Treasured Stories: “The Locked Door!” (1973)

« Man’s constitution is so peculiar that his health is purely a negative matter. No sooner is the rage of hunger appeased than it becomes difficult to comprehend the meaning of starvation. It is only when you suffer that you really understand. » — Jules Verne

For my final post of the year (my co-admin ds yet holds one more Tentacle Tuesday instalment), I turn to crusty Joe Gill and a surprisingly cheerful tale of elder abuse (one of his pet topics, see The Night Dancer! for another example). Herein, a quite horrifying situation is leavened by Gill and his Billy  the Kid acolyte Warren Sattler‘s graceful, humorous handling… with the moral still clear. This is one of Sattler’s few forays into the spooky at Charlton, and I hope you’ll agree it’s worth the detour.


Despite the mere six pages allotted, The Locked Room! features a lot of story. Joe Gill typically wrote pages comprising five panels, which would translate to 30 panels for a six-pager. Sattler breaks down the script into 43 panels, so it could have been far longer. A jewel of elegant compression!
Tom Sutton’s humdinger of a cover gives away the plot, but no matter — it’s a striking, beautifully-coloured image. The rest of the issue’s nothing special: Joe Gill, Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia’s The Truth in the Fire is yet another spin of the stale greedy-explorer-versus-native-god plot; Gill and Wayne Howard‘s Bury Me Deep! is saved by its light tone; Gill and Steve Ditko‘s Let the Buyer Beware, despite featuring Ditko in full-on goofy mode, is more-or-less standard voodoo stuff; but the humdrum outing is largely redeemed, in the end, by the cover tale. This is Ghost Manor no. 17 (January 1974, Charlton).

I love Gill’s use of the principle of communicating vessels as a means of poetic retribution. Or is it a feedback loop? I’m also very fond of Agatha’s characterization: she’s hardly the picture of evil, blandly accepting each new bend in the road as if morals never entered into the equation. But you just know that, once Jerome is laid to rest, she’ll simply find another man to feed and breezily carry on. In a sense, she’s the main character: doesn’t the whole thing hinge on her fine cooking?


8 thoughts on “Treasured Stories: “The Locked Door!” (1973)

  1. tref December 29, 2019 / 21:59

    I remember this story! Long ago, a family friend gave me his collection of comic books. I remember being kind of surprised to find they were all Charlton titles. A lot of romance comics, which I didn’t care for (but read, anyway) and unfortunately, no copies of Eh! But I enjoyed all the horror titles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 December 31, 2019 / 20:02

      Hey, that’s really cool. I guess I’m not *quite* alone in deeming it memorable. I love hearing such tales of brand loyalty that don’t involve the usual suspects.

      Charlton’s romance books were uneven (all that volume!), but there were some rough gems in there, and I’ll take them any day over DC’s slicker, but histrionically-written and Colletta-homogenised fare.

      And well, I don’t recall ever encountering a copy of Eh! in the wild, so it would have been lightning in a bottle if you landed one. Who can say, though: what was common or scarce varied tremendously from area to area. Where I grew up, there were no Gold Keys, for instance.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oscar Solis January 11, 2020 / 16:14

    I love Warren Sattler’s work. Thanks for posting these.

    Way back in 2014 I spoke to Mr. Sattler a couple of times. I had to tell him how much I’d loved his work ever since laying eyes on Billy the Kid #116 on a newsstand in Morenci, AZ way back in the 70s (as an aside, I also picked up House of Yang #2 at the same time, starting a love affair with that magical period in the 70s when George Widman was editing Charlton Comics).

    He was very appreciative and out of the blue asked me for my address because he wanted to send me something. A week or so after our conversation I received a beautiful colored drawing of a cowboy and a señorita. I called him up to tell him thank you. In the process we talked about art supplies and process of work. He revealed to me that he didn’t like to do more than 5 hours on a page. Later, out of the blue, he sent me a drawing of Yang. I reciprocated by sending him a colored drawing of an Apache (I do artwork).

    We had one more conversation and that was it. Still, I’ll never forget what a decent and kind gentleman he is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 January 11, 2020 / 19:27

      Hi Oscar! Thanks for your insightful comment! My experience with Mr. Sattler was quite similar to yours: such a prince of a man. Also, I fully concur with you on the subject of the magical (I have to use your term, it’s the one that fits best!) period of Mr. Wildman’s stewardship at Charlton. He truly worked wonders with paltry budgets but plenty of creative leeway.

      I assume you’ve also encountered my post spotlighting Mr. Sattler’s Billy the Kid cover paintings, right? I count among my most prized possessions a trio of Sattler watercolours, namely Yang no. 10, Billy the Kid no. 114, and House of Yang no. 5.


      • Oscar Solis August 24, 2021 / 13:33

        This reply is really late. Sorry about that. I did see the post regarding Mr. Sattler’s cover paintings. You’re a very lucky man to own those original covers. For a while Charlton had some of the best covers in comics imho. Pat Boyette, Warren Sattler, Tom Sutton, Sanho Kim, Joe Staton, one or two by John Byrne. Beautiful work.

        Liked by 1 person

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