Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reese’s Pieces #1

Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 26:

Horror Anthologies:

Reese’s Pieces #1

I only though I liked M&M’s better

Editor – Cat Yronwode


If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of Ralph Reese until you popped the cover of this book.

You’ve missed the art he made while training at the knee of Wally Wood at the tender age of 16. You failed to catch his contributions on Topps grading cards, DC Comics stories and on Wood’s own independent comic books. And his debut with Wood, co-penciling and co-inking a story in Heroes, Inc Presents Cannon…naw, you didn’t see that either.

Likely you missed his numerous interior illustrations for Galaxy Science Fiction. Likewise, his contributions to Web of Horror. And if you missed him in undergound comics of the 70’s and illustrations for National Lampoon and Esquire, that's okay too.

I could name drop the people in the business that Reese knew, names that would be familiar to you. Very familiar. Suffice to say he teamed up with Larry Hama at the time and they did lots of work together. And he had a string of stories for everyone from Acclaim, Byron Preiss, Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics, Skywald Publications and Warren Publishing. He did stints for all the DC Horror titles of the time: House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Witching Hour and The Unexpected.

Fine if you missed those as well.

And what of “One Year Affair” in the National Lampoon? Never heard of it? It’s his best-known work, but I suppose not to you. Me neither.

All of that is fine. Because you’re here now and you’re about to discover him. Just like I did. Reese’s work in these pages comes from various magazines at various times in his career. All of these were originally in black & white and the transfer shows a bit. You lose a little something when you make a pure thing muted by adding elements. Not that you’ll notice. You’ll still be floored by the art as you wonder why you missed Reese’s stuff before.

I don’t how you did either, but I’m right there with you.

Writer – Otto Binder

Pencils – Ralph Reese

Inks – Ralph Reese

Colors - Denis McFarling

Not more men playing with dangerous plants, you say? Before you go being dismissive, at least give this one a try. I know you feel that since reading the epic “Man grows killer plants” tale from Boris Karloff’s magazine you’ve found the pinnacle these stories can reach, but give this one a try, please.

Specifically because the art is so good.

And the story by American sci-fi and frequent Captain Marvel author Otto Binder ain’t bad neither.

We begin with the renowned botanist Orville Maxon receiving a late-night visitor named Dane Crawford, an archeologist who has uncovered some strange seeds…

Dane’s request is simple if a bit odd. He wants to grow these ancient seeds, saying they will make the two of them famous.

Orville seems to have other thoughts in mind. Like the fact that these are, if he’s reading the hieroglyphics right, the legendary “Seeds of Eternal Life.” Those sound pretty impressive, but not actually dangerous.

Hmmm…let’s see where this goes then?

And where it goes, of course, is with Orville killing Dane and using his body as potting soil in hopes of getting the plants to produce a berry or tuber that will give the evil botanist eternal life. He’s sort of like an evil Jerry Baker.

Note that I haven’t mentioned the art, but just allowed you to get swept up in the story. Reese has a very quiet elegance to his scenes, a wonderful grasp of positioning figures, and a tremendous amount of pure talent.

Ahh, but back to our tale as it is about to get jiggy! First off the plant is doing great. Orville is down in the tomb checking its progress one night when…

Creepy berries! And something tells me that Orville won’t have time to boil anything down anywhere.

That explains the hieroglyphics, at least. Orville has been hoisted upon his own petard, it would seem. Our author has given us a fine bit of Deserved fate horror…

Or has he?

Uh… that goes beyond just getting revenge. Now we truly have a horror story of chilling import. I’m going to remember this next time I trim the hedges. Teach them to mind their place, I will.

“Midnight Muse”

Writer – Michael Cahlin

Pencils – Ralph Reese

Inks – Ralph Reese

Colors – Teresa Bieri

And we go from a solid story, well-told and illustrated…to this f’ed up mess.

It’s not Reese’s fault it’s a mess either. It is the copy editors. You see Reese came up with a two page story that was meant to be printed on corresponding pages so the art could be read from top left of page one to top right of page two in three lines.

Someone at Eclipse didn’t get this memo and printed the damn thing on the back and front of one page. Now when you come to the story you read three lines of panels that seem to have nothing connecting them together. Then you turn the page and get the rest of the story now told in three hunks that correspond to the end of the beginning, middle and conclusion of the tale.

This aggravated me to no end. Because the tale is quite good and the art gets better here than in that last installment. I’m not going to spoil these two pages, but instead do for you what Eclipse didn’t do for me. I’m going to put these two pages TOGETHER so you can read the whole tale. Excuse the size, please?

Great stuff, hun? Funny and a bit creepy in equal parts. A nice little story told in two pages.

Next up, what do we have?

“Phantom of the Rock Era”

Writer – Chuck McNaughton

Pencils – Ralph Reese

Inks – Ralph Reese

Colors – Tim Smith

This lovey tale of greed and Deserved fate has a 70’s feel that you just can’t put down. We begin with this band and the golddigger who will be chasing its lead guitarist/vocalist.

The lady’s game is to get in, get married, and get out (as in divorced) taking half his stuff. Roddy Skeane is the rock star’s name and ugh, is he kinda homely. Like a bad version of Keith Richards. And just like Keith Richards, Roddy is hiding a dark secret about why he looks so gruesome. (Please Note that this article will unveil the truth about Keith Richards.)

Wow! He sounds WORSE than Keith Richards and I didn’t even think that was possible. All those descriptive words that make Roddy sound like a corpse…surely they can’t be insinuating something?

But maybe so. His grossness is so awful that Lala Love, our freeloader of the tale, thinks he is wearing makeup. And he’s not, alluding to his looks being because of some accident in his past. She sinks her hooks into him though, because the next thing you know they are jetting all over the place together.

And during these travels, she proves she’s not above protecting her “investment” in Roddy. Protecting it with lethal force, too.

You know what that means? Gloves are off on this blonde bimbo. Before she was just a grifter, now she’s a murderer. Time to find out what her web has really caught here…or who has caught whom.

First off, she gets her finger rock and puts Roddy on the track to super-stardom…and a superstar payday…

…but Roddy balks at the thought of replacing his existing bandmembers with a gimmicky cast of haunted-house refugees. He has his own band and the idea of being marketed as an ugly cuss upsets him (which would make him the FIRST rock and roll star to worry they were being marketed for looking weird. I mean, come on! There have been some really goofy looking guys that have made some fabulous rock tunes. I don’t even have to name them. You know who I mean.)

Lala has to stroke his ego after this, much to her chagrin, and agrees to meet his bandmates in their goofy weird house, which ends up being a real mausoleum.

And at this point Roddy starts to tell the tale of the origin of his sallow complexion. His story is cut short though as the couple happens upon his equally ghastly band and their like number of gruesome groupies.

Roddy then gives Lala one last chance to back out of the engagement…

…but all the girl can think of us the money that will line her pockets. 

And being like them means something quite unexpected. Seems Lala finally remembers a VERY pertinent detail about Roddy’s band…

…and now they just have to read a spell from the good old book of Lovecraft and stab a knife through Lala’s chest and bingo…five days later she’ll be baaaaack.

Now I know this is supposed to be a tale where Lala has gotten her just deserts, but I wonder…

I mean all she really wanted was money, and certainly she has the ability to make it now. She has a band she can market and she honestly believes Roddy had what it took to make it to the big time. She doesn’t love him, but throughout the entire story has she ever really said that love was important to her? No. She was willing to do whatever it took to get MONEY.

Even if she doesn’t stay with the group, she’s immortal. After a few decades of making investments, she should be able to clean up in the stock market.

Sure, she’ll be horribly ugly, but with all the cash she will soon have, she can buy a few boy toys to pretend they adore her.

What I’m saying here is that I’m not sure there is a down side to this for Lala. I guess we’d need to see more to really know for sure.

And if those first three didn’t grab you, this last bit might be your cup of sludge…

“Slime World”

Writer – Chuck McNaughton

Pencils – Ralph Reese

Inks – Ralph Reese

Colors – Tim Smith

To end it all we have Slime World, an amazingly well-rendered tale of a couple’s tragic abduction. It begins with these two amazing pages that have a Story Splash foreshadowing image in the middle.

Sid and Sue L’Seurmonst are on a tour of Paris’s sewers when a guide asks them to “Follow me!” from the shadows.

For the sake of those of you who are a bit slow in our audience, Never do this, please? Never follow strangers while on a tour of the Paris sewers, ‘kay? It never will work out well.

And as proof, here we have Sid and Sue getting trapped in the farthest tunnel like reaches of the Paris underground behind some very sturdy looking bars. Speaking of looking, check out how good Reese is at shading and textures. I’ve seen some of these same panels prior to colorization and they are magnificent even in black and white. Can’t say enough good things about the art in this.

Even his borders are inventive and fun.

And speaking of fun, the L’Seurmonsts are not having any as they are chained to the wall and learn that the people in this part of the sewer are hundreds of years old, having been preserved and mutated by the smelly poop-smells of this part of the sewer. Their jailer also mentions that the group is deciding whether to let the couple join them or to put them to other uses

I’ll let that last bit hang there while you work it out.

Sid manages to get them both free and, owing to the fact that they have never, ever watched any horror movie ever made, they split up. Yeah, not a good idea.

We follow Sid around as he discovers what these “slime people” do to normal, which is mainly serve them…

…up in a stew or on a plate as a tasty meal. Seems they are all cannibals. About that time, Sid learns Susan’s fate as well. 

You’ve got to hand it to her, she was way wrong about that “nothing will happen if only one of us if captured” thing.

Sid beats the thing that was chewing on her hand to death and literally rips off its head. In his haste to escape however, he gets himself locked into the lower levels of Slime world.

And after a long time trapped in the catacombs with no hope of every being with Sue again…Sid starts the slide away from his humanity…

..until in the end, he is fully one of the Slime people, even using the same tactic as was used on Sue to lure new people to their deaths. What a sad and depressing ending!

And now you know.

You know who Ralph Reese is and you have been exposed to his work. If you are like me, you are now wondering where you can find more of it. There was a second issue to this Eclipse Comics collection, and a collected edition of “One Year Affair”. Beyond that you’ll have to ferret out his stuff with Wood or find one of those works I already mentioned.

I wish both of us luck, because now that we’ve seen him, I’m sure we can’t get enough of him.

1 comment:

  1. Man this looks terrific! Sort of has an early Frazetta quality to it


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.