Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Witch's Curse / Annals of the Occult

Kickin' off June with an ACG double header, the first illustrated by joltin' Jon Blummer, as we find our wolfy Wednesday now devoted to weird witchcraft and gloomy glimpses into the future. The first story though, from the December 1952 issue of Forbidden Worlds #12 does contain a really great animalistic transformation, and if you like chicken demons-- well get set! I've also rounded out the post with a penetrating look into the annals of the occult (thanks for the quickie scans, T!), illustrated by the great Al Williamson and from the May 1958 issue of Adventure into the Unknown #96.



Brian Barnes said...

Alright, I can proudly admit I was rooting for Hester. Let's go over the facts, that couple is annoying, and Hester is red hot (in more ways than one), has a cool chicken and flame demons, and can turn into a cool black cat. What's not to love? Aside from the vast evil murdering, but what's any relationship without a little compromise?

Hester also needs somebody to properly say "hey, maybe we should do something about the dam 20 feet away."

Nice art. Obviously Hester is great, our heroes are dopey (leave the cat, lady!) and all the demons are very cool. I adore page 4, panel 2, that's a great "evil" pose, as is panel 6 on the same page (though the proportions are a slight bit funky.) Nice coloring, nice art, and some engaging action sequences.

And Hester is hot. I mentioned that, right?

Annals is one of those fun twilight-zone-y type stories. The art is (obviously) great, and I love the big, bright coloring in some panels.

Glowworm said...

This one is fun, although if Hester only returns to her former home one day, each century in order to set a victim aflame, what the heck is her spirit doing the rest of the century? Got to love the foreshadowing of the cat casting a witch's shadow. I love panel 1 of page four where the cat transforms into Hester and I love the closeup of her face in panel 3 on the same page. Yeah, for an old-fashioned witch, Hester is pretty hot. The first panel of the last page where Hester turns into living flame is pretty spectacular as well. Also, why is Hester such an unattractive name? If it's not the name of a witch, it's the name of someone's nagging, overbearing wife. Also, the husband basically Wile E. Coyoted the witch by launching a boulder to set off the damn. Also, why do husbands always insist to their wives that there's nothing to be afraid of when most of the time, there totally is something to be afraid of? Also, if your wife tells you not to touch something, don't touch it!
The second story has a happy outcome, no actual horror though due to the comic censor code so it comes out more Twilight Zone than anything else.

Grant said...

You don't have to know the witch trials in this country forward and backward to get a twinge every time you read or hear a line about a witch being burned at the stake, since they were always HANGED in this country.
Of course, without that part, this pretty clever story wouldn't have been written the way it was.

Yes, Hester is hot. For that reason AND her being a witch, it's easy to imagine her being played by Barbara Steele.

Mr. Cavin said...

"Don't be ridiculous darling. You should always follow the instructions of strange animals." Black cat, crossed path; sheesh buddy, read the room.

All the dialog in this story is just great. Favorite scene: Curt wakes up in the middle of page five "What the heck am I doing sleeping in the sky? Who the heck is that demon?" Guess we've all been there. Curt then proceeds to carefully explain to his captor how he plans to escape. "Step number one: Surprise!" This thing is comedy gold.

Love the illustration here too. I really like the way the artist filled the panels with bold details: Thick black shadows, swirling vapors, twisted-up mazes of crinkly lines (and how the colorist then dutifully filled-in the resulting shapes). The gnarled trees and the spiky fire guys are all very evocative. By the end, those blazing sprites have become so abstracted they look like Kieth Haring figures. So neat.

Todd said...

I like how often Adventures into the Unknown! protagonists shout, "Ye Gods!" like it's the most common thing in the world. That's one great thing about the variety here: you eventually learn to tell an Adventures into the Unknown! story from a mister MYSTERY story. I don't think mister MYSTERY was as free with calling everybody "Honey," either.

Anyway, I'm with Brian Barnes not being too excited the couple won out. Evil is bad, but that doesn't automatically make the alternative good. At least they live in a haunted house, right?

Glowworm said...

Oh, but Todd, this one isn't a Adventures into the Unknown story, it's actually its sister series Forbidden Worlds.Besides "Ye Gods!" there's also a lot of "Great Scot!" and "Holy Hannah!" as well.

Todd said...

By Jove, you're right! Thanks for saying something!

Funny how the ACG titles had their own slant, and then the EC titles had their own slant, and then everything else is pretty much forgotten outside our circle. I feel like the big difference is ACG was corny by accident, whereas EC was corny on purpose, yukking it up after the fact through their narrators.

Just realized I left out Marvel, but I don't feel like they're remembered for their pre-Code stuff so much.

JMR777 said...

I liked The Annals of the Occult story, it reminded me of the one page horror tales. Three pages were enough to make the story work without being too condensed. It is the type of story that would appear in Boris Karloff presents or Ripley's Believe It or Not.

The story was black in some pages without being muddy, it was well done.

For The Witch's Curse, if Hester had lured murderesses, gold diggers or widows who did in their husbands for their insurance, we all would have been rooting for Hester.
The cat into woman panel was impressive.
I wonder if Hester Prynne from The Scarlet letter was inspiration for the witch's name.

Grant said...

I was about to make Todd and Glowworm's comment, or close to it. With some exceptions, I like hearing "outdated" slang. It' slang that you CAN'T GET AWAY FROM that's my problem.

The Gerald Ansco story is like the famous "Room for one more" story, without being a copy of it. I wonder if there have been nearly as many versions of it as that one.