Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Strange Old House By the Churchyard

I finally got my hands on a copy of The Valiant Book of Mystery & Magic from 1976. This 143 page hardcover from England is packed with color and black 'n white tales of the supernatural, featuring a frightfully fun and very atmospheric mix of creepy comic strips, monster trivia, and terrifying text stories, and all very nicely illustrated too! A majority of the book is comprised of stories about "The Spellbinder", a 400 year old sorcerer (that's him on the front cover below) who is accidentally revived in the 70's by his groovy modern ancestor (that's him in the last scan reading the book-- and more on those somewhat silly tales later down the road), but for now I thought I'd showcase some of the more serious stand alone horror tales contained herein, starting with a trip down to the strange old house by the churchyard...

As mentioned above, I'll have a couple more spooky tales (plus a few monstery extras) from this collection coming up next, so just like old Wulf Saverre-- stay tombed!


Mestiere said...

Notice that all the action happens off panel. Why do you think that is? It's because of the very intrusive British government.

"This Act applies to any book, magazine or other like work which is of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young persons and consists wholly or mainly of stories told in pictures (with or without the addition of written matter), being stories portraying—

(a) the commission of crimes; or

(b) acts of violence or cruelty; or

(c) incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature;

in such a way that the work as a whole would tend to corrupt a child or young person into whose hands it might fall."

So goes An Act to prevent the dissemination of certain pictorial publications harmful to children and young persons. Pretty vague, right? This Act of Parliament was meant to protect children from horror comics. Children was defined as anyone younger than 18. You could go to prison, be fined, have your stuff forfeited. This act has never been repealed. I guess their children are safe! Would such an act violate the First Amendment of the Constitution if it was tried in the US? Probably. But Britain, unlike most countries, doesn't have a codified constitution. They can get away with a lot of things. It must be said that, except for two cases in 1970, the Attorney General has consistently refused to prosecute. But the law is still there just in case they change their minds.

Brian Barnes said...

Dark Lord Below is that story well illustrated. The depths of the blacks, the staging, the evil house. Just gorgeous.

I love how evil Savierre is drawn, hunched over, scowling and screaming.

I'm going to disagree a bit with @mesteire. This seems to be another take on the "college kids go one by one into the house, hear screams and they disappear." In that urban legend, all the action takes place "off panel." For sure there are restrictions in what you can show, but at the same time I think the story works much better with it happening in your imagination. I suspect this was more intentional than by law, and if by law, well, then it was a lucky break.

Bottom panel of page 2 is incredible.

I'm looking forward to more from this mag.

JMR777 said...

Saverre should have known better than to try to use demonic forces in or around a church, abandoned or not.

BTX said...

@Mestiere: I think Judge Dredd blew that apart....

Mestiere said...

"@Mestiere: I think Judge Dredd blew that apart...."

Was the magazine 2000 AD directed at children? Maybe it's ambiguous. No wonder they left prosecution up to the Attorney General who, dozens of times, has refused to prosecute.

The legislation I mentioned is from 1955 and it was probably aping what was happening in the US with Seduction of the Innocent and the comic book hearings of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Still, there were two prosecutions in 1970, so the legislation was not completely toothless.

Mr. Karswell said...

You’ve commented on this post twice now, Mestiere, and I still have no idea what you actually thought of the story

Mestiere said...

"...I still have no idea what you actually thought of the story".

Let's remedy that right now!

The magician was a little disappointing. He is established on page one as having real magic yet he kept referring to his act as "an illusion". And his "masterpiece of magic" was coming out of a box! Doesn't sound so impressive for a guy who can conjure up a full grown horse. Then he gets killed off panel because an ancestor of his had killed three monks in that house. Kind of random. At some moment Saverre seems about to remember something. How can he remember what his ancestor did? Was he the reincarnation of his ancestor? We never found out. I would have wanted to see more dark magic, maybe some demons! But it would have been a nice episode of Thriller with Boris Karloff.

I think the art was okay.

JBM said...

I really liked the special spectral cover. I bought a lot of Savage Swords and used Eeries and Creepys, so I've always enjoyed black and white comics when done as well as this one. I have to agree with Mr. B. that that is one spectacular Church/graveyard. Nice mysterious plot. Evil is somehow involved. Where is this going? Thank you Mr. K. That was fun!

Mr. Karswell said...

I agree, super artwork and tightly written... I'll have a double header of more mystery and magic from this one for you in the next post as well-- thanks for the comments and see ya in a few!

Mr. Cavin said...

It's really neat to see something like this, with art and stories by people I've never heard of (though this still happens often enough to me, even reading domestic stuff). Very fine moody, brushy artwork here. Eric Bradbury seems to have been just superb at textures and knowing just how far to take the cartooning. I dig the B-roll stuff Brian's talking about for sure--this guy gives excellent haunted landscaping--but I especially love the sixth panel on page two. What a maniac! And every panel on page three throbs with character and energy.

I'm looking forward to seeing more, too.