Monday, November 17, 2014

The Ghost Who Stole a Body

Time for the 'ol spirit switcheroo in another tale from the Jan '51 issue of The Beyond #2. This one feels more like an ACG story than one from Ace, but it's fun in a goofy sort of way, and some of the dialog is priceless: "From now on I only operate on millionaires, not bums!" and "Mazo...Mazo...Mazobulabula...", and get a load of that opening splash narrative, did Ed Wood write that shit?! Nice art from Ken Rice, --oh, check the archive for other stories in this issue-- yep, another bizarro Beyond is now posted in its entirety!


Brian Barnes said...

Hey, lay off Ed Wood Jr! The future -- in which we all live -- will one day see him for the genius he is!

Fun little story, but, as you say, more of an adventure story than a horror story. Some of these guys that jumped on the horror bandwagon had a real hard time getting out of their old crime or super-hero mindsets.

I like the splash, that's a great image, with the factory smoke, smokey sky, and smokey ghost all intersecting.

Luckily, the Indian guy with his mumbo jumbo religion was there to save the day in his slightly racist way! Yikes, comics!

Trevor Markwart said...

There are indeed some great bits of bad dialogue in this one, which makes it worth reading. The whole Dr Rjee thing is filled with them. Man, his fellow doctor is so disrespectful it's funny in that postmodern ironic way we look at things these days. But it's the imagery in the splash panel that stands out for me. The ghost looks genuinely creepy and the background with the factory choking out smog from the smokestacks up above the cemetery has a weird resonance.

Mestiere said...

The first time we see the hero, Dr. Rjee, he's wearing a surgical mask, so we don't get a good look at him until the bottom left panel on page four. There he looks much more wrinkly than in later panels, plus the shadow over his upper lip makes him look almost like he has a mustache. In fact, he looks there rather like Dr. Anders. That, and the fact that he is a rather light-skinned Indian confused me a little.

After a relatively politically correct representation of the Indian doctor they screw it up with the "great thousand-eyed, all seeing spirit of space (!)". I wouldn't expect Dr. Sanjay Gupta to make an incantation like that!

There's a good deal of scientific and cultural anticipation in this story. The first known operation involving open cardiotomy with temporary mechanical takeover of both heart and lung functions would happen a few months after the publication of this story, on April 5, 1951 at the University of Minnesota Hospital. Interest in near-death experiences wouldn't really take off until the publication of Life After Life by Raymond Moody, MD, in 1975 almost a generation after this comic was written.

I kind of liked it.

Mr. Cavin said...

I totally liked it. And awkward cultural-to-culture representations notwithstanding, I am always happy to see a man of color acting heroically in these old comics (and it's also nice to see that the cliche of the Indian doctor was recognized so early on by the creators here--themselves likely Jewish New Yorkers, that other surgical ethnic cliche). Also, and this shames me, but I find appropriation--and especially fake orientalism--to be endlessly fascinating. I'd love to read a scholarly-sounding satirical anthropological survey of Hollywood's and comics' versions of eastern cultures some day. Chapter one can be a mapping of all those Oriental planets that attacked Buck Rogers and other pulp heroes in the twenties and thirties.

The story here was pretty great for the first two-thirds. Riveting. I think they lost the ball somewhere in the wrap-up, but I'm sure that's just because the author had to get the thing finished in seven pages. This would have made a better story at twice its length, I think. But that might have also meant a plot less reliant on Indian voodoo hokum.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

It's a matter of time, I figure. Now we notice the ethnic stereotype and the "Mazobulabula" crap (well, it's hard not to notice this), but we forget that in '51 giving credit to different, "non scientific" methods of non - white cultures was well ahead of its time. Or so I guess.

Dr. Theda said...

We would gladly settle for the "doomed" fate of the ghost of Mr. Black..... We are dying of terminal illness anyway....

Grant said...

I think this one has a whole lot going for it.

Most of the opening lines made me think right away of Marley's ghost in A Christmas Carol, because he describes himself as being in the same situation.

But before that there's also that great line, "He didn't expect any tears to be shed, and he didn't give a hang."
(In its way, that's a good attitude - he was anti-social and miserly, but he wasn't SURPRISED that it caught up with him the way it did when it came to people's reaction.)

The idea of two "spirits" fighting over a body (in a story that ISN'T about demonic possession) seemed to be used over and over in the Charlton horror comics later on, but that's fine with me. I know they're nearly the least respected comics - in and out of the horror category - but I'm always very sentimental about them.