Ah, the nineteen seventies… and their Satanic panic, in which we can recognize so closely the roots (or at least relatives) of today’s disinformation maelstrom, before the politicisation and weaponisation of septic paranoia and lies had become honed to such an anti-science. In a lot of sordid ways, Lawrence Pazder was an Andrew Wakefield of his day.
Here’s a story that I first encountered around the time of its release, remembered, but didn’t revisit until a couple of weeks ago, when a good friend (merci, Keith!) helpfully snapped up a copy for me. This deceptively dark tale was created by writer Arnold Drake (I surmise), penciller John Celardo and mysterious inker Wanda Ippolito, who may have a been a spouse or relative of Celardo’s. It’s odd to find someone else inking Celardo, as this was his chief, most enduring and distinctive strength. For comparison’s sake — and presumably, reading enjoyment — here’s another Drake-Celardo outing, The Anti-13!
I won’t make any claims that this is great art: by this time, Gold Key’s printing was shoddy, they barely bothered with the colouring (straight Magenta and Cyan and Yellow everywhere — how lazy can you get?)… but I treasure this one because of the story. Given its moral — what moral? — it’s hard to imagine The Comics Code Authority giving this one a pass, as it merrily violates several of its key precepts. I’ve got another such blasphemous entry in the pipeline… this one duly Code-Approved! Just you wait…
On the other hand, the accompanying cover is spectacular.
And as (nearly) always, a bonus for context: Celardo had a long and fruitful career, and I’m sure one of its highlights was to number among Fiction House’s elite cadre of cover artists. I’ve said it before, but despite their mind-numbing repetitiveness, FH covers were tops in the Golden Age in terms of draftsmanship and production values.
Another quite slight tale, but I’ve always loved this one for its nocturnal, storm-tossed ambiance. And it takes considerable illustrative skill to bring to life such a compact vignette with clarity and visual interest. Especially while hobbled by pedestrian colouring and hazy printing.
While the scripter goes uncredited (though it’s presumably editor Murray Boltinoff), the artist is Rodolfo “Rudy” Florese (1946-2003) was one of the band of solid Filipino craftsmen that brought extra style and diversity to the US Comics industry in the 1970s. The lion’s share of Florese’s American contribution went to DC’s Tarzan titles. Take it away, boys!
Yeah, that’s right: in such stories, Death always betrays himself by picking an oddball moniker like “Mort Todd” or some such dead giveaway. To be fair, Satan and Dracula also indulge in the corny practice. Dr. Shreck, anyone? Think it never happens in “real” life? Let us consider the case of smarmy Albertan reprobate Pierre Poilièvre, whose name basically translates as Pierre Pea-Hare.