Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Vampire Castle

As promised, another handsome, non-costumed hero versus ancient evil horror tale, also from the July 1940 issue of Slam-Bang Comics #5. And similar to the previous post, it's a wildly fun, but somewhat stiffly stilted written / illustrated mix of action meets vampires, with early artwork by Gus Ricca that looks strangely simplistic and empty, though at the same time sort of adds an enjoyably weird surrealness to everything. Also similar to the Mark Swift story is the inclusion of a couple surprisingly eerie moments mixed in with the overall light hearted, colorful look of things vibe. I especially love the castle to graveyard transformation at the end, but less successful are the occasionally cuddly lookin' teddy bear demons. And what's Diamond Jack's deal, you ponder? Well, he seems to possess a vast array of plot convenient powers that all stem from an old magician's ring. If you wanna know more about DJ, just click HERE for the brief lowdown. Enjoy!


Mr. Cavin said...

I was wondering how Jack was going to find the diamond again once he was in evil's thrall. I assumed some kind of accident, since young Maria, queen of the vampires, had neglected to drop that magic rock into a fish tank where no one would ever think to find it. But no, the writers just, uhm, decided that Jack was no longer svengalied by her undead mesmerism. Just like that. Therefore, of course, he naturally had the ring back intact, too.

I dig that kissy gambit, though. What a strategy! I'll bet she wouldn't try that on the Ibistick.

The art is pretty interesting. The spare omission of background elements makes for some almost Strange Ditko surreality--floating doorways and stairs feel almost like the Quantum Realm. With all the kinetic motion lines, wind, furry gargoyle bat nets (?), and magic emanations, many of the panels look almost scribbled out. It's not that strange to see all of these things in comics, but usually the inker and colorist do some kind of work to mitigate the visual confusion. Not so much here.

Mestiere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Barnes said...

Mr. Cavin beat me to mentioning Ibistick, who is basically the same type of hero, just with a magic stick instead of a ring.

I'm not even sure why he needed the ring! He drags a flying bear (I'm sorry, I'm not buying it's a bat) out of the air and strangles it to death. Then, for good measure, punches it across the field! In a suit! If there's every been the perfect definition of a man's man, that's it!

Has the artist never seen a castle?

I like the ending, a lot! The script isn't good, but boy is that a nihilistic ending. You think being able to turn a castle into a graveyard shows the ring has a lot of power. I guess saving people isn't one of them!

This was a lot of fun, thanks for posting this!

Mr. Karswell said...

I don't think the ring was responsible for turning the castle into a graveyard, I think the overall evil spell broke once all the vampires were dead.

Brian Barnes said...

In a panel he actually points the ring at the castle and there's the regular comic rays striking it.

Note, this is one problem with older comics that probably comes from the writers learning the craft from regular prose. The panel is our hero -- outside now -- pointing the ring at the castle with rays coming out of it. The caption is "Jack then goes outside. He points at the castle." Yes, we know! We just saw it!

Captions should never explain the art, but you see that a lot in older comics.

Mr. Karswell said...

Still, DJ looks kind of surprised by the overall castle to graveyard transformation though... maybe that last aim of the ring was just him making sure everything inside the castle got zapped. But just like how a vampire turns to dust once staked, even the strangely shaped castle itself was originally something else altogether before it became totally saturated with evil.

JMR777 said...

This story has he feel of Fletcher Hanks to it, similar to Stardust the hero who can do whatever he wants to the villain and get away with it. No moral qualms, no chance at redemption for the baddie, just eliminate the villain and be done with it. In this tale the vampire's victims also pay the price with no chance of becoming normal.

The giant bat looks slightly similar to The Jersey Devil, (and I don't mean a member of New Jersey's hockey team either.)

Glowworm said...

I knew you were going to post this one after I saw what other comics were inside this issue from the previous comic you posted. The title alone intrigued me so I decided to take a peek at this one earlier on.
Brian Barnes is totally correct--that does not look like a castle at all--more like a futuristic villain's lair from outer space or a bunch of those hills in the background of a level of Super Mario Bros.
The funny part about Diamond Jack is that unlike most super heroes who get backstories on how they got their powers--the first story that he's in skips all that and simply tells the audience that he one day received a magic diamond ring from an old magician and after telling us of some of the various powers that the ring gives him such as super strength and basically anything else he can use courtesy of this deux ex machina on his finger, that at the instruction of the magician--that we never see, uses its powers for good to fight crime.
I love that he fights monsters in a suit--no cape, no alter-ego, no mask. Just a sharp dressed man with a magic ring.
The thing that strikes me odd though is that while Diamond Jack could easily use the ring's powers to cure the vampire queen's victims, he instead turns the castle into a graveyard. (Yeah, like Brian, I'm certain that he did that conscientiously and on purpose because he points at it and poof! Instant graveyard.) Maybe they were too far gone though, I mean, the ring did turn the vampire bats into dust and the the queen to a skeleton.
Also, I love how casually Maria and Diamond Jack greet one another, as if he was simply invited over to someone's house for dinner rather than investigating the castle of a vampire.

JBM said...

Another Wowzer Mr. K. The pacing was wonderful, that was "Slam Bang" fer shur. Did you see the size of that chair at the bottom of page two? I believe the artist was trying for perspective, but man that thing is huge. OK, for me they were out of uniform flying monkeys from the "Wizard of Oz". Page six panel one that teddy bear is havin' fun. That is one eerie castle. Either mud huts or futuristic vision, but out of this world. I had to wiki diamond Jim. A rich show-off glutton. OK. Our hero seemed a little ignorant/arrogant, laying down with all those skulls. Who could rest with all those empty sockets staring at you? This was a blast. Thank you Mr.K. so very much.

Guy Callaway said...

Castle? Does Maria live in Oz?
Loved the skeleton.

Grant said...

Being a cryptozoology fan, I wish I'd spotted the Jersey Devil resemblance on my own.

Bill the Butcher said...

First page comments:

1. Diamond Jack is the name of a gang boss, right? He can't be anything except that our a professional gambler, right?

2. That's a giant bat? The artist of this has obviously never seen a bat.

3. "Black"? Whoever did the colouring obviously has different ideas of what the word means.