Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tales of Terror #6

Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 21:
Horror Anthologies:
Tales of Terror #6

 Four tales of unexpected terror await us

Associate Editor – Dean Mullaney
Editor – Sean Deming
May 1986

I am SO Excited! Like in that Pointer Sister’s song!

I’ve been savoring this idea since way back in September when I started to prep for this Halloween Post-A-Day event. I love horror, calling myself “Son of Cthulhu” probably gives that away, but I am especially enamored of horror anthologies.

I’ve reviewed a couple over the years, specifically last year’s Fifties Horror and this year’s H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horrors. But I really wanted to dissect a bunch this year. Mainly, this need springs from the belief that SHORT horror stories are better than long ones. I’ll go into why I think that is later, for this post though I want to get us going by divided up these horror tales into one of two groups for easier classification.

In my experience, short horror tales fall into one of two broad categories. The first type of tale involves a protagonist who acts in an immoral fashion and calls down the wrath of a just universe upon themselves. These are stories of karma catching up with you, of the old adage that “thou shall not get away with it,” even if that means demons, witches, or the devil himself has to show up to balance those scales. Tales with such a flawed protagonist are categorized as DESERVED in my guidebook, because they main character deserves what they get.

The second type of horror tale concerns the exact opposite type of lead character. They’ve been drawn in unexpectedly and are innocent of any wrong doing. Maybe they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps they are protecting someone else who is a bad guy and become an unsuspecting victim of the unspeakable evil in the story. However the plot may unwind, these tales are what I determine to fall in the UNDESERVED category, no matter if the protagonist lives or dies.

Out of the two, I believe the DESERVED stories are more common, although our run though the next eleven reviews may prove too small a statistical sample to come to that result. Also, my evidence is purely subjective. I’ve read a bunch of horror comics over the years, and typically they are about someone getting exactly what they deserve.

Case in point, today’s book’s first tale, a little ditty we like to call…

“Change of Scene”
Written – Bruce Jones
Drawn – Larry elmore
Lettered – Wayne Truman
Colored – Ron Courtney

This is a great place to start us off. Love the art in this one and the story. We begin with a couple walking the beach talking about how nice their lives are…when suddenly!

…only for the film strip to stop suddenly on the next page. Appears this is all a scene in a movie…and unlike how gorgeous the art makes it appear, in the context of the movie this doesn’t look good.

Meet our asshole protagonist Rick Richards. He’s an aging movie actor past his prime who is trying to make a comeback by directing and starring in his own feature film. Unfortunately, the budget isn’t what it should be and his co-star can’t act her way out of a paper bag. 

Rick, driven by ego and desperation to maintain his stardom, is his own worst enemy here. His sins are hubris, egotism, and covetousness. 

It starts when his producer tells him they must cut a key scene because they are overbudget. A scene that involves Rick being eaten by sharks. But things are going to turn Rick’s way, as this young man named Wally approaches him about taking on the special effects.

Rick follows the young Wally back to his workshop to check out his handwork.

The Wally is a whiz at all kinds of things. And when I say all kinds of things, I also mean he also has a very attractive wife-slash-actress named Kathy.

You see where this is going, right?

No? I’ll spell it out for you:

This might not be a “love thing” as Kathy clearly thinks Rick’s bed is actually the casting couch. That “favor she wants”?

Yep. All the pieces are now in place. Cheating wife, double-crossing lover and a soon-to-be jealous Wally. Well, that last part isn’t a given…yet.

Not only that, but we have new complications that destroy Rick’s shark scene again. Wally, however, has the perfect answer to everything, he even knows an island where they can shoot the shark scene for cheap. And Rick’s penis keeps falling into Wally’s wife! Oops!

Wally takes Kathy and Rick out to scout his “cheap shoot” island…but maybe there’s another reason he’s got in mind too.

Don’t worry, folks! Kathy’s just got winged. She’ll be alright…right? Possibly not, as Wally drops the pair off in shark infested waters.

And unfortunately, Kathy’s wound draws them to her like she’s so much chum. Rick abandons her, like the cad he is, and makes a break for the island.

…but when he gets there, the island makes a break from him.

Appears it was all a Styrofoam prop setup to look like an island and Rick is eaten by sharks as Wally films it all. Love that the last panel has him screening the scene for the producer. It’s Hollywood! I’m sure Wally has a long and prosperous career ahead.

I don’t want to come off like Cryptkeeper between these, so I’ll just tidy this one up by saying I LOVED it. It makes for the perfect example of a “bad guy” getting his just desserts…by BECOMING something’s desserts.

“Good Neighbors”
Written – Eric Dinehart
Art – Carol Lay

Next up we have this off-beat piece by Dinehart and Lay, that doesn’t really give us a story, so much as a setting for a story to happen. The idea is to take a common place and fill us with unease and dread by adding in elements of horror. These are rarely effective to me but might be someone else’s cup of tea.

We begin with Suzie setting up for a tea party and then looking for someone to join her.

But mom is too busy making what I assume is a Halloween decorated pie. Those ARE decorations, right?

So Suzie goes off to see if her brother will play with her, but he’s otherwise occupied.

Occupied screwing someone’s dismembered foot into a vice! WTF, guys? And so she goes off to ask Dad…

…and Dad is arranging human skulls around the fireplace. So Suzie grabs an axe and decides to go find her own neighbor to “play” with.

Creepy, but I like this less than the prior story. It is short, so it is excusable, however I feel it is more parody and comedy than actual horror. At no time do we see anyone in actual jeopardy, thus it doesn’t resonate with me. Still, GREAT art on it. Loving the clean lines and figures. Just…needs a story with more punch.

Maybe our next one will provide it?

“The painting of Kwanji Kaji”
Written – Chuck Dixon
Pencils – Nicholas Koenig
Inks and Typsetting – Norm Breyfogle
Colors Phil Dewalt

Another nice thing about anthologies – if a story is a miss, you move on to the next one. There is more than one chance to find something to your liking. Here we have Dixon, Koenig and Breyfogle telling us a tale of deserved retribution.

We begin with a weary traveler seeking shelter from the master of an estate. His payment? A very peek at a very special painting...

The owner of the house is haughty, discourteous, and unkind, so we’ve got some underpinnings for him to get a comeuppance from the very first page. The old traveler tells him off by saying there is NO painting ANYWHERE like his (meaning no disrespect of course). Then he unfurls it…

…and stuns everyone.

The rich landowner reveals himself to be greedy and his son a chip off the old block.

You feel that something sinister is a’brewing? I do. That was just too quick a reversal. And of course, I’m right. The two are cooking up a scheme to separate traveler from canvas.

The son quickly learns that the traveler is not what he seems…

…and the next morning, the land owner is presented with a second viewing of the painting that now shows the price of his folly. And the fate of his son.

Excellent job all around on this one. Nice setup, great pitch and wonderful follow-through. That’s three stories down, so what’s up to end the quartet?

“Every Evening Billy Comes Home”
Written – Timothy Truman
Pencils – Cris Fauves
Inks – J. K. Snyders
Editor – Cat Yronwode

Get ready to be hit in the feels as young Billy comes home as the sun finally sinks below the horizon. He is greeted with great enthusiasm by his sweet dog. And be honest, there is nothing more heartwarming than a dog and his boy.

Billy apparently has a troubled home life, as he stifles the dog so they don’t wake his sleeping parents. This seems more than just a worry of getting grounded though as he uses the terms “you know what he does when I get home late.”

So, he retires to his room and snuggles into bed with whom he feels is his only companion, the dog, beside him. However, as he is drifting off to sleep, he gives a final request to the dog asking him for some form of protection against “them.” That seems a bit odd.

Soon enough, the boy’s warning proves to be accurate as something green and demonic starts crawling in through the open window.

True to his master, the pup races to the window and scares the evil goblin away.

This is only the start of their troubles, as numerous creepy-crawlies come slithering in from the open closet door. The dog puts an end to them as well.

But now things are getting REAL as the entire underneath of the bed is swimming with monsters and creatures inhuman. It looks like the pup is finished.

Our scrappy little puppy won’t give up that easy and these monsters have met their match in his flashing teeth and jaws.

And with that, he settles in next to his master, cozy and loved.

The next morning, Billy gets up from a restful sleep and slinks out the back before his parents wake. The dog watches him go…

And then follows him back to the grave his spirit returns to each day.

THAT is how you lay a round-house kick right into someone’s emotional drain pan. Jeebus what a story, huh?

That wraps up Tales of Terror number 6, a series that went on for a baker’s dozen of issues with top tier talent delivering more hits than misses. I loved this particular issue. Out the four stories here, the first and last knocked it out of the park. I’ll be getting over the way that last one misdirected my concern for a long while. While the second tale fails to inspire any emotion out of me, it comes off as a solidly drawn and plotted affair that at least tries something different. I found the third story solid, just not up to the grand slam of numbers 1 and 4.

Tune in tomorrow as we go for another horror anthology and I’ll try not to come off as the Cryptkeeper.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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