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.


  1. Now THIS is the stuff! Maybe these aren't the best-remembered stories in the EC pantheon, but they certainly show the "darker side of humanity" stuff that I think really put 1950s America off of its food. I mean, in the first story, you've got crooked funeral directors, crooked cops--even crooked hobos! And the story takes great pains to show that the main character is not an anomaly, there's a whole convention of funeral guys gleefully harping on there ill-gotten wealth. The fact that you get two Jack Davis stories in this issue is nothing to complain about, either. Loved this review!

    1. Good eye on you, Reggie. My original text had The VAMP! credited wrong. Yes, these were great and I love that they aren't the ones you always see associated with EC. I've got many issues of the reprints in The Crapbox. Look forward to seeing one of their titles every Halloween in my review section.

      Thanks for reading and have a great Halloween!


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