Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Secrets of Sinister House #7

Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 31:
Horror Anthologies:
Secrets of Sinister House #7

The House DC forgot

Editor – Joe Orlando
November 1972

DC comics are home to two of the best-known House-based horror anthology series: House of Secrets and House of Mystery.

But there is one other house, a much smaller, forgotten abode. A book that only ran a slight 18 issues before the roof fell in and the walls tumbled down. It was the abode of Eve, cousin of Cain and Abel. The place earned the name Sinister House and its secrets could make you scream with delight.

Don’t believe me? Well, sit back as I tell you three tales from the Sinister House and let you judge for yourself…

Script – Sheldon Mayer
Art – Nestor Redondo

This first story cemented this issue’s place as the final anthology in our run. I have seldom been so entertained by a story as much as I have this one. It’s the dessert to our heavy meal of horror the last four weeks have fed us. The kind of ending decadence that tastes like heaven but weighs less than a feather. A lite and airy soufflé. A crème whipped chocolate mousse. Something you can still finish even though you are stuffed to the gills.

I’m going to let Eve lead us in…

Henry appears lost. Once you read our tale, you’ll know why. Far be it from me to spoil that. We are going to let his flashback spin this yarn of how he came to be on this particular street in this extremely special neighborhood…

Henry Dewlip looks very proper and he ought to. His job is accountancy, and that would all be well and good except, his bosses are mobsters. He arrives on his day off to “catch up on a few things.” What Henry catches might just save his neck.

Yup, Henry’s bosses plan on using him as a scapegoat if they get caught skimming off the top. This means Henry has to find that money before anyone finds out. Then he can hotfoot it out of the country.

But as he’s poking through ceiling tiles, the door to his office opens once more…

And he is caught in the act by the STRANGEST little girl!

Telling the girl to get lost isn’t the nicest thing to say, Henry. You might regret that later. Especially since she’s offering so nicely to be your Fairy Godmother and everything…

…The moral to this tale will be either DON’T work for the mob or DON’T turn down a witch who is trying to be a nice for a change. Or both. I can’t really tell. What I can tell from this panel is that Henry’s bosses are about to catch him in the act…

…and then Henry will likely catch a bullet. Unless someone is there to stop them…

…well not her, obviously. She’s just a ten-year-old gi*…

Holy SMOKES! She really IS A WITCH! I mean Fairy Godmother! Whatever. She can do magic. And that dragon can handily eat a gangster.

Henry, frustrated that he is talking too much time finding the case full of money, tells her to get lost for the second time…

…which again, I would be very careful about saying. Especially to someone who can help you FIND THINGS you might be looking for.

Like a briefcase full of money. Henry doesn’t believe it’s real, of course, but our head gang boss knows his own case.

Right about then Henry finds the place in the ceiling tiles where the case WAS, but is no more. Thankfully, Alma has left him a note.

And as he rushes out to have a chat with her, he runs into the boss trying to take the money from her by force. That earns the boss a dose of what Henry has been giving Alma all day. With a simple “Get Lost,” the man vanishes. Henry is perplexed.

He gets his briefcase of money, but by now Alma has had enough. She’s decided being an evil witch is much easier. Henry, never one to catch on too quick, pesters her to show him how she made the boss disappear. So, she shows him by making HIM get lost too!

And Henry finds himself here…on a street where all lost things go. Things, pets, and even people wandering aimlessly for all eternity…

Henry tries to escape by turning the corner…only to find himself back on the same street again. He’s trapped in a maze that has no exit. 

He has truly “gotten lost” in a way that he can never be found. Except for being found by this gentleman…

The lesson here? Always be kind to children, as you never know how much help they might be. And whatever you do, don’t ever-ever tell them to GET LOST!

See how wonderful that first bit is? A dose of humor, a drop of real terror, and an ending that seems like a slice of just desserts. Mmmm…that is so good! And speaking of good, DC has one of my favorite Mad artists on the payroll for a bit. How about a few…

“Witch’s Tales”
Script – Sergio Aragones
Art – Sergio Aragones

Now that’s a silly bit of whipped up fluff, like a dollop of Cool Whip on top of our dessert. Odd to find it here, years before his Groo the Wanderer book took him into the color comics realm. I am a huge fan of his Mad magazine doodles and this is an unexpected pleasure.

Onward we must track though before our dish reaches room temperature. Let’s give ourselves a drink of something to wash down all this sweetness.

“As Long as you Live…Stay Away from Water!”
Script – Sheldon Mayer
Art – June Lofamia

There are stories I’d love to go into about Sheldon Mayer, but time won’t permit. He is credited as helping Siegel and Shuster secure a sale on their first Superman story, for one. He was inducted into both the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame too. And his career at DC spanned several decades and countless titles. But time won’t permit more than a tip of the hat to this great man and a chance at appreciating another of his stories, this time about a prophecy that may come disastrously true...

June Lofamia is doing the art here and she has an impressive sense of style. I love the angle she gives this opening and how she makes the structure appear to loom above our protagonist. He’s about to be scared out of wits.

Appears he is tasked with not leaving this mansion-like hall while various spooks and phantoms attempt to drive him from it by scaring him and dousing the young man with pails of water.

That’s kind of insulting when you think about it. We’ve seen ghosts slime people but never hose them down with water. New tactic, I suppose.

But don’t look now, those aren’t ghosts at all. They are college students. Appears all this hullabaloo is just a fraternity initiation rite of passage and NOT some kind of dire warning. 

Horace Brown has got a lot to learn about ladies, it appears, as his newly-minted bride was upset by some article of his recounting.

Appears she thinks there was more to those portents and visions that what Horace believes. Not only that, with her brother being one of the Frat boys, she’s sure that they didn’t have anything to do with the warnings Horace received…

Warnings that Horace should have listened to, instead of making Honeymoon arrangements to travel on this particular ocean voyage…

…and there you have a neat twist that wraps up our four page story nicely.

And with that we are on to the after-dinner mint. It’s a wafer-thin affair that is so balanced and delicate that I dare not interrupt it with my ramblings. A story told both in the distant past and the present simultaneously. I give you, in its entirety…

“The Hag’s Curse and The Hamptons’ Revenge!”
Script – Sheldon Mayer
Art – Sam Glanzman

And there you have it: a month’s worth of horror ending with a nice tale that puts this meal of scares and terror to its proper ending. I trust you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had.

If you must know the truth I’m sad to see it go, however there are a couple of really comic-book important movies coming out, so the Crapbox has to move on. Join us as we begin covering Thor tomorrow and I’ll see all of you horror fans Next October.

Till then HAPPY HALLOWEEN and may all your doors give you TREATS and not TRICKS!

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Haunt of Fear #10

Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 30:

Horror Anthologies:

The Haunt of Fear #10

Forget Wertham, a little depravity never hurt anyone

Editor – Albert B. Feldstein

Original printing November 4, 1951

These are reprints of the comics that caused the biggest scare in America. They were part of the “10 cent plague” that was supposed to corrupt our children, leading to a time of moral decay. The fear they created among the more conservative members of society lead to the creation of the comics code authority and stickers on every book for the next several decades.

But these stories are the real deal, and by today’s standards they do seem a bit tame.

Let’s get right to it…

“Grave Business”

Script – Bill Gains and Al Feldstein

Art – Graham Ingels as Ghastly

Color – Marie Severin

Letters – Jim Wroten

Ahh…the old school intro by narrator gives us the skinny on the tale we are about to watch unfold. This first bit of nasty business concerns underhanded undertakers Cooper and Mitchel. Ezra Cooper is who we see here, meeting with a client.

Cooper spies right away that this old woman has very little money and by her own admission only has four hundred dollars for funeral expenses. That doesn’t deter him from seeking more, however.

Once Ezra knows how much the widow has, he asks her to “leave it all up to him” to take care of the funeral arrangements. She does, which allows him to do this.

The cad milks the woman for “nearly” all she has.

…and of course, none of these are the actual prices for things. Cooper admits to his equally crooked partner Charlie Mitchel that he easily could have done the funeral for the amount the woman originally stated she had and still turned a tidy profit.

But they are both dicks, so they didn’t. More discussion ensues about how they will throw the body from the city in on top of the last customer and save all this money and all this does is make me angry at funeral directors. Maybe this book IS a corrupting influence.

Anyway, Cooper is going to a convention and makes mention of the fact that Mitchel would inherit it all if he died. The convention feels like an expose on the undertaker business and really makes you want to shotgun a few of these creeps.

On the road back, Cooper has a blow out and wraps his car around a tree.

The result of which is that he is paralyzed, being unable to even blink. While he lays there unmoving, his wallet is stolen by bums. Suddenly the entire feeling of utter helplessness is on Cooper and the delicious irony of it all tastes so sweet.

We are just getting started, however. Next up are the cops, who decide his unmoving body doesn’t need to be looked at by a medical technician. They just send him straight to the morgue.

Once there, his old pal Mitchel takes great glee in telling the corpse of his former partner how he will screw over Cooper’s wife and kids with an extravagant sham funeral, so he can erode their funds enough to buy them out of his share of the business.

And therein lies the issue with this particular story: too much accounting. We see costs fly by so frequently in all this tale that they should almost be accompanied by a cash register sound. I don’t need this level of detail in my horror. The minutiae of it doesn’t need to be spelled out to this degree. 

And some of it feels like Gains is railing against the funeral industry, which is pretty terrible, I will agree. But that’s hardly a horror story. It’s more like a reason to write your state’s attorney general.

“The VAMP!”

Script – Johnny Craig

Art – Johnny Craig & Jack Davis

Color – Marie Severin

Letters – Jim Wroten

Here is Arthur and Deena, on a break from the United States they visit all the European hot spots. However a stop in Hungary is where their trip becomes a disaster. It all starts when Arthur decides to go out alone one evening.

From the shadows runs a beautiful lady who brings danger and excitement into Arthur’s life…

And a sudden desire to leave his wife. Which would bring with it a sudden loss of half his property. Maybe he should rethink this, having just met this damsel in distress?

Too late! “Little” Arthur is doing the talking now…

The next day brings strange news as Deena seeks information about when Arthur came home and they both encounter victims of a series of strange vampire-like killings in the neighborhood.

In the crowd Arthur sees Georgette, so the takes his wife back to the hotel and the makes an excuse to go back out.

Georgette seems a bit “possessive” of Arthur now…

…and Arthur breaks the news of his longings for another woman to his wife. 

Yeah, just go to sleep Arthur. No chance that your wife will go all Lorena Bobbitt on you. (shudder – sorry. Scared myself there.)

But Arthur can’t sleep. He goes to confront Georgette and encounters the vampire killer lurking over a victim near her house.

Upon catching him, it turns out to be…

Yeah, who didn’t see that coming a mile away? Notice that to stop a vampire woman, just slap her across the jaw. Nice technique, eh?

Notice we said stop, not kill. Arthur now begins fervently packing to get himself and Deena as far away as possible. Deena, however, has had a change of mind.

Wait! What? Now she’s a …

Yup, and her caddish husband is about to feel the bite, if you know what I mean. Neat little twist near the end there and some really great 50’s romance art. Love how that stuff looks blown up.

“My Uncle Ekar!”

Script – Bill Gains and Al Feldstein

Art – Jack Kamen

Color – Marie Severin

Letters – Jim Wroten

Now we get this VERY odd story of inadequate child rearing called...

We begin with a kid being hauled into police headquarters.

Turns out he was wandering the streets at TWO-THRITY IN THE MORNING (emphasis added by the nighttime desk sergeant. He sends the officer to get the kid an ice cream and asks the kid his name. “Harvey” is the reply he gets. 

Yeah, that’s something to do, I guess. Watch people get murdered. Turns out the last one he saw was that very evening too. And the kid even knows who did it…

…although that description isn’t going to help.

Neither is the asking where Ekar lives…

… and the police sergeant appears to be getting a bit upset at him too, which isn’t a good thing since…

…appears the kid was telling the truth. At least about the dead body. Not possible about him being 24 though. I mean, or is it?

Either way, the police treat this like a real lead and come across someone who appears to be looking for Harvey. Next thing you know a chase ensues.

Leading to a very unlikely ending…

Yes, Uncle Ekar was just like Harvey said he was. And do to the police believing a little boy, they stopped a rash of killings and gave new hope to an innocent, kindly little orphan boy of…

…twenty-four years old? Uh, maybe this isn’t the happiest of endings?

“Bum Steer!”

Script – Bill Gains and Al Feldstein

Art – Jack Davis

Color – Marie Severin

Letters – Jim Wroten

Moving south of the boarder we come upon a this tale of an aging bullfighter in love with a certain Senorita...

However, this graceful ballet hides a deep, dark secret. Manuel has lost his will over the years and is secretly terrified of bullfighting. And today, it will all be too much for him.

 Today it will all be too much for him...

Maria is not very forgiving of this fact and Arturo Elzar finishes the bull for Manuel. Arturo is heralded as the new hero.

And because women in these stories are fickle, Maria gives all of her attention to this new, dashing and brave bullfighter. This drives Manuel insane with jealousy.

He hatches a plan involving this ferocious blind bull, training it to go after Maria’s perfume soaked handkerchief.

Because the bull is blind, it doesn’t charge at flashing red capes but uses its sense of smell to aim for the scent of perfume. The end result on the bullfighting dummies Manuel uses is quite brutal.

It is a simple matter for Manuel to pull a few strings to get it in the ring with Arturo Elzar.

And exactly as he planned, the bull gores and tramples poor Arturo Elzar.

Manuel suited up and easily finished off the animal as he wasn’t carrying the perfumed token of Maria’s favor.

Everything was looking up for Manuel, until that evening the sound of hoofbeats came outside his door. Then the door burst in and the corpse of Arturo dragged him into the street to give him his just reward.

And that wraps up our trip to Mexico. Hopefully no one finds this bottle of cheap tequila I’m bringing back. These stories, while wordy have made me feel as good as a full enchilada dinner and a cold beer.

As for Gains’ horror and crime books, they were shut down by the will of a frightened populace. In the end he had his revenge though. Gains went on to create Mad Magazine and for years lampooned and satirized everything from comics to books to movies to politicians.