Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, January 20, 2018

BEWARE! TERROR TALES #1 (MAY 1952)

The first issue of this pre-Code Fawcett horror comic book consists of three stories introduced by The Mummy, a shriveled green creature with most of its wrapping gone and wearing a red robe and cowl.  Yes, this is an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of the EC horror comic book line, but it's a pretty good one.

The first story, "Ghost Hounds of Trelawney," is the best of the lot, with some great artwork by bob Powell.  The title is presented in two lines, with the first letter of each word printed in red, spelling GOTH -- a neat little trick that probably went unnoticed by many of its readers.

"Out across the moors, above the eerie shriek of the wind, the howling, wailing, moaning that came of no earthly thing gave stark irrefutable evidence of the --- GHOST HOUNDS OF TRELAWNEY"

John Marshand has inherited fifty acres of land in Trelawney and has put it up for sale but no one has shown interest in buying or farming it, so he has traveled to that remote Scottish village to find out why.  Arriving at night, he is told by his cab driver that no one has farmed in Trelawney for more than a half century. Dropping him off in front of the local inn, the cab driver -- obviously scared -- says it is almost 11:00 and drives quickly away.  Entering the inn, he sees locals racing to lock the doors, bolt the windows, and extinguish the lights.  It is almost 11:00 after all.

Marshand is told of a local legend concerning two rival squires known for their cruelty and their hatred of each other.  Each squire had several viscous hounds trained to kill and would set them loose on their tenants with impunity.  Eventually, the tenants rose up and hanged both squires, but the evil did not die.  Each evening at 11:00, the ghost Squire Ghastney and his evil hounds walk the land that once was his.  Well, pish-posh, thinks Marshand, so when he hears what might be the howling of a hounds, he goes outside to investigate.  Naturally he soon spots a luminescent figure coming toward him.  It is Squire Ghastney with three leashed, snarling, slavering hounds.  The vengeful ghost spots Marshand and gives chase, as Marshand is forced to run into a marshy wood where he gets bogged down in the mud.  Freeing himself, he crosses a stream, thinking that that might stop the ghost.  It doesn't because the ghost and his demon hounds walk on top of the water toward Marshand.  Just when all seems lost, the sun rises and squire and hounds vanish.  Marshand tries to leave town but no one will help him.  As darkness comes and there seems no way for him to get to the nearest railway station, he steals a wagon hitched to two horses and drives madly toward the station.  Too late?  Suddenly it is 11:00 and the ghost and his hounds appear.  In a desperate race, Marshand sees the train pulling out of the station.  He hops from the wagon, leaving the horses to be savaged by the ghostly hounds, and manages to board the moving train.  The train picks up speed.  Marshand believes he has escaped, but out the window he sees the squire, running even faster than the train in pursuit, for the ghost has got his scent.  How can Marshand defeat this terrible spectre?

The second story is titled "The Nameless Horror."  "Real and terrible beyond all words -- defying all description -- this ghastly, gargantuan monster appeared for human eyes to witness for the first time!  At the sight of it -- fear drove men to madness or suicidal death!"

An African safari.  An unexplored jungle.  The terrorized natives will go no farther.  They have entered the land of Tangunu, the white ape, the god and soul of all apes!  Clay Brener, the cruel and amoral man who headed the safari with his beautiful finance Enid, is determined to capture this legendary beast to sell to a zoo.  Forcing the natives on with gun and whip, he finds the giant ape, with its "beady eyes gleaming, fangs gnashing and "with a fury that was as a raging sea and stormy lightning-rent skies!"  A strong steel-mesh net and a heavy dose of chloroform prove to much for the savage creature.  Locked in a strong steel cage for the ocean voyage back to the states, the white gorilla is continuously taunted by Brener in what the tale calls (in an obviously poorly-edited panel) "his saddistic divertisement."  It's not nice to taunt a jungle god, especially when you get too close to the cage and said jungle god manages to bite you on the shoulder.  Brener is taken to the ship's infirmary, where he soon begins to feel odd:  "My hands are stiff -- appear swollen larger than usual!  and my skin -- the texture is so coarse and more hairy!...M-My jaw is ponderous and my cheekbones high and large!  And my breathing -- so deep and labored!" ...

The Mummy introduces the final story:  "Their blind eyes were all-seeing, as they sought Charlie Deffer even behind walls of stone and bars of steel!  And their dead limbs pursued -- and bony, bleached-white fingers reached out to ensnare him for their...CUSTODIAN OF THE DEAD!"

Charlie Deffer is a small-time crook and he likes money.  What better way to get money than to be a grave robber?  Especially when the cemetery has such an impressive grave where a lot of money went into its erection.  Surely there must be some valuable stuff buried with the corpse -- and there is!  A heavy gold ring on the bony finger of one hand!  But when Charlie Deffer goes to remove the ring, the hand clenches tight.  Charlie faints in horror and when he wakes up there is an old man standing over him.  He is the graveyard's caretaker, but rather than turning Charlie over to the police, he brings him to his cottage and feeds him.  Inexplicably, the old man gives Charlie the key to a strongbox that holds a lot of money and also gives him the deed to his house, telling Charlie that he no longer needs them.  Caretakers, it seems, are actually chosen by the dead and the dead have chosen Charlie.  There is no escape for the dead will follow the caretaker everywhere he goes.  Except prison, it seems.  Desperate, Charlie assaults a policeman and is sent to prison for a year, hopefully breaking this curse.  But when Charlie is released from prison...

All in all, a pretty neat issue.  Effective (although at times cliched) writing and some good to very good artwork make this one a winner.

Enjoy.


http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=70749&b=i

4 comments: