Wyatt Earp, Ubiquitous Comic Book Marshall

« Fistfightin’ may not be your style, Marshall Earp! If you want to crawl, I’ll let ye off easy! »
« Crawl, Irish John? I’m going to tie a knot in your cauliflower ears! » — ‘Hired to Die’ (1965)

Happy one hundred and seventy-fourth birthday to Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929), bison hunter, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, brothel owner, pimp, miner, boxing referee, constable, city policeman, county sheriff, and, lest we forget, comic book hero… for several publishers at once!

This is Wyatt Earp no. 6 (Sept. 1956, Atlas); ultra-detailed cover by Bill Everett, colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Wyatt Earp no. 9 (March 1957, Atlas); cover by John Severin, colours by Goldberg.
This is Wyatt Earp no. 11 (May 1957, Atlas); cover by John Severin, colours by Goldberg.
This is Wyatt Earp no. 15 (Feb. 1958, Atlas); cover by Joe Maneely, colours by Goldberg.
To cash in on the success of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-61) tv series, Dell also threw their Stetson into the ring. This is Hugh O’Brian, Famous Marshal Wyatt Earp (sheesh!) no. 13 (Dec. 1960-Feb. 1961, Dell), the final issue.

Mr. Earp had an especially notable run at Charlton (and by far the best title logo), with sixty-one issues of his very own title published between 1956 and 1967. And with Joe Gill scripts, so it’s solid stuff. This is Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal no. 61 (Dec. 1965, Charlton); cover by Pat Masulli and Rocco Mastroserio. I’d saved this one for this occasion, having withheld it from my M/M showcase The Masulli-Mastroserio Cover Deluge of ’65!

This is Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal no. 64 (July 1966, Charlton); cover by Mastroserio, lettering by Jon d’Agostino.
This is Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal no. 69 (June 1967, Charlton); cover by Mastroserio.
This is Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal no. 72 (Dec. 1967, Charlton), the fiery finale of *that* run. Another effective cover by Mr. Mastroserio, who passed away a few months later, aged a mere 40.
And here’s a shot of the real-life Mr. Earp. Don’t look so glum, hombre — it’s your birthday!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: The Time Has Come for Namor, Fish-Man

« Then suddenly, like some gigantic serpent out of the deep, a huge, quivering tentacle tose from out of the sea — a sight from any seaman’s maddest, most impossible nightmare –! »

Today we pay another visit to Subbie (or Subby), which every bit as horrible an abbreviation as ‘hubby’ for ‘husband’. We’ve gone over his history in a previous post (see Tentacle Tuesday: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner), so now we can concentrate on Action! Adventure!! Excitement!!! What’s on his charged schedule, you might ask? Why, a quick tussle with some Soviet submarines, a few pompous (I’m sorry, I meant ‘dramatic and exciting’) speeches, a plunge intro ‘wintry, unplumbed depths’, a lengthy trip to memory lane, and an epic fight with an unliving cyborg!

My favourite, naturally, are the Soviet submarines.

Sub-Mariner no. 35 (August 1954, Atlas), cover by Sol Brodsky. The insides of this issue actually don’t have tentacles, but do have pretty much everything else – it’s a fun, wacky read.

Moving forward by a little more than 15 years, we get embroiled in a slightly different kind of evil…

Sub-Mariner no. 27 (July 1970, Marvel), cover pencilled by Sal Buscema and inked by Mike Esposito.

When Wakes the Kraken! was scripted by Roy Thomas, pencilled by Sal Buscema and inked by Mike Esposito. Aside from a lot of dialogue (check out the ‘ay, woman… but the time has come for battle… not words!‘), this story also has a lot of plump, high-quality tentacles.

This cover is fun, given that the Symbiotic Man appears to have tentacles on the soles of his feet and the ends of his hair as well. Did somebody actually demand that Namor should fight alone? I was under the impression that Marvel readers were more into ‘the more the merrier’ type of fun.

Marvel Spotlight no. 27 (April 1976). Cover pencilled by Gil Kane (Tentacle Tuesday dabbler!) and inked by Frank Giacoia.

The cover story is titled Death Is the Symbionic Man!, scripted by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by Jim Mooney. Note the typo in ‘its’ in the second speech bubble.

The octopus appears to be having serious doubts about his presence in this fight. “Aw, do I hafta?”
What’s the point of having a super cool symbiotic-cyborg creature if it needs an octopus do its dirty work? This beaked octopus would do well in Tentacle Tuesday: Notes on Anatomy.

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 23

« Drinking your own blood is the paradigm of recycling. » — Gary Busey

Say, isn’t there something… sorta quaint about that cover?

In the 1970s, while DC and Charlton consistently provided all-new material*, Marvel quickly switched to an all-reprint formula (the better to save money whilst flooding the market, my dear!), sometimes even on the covers, with some amusingly inappropriate updates at times.

This is Dead of Night no. 2 (Feb. 1974). Alterations by unknown hands. Only one issue of this title would feature new material: its eleventh and final issue (introducing The Scarecrow); this number, however, reprints pre- and post-code Atlas stories from 54-56.
This is Marvel Tales no. 125 (July 1954, Atlas); cover art by Harry Anderson. The milky semi-transparency is a nice touch.

Okay, here are another pair of before and afters:

This is Tales to Astonish no. 34 (Aug. 1962, Marvel). Cover pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers. Hardly a classic, not to mention that it lazily recycles the story’s opening splash. It’s also a textbook demonstration of what I dislike about Marvel colouring in the Silver Age: I’m guessing it was company policy to leave the backgrounds mostly in grey to make the characters ‘pop out’. A sound commercial policy, perhaps, but artistically, it seems pretty stale to me.
This is Monsters on the Prowl no. 29 (Aug. 1974, Marvel). A classic instance of John Romita‘s alteration-happy art direction. Making the protagonist a woman and adding a witness are both dishonest touches, for what it’s worth. On the plus side, I do like the lightning bolt (good use of existing space!), and the colouring is a marked improvement. Edited by Rascally Roy Thomas.
This is Mystic no. 30 (May, 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg. A striking cover by Russ Heath
… is, if not ruined, then at the very least diminished by clumsy and pointless updates, including the removal of Heath’s signature (although upon seeing the ‘improvements’ perpetrated upon his work, he might have opted for the comics equivalent of an ‘Alan Smithee‘ or ‘Cordwainer Bird‘ credit). This is Crypt of Shadows no. 9 (Mar. 1974, Marvel). Alterations, once more, by unknown, guilty hands. Also edited by Roy Thomas (just so you know who’s responsible).

-RG

*and if and when they didn’t, they’d tell you! Not so with Marvel. As for Gold Key, they would just pretend the material was ‘reprinted by popular demand’.

Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 16

« The whole planet reeks of mysticism without revelation. » — Dan Simmons

Last May, when I showcased Joe Maneely‘s Atlas cover art (see Joe Maneely, Atlas of Versatility), I intentionally left out his pieces for the horror titles, knowing them worthy of some attention of their own, an ideal topic for the Hallowe’en countdown. Besides, it took some pressure out of the selection process if I could save one whole genre for a rainy day — and today’s most certainly that day!

This is Mystic no. 7 (Mar. 1952, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystic no. 15 (Dec. 1952, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.

“Mystic” is evidently one of Marvel’s pet titles: the title was first used by Timely in 1940-42, then again in 1944-45; once more, most successfully in this Atlas horror series, for 61 issues from 1951-57. And lately in 2009 and 2011. I’ll bet that tradition’s not yet done with, but why on earth?

This is Mystery Tales no. 12 (June 1953, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This one’s got it all! Here’s Adventures Into Weird Worlds no. 27 (Mar. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystic no. 29 (Apr. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg. Maneely’s Atlas horror covers generally distinguished themselves by their goofiness.
Begging the question: What’s worse than having two left feet? Having three left hands, apparently. This is Riot no. 3 (Aug. 1954, Atlas); colours by Stan Goldberg.
This is Mystery Tales no. 24 (Dec. 1954, Atlas); colours by (need you ask?) Stan Goldberg. While I make no bones about my disdain for Goldberg’s work at Archie, he was a superb colourist in the 1950s. In terms of legibility, Atlas’ busy covers had to be quite a challenge to pull off, and he did it again and again.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 12

« After that I never saw him again. He became the ‘phantom’ artist, whereabouts unknown! » — Bhob Stewart

Hello again. Last year, I touched upon the stint that Matt Fox (1905-1988) did as an occasional and unappreciated inker at Marvel in the Silver Age. While he’s assured a sort of immortality for the eleven winningly oddball covers he painted for Weird Tales, he also left his distinctive and lasting mark on horror comics of the 1950’s. Let’s give the old burying grounds the once-over, shall we?

This is Chilling Tales no. 13 (Dec. 1952, Youthful), actually the title’s début, as it picks up its numbering from Beware. In addition to its cover, the issue features within a rare Fox story, The Hand of Glory. Read it here… at your own peril! (just kidding, it’s all perfectly safe).
This is Chilling Tales no. 15 (Apr. 1953, Youthful). What in tarnation is going on here?
This is Chilling Tales no. 17 (Oct. 1953, Youthful). Incidentally, this title was edited (anonymously) by Sally the Sleuth creator Adolphe Barreaux.

Here’s one of Fox’s all-too-infrequent forays between comic book covers. This one appeared in Uncanny Tales no.6 (March 1953, Atlas). Writer unknown… though that’s no great loss to history.

From the Tomb editor Peter Normanton, in the lumberingly-titled The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics, astutely noted that:

« There is an air of disquiet to his vision, yet it charms through a surreptitious blending of the primitive with the mockingly insane. His characters border on the lunatic, seemingly at home in his landscapes, concealing a darkness corruptive of the soul. »

And I leave the final word to my trusted accomplice ds, who observed that:

« I find that the art of Matt Fox reminds me of Terrance Lindall… Both can create disquieting monsters with eyes that speak of inner torment, reminiscent of Christian Art (mostly Spanish, I believe) from a few centuries ago. »

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Glittering Lure of the Golden Age

The source of tentacles in Golden Age comics seems inexhaustible – every time I think I have reached the bottom of the well, I find myself awash in cephalopods. That being said, a lot of these octopusoid appearances are one-panel cameos, and even when the tentacles linger for a few pages, the shitty printing, questionable scans or bare-bones art don’t exactly incite me to use this material in a Tentacle Tuesday. Today’s crop is all Golden Age, running the gamut from 1939 to 1952, and composed of pages/covers I can enthusiastically endorse.

George (of Harry J. Tuthill’s The Bungle Family, ‘one of the most under-rated comic strips in the history of American cartoonery’ according to Art Spiegelman, one of the top hundred comics of the 20th century‘, according to The Comics Journal) may be thoroughly bundled up in tentacles, but he still keeps a sort of prosaic calm that I admire.

Feature Comics no. 23 (August 1939, Quality Comics). Cover by Ed Cronin. As for Charlie Chan, he was originally a private detective in a series of novels by Earl Derr Biggers, from which a number of movies were made. Opinions are divided about whether he was a breakthrough Asian character (tired of Yellow Peril stories, Biggers conceived him specifically as an alternative to stereotypical, ‘sinister and wicked‘ Chinese) or perpetuated a lot of the same preconceived notions that were circulating at the time (and, alas, are still with us today).

Just look at the canines the red devil is ready to plunge into Black Hood’s leg! Throw in a fanged octopus, and this cover has as much action as one would possibly want. Sadly, nothing of the sort actually goes on in this issue.

Top Notch Comics no. 16 (June 1941. Archie Comics). Cover by Al Camy.

Robotman and his Robot dog are a worthy topic of discussion in themselves, especially when Jimmy Thompson is involved (see Robotman and Jimmy Thompson: Golden Age Comics’ Best-Kept Secret), but for now these two pages will do nicely!

Page from Fisherman’s Luck, published Star-Spangled Comics no. 41 (February 1945, DC).
This page from Boy Meets Robotdog was printed in Star-Spangled Comics no. 75 (December 1947, DC). I would certainly come to this house!

We really like Howard Nostrand at WOT, though so far he has been woefully under-featured in our posts!

This page is from The Man Germ, scripted by Nan Barnett and illustrated by Howard Nostrand. This story was published in Chamber of Chills Magazine no. 13 (October 1952, Harvey Comics).

Finally, I have a soft spot for these tiered layouts that Rugged Action employs… especially when an octopus with tender, moist eyes is moonlighting in one of them.

Rugged Action no. 1 (December 1954, Marvel). Cover by Carl Burgos.

~ ds

Tony DiPreta’s Dramatic Darkness

« I don’t mind if my skull ends up on a shelf as long as it’s got my name on it. » —Debbie Harry

A couple of years back, I spotlighted a story by a neglected Golden Age favourite of mine, Anthony Lewis “Tony” DiPreta (July 9, 1921 – June 2, 2010), the wacky The Hidden Vampires! I advise reading it first for comparison (and a bit of background on the artist).

Well, this time I’ve exhumed another yarn that’s even loopier. Scripted by Stanley ‘The Man’ Lieber at his Stan Lee-est, it’s riddled with plot holes, failures of logic, displays of ignorance of basic psychology and economics… your typical 1950s Atlas horror tale, in other words. And yet, as if frequently the case with these slapdash page-fillers, it’s charming and massively entertaining, thanks to stylish artwork, breezy pacing and snappy, if absurd banter. Guess someone knew their audience well. Step right up, folks, and prepare to make the acquaintance of “Skull-Face” © ™ ®️. (what is it with the brackets?)

A whole hour! People were armed with unwavering patience back in the day.
So the suits’ great flash of inspiration is not to update a fifteen-year old movie (from 1937!), nor remake it: they’ll just trot it out again. Picture doing this with 2006’s biggest horror hit, Saw III. How do you think it would fare today?
You’d think a seasoned publicist would be a savvier negotiator. I mean, all he needs is some random skeleton. Adjusted for inflation, a thousand 1952 dollars would today be worth 9,829 bucks. But that’s nothing compared to his liberal waste of electric current: the voltage used to execute a convict in the electric chair is around 2,000 volts for less than a minute… and that makes the lights dim all over the area*. Now multiply the voltage by 25,000, and the duration (let’s round it off to a minute, for simplicity’s sake) 80,640 times longer. Picture the resulting electric bill, not to mention the repercussions on the power grid, all for a stunt that could have simply been faked (i.e. just say there’s live current… no-one’s going to check). Oh, and what’s a “famous biochemist” doing on a film studio’s payroll? Come to think of it, it’s not that odd: Thornton was a cynical, opportunistic money-grubbing parasite, the Dr. Memhet Oz of his day…
Note these stellar examples of one of DiPreta’s trademark horror ambiance moves: lighting from below, projecting stark, expertly-delineated shadows.
One has to wonder why Fenton insists on addressing the resurrected ‘Demon’ (he was a demon on the sousaphone) incorrectly as “Skull-Face” (that’ll only aggravate him, you dolt!). Would it have helped if he’d added air quotes?
The ho-hum Sol Brodsky cover of Mystery Tales no. 6 (Dec. 1952, Atlas), but hey, our pal “Skull-Face” is the featured attraction!
The comics industry’s traditional garish colour and murky reproduction fail (spectacularly!) to do justice to DiPreta’s spare, confident and elegant inking line. To remedy the situation, here’s a look at a surviving piece of original art. It hails from “One Must Die” (scripted by Carl Wessler), from Crime Can’t Win no. 11 (June 1952, Atlas), the publisher’s knockoff of Lev Gleason‘s influential Crime Does Not Pay.
A slick Joe Palooka Sunday from July 24, 1966. DiPreta enjoyed quite a run on the strip, illustrating it from 1959 to its 1984 finale.

-RG

*a possibly apocryphal notion, I’ll admit.

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 29

« A face like an oyster, huh?‘ Danny Lomax repeated, and swallowed hard. ‘That’s what it’s going to look like?‘ Nick Deene chuckled and nodded. ‘If there’s anything deader-looking than a watery blue oyster that’s been open too long,‘ he said, ‘I don’t know what it is. » — Robert Arthur, The Believers (1941)

Today, we’ll peer through filmy years past at another example of cultural cross-pollination: a notion is born, seemingly out of nowhere, then it ineffably catches the collective fancy and is in some fashion absorbed into folklore, scattered like grain by wind and whisper. Then some soul, blessed with a way with words, polishes it for publication and some editor buys it for peanuts. Another wordsmith reshuffles and refines it, sprinkling some notions of his own, perhaps a glint of sardonic humour. Hungry for material, radio gets hold of the setup and reshapes it a little to fit another medium. Late one night, some comic book hack hears that presentation, and recollects its essence, some years on, in a frantic rush to fill some pages and scrape together a meagre living. Or perhaps he saw it in a competitor’s rag. Bah, no-one’ll remember… or give a toss. “I’ll give it a stab from another angle!

First, there was… well, I’m not sure. But let’s begin with Henry Russell Wakefield‘s short story Ghost Hunt (either 1938 or 1948… sources differ), in which…

A radio host broadcasts a live ghost hunt in a house in London where there have been “no less than thirty suicides”. Most have run from the house at night to throw themselves off the cliff and into the nearby river. The radio broadcaster is joined by a paranormal investigator. The investigation proves all-too successful in this chilling story.

Then appeared, a couple of years hence, Robert Arthur Jr.‘s excellent The Believers [ read it here! ], published in the venerable Weird Tales‘ July, 1941 issue.

The Believers is a classic horror story by Robert Arthur. It’s about a radio host who decides to broadcast a live show from a haunted house. This story is also known as “Do You Believe in Ghosts?” and it was based on an older story by H. Russell Wakefield called “Ghost Hunt”. It also inspired a horror comic story and an episode of Tales From The Crypt, both of which were called “Television Terror”.

The Believers was featured in this 1963 Random House collection (which Robert Arthur himself edited as well as authored), under its alternate title of Do You Believe in Ghosts?. The splendiferous wraparound cover is by Arthur Shilstone (1922-2020).

In 1949 came a successful radio adaptation, courtesy of the popular Suspense show. This was likely the most influential iteration of the tale, the super-spreader, if you will.

And more that just the one ‘horror comic story’ was inspired by this singular scenario. In 1952, The Unknown (or at least uncredited, which amounts to the same thing) Writer came up with The Walking Ghost, which will now break up the tedium of text, text, text, and provide you with some welcome visuals by Messrs. Mike Sekowsky on pencils and Bill Walton on inks.

This adaptation (if you will) strikes a middle ground between the Wakefield and the Arthur approaches.

The Walking Ghost was reprinted decades later in Crypt of Shadows no. 3 (May, 1973, Marvel), where I first encountered this tale, and this bit of dialogue was modified to better (but not by much) fit the times:

And what exactly was the matter with “Uncle Miltie“? Doesn’t having the biggest schlong in Hollywood buy you any respect anymore? The Twilight Zone wasn’t even a radio show!
The Walking Ghost first saw print in Strange Tales no. 11 (Oct. 1952, Atlas); cover by Bill Everett. It didn’t even rate the cover.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Grabbery Through the Ages

It occurs to me that I haven’t focused on the good old mademoiselle-embraced-by-tentacles cliché in a while. If today has a further theme, it’s of women (both human and alien) being grabbed by the midriff. Polka-dotted tentacles in a swamp and furry tentacles on Venus, whether they’re latching on to a humanoid woman with four breasts or a blue-skinned Talokian, all basically behave the same way.

As usual, this is a chronological progression that takes us from early Golden Age days all the way to mid flamboyant 80s.

The Robot Masters of Venus, illustrated by Max Plaisted (of Spicy Mystery fame!), was published in Exciting Comics v. 1 no. 3 (June 1940, Pines).
The Vengeance of the Space Monster!, pencilled by Ken Bald and inked by Syd Shores (both names are, however, guesses), was published in Marvel Mystery Comics no. 90 (February 1949, Atlas).

I agree that having one’s ribcage crushed does not help with breathing, but still, I am not sure why Shadow Lass is choking on the panel on the right when the vege-demon has her by the midriff.

War of the Wraith-Mates!, scripted by Cary Bates, pencilled by George Tuska and inked by Vince Colletta, was published in Superboy no. 183 (May 1972, DC).

For a little variety, I’m also including the following warrior vixen as a pleasant exception to the rule – she is not only not being grabbed, but also has an octopus for an obedient pet.

Girl on Octopus by Brian Lewis, painted sometime in the mid 1970s.

Our next stop is a proposed illustration for the 1984 movie The Warrior and the Sorceress, painted by Bob Larkin. The movie in question (which I have never seen) is apparently “noted chiefly for containing extensive nudity and violence and for being one of the more extreme examples of the sword-and-sorcery genre. It is also considered by some to be a cult classic.

The sorceress has 4 breasts – a logistical nightmare when selecting a bikini, no doubt.

As… questionable… as this is, the illustration that was chosen in the end is in a whole other class of cheesiness. The sorceress has also died her hair blonde, presumably because she wants to have (even more) fun! We also lost the cephalopod, unfortunately, but the maxim “one can’t have everything” comes to mind – and David Carradine in a pearly loincloth is plenty.

Art by Joanne Daley, who at least makes some sort of attempt at designing a functional four-breast-bra.

After *that*, the following cover looks quite humdrum by comparison. It’s difficult to imagine how Red Sonja will extricate herself from this situation…

Red Sonja no. 5 (January 1985, Marvel). The cover is by Pat Broderick.

Incidentally, there are tons of Red Sonja cover with tentacles, mostly of recent vintage, and most of them are ugly as sin. This one is decent:

The cover art for Red Sonja no. 21 (April 2007, Dynamite). This is a variant cover by Roberto Castro.

✭ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 3

« I’ve never gone to bed with an ugly woman… but I’ve sure woke up with a few » — Royal C. Bannon

Clearly, some cravings die awfully hard. This is Strange Tales no. 28 (May, 1954, Atlas), featuring a most claustrophobic… cuddle. The rest of this scarce issue contains artwork by Pete Tumlinson, Jack Katz (who recently — just last week! — turned 93), Bob Forgione, Don Perlin (who recently turned 90) and Tony DiPreta.

Cover by by Harry Anderson (1911-1970), not to be confused with his namesake, alias Judge
Harry T. Stone.
*Ken* Grimm, eh? Speaking of horror, they sure didn’t mince words to reel in the rubes, did they? This gentle, understated pitch appeared on the inside back cover of this issue of Strange Tales. « Mail the damn coupon with your shekels already, you bloodless, pitiful, skinny shrimp! », bellowed the bellicose drill sergeant.

[ psst! you can read the issue here! ]

-RG