Anthologies – HAUNTED HORROR #2

Haunted Horror #2 (2012) Cover

Anthology series have a unique formatting to the regular fare. Whereas with a regular comic, I could fit a half dozen issues in a single post, Anthologies contain many independent tales, and thus take considerably longer than any normal issue to recap. In the interests of spreading the wealth around – and adding yet more columns to my growing blog madness – I’ve decided to handle these books in their own separate section. First of them is the second archive of classic horror comics, HAUNTED HORROR #2.

I even get a chance to break out my horror host schtick! Ha ha ha ha ha!

For those poor wretches that blinked and missed my First Impressions two months ago, Haunted Horror comes from the fine people at Yoe Comics, a partner of IDW Publishing that specializes in reprinting public domain comics from late Golden Age of Comics. And naturally, HAUNTED HORROR collects forgotten works from that titan of 50s sequential literature…

Romance! Just joking, it’s horror. Macabre horror beyond your wildest imaginations!

Once again, we’ve got six old tales rescued from the trash heap, presided over by the resident generic horror host, Forelock The Worlock! And once again he just appears as the same stock image of himself. But he’s accompanied by another (and not just Dr Death, who couldn’t be exorcised from one of the previous installment’s story, so was “integrated” as best as possible), a spooky puritan(?) named Mr Karswell, and his cat Princess Mewz. Night to see a diversity in our masters of the occult.

First on the story list is “Doomsmoke” (The Beyond #29, 1954), where a shiftless and hot-tempered pipe collector comes into contact with a rare, magical pipe. The consequences of violent theft is dire indeed when the object in question foretells future tragedy and is guarded by jealous demons!

This story was a rarity in that while other horror titles would basically sign the dirk du jour as a dead man walking, the demons (and situation) give our hero every opportunity to turn from his evil path. Meaning whatever horrible fate that befalls him is one chosen of his own free will. Its one thing to just see a guy is terrible, and watch his inevitable demise. It’s another entirely to see a man given a chance, only to squander it.

Next is “A Death For A Death” (Worlds of Fear #6, 1952), where a simple naturalist is plagued by nightmarish transformations on a nightly basis. But are his visions and changes merely figments of imagination? Or something more? And whose eye, tooth, and/or death must this man repay, and suffer the greaves of mortality?

I sure know one thing: you’ll never look at a bug the same way again! Ha ha ha ha!

This is followed by “Corpse Convention” (Adventures Into Darkness #6, 1952). A newlywed couple venture into the city for a honeymoon, only to find every hotel save one filled. And that vacant room just happens to be room 1313, on the thirteenth floor. Guess what? It’s also Friday the 13th!

This story is perhaps my personal favorite, simply because in a refreshing twist from the usual stuff from this anthology, the two main characters aren’t bad people and have done nothing wrong. As much fun as it is to watch bad people get their just desserts, characters I like have a better chance of making me care about their plight. Take note modern horror film makers: people actually want to see likable characters fight and possibly win over the forces of evil. It’s why we love superhero comics so much.

Then again, this story also has zombie ghosts, so maybe I’m just slightly biased.

“Kill, My Minions Of Death” (Baffling Mysteries #17, 1953) is another odd one. A mysterious stabbing murderer plagues an English town, leaking victims of their fluids and collecting their hands for their grim purposes. That purpose? To create floating remotely controlled hands of death using black magic. And Science!

The villain protagonist of this story is the kind of affably evil sort that makes him a delight to read about, without losing the fact that he’s grossly vile. And his killer hands are creative in concept, something one wouldn’t necessarily see in regular comics. Well, outside Vertigo or Marvel Max.

“Her Lips Dripped Blood” (Journey Into Fear #15, 1953) tells the tale of a couple seeking a home of their own. But in buying a house in a small town, they become embroiled in a string of violent deaths. The locals suspect a werewolf, and the prime suspect being the couple’s elderly housekeeper. But who is the real monster here?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one that makes the least sense given all the clues set up previously.

Been quite a while since we had a werewolf movie that wasn’t a terrible paranormal teen romance. The fifties were a simpler time, when monsters were just monsters, and being a lycanthrope is a curse. And in the legitimate sense, not in the sense that it inconveniences not even slightly. At least this one has a tragic end to it.

Finally we have “Heartline” (Chamber of Chill #23, 1954). A talented surgeon sees his world fall apart when his lovely wife is taken by death. Now he’ll use all the power of Herbert West, Reanimator, and that guy from Maniac (1934), to restore her to life. But at what cost? How can our protagonist replace a broken heart? And if he can, can the new heart be trusted?

I’m not kidding when I say I got serious Maniac flashbacks here, although this story had the decency not to shove in weight training, animals fighting each other, or random psychology terms. The story on its own is pretty neat, but at times a little more gruesome than I’d like.

So that’s HAUNTED HORROR #2. There was a lot more variety to the terrible tales within this issue than the last, which comprised almost entirely of bad people getting punished by the curses of their victims, and a cameo by Jack Kirby. The way this series works is that each issue comes out every other month, hence why we’re not getting the Halloween followup in Christmas time. Naturally, issue three comes out it February, and I urge anyone with a healthy interest in horror to pick up this series. Or any of the many collected volumes put out by Yoe Comics.

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