Monday, October 21, 2019

Ghost Stories #15

Halloween 2019 Post-A-Day 22
Ghost Stories #15

Dell creates a Horror title that copies itself

1962 was a very hard year for Dell. The partnership with Western Publishing ended and Western moved all their licensed properties over to a new imprint Western would control called Gold Key Comics. That meant waving bye-bye to titles like Tom & Jerry, Tarzan, Little Lulu, The Lone Ranger, and anything from Walt Disney. Not to mention that most of the talent on these books walked right over to Gold Key Comics too.

Dell needed some replacement titles, and fast. The picked up a few with some licensed adult TV and Movie tie-ins. Things like Ben Casey, Doctor Kildaire, and Mission: Impossible, which were decent hits, but they didn’t make as much net as original titles. So, Dell threw in some new books, most of which had very little success. A few lasted long enough to help Dell limp through the next eleven years before it collapsed. Ghost Stories was one of those.

However, Ghost Stories was also probably one of the worst examples of this. The title lasted 37 issue, but only 20 of those issues contained original content. The next 17 were reprints of the first 20 books in the series. Like some Mobius loop, Dell’s Ghost Stories title wrapped back in upon itself after issue 20 and sold long-time readers the same exact books with identical covers. Seriously wonder how much they paid the original stories authors for this “privilege”. I believe the going rate of the day in the 60’s was nothing.

So what I hold in my hot little Crapbox hands is issue number 15 of Ghost Stories, but it could also be issue 37 as that is an exact clone of this very issue. It isn’t known, but it is assumed that John Stanley was probably the writer behind most of these tales. The art duties are Frank Springer with occasional assist from Werner Roth on pencils.

How are they? I’ll let you decide for yourself…

"The Phantom Castaway”

Story – unknown
Pencils – Frank Springer
Inks – Frank Springer
Colorist – Unknown
Letterer– unknown
Editor - Don Arneson
September 1966

The lesson imparted in this tale is “leave shit alone.”

Sailors find an unmanned raft on the high seas with a cargo lashed to the crude deck and covered in canvas. So, of course they pass it by…what? No? Okay, so the dumbasses bring it aboard…

…peel back the canvas to find a treasure chest, open the chest to find it contains a ship’s log and read the log which causes them all to go insane. That last part isn’t true, but should be what happens. No instead they discover the last entries of the ship The Blue Dolphin, which braved impossible waters to get to some unknown treasure and disappeared.

And of course since they brought the chest on board, they also now have a stowaway in the form of the ghost of the former Captain of The Blue Dolphin. He starts being a gremlin, forcing the ship toward the Blue Dolphin’s last heading. Appears even in death he wants that treasure.

When the living Captain starts undoing the ghost’s handywork, our dead seaman starts breaking things in an effort to take control of the vessel. Only his ghost compass can steer the ship now…

…and he cuts the lines so the Captain can’t drop anchor and prevent the ship from moving on. Hell, he even starts fights among the crew to get his way.

In the end, the ghost Captain decides to just takeover the body of the living Captain…

…and sails everybody to the deadly water where they likely drown and are never heard from again. The End.

That did not end as I expected. I kind of thought these would have blandly happy endings, but I guess Dell doesn’t mess around. Moving right along…

"Fool’s Gold”

Story – unknown
Pencils – Frank Springer
Inks – Frank Springer
Colorist – Unknown
Letterer– unknown

The lesson imparted in this tale is “don’t kill people to get ahead.”

In this brief tale, Jackson and Mercer are literal gold-diggers. Jackson decides he doesn’t want to share and pushes Mercer off a cliff as a way of a parting gift. Mercer dies but still has a little something to give Jackson.

Jackson buries the body and takes off with the gold. That night while Jackson sleeps, someone makes off with a few bags of gold.

The next night Jackson tries to keep watch over his ill-gotten gains, but once sleep overtakes him, again gold is nabbed from him.

Vowing to not let it happen again, Jackson takes the risk of camping in a cave to prevent someone from sneaking up on him.

Unfortunately, again he falls asleep and this time he BARELY awakens in time. Because he is awoken by an actual BEAR! The huge animal gores his leg pretty bad, and more money disappears while he battles him. There are still a couple of bags left though…

…however, the injury and sleepless nights and stress has finally taken its toll. Jackson starts hallucinating, seeing Mercer coming for him. It all mercifully comes to an end as the town is finally in sight.

Jackson rushes in to post his find…

…only to discover that a.) all he has is two bags of sand, and b.) Hal Mercer somehow beat him here will all the gold, even though he was dead. Neat wrap-up.

"Hex Island”

Story – unknown
Pencils – Frank Springer
Inks – Frank Springer
Colorist – Unknown
Letterer– unknown

The lesson imparted in this tale is “don’t buy haunted islands.”

We begin with a family burying their Uncle Edgar on the island where he lived his entire life, right next to the opulent mansion he lived in. His will gave them nothing but the house, which the trio decide to sell for cash and forget about him.

They sell the island and mansion to Mr. Hazlitt a developer who has big plans for the structure and location. Given its position outside of Florida’s jurisdiction, the island is the perfect place for a gambling casino. And it comes complete with a mansion to renovate for just such a purpose.

However, given Uncle Edgar’s loathing of gambling and games of chance, placing it here seems disrespectful. Hazlitt charges forward anyway. It isn’t until a guest drops dead that he begins to question the wisdom of this idea.

But continues to operate it anyway, because his only real concern is making money. Not making spirits happy or making certain that his guests don’t end up ghosted to death. So, of course a second death happens…

…and business dries up so badly that Hazlitt has Uncle Edgar exhumed and taken to the other side of the world to be buried. With that, the casino reopens and business resumes.

All appears to be going smoothly. Even the body is about to be permanently out of his way.

Except his men hire locals to bury the body and those locals happen to get caught in the act. While Hazlitt wipes the worry from his brow…

… the authorities burn the body as is their custom. This leads to the mansion simultaneously catching fire and burning up all of Hazlitt’s investment and his nest egg.

While you are considering that flame out, keep those thinking caps on for this single page narrative. NOTE: it does SUCK like a Dyson, so if you want to skip to the end for my spoiler heavy review, please do so.

"The Haunted Station”

Story – unknown

It’s “reader beware” with this one. It might make you a bit upset and not in a good “I’m scared” way.

This story pissed me off to no end. It is lazy in the extreme. The easiest twists in the world are “you’re already dead” or “you’re the ghost.” It is juvenile and the fact that it was included with this comic reinforces the stereotype that all comic readers are children or that you can talk down to them. The writer has a blank page to tell any ghost story he wanted and he chose to cop out with this “go nowhere – do nothing” trash story. So upset by this one. Moving on.

"Wings of Death”

Story – unknown
Pencils – Frank Springer
Inks – Frank Springer
Colorist – Unknown
Letterer– unknown

The lesson imparted in this tale is “don’t try to kill people.”

Our final tale starts with Tom Hagen walking away from a fiery plane crash uninjured. He and his mechanic Kenny have a brief chat about what might have happened and both seem to think that someone named Beau Miles tampered with his plane in such a way that it would crash.

Tom and Beau are on a racing circuit together and Beau wants the competition out of the way. There’s no proof of the tampering since the plane is destroyed, but we later see Beau Miles and his thought bubble confirms he tried to take out Tom. He finds that his plan did not go as expected.

The day of the next air meet finds the two flying against each other, Beau with a decidedly deadly strategy.

Beau takes the lead, with Tom following close behind. It’s only when the pair break further away from the pack that Beau starts hearing Tom’s voice in his cockpit. And my first thought is…he snuck a radio onboard and this isn’t a ghost story…

The voice keeps after Beau until the despicable pilot loses his cool and admits to trying to kill Tom. Voices carry though, as the conversation is being broadcast to all the audience on the ground. (oh, and it looks like Tom has taken a slight lead)

And just when you think this story wandered into the wrong Dell collection, Kenny the mechanic rushes up to the officials who now see Beau for who he is with some startling news. Tom ISN’T in that plane. Appears he was in a car accident the night before and while he isn’t dead (which would make total sense), he is in the hospital, unconscious.

Beau is too freaked out anymore to fly and loses the race…TO A…(dun-dun-DUHN!) … EMPTY PLANE! (cue strings)

Well, this had the most unexpected ending, what with the non-ghost of the unconscious pilot both flying his plane and also scaring a confession out of his rival. It’s sort of like that new Tesla Smart Summon only in a plane and it works and it also catches the person trying to kill you. Take that, Elon Musk!

With that I’m Ghosting all of you for the day. See you in the Crapbox tomorrow.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Gravity Falls Shorts #2

Halloween 2019 Post-A-Day 21
Gravity Falls Shorts #2

The best animated program to come along in a lone while

"Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained #23: Grunkle Stan’s Secret Tattoo / Mabel’s Guide to Stickers / Fixin’ it with Soos: Golf Cart”

Story and Art – Alex Hirsch and the writers/artists of Gravity Falls
Layouts – Sayre Street Books
Letterer– AW’s Tom Napolitano
June 2017

I am a HUGE Gravity Falls fan.

Just how HUGE? Here, this is the only time I’ve cosplayed anything in my entire life. This is me as Grunkle Stan from the show. My son is playing Soos there beside me.

Why am I fan and what is Gravity Falls? Gravity Falls was a comedy-horror cartoon that aired on Disney XD from 2012 to 2016. The show had two perfect seasons of 40 episodes. Executive Produced by Alex Hirsch, the show cemented him as “a guy I have to watch no matter what he is attached to.”

The show follows twins Mabel and Dipper as they are dropped off in Gravity Falls for their entire Summer vacation. The person in charge of them is their slightly crooked, but loveable Grunkle Stan. Stan runs a tourist trap of a roadside attraction / gift shop called the Mystery Shack. He also hides a deep dark secret under the shop the threatens the existence of our entire world with annihilation at the hands of a cosmic entity that cares nothing for humanity.

It’s good fun. And Lovecraftian. There’s a character on the show that is the spitting image of what I expect Nyarlathotep would actually be like. The final three episodes wrap up all of Gravity Falls mysteries while also charting the destruction of the entire town as Weirdmageoddon is unleashed and our vast cast of survivors must “Take Back the Falls!”

Unbeknowst to me, Disney released some short 2 to 3 minute mini episodes to play between shows. I found the IMDB for them shortly (ha) after starting this review.

These shorts were cut into single frames and edited to form a comic book series. The Gravity Falls Shorts comic lasted for four issues. I don’t know if they covered all the shorts. Here is a sample page of content, which feels compressed, but reads as a direct transcript of what occurs onscreen.

The good and the bad of this is, if you’ve seen the cartoon shorts, you don’t need to buy these comics, Unless you just can’t get enough of Gravity Falls. Even as big a fan as I am, I can’t find myself diving for more. I will state that the books are faithful and designed to hit all the same story beats as the animation they are taken from. The only drawback is the size of the panels tends to shrink to accommodate the action in places. They are good, but not as good as the actual animations.

The good news is that because of this issue and the strength of these short tales set in the Gravity Falls ‘verse, I did a little YouTube searching and came across this:

Yep! That is all the shorts in one handy-dandy place. You Gravity Falls fans who, like me, never got to see these can thank me later.