The Whole Tooth

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Romantic couples in Golden Age horror comics have a tough road to hoe. If one member isn’t falling prey to bouts of insane jealousy, another usually turns out to be a vampire, witch, werewolf or some other supernatural creature.

(I don’t recall any Wendigoes in the mix, but I lack the statistical evidence to back that up.)

A vampire is cast as the home-wrecker in today’s tale, but as is usually the case with these moldy oldies all isn’t necessarily what it seems. The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “Vampires? Don’t Make Me Laugh” from The Clutching Hand #1 (American Comics Group, July-August 1954).

The art is credited to Harry Lazarus.

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Coming tomorrow: Everybody loves evil puppets, right?

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Hair Of The Dog

Today’s contribution to our Four-Star Fright Fest is a werewolf story beautifully illustrated by Al Williamson, using the pen name of Harold D. Williams.

The Grand Central Database doesn’t have a definitive writer’s credit, but given that the tale was published by the American Comics Group it’s a good guess the story was thought up by line editor Richard E. Hughes.

Hughes’ presence would explain the highly specific rules regarding lycanthropy. There’s a right way and a wrong way to tread through The Beyond in the ACG universe, and it’s up to the story’s protagonists to figure out which is which before they reach the final page.

“The Return Of The Werewolf” was originally published in Out Of The Night #1 (American Comics Group, February-March 1952). The story may have been written by Hughes; the pencils are by Williamson and the inks are by Harold LeDoux, who is best remembered for the newspaper strip Judge Parker.

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The Name Game

“Spacemen Against The Supernatural” is an unusual tale that – as its title helpfully points out – pits science-fiction tropes of the early 1960s against Comics Code-approved forces of the “unknown.”

Although the story is a fine example of Silver-Age craziness,  the so-called “creator credits” included on the strip’s splash page are even crazier.

Over the years, the American Comics Group (1943-1967) attracted a strong core of contributing artists that included the likes of  Ogden Whitney, John Buscema, Paul Reinman, John Forte and Harry Lazarus. However, the majority of the company’s stories since 1957 were written by editor Richard E. Hughes – one of the great unsung talents in comic-book history.

(Along with Whitney, he co-created the legendary Herbie strip for starters … )

Hughes usually wrote under a variety of colorful pseudonyms, which included such memorable monikers as  “Ace Aquila,” “Lafcadio Lee,” and my personal favorite, “Zev Zimmer.”

All of that is well and good, but Hughes’ multiple identities gained a new life when ACG decided to launch a new science-fiction/suspense title in 1961: Midnight Mystery. To separate the new comic from the company’s venerated companion titles, Adventures Into The Unknown and Forbidden Worlds, each story in Midnight Mystery was “introduced” by the writer and artist of the tale.

(A conceit Marvel would briefly adopt in its horror line at the end of the ’60s.)

Rather than reveal his true identity, Hughes and his artists created distinctive appearances and personalities for each of his pseudonyms. Suddenly, readers were introduced to such ACG stalwarts as the brash Kurato Osaki …

the eager and somewhat rugged looking Zimmer …

and the veteran scribe Shane O’Shea.

Combined with stories that were whimsical by even Silver Age standards, Midnight Mystery was perhaps a bit too off the wall for 1961. The comic only lasted seven issues, and ACG moved on to other fads (super-heroes! G.I. Joe!) to supplement its more successful titles.

Still, the series did leave us with such corkers as the following tale. Sit back and enjoy “Spacemen Against The Supernatural” from Midnight Mystery #2 (American Comics Group, 1961). The story was written by Hughes under the “Kurato Osaki” pseudonym and drawn by Ogden Whitney.

Dead Man’s Doom

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Yesterday’s Ghost Rider tale left me in the mood for further supernatural shenanigans, so here’s a chilling tale from our friends at the American Comics Group.

“Dead Man’s Doom” was illustrated by King Ward and appeared in Forbidden Worlds #2 (ACG, 1951).

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I must admit I’ve never heard of Ward before and this is the first story your humble host has ever seen by the artist. Do any of the Time Bulleteers out there have any further information regarding Ward?

I’m truly curious.

Space Invaders

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Adventures Into The Unknown was the first ongoing horror/mystery/suspense anthology in comics, concentrating on ghost and monster tales akin to Universal Studios films instead of the gory, O. Henry-esque tales preferred by later competitors like EC and its many imitators.

That may be one reason why the American Comics Group title was able to survive the Comics Code purge and last well into the Silver Age ascendancy of Marvel-style super-heroes. It didn’t take much for the creators – usually editor Richard E. Hughes under a variety of pseudonyms and a roster of artists that included Ogden Whitney, Kurt Schaffenberger and Harry Lazarus – to shift from the “monster du jour” to sci-fi and supernatural tales that owed more than a little debt to the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits.

The following story – written by Hughes as “Derek Rutherford” and drawn by the great John Buscema – is a good illustration of how the American Comics Group kept the freak-flag flying for sci-fi, horror & suspense until other companies finally saw fit to challenge the Comics Code.

“The Little Men” originally appeared in Adventures Into The Unknown #108.

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