Hallowe’en Countdown VI, Day 19

« — I don’t know about zombies, doctor. Just what is a zombie?
A ghost. A living dead. It’s also a drink. » — I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

Has any of the classic monsters undergone more radical changes over the past century than the lowly zombie? I believe my first encounter with the walking dead (in comics, that is) came through a reprint of a relatively obscure Archie GoodwinRocco Mastroserio story, the imaginatively titled Zombies!* (read it here!) from Creepy no. 17 (Oct. 1967, Warren); in it, uncle Archie schooled me about zombies’ aversion to salt and, it follows, sea water. Which I presume is what kept them cooped up on tropical islands.

Confirmation of this vulnerability came in what I consider the scariest scene in the uneven Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV series, from its second episode, the imaginatively titled The Zombie, wherein Kolchak does his level best, under trying circumstances, to pour salt down the throat of a massive, dormant-but-not-for-long zombie.

But the damage to zomboid tradition had already been inflicted, for better (my vote) or for worse, by George Romero‘s ravenous shamblers in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. While I had no trouble accepting Romero’s savvy upgrade, I recall being offended by the cheesy, mindless, anything-goes approach adopted by Lucio Fulci in his imaginatively titled Zombie**, namely this sequence.

Marvel’s resident Zombie, Simon Garth, had débuted all the way back in 1953 (what is time, after all, to the living dead?) and Menace no. 5‘s imaginatively titled Zombie! (check it out here).

Aside from his Bill Everett-drawn premiere, I frankly have little use for the character, but I have a soft spot for this one story, intended as a time-buying fill-in for the feature’s regular team, writer Steve Gerber and Peruvian artist Pablo Marcos. It’s written by the often-interesting Doug Moench (Master of Kung Fu, Moon Knight) and illustrated by the masterful Alfredo Alcala, a sure consensus favourite around here. The plot itself is rather on the thin side, being one of those Agatha Christie’s Ten Little… er — And Then There Were None scenarios, with Garth mindlessly hovering around and peering in windows, until…

But the artwork is a delight. Like all of Marvel’s supernatural antiheroes (save the Man-Thing), Garth absurdly boasts the physique of a bodybuilder (despite being long dead and not eating anything), but at least Alcala truly knows his anatomy.

The original story is over thirty pages long, so I’m just providing highlights, including the conclusion, which is quite cute. While it must be incredibly hard to write mindless, invulnerable characters, Moench had a good punchline in mind all along.

This is Earl Norem‘s cover for Tales of the Zombie no. 7 (Sept. 1974, Marvel).


*set in Brazil for the sake of the twist ending — not a bad one, either.
**To be fair, called Zombi 2 in Italy, since “Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) was released in Italy as Zombi.” At least the Italians, as the French once did, understand that Zombi is the male, and Zombie the female of the, er… species. Or is it simply the plural?

Tentacle Tuesday: the Savagery of Conan’s Savage Sword

Marvel’s looong-running Savage Sword of Conan (published 1974 – 1995) was not restrained by the Comics Authority Code, being a magazine. So what did the illustrators and writers involved do with all this freedom? They heaped piles of gore and violence (badass violence) into the stories, and they made sure most Conan covers contained (1) naked damsels; (2) a heroic chopping-off-things-with-my-sword pose; (3) tentacles. If there was a shortage of cephalopods that month, other tentacle-like props would be happily used: elephant trunks, serpents ‘n’ snakes, dragon tails, and other grabby appendages.

I recommend reading The 10 Most Brutal Moments from Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian! f̶̶̶o̶̶̶r̶̶̶ ̶̶̶a̶̶̶ ̶̶̶g̶̶̶o̶̶̶o̶̶̶d̶̶̶ ̶̶̶g̶̶̶i̶̶̶g̶̶̶g̶̶̶l̶̶̶e̶̶̶ for a good look at just how, erm, badass and savage and brutal Conan is. And when you’re done with that, take a gander at today’s line-up of tentabulous and tentarrific covers in which Mr. Conan slashes and hacks his way through rapacious monsters!

The Savage Sword of Conan #13 (July 1976), painted by Richard Hescox. Mostly undressed cutie (who may actually be a drag queen?): check. Bloody knife: check. Murderous, glazed-over eyes, a mask of hate and sadism on Conan’s face: double check. Poor scared octopus who was minding his own business… sigh, I’m afraid he’s mincemeat.

The Savage Sword of Conan #20 (July 1977), cover painted by Earl Norem. Braless beauty: check. Interestingly, Conan seems to have only one nipple. The sword hasn’t been plunged it, yet, but I’m sure it will take no time at all.

Incidentally, this is what our Slithering Shadow looks like from another angle:

Barbarian-“The Slithering Shadow,”
Pencils by John Buscema, inks by Alfredo Alcala.

The Savage Sword of Conan #23 (October 1977), cover painted by Earl Norem. It’s a little-known fact that if you squeeze a woman by the midriff, her boobs pop out. At least Red Sonja is a little more feisty than the average helpless maiden.

The Savage Sword of Conan #81 (October 1982), painted by Joe Chiodo. Completely exposed woman in lingerie: check. Has she wandered in from a gothic romance in which she was roaming the halls at night, dressed in naught but a flimsy nightie? Oh, sorry, wrong trope.

The Savage Sword of Conan #101 (June 1984), painting by Michael Golden (‘when in doubt– smudge!‘). Man, Conan has a heck of a square, prominent chin. I almost didn’t include this cover because of the ridiculous anatomy – the front guy’s arm looks like a bovine leg (complete with hoof??), and Conan’s thigh and its bulging muscles don’t seem to be attached to his body – but the tentacles beckoned.

The following may be my favourite cover of today’s post, so here’s the original painting so we can admire the myriad details properly. For a second, I was worried that it couldn’t become part of today’s roster for lack of tentacles, but a scene of this type just *had* to have at least one tentacled creature. This has several, I am happy to report, though sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who (and what’s what) in this glorious tangle of tails, wings and appendages.

The Savage Sword of Conan #123
Original painting for the cover of The Savage Sword of Conan #123 (April 1986). Painted by Ernie Chan. Note that there is no, I repeat no naked woman on this cover, just a scared child of indeterminate gender. And Conan doesn’t look like a complete asshole. Ernie Chan, you made my day. ❤ ❤

The Savage Sword of Conan #178 (October 1990), painted by Joe Chiodo. Back to our regular program: violent He-Man hero, ghostly mostly-naked chick (who doesn’t have an ass at all, it seems, while her legs are mysteriously floating in the mist generated by the animal heat and moisture given off by Conan).

The Savage Sword of Conan #190.jpg
The Savage Sword of Conan #190 (October 1991), cover painted by Earl Norem. Wait, Conan is wearing a vest? And he looks younger and almost scared? What’s happening?

~ ds