Circle Of Anti-Life

Ross Andru and Mike Esposito are one of the greatest artistic teams in the history of comics. Their work spanned the Golden, Silver and Bronze ages of comic-books and left indelible impressions on such iconic characters as Wonder Woman and Spider-Man – to name just two.

The following story dates back to the beginning of their long collaboration, 1951, and already demonstrates the distinctive “Mikeross” touch that would soon characterize their work.

“Tree Of Vengeance” originally appeared in Mister Mystery #1 (Key Publications, September 1951).

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The Quiet One

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Key Publications was known for publishing horror titles that could “out EC” EC Comics, but the following story offers a bit more depth than the typical pre-Code gore fest.

That’s not to say that a tale entitled “I Killed Mary” approaches Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” as an exemplar of psychological horror. It’s just a bit … different.

This six-page twisted treat originally appeared in Weird Mysteries #8 (Key Publications, January 1954). The story was pencilled by Sal Trapani and inked by S. Finocchiaro.

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Yes, I know the anonymous writer of today’s story misspelled “squeamish.”

Never Say Die

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The 13 Days of Halloween continue with a story seemingly ripped right out of the headlines: a guy gets shafted by an insurance company.

“Life Insurance” originally appeared in Weird Mysteries # 11 (Key Publications, July 1954). The story was pencilled by a young John Romita and inked by Les Zakarin.

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War And Remembrance

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Aside from Harvey Kurtzman’s justly lauded Two Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat titles, Golden Age war comics are generally considered to be little more than jingoistic – and at times borderline racist –  propaganda.

While there is some truth to the contention, there were also a surprising number of titles that contained content nearly as gritty and uncompromising as their more heralded EC counterparts.

Comic Media’s War Fury, for example, featured appropriately stark artwork from the perennially underrated Don Heck and – in the case of the following story – didn’t shy away from illustrating the often capricious brutality of armed combat.

From War Fury # 3 (Comic Media, 1953), here’s “Grim Trio” with art by Heck. The cover image is also reproduced above.

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Key Publication’s Battle Cry at times contained stories that conformed to the war comics’ stereotype, but its third issue also featured a tale that concentrated on the collateral damage of battle and presented Korean townspeople as fully fleshed-out characters rather than racial caricatures.

“To The Victors!” appeared in Battle Cry #3 (Key Publications,1952). The story was drawn by Eugene Hughes, although I’ve also included Irv Novick’s striking cover image for the issue.

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The Time Bullet dedicates this post to all soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in combat. We continue to hope for the day when the pain and sacrifice caused by war will no longer be seen as a “necessary evil.”

End Of Days

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With all the talk about the world’s imminent destruction, it seems appropriate to post one of the most apocalyptic Golden Age tales I have ever read.

“Plaything,” a story so fatalistic it is difficult to imagine children were the intended audience, originally appeared in Weird Tales Of The Future #6 (Key Publications, 1953).

The story was drawn by Tony Mortellaro.

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Not too difficult to believe this story was produced during the height of the Cold War, eh?

Smiling Faces

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I cannot imagine how Golden Age comic-book readers reacted to Basil Wolverton’s work.

He routinely worked in such disparate genres as humor, super-heroics, science-fiction and horror, yet his style never bended to the conventions of the assigned story. Rather, Wolverton’s vision bent genre conventions to fit his unique style.

Nothing in the comics field before, during or since Wolverton’s career is quite the same as a story by the artist himself.

The following three-page story originally appeared in Weird Chillers #1 (Key, 1954). “The Man Who Never Smiled” is a short and simple tale that nonetheless achieves a level of freakiness that transcends the years due to Wolverton’s inimitable art.

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Robot Woman

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Boy, the world just seems nuts these days.

Between labyrinthian debates on health care, rampant unemployment, crippling disasters in the Philippines and Indonesia and the continuing spectacle of public figures self-destructing on national television, it appears that life as we know it is spiraling down the drain.

Thank goodness for comic books!

When the nightly news becomes too much to bear, I like nothing better than reaching back into the old Fortress Of Fortitude archives for a classic chiller to take the edge off my evening. And what can be more classic than a demented tale of true love from one of the most distinctive artists of any era, Basil Wolverton?

From Key Publications, one of the most gloriously gory horror publishers of the pre-Code era (check out David Hajdu’s The Ten Cent Plague for the juicy details), here’s Wolverton’s “Robot Woman.”

The story originally appeared in Weird Mysteries #2.

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There now, don’t we all feel better … albeit a bit grossed out?