Monday, July 11, 2016

The Man Who Defeated Death!

We'll be taking a look at some freakily lengthy Fawcett Publications frights for the new few posts, our first from the May 1953 issue of Beware! Terror Tales #7. A fun bit of info: while the entire story itself was reprinted a few times in the following decade, the actual splash page of this story was recycled as well and used as the cover for a 60's UK reprint series called Voodoo, which apparently reprinted everything from Silver Age Marvel monsteramas to 50's Iger Shop classics (see the last scan.) More Fawcett up next!


Brian Barnes said...

Death: What a dick!

This one is very interesting, especially as it's pretty unique. Our hero didn't do anything wrong; he didn't kill anybody, he didn't try to cheat death, he only tried to help the people he loved and gave death what he wanted for that deal. It was death itself that started the whole business, and was basically just being a jerk with his ha-ha gotcha 50's devil "help."

I do like the stories where death has to run away to be there for somebody; as if -- even back in the 50s -- there wasn't a death occurring every second or couple of seconds. He really needs to sub-contract!

This is a long one, but it works.

Glowworm said...

I agree with Brian Barnes here, Death is being selfish with wanting to keep Roger because he feels like he's entitled to have him for himself, even though fate took Roger away from his grasp in time.
What Roger wants in return for Death appearing from time to time to play Chess with him seems quite reasonable. Unfortunately, it is usually impossible to change fate--especially that of someone's eventual demise.
However, Death did pull a dick move here in tricking Roger into thinking his daughter was in danger, knowing that Roger wouldn't think of his own safety first. It's a good tale however despite the tragic ending for poor Roger.

That redone splash page though--Death does not look very intimidating as a purple humanoid. Was the inker in charge colorblind?

Mr. Cavin said...

Hm. I walked away with a completely different take on this from the commenters above me. I was thrilled to see a story in which Death was presented as a rather likable guy. Beaten at the beginning by top-notch surgeons, this Nice Death was interested in keeping up a companionable relationship with someone he genuinely liked, meeting each increasingly selfish parameter inflicted on their friendship by Roger with reason and charm, no matter how abusive he became. I've been in relationships like that, and I'm kind of sorry the poor guy had to get stuck with him in the end. If I'd written the end, Death woulda said, "no, no, I have more respect for myself than to hang out with a narcissistic churl," and kicked Rog to the curb.

Grant said...

Even though I barely know the film, was this written before "The Seventh Seal"? Because of course that features a chess match between a man and Death.

One thing that I do know well is a parody of it, a Woody Allen short play called "Death Knocks." Mr. Cavin's last comment reminded me of it because that story ends with the man WINNING, and the man ordering Death out of his house like some annoying houseguest.

Mr. Cavin said...

Hey good note, Grant! This story certainly does predate Seventh Seal, which was made in 1957. While contests between mortals and some personification of death seem to go back as far as fiction itself (in Greek stories, for example, those contests tended to be musical or other feats of ability like weaving), the specific idea of a skeletal death playing chess with the living seems to pop up around the fifteen hundreds. This example from the Täby Church, north of Stockholm, is the painting Bergman cites as inspiring the scenes in Seventh Seal.

It's interesting. I, too, thought the Swedish movie had popularized the idea, and generally imagined that pop culture references--Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Blade Runner, etc.--harked primarily back to that source. But now I see that's obviously untrue. So I believe you've uncovered today's endless temporal rabbit hole, Grant, wherein I am late for everything I want to do all day long, including going to bed tonight, because I am trying to find the earliest possible widespread pop culture wellspring for this motif.

Grant said...

Thank you, that's very flattering.

Again, "Death Knocks" by Woody Allen is a very funny take on this whole subject, with a surprisingly happy ending (or at least an up in the air sort of ending). it It's in a book called "Without Feathers," and probably can be found online too.