Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Number 1767: The cut-up

The mad magician, man, he is really mad! He has a plan to cut someone in half and put them back together. The biggest and baddest magic trick of all. Too bad he can’t make it work. It seals the fate of at least one victim, a guy who came across the magician’s path, who we see chained to a wall pleading for his life. We are left to imagine his awful demise.

This tale, drawn by Harry Harrison and Wallace Wood for EC Comics’ Haunt of Fear #15 (actual issue #1, 1950), is from the very beginnings of the EC horror comics, and like others of its time, is feeling its way around what is really horror, or is just horrible. The plot of “The Mad Magician” is born of innumerable “shudder” pulps, and although well drawn, is hokey.

As you may know, Harry Harrison went into other endeavors after his comic book career, writing among them. He is well thought of for his science fiction work, including several popular novels. But he didn’t write this story. Fred von Bernewitz’s Complete EC Checklist credits it to Gardner Fox. Note the magician’s name of Boris Petaja. Emil Petaja was a well-known figure in science fiction circles, who also wrote several novels.

My scans for this story came from the Gladstone 1990 reprint from the double-sized first issue of The Vault of Horror, which includes a reprint of HOF #1.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Number 1766: Dr Mephisto and the Milquetoast model

Caspar “Casper” Emerson, born 1878, was an artist who began work in newspapers before the turn of the twentieth century. He ran into a situation which caused a public scandal and personal ignominy, when his wife left him for a gypsy violinist known as Prince Rigo. A divorce was granted in 1910, and Emerson is thought to be the model for the henpecked Timid Soul, Caspar Milquetoast,* made famous by cartoonist H.T. Webster.

In the thirties illustration work dried up for Emerson, and he began drawing for pulp magazines. In the forties he worked doing comic stories for Fairy Tale Parade, and later did the Dr. Mephisto strip in Power Comics. This particular episode is from issue #4 (1945). A comment with an accompanying illustration in the excellent article on Emerson by David Saunders demonstrates that Dr. Mephisto looks a lot like Prince Rigo, the man who took his wife.

The Dr. Mephisto script was written by William Woolfolk.

*See examples of The Timid Soul here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Number 1765: Biker gang, fifties style

This vintage look at outlaws on motorcycles comes to us from I’m a Cop #2 (1954), a title from ME. The motorcycle gang phenomenon was not unknown in those days. Life magazine showed this picture in 1947, when bikers took over a California town.

The Hollister incident was the basis for the movie, The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, released in February, 1954. My impression from the look of the stick-up men is that the story was influenced by what Brando wore in the movie.

There were no cell phone videos in those days to document how the cop got the confession from the butcher, although we are given a silhouette so we can imagine the carnage.

Bob Powell and his gang did the artwork.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Number 1764: “Feed me, Seymour!”

Does this Mary Marvel story remind anyone else of the two movie versions of Little Shop of Horrors? Were the filmmakers inspired either directly or indirectly by this 1950 tale from The Marvel Family #54? I don’t know, but it was a connection I made when I saw the splash panel.

Mary Batson is the only Marvel who got to use her first name; if the others had followed suit we would have had Billy Marvel and Freddie Marvel.

The Grand Comics Database tells us Otto Binder wrote the story, and Pete Riss penciled the artwork. Mary Marvel, created by Binder, was named after Otto’s daughter.