Saturday, October 28, 2017

Deadtime Stories #1



Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 28:
Horror Anthologies:
Deadtime Stories #1

  

Sheesh guys! Save some for issue 2!


Editor-in-Chief – Valarie Jones
November 1987

31 pages of story.

Sit down and say that with me.

31 pages of story.

Five writers, two of whom provide the art too. And those two are the guy who helped Alan Moore and John Totleben revamp DC’s Swamp Thing and the guy that drew Batman for six years and turned Tim Drake into the third Robin. Also a tale produced by the diverse hands of the Kubert School, in all its glory and beauty.

Oh, and a mess of splash pages by Mike Mignola, Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, Arthur Adams, Paul Gulacy, Walt Simonson, and Steve Bissette.

Staggered yet? No. Well, you should be. We have Eight stories to cover in this one slim volume, so I’ve got to get to reviewing.

“The Prospector’s Luckiest Strike!”
Story – Suzanne Lord
Art – Stephen Bissette

Our first Deadtime story gets us off on the right foot with a cattle drive, some cowboys, an old prospector and MURDER! Stephen Bissette is doing the honors here and I don’t want to mess up a single panel of his art.



We begin with a chance encounter between a down-on-his-luck prospector and a cattle boss tired of one of his ranch hand’s cooking. Then we sink into mystery as we find the herd start to be thinned out by a wolf…a wolf that doesn’t seem very hungry…



And now we have dead people and that wolf appears to be walking around on two legs. One of the hands, Zak – the one that can’t cook, even heard tell of the legend of the werewolf.

And recriminations start passing back and forth, the prospector is called out, but the trail boss notes how old the miner is and the matter is dropped. Later that night, however…



So, the trail boss follows him and finds the creature…and a surprise!




Wait! If the prospector is THERE, that means the creature must be…one of the cowboys!



Seriously, we’ve had like three pages to get to know these guys, and I don’t recall which one was Little Tom, but it is a shock that the wolf creature isn’t the trail boss or the prospector. Nicely done bit of distraction there with both characters. 

The trail boss is now history and the only one left is the prospector. I fully expect that not to be the case in just a few short panels. First he finds an old cave to hide in.



But the creature soon sniffs him out. Not willing to go down without a fight, he bashes the monster in the skull with a rock…



…which unexpectedly kills it and then he rides off, happy to be alive, not knowing that he just missed the largest silver vein in the west. 



Nicely done tale. We are out of the starting gate and making GREAT strides. Love Bissette’s black and white art. The story quality is good, if a little short. I mean we are five pages in at this point, and we have a complete story. I know comic book companies that can’t go five issues and tell one of those. Still, the pacing doesn’t feel rushed. Let’s see how tale number two goes down?

“A Toast to Mr. Dalyrimple!”
Story – Suzanne Lord
Art – Stephen Bissette

Same creative team, so let’s see if they go two-for-two.

We begin with this old gent, trying to save a junky who is strung out on a park bench. He gets the lad, named Chain, to his home, but when Chain awakens there is still only thoughts of getting off floating in his head.



Unfortunately, even sobered up and off his smack, Chain would rather take advantage of the man’s hospitality than avail himself to this second chance. Chain also proves to have no moral compunction about killing to feed his habit. This proves fatal for Mr. Dalyrimple.



And with the kindly gentleman and his dog out of the way, Chain enlists the help of a friend, an unscrupulous wine merchant, in turning Dalyrimple’s stock into cash he can use for drugs. However, the blood staining their hands is nothing compared to the amount in those vintage bottles, the pair finds as the two men are carting off their purloined goods.



Yes, Mr. Dalyrimple wasn’t dead at all. And his wine collection? Well, let’s just say that he doesn’t drink…wine. But right now he does do a bit of vampiric mind control…



…and now with a little time, some empty bottles and a funnel, he’ll distill an couple of very fresh vintages.

Now we are two stories in, and I can honestly say it: when I plucked this thing from the bargain bin what I saw the crowded cover, cheesy title and no-name publisher, I fully expected this to be trash. I thought this would be a book that I’d get to make fun of.

But HOLY SHIT!

I’m five pages in and this is one of the best things the Crapbox has ever brought me. I mean that. Seriously.

Story – Stephen Bissette
Art – Stephen Bissette

Next up, Bissette gives us a one page slick narrated like a National Geographic piece about a creature that would be at home between the covers of a D&D Monster Manual or an HP Lovecraft collection.



I’m like a tourist who has fallen in love with a newly visited locale. I don’t care where we go, I’m caught up in the magic of what is down the next street or, in this case, on the facing page.

“No Place Like Home”
Story – Suzanne Lord
Art – Stephen Bissette

Back to our dynamic duo, in a bit of futuristic, time-travel horror about a young lad who wants to get away from it all. Perhaps TOO far away!

Meet Henry, a youth who hates his nagging Mother as much as he hates closing the door. Henry’s one goal is to get away from her, and now that he has saved up $500 he can use a local time-travel vacation getaway to do just that.



His destination is one hundred million BC and after enduring a litany of “don’ts,” he’s off. But it appears the machine didn’t work, angering the lad. When Henry steps out the door, however…




He finds himself exactly where he wanted to be, somewhere in the time of dinosaurs. 



He isn’t very good about following directions, however, eating the eggs of something from a million years ago might make some changes in the future. But Henry isn’t the type to concern himself with that. Then he hears a noise…



…and encounters the mother beast whose eggs he’s been snacking on. I makes a desperate gambit and runs back to The Machine, just in time, I might add. It powers up and sends the boy home.



Or rather what’s left of Henry. Appears his mom’s warnings falling on death ears was the ACTUAL death of poor Henry.

And now we break from story for a gallery of single page pin-ups including a glorious Cthulhu one by Walt Simonson…and several amazing ones by some of the best and the brightest…





That’s a Milgrom Mummy there and bloody hell, it’s astounding.



Arthur Adams does a bit of undead prehistory horror.



Simonson doing the most inventive take on Dad before or since.




And after wrapping up the gallery, Stephen Bissette gives us this story in print.



Followed by two pages called…

“Revenge of the Fly”
Story – Norm Breyfogle
Art – Norm Breyfogle

Going out on a limb here to guess that this must be Breyfogle’s contribution and it is short but sweet. 




On the front cover page he is listed as the second artist of this book. If not here, where?

“The Villagers’ Victory”
Story – Jane  & Bob Stine
Art – The Joe Kubert School

Of course he could be in this unnamed throng going by the title of The Joe Kubert School in the next tale. I’m going to let this one play out for you fine folks and meet you on the other end of this werewolf tale.





Three pages and a predictable twist at the end, but worth it for the art. In fact, this book was rather high priced for the time, but seems like a bargain STILL. $1.75 wasn’t chump change when we were paying seventy-five cents for full color marvel books, but the amount and quality of these stories… well, this book also had a twist ending. One final tale and I’ll let you in on it.

“The Unkindest Cut”
Story – Suzanne Lord
Art – Stephen Bissette

To end our octet of tales is this little number from Lord and Bissette, who I feel we should be thanking for spearheading this journey of ours. A tale that starts with an forced operation…



And ends with a tortured plane flight…



Due not to a ripped open bag of diamonds, but to a burst appendix.



The shame of all this is that this is the only issue of Deadtime Stories produced. The publisher, New Comics Group was a struggling startup that had licensed several hot properties and produced a few great books by top name talents (like Tommy and The Monsters, cover by Art Adams, Story by Wil Jacobs and Gerard Joes, Pencils by Darick Robertson and David A. Williams) that never made it to issue number two. The reason could be that the books were more than twice the price of competitor’s color offerings. Or that the era of black and white books had already passed. Or millions of other reasons. But what it came down to was that after three years and a handful of titles, NCG shutdown.

Which is painfully sad. Because I would have paid for a Deadtime Stories subscription in a heartbeat had I known what lay under that cover. Perhaps you would have too.

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