As a mystery and suspense title produced under the confines of the the Comics Code, Charlton’s Tales Of The Mysterious Traveler wasn’t given much leeway to be particularly mysterious or suspenseful.
Fortunately for the shadowy figures behind Charlton Comics – if they even cared all that much – the company still had the services of Steve Ditko, an artist who could transform the tamest of tales into a classic chiller.
The following tale, “Above The Topmost Peak,” is a good example of how Ditko – even in his early prime – could elevate his material. The story itself is fairly simple and even contains a moral about mankind’s ego to satisfy the Big Brother watching over the comics industry. Ditko, however, wrings every last bit of suspense out of each panel.
I’m especially struck by how the Traveler’s expressions vividly illustrate the peaks and valleys of the plot, transforming the omnipotent narrator into an actual character rather than the cackling talking head usually seen in horror comics.
If you’re one of those comic-book fans who feels art is secondary to story (as if the two should really be separated), take a look at “Above The Topmost Peak.”
The following story originally appeared in Tales Of The Mysterious Traveler #5 (Charlton, November 1957). The art is by Steve Ditko.
If you enjoyed this story, there’s plenty more in Blake Bell’s latest volume of The Steve Ditko Archives. It’s well worth picking up.