« La matière en était gélatineuse et peu consistante; elle se décomposa, au bout de quelques heures, en un liquide rose et gluant, d’une odeur insupportable.* » — Jean Ray, Dans les marais du Fenn
Aw, good old muck monsters…
Perhaps the first to emerge, at least in the English language, was Theodore Sturgeon’s “It”, published in Unknown’s August, 1940 issue, whose title page warned: “IT wasn’t vicious, IT was simply curious — and very horribly deadly!“
But IT was preceded, by some years, by Raymond Marie de Kremer alias Jean Ray’s superb Dans les marais du Fenn (« In the Fenn Marshes »), first published in the Belgian literary magazine L’ami du livre’s issue of November 1st, 1923! A handful of Ray stories (often published under his alternate nom de plume, “John Flanders”) were published in US pulps, including the legendary Weird Tales, but “Dans les marais…” appears to have somehow, to this day, remained untranslated to English.
This is Supernatural Thrillers no. 1 (December, 1972, Marvel), an adaptation by Roy Thomas, Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia. Cover by Jimmy “Profa” Steranko.
*« Its matter was gelatinous and insubstantial; it decomposed, within a few hours, into a viscous pink liquid of unbearable odour. »
« The stranger’s face was entirely obscured by a broad-brimmed felt hat bent downward over his features; and the long, black coat looked almost like part of the thickening fog. » –Harry Vincent first encounters his future employer. (Shadow Magazine, April/June, 1931)
We note today the birth anniversary of Walter B. Gibson (September 12, 1897 – December 6, 1985), an extremely prolific writer and professional magician. Gibson is best known for developing the radio character of The Shadow, through nearly three hundred stories he wrote under the collective nom de plume of Maxwell Grant.
The Shadow’s had an interesting and varied career in comics, but Gibson’s novels (and the radio shows… Orson Welles!) are where it’s at. Still, let’s take a look around, shall we?
As a bonus, let’s slightly depart from comics proper and admire a couple of paperback reissues from the brush of noted fabulist James Steranko.
It’s birthday number one hundred and twelve for pulp wordsmith Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) who, in his tragically short lifespan, yet found time to unleash upon the world Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, Kull of Atlantis and, more significantly for this reader, the chilling classic Pigeons From Hell, a short story posthumously published in Weird Tales’ May, 1938 issue.
Howard’s The Horror From the Mound, originally published in the May, 1932 issue of Weird Tales Magazine, presumably had its title sanitized here because the H-word was still verboten in the early 1970s. Hailing from the second issue of Marvel’s Chamber of Chills (January, 1973), it was reprinted in glorious black and white in 1975’s Masters of Terror no. 1 (original title restored, hurrah!)
Gardner Fox and Brunner give it their all, but the story could have used more pages to truly do justice to Howard’s moody proto-weird western.