Monday, October 20, 2014


What would Charlton Comics’ monster line have been without the efforts of the great Steve Ditko? Well, it would’ve been shy of a Konga, a Gorgo, a bunch of other Fantastic Giants and, of course, What’s-His-Name.

A classic Charlton Comics ghost story, it was a tale which was unearthed as an inventory piece for reprint titles. As it popped up in Charlton’s mid-70s Monster Hunter title, it also has the honor of being one of the few horror comic tales to be shepherded by three hosts – Colonel Whiteshroud was the technical host of Monster Hunters (although he’d been absent on the interiors since issue no.10), Winnie the Witch hosted the actual story inasmuch as it was entirely reprints from her title Ghostly Haunts, and the strip’s protagonist is Doctor Graves!

And catering by L.Dedd.

Every year around May 14, so the story informs us, “a small town in West Virginia is haunted by a very malicious ghost!” The green, elongated specter rises from his unmarked grave in the town’s cemetery and then proceeds to make a mess of the place – knocking out power, slugging the unsuspecting in ark alleys, burning down houses and doing savage donuts in the town’s only fire truck. I’ve never seen a ghost story which combined the twin images of a leering, spectral visage erupting with malicious laughter over the sight of a deadly house fire and that same ghost a few minutes later driving a fire truck into crowded traffic with its hands at 10 and 2. Safety first! 

Haha, seriously.

The extent of the destruction and chaos is so great that a concerned local doctor calls in his colleague, Doctor Graves, whom I’d assumed had a doctorate in supernatural studies but I guess he’s an ophthalmologist or something? He’s just in the book? I might be able to see Doctor Graves if I had a referral, right?

"Oh, shut up Fred, you've never said any such thing."
Rushing to the site, Graves is dragged appropriately enough to the local graveyard, where he learns that the single unmarked – and yet undisturbed – grave belongs to Bertram Crumm, black sheep of the acclaimed Crumm family. They sound nice. I think their family changed their name at Ellis Island from “Cumberbatch,” by the way.

Sensing a solution to end the ghost’s rampage, Doc G arranges for a local stonecutter to cast a forgiving tombstone for the malicious entity, and then asks the local townsfolk to come honor the man at a funeral. It does the trick ,and the ghost is mollified, although there’s frankly some outright fibs on his tombstone – “He harmed no one…” it says, the ellipses seeming to indicate “…assuming you ignore the time he played Crazy Taxi with the fire engine, or murdered all those dudes, or started all those fires.” Then again, comics are full of lie-laden tombstones, I mean, have you seen Bob Kane’s?

Sunday, October 19, 2014


"Hello kids, I'm television's Marty Engels ... FROM HELL!

"Actually, I'm Mister L.Dedd, host of Charlton's GHOSTLY TALES and owner of what is possibly the most confusing horror-host pun-based name possible. L.Dedd, L.Dedd, as in ... you know, 'El Dead,' which is Spanish for 'The Dead," I think. Maybe I'm an L.Ron Hubbard joke. I dunno, anyway, I changed it to 'I.M.Dedd' eventually because I guess if you want anything done right around here you have to do it yourself.

"If I stand out for anything in particular as a horror host, it's probably for looking like some sort of hellbent Danny Thomas. Just picture my lying under a glass-top coffee table, it'll complete the picture, I guarantee it.

"In the meantime, here's a forgotten classic from THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED outlining the byzantine supernatural punishments of an outmoded primitive superstition. Me, I value reason and rationalism over absurd theocratic dogma. This is why I subscribe to Scientology."

Saturday, October 18, 2014


"Greetings and what-what, mortals, I am DR.HAUNT, known to many of our friends south of the Mason-Dixon line as 'Ol' Doc Haint.'

"My stamping grounds was the classic horror comic THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED, which I'll just be sitting here waiting for the comics journalism sphere to give me credit for what they've chosen to call Grant Morrison's latest innovative idea. Hey buddy, we had a haunted comic long before Multiversity played with the idea. Do you have any idea how many children of the 1950s bought our comic and were subsequently cursed for seven generations? Ask your dad.

As far as our story goes today, it's a another forgotten classic from Dell's hallmark horror title, Tales of the Tomb, and you can take my word for it that it's a classic. After all, that's what I have my doctorate in; comparative literature. Yup, Arthur Randolph Haunt, Doctor of Humanities, that's me! And here's "Two for the Price of One!"

Story: John Stanley
Art: Uncredited

Friday, October 17, 2014


Halloween approaches and with it the once-a-year dread of finding just the perfect costume. Well, this year, why not avail yourself of the back catalog of Gone&Forgotten's collection of fourth-stringers, Z-Listers, weirdos, misfits, almost-rans and never-weres? With nothing more than a pair of scissors, a color printer and a little imagination, you can slide right into the identity of the subject of your favorite Gone&Forgotten article. With a new fright mask (and accessories) posted every Friday throughout October, why not thrill your friends and terrify your enemies by disguising yourself as today's free download, SKATEMAN?

Instructions - it's easy!

1. Download and print the handy, full-color, three-page PDF file with this week's Fright Mask! (Preferably on cardstock paper, or paper of a similar hardiness - don't skimp on materials!)

2. Cut out the mask along the outside of the black outlines. Cut carefully along the blue dotted lines to create a comfortable opening for your nose (or other mid-face protuberance), and be sure to punch out the holes for the eyes, or else you might unknowingly walk into a wood chipper.

3. Punch out the circles on the tabs along the side of the mask and lace a string or other string-like substance through, to keep the mask attached to your head.

4. If you'd like to accessorize your costume with the enclosed word balloon and props, just cut along the outside of the black outline, same as with the mask. For ease of display, glue a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the back of the word balloon so as to quickly employ it when appropriate for the conversation.

5. Go forth and spread the magic!

And that's all there is to it! Have a happy gone and forgotten - and safe - Halloween!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


...and also Lord of the Dance!
Sometimes Dracula is a bit tough to take as the titular lead of his own ongoing book, at least if you ever expect that he’s going to be doing anything even remotely heroic. Sure, in this issue, he protects a vulnerable young widow from the wrath of her now-vampiric abusive ex, but that was only after he put the tooth to a young couple innocently fooling around in a barn and tried to assassinate another guy with lightning just for having a sass mouth. Still, at least we know he’s a feminist ally, I guess. Dracula – Social Justice Warrior.

Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula No.22 (“In Death Do We Join,” July 1974) pits the book’s go-getting young bloodsucker against Gorna, alleged Lord of the Lightning according to the cover of the book. This is a huge lie. Gorna has nothing to do with lightning, he never touches the stuff, he’s straight-edge for amperage. The closest he comes to having anything to do with lightning, in fact, comes about when Dracula calls down a torrent of the stuff to incinerate the mouthy Gorna when the two have an antagonistic rap battle in a Soviet cemetery. What he does like … is FIRE!

"Thanks dad."
Before Gorna first flicks his magical Bic, however, the story takes us into the trials of Petra, Gorna’s former wife and victim of her husband’s insane jealousy and brutal temper. Believing herself freed following her husband’s seemingly supernatural death – he falls mysteriously ill after Petra prays for her hateful hubby’s untimely kicking of the bucket, proving with one stroke that both God and misandry are real – Petra instead is terrorized nightly by Gorna’s persistent rising from the grave.

It turns out that Gorna is a vampire himself, possessed of powers that rival even Dracula’s. This is bad news indeed, but not unexpected – at Gorna’s funeral, half the town turns out in skull-masks and ceremonial robes. Apparently aware of Gorna’s supernatural nature, the townsfolk undertake a series of rituals intended to keep the little pischer deep in the dirt. When the lunch whistle blows, though, the townies take off with the job half-done, opening the door for Gorna’s return. Unions, am I right? Psh.

Petra’s parents protect her as best they can, between slapping her in the middle of conversations for no good reason. In fact, slaphappy dad is responsible for landing a natural 20 on Gorna with the slightly more Metal version of the ol’ stake-through-the-heart … the FLAMING stake-through-the-heart!

Burned from the inside out and now resembling something not like a partly melted Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Gorna returns to his graveyard where he finds Dracula waiting for him, itching for a rematch. Now wielding the power to create fire out of thin fire from his fingertips, Gorna has only one weakness – fire! Huh. Well. Whoops.

This, however, was one of the most awesome two-page spreads I've ever encountered, even if the flames appeared to have been colored with a Sharpie.

Following the most badass two-page spread in comics history and a pretty spectacular battle between the two wampyr, Dracula puts an end to Gorna with this theatrical sendoff: “Gorna Storski*, you have blasphemed your master … you lord, and so you must be punished … for if you cannot be held at bay by me, if you do no heed and obey my ever word, my every command, THEN BE DAMNED WITH YOU IN THE VERY FIRES OF YOUR OWN CREATION!” adding “Now, that as the flames consume you, that DRACULA is your GOD and Dracula is indeed a VENGEFUL GOD” and then he hucks Gorna into a flaming grave. ::holds up lighter::

*Of the Minsk Storskis, I assume

I assume you realize that you have just read the most baller kill lines in the history of comics, which is why I’m assuming Gorna has never been revived; It’d be a shame to put the lie to Dracula’s amazingly badass last words over Gorna’s smoldering corpse just to bring the guy back... 

::standing ovation::

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Nothing even remotely resembling this happens anywhere in any issue of this series.

Naturally, the Atlas-Seaboard equivalent of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies is “Cram together two mildly compatible contemporary pieces of pop culture until a bland, flavorless paste can be made of the pulp,” and that’s certainly what they did with Planet of Vampires! Stirring together equal parts Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, the resulting simmering brew was strangely devoid of either vampires or planets in much of the traditional sense of the words.

Initially brought to life by writer Larry Hama and artist Pat Broderick, Planet of Vampires related the harrowing tale of the crew of the Aries VII in the post-apocalyptic world of the far-flung 2020 AD. Having been on a mission to discover life on Mars, the Aries astronauts return to Earth only to find that the planet has reverted to a state of primitive barbarism. Crash-landing in the water near a futuristically dilapidated Coney Island, the five surviving astronauts (the cover promises us six, but I’m assuming the other five used that one to cushion their landing) discover that roving street gangs, speaking a lumbering patois of barbarian grunts and Noo Yawk slang, have conquered the once thriving metropolis.

This charming shit starts on page 1, issue 1, and never lets up.
The astronauts in question are led by Captain Chris Galland, a quick-to-anger sexist jag whose constant verbal barrages are unleashed on the majority of the crew only twenty percent of the time, while the remaining eighty percent of his violent ire is directed at his wife (and fellow crewmember) Elissa every time she clears her throat or doesn’t get space-dinner on the moon-table fast enough. Lest he be the only misogynist jerk on the crew, the caucasian Galland in backed up by his African-american second-in-command Craig, whose wife is also a crew member and who, between them, have spent pretty much the entire American space-exploration budget on maintaining their enormous afros. No worries though - when they're rendered on the cover to issue three, they're both depicted as white and Craig gets long, strawberry-blonde locks. Hm.

If there’s one interesting premise in the entirety of Planet of Vampires, it’s that none of the astronauts can fucking stand each other. When not biting each other’s heads off or running around crying over hurt feelings, they’d contemptuously sneering about each other’s refusal to obey orders. It must have been a fun trip to Mars.

A fifth member of the crew is elderly Ben Levitz, scientific expert and the only guy who went into space without someone to periodically stick it to, evidently. Ben’s opposite number might have been the mysterious sixth astronaut promised earlier, but it doesn’t matter because Ben dies in the landing anyway. One down, four to go!

Everyone's hair is GORGEOUS.
Captain Galland (no relation) and his remaining crew don’t endure the clutches of the local barbarian’s union for too long before flying cars rain stun-beams on the savage crowd, rescuing the spaceman and depositing them inside a dome-encased Empire State Building. If the idea of the Empire State Building encased in a dome wasn’t inspired by a cheap New York newsstand souvenir snowglobe, I’ll eat my hat.

Inside the Empire State Building are the remnants of the ruling class of the pre-apocalyptic world, in case you were ever wondering what Atlas-Seaboard’s take on America’s long-running class warfare would end up resembling. More than merely disconnected one-percenters, the inhabitants of the dome are also … VAMPIRES! Lame-ass, no-account vampires who apparently survive on the blood harvested from abducted barbarians. It doesn’t seem like the most productive way to feed a captive population, just sucking the life out of axe-wielding yobbos and hucking the dessicated husks in the green glass bin, but I guess “Planet of Vampires” sounds cooler than “Planet of Well Thought-Out Agrarian Principles.”

By the second issue, the astronauts are on the run from their vampire overlords when they fall back in with the local barbarian groups. Now scripted by John Albano, the street gangs start to pick up actual New Yorkisms and talking more like Big Apple regulars, which is terrific. I honestly wish they’d devoted a subplot to arguing about where you get the best pizza north of Canal and why the C Line sucks dick.

This sounds legit.
Along these lines, native knuckle-dragger “Bruiser” briefly becomes the actual protagonist of the book, uniting warring tribes and shepherding the astronauts around the city and away from danger (courtesy in no small part to the assistance of a scavenger delightfully named “Spanish Eddie”). This doesn’t last long as the book undergoes some streamlining, starting with the unfortunate lady astronauts getting snuffed by vampires when no one was looking.

By the third issue, the city dwellers have developed fangs for no reason except that no one told incoming artist Russ Heath – turning in some great art for such a barker comic – that they shouldn’t, and blood-sucking spiders the size of golden retrievers show up outside the Bronx Zoo, so at least it’s getting a little vampirey.

A dynamic two-page spread in the Kirby style seems to promise some sort of vampire Neanderthals in an untamed wilderness gearing up for the constantly bickering, big-haired astronaut heroes of the book, but Atlas-Seaboard  went and folded, denying the world a conclusion to a genuine roller coaster of bullshit.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Chaos Comics
Anecdotal evidence should carry very little weight in any critical, historical review of an artistic medium, but as your humble editor lived in Arizona and, via Cons and store signings, met members of the Chaos Comics crew on a multitude of occasions, please allow me to share my dual impressions of the cast of creators behind books like Evil Ernie and Devastator, in particular writer/artist/publisher Brian Pulido and artist Steven Hughes; First off, they looked terrifying, they were not possessed of unintimidating physiques and their ominous convention setup was short only of belching smoke  and actual human blood pouring from its peaks from being a legitimate house of horrors. Secondly, they were literally two of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.

Chaos Comics emerged in 1994 riding the Bad Girl and Grim’n’ Gritty trends to their logical intersection – Heavy Metal. Producing a line of skull-bedecked and flesh-abundant books (the covers of which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on the cover of a limited edition LP from a Scandinavian Death Metal band comprised of four men dressed as bondage gnomes and an animatronic succubus whose nipples wept blood) Chaos very sagely tapped into the obvious crossover with comic books fans and metalheads (and thanks to their licensing deal with the then-WWF, wrestling fans as well). Some folks might argue that this constituted a dumbing-down of mainstream comics, but its earnest infusion of sympathetic fandom was, at the very least, utterly unironic.

Bad Girls
Women had always been woefully underrepresented in superhero comics or, if we’re to believe David Goyer, were mainly there so the male readership could rub one out without having to interrupt their progress on a story of two shouting men grappling over something. Certainly the female superhero prior to 1990 was generally possessed of one emotional setting, which was “gushy love stuff,” occasionally peppered with turning evil or some really obnoxious mischaracterizations of feminism.

Which is why the Nineties’ obnoxious mischaracterizations of feminism were so refreshing! Taking the term “strong female character” and ignoring the first and last words, comics in the 90s boomed with busty, leggy, butt-pokin’-out lady anti-heroes galore. Bedeviled with a brace of back problems were such characters as the above-mentioned Chaos’ Purgatori (Spelling or Amos, I could never decide) and Lady Death, the absurd Jazz and China of Double Impact, the absolutely insane Widow, whatever that thing was with its tits out on the Vamperotica title, Hari Kari, Scimidar, Shi, a whole mess of merely sexed-up and suddenly pulchritudinous heroines from the mainstream companies and an additional scoliotic sorority house emerging from the cracked foundation at Image, not the least being Liefeld’s back-broken Avengylene, Glory, and Lady Pendragon.

And then … they all got ACTION FIGURES, too! It was like if the Barbie aisle at Target got tricked out like space hookers.

The original Doctor Fate was one of the first wave of superheroes in comics’ Golden Age, a founding member of the Justice Society of America and a stalwart guest-star in dozens of DC Comics during what we may as well call his twilight years, as well as a relatively long-running and inarguably atypical solo series scripted by J.M.DeMatteis. When the Nineties came along, Dr.Fate’s clean-cut superheroic sorcery didn’t stand up to the rigors of the age, particularly with the genre-wide adoption of a humorless approach to “magick” (that’s just plain old fictional “magic” but the extra “K” means “Leprechauns who are into bondage”).

Enter Jared Stevens, a professional smuggler turned demon hunter who acquired the trappings of Dr.Fate by happenstance of holding them while the rightful owners got murdered by monsters from another dimension. Well, you know what they say, possession is 9/10ths of the law, and the other ten percent is getting murdered by imps. The cloak he turned into some badass arm-wrapping and the helmet he melted down into badass knives and other pointy things, and following a really ill-advised facial tattoo thus was born the new Fate.

Dr.Fate was never a light-hearted or wacky character, but the humorlessness of the new Fate was much to its detriment; how could someone dress like that and not be able to laugh at himself is anyone’s guess.

Neil Gaiman
Before he joined the still-swelling ranks of multi-millionaires who use Kickstarter to crowdfund their vanity projects, Gaiman was part of a wave of British writers brought over to DC in the wake of Alan Moore’s rampant success revamping and reinterpreting the company’s characters. What influence Moore had on comics in the 80s, however, would pale in comparison to --- well, not Gaiman’s influence, perhaps, but certainly Gaiman’s stature and profile. He emerged from his tenure at the helm of Sandman as possibly the best known voice in comics.

As voices go, though, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Gaiman’s was; a highly literate writer without ultimately much to say, he did inspire a flood of similarly navel-gazing, water-treading Vertigo and indy titles which conflated an adolescent self-importance with character and scenes of folks talking over meals or at parties with plot advancement. Moore (along with Frank Miller) is often blamed for the trend of “grimdark” – misery and misfortune introduced to a character without a larger purpose – but I’ve personally felt that Gaiman’s run on Sandman, with its blasé insistence on Things Being Very Serious without ever establishing the stakes or purpose of the seriousness, inspired more of the suffering than anything.

Moore’s work, after all, has a consistent voice and purpose – he tests the ethical and functional structures of fiction against real-world settings to observe which ones fail, succeed or evolve – there’s transition and conclusion in his work, and a larger message about the intersection of popular culture and civilization. Gaiman’s voice, if we’re to accept him at his word, is that stories are magical and stories are important, which is all very good news for the storyteller but doesn’t exactly tell us what they’re so magical and important for. Unfortunately, that leads to the types of story that don’t particularly advance so much as they insist upon their own significance, without having established much of it to begin with, and that’s been a real plague in mainstream comics of all genres.

His issue of Hellblazer was pretty tops, though.

No 90s team book had a higher profile than Rob Liefeld’s on-again off-again Avengers/Titans-inspired Youngblood, which is a real shame because Marc Silvestri’s Cyberforce deserves the real attention for possibly being the single most 90s team book to have ever been made of liquid metal.

Count the number of pure 90s-isms at work here: A group of (1) super-powered mutants from around the world are (2) abducted by an evil corporation with plans to take over the world, and while the team was (3) comprised of multi-ethnic characters from different cultures they were ultimately so alike that they (4) adopted single-word codenames for their (5) cybernetically-enhanced alternate selves and then later (6) they fought seemingly supernatural creatures.

Of the seven members of Cyberforce, the names that pay are “RipClaw” (the team’s Wolverine, also a Native American who naturally was able to communicate with the spirit world) and “Cyblade” (who was pretty much the X-Men’s Psylocke but with magnetic powers instead of psychic and maybe a dumber name, if only by an inch). The other five were Heatwave, the team leader, and then Ballistic, Stryker, Impact and Velocity which I believe are all related physical phenomenon, so someone had a gun catalog open during the naming phase.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Grant Morrison takes some occasional heat for his tendency to return to the well of recursive, meta storytelling, but is he really to blame? After all, his source material is classic DC Comics, which itself was fond of the occasionally recursive story, such as in Strange Adventures No,170 (November 1964), “The Creature from Strange Adventures!”

Beachcomber Eric Craig stumbles across the lair of a violent, green-skinned, orange-furred goliath of a beast, possessed of telescopic eyes capable of emitting beams of destructive energy. Well, fuck! 

"We compensate for our small size with these
huge dick-shaped hats"
Leading the beast on a merry chase, Eric gets back to the mainland just in time to see the monster precede him and mess up the town something furious. With a particular mad-on for the man who first witnessed its destructive rampage, the monster chases Eric through the city, up through an island trail and finally onto a bridge loaded with dynamite. Dunking the beast in a river seems to take care of the problem, only it’s merely a matter of time before Eric Craig finds himself confronting the beast’s masters – tiny subterranean mole people who control the immense “Polxo” monsters (the one which menaced Craig was Polxo-12, not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, please ask your doctor about side effects from Polxo-12) via mental helments which resemble what a dildo might wear for Mardi Gras.

Craig gets his hands on one of the helmets and manages to turn the errant subterraneans over to molemen justice, returning to a world unharmed by Polxos, as we’ve always dreamed. IN BETWEEN ALL OF THIS, however, Eric Craig discovers something at an unassuming newsstand – his entire adventure, scene for scene and thought balloon for actual thought, is reprinted in the latest issue of Strange Adventures! Right down to the solution!

Rather than tying this twist into the story – in fact, it feels like an add-on to an otherwise straight-forward Silver Age monster story – the editors of Strange Adventures leave it up to the readers. Readers were offered the original art for each of the two chapters of the story, providing they could come up with a satisfying enough answer to explain why Eric Craig’s struggle against the Polxo was captured within the pages of a newsstand comic book, particularly when we know that’s a story best expressed in black box theater.

"Here I am dressing like Mario and pleasuring myself in front of a mirror. Goddamnit, what's this book's game?"

Answers abound in Strange Adventures No.175, about six months later. The winners - Steven Hirsch of Albany NY, James Gaudet of Cambridge MA and Jeff Carmack of San Francisco CA - proposed that a previously-mentioned subterranean mystic, on his death-bed, experienced a vision of the events of this story and telepathically broadcast it to the Strange Adventures team as a story, so as to give Eric Craig vital assistance in defeating the Polxo. Fair enough, that’s how David Milch works, too.

A ton of also-rans got honorable mention for arriving at the same conclusion, while a Lou Mitchell of Toledo Ohio straight-out wrote a short story about alien abduction and video monitors showing the future which, frankly, seemed a stronger answer than the one about the mystical mole man.

Most entertaining though, a genuine Earth-1 answer courtesy of “Marvin Wolfman, Flushing NY” :

Sunday, October 12, 2014


"Whoa-hoa, it is I, the Mysterious Traveler, buttinsky know-it-all, mystical motor mouth and general supernatural nosy parker of a long-running line of eponymous horror comics from Charlton. Whoo-hoo, I'm right here on the page right now, speaking these words to you, spooooky!"

"My routine was the Phantom Stranger folks, just show up outta nowhere and spook 'em right in the middle of their own stories. This was pretty easy, because I was also the most hands-on narrator in the history of horror comics, showing up every other panel to stand in shadows on a nearby barren hillside and talk nonsense while someone was getting ready to have their throat ripped out through their navel by some ironic fish-monster or something. You think I'd be there to help, but no, mostly I just hung out to underline just how ironically appropriate the punishments were. Probably I couldn't even be bothered to film anything I saw on my smartphone, I'm just that uninvolved!"

"Meanwhile, here's a forgotten classic from the pages of This Magazine is Haunted with I guess an ironic ending? Maybe? Listen, I have to be honest, I barely pay attention to how these things usually play out, I'm really just in the game to hang out on the periphery and call people jackasses when they get slaughtered by sea monsters or whatever. Anyway, here's Valley of (checks notes) Shadow..."

Story: Joe Gill
Art: Sy Moskowitz


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