Monday, September 16, 2019

Family Mixup

I've had a few requests this summer for more Steve Ditko, so here you ditgo-- a very funny, but none the less equally morbid tale of a murderous marriage disastrously inflated (and smooshed) to the paralyzin' point of no return-- literally!

From the July - August 1954 issue of The Thing #15.









11 comments:

Brian Barnes said...

Wow, that's a little bleak! A story where everybody is bad, nothing is redeemable, and you feel that a better ending is the two of them stuck with each other for eternity! It was a bit of a hard read!

There's some good, early vintage Ditko in there, especially the dual nightmare panel. He also does a good job at facial expressions thought out -- they really look like they are full of murderous hate the entire time.

Nequam said...

I wonder if this is the comic referred to in a footnote (to part 15 of Chapter X; p. 368 in my trade-size paperback) of Stephen King's "Danse Macabre"? Curiously, he remembered it as a fat husband and a skinny wife, with no mention of insurance...

Mestiere said...

A cynical, misanthropic look at marriage. Mortimer keeps losing weight, surely because undiagnosed cancer, while Sarah's unchecked type 2 diabetes continues to ravage her. But it's easier to blame the other person.

How did Sarah get that huge slab of stone on the roof? And how would that be made to look like an accident? Their roof was made of wooden shingles. Bad communication between Ditko and the writer? Not that the air compressor was a better idea. The police will now find Sarah tied to a bed with a hose in her mouth and the husband crushed by a slab tied with a rope. Their relatives will know they killed each other.

A rather mean story.

Nequam said...

I thought I would, er, expand on my comment up above. Here's the relevant King quote:

My all-time favorite (he said affectionately): A crazed husband stuffs the hose of an air compressor down his skinny wife's throat and blows her up like a balloon until she bursts. "Fat at last," he tells her happily just moments before the pop. But later on the husband, who is roughly the size of Jackie Gleason, trips a booby-trap she has set for him and is squashed to a shadow when a huge safe falls on him. This ingenious reworking of the old story of Jack Sprat and his wife is not only gruesomely funny; it offers us a delicious example of the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye theory. Or, as the Spanish say, revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

It's interesting that he not only swapped aspects of it but seems to have made the motivation just plain ol' hate (you can imagine that in his version the husband gets nagged about weight by the wife). The paragraph that the footnote is linked to mentions it as an example of the ultimately rather conservative morality of EC Comics (a metonymy-- look it up! for "horror comics", the way the southern US uses "Coke" for soda).

I'm glad to see the story, though, because for a very long time I wondered what he'd seen: it certainly wasn't an EC story, as I found when I finally got to see reprints, and it sounded almost like something worthy of later comics like Warren's (or more likely, Eerie Publications), but by that time he'd be busy with his own writing...

JBM said...

Some wonderful Ditko. I especially appreciated the kiss goodnight. Thank you Mr.K.

Mr. Karswell said...

Well, if there's one thing I've learned in all of these years of blogging, its that when someone messages me looking for a story they read years and years ago but can't remember the name of, when I ask for some clues they generally get about 75% of the details wrong. I don't know what it is, let's call it a "Story Mixup", --and not even grand 'ol Stephen King is immune, haha!

Nequam said...

Oh, of course! The worst is when your memory combines two different sources. I was trying to remember a certain very old and odd anime I had seen as a child, and later found out one of the scenes I remembered was from a *different* old, odd anime...

Mestiere said...

If Stephen King read this comic when it came out he would have been six years old! Danse Macabre came out when he was thirty-three. I think his recall was rather good. He got the details wrong but the big picture right. The Jackie Gleason Show was the second highest rated show that very year. The Honeymooners was a sketch on that show, by far the most popular. A married couple, one fat, the other thin, they fight a lot. Similar to the comic in a generic sort of way. King actually remembered being six rather well. Especially since he didn't have the luxury of the internet!

Mr. Karswell said...

Well yeah, but that's assuming he read it the year it came out. More likely, he read it years later as a back issue... 6 years old is barely pushing 1st grade

Mr. Cavin said...

Oh, I almost missed this one somehow. When it comes to mean spirited skinny-shaming barbs I'm really quite smitten with "you pretzel!" And what on Earth is the wife doing in that splash? It's always a pleasure to see more Ditko, thanks, and I really enjoyed the way he hewed to the dual "he said, she said" nature of the story without belaboring that clever split-screen trick on pages one and three. It's very nice the way he keeps the narrative formula visually fresh.

That's a very fascinating Stephen King quote. I've read Danse Macabre but I would have never, ever remembered that passage.

Todd said...

Did I miss where corn starch is a surefire way to poison someone to death? Huh?