Anthologies – HAUNTED HORROR #7

haunted-horror-7

Turns out we’ve been blessed with two heaping helpings of horror in time for Halloween! It’s HAUNTED HORROR #7! We’ve got robots, fire, rituals most foul, and questionable layout decisions! Everything a horror-lover could ever want!

It was only a few weeks ago I talked about issue six of HAUNTED HORROR. I’d been holding onto it for a week or so at that point, so in all that came out just last month. This is stated for the record because that issue had been a month late in release, so I assumed the bimonthly schedule merely slid forward. This, as a matter of fact, was not the case, with this month’s release of HAUNTED HORROR #7.

Just so everyone’s on the same page. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blood-curdling, pre-code comics already in progress.

“Wings of Death” (Amazing Ghost Stories #15, 1954) introduces us to Warren Ames, a hunter and gambler whose skill with a rifle lags sorely behind his skill at the horse races. Mere months after bagging a rare white eagle – revered by unspecified native tribes as the King of Birds – Warren struggles under the weight of a five grand debt. His bookie intends to collect, or kill Ames trying. What follows is a spiral of desperation and murder that leads Ames on the run. But not even hiding in his hunting shack in the middle of nowhere can protect him from the price he must pay.

Because while money and lives of mere humans mean little to them, the birds utterly detest avian regicide.

Next is “The Bone Man” (Horror From The Tomb #1, 1954), where paleontologist Dr. Casper Crisp loves bones. He loves them a lot, and works at a museum where he sets the bones up. But the chairman of the board of directors at the museum likes neither Crisp or his bones, and plots to be rid of them both. To this end, he employs his daughter to set the poor man up for a terrible fall, in the hopes that Crisp will be fired. Woe be unto them in the end, however. Mess with a man, it’s one thing, but never mess with the Bone Man’s bones.

Messing with a man’s bones can drive him crazy.

“Almost Human” (Beware #6, 1953) goes with the most old-school of horror concepts: robots! A rash of murders and robberies occur in an English village. The stolen items: machine parts. The victims: tongues cut out. A local man, one Professor Reid, investigates a trail of footprints to a nearby castle, inhabited to his knowledge only by a “queer inventor” as Reid calls him.

It’s because he’s strange and for no other reason, I swear! It was the fifties people, don’t get ruffled.

The inventor is nowhere to be seen, instead Reid meets a man claiming to be his student. And he presides over the inventor’s work: androids that look like men. They are equipped with the apparent ability to think, and artificial body parts that look exactly like that of human flesh, made from plastics. But there’s one body part they could never reproduce on their own. And if their plans are to be fulfilled, they’ll need to take plenty of what is missing from the humans!

“Dead On Arrival” (Terrific #14, 1954) is related to us from the frantic hand of John Sanders. As he hides in an attic with the police at his door and a gun in his opposite hand, he warns readers of the horror that transpired. His new wife, Myra, came to him as the picture of loveliness. Except her beauty belied a secret obsession with raising Egyptian mummies. Despite his efforts, she masters her new necromantic art, and sets her sights on the greatest prize of all: summoning Anubis and using his power to take over the world!

Naturally.

Didn’t bother commenting on the last several boilerplate stories, but I have to poke my head in for this story. First, Myra claims to be descended from Egyptian priestesses. While it might be distant relation, I’d find it easier to believe if she weren’t so utterly Caucasian. Girl is so white, she really does come off as a crazy woman, leading me to believe anyone could have accomplished those rituals, and she’s just delusional. Not about raising the dead but about her heritage.

Second, her entire plan is to summon Anubis, which she describes as the mightiest Egyptian god, and which John describes as the most evil. Doubtless this is more of fifties horror comics painting with broad strokes and not doing research. Regardless, Anubis was neither of those things. True, he was originally the sole god of death, but was later supplanted by Osiris in that role, and became merely the god of mummification. Either way, he was not the most powerful god in Egyptian myth (that being variably Ra, Horus, or possibly the goddess Maat). And he was not evil, let alone the evilest; that honor going to Set.

Third, the comic describes Anubis as being asleep and in need of awakening. If Egyptian myth is true in this universe, that means Anubis wouldn’t be sleeping at all. He’d be on the job, working in the land of the dead and dealing with those who qualified for Egyptian afterlife (mostly people whose bodies were preserved, like with embalming or something).

Fourth, why does Anubis look like a pure white dog man with feathery wings? He’s always been depicted as a black individual with the head of a jackal and no wings. Don’t know where the artist got the depiction we got here.

And finally, this story has a lot of weird facial expressions. Many of them are meant to look menacing or terror-struck, but they just look ridiculous.

“Flame Thrower” (Mysterious Adventures #14, 1953) is a tale of jealousy, suspicion, infidelity, and flaming murder. The aptly named John Peirson, owner of a prestigious Hollywood crematorium, has relationship issues. He has a beautiful wife two decades younger than he is, who adores him. That doesn’t sound terrible? Did I mention Mr. Peirson is persistently suspicious and jealous, fearful of possible adultery on her part. When a young man enters their lives, it’s only a matter of time before John’s love turns to the most bitter hate. A burning hate. And if there’s one thing crematorium men know, it’s how to burn things!

It’s just too bad the old saying, “Kill it with fire”, is not always effective!

“Break-Up!” (Tomb of Terror #15, 1954) presents itself on the first page as a tale of a woman, her mad scientist husband, and his gang of mechanical dopplegangers.

This is not entirely accurate. There’s only one robot duplicate, and unlike the opening panel it never shows a trend towards violence.

Regardless, the story stars Marcia, a wealthy woman perpetually in conflict with her scientist husband Zane. The man devotes all his time – and Marcia’s money – to his lab work. Investigation reveals he’s devoted his time to crafting the aforementioned android designed to look exactly like him for reasons never properly explained. Turns out Zane is an Inspired individual, and like many geniuses he retreats from society and family to work his Wonders.

For whatever reason Marcia remains unimpressed by the creation of a humanoid robot that can perfectly stand in for a living human. Seriously, I understand your problems lady, but regardless of how much he neglected you in service of his craft, Zane created a mechanical marvel! Stop acting like this isn’t a big deal! No, instead she decides, if the machine stands between the two of them, one of these figures simply has to go. Permanently!

Our last story for the issue is “The Nameless Terror of Twin Dunes” (Dark Mysteries #15, 1951), which is more odd than anything. It starts with a paleontologist and his wife being stalked by a vampire in the middle of an Egyptian tomb…and then switches abruptly to a small American town. And not in the normal sense, where horror comics would start with a stylized preview of events to come, and then shift to regular chronological order. I mean the comic itself lampshades that the “chilling scene” in the opening is interrupted by a peaceful one.

It gets weirder. The main plot is basically a Dracula-type “old guys investigate and then dispatch a vampire” plot, but with a woman in the Dracula role. Except it’s difficult to make sense of the plot for a couple reasons. First, this comic is pretty experimental for its time. Not just deviating from simple boxes, but having an entire page of the comic breaking the fourth wall with what I can only assume to be a generic horror host or monster breaking through the “page”. You’re just reading along, and then suddenly a guy with double-pupil eyes munching through the center of the page like it was normal as can be. But it’s not normal, it’s distracting.

Second, when I say the comic is experimental, I by no means imply that it’s well designed. The artist must not have properly understood basic aspects of page layouts; how to guide the reader’s eyes around. Basic principles of panel structure as a tool for establishing flow are violated. It’s even more distracting than spider-eyes eating through the comic. Moreover, it’s jarring to see such ambitious experimentation contrasted by a clear lack of understanding on basic comic design rules. And it’s not like this book came so early that those rules weren’t set in stone; the Golden Age of comics was ten years old at least.

Let this be a lesson to aspiring comic artists: understand the fundamentals before trying grand, medium-shaking innovations. It just leaves a mess everywhere.

Well that’s enough of HAUNTED HORROR for the time being. Check back in two months, where the collection brings the Halloween spirit back in time for the season of giving! But in the meantime, fare thee well, and have a Happy Halloween!

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