Treasured Stories: “Don’t Play That Ukelele!” (1975) and “Tender Feelings” (1974)

« There’s something about guitars, they’re just so big, you know what I mean? You’re just like, ‘Ugh!’ It just seems so overwhelming. And the ukulele is, like, the opposite of overwhelming. » — Zooey Deschanel

It’s no big secret: the chief asset of Gold Key’s line of mystery comics (The Twilight Zone, Thriller / Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Dark Shadows, Grimm’s Ghost Stories and The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor) was its (generally) painted covers, the bulk of the work handled by the prolific George Wilson, with occasional contributions by Luis Dominguez and Jesse Santos.

While the inside artwork also had its charms, the weak link in the chain was the writing. Pedestrian and formulaic, most of its anonymous load was borne by Paul S. Newman, one of the comics industry’s great cranker-outers. And so things ran their humdrum course, even with the arrival of talented DC expatriate Arnold Drake in the early 1970s. I strongly suspect rampant conservatism on the part of the editors, as even normally-compelling authors produced the same generic plots, ground out like under-seasoned sausage.

Then occurred a curious bump in the road: the unheralded, near-anonymous arrival of future Clown College alumnus*Connor Freff Cochran (1954-), who scripted (as Freff, when credited — a rarity at GK) a number of short tales for Gold Key’s anthology titles for a few years (1974-1977). Of those I’ve read, most docilely follow the publisher’s tame editorial formula. But there are exceptions, and they really do stand out. Here’s such a pair, which I’m boldly attributing to Mr. Cochran.

Interesting that writer Freff opted here for the obscure, alternate spelling of ukulele. Speaking of which, how do you think ‘ukelele‘ is pronounced? You might be surprised. Check here for the answer. And, er… 1907? “One of the earliest appearances of the word ukulele in print (in the sense of a stringed instrument) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations published in 1907.” [ source ]
Man, that lake monster looks familiar. I smell a swipe.
And for the full multimedia experience, you can sing and strum along with George!

Ahem — sloppy research on Freff’s part:

The ukulele was popularized for a stateside audience during the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, held from spring to autumn of 1915 in San Francisco.

[ source ]

It is therefore highly unlikely that anyone on the American continent would have been plucking a uke, let alone that two random Missouri farmboys would spot a specimen from a distance. Not to mention the fact that the uncredited and unknown artist (no, it’s not Bill Molno, dear ignoramuses at the GCD) drew… a plain old guitar. Let’s face it, a banjo or even a mandolin would have made more sense.

In his defense, Freff recalled:

« I absolutely did write “Don’t Play That Ukulele!” But I don’t deserve the ding for the misspelling — that was the letterer’s error, which no one fixed. I will cop to not knowing (in 1975) that the ukulele wasn’t introduced stateside until 1915…but even there the story is a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface. When I pitched the idea it was a guitar that brought doom down on our unfortunate swain, same as it wound up being drawn. But editor Paul Kuhn thought a ukulele was intrinsically funnier than a guitar, and he’s absolutely right about that. I remember us both giggling over the title when we came up with it. »

Oh, I fully agree. A pox on that sloppy letterer.

So, who is this Freff guy? Here’s a bit of self-provided biography:

At fourteen, he and his family moved to Placentia, California, east of Los Angeles, where he graduated from El Dorado High School a year ahead of the normal schedule. One of his fellow students had combined the words “friend” and “Jeff ” to coin the name “Freff ”— and while at first this remained only a nickname, by 1970 he had started signing his artwork that way, as well. Like many artists, Cochran entered the science fiction field doing “freebie” drawings for fanzines. His first paid job were pen and ink drawings for Andrew Porter’s semi-prozine Algol, done in 1972. In the same year he dropped out of Fullerton Junior College after two months of art classes to live on his own. He worked in various fields to make a living and “The rest was all just self-directed study and experimentation,” he says, adding “as a young pro, just starting out, I was lucky enough to be mentored ever-so-slightly by two of my early faves in the field: Kelly Freas and Jack Gaughan. At Kelly Freas’s suggestion Cochran moved to New York in September 1973 and started looking for work as an illustrator.

When that was not forthcoming, Cochran attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College — class of 1974.

In that year he got his first big break from Jim Baen, the new editor of Galaxy and If. Baen needed people who would work fast and cheap and put up with being paid late — in other words, the perfect opportunity for beginning artists like Cochran. By this time he was aware that other professional artists and cartoonists were named “Cochran”— and feeling that using his initials “JC” would be presumptuous — the artist in 1976 went to court and legally adopted “Freff ” as his professional nom de brush, and kept it during his years of magazine illustrating. Baen was so taken with the name that he put it on the cover of Cochran’s first cover for IF, as if Cochran was an author with a story in the magazine. After that “Freff ” did a lot of work for Baen, primarily interiors in black-and-white. He also did drawings for Cosmos, Isaac Asimov’s SF, and did cover work for publishers such as Dell, Berkley, and Doubleday. Cochran was selected to be one the artists in the special 1975 NASA/Smithsonian Artists Tour. After early success illustrating Zelazny’s “Amber” novels for Galaxy, followed by cover art and interior illustrations for a set of hardcover novels by Zelazny for Gregg Press in the early 1980s, Cochran became disgruntled over nonpayment for the use of his art in foreign editions of John Varley’s novel Titan, for which he had done a frontispiece and 16 illustrations—and the argument led to the end of Cochran’s illustrating in the field.

He turned to other endeavors, but briefly “dipped a toe back into the waters by collaborating on the first (and only) issue of an SF comic book called D’Arc Tangent” in 1982–1983. He did inking and penciling for DC and Marvel comics: Star Trek** and Tomb of Dracula***.

This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 64 (Oct. 1975, Gold Key), featuring a painted cover by Argentine master Luis Dominguez. Don’t Play That Ukelele! isn’t even the cover story… there’s just a lot of aquatic peril in this particular issue.

And here’s the uncredited, utterly batty Tender Feelings, recognizably illustrated by another hardworking Argentine, José Delbo. It saw print in Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 53 (Apr. 1974, Gold Key).

Part of my reasoning for attributing authorship of Tender Feelings to Freff is his penchant for light, deftly humorous tales that conclude with several characters meeting dismal ends. Churrr...

But… nope. The mystery of this mordant little tale remains whole. Freff helpfully eliminated himself as a suspect, and proposed some intriguing leads:

« I can’t take credit for “Tender Feelings.” I certainly wish I could, since it’s a delightful mashup/piss-take on DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing. But nope — not me.

The publication date I find online for that story is April 1974. But Gold Key titles usually hit the stands a month ahead of the printed date, and editors Wally Green and Paul Kuhn liked to have a solid backlog of finished stories on hand. That puts the likely writing window for “Tender Feelings” somewhere around August 1973, which means there’s a chance that “Tender Feelings” was written by Len Wein himself. Len did a lot of uncredited Gold Key stories, starting around 1969, but he stopped in late summer 1973. It would have been absolutely in keeping with his sense of humor to write something like “Tender Feelings” as a happy sendoff for himself.

My best second guess after that would be John David Warner…though if I really had to bet, I’d bet on Len. In any case, whoever did it was lightyears better than the usual Gold Key writer. Glad to see them get this recognition. »

-RG

*Class of ’74. As Freff himself stated: « The Really Famous Guy from our session was Bill Irwin, who went on to a great stage, TV, and film career, and was the first performer to win a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation.) I did originally intend to apply for the ’73 class, but I learned about it too late to make that year’s deadline. So I went to NYC instead to pursue art, while waiting for my next chance to roll around.. »

**he inked two drawings (one of them a double-paged splash) in Who’s Who’s in Star Trek (1987). That seems to be all.

***a pair of frontispiece illustrations in Tomb of Dracula (the magazine, that is: six issues, published Oct. 1979 – Aug. 1980); he also conducted a fine interview with Stephen King, published in issues 4 and 5 of TOD. Freff provides some illumination: « plus the framing graphics for the magazine’s title/table of contents page, plus I got to ink a bunch of ads for the magazine. The one I know they used involved inking Gene Colan’s pencils, which was hella fun and a childhood dream come true. I grew up on Gene’s work in DAREDEVIL, DOCTOR STRANGE, IRON MAN, CAPTAIN MARVEL, etc, and he was easily as big an influence on my visual thinking as people like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, or Jim Steranko. (I got to achieve another childhood comics dream when I got to re-pencil, ink, and color a Curt Swan drawing for the October 1988 cover of KEYBOARD magazine.)

I did a lot more writing than artwork at Marvel, but most of it was nonfiction material in their b&w magazines — 100+ articles for PLANET OF THE APES, DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU, CELEBRITY, NOSTALGIA ILLUSTRATED, THE TOMB OF DRACULA, etc. »

Tentacle Tuesday: Bits and Bobs of Gold Key

« And pray that this beautiful stranger is pleasing to the taste of the demon DARGOMMA! »

We have already covered a lot of Gold Key territory… there’s Tentacle Tuesday Masters: George Wilson and his painted covers for Gold Key as well as Tentacle Tuesday: Gold Key’s Octopian Plenitude. But it is my credo to never leave an octopus behind (lest he creep up on you with evil intentions), so I’d like to add a few covers we haven’t seen yet.

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea no. 2 (July 1965). Cover by George Wilson.

Todd Franklin of Neato Coolville has actually transformed this cover into a groovy wallpaper (go to his website to download the high-res version).

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea no. 13 (August 1968). Cover by George Wilson.

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Brothers of the Spear no. 7 (December 1973), cover by George Wilson.

That previous cover has borderline tentacles, I agree, but the completist in me insisted on its inclusion. Also, it’s entertaining.

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The Tree That Walks is illustrated by Jesse Santos. The story tags as detailed by GCD are «chariots; draft elands; giant carnivorous plants; human skeletons; leopard; rock slides; saddle elands». I had to look up “elands” (it’s an antelope). How much more entertaining can one get?

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Tales of Sword and Sorcery Dagar the Invincible no. 11 (April 1975). Cover by the underappreciated Luis Dominguez.

A beautiful cover this may be, but the insides are distinctly underwhelming. The title story, It Lurks by Moonlight, is scripted by Don Glut and illustrated by Filipino artist Jesse Santos, who seemed like a likable artist with a wide-ranging career… but his art is not my cup of tea.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 93 (August 1979), cover by Luis Dominguez. The cover story is Dum-Dum’s Basement and we’ve covered it in Tentacle Tuesday: Domesticated Octopus Seeks Soulmate

The painting lost something in detail (a lot, actually) when it was made into a cover… this is more what it originally looked like:

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Crisp octopus!

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 6

« Spine-chilling tales of suspense, horror, and the supernatural—prepare yourself for Adventures into the Unknown! »

This American Comics Group (ACG) entry is generally considered the first title fully committed to the supernatural genre in the history of US comics. And this arresting, Isle of the Dead-styled tableau graces the cover of the title’s second issue (December, 1948). Art by Edvard Moritz. Most of the stories were scripted by horror legend and H.P. Lovecraft disciple Frank Belknap Long (read his The Hounds of Tindalos and forfeit your soul!) Speaking of which, the entire issue’s contingent of chills and thrills is available right here for your pleasure and leisure.

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This is Adventures Into the Unknown! no. 2 (Dec. 1948 – Jan. 1949, ACG).

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As I was saying, Arnold Böcklin‘s Isle of the Dead painting, in its original version… of several.

This painting also inspired a quite fine Val Lewton / Mark Robson / Boris Karloff motion picture bearing the same name (1945). Watch the trailer, why don’t you.

« Kill, puppets, Kill! » — Turgot, the Puppet Master, never one to mince words.

– RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Gold Key’s Octopian Plenitude

Today’s tentacle adventure brings us a bounty of Gold Key covers.

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The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril no. 2 (September 1970). Cover by Jack Manning. I love the Pauline Peril series – it’s such loveable nonsense, with dynamic art and fusillade-style dialogue. However tempting it may be to jump to that conclusion, It’s not a comic-book adaptation of a TV cartoon. Read a whole issue (number four, to be more precise, the last one) at, appropriately, the Ominous Octopus Omnibus blog.

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Hanna-Barbera The Addams Family no. 3 (April 1975). The adorable cover is by Bill Ziegler. Is there anything groovier than a froggy belt-buckle? I think not.

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Looney Tunes no. 11, 1976. Cover artist unknown. The boat has been filled beyond legal capacity, and no-one’s wearing their mandatory Mae West. The Safety Octopus is here to ensure that the offending parties are brought up to standards (or at least given a tentacle slap on the wrist).

And just to offset all the cartoony, cutesy stuff, here’s a cover featuring an epic struggle, a life-or-death situation, a decisive skirmish between Man and Beast. (I’ll let you guess which is which, though.)

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 37 (October 1971), cover by George Wilson. Here we have a tentacled creature – “Sea-Beast” for friends – defending a village of innocent people against some sort of flaming monstrosity by shooting water from its tentacles (trunks?) at the flames. Hey, somebody should hire it as a firefighter!

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Seafaring octopuses and the men they have shamelessly devoured

Ahoy, landlubbers! Today’s Tentacle Tuesday goes back to the good ol’ days of nautical journeys, ships crushed by mighty tentacles, and brave men who end their lives as snacks for the mighty cephalopod.

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Printed in Pilote Hors série aventure no 17 bis (October 1975, Dargaud). The story is titled L’Antoinette Pécuchet, from the cycle Les histoires de Pemberton, written and illustrated by Sirius (real name Max Mayeu, Belgian cartoonist).

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After most of the crew is swallowed up by the starving octopus, our narrator gets the bright idea to stick some dynamite into the pocket of the next sacrificial lamb and lights it just before he’s eaten. “The octopus savoured Nolasque with a healthy appetite. Suddenly, she hiccuped loudly, like a burping baby… Pale, she threw us a glance of bitter reproach, and dove into the water, never to be seen again.”

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Speaking of the Sargasso Sea (frequently depicted in fiction as a perilous area where ships go to die, mired in Sargassum seaweed, unable to escape), here’s another vignette about that mysterious spot. Incidentally, it is the only sea that doesn’t have land boundaries, enclosed by the Gulf Stream on the west side, the Canary Current on the east, the North Atlantic Current on the North and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current on the South. No wonder people thought it was full of mystery and danger! Even I, more or less immune to the siren’s call of wild maritime adventure, feel a little thrill at its mention. *Ahem* back to comics.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 29 (March 1970), painted cover by George Wilson.

As is often the case, the original painting has a lot more detail than the printed version:

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The original painting for “Creature of the Sargasso Sea” by George Wilson.

What does this peculiar, one-eyed beast look like closer up, one might ask? Something like this:

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A page from Creature of the Sargasso Sea, pencils by John Celardo and inks by Sal Trapani. Furry octopuses are my favourite!

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The sea can bring many (other) strange things, including a sword-wielding octopus… who should have stayed in the water, where he had the home advantage, instead of attempting to wage battle on sort-of land.

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A couple of pages from Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, a comic adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s cycle of sword-and-sorcery stories. Adaptation by Howard Chaykin, art by Mike Mignola, who’s inked by Al Williamson. This 4-issue series was anthologized in 2007 by Dark Horse; these pages were scanned from Book 4, published in 1992 by Epic Comics.

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One can only hope to be as stylish while fighting a many-tentacled monster.

~ ds

Visionary Meets Mundane: Richard Powers at Western Publishing

« Are all your projects this dangerous, Dr. Solar? »

Dateline: 1962. Printer-packager Western Publishing had just dealt its biggest client, Dell Comics, its slow death sentence (by mutual agreement, it is diplomatically claimed), though Dell should have seen it coming: for decades, Western Publishing Co. had « secured the rights, created the comics, printed them and shipped them out for Dell. Dell acted as the publisher and distributor and did the billing and paid Western for its creatively manufactured products*. » In 1962, Western cut out the middleman and launched its Gold Key imprint (1962-1984.)

Enter, briefly, revolutionary illustrator Richard M. Powers (1921-1996), who successfully wed representational and abstract art for his paperback covers of the 50s and 60s, bringing science-fiction visuals an unprecedented visual maturity. Don’t merely take my word for it: treat your peepers to a gander at his work. You may well find that you know it already.

What with a Cold War on, in the early 60s, atom-powered heroes were understandably in vogue. Charlton even had two: after Al Fago‘s 1955 creation Atomic Rabbit, came Joe Gill & Steve Ditko‘s Captain Atom. In 1962, the newly-founded Gold Key threw their hat into the nuclear furnace with the advent of Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. He was created by writer Paul S. Newman and editor Matt Murphy.

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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom no. 1 (October, 1962)

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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom no. 2 (December, 1962)

So far so good, right? And then… we may never know exactly what transpired, but I assume that some art director at Western Publishing chose to second-guess Mr. Powers… smothering the tonal and compositional balance of his painting (« can’t… bear… negative space! »), and likely depriving the outfit of Powers’ further services. He was at his peak, was being offered assignments than he could hope to fulfill, assignments surely more lucrative and friction-free. He wisely scooted along.

The printed version:

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Boris Karloff Thriller no. 2 (January, 1963.) It was decades before I realized that this ho-hum comic book cover was the work of Richard Powers. In truth, the scales only fell from my eyes when I caught a peek of the original art. The printed version is so tame, so drained of its power(s) that the issue didn’t even appear in Jane Frank’s checklist of book covers in her fine The Art of Richard Powers (Paper Tiger, 2001).

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See? Now *that* is clearly Powers. « Just slap a 60% cyan overlay over the dang thing, Gertrude. It’s too effin’ artsy! »

And the tale might have ended there, but here’s the curveball: in the mid-to-late Seventies, Powers provided the fading publisher with a pair of gorgeous, but seldom-seen cover paintings.

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A lovely Rorschach blot of a cover for the inaugural issue of Starstream, issued in 1976 under Western’s Whitman imprint. Starstream‘s four issue-run offered sober adaptations of smartly-chosen science-fiction short stories by the exalted likes of Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, A.E. Van Vogt, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Jack Williamson, et al.

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Let’s hear it for unearthly-looking extraterrestrials. With their translucent skin, these guys remind me of unhatched fish. The fifth and final cover created by Richard M. Powers, this is UFO & Outer Space no. 17 (continued from UFO Flying Saucers), published in September, 1978.

See what I mean?

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If memory serves, my own Powers epiphany took place in the autumn of 1982, in Lennoxville, a small college town in the Eastern Townships of Québec. There was this little bookstore… and its fine selection of 60s horror and science-fiction paperbacks, priced in the 35-to-50-cents range. The kind of place book lovers dream about stumbling upon, and wake up dismayed to find themselves in the real world… empty-handed.

My favourite (inside and out) of the lot I picked up that day? Fritz Leiber’s Night’s Black Agents (June 1961, Ballantine Books). If you’ve had a similar thrill of discovery with Powers’ art, please do tell us about it!

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-RG

*quoted from an interview with Gold Key’s Matt Murphy.

On This Day: Boris Karloff Crosses Over

« What’s that noise comin’ up from the cellar?
It’s the restless bones of Boris and Bela* »

It’s a cinch that William Henry Pratt, back when he was eking out a living in Canada, digging ditches or driving a truck, never suspected that his name, his stage name that is, would still elicit shivers of recognition long after his passing. Here we are, a whole hundred and thirty years past his birth, in Camberwell, South London, on Wednesday, November 23, 1887.

From his ascent to stardom in the early 1930s until his passing in 1969, he certainly lived to see his likeness appear in a bewildering array of toys and games and bedsheets and mugs and a zillion knicknacks and gewgaws, a parade that continues to this day. But he was likely never represented more consistently and abundantly than he was in comic books.

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Here, the Monster meets his… inspiration, in « Boris Karload, Master of Horror ». Dick Briefer‘s Frankenstein is a definite highlight of the Golden Age of comics. This is Frankenstein no. 11 (Jan.-Feb. 1948, Prize Comics). Read it here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=39937 And if you, er… dug that, treat yourself to Craig Yoe‘s selection of Briefer’s rendition(s) of the Famous Monster. It’s a great package, and Mr. Yoe can always use the money… to unleash further wonders.

Here’s a gallery of cover highlights from Gold Key Comics’ long-running Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery (95 issues, 1962-80).

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Before there was called Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, there was, for two issues, Thriller, based on the by-then-cancelled NBC series. Gold Key were often quite slow in making their licensing moves. The TV Thriller was often terrifying (“Pigeons From Hell”, “The Hungry Glass”…), but the comic book never scaled such heights, even sans the emasculating influence of the Comics Code Authority.

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« You know that one sideways glance from that bug-eyed banshee can turn your brains to prune-whip! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 33 (Feb. 1971), Cover painted by George Wilson, illustrating Len Wein, Tom Gill and John Celardo’s March with a Monster.

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« I’m being scorched by something that shouldn’t even exist! » A laser cannon-equipped Evel Knievel tussling with a badass reptilian nightmare? That’s the Seventies for you. Gold Key’s mystery comics were generally pretty tame fare, but their covers, such covers! This one’s painted by Saint George Wilson. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 34 (April 1971.) You just know that Dragondoom is written by Lein Wein, because its damsel-in-distress shares his wife’s name, Marvel and DC colourist Glynis.

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A look at Mr. Wilson’s original painting gives us an idea of just how much was lost in the transition from brush to print. Sometimes it’s better *not* to know.

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« Feast your eyes upon them, mortal! Do they satisfy your appetite for witchcraft? Hee Hee! » Wayne Howard conjures up some decent monsters inside, but Psychotomimetic George Wilson, who painted this mind-melting cover, shows how it’s *really* done. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 43 (Oct. 1972.)

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« The car — being sucked in by this blasted fetid swamp! Goodbye car… goodbye, convention! » Roadside George Wilson strikes again! Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 49 (March 1973.)

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« These computer cards are wonderful… almost as if they were alive! They tell me everything! » Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 62 (July 1973). Luis Angel Dominguez‘s painted cover depicts a scene from (presumably) Arnold Drake‘s witty It’s in the Cards.

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« G-g-get away, B-Bobby! There’s a living horror out there! » « Aww, gee, dad! I’m sorry about that! It’s just my sea monster! » Meet The Mail-Order Monster, a gem from an uncredited scripter (likely Arnold Drake, if the sparkling wit is any indication), and illustrated by Ed Robbins. It’s a fabulously wacky yarn, combining to fine effect good old Sea-Monkeys (brine shrimp, really) and a generous sampling of Ray Bradbury’s Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar! 
This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 65 (Dec. 1975), edited by Paul Kuhn. Also within: Don’t Put It on Paper, another of the handful of jobs José Luis García-López did for Gold Key, before settling down at DC later that year. The plot is basically that of Clark Dimond/Terry Bisson & Steve Ditko’s The Sands That Change! (Creepy no. 16, Aug. 1967, Warren), but with a much gentler outcome.

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« But — why would anyone create something so — so terrifying? » One thing you can nearly always count on in any given issue of BKToM: “scientific” experiments always go awry, and they nearly always yield rampaging monsters. Fitting! Luis Angel Dominguez provides this electrifying cover for issue no. 92 (July, 1979.) The man has such a peerless colour sense.

And remember, there’s far more to Boris Karloff than Frankenstein’s Monster: for evidence of his talent, check out The Body Snatcher (1945, directed by Robert Wise and produced by Val Lewton) or Targets (1968, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.)

Let’s reserve our closing words for the man (monster) himself: « Certainly I was typed. But what is typing? It is a trademark, a means by which the public recognizes you. Actors work all their lives to achieve that. I got mine with just one picture. It was a blessing. »

– RG

*Ships Don’t Disappear In The Night (Do They?) by 10cc (1973)

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 28

« I hope I will not be accused of undue vanity if I publicly thank Mr. Addams for immortalizing me in the person of the witch’s butler, to say nothing of the rather hairy gentleman whose clothes are strangely cut and who appears to subsist on a diet of bananas. »

Boris Karloff, from his foreword to the Addams collection Drawn and Quartered (Random House, 1942)

At the risk of being obvious, the ghoulish wit of Charles Addams brings us Hallowe’en on any old day of the year… but it’s no reason to take him for granted when the proper season slinks into view. Here’s a small selection of favourites. I’ve noticed that many latter-day collections have been plagued by terrible reproduction (heads should roll for that particular crime against art!), so I’ve gone back to the original collections in my library. Enjoy, fiends!

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A lovely piece originally featured on the cover of The New Yorker’s November 2, 1963 issue. This logo-free version was reprinted in The Groaning Board (Simon and Shuster, 1964.)

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Addams at his understated best. A 1953 cartoon collected in Homebodies (1954, Simon and Schuster.)

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« Well, here’s where I say good night. » A Morticia prototype from an undated cartoon collected in the first Addams collection, Drawn and Quartered (Random House, 1942.)

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« While you’re here, there’s a squeaky trap-door I’d like you to look at. » That’s the Morticia we’ve come to know. Also reprinted in Drawn and Quartered (Random House, 1942.)

-RG