Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 25

« He was offered a sloe gin fizz in a pink frosted glass by a young woman who removed her glass eye and sucked on it while discussing the moral imperatives of the sponge boycott in Brooksville, Florida. » — Harlan Ellison, ‘Neon’.

In 1973, Marvel was trying all sorts of things to bolster its market presence. They even dared to tread where even the venerable Weird Tales had never quite succeeded. The Haunt of Horror was a prose fiction digest that strongly showed its comics roots. It offered a mixture of classic material (Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife, a piece by Robert E. Howard) and of contemporary genre practitioners: Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell… featuring a score of illustrations slapped together by Marvel’s less superhero-limited alumni, namely Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Frank Brunner, Walt Simonson and Dan Green. After two issues, Marvel called the whole thing off, licking its wounds, but soon revived the title as a b&w comics magazine, this time eking out five issues (May 1974 – Jan. 1975) plus a 1977 issue of Marvel Preview.

This is The Haunt of Horror no. 1 (June, 1973), edited by Gerry, no, make that *Gerard* Conway (in full ‘take me seriously, I’m not just a hack comics writer!‘ mode), with a striking cover by Gray Morrow.

As for me, I picked it up for the rare short story by the nonpareil R. A. Lafferty, Ghost in the Corn Crib.

Dan Green‘s illustration for Lafferty’s story.
One of Frank Brunner‘s illustrations for John K. Diomede (alias George Alec Effinger)’s The First Step.
Werewolf by Night originator Mike Ploog didn’t have to stretch far beyond his comfort zone for this illustration for Alfred Angelo Attanasio‘s Loup Garou (french for Werewolf, if you still feel the need to ask).
It’s nigh-impossible to fully scan some these images without destroying the source document, but here’s the opening splash for Haunt of Horror’s publication of Fritz Leiber’s 1943 classic Conjure Wife, adapted in the movies as Night of the Eagle (in the UK) and Burn, Witch, Burn (in the US). Here, a fine, committed but uncredited Gray Morrow pebble board illustration is ‘corrected’ by Marvel’s number two Yes Man (Consulting Editor Rascally Roy Thomas would surely be numero uno), who replaces whichever figure Gray had drawn by an image of Mary Jane Watson, not even bothering with the slightest effort to match the style. John Sr. had gotten plenty of practice ‘fixing’ Kirby and Ditko, so Gray Morrow was just ‘all in a day’s work’.
Gene Colan was called upon to whip up a few quick pieces for the rest of the feature.
The Haunt of Horror ran just one more issue, graced by a lovely, quite pulpy cover by the nonpareil Frank Kelly Freas, whose efforts Romita Sr. has also seen fit to ‘fix’. See Unknown World of Science-Fiction no. 1 (Jan. 1975). This, however, is The Haunt of Horror no. 2 (Aug. 1973, Marvel). Come to think of it, that evil priest kind of anticipates a latter-day Nicolas Cage, doesn’t he?

In the end, you might say that this short-lived publication is best known for a screwup: indeed, the notoriously disorganized Marvel Bullpen messed up the page order of Harlan Ellison‘s contribution to the first issue, Neon. Never one to let such things slide, Harlan made sure that a correct version was printed in the second issue. Score one for the good guys.


Kenneth Smith’s Singular Warren Visions

« Quodo seemed to be a paradise. It was a lush green planet of peace and solitude. Then the pilot met the blonde… » — Nicola Cuti, “Weird World”

Kenneth Smith (1943-), the fantasy artist, inhabits the same body as Kenneth Smith, the retired philosophy professor and incorrigible obfuscator. Whereas someone like, say, Bertrand Russell would make his point clearly and concisely, Kenneth would just pile it higher and higher, leaving the reader entangled in a maze of syntax and syllogism.

Since you may not be familiar with the man’s infamous column in The Comics Journal, Dramas of the Mind, here’s a typical quotation from the man, where he, er… takes on “obscurantism”:

« In characterizing realities no less than in taking positions on issues, consciousness generalizes, i.e. genericizes: in articulating or formulating, it reduces things, even our own selves, to forms, abstractions, idealizations, types, archetypes, simplisms. “Thinking” is an activity that ultimately grounds or resolves itself in the satisfying, self-certain form of orthodoxies, preconceptions, uncriticized and imperative norms; and it is overwhelmingly inept to recognize just how pathetic, parasitic or placental is its relation to its “own” fundamental norms of understanding and valuation. Rarely if ever does any act of thinking grow so laserlike or iconoclastically intensive as to escape from the dense miasma of what is acceptable. To think what actually is is even more contranatural for humans than to see what actually is: as subjectivizing as “seeing” is, “thinking” is many degrees or magnitudes more saturated with conditioned biases, delusions, self-deceptions. A program of hygiene or asepsis for the sanity, acuity and clarity of syncretic or wholesided thinking—a discipline of orthotics for sobering, grounding and polemicizing of well-formed gnoseonoesis—is needless to say unknown in modernity. Not just language but virtually all of intellect, education, culture, etc. have been adapted into utilities, tools whose very aspectivity militates against the nakedness of “evidence,” which is to say, against candor and against truth: regardless of what it may be called, “evidence,” even the most obvious and blatant, is in actuality not so “evident” to most people, and the modern development of “sophistication” or “education” typically worsens the obscurantism. »

For all that, I’ll take a guy with such an overflowing abundance of vocabulary and ideas that he doesn’t know when to quit… over most of the boneheads frequently passing for writers nowadays. Still, if you don’t mind, we’ll (mostly) stick to his Warren artwork today.

Creepy no. 35 (Sept. 1970). Regardless of its month of release, its lovely shades of emerald bring thoughts of springtime to mind.

Creepy no. 36 (Nov. 1970), unique amidst Smith’s Warren covers in that it presents the human form in a somewhat less… grotesque fashion.

This is Creepy no. 41 (Sept. 1971). Owing to its lower than usual print run, this ranks amongst the scarcest Warren issues.

This is Creepy 1971 Annual, all reprints, but quite a choice roster of them: Ditko, Toth, Boyette, Craig, Crandall, Sutton, Adams, and Torres.

And here we have Mr. Smith’s last, and arguably least, Warren cover. Only a detail of the full painting was used. Eerie 1971 Annual also features naught but reruns.

And this is the original painting in its entirety. Sorry about the glare, but this is likely the only publicly available image of this privately-owned piece.

Bonus time: Mr. Smith created this lovely piece to illustrate R.A. Lafferty‘s masterful short story Mr. Hamadryad. I first encountered them* in the anthology Prime Cuts no. 1 (Jan. 1987, Fantagraphics). Hey, any fan of Old Man Lafferty’s is someone I’d happily clink glasses with. Cul sec, Mr. Smith!

« I believe that Mr. Hamadryad was the oddest-looking person I had ever seen. Surprisingly I regarded him so, for I first became aware of him in The Third Cataract Club in Dongola, and some very odd-looking gentlemen came into The Third Cataract. If you cock an eyebrow at someone in that place, then he’s really odd. » — R.A. Lafferty

*Smith’s illustration first graced Lafferty’s tale in the limited edition (1000 copies) collection Golden Gate and Other Stories (1982, Corroboree Press, MN). However, “Mr. Hamadryad” first turned up in STELLAR I (Judy-Lynn Del Rey, ed., 1974).