Hallowe’en Countdown VI, Day 27

« Now these men have no need for words… they know! » — Anonymous

Now I won’t claim that Dick Ayers (1924-2014) was all that great an artist. In the early Sixties at Marvel, as an inker of Jack Kirby’s pencils, he was at best neutral, more likely than not to defuse much of the explosive excitement of the King’s pencils*.

However, Ayers’ chief strengths lay elsewhere: it was demonstrated time and time again that he could quickly put together dynamic and easy to parse — don’t laugh, it’s no cakewalk — layouts, and if you paired him with a dominant inker (such as John Severin (on Sgt. Fury) Alfredo Alcala (on Kamandi), Jack Abel (on Freedom Fighters) or Gerry Talaoc (on The Unknown Soldier), you’d get some quite presentable results — and quickly at that. Guys like Ayers should be saluted instead of dismissed, because they were the glue that held the funnybook business together and operating more or less smoothly.

I won’t claim either that Eerie Pubs’ product was anything but shoddy, shlocky goods, but I won’t deny that it can be fascinating… in small doses. While still working for Marvel, Ayers produced a memorable bunch of stories for a pair of former Timely/Atlas colleagues, publisher Myron Fass and editor Carl Burgos (creator of the Golden Age Human Torch). This is Ayers’ first published effort for those rascals. It appeared in Horror Tales v.2 no. 1 (Jan. 1970, Eerie Pubs). Brace yourselves!

«… Dick Ayers understood what ‘Carl and Myron’ were asking for and gave it to them in spades. They wanted gore? They got it! Ripped-off limbs, lolling tongues, gouts of blood and oh my… those popping eyes! Ayers’ trademark was the eye-poppin’. Socket just couldn’t contain ’em! » — from Mike Howlett‘s definitive study The Weird World of Eerie Publications (2010, Feral House).

« House of Monsters » is a Grand Guignol remake of « The Castle of Fear », from Weird Mysteries no. 3 (Feb. 1953, Stanley Morse). Read it here! Myron Fass held the rights to a lot of old inventory, so he had the old stories touched up or redrawn, some of them multiple times. Grotesqueness aside, I do prefer the original version. It had a better monster and a stronger ending… but you be the judge!

I came across this saucy bit of Ayers carnage in 1976, in one of the first Eerie Pubs mags to surface following a hiatus imposed by a severe contraction of the black and white horror mag market (thanks, Marvel). At the time, it just seemed like the oddest item: at once something of another, earlier time (it was an all-reprint affair), but also extremely garish in its goriness, even by slack contemporary standards.

Here’s my beat-up original copy of Weird vol. 9 no. 3 (Sept 1976, Eerie Pubs). Cover by Bill Alexander. I didn’t realise at the time that it was a bit of an Eerie’s Greatest Hits collection, so every other Eerie mag subsequently encountered rather paled in comparison.

-RG

*But then, with the splendid exception of Steve Ditko (and that was a waste of precious resources), I’d argue that virtually all of the inkers he was saddled… er, paired with before Joe Sinnott were rather underwhelming.

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 1

« His face taut… his coloring now shell white… Fred took the object from his bowling bag… his friends screamed in horror… »*

Welcome to the second edition of Who’s Out There’s annual Hallowe’en Countdown. We’ll be greasing the rails to carry us along with sinister haste through to that most shiver-iffic of holidays, but duly noting and relishing each daily marker along the way.

Let’s push off with a tasteful dash of splatter and a tidy selection of Eerie Pubs‘ typically over-the-top, gloriously gory cover artwork. While EP covers featured the work of a handful of artists, none is better-remembered or more closely associated with the line than former Irving Klaw-associated fetish specialist Bill Alexander. Fact is, the notoriously cheap-jack publisher cut ‘n’ pasted and endlessly recycled (not to say bowdlerized) Alexander’s work, and it’s sadly safe to assume he was only remunerated once, and poorly at that. Just another soul stranded in the limbo of exploitation publishing…

Weird_V3#5A
Weird vol. 3 no. 5 (December, 1969)

WeirdV6#2A
Weird vol. 6 no. 2 (March, 1972)

WT_V4#3A
Witches’ Tales vol. 4 no. 3 (May, 1972)

TFTT_v4#4A
Tales From the Tomb vol. 4 no. 4 (September, 1972)

WT_V4#6A
Witches’ Tales vol.  4 no. 6 (November, 1972)

And the insides, you ask? Oh, that. Some reprints of lacklustre pre-Code
horror (Ajax/ Farrell) owned by publisher and gun enthusiast Myron Fass sometimes with added gore, sometimes redrawn from scratch and updated. Then, for a while, actual original material, not entirely devoid of occasional just-about-accidental charm. It’s a special kind of charge to witness the Grand Guignol excesses of pedestrian early 60s Jack Kirby inkers Dick Ayers and Chic Stone as they give vent to their less wholesome tendencies, overcompensating with eyeball-gouging and limb-hacking vengeance.

But all is not blood ‘n’ guts ‘n’ fury… sometimes the quiet, ink-washed ambience weaves a low-rent hypnotic spell and the fool thing works. But what with all the reprints and mediocrity, it’s a uncommonly perverse mania that drives a collector to pursue a complete set of these musty bits of flotsam. After decades of neglect, they’ve become impressively pricey.

– RG

* from « The Mad Bowler » (Horror Tales vol. 4 no. 6, Oct. 1972). Read it here!

Tentacle Tuesday: Euro Tentacles Unto Horror

Tentacles have no anglophonic bias.  A tasty human morsel is every bit as appetizing when it’s babbling in Italian or German. Join me on a visit to the European side of things, where tentacles are truly horrifying and there’s none of this politely-hold-a-girl’s-leg stuff. It’s gore and revulsion through and through!

HorrorTalesV3#2A
Horror Tales vol. 3 no. 2 (1971, Eerie Publications). Let’s have a moment of silence for what the poor guy is going through, being swallowed alive by a pulsating pink monstrosity which appears to have the same hole for eating and waste evacuation like some sea anemone (that has that has a single orifice for eating, excreting, and shedding eggs and sperm) and is about as appetizing. No, scratch that, sea anemones are much better.

The cover, painted by German artist Johnny Bruck, is a reprint from the German sci-fi series Perry Rhodan, published by Moewig-Verlag starting in 1961. Here is the original:

PerryRhodan136
Perry Rhodan no. 136. « Beasts of the Underworld », if you were wondering.

If the last cover made me vaguely think of an arsehole, this next one clenches, er, *clinches* this unfortunate association.

WitchesTalesVol3#5A
Witches’ Tales vol. 3 no. 5 (1971, Eerie Publications). Tentacles that look like furry slugs, a face like a puckered, blood-stained anus… this creature even his mother couldn’t love. And the victim? Why the fuck is a vampire in an astronaut’s helmet? And why a vampire at all – isn’t a tentacled monstrosity scary enough without bringing a blood-sucker into it? This witch is having nightmares.

The cover is by Franz Fernández, a Spanish artist born in Barcelona. He worked for Selecciones Illustrades, a Spanish art agency mostly known for its deal with Warren Publishing, which led to many Spanish artists submitting stories to Warren between 1971 and 1983.

On a somewhat less revolting, yet no less puzzling, note, we have these gorilla dinosaurs with tentacles. Why the hell not? I dedicate this cover to my friend Barney, a fan of silverback gorillas.

Gespenster Geschichten1399
Gespenster Geschichten no. 1399 (1974, Bastei Verlag). Gespenster Geschichten, “Ghost Stories” in German, was a weekly comic book series that ran between March 1974 and March 2006, which certainly gives us a clue as to how successful it was. In the early years, most stories in Gespenster Geschichten were reprints of American horror comics, pretty much what one would expect: lots of appearances from Frank Frazetta, Jack Kirby and Wally Wood, for instance. When the magazine stopped relying on reprints and started featuring new content, Argentine, Spanish, Peruvian and Italian artists provided most of the artwork, together with Yugoslav artists (such as Goran Sudzuka) and a couple of German ones, most noticeably Hans Wäscher, a revered German comics artist (whom Google comically translated as “hans scrubber”). This cover points out that the contents are “neauflage”d (i.e. reprinted).

I appear to be utterly incapable of doing a Tentacle Tuesday post without some sort of scantily clad, beautiful maiden joining the fray. Why resist? Here are a couple of precursors of The Possession.

Orror14A
Orror no. 14 (1978, Edifumetto). For once, the monster is kind of cute, as opposed to completely nauseating. Art by Alessandro Biffignandi.

Sukia52-cover
Sukia no. 52 (1980, Edifumetto). Sukia was a joint effort of Renzo Barbieri, founder of Italian publishing house Edifumetto, and Fulvio Bosttoli. Ornella Muti fans, take note.

The original painting allows us to see more detail in the alien’s, err, anatomy. After seeing this, I don’t think anybody needs abstinence speeches.Sukia No. 52 L'alieno 1980

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 2

« It looks like a rotting coffin… something that should have stayed buried! »

Here’s a relatively restrained cover from one of Eerie Pubs’ flagship series (34 issues, 1969-75). Despite, or because of, notorious sleazoid publisher Myron Fass’ typical bait-and-switch, cheapjack production and ethical values (in this case, all reprints with a flashy new cover), Eerie’s grit and grime must be experienced at least once, preferably through some of its truly unhinged Dick Ayers-illustrated originals, such as, say, « House of Monsters »… in fact, let’s not waste any time: read it here.

WitchesTales8A

This is Witches’ Tales vol. 1 no. 8, in truth the title’s 2nd issue… Chez Eerie Pubs, they loved to keep everyone guessing! (Eerie Publications, Sept. 1969) Cover painting by Bill Alexander. Edited by Marvel-Timely golden-ager Carl Burgos.

– RG