is panel four, page two, second story*). Wolverton's art makes any silly trifle worth the reading time, though he's such an intense and surreal cartoon experience that a little goes a long way for me.

My favorite thing about today's double post, unpredictably, is the splash narration for Terror Below. I tend to glaze-over when confronted with these wasted paragraphs, usually--but this one's a gem. The rest of the story is really just worthless padding. Pause and read that panel again. Intone it like like the breathless romance flap copy Darth Vader Chrysler advert TV movie-of-the-week brilliance it is. Record is as your answering machine message. It's wonderful.

* "...But even [the crabs] cannot keep me from seeing my lover!"

bzak said...


LOVE the Basil Wolverton story!! It has been one of my all time favorites. The splash panel always gives me the creeps.

As for "Terror Below", soughing (say it with the german accent used by Mel Blanc in the Hansel and Gretel cartoon with Bugs Bunny and Witch Hazel)?
Never thought an Ajax/Farrell story would send me to the dictionary.


Brian James Riedel

Anonymous said...



Trevor M said...

Haven't seen that particular Wolverton story before. Sure am glad Karswell posted it. Although the story is way too predictable, unfortunately, the art is awesome and the crab monsters are great (of course, it's Wolverton) and there's lots of double entendre humour in it -- like when he leaps up in bed screaming "The crabs!" LOL

I agree with Mr. Cavin that the splash panel purple prose is the best thing about the second story. It's a great piece of EC knock-off "mood writing" that fails miserably -- which makes it so good.

jpmorgan said...

In the Wolverton tale, it's great how the transformed Mike yells about everybody being a crab, and then sees the staff: "Yaaaah! I'm a crab!! WE'RE ALL CRABS!! Aieee! Help! Help! [sees Dr. and staff] Oh-h-h-h-h... never mind."

sfdoomed said...

Why does every villain (or crab man)seem to always have some scheme to rule the world? Couldn't one country be enough? Jeez. The Wolverton art leaves me breathless, as usual.

The half-eaten ankles of the hapless pirate in the second story made me cringe! What a horrible way to go. And even though the ending was rushed and predictable, the effort to create a historical context made it more worthwhile. But how did Damaris escape? And why bother with the pointless last panel mention of her turning into a ghost (when she died some time in the future)? Oh well..

Great way to start the weekend. Thanks Karswell!

Anonymous said...

I think that today i will boil me a couple of nice live juicy crabs for lunch. oh and with a little lemon and butter please. oh yes! my just desserts,
el gato

Cindy M said...

Those crabs make *spiders* appealing! :-(

Keith said...

Gotta love Wolverton. Creepy...

The Vicar of VHS said...

I love how the Crab Men's whole motivation for taking over the world via insane asylums is their overwhelming desire to be considered NORMAL. And Mike webster's greatest horror upon his transformation? "WE'RE NOT NORMAL NOW!" There's probably some subtext there about pubescent male readers of comics feeling like outcasts and wanting to fit in by making everyone else love the weird comics they love...or maybe not. Anyway, great stuff! The 4 panels at the top of pg. 5 are especially weird and chilling.

Crowley said...

Great post of a great blog. Congratulations from Spain

Michael Hoskin said...

That would be Journey into Unknown Worlds#15, not Uncanny Tales, right?

Mr. Karswell said...

Nice catch Hoskin-- fixed!


Unknown said...

Now I want to watch Dr. No.

Is there an easy way to combine the stories so asylum inmates turn into crab-men who tear corrupt colonial governors to shreds? The second story with transformation art by Basil Wolverton would be an improvement over both as is.

Anonymous said...

There's something surreal about that Wolverton story. there's no biuldup to the action. The crab-men are right on the splash panel. There's no explanation for the presence of the crab-men --- they just ARE. Having no explantion makes the story even creepier.

Wolverton was a great influence on the underground comix of the '60's.

Mr. Cavin said...

"Now I want to watch Dr. No."

I think you'll probably have to read it. I don't remember there being a crab scene at all in the movie, though I haven't seen it in long time, so I'd welcome a correction to the contrary. And, shoot, now I want to watch it too.

I'd like to second Todd's story revamp idea. The asylum galleons alone could give me nightmares, their creaking timbers filled with transforming lunatics clamoring for the tasty ankles ashore.

Maurizio Ercole said...

Attack of the crab monsters and Wolverton's classic horror in Technicolor!!!!! Thanks Karswell!!!!

8thRay said...

The crab-men's scheme was to bite normal people and turn them into crabs, thus making them "normal" by default. Why didn't they just have the inmates bite them and transform them into normal people?

Although now that I think of it, I've bitten many crab legs and none of them turned into human legs...

Vampire Sighs said...

Wolverton: Kafka meets Burroughs! I suspect both writers would've loved it:P

Unknown said...

Why didn't they just have the inmates bite them and transform them into normal people?

It didn't look like human teeth could bite through that chitin.

Mr. Cavin said...

"It didn't look like human teeth could bite through that chitin."

Seems like there'd be some sort of kitchen utensil for that, you know? I mean, it's not like I'm saying these nuts should get to have knives or anything, but isn't some silverware just basic human rights?

I'm just assuming they already have bibs.

Joey Deadcat said...

Made have said this before but, man, can never get enough Basil Wolverton!

Prof. Grewbeard said...

more Basil please... said...

The Wolverton story works better in black and white. It feels more expressionistic and more immersed in the Wolver-world. It seems kind of silly in colour but in black and white its really powerful.

Dave Ryan said...

Thanks for posting Wolverton's "They Crawl by Night" story. No one else seems to have commented yet that the writer is Daniel Keyes, the same writer who won Hugo and Nebula awards for the novella and longer novel versions of "Flowers For Algernon".

I disagree that the black and white version is the better way to read this story. The colors for this story are exceptionally good and atmospheric, but to each their own, for those who prefer the black and white version.

Wolverton did a total of 17 of these short horror/sci-fi stories, that are all reprinted one or multiple times, and even more accessible in recent years in online scans like this one.

For those those who like the hard copy of the comics in your hands, here is where they're all reprinted:

GATEWAY TO HORROR (1988, Dark Horse) reprints "Gateway to Horror", "Where Monsters Dwell", "One of our graveyards is missing", and "They Crawl by night" in black and white.

PLANET OF TERROR ((1987, Dark Horse) reprints "Planet of Terror", "End of the World", "The Devil Birds", and "The Monster On Mars", in black and white.

MR.MONSTER'S SUPER DUPER SPECIAL 8, (a k a MR MONSTER'S WEIRD TALES OF THE FUTURE on the cover) reprints "The Brain Bats Of Venus", "Nightmare World", "Escape to Death", "Flight to the Future", and "The Man From the Moon", all with nice offset printing and in full color.

MR MONSTER SPECIAL 2 (Aug 1986) reprints "The Man Who Never Smiles" as a backup story. And also has a great Alan Moore/Michael T Gilbert lead story. All in full color with offset printing.

MR MONSTER 3 (Oct 1985) reprints "Swamp Monster", recolored nicely by Steve Oliff. I like the original colors, but I like the colors here even better. Again, with nice colors and offset printing.

DEATH RATTLE 5 (June 1986) reprints "Robot Woman" in full color, but with new coloring. I like the original version best.

WEIRD WONDER TALES 1 (Dec 1973, Marvel) reprints "The Eyes of Doom" in full color. The same story is also reprinted in DEATH RATTLE 9 (in black and white ), and in CURSE OF THE WEIRD 1 (Marvel, Dec 1993, in color)

And that's all 17 stories.

I also love Wolverton's covers and interior pages in PLOP (1973-1975), and for MAD magazine in the late 50's/early 1960's. His PLOP work was my introduction to Wolverton.

And on the "Spacehawk" series in 30 issues of TARGET COMICS, beginning with issue 5, in 1940-1942.

Some other stuff to possibly look at, for those who haven't already seen them.