Archie’s Weird Mysteries


By Paul Castiglia, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski & various (Archie)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-74-0 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Family Friendly Seasonal Fear Fest… 8/10

MLJ were a publisher who promptly jumped on the “mystery-man” bandwagon following the debut of Superman. They began their own small but inspirational pantheon of gaudily clad crusaders in November 1939, starting with Blue Ribbon Comics, and followed up by Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the standard blend of costumed heroes, two-fisted adventure strips, prose pieces and gag panels.

After a few years, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) spotted a gap in their blossoming market. From December 1941 the costumed heroes and two-fisted adventure strips were gradually nudged aside by a far less imposing paragon: an “average teen” enjoying ordinary adventures like the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 introduced a gap-toothed, freckle-faced red-headed goof showing off to the pretty blonde next door. Taking his lead from the popular Andy Hardy matinee movies starring Mickey Rooney, Goldwater developed the concept of a young everyman protagonist, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work.

In six pages, eponymously entitled ‘Archie’ introduced goofy Archie Andrews and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Archie’s unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones also debuted in that first story, as did the scenic small-town utopia Riverdale.

The feature was an instant hit and by the winter of 1942 had won its own title. Archie Comics #1 was the company’s first non-anthology magazine and with it began the gradual transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the comicbook industry’s second Genuine Phenomenon (Superman being the first).

By 1946 the kids had taken over, so the company renamed itself Archie Comics, retiring its costumed characters years before the end of the Golden Age and becoming, to all intents and purposes, a publisher of family comedies.

Its success, like the Man of Steel’s, changed the content of every other publisher’s titles, and led to a multi-media industry including TV, movies and a chain of restaurants. In the swinging sixties pop hit “Sugar, Sugar” (a tune from their first animated television show) became a global smash. Wholesome garage band “The Archies” has been a fixture of the comics ever since.

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad of youth culture since before there even was such a thing, the host of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the “everyteen” characters of utopian Riverdale a benchmark for childhood development and a visual barometer of growing up.

At the end of the last century, one of those fads was for savvy band of teens to fight Vampires and Demons in a small town…

It led to Archie’s Weird Mysteries: a French/American animated TV co-production with the regular cast encountering all manner of bizarre phenomena, creatures and situations after Archie starts writing a school newspaper column on mysteries and cryptozoology.

That small screen enterprise led to a comic book iteration mostly created by Paul Castiglia, Fernando Ruiz & Rich Koslowski – backed up by letterer Vickie Williams and colourists Rick Taylor Stephanie Vozzo – with parody and contemporary satire leading the thematic charge …although the company also used the broad church the series presented to reintroduce a number of those early MLJ super-doers; sadly, not included in this all-strange phenomena compilation…

In this splendidly entertaining paperback and digital collection, the warring gal-pals and extended cast of the small-town American Follies are plunged deep into terror territory as Archie’s Weird Mysteries #2 (March 2000) reveals how the gang are targeted by a spooky movie monster in ‘Shriek’.

The deft – and suitably daft in appropriate places – spoof of film franchise Scream is followed here by a delightful and arch tribute to the incomparable Scooby-Doo phenomenon as ‘A Familiar Old Haunt’ (#6 July) sees Archie signing up for “Bo and Gus’s Paranormal Investigation Camp” with Jughead, Betty and Veronica joining him in a borrowed panel van. Even Jughead’s faithful mutt Hot Dog tags along. The freak du jour is a bizarre vegetable horror, but it’s no match for a bunch of pesky kids….

Archie’s Weird Mysteries #10 (July) found a fashion for many beards and chest hair at Riverdale High. However, hirsute attractiveness and rampant testosterone can’t explain why girls and boys are all going follicle crazy until Archie uncovers a ‘Bigfoot on Campus’

At the height of competitive sports season school principal Mr. Weatherbee is kidnapped by aliens who need his (sadly non-existent) baseball expertise to beat a band of bullying space jocks in ‘U.F.O. Uh-oh!’ (#7 August) after which ‘The Scarlet Chronicles’ (AWM #10 July) introduces vampire hunter Scarlet Helsing to readers who might have missed her starring role in the TV show. As seen in the brace of cartoon episodes reprised here, the beautiful young warrior was drawn to Riverdale and allied with the town’s reclusive paranormal expert Dr. Beaumont to battle the assembling forces of darkness…

New ground is broken with issue #12 (April 2001) as ‘The Return of Scarlet’ sees the slayer suborned by a cabal of bloodsuckers and set upon Beaumont and Archie. Naturally, Betty is ready to lead the gang in their counterattack…

Complimenting the chronicles is a lighthearted cartoon ‘Guide to Fighting Vampires’ from issue #15 (September 2001) wherein Scarlet lists a number of methods for defeating the Darkness before this fun-filled fear fest concludes with behind-the-scenes text feature ‘Scarlet’s Guide to Archie’s Weird Mysteries’; interviewing Castiglia and Ruiz on their role in the TV iteration and how the comic book spun out of it.

Co-starring all the crucial supporting characters we know and love, these smartly beguiling skits are a prime example of just why Archie has been unassailable for generations: providing decades of family-friendly fun and wholesome teen entertainment – complete with goblins, ghosts and ghouls as required…
© 2011 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Tower in The Sea


By B. Mure (Avery Hill)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-36-3 (PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Mesmerising Mystical Magnum Opus in the Making… 9/10

Most forms of fiction, depend on strong – or at least memorable – characters and plenty of action to capture the attention. You need to be really good and quite brave to try anything outside those often-infantile parameters. B. Mure is that good.

They are a Nottingham based artist and storyteller whose other notable work is the remarkable webcomic Boy Comics. You should check that out too.

In 2018, B. Mure pulled together threads and ideas from years of planning, dreaming and doodling, to begin building an epic fantasy saga. It started with Original Graphic Novel Ismyre, introducing a strange ancient city of song and tired wonders, unsettled by magical eco-terrorists and weaponised flora, where a sculptor’s works inspired and moved the strangest of folk. This magical city was entering a period of “interesting times”…

That was closely followed by sequel Terrible Means, which seemingly had very little to do with the protagonists of the first, but instead took readers back to a time when wizardly green rebels Niklas, Henriett and Emlyn were simply researchers whose studies divined a growing imbalance in the natural ecosystem…

Now the third instalment is here and The Tower in the Sea again slips to a different point in time and tale, providing a fresh approach to what is shaping up to be a vast and expansively multi-layered saga. Moreover, understanding and narrative connection depends as much on scene and place as actors involved: with sea, sky and terrain as expressive as the gloriously bizarre animalistic characters that have most of the speaking parts in the drama…

Ismyre is currently more dictatorship than civil metropolis, and for years gifted children have been spirited away from it by a clique of outlaw magicians. The prizes are taken across ferocious seas to a hidden island and schooled in magical arts – especially divination. Our story begins and ends with little Miriam, brought to the citadel of knowledge by adventurous operative Emlyn…

Welcomed by imposing leader August Humble, Miriam slowly settles in for the long haul, often wondering if she’ll ever see her dashing saviour again…

Her dreams of the general future are far more specific and emphatic on other issues of importance. In fact, the coming years are plagued by increasingly terrifying visions of apocalyptic disaster, and neither scholarly tomes, skilled teachers or devoted classmates can ease the traumas or even clarify the too-vague portents in her head.

Miriam’s course becomes clearer only after she learns why divination is outlawed in Ismyre and how the school of the Tower in the Sea was first established. Sadly, now the tortured girl feels that her intuitions are presaging the imminent and actual End of the World…

Determined to be part of the action, Miriam – with the reluctant aid of classmates Efrim and Cassius – secretly breaks the school’s most inviolable rule: attempting to build a boat to take her back to the mainland where she can hopefully do some good. Typically, before that comes to pass, the totally unexpected happens…

The word “tapestry” is one much overused but it really fits the gradual unpeeling of layers comprising the history of Ismyre: beautiful images coming together, small self-contained stories unfolding depending upon where you start from, yet all part of a greater whole, always promising more and clearer revelations further ahead. You must read all these books but (so far) it really doesn’t matter where you start from. So, it might as well be here, right?

Sadly, this glorious celebration is not available digitally yet, but that just means you can give physical copies to all your friends, suitably gift-wrapped and ready to be properly appreciated by all the tactile senses as well as cerebral ones…

An anthropomorphic, luscious and compellingly realised world of wonder to savour and ponder over is waiting for you…
© B. Mure, 2019. All rights reserved.

To Hell You Ride


By Lance Henriksen, Joseph Maddrey, Tom Mandrake & various (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-162-9 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-62115-870-7

With all the chaos and kerfuffle besetting the world, it’s possibly therapeutic to dip into fantasy and disaster that we can control to some extent. In that spirit, here’s a good old-fashioned horror yarn to curl your toes in these eco-political end times…

Originally released as a 5-part miniseries from December 2012 to July 2013, To Hell You Ride was a lifetime dream project for actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Millennium, Near Dark) inspired by a visit to the town of Telluride, Colorado in the 1970s.

He saw his idea as a movie, but eventually, after working with screenwriter and documentarian Joseph Maddrey (Nightmares in Red, White and Blue), shifted his ideas to sequential narrative, with horror veteran Tom Mandrake (Swamp Thing, Grimjack, Martian Manhunter, Batman) rendering the project into stunning creepy visuals. Finishing the package were colourists Cris Peter & Mat Lopes and letterer by Nate Piekos of Blambot®.

Told in parallel time periods and trenchant flashbacks, the drama begins in the snow-swamped Colorado Mountains of 1880 where a greedy trapper plunders Indian graves and finds gold. A year later, the sacred ground is utterly defiled, turned into a pit of depravity as dozens of prospectors rip up the terrain in search of yellow metal.

The tribe’s only response is to begin a ritual of atonement. Undertaken by their holiest warriors – “The Old Ones” – even this act of pious desperation is despoiled. Interrupted by miners, four celebrant warriors are killed and their derailed devotions slowly poison the environment, becoming a curse for future generations and another prime example of ‘White Man’s Guilt’… that is, none at all…

The ritual is not done, however, and continues to proceed at its own pace…

More than a century later, drunk, lost and perpetually angry Native American Seven George (his true name is “Two Dogs”) continues being a pain in the ass to everybody. Yet again, sheriff Jim Shipps gives the kid a pass, but by the time the young man reaches his desolate, dilapidated shack, he’s become aware that something’s changed: an unnatural alteration that’s killing the birds…

Thankfully, he knows the history and takes steps to protect himself from an interrupted ritual that’s coming back and coming to a close…

The never-ending wounds to the region have affected both his father Six George and grandfather Five George in their own times, bring trouble and death to those who could least risk it, and as Two Dogs sits in a jail cell at Christmas, waiting for his own fate to unfold, the unnatural takes over. Soon the mountain town is buried in a wall of white, courtesy of ‘The Alchemy of Snow’

Greedy town officials like Cubby Boyer just see another way to make money. Snow tourists rapidly flood in, but the joy and profits freeze once the visitors start dying: victims of a bloody, explosive ‘Metamorphosis’

All the region’s wildlife is frightened and aware of big change coming. With chaos growing and a news blackout intensifying the crisis, Two Dogs and Shipps are forced to work together, but certainly not with the same ends in mind…

As the death toll mounts government spooks move in, setting up a quarantine line to keep America safe from “plague carriers” and “contaminated snow”… And they’re not really real Feds either…

Although the lands’ original occupiers feel their time is returning, they can’t hold a solid front, dividing into factions based on ancient spirits. With the Spider and the Trickster apparently walking the land, somehow, only Two Dogs knows what’s really needed. He begins his personal ‘Ghost Dance’ to the ever-present Watchers from the Spirit World, seeking to save who he can of the terrified survivors but, ultimately all that’s left is to accept his fate and ready himself for his ‘Death Song’

Perhaps here is the solution he’s been searching for…?

Deftly blending contemporary horror themes with judiciously cherrypicked – or just plain cod – First Nations mythology, To Hell You Ride is not as spiritually astute as it would like but is far more fun than you possibly imagine: a superbly chilling race against doom with epic undertones and potent symbology.

Adding to the experience is text feature ‘Origins’, detailing how the story evolved over decades and supplemented with character studies, commentary, notes and developmental drawings of Two Dogs, The Watchers, Jim Shipps, Mary Ambrose, Cubby Boyer & the Town, The Spider, The Trickster, Smokin’ Bones, and recurring key image The Appeal to the Great Spirit (derived from Cyrus E. Dallin’s sculpture of the same name).

Sheer, unalloyed spooky delight, this is a magical yarn that really would make a brilliant movie. Why hasn’t anybody thought of it?
To Hell You Ride™ © 2012, 2013 Lance Henriksen, Joseph Maddrey & Tom Mandrake. All rights reserved.

Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 3


By Steve Ditko & various, edited by Blake Bell (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-498-6 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Immaculate Seasonal Yarn-Spinning… 10/10

Once upon a time the anthological title of short stand-alone stories was a top product of the comicbook profession, delivering as much variety as possible to the reader. At the peak of that period, nobody could touch Steve Ditko for variety of touch and tone, not to say sheer volume…

Ditko was one of our industry’s greatest talents and one of America’s least lauded. His fervent desire to just get on with his job and to tell stories the best way he could – whilst the noblest of aspirations – was, at best, a minor consideration and more usually a stumbling block for the commercial interests which controlled all comics production and still exert an overwhelming influence upon the mainstream bulk of comicbook output today.

Before his time at Marvel, young Ditko perfected his craft, creating short, sharp visually attractive vignettes for a variety of companies, and it’s an undeniable joy today to be able to look at this work from such an innocent time when he was just breaking into the industry: tirelessly honing his craft with genre tales for whichever publisher would have him, utterly free from the interference of intrusive editors.

This superb full-colour series of archival hardback collections (also available as digital editions) reprints those early efforts for Charlton Comics published between June 1957 through July 1958 – with material produced after the draconian, self-inflicted Comics Code Authority sanitised the industry following Senate Hearings and a public witch-hunt.

Here are wonderfully baroque and bizarre supernatural or science fiction and fantasy stories – presented in the order he completed and delivered them rather than the more logical, but far-less-revealing, chronological release dates. Moreover, they are all helpfully annotated with a purchase number to indicate approximately when they were actually drawn. Sadly, there’s no indication of how many (if any) were actually written by the moody master, so it’s safest to assume co-creator credits go to the utterly professional Joe Gill…

This third tension-packed presentation reprints another heaping helping of Ditko’s ever-more impressive works: most of it courtesy of the surprisingly liberal (at least in its trust of its employees’ creative instincts) sweat-shop publisher Charlton Comics.

And whilst we’re being technically accurate, it’s also important to reiterate that the cited publication dates of these stories have very little to do with when Ditko crafted them: as Charlton paid so little, the cheap, anthologically astute outfit had no problem in buying material it could leave on a shelf for months (sometime years) until the right moment arrived to print. The work is assembled and runs here in the order Ditko submitted it, rather than when it reached the grubby sweaty paws of us readers. It also coincides with a brief period when the company began releasing double-sized giant issues…

Following another historically informative Introduction with passionate advocacy by Editor Blake Bell, concentrating on Ditko’s military service experience and admiration and relationship with artist, educator and major influence Jerry Robinson, the evocatively eccentric excursions open with ‘From All Our Darkrooms…’ as first seen in Out of This World #4 (cover-dated June 1957) wherein photographers worldwide begin seeing otherwise-invisible aliens in the prints…

When a brash and ecologically unsound new owner threatens an ancient stand of trees he falls foul of ‘The Menace of the Maple Leaves’ (Strange Suspense Stories #33, August).

Ditko was astoundingly prolific – as was writer Gill – and increasingly Charlton’s various mystery and sci fi mags offered more than one effort per issue. As well as the cover to Unusual Tales #8 (also August), the tireless creator crafted ‘Will Power’, a classical tale of the power of love and statues coming to life and ‘The Decision’ wherein a wise precaution saves humanity from a robotic rampage after which Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #4 (July) sees a devious long con wrecked by paranormal intervention in ‘The Forbidden Room’

A dictatorial brute earns a grim comeuppance in ‘The Strange Fate of Captain Fenton’ in Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #6 (December), before the cover of This Magazine is Haunted volume 2 #12 (July) ushers in a titanic tale of mythological woe and the end of ‘The Last One’, whilst, for one misguided soul in Strange Suspense Stories #35 (December), ‘Free’ is just another cruel word.

The belligerent threat of a ‘Stranger in the House’ (Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #5, October) is tackled through divine intervention, but far more mundane answers are forthcoming for the devilish spy on the run in ‘All Those Eyes’ in Out of This World #6 (November).

A quartet of later-rendered tales from This Magazine is Haunted v2 #12 come next: beginning with alien inimical invaders dubbed ‘The Faceless Ones’ who pick the wrong human to replace, whereas random, kind fate saves humanity from ‘The Thing on the Beach’. A tragic, lonely ventriloquist is unable to escape ‘His Fate’, and the showbiz theme expands to involve a crooked impresario holding shrunken people captive in ‘The Messages’

Behind the cover of This Magazine is Haunted volume 2 #13 (October) a lonely scientist and man’s best friend thwart ‘The Menace of the Invisibles’, before Strange Suspense Stories #34 (November, and with cover included) discloses an ironic fate for a manic Nazi hidden in the sands who can’t escape ‘The Desert Spell’

The cover – and its original art – for Out of This World #5 (September) are accompanied by ‘The Night They Learned the Truth’ – a twisted tale of nervous villagers extending a traditional unwelcome to a strange foreigner after which the cover to Unusual Tales #9 (November) segues into a tale of corrupt businessman getting what he deserves in ‘He’s Coming for Me!’

Two more from Out of This World #5 begin with bizarrely multi-layered tale of retribution ‘I Made a Volcano’, and wrap up with maritime monster mash ‘The Thing from Below’, after whichFather Help Me!’ (Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #6, December) adds a technological twist to the ancient dilemma of a good parent afflicted with an evil child…

A last contribution to Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #5, ‘Live for Reunion’ confronts a troubled child with a ghostly dilemma, before ‘Clairvoyance’ (Unusual Tales #9, November 1957) tackles the thorny problem of a super-child who only wants to be ordinary…

Guilt drives an unscrupulous businessman to see ‘The Scar’ everywhere in another mood message from Strange Suspense Stories #34, before more Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #6 resume with the hunt for a progress-wrecking guru in ‘Where is Kubar?’ and conclude with the unhappy revelations of a hypnotist who sees too much after saying ‘Look Deep into My Eyes’

Next up is a tale from one of Charlton’s earliest leading characters and the eponymous star of this volume. The title was developed from a radio show that Charlton licensed the rights to, with the host/narrator acting more as voyeur than active participant. “The Mysterious Traveler” broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to us, asking readers for opinion and judgement as he shared a selection of funny, sad, scary and wondrous human-interest yarns, all tinged with a hint of the weird or supernatural.

When rendered by Ditko, whose storytelling mastery, page design and full, lavish brushwork were just beginning to come into its mature full range, the works of Tales of the Mysterious Traveler were always exotic, esoteric and utterly mesmerising…

From issue #6 – and following a deftly compartmentalised cover dated December 1957 – comes ‘Tomorrow’s Punishment’, as a gang of crooks use a fortune-telling mirror to carry out their capers, after which a close encounter for a beggar makes him ‘The Man Who Saw Again’ (Tales of the Mysterious Traveler#8 from July 1958).

‘The Man Who Lost His Face’ is a tight alien invasion fable from Strange Suspense Stories #34 that leads seamlessly into a case of medical time travel salvation on a most fortuitous ‘Night Call’ (Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #6) before Cold War counter espionage makes an accidental hero of ‘The Atomic Clerk’ in Strange Suspense Stories #34.

Another cover and its original art (Out of This World #6, November) leads into a potent tale of unnatural nature in ‘The River’s Wrath’, after which Unusual Tales #9 shares a tale of perceived ‘Escape’ for an unrepentant fugitive, whilst ‘The Night of Red Snow’ shows an insular town the power of unfettered art and imagination…

‘Plague’ also comes from Out of This World #6, revealing how a bitter scientist almost destroys the world, before the cover to Tales of the Mysterious Traveler #5 (November 1958) precedes a triptych of thrillers beginning with ‘The Sultan’ whose thirst for oil leads to inescapable doom, carries on with the shocking vision an arrogant climber sees ‘Above the Topmost Peak’, and ends with a deadly case of mistaken identity for deep seas divers in ‘The Man Below’

From Strange Suspense Stories #34 (March 1958) comes a painful homily of trust despoiled when an elderly salesman honestly earns a miracle, only to realise he can’t rely upon his nearest and dearest, before this timeless celebration concludes with a selection from This Magazine is Haunted volume 2 #13 (October, 1957).

A craven white hunter steals an idol but cannot escape ‘The Drums’, even as a bum becomes ‘The Man Who Changed Bodies’, but can’t avoid the pitfalls of his own nature before a driven victim futilely hunts for a hated transgressor in ‘He Shall Have Vengeance’

This sturdily capacious volume has episodes that terrify, amaze, amuse and enthral: utter delights of fantasy fiction with lean, plots and stripped-down dialogue that let the art set the tone, push the emotions and tell the tale, from times when a story could end sadly and badly as well as happily and only wonderment was on the agenda, hidden or otherwise.

These stories also display sharp wit and honest human aspiration and integrity, making ithis another superb collection in its own right as well as a telling tribute to the genius of one of the art-form’s greatest stylists.

This is something every serious comics fan would happily kill or die or be lost in time for…
Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3. This edition © 2012 Fantagraphics. Introduction © 2012 Blake Bell. All rights reserved.

Captain America: Dark Designs – a Novel of the Marvel Universe


By Stefan Petrucha & various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1789093483 (PB) eISBN: 978-1789093490

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Epic Fights ‘n’ Tights Adventure… 8/10

After a few half-hearted and ultimately abortive attempts in the 1960s and a more strategic – but no less enduring – attempt at the close of the 1970’s, Marvel finally secured a regular presence on prose bookshelves in the 1990s with a select series of hardback novels. Since then, those fans who want to supply their own pictures to gripping MU exploits have enjoyed a successive string of text thrills in all formats…

In recent times, British publisher Titan Books have been repackaging and rereleasing many of those prose powerhouse publications, and this handy paperback from 2016 is the tenth in their Novels of the Marvel Universe line.

Scripted by novelist, educator and comics writer Stefan Petrucha (X-Files, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Nancy Drew: Girl Detective, Time Tripper) this explosive thriller also manages to pile on mood and psychological pressure in a tale of the Star-Spangled Avenger that addresses one of the biggest fears of modern times…

Although newcomers and casual fans won’t notice, Captain America: Dark Designs is deeply embedded in the minutiae of Marvel’s comic book continuity, as the WWII hero – who was frozen in ice for decades – faces the horror of voluntarily returning to the icy isolation of hibernation when, in the course of his hectic crime-busting, terrorist-thrashing activities, he is diagnosed as carrier of a deadly virus that can wipe out all life on Earth…

However, even as he contemplates his fate from a quarantine cage, his greatest enemy The Red Skull is planning one last hurrah. The Nazi fiend has previously survived his own death by occupying a clone of Steve Rogers but has subsequently developed an advanced form of the virus riddling Cap’s genetic structure.

With oblivion and increasing helplessness tormenting him, the swiftly-fading Skull unleashes Adolf Hitler’s last battalion of robotic Sleepers, resolved that his hated enemy will precede him to the grave, even if all Earth burns in the process…

Despite the assistance of Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man and a host of other guest stars, the onus of saving himself and preserving humanity ultimately rests on the broad shoulders of the indomitable Sentinel of Liberty whose tireless efforts always seemed able to extract miracles from the most hopeless of situations.

However, it’s a devilish twist of fate that truly saves the day this time…

Strong, accurate characterisation, fast-paced, non-stop yet feasible action and ever-ratchetting tension make this a book impossible to put down, and supplementing the high-octane thrills are a wealth of monochrome illustrations by cap artists Steve Epting, Jackson Guice, Michael Lark, Jay Leisten, Steve McNiven, Mike Perkins, Dexter Vines and Patrick Zircher, making this compulsive page-turner a solid example of how comics books can transfer to prose and why they should…
© 2019 Marvel.

Melusine volume 1: Hocus Pocus & volume 2: Halloween


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-20-5 (PB Album Hocus Pocus) 978-1-905460-34-2 (PB Album Halloween)

Teen witches have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most engaging of all first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Le Journal de Spirou in 1992. Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 years old and spends her days working as an au pair in a vast monster-packed chateau whilst studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The feature ranges from one-page gag strips on supernatural themes to short tales detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and her large circle of peculiar family and friends.

Collected editions began appearing in 1995, with the 26thEn rose et noir – published in 2018. Five of those have thus far made it into English translations thanks to the fine folk at Cinebook.

The name derives from European folklore: in olden days Melusine or Melusina was term for a flighty female spirit or elemental inhabiting a sacred spring or well…

The strip was devised by writer François Gilson (Rebecca, Cactus Club, Garage Isidore) and top flight cartoon humourist Frédéric Seron – AKA Clarke – whose numerous features for all-ages Spirou and acerbic adult humour publication Fluide Glacial include RebeccaLes Cambrioleurs, Durant les Travaux, l’Exposition Continue… and Le Miracle de la Vie.

Under the pseudonym Valda, Seron also created Les Babysitters and, as Bluttwurst, Les Enquêtes de l’Inspecteur Archibaldo Massicotti, Château Montrachet, Mister President and P.38 et Bas Nylo.

A former fashion illustrator and nephew of comics veteran Pierre Seron, Clarke is one of those insufferable guys who just draws non-stop and is sublimely funny. He also doubles up as a creator of historical and genre pieces such as Cosa Nostra, Les Histoires de France, Luna Almaden and Nocturnes and apparently is free from the curse of having to sleep…

Hocus Pocus was the 7th Mélusine album, originally released in 2000, and offers a fine place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content is 1- or 2-page gags which – like a young, hot Broom Hilda – make play with fairy tale and horror film conventions and themes.

When brittle, moody Melusine isn’t being bullied for her inept cleaning skills by the matriarchal ghost-duchess who runs the castle, or ducking cat-eating monster Winston and frisky vampire The Count, she’s avoiding the attentions of horny peasants, practising her spells or consoling dreadfully unskilled classmate Cancrelune. Her boyfriend is a werewolf, so she only sees him a couple of nights a month…

Her days of toil are occasionally spiced up with and put in perspective by sports days such as blindfolded broom-flying contests and there’s always dowager Aunt Adrezelle who is eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries…

After a splendid succession of quick-fire japes and jests, things take on a touch of continuity here and even tension when scandalous cousin Melisande pops in for an extended visit.

Spurning the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan, Melisande becomes a Fairy Godmother: all sparkles, fairy-cakes, pink bunnies and love. She’s simplicity, sweetness and light itself in every aspect, so what’s not to loathe…?

No sooner does the twinkling twit start to grow on everybody, however, than she falls victim to one of The Count’s periodic bite-fests and slowly metamorphoses into a true witches’ witch: skin-tight black leather, batwings and always ready for wicked transformations and sorcery duels at the drop of a pointed hat…

The situation comes to a head and the cauldron boils over in eponymous extra-long episode ‘Hocus Pocus’ wherein Melusine and Melisande finally face off to decide which witch is worst…

Clever, wry, sly, fast-paced and uproariously funny – whether physically printed on traditional paper or in digital incarnations – this compendium of arcane antics is a great taste of the magic of European comics and a beguiling delight for all lovers of the cartoonist’s art…

The second English-language collection happily offers more of the same. Mélusine is still a sprightly 119-year old, spending the days au pairing in a vast monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau whilst diligently studying to perfect her hereditary craft at Witches’ School…

The long-lived feature and attendant books have become an annual event, with a new collection every year: always offering everything from single page gag strips to full-length comedy tales on supernatural themes detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and a large circle of exceedingly peculiar family and friends.

Halloween was the 8th European Mélusine album, originally released in 2001: gathering a wealth of superb seasonally sensitive strips, and another great place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content comprises short gags starring the sassy sorceress.

Daunting dowager Aunt Adrezelle is always eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries but so, unfortunately, is family embarrassment cousin Melisande who still spurns the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan to work in Fairy Godmothering field. She’s all insufferable sparkles, bunnies, love, it’s so hard not to loathe such a delirious confection of simplicity, sweetness and light itself…

This turbulent tome riffs mercilessly on the established motifs and customs of Halloween. Here, kids fill up to lethal levels on sweets and candies, monsters strive to look their worst, teachers try to keep the witches-in-training glued to their books and grimoires. Their over-excitable students rashly experiment on what to do with pumpkins – including how to grow, breed or conjure the biggest ones – all whilst the fearfully pious local priest and his flock endeavour to ruin all the magical fun…

Even ghastly Melisande gets in on the party atmosphere – in her own too nice-to-be-true manner – illuminating the happy shadows with too much sunshine and saccharine before the collection ends with extended, eponymous ‘Halloween’ wherein Melusine and Cancrelune learn the true meaning of the portentous anniversary after they inadvertently join the creaky, clacking cadavers of the Risen Dead as they evacuate their graves on the special night to fight and drive away for another year the Evil Spirits which haunt humanity…

Read before bedtime on paper or screen – and don’t eat any hairy sweets…
Original edition © Dupuis, 2000 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2007 © Cinebook Ltd.

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson


By Bernie Wrightson, with Howard Chaykin, Nicola Cuti, Bill Dubay, Carmine Infantino, Bruce Jones, Budd Lewis & various (Dark Horse Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-59582-809-5 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Masterfully Macabre Masterpieces… 9/10

Once upon a time the short complete tale was the sole staple of the comic book profession, where the intent was to deliver to the reader as much variety and entertainment fulfilment as possible. Sadly, that particular discipline is all but lost to us today…

Towards the end of the turbulent 1960s, a lot of fresh talent was trying to break into the comics industry at a time when a number of publishers were experimenting with cheaper black & white magazines rather than four-colour comic books. Companies like Warren, Skywald and a minor host of imitators were hiring kids who then honed their craft in public – just like their forebears had to.

A respectable number of those Young Turks – such as Bruce Jones, Mike Kaluta, Jeff (now Catherine) Jones, Al Weiss and “Berni” Wrightson (a young man who soon became a living legend even in that prestigious cabal), grew into major talents whilst crafting pastiches of the EC Comics they had loved as kids – and paved the way when the comics market again turned to shock, mystery and black comedy to sell funny-books.

Bernard Albert Wrightson was born a few days before Halloween (October 27th) 1948 in Dundalk. Maryland. His artist training came via TV, reading comics and a correspondence course from the Famous Artists School, and his first professional publication was fan art, printed in Creepy #9 (June 1966). Around that time, he was toiling as an illustrator for The Baltimore Sun, and after meeting his EC idol Frank Frazetta at a convention gravitated to New York City. Hooking up with the above-cited band of newcomers, and other hopefuls like Al Milgrom and Walter Simonson, Wrightson was soon crafting short horror tales for National/DC, Marvel and other eager publishers. His first rank reputation was cemented with the co-creation (beside writer Len Wein) of Swamp Thing.

His close and productive association with DC ended in 1974, as he left to work at Warren on more adult-oriented tales allowing him to try different techniques: a bountiful period of experimentation that culminated with his joining Jeffrey/Catherine Jones, Kaluta and Barry Windsor-Smith in expressive narrative arts collective The Studio. During this period, he also produced commercial commissions, film material and humorous strips for National Lampoon whilst creating a series of astoundingly complex plates for his signature work: an illustrated rerelease of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.

In later years he illustrated posters, trading cards and graphic novels such as Creepshow, Cycle of the Werewolf and Freakshow (with Bruce Jones) among other print collectibles, before returning to mainstream comic books. His notable successes include The Weird and Batman: The Cult with Jim Starlin, and Spider-Man: Hooky and The Hulk and the Thing: The Big Change as well as a number of Punisher miniseries and OGNs.

Wrightson died in 2017. At the time he was working with Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) on a new Frankenstein miniseries, and almost finished it. The ultimate professional to the last, Bernie made provision for another artist to complete the job before passing. We’ll be reviewing that particular wonder later on this month…

This stellar compendium – available in hard copy and digital incarnations – gathers Wrightson’s monochrome, two-colour and full-colour offerings – stories, illustrations and frontispieces – from Creepy #9, 62-64, 66-71, 73, 75-77, 83, 86, 87, 95, 113 & 138 and Eerie #57, 58, 60-68, 70-72, 68 spanning 1966-1982.

The uncanny yarns and portentous depictions appeared in black-&-white magazine anthologies Creepy and Eerie, and those Warren stories have been gathered into a spectacular oversized (284 x 218 mm) hardback compendium – part of a series of all-star artist compilations which also includes superstars Rich Corben and Steve Ditko amongst others.

The terrors begin here with the short shockers from Creepy, but only after fellow raconteur and horror stylist Bruce Jones shares his memories of the great man and those early days in his evocative Foreword

The dark visions commence with Wrightson’s gripping adaptation of ‘Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat’ (Creepy #62): a man slowly going mad enters into a deadly war of wills and nerve with his wife’s pet…

Moving from his signature linework into deft grey-marker tones for Bruce Jones’s ghastly tale of mutant madness and deviant sexual seduction, Wrightson delivers a potent shocker with the tale of ‘Jenifer’ in issue #63 and compounds the horrors of existential loneliness for his next doomed hero’s icy obsession with ‘Clarice’ (also scripted by Jones in #77)

He inked Carmine Infantino on Jones’ ‘Country Pie’ in #83, a wry variation on both serial killer modernity and American Gothic sensibilities, after which Bill DuBay joins the unlikely artistic duo to expose an Edwardian-era Dime-novel hero in moving sentimental mystery ‘Dick Swift and his Electric Power Ring’ (Creepy #86).

Thematic shades of Ray Bradbury inform Nicola Cuti’s ‘A Martian Saga’ in #87, but the bleak dark humour is all Wrightson – as is the stylish pen-&-ink drawing – whereas the Jones-penned fable of ‘The Laughing Man’ (#95) – which sees a white hunter’s brutal deeds come back to haunt him – comes via stunning grey tones and manic shock that is pure poetic karma…

The Eerie escapades are fewer but just as memorable and start with classic beast hunting fervour as greedy chancer George Summers attempts to capture ‘The Pepper Lake Monster’. Written and drawn by Wrightson from Eerie #58, the stark, heroic chiaroscuro conceals a deliciously mordant and sardonic sting in the tale, after which DuBay details the fears of children who see monsters in the moodily grey-toned vignette ‘Nightfall’ (#60), before Wrightson fulfils a lifetime ambition in issue #62.

A huge fan of classical horror writers, the artist chillingly adapted H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘Cool Air’, detailing the uncanny fate of bizarre lodger Dr. Munoz who warmly befriends a young writer but cannot find a home cold enough to suit him…

Budd Lewis, Wrightson & Howard Chaykin combined to craft a strange tale of ‘Reuben Youngblood: Private Eye!’ who finds himself trapped in a world of intrigue, zeppelins and Nazi vampires in a rambunctious romp entitled ‘Beware the Scarlet Combine’

Although largely a black-&-white magazine outfit, Warren occasionally sprang for full-painted colour and the all-Wrightson saga of ‘The Muck Monster’ in #68 gave the artist the opportunity to flex his painterly muscles and revisit past glories in a tale of cometary catastrophe to complete the narrative section of our celebrations.

Happily, that’s not the end of the visual valuables, as a ‘Creepy and Eerie Frontispiece and Illustration Gallery’ delivers a selection of images (33 in total, including covers and back covers) designed to introduce the anthological treats of the magazines via narrators Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie: allowing Wrightson’s sense of macabre humour full rein in panels, pages and other concoctions in assorted media and various degrees of seriousness…

This voluminous volume has episodes which terrify, amaze, amuse and enthral: utter delights of fantasy fiction with lean, stripped down plots and a dark yet always playful wit which lets the art set the tone, push the emotions and tell the tale, from times when a story could end sadly as well as happily and only wonderment was on the agenda, hidden or otherwise.

These stories display a sharp wit and dark comedic energy which seems largely lacking these days, channelled through Wrightson’s astounding versatility and storytelling acumen: another cracking collection of his works not only superb in its own right but also a telling affirmation of the gifts of one of the art-form’s greatest stylists.

This is a book serious comics fans would happily kill, die or be lost in a devil-dimension for…
Creepy, the Creepy logo and all contents © 1966, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982 2011 by New Comic Company. All rights reserved.

Showcase Presents Secrets of Sinister House


By Mary Skrenes, Len Wein, Jack Oleck, Frank Robbins, Mary DeZuñiga, Lynn Marron, Michael Fleisher, Sheldon Mayer, John Albano, Maxene Fabe, E. Nelson Bridwell, Steve Skeates, Robert Kanigher, John Jacobson, Fred Wolfe, Leo Dorfman, George Kashdan, Dave Wood, Don Heck, John Calnan, Tony DeZuñiga, Jack Sparling, Alex Toth, Frank Giacoia, Doug Wildey, Mike Sekowsky, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Alfredo Alcala, Sergio Aragonés, Ed Ramos, Bill Draut, Nestor Redondo, June Lofamia, Sam Glanzman, Lore Shoberg, Ruben Yandoc, Alex Niño, Abe Ocampo, Rico Rival, Gerry Taloac, Larry Hama, Neal Adams, Rich Buckler, Jess Jodloman, Romy Gamboa, Don Perlin, Vicente Alcazar, Ernie Chan, Ramona Fradon, Howard Chaykin, Sy Barry, Win Mortimer, Angel B. Luna, Murphy Anderson, Jerry Grandenetti, Gil Kane & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2626-8 (PB)

American comicbooks just sort of idled along until the invention of Superman provided a flamboyant new genre of heroes: subsequently unleashing a torrent of creative imitation and imaginative generation for a suddenly thriving and voracious new entertainment model.

Implacably vested in World War II, these Overmen swept all before them until the troops came home. However, as the decade closed, more traditional themes and heroes resurfaced and eventually supplanted the now passé and unbelievable Fights ‘n’ Tights crowd.

Whilst a new generation of kids began buying and collecting, many of the first fans also retained their four-colour habit, but increasingly sought out more mature themes in their reading matter. The war years had irrevocably altered the psychological landscape of the readership and as a more world-weary, cynical young public came to see that all the fighting and dying hadn’t really changed anything, their chosen forms of entertainment (film, theatre and prose as well as comics) increasingly reflected this.

As well as the trinity of Western, War and Crime comics, celebrity tie-ins, madcap escapist or teen comedy and anthropomorphic funny animal features were immediately resurgent, but gradually another of the cyclical revivals of spiritualism and a public fascination with the arcane led to a wave of impressive, evocative and shockingly addictive horror comics.

There had been grisly, gory and supernatural stars before, including a pantheon of ghosts, monsters and wizards draped in mystery-man garb and trappings (the Spectre, Mr. Justice, Sgt. Spook, Frankenstein, The Heap, Sargon the Sorcerer, Zatara, Zambini the Miracle Man, Kardak the Mystic, Dr. Fate and dozens of others), but these had been victims of circumstance: The Unknown as a power source for super-heroics. Now the focus shifted to ordinary mortals thrown into a world beyond their ken with the intention of unsettling, not vicariously empowering, the reader.

Practically every publisher jumped on the increasingly popular bandwagon, with B & I (which became the magical one-man-band Richard E. Hughes’ American Comics Group) launching the first regularly published horror comic in the Autumn of 1948, although their Adventures into the Unknown was technically pipped by Avon.

That book and comics publisher had released an impressive single issue entitled Eerie in January 1947 but didn’t follow-up with a regular series until 1951. Classics Illustrated had already secured the literary end of the medium with child-friendly comics adaptations of The Headless Horseman, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (both 1943), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1944) and Frankenstein (1945) among others.

If we’re keeping score, this was also the period in which Joe Simon & Jack Kirby identified another “mature market” gap by inventing Romance comics with Young Romance #1, (September 1947) but they too saw the sales potential for spooky material, resulting in the seminal Black Magic (launched 1950) and boldly obscure psychological drama anthology Strange World of Your Dreams (1952).

National, the company that would become DC Comics, bowed to the inevitable and launched a comparatively straitlaced anthology that nevertheless became one of their longest-running and most influential titles with the December 1951/January 1952 launch of The House of Mystery.

After the hysterical censorship debate which led to witch-hunting Senate hearings in the early 1950s was curtailed by the industry adopting a castrating straitjacket of self-regulation, titles produced under the aegis of the Comics Code Authority were sanitised, anodyne affairs in terms of Shock and Gore, but the audience’s appetite for suspense was still high and in 1956 National introduced sister titles Tales of the Unexpected and House of Secrets.

Stories were soon dialled back from uncanny spooky phenomenon yarns to always marvellously illustrated, rationalistic fantasy-adventure vehicles and eventually straight monster-busting Sci Fi tales which then dominated the market until the 1960s.

That’s when super-heroes – which had begun to revive after Julius Schwartz began the Silver Age of comics by reintroducing the Flash in Showcase #4 – finally overtook them.

Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom and a growing coterie of costumed cavorters generated a gaudy global bubble of masked mavens which forced even dedicated anthology suspense titles to transform into super-character books. Even ACG slipped tights and masks onto some of its spooky stars.

When the caped crusader craziness peaked and popped, superheroes began dropping like Kryptonite-gassed flies. However, nothing combats censorship better than falling profits and, at the end of the 1960s, with the cape-and-cowl boom over and some of the industry’s most prestigious series circling the drain, the surviving publishers of the field agreed on revising the Comics Code, loosening their self-imposed restraints against crime and horror comics.

Nobody much cared about gangster titles at that moment but, as the liberalisation coincided with yet another bump in public interest in supernatural themes, the resurrection of scary stories was a foregone conclusion and obvious “no-brainer.” Even ultra-wholesome Archie Comics re-entered the field with their rather tasty line of Red Circle Chillers…

Thus, with absolutely no fanfare at all, spooky comics came back to quickly dominate the American funnybook market for more than half a decade. DC led the pack by converting The House of Mystery and Tales of the Unexpected into mystery-suspense anthologies in 1968 and resurrected House of Secrets a year earlier.

However, horror wasn’t the only classic genre to experience renewed interest. Westerns, War, Adventure and Romance titles also reappeared and – probably influenced by the stunning popularity of supernatural TV soap Dark Shadows – the industry mixed a few classic idioms and invented gothic horror/romances.

The mini-boom generated Haunted Love from Charlton, Gothic Romances from Atlas/Seaboard and from undisputed industry leader National/DC Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and sister ship Sinister House of Secret Love.

The 52-page Sinister House of Secret Love launched with an October/November 1971 cover-date, offering book-length graphic epics in the manner of venerated gothic romances such as Jane Eyre, before transforming into a more traditional anthology package as Secrets of Sinister House with #5 (June/July 1972): reducing to the traditional 36-page format with the next issue. The format remained until its cancellation with #18 in June/July 1974.

In keeping with the novel enterprise, the dark, doomed love stories were extra-long affairs such as the 25-page Victorian period chiller ‘The Curse of the MacIntyres’ (by Mary Skrenes & Don Heck) which opened issue #1; recounting how recently-bereaved Rachel lost her scientist father and fell under the guardianship of her cousin Blair. Moving into his remote Scottish castle she readily befriends Blair’s son Jamie but can’t warm to dwarfish cousin Alfie.

As days and weeks pass, she becomes increasingly disturbed by the odd household and the family’s obsessive interest in “mutations”…

There was even room for a short back-up and the Jane Eyre pastiche is nicely balanced by a contemporary yarn of hippies in love, undying passion and ghostly reincarnation in ‘A Night to Remember – A Day to Forget!’ by an unknown author, effectively illustrated by John Calnan & Vince Colletta.

Editor Joe Orlando and scripter Len Wein closely collaborated on the Tony DeZuñiga limned ‘To Wed the Devil’ in the next issue, wherein beautiful, innocent Sarah returns to her dad’s estate and discovers the place is a hotbed of Satanism where all the old servants indulge in black magic rituals.

Moreover, her father is forcing her to abandon true love Justin and wed appalling and terrifying Baron Luther Dumont of Bohemia to settle an outstanding debt. This grim bodice-ripper tale featured the return of Victorian demon-busting duo Father John Christian and Rabbi Samuel Shulman who appeared far too infrequently in succeeding years (see Showcase Presents the House of Secrets volume 1 and Showcase Presents the Phantom Stranger volume 2) whose last-minute ministrations save the day, quell an unchecked evil and, of course, kickstart the obligatory Happy Ever After…

Sinister House of Secret Love #3 is the most impressive of these early issues. ‘Bride of the Falcon’ is a visual feast from Alex Toth, Frank Giacoia & Doug Wildey, with author Frank Robbins detailing a thoroughly modern mystery. American proof-reader Kathy Harwood answers a “Lonely Hearts” ad in her own magazine and finds herself in Venice, Italy, trapped on the isolated Isola Tranquillo with tragic, scarred, lovelorn and heartsick Count Lorenzo Di Falco and his ever-present but paralysed mother.

Something isn’t right, though, and as the wedding day approaches, a series of inexplicable deaths occur. Soon, the romance-obsessed dreamer realises she is in deadly danger. Luckily, poor but handsome gondolier Roberto has constantly refused her demands that he cease pestering her…

The gripping psychological thriller is supplemented by anonymous (prose) ghostly romance ‘Will I Ever See You Again’ illustrated by Jack Sparling…

In #4, ‘Kiss of the Serpent’ by Mary DeZuñiga, Michael Fleisher & Tony DeZuñiga takes us to Bombay (you can call it Mumbai if you’re feeling modern and PC) where freshly orphaned teacher Michelle Harlinson takes a job arranged by her uncle Paul.

Dazed by loss and the sheer exoticism of India, she is soon drawn into a terrible vendetta between her gorgeous wealthy employer Rabin Singh and his jealous brother Jawah. As the American finds herself falling under the seductive sway of Rabin, she uncovers a history of murder and macabre snake-worship that can only end in more death and heartbreak…

With the next extra-sized issue (June/July 1972), the title transformed into Secrets of Sinister House and Lynn Marron, Fleisher, Mike Sekowsky & Dick Giordano produced the eerie ‘Death at Castle Dunbar’ wherein modern American Miss Mike Hollis is invited to a desolate Scottish manse to complete a history of Clan Dunbar. However, most of the family and staff are inexplicably hostile, even though they are unaware of the writer’s true agenda…

Mike’s sister Valerie was married to the Laird Sir Alec, and apparently drowned in an accident. The author is even more convinced when – whilst snooping in the darkened midnight halls – she meet’s Val’s ghost…

Certain of murder, Mike probes deeper, uncovering deeply-concealed scandal and mystery, and becomes a target. However, when there are so many suspects and no one to trust, how long can it be before she joins her sibling in the spirit world?

In #6 the transition to a standard horror-anthology was completed with the introduction of a schlocky comedic host/raconteur along the lines of Cain, Abel and the Mad Mod Witch.

Charity offers her laconic first ‘Welcome to Sinister House’ (presumably scripted by Editor Orlando and illustrated by the astonishingly gifted Michael Wm. Kaluta), before pioneering industry legend Sheldon Mayer – who would briefly act as lead writer for the title – replaced romance with mordant terror and gallows humour by asking ‘When is Tomorrow Yesterday?’ (art by Alfredo Alcala) for a genre-warping tale of time-travelling magic and medicine.

‘Brief Reunion!’ by John Albano, Ed Ramos & Mar Amongo has a hitman find the inescapable consequences of his life, and veterans Robert Kanigher & Bill Draut showed a murdering wife that Karma was a vengeful bitch in ‘The Man Hater’.

Issue #7 featured ‘Panic!’ by Mayer and the sublimely talented Nestor Redondo, who together teach a mobster’s chiselling bookkeeper a salient lesson about messing with girls who know magic; Sergio Aragonés opens an occasional gag feature of ‘Witch’s Tails’ before Mayer & June Lofamia futilely warn a student taking ship for America ‘As Long as you Live… Stay Away from Water!’

Sam Glanzman llustrated Mayer’s twice-told tale of ghostly millennial vengeance in ‘The Hag’s Curse and the Hamptons’ Revenge!’ after which cartoonist Lore Shober takes a turn at the ‘Witch’s Tails’ to end the issue.

‘The Young Man Who Cried Werewolf Once Too Often’ – art by Draut – in #8 finds a most modern manner of dealing with lycanthropes, after which Maxene Fabe & Ruben Yandoc’s ‘Playing with Fire’ sees a bullied boy find a saurian pal to fix all his problems and E. Nelson Bridwell & Alex Niño again featured a wolf-man – but one who mistakenly believed lunar travel would solve his dilemma during a ‘Moonlight Bay’

Secrets of Sinister House #9 shows what might happen if impatient obnoxious neighbours are crazy enough to ‘Rub a Witch the Wrong Way!’ (Mayer & Abe Ocampo), whilst Kanigher & Rico Rival reveal ‘The Dance of the Damned’ – wherein an ambitious ballerina learns to regret stealing the shoes and glory of her dead idol – before Jack Oleck & Rival relate how obsessive crypto-zoologists learn a hard lesson and little else whilst hunting ‘The Abominable Snowman’…

In #10, Steve Skeates & Alcala’s ‘Castle Curse’ sees a family torn apart by vulpine heredity, whilst Gerry Taloac’s ‘The Cards Never Lie!’ shows a gang turf war ending badly because nobody will listen to a handy fortune teller, and a greedy hunchback goes too far and learns too much in his drive to surpass his magician master in ‘Losing his Head!’ by Larry Hama, Neal Adams & Rich Buckler.

Following another Kaluta ‘Welcome to Sinister House’, Fabe & Yandoc craft a period tale of greedy adventure and just deserts in ‘The Monster of Death Island’, after which all modern man’s resources seem unable to halt the shocking rampage of ‘The Enemy’ (by persons unknown).

More Aragonés ‘Witch’s Tails’ then precede an horrific history lesson of the 18th century asylum dubbed ‘Bedlam’ by John Jacobson, Kanigher & Niño and generations of benighted, deluded exploited souls…

Sekowsky & Wayne Howard lead off in #12 with a salutary tale of a greedy, ruthless furrier who becomes ‘A Very Cold Guy’, after which Oleck & Niño explore ‘The Ultimate Horror’ of a hopeless paranoid whilst – following more Aragonés ‘Witch’s Tails’ – Bridwell & Alcala adapted W. F. Harvey’s classic chiller of ravening insanity ‘August Heat’.

Shock and awe are the order of the day in #13 when giant animals attack a horrified family in the decidedly deceptive ‘Deadly Muffins’ by Albano & Alcala, whereas Oleck & Niño wryly combine nuclear Armageddon and vampires in ‘The Taste of Blood’, before Albano & Jess Jodloman wrap everything up in a nasty parable of great wealth and prognostication: ‘The Greed Inside’.

‘The Man and the Snake’ is another Bridwell & Alcala adaptation, this time of Ambrose Bierce’s mesmerising tale of mystery and imagination, but the original thrillers in #14 are just as good. In ‘The Roommate’ – by Fred Wolfe, Sekowsky & Draut – a college romance is wrecked by a girl with an incredible secret, whilst ‘The Glass Nightmare’ (Fleisher & Alcala) teaches an opportunistic thief and killer the reason why you shouldn’t take what isn’t yours…

Issue #15 begins with ‘The Claws of the Harpy’ (Fleisher & Sparling), wherein a murderous human monster reaps a whirlwind of retribution, followed up with Oleck & Romy Gamboa’s proof that there are more cunning hunters than vampires in ‘Hunger’ before culminating with a surprisingly heart-warming and sentimental fable in Albano & Jodloman’s ‘Mr. Reilly the Derelict!’

Despite the tone of the times, Secrets of Sinister House did not thrive. The odd mix of quirky tales and artistic experimentation couldn’t secure a regular audience, and a sporadic release schedule exacerbated the problems. Sadly, the last few issues, despite holding some of the best original material and a few fabulous reprints, were seen by hardly any readers and the series vanished with #18.

Still, they’re here in all their wonderful glory and well worth the price of admission on their own.

An uncredited page of supernatural facts opens #16, after which George Kashdan & Don Perlin tell a tale of feckless human intolerance and animal fidelity in ‘Hound You to Your Grave’, whilst the superb Vicente Alcazar traces the career of infamous 18th century sorcerer the Count of St. Germain who proudly boasted ‘No Coffin Can Hold Me’ (possibly scripted by Leo Dorfman?), before Kashdan returns with newcomer Ernie Chan to recount the sinister saga of the world’s most inhospitable caravan in ‘The Haunted House-Mobile’.

Perhaps ironic in choice as lead, #17’s ‘Death’s Last Rattle’ (Kashdan & the uniquely marvellous Ramona Fradon) combines terror with sardonic laughs as a corpse goes on trial for his afterlife, even as an innocent living man is facing a jury for the dead man’s murder, whilst ‘Strange Neighbor’ by Howard Chaykin and ‘Corpse Comes on Time’ from Win Mortimer told classic quickie terror tales in a single page each.

To close the issue, the editor raided the vaults for one of the company’s oldest scary sagas.

‘Johnny Peril: Death Has Five Guesses’ by Kanigher, Giacoia & Sy Barry was first seen in Sensation Mystery #112 (November/December 1952), pitting the perennial two-fisted troubleshooter against a mystery maniac in a chamber of horrors. But was Karl Kandor just a deranged actor or something else entirely…?

The curtain – or axe? – fell with #18, combining Kashdan & Calnan’s all-new ‘The Strange Shop on Demon Street’ – featuring a puppet-maker, marauding thugs and arcane cosmic justice – with a selection of reprints. From 1969, ‘Mad to Order’ by Murphy Anderson is another one-page punch-liner and Dave Wood – as D.W. Holtz – & Angel B. Luna offer New Year’s Eve enchantment in ‘The Baby Who Had But One Year to Die’. ‘The House that Death Built’, by Dorfman & Jerry Grandenetti, then sees plundering wreckers reap the watery doom for their perfidy.

Once again, the best is left till last as ‘The Half-Lucky Charm!’ by an unknown writer and artists Gil Kane & Bernard Sachs (from Sensation Mystery #115, May 1953) follows a poor schmuck who can only afford to buy 50% of Cagliostro’s good luck talisman and finds his fortune and life are being reshaped accordingly…

With superbly experimental and evocative covers by Victor Kalin, Jerome Podwell, DeZuñiga, Nick Cardy, Kaluta, Sparling & Luis Dominguez, this long-overlooked and welcomingly eclectic title is well overdue for a critical reappraisal and reissue under modern repro techniques, and fans of brilliant comics art and wry, laconic, cleverly humour-laced, mild horror masterpieces should seek out this monochrome monolith of mirth and mystery.

Trust me: you’ll love it…
© 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2010 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ken Reid’s Creepy Creations


By Ken Reid, with Reg Parlett, Robert Nixon & various (Rebellion Studios)
ISBN: 978-1-78108-660-5 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Hopelessly Hilarious Horrendousness… 10/10

If you know British Comics, you’ll know Ken Reid.

He was one of a select and singular pantheon of rebellious, youthful artistic prodigies who – largely unsung – went about transforming British Comics, entertaining millions and inspiring hundreds of those readers to become cartoonists too.

Reid was born in Manchester in 1919 and drew from the moment he could hold an implement. Aged nine, he was confined to bed for six months with a tubercular hip, and occupied himself by constantly scribbling and sketching. He left school before his fourteenth birthday and won a scholarship to Salford Art School, but never graduated.

He was, by all accounts, expelled for cutting classes and hanging about in cafes. Undaunted he set up as a commercial artist, but floundered until his dad began acting as his agent.

Ken’s big break was a blagger’s triumph. Accompanied by his unbelievably supportive and astute father, Ken talked his way into an interview with the Art Editor of the Manchester Evening News and came away with a commission for a strip for its new Children’s Section.

The Adventures of Fudge the Elf launched in 1938 and ran until 1963, with only a single, albeit lengthy, hiatus from 1941 to 1946 when Reid served in the armed forces.

From the late 1940s onwards, Reid dallied with comics periodicals: with work (Super Sam, Billy Boffin, Foxy) published in Comic Cuts and submissions to The Eagle, before a fortuitous family connection (The Dandy illustrator Bill Holroyd was Reid’s brother-in-law) brought DC Thomson managing editor R.D. Low to his door with a cast-iron offer of work.

On April 18th 1953 Roger the Dodger debuted in The Beano. Reid drew the feature until 1959 and created numerous others including the fabulously mordant doomed mariner Jonah, Ali Ha-Ha and the 40 Thieves, Grandpa and Jinx amongst many more.

In 1964, Reid and fellow under-appreciated superstar Leo Baxendale jumped ship to work for DCT’s arch rival Odhams Press. This gave Ken greater license to explore his ghoulish side: concentrating on comic horror yarns and grotesque situations in strips like Frankie Stein, and The Nervs in Wham! and Smash! as well as more visually wholesome but still strikingly surreal fare as Queen of the Seas and Dare-a-Day Davy.

In 1971 Reid devised Faceache – arguably his career masterpiece – for new title Jet. The hilariously horrific strip was popular enough to survive the comic’s demise – after a paltry 22 weeks – and was carried over in a merger with stalwart periodical Buster where it thrived until 1987. During that time, he continued innovating and creating through a horde of new strips such as Harry Hammertoe the Soccer Spook, Wanted Posters, Martha’s Monster Makeup, Tom’s Horror World and a dozen others. One of those – and the worthy subject of this splendid luxury hardback (and eBook) is Creepy Creations.

Part of Rebellion’s ever-expanding Treasury of British Comics collected here are all 79 full colour portraits from Shiver & Shake episodes (spanning March 10th 1973 to October 5th 1974), plus related works from contemporary Christmas annuals.

After the initial suggestion and 8 original designs by Reid, Creepy Creations featured carefully crafted comedic horrors and mirthful monsters inspired by submissions from readers, who got their names in print plus the-then princely sum of One Pound (£1!) sterling for their successful efforts.

The mechanics and details of the process are all covered in a wealth of preliminary articles that begin with ‘Creepy Creation Spotter’s Guide’ listing the geographical locations so crucial to the feature’s popularity and is backed up by a fond – if somewhat frightful – family reminiscence from Anthony J. Reid (Ken’s son) in ‘The Erupting Pressure Cooker of Preston Brook’.

The convoluted history of Ken’s feature (which came and went by way of 1960s cult icon Power Comics, Mad magazine, Topps Trading Cards and even stranger stops and was originally intended to save him having to draw the same old characters every day) is detailed in an engrossing historical overview by Irmantas Povilaika dubbed ‘Plus a “Funny Monsters” Competition with These Fantastic Prizes’ before the real wonderment ensues…

Astounding popular from beginning to end, Creepy Creations offered a ghastly, giggle-infused grotesque every week: a string of macabre graphic snapshots (some, apparently, too horrific to be published at the time!) beloved by kids who adore being grossed out.

Seen here are ratified Reid-beasts like ‘The One-Eyed Wonk of Wigan,’, ‘The Chip Chomping Tater Terror of Tring’ and the ‘The Boggle-Eyed Butty-Biter of Sandwich’, his stunning kid collaborations on arcane animals like ‘The Gruesome Ghoul from Goole’ or ‘Nelly, the Kneecap-Nipping Telly from Newcastle’, and due to the stark demands of weekly deadlines, there are even cartoon contributions from UK comics royalty Reg Parlett and Robert Nixon.

Supplementing and completing the eldritch, emetic experience are a selection of Creepy Creations Extras, comprising images and frontispieces from Christmas Annuals, the entire ‘Creepy Creations Calendar for 1975’, four pages of ‘Mini Monsters’, and the entire zany zodiac of ‘Your HORRORscope’

Adding even more comedy gold, this tome also includes tantalising excepts from the Leo Baxendale Sweeny Toddler compilation and Reid’s magnificent World-Wide Wonders collection…

Ken Reid died in 1987 from the complications of a stroke he’d suffered on February 2nd at his drawing board, putting the finishing touches to a Faceache strip. On his passing, the strip was taken over by Frank Diarmid who drew until its cancelation in October 1988.

This astoundingly absorbing comedy classic is another perfect example of resolutely British humorous sensibilities – absurdist, anarchic and gleefully grotesque – and these cartoon capers are amongst the most memorable and re-readable exploits in all of British comics history: painfully funny, beautifully rendered and ridiculously unforgettable. This a treasure-trove of laughs to span generations which demands to be in every family bookcase.
© 1973, 1974, & 2018 Rebellion Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Werewolf by Night – The Complete Collection volume 3


By Doug Moench, Bill Mantlo, Marv Wolfman, Steven Grant, Michael Fleisher, Mark Gruenwald, Yong Montaño, Don Perlin, Frank Robbins, Carmine Infantino, Steve Leialoha, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tom Sutton, Win Mortimer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1158-4 (TPB)

As Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in 1970, in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators – Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby – they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was a mass release of horror titles rapidly devised in response to an industry-wide downturn in superhero sales. This move was handily expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

Almost overnight, nasty monsters (as well as narcotics and bent coppers – but that’s another story) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and, whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too), the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered for by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always, the watch-word was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the mix as soon as possible.

When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in, Marvel moved ahead with a whole line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and traditional vampire – before chancing something new via a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

With its title cribbed from a classic short thriller from pre-Code horror anthology Marvel Tales #116 (July 1953), Werewolf by Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2. It had been preceded by masked western hero Red Wolf in #1 and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider revival, but this hairy hero was destined to stick around for a while. Marvel had a long-time tradition of using old (and presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got notional starts as throwaways before being re-imagined as major characters…

This third copious trade paperback and eBook compendium compiles more moody misadventures of a good-hearted young West Coast lycanthrope who briefly shone as an unlikely star for the entire length of a trading trend, Werewolf By Night #31-43, Giant-Size Werewolf #5, Marvel Premiere #28 & 59, Spider-Woman #6, 19 & 32, Marvel Team-Up #93, Ghost Rider #55, and Moon Knight #29-30: ending his solo run and gathering the many guest shots the lycanthrope enjoyed afterwards, collectively spanning July 1975 to April 1982.

Jack Russell is a teenager with a thankfully rare but very disturbing condition. On her deathbed, his mother revealed unsuspected Transylvanian origins to her beloved boy: relating a family curse which would turn him into a raging beast on every night with a full moon… as soon as he reached his 18th birthday.

And so it began…

After many months of misunderstanding as Jack tried to cope alone with his periodic wild side, Jack’s stepfather Philip Russell expanded the story, revealing how the Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthropy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reached eighteen.

Moreover, the feral blight would do the same to his little sister Lissa when she reached her own majority…

As Jack tried and repeatedly failed to balance a normal life with his monthly cycle of uncontrollable ferocity, he met his eventual mentor and confidante Buck Cowan, an aging writer who became Jack’s best friend after the pair began to jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s history. Their incessant search for a cure was made more urgent by little Lissa’s ever-encroaching birthday. Along the way Jack even found a steady girlfriend who understood his needs. Of course, Topaz was a mystically empowered terror with family issues from hell…

During their researches they clashed swords with many monsters – human or otherwise – including off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his hunt for a werewolf nobody believed in, and fellow lycanthrope Raymond Coker who had found a shocking remedy to their condition…

For one werewolf to lift his curse he/she had to kill another one…

Following a context-expanding Introduction from former Marvel editor Ralph Macchio, the shaggy suspense resumes with Giant-Size Werewolf #5 which shifted into full-on fantasy mode. Scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Yong Montaño, ‘Prologue: I Werewolf’ recaps Jack’s peculiar problems before ‘The Plunder of Paingloss’ discloses how the leaders of dimensional realm Biphasia – permanently polarised between night and day – instigate a ‘Bad Deal with the Devil’s Disciple’ on Earth when demonist Joaquin Zairre kidnaps the werewolf…

With the beast dispatched though a ‘Doorway of the Dark Waters’, Jack is soon a pawn in a sorcerous war where ‘Fragile Magic’ on the world of light and darkness allows him and his allies to raid the ‘The Ark of Onom-Kra’ and expose a secret tyrant in ‘Silver Rain, Sardanus and Shadow’

Returned to the real world, Werewolf by Night #31 (July 1975) offers a turning point as ‘Death in White’ (Moench & regular artist/co-plotter Don Perlin) sees Jack plumb depths of utter despair after a skiing weekend turns into a nightmare when the werewolf stalks a little girl and Buck nearly dies trying to save her…

WBN #32 (August 1975) then introduces mercenary Marc Spector who is hired by criminal capitalists, equipped with a silver-armoured costume and weapons and tasked with capturing Russell or his animal other as ‘…The Stalker Called Moon Knight’ (Doug & Don with the assistance of Howie Perlin).

The bombastic battle and its ferocious sequel ‘Wolf-Beast vs. Moon Knight’ received an unprecedented response and quickly propelled the lunar avenger to prominence as Marvel’s edgy answer to Batman: especially after the mercurial merc rejects his employers’ entreaties and lets the wolf, as well as collateral hostages Lissa and Topaz, run free…

Next up is a uniquely odd attempt to create a team of terrors. Marvel Premiere #28 (February 1976) introduced the initial iteration of The Legion of Monsters in ‘There’s a Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!’ courtesy of Bill Mantlo, Frank Robbins & Steve Gan.

When an ancient alien manifests a rocky peak in LA, the werewolf, Man-Thing, Morbius and Ghost Rider are irresistibly drawn into a bizarre confrontation which might have resulted in the answer to all their wishes and hopes, but instead only leads to destruction, death and deep disappointment…

In Werewolf by Night #34 (October 1975, by Moench & Perlin) another extended eerie suspense saga sees Jack, Lissa, Topaz and Buck’s girlfriend Elaine Marston brave a haunted house in search of a cure for Cowan’s werewolf-caused coma.

Elaine had lost her first husband to the doomed domicile and it takes a lot to bring her back. That triggering event is the dying Buck muttering the name of deceased spiritualist Belaric Marcosa – who apparently still roams the hell-house where ‘Not All the Shades of Death nor Evil’s Majesty’ can rein in his sadistic games…

Braving the unknown, the terrified quartet fetch up to the mansion and are soon enduring ‘Evil in Every Stone, No Longer Hiding’; becoming enmired in a war between ‘Marcosa in Death’ and the trapped spirits of the countless victims he has tortured and destroyed.

Their horrific psychological ordeal eventually results in victory for Jack and his companions as ‘The End’ produces a miraculous recovery in the dying Buck and the cessation of Marcosa’s phantom depredations…

With tastes changing, WBN #38 takes a sharp change of direction as Jack exiles himself to the wilderness, only to stumble on a desperate fugitive fighting to save his baby from a murderous gangster who had taken up with his former wife. In the midst of such mundane matters, Jack is visited by a trinity of infinite beings who threaten to alter his existence forever and ominously warn that ‘Rebirth Also Kills’

The celestial visitants are also in touch with former werewolf Raymond Coker as he squats in a hut in distant Haiti, and even appear to Lissa and Topaz as they tend the still-recuperating Buck.

The “Three Who Are All” are subtly ensuring all players are in place for a game of cosmic consequences and in #39, when Jack races back to his friend, he finds Coker and mystic troubleshooter Brother Voodoo waiting. No sooner are introductions made than an army of zuvembies (posh name for magical zombies, okay?) attack and Russell learns that ‘Some are Born to the Night’

Portentous proclamations of unfulfilled destinies propel the adventurers and Topaz back to Haiti where obsessed former cop Vic Northrup is looking for answers to Lou Hackett’s death. Ahead of them all is an infernal pit nurturing a shocking travesty of life with resurrected wizard Dr. Glitternight in charge of all the ‘Souls in Darkness’

Revealed in WBN #41 as a former member of the gestalt which was once “Five Who Are All”, Glitternight’s fascination with monster-making is at last explained as the arcane abomination’s attempts to dominate reality are spectacularly thwarted through the return of the missing fourth celestial as well as the indomitable resistance of Brother Voodoo and Jack in ‘…And Death Shall be the Change’

Key to their eventual triumph is the moment when Russell discovers how to transform into a werewolf in full control of his mental faculties; at will, day or night…

Returning to America, the Werewolf-by-Choice naturally decides to become a superhero and moves to New York in time to stumble onto a plot by the Masked Marauder. Also on scene, is a certain Armoured Avenger and, after the usual misunderstandings, Jack is shaggy knees-deep in trouble with ‘The Marauder and the Man of Iron’

The tale – and the series – concludes in Werewolf by Night #43 (March 1977) as ensorcelled fang-&-claw unite with high-tech wizardry to destroy an awesome animalistic automaton and end the ‘Terrible Threat of the Tri-Animan’

Despite the rather lame and ill-considered attempt to reinvent the series at the last, this moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments and terror tales in Marvel history: tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. The public and numerous creators must have agreed with the sentiment as Jack Russell became a regular on the guest circuit, popping up in many other ascendant titles.

One such cameo was Spider-Woman #6 (September 1978, by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino & Rick Bryant) as arachnoid outcast Jessica Drew battled ancient sorceress Morgan Le Fay. ‘End of a Nightmare!!’ saw the duel impinge on Russell just as he locks himself away for the three nights of the full moon when his newfound sentience is overwhelmed by lunar lunacy. Cue vicious, inconclusive clash…

In Spider-Woman #19 (October 1979) Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Infantino & Mike Esposito unleashed ‘The Beast Within’ when newly-directionless Jessica stumbles into the Werewolf again, just as Russell is hunting murderous super-criminal The Enforcer. The resultant collaboration is less than stellar and far from harmonious…

Carrying on as a clandestine crusader, the Werewolf allies with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #93 (May 1980) as Grant, Tom Sutton, Infantino & Jim Mooney detail how the webslinger stumbles into Jack’s pursuit of the Enforcer only to encounter another old enemy: demented sewer-dweller Tatterdemalion. ‘Rags to Riches!’ pits the mismatched heroes against the deranged dreg before the wallcrawler is diverted by seductive sociopath Dansen Macabre, leaving Jack to soldier on until Spider-Woman #32 (November 1980), where he unwillingly subjects Jessica Drew to ‘The Fangs of Werewolf by Night’, thanks to mind-bending villain Dr. Malus and creative team Michael Fleisher, Steve Leialoha & Mooney…

Ghost Rider #55 (April 1981, by Fleisher & Perlin) sees the Werewolf’s hunt for Tatterdemalion again derailed when the lycanthrope is mistakenly intercepted by Johnny Blaze in his demon biker incarnation, after which a vignette from Marvel Premiere #59 in the same month finds Jack and Lissa forced to suffer ‘Full Moon on the Highway!’ (by Grant & Win Mortimer, April 1981) after a traffic spill delays their rush for isolation and safety.

Since his WBN debut, Moon Knight had developed into a cult classic character, lurking in his own dark corner of the Marvel Universe and allowing moodier, more experimental fare to blossom.

Moon Knight #29 and 30 (March and April 1982) offered some of the most potent material of his initial run, and most visceral art of the entire decade in ‘Morning Star’ and ‘The Moonwraith, three Sixes and a Beast’ by Moench & Bill Sienkiewicz wherein Jack Russell is targeted by a publicity-hungry band of militant Satanists led by the cunning Belial.

This savvy deceiver tries to turn the Werewolf into the biblical Beast of the Apocalypse to usher in the end of days and bolster the flagging support of his congregation. When the fugitive Russell’s flight brings him to New York, it’s just as the full moon robs him of his usual control of the predator within…

Ultimately, however, Fist of Khonshu and Wild Thing table their differences long enough to end the threat of the mobster-like cultists and save the world. …And when the fur and fists finish flying, the Werewolf lopes off into the unknown…

This classic compendium concludes with a bonanza of bonus features, beginning with Sienkiewicz’s stunning back cover portrait of the best from Moon Knight #29; assorted pin-ups, original art/ covers and text features taken from the various issues gathered here.

This moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments in Marvel history; tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. If you feel the urge to indulge in a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers and moody young misses – this is a far more entertaining mix than many modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…
© 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.