Mother Mayhem

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Comic-book entrepreneur Harry A. Chesler used to joke that his middle initial stood for “Anything.” Given that his studio produced a character like Mother Hubbard, it’s safe to say there was more than an ounce of truth to his jest.

Mother Hubbard was a crime-fighting witch who used her magic against Nazi torturers, soul-stealing elves and  – in today’s story –  ogres and gnomes who rob the eyeballs of sleeping children.

Yep, pure 100 percent nightmare fuel. It’s no wonder the good Mother only appeared in less than a handful of tales.

The 13 Days Of Halloween conclude with Mother Hubbard’s third, and final, adventure from Scoop Comics #3 (Chesler, March 1942). The story and art are uncredited, although I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the creators were somehow related to the Brothers Grimm.

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Brrrrr…..

That’s it for another Halloween, Time Bulleteers! Don’t worry, we’ll be back Nov. 2 for a special All Soul’s Day tale starring the Golden Age Ghost Rider!

Fishy Business

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Everyone loves Disney’s adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” but when you put some thought into the concept half-human/half-fish she-creatures aren’t quite as cute and spunky as Ariel appeared on the big screen back in ’89.

Today’s Pre-Code chiller illustrates that point beautifully  horrifically with a love tale turned bitter between a more malevolent – if somewhat gullible – mermaid and a seafaring adventurer who may well be an ancestor of Star Trek’s James T. Kirk based upon his rather manipulative approach to love and romance.

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “Monsters Of The Deep” from The Unseen # 14 (Standard, April 1954). The art is by Ralph Mayo.

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Coming tomorrow: We’ve saved the strangest for last! Introducing Mother Hubbard!! But will she save the world or destroy it!?!

A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing

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Fox Publications’ Phantom Lady may have been the poster girl for “headlight comics,” but her toughness could never be questioned. Not only did she turn back threats from serial killers and Communist zombies, but as today’s tale proves Sandra Knight had more than enough skill to take down one of the may werewolves that populated Golden Age comics.

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Monster In The Pool” from Phantom Lady #16 (Fox, February 1948). The story is uncredited, by the Grand Comics Database guesses the story was scripted by Ruth Roche and drawn by either B. Tirado or Gus Schrotter.

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Coming tomorrow: A tormented artist tries to win over his true love! It’s a Pre-Code horror comic, what could possibly go wrong?!?

Stack O’ Wax

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Tex Blaisdell is best remembered for his stints assisting such great newspaper strip cartoonists as Hal Foster, Stan Drake, Al Capp, Bud Sagendorf and many others. He even took over Little Orphan Annie for five years after the feature’s creator, Harold Gray, passed away.

Like many of his contemporaries, however, Blaisdell also worked in the comic-book field and inked many Silver Age tales for DC. Less well known is his shot at Pre-Code horror comics, a House Of Wax rip-off published by lowly Charlton Comics.

Blaisdell’s work elevates the tale, though. One panel toward the end of the tale, in particular, deserves inclusion in the Pre-Code Horror Comic Hall Of Fame for sheer audaciousness.

(You’ll know it when you see it. By the way, there is a Pre-Code Horror Comic Hall Of Fame… right???)

The 13 Days Of Halloween continues with “Murderers’ Row” from The Thing #5 (Charlton, October-November 1952).

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As a special bonus, here’s the entertainingly sick cover to The Thing #5 by Lou Morales.

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I owe a tip of the hat to the Fawcett & Charlton Horror site for bringing this story to the Internet’s attention. Although I poke fun at Charlton’s bottom-of-the-barrel reputation among Golden Age publishers, The Thing actually turned into one of the better horror titles of the era once Steve Ditko jumped on board. A selection of those stories were posted during last year’s Halloween fest.

Coming tomorrow: Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady Vs. A Werewolf! You know she’s had experience dealing with wolves!!

Plastic Fang

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By the early 1950s, Jack Cole was no longer heavily involved in the creation of new Plastic Man tales and the difference was apparent. While many talented creators were drafted by Quality to write and draw Plas’ adventures, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to equal the output of the brilliantly creative Cole.

(A more detailed account of Cole’s ghosts, as well as the writer-artist’s response to seeing others work on his prized creation, can be read at the excellent Cole’s Comics blog.)

That said, Plastic Man’s adventures toward the end of the Golden Age are still entertaining and definitely stand head and shoulders above subsequent attempts to reinvent the character for modern audiences.

By 1953, the popularity of horror comics compelled publishers of the few super-heroes left standing to incorporate supernatural elements into their characters’ four-color adventures. Plastic Man was no different, as the pliable super-sleuth found himself battling monsters as well as criminals.

As today’s tale demonstrates, however, Cole’s ghosts were wise enough to keep things from getting too heavy. The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Evil Terror” from Plastic Man #43 (Quality, November 1953).

The writer and artist are not credited, although GCD guesses the story was drawn by Al Luster.

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Coming tomorrow: The House Of Wax as interpreted by Charlton Comics’ House Of Recycled Ideas!

Smiling Faces

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Back in 1997, Face/Off made a tidy sum for John Woo and company via the rather incredible plot device of a face swap via plastic surgery. The famed Chinese director, however, wasn’t the first to tackle such an incredible story.

In fact, the concept of “magic plastic surgery” is a well-established trope.

Decades earlier, an unnamed comic-book scribe typed up a similar tale detailing the fiendish result of a face-swap. Will good or evil persevere in this instance? Remember, dear reader, we are talking about a Pre-Code horror comic …

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Other Face.” It was originally published in Journey Into Mystery #11 (Atlas Comics, August 1953). The artist is one of my all-time favorite Golden Age greats, George Tuska.

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Golden Age Justice!!

I guess. I mean … um.

Hmmmm.

Coming tomorrow: Plastic Man takes on a vampire! Jack Cole takes a hike!!

Making Magic

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DC Comics has taken to depicting Billy Batson as a delinquent Harry Potter, but as today’s tale proves the Golden Age Captain Marvel’s familiarity with magic began and ended with Zeus’ lightning bolt. After that, as writer Nate Cosby once stated, his arsenal generally consisted of punching bad guys real hard.

(And if that didn’t work, he could always punch them even harder …)

Other than that, the Captain generally approached supernatural menaces with the same determined, good-hearted attitude that made him one of the most popular characters of the 1940s and early ’50s. If a little strategy was required, well … let’s just say Billy Batson generally relied on his intelligence a bit more than the guy who supposedly possessed the wisdom of Solomon.

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Witch Of Haven Street.” It originally appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #136 (Fawcett, September 1952). The writer was Otto Binder and the artist was C.C. Beck, two of the all-time greats among comic-book creators.

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Billy, Mr. Morris and friends in drag might have been the scariest part of the story. Good thing Tawky Tawny wasn’t asked to dress up…

Coming tomorrow: Face-Off: The Prequel!

Win Or Lucifer

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A brilliant chess master takes on the Devil, a move that definitely calls the protagonist’s brilliance into question. Happily, there’s no reason to question the well-crafted art of Lou Cameron and Bruno Mastroserio!

The Thirteen Days of Halloween continues with “A Game With Lucifer.” The story originally appeared in Baffling Mysteries #7 (Ace Periodicals, March 1952). The pencils are by Cameron with inks by Mastroserio.

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Coming Tomorrow: Billy Batson is no Harry Potter!!

World War Z

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Skywolf, Hillman Periodicals’ answer to Blackhawk, enjoyed a long career as a back-up feature in the publisher’s flagship title, Air Fighters Comics. Although primarily remembered these days for introducing comics’ first swamp thing, The Heap, the strip provided solid adventures tale that were pretty violent by even Pre-Code standards.

Today’s tale finds Skywolf and his three companions – The Turtle, The Judge and Cocky Roche (!!!) – taking on a horde of zombies. These particular shambling monstrosities, however, are the zombies of traditional Vodou rather than the undead flesh-eaters popularized by George Romero.

As is the case with many Golden Age comics that deal with “exotic” cultures and customs, the following story contains a number of unfortunate racial stereotypes. If you find such portrayals overly offensive, read no further.

The 13 Days Of Halloween presents “Zombies Of The High Llama.” The story originally appeared in Air Fighters Comics v2 #2 (Hillman, November 1943) and was drawn by John Giunta.

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Ha! Take that futuristic Utopia!

Coming Tomorrow: A chess master challenges Satan to a game with life and death stakes! It works out the way you would expect …