Death And Gremlins

October is right around the corner, which means it’s time for yours truly to plan a few Halloween-themed posts to whet fans and followers’ appetites for pre-Code thrills, chills and candied corn.

In the past I’ve left the heavy lifting to Internet all-stars like Karswell – who celebrates Halloween year-round at the excellent Horrors Of It All blog – but this time the Time Bullet will expand its focus a bit and dedicate the entire month to All Hallows Eve.

That means not one … not two … not three …. but four weeks of themed posts over the next several weeks!

My plans could change  - let’s be honest, 31 straight posts is a lot to pull off in this Tumblr-centric era  -   but for now I hope to dedicate one week to super-heroes taking on supernatural threats; one to Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein; one to Steve Ditko’s groundbreaking work on Charlton’s The Thing; one to a collection of personal pre-Code favorites; and a few bonuses in between.

We’ll see how all that works out, but as a token of my good intentions here’s a classic tale of supernatural suspense that could have easily fit into the format of Rob Serling’s Twilight Zone a decade or so later.

From Green Hornet Comics #33 (Harvey, March-April 1947), the Man In Black tells the story of “The Gremlin And The Airplane.” The story and art are courtesy of one of my favorite Golden Age creators, Bob Powell.

Note: Although Powell’s story works just as well in the 21st century as it did back in the late-40s, a filler strip at the bottom of the last page contains a racist stereotype that is not acceptable under any reasonable standards of good taste and decency. I considered editing it out, but decided we’re better served confronting such embarrassments head on rather than censoring what is unfortunately part of our culture’s history. If you disagree with this opinion and find the image too upsetting, it’s probably best to skip the final panel or simply avoid the story altogether.

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Don’t Fear The Reaper

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Bob Powell’s “The Man In Black” is one of the more interesting – if obscure – ongoing characters from the Golden Age Of Comics.

The personification of death – later toned down to “destiny” – the character usually narrated O. Henry-style tales of individuals caught up in forces beyond their comprehension.

Yet unlike EC’s later horror personalities – i.e. The Crypt Keeper, The Old Witch and The Vault-Keeper – the Man In Black also took an active role in many of his appearances and even interacted with a supporting cast that included the human embodiments of “time,” “mischief,” Christian angels and the Three Blind Fates from Greek mythology.

In that respect, “Mr. Twilight” and company can be viewed as predecessors to Neil Gaiman’s Endless. Was Mr. Gaiman familiar with Powell’s work?

The following story contains such elements and more, as Powell employs many of the cinematic techniques Will Eisner and his studio heaped upon The Spirit. That’s definitely no accident, as Powell himself once worked for Eisner.

From Green Hornet Fights Crime #35, Harvey Comics (May-June, 1947), here’s The Man In Black. The story and art are by Bob Powell.

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