Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Skeleton in the Closet

Time for a tale of macabre mad science from the August 1953 issue of Strange Fantasy #7, and highlighted with what is seriously one of the most inconsistently illustrated skeletons in the history of pre-code horror comics. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a fun observation, and just maybe you Eerie Pub fans might recognize this yarn as it was reprinted over a half dozen times in over a half dozen different Eerie Pub titles throughout the scary 60's and even into the icky 80's! So hold on to your shivering skulls-- there's a skeleton in the closet!

7 comments:

Grant said...

This might be the first story I've seen where the scientist's papers were burned at the end WITHOUT it being for "There are things Man was not meant to know" type reasons. They just burn them for no real reason.

It's interesting to see the stuff called "Vril," an occult term that isn't all that big in fictional stories as far as I know. Maybe I'm wrong about that, though.

Brian Barnes said...

This story -- which I've seen a number of times, thanks Eerie reprints! -- features my favorite "suspend disbelief" bits in horror stories -- the connected skeleton. Did most of the writers only encounter skeletons that were hooked together in science classes and thought real skeletons stayed together without any connective tissue, or was it just because it made a better story?

There's a lot to love about this. The story is silly but I love some of the details, like the cane. It has an actual use in the story, it points out that the chemicals are temporary. I also like that our murderer isn't too fazed by the skeleton (why he kept it around like an unexploded bomb is another question) -- he actually has a plan -- to blow it to bits. It's a good plan! The skeleton just moved faster!

The skeleton trying to mix chemicals on the last page is an image for the ages!

Mr. Cavin said...

The art may be a little inconsistent at the panel level it's true. But I really like the way the pages themselves are constructed. Looking at the whole pages at once, most with their collages of bones or butterflies, connected through the ubiquitous use of yellow and and eye-catching central splat of red (or purple) here and there, is pretty aesthetically thrilling.

Of course, I too quibble with the science of an automatically articulated skeleton; here brought back to mere consciousness if not organic life. That magic potion makes it move without muscles and think without a brain! It's impossible strangle the thing's airflow because it hasn't any. Hell, it's even impossible to stop the damn thing from talking. Without a tongue! I see that a stick in the garden grows leaves when sprayed with the potion, but the skeleton doesn't even grow blood. Maybe it sweats the small stuff in the Eerie Pubs versions.

And as I understand it, the last of that elixir is boiling away into a fog, its moisture intermingling with every mildew and bacterium in the room, a cloud of magic life seeping into the cedar chests and leather seats and probably whatever is in the fridge. Good thing it's only temporary.

Unknown said...

Like many others I first read this as a black-and-white Eerie pubs reprint, so it's cool to finally see it in color! I was only five when I first read it, and it scared me enough to bring on my most vivid and terrifying nightmare. As seen on page six I dreamed that an angry skeleton was determined to choke me to death-- couldn't stop him and was unable to scream or make any sound whatsoever. This was 55 years ago, and I still can remember it like I just dreamed it. You're right that the skeleton is inconsistently illustrated. As a kid I was particularly baffled by the third panel on the final page-- his skull is kind of floating a foot above his rib cage!! (???)...

JMR777 said...

The only thing that would have improved this story is if Harryhausen animated it.

Mr. Karswell said...

My favorite flimsy skeletal moment is on page 6, (third panel) where the skull suddenly becomes 3 or 4 times bigger than it should be, haha...

Ok, thanks for the comments... got another weird war classic up next!

Charon Badmann said...

Fun story. In response to Grant's comments, "Vril" (being a synonym of biological energy or "life force") was coined by the novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1870 novel "Vril- The Coming Race". The book was wildly popular and translated into many languages, including German. Hitler was aware of Bulwer-Lytton (he wrote the libretto for Wagner's "Rienzi", the first Wagner opera Adolf ever encountered). In the 1930s, it appears that the word had so entered the vernacular that a product called Bovril hit the shelves (Beef concentrate, to be mixed with hot water and drank as a soup... Bovril = Bovine Vril). Here we see the term still being cited in the 1950s, 70 years after its coining. On another note, a dear, deceased friend of mine had a music project called "Shining Vril" (check it on youtube) and the Vril-Gesellschaft features in the book "Morning of the Magicians". Excurse over, and, as said, a fun story.