Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cool Ass Comics: Monsters, Ghosts & Other Things That Go Bump In the Night

I figured I'd run off another entry while I had some of the comics out this evening. Most of the books featured here are one's I bought with my allowance when I was a kid and are presented here "uncut", warts and all complete with worn and crinkled covers.


HOUSE OF MYSTERY started out as a horror comic akin to the EC comics of the day. When the controversy surrounding those grim, yet artistic endeavors brought an end to such lurid storytelling, DC's series morphed into a superhero book such as DIAL H FOR HERO. Later on, it returned to strictly terror tales. It lasted 321 issues.

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE was another DC horror title that ended in 1982. This issue, #43, was one of the last. The run ended with issue #46.


GHOSTS was yet another horror title from DC, the home of such famous characters as BATMAN and SUPERMAN. GHOSTS ran for 112 issues ending in the early 80's around the time some of their other horror titles finished up there runs. Below are two additional GHOSTS covers as well as a look at the back covers for retro reasons.



Below is the back cover of GHOSTS #86 advertising a poster for something called STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979).

And then the back cover for GHOSTS #71 features a cool ad for some BATTLESTAR GALACTICA model kits. Anybody have these?

Charlton Comics had their own line of horror titles and they were told in the same style as everyone else's. All seemingly inspired by the trailblazers at EC comics, the Charlton series of spooky stories consisted of titles such as GHOSTLY TALES, GHOST MANOR, HAUNTED and BEYOND THE GRAVE. Below are a series of covers for some of them.



HAUNTED #75 (1984 reprint)

BEYOND THE GRAVE #7 (January 1983 reprint)



Comic book movie adaptations were a regular occurrence back in the day. Here's one for the movie THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986). Sometimes, movie adaptations would be broke up over several issues and other times, they'd be crammed into one 60 to 80 page comic book. The latter is the case with this one. The comic ends with the theatrical ending and not the original, downbeat ending.

Lastly, it's a couple of horror themed CONAN style comic books. One from DC and the other from Marvel.

This is ARAK, SON OF THUNDER issue #12. This issue obviously took inspiration from CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981; there's also a multi headed dog creature). This series featuring a Native American hero lasted for 47 issues.

This is CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #22. It featured the first of eight appearances by THONGOR, a character modeled after CONAN. This Marvel series frequently dealt with stories about monsters and fantasy characters. The series lasted for 37 issues. There was also to have been a live action movie in the 1970's from Amicus, the lead rival to Hammer Films, but the company went bankrupt before the film could be mounted.


Cool Ass Comics: Zombies, Leatherface and Things From Another World

This is a new column that focuses on various comic books. I figured I'd start this one off by sharing some cool horror comic covers I found while going through a bunch of comics I have in my collection. There'll be other horror comics featured here in addition to Marvel and DC comics from the 60's (my uncle gave me a huge lot of classics from the Silver Age of comics) up to the mid 90's when I ceased collecting. There were so many I never even read. I just bought them and bagged and boarded them.

This is the excellent Dark Horse Comics two part sequel to the Carpenter film. It has surreal artwork by John Higgins. It picks up right where the film ends wherein both Macready and Childs end up aboard a submarine where The Thing continues to wreck havoc leading up to something of a downbeat ending. I also got two or three of the 'Climate of Fear' series from Dark Horse based on THE THING. The cover to issue #2 is below.

This is DEADWORLD number 1 from Caliber Press. It's the first issue of volume 2 since the previous series from Arrow ceased. It's a B/W comic with color cover front and back. Those that like zombies will dig this series. The artwork is really quite nice.

This is Northstar Comics loose version of LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3. I only ever got issues #2 and #3. The artists were working from David Schow's original script for this four issue series. These comics are in color and contain spectacularly gory artwork that far outweighs anything seen in the movies.

These two LEATHERFACE comics were my first experience with comic books with such gruesome artwork in color. I used to draw a lot myself, and a lot of the pictures I drew were often kind of morbid not unlike some of the images seen in these books.

Here's FantaCo's first issue of a graphic comic of George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The stark and brooding B/W art is the work of Carlos Kastro. Unfortunately, I never got around to picking up the remaining three parts to this series.

This is FantaCo's first two issues of the cult comic, GORE SHRIEK. I first seen them in a lot of my Fangoria magazines, but bought these two at an Acme Comics in Greensboro. The artwork is all B/W.

The cover art on this issue reminds me a bit of the space creature featured in the cult gore classic, THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983).


Seven Slaves Against the World (1964) review


Roger Browne (Marco), Gordon Mitchell (Balisten), Scilla Gabel (Claudia), Germano Longo (Emilio), Alfredo Rizzo (Efrem), Carlo Tamberlani (Terenzio), Arnaldo Fabrizio (Goliath), Giacomo Rossi Stuart (Gaio), Calisto Calisti (Selim),
Giovanni Pazzafini (gladiator), Pietro Ceccarelli (gladiator)

Directed by Michele Lupo

The short version: Lupo delivers an effective, if by the numbers gladiator movie, the second in his trilogy. There's some interesting performances, but the movie itself is more or less a restructured version of the superior THE REVENGE OF SPARTACUS released earlier in the year. The costumes are inventive, the fights are good and very energetic and Mitchell fans will surely want to see this. It's one of his better movies. Roger Browne encores with a similarly dramatic performance that suits the film well.

Under orders of Emperor Nero, the Roman tribune, Marco Aulo is sent to Africa to oversee the construction of an aqueduct lorded over by the cruel Centurion Gaio. Marco disapproves of Gaio's vicious methods of keeping the slaves in line. Frustrated by his continued interference, Gaio challenges Marco to a duel. Gaio loses and is humiliated. Out of desperation to rid himself of the tribune, Gaio makes a secret order to free all the slaves. A great battle ensues with many dead. Marco is seriously injured, but Balisten saves him. Five of the escaped slaves soon meet up with Balisten. Marco, trusted by Balisten is allowed to return to his people. Learning of his arrival, Gaio frames the tribune, Marco, by stating it was his fault that the slaves escaped at the cost of dozens of lives.

Balisten and the others question Marco's loyalty

Ordered to be arrested, Marco escapes and finds Bilisten and his six friends. Now a fugitive, Marco joins the slaves as they plot revenge against Centurion Gaio by entering Rome as masked gladiators. The seven soon become favorites of the Roman spectators. Trouble arises for Marco as the others soon to suspect him of treachery. He is again an outcast and is forced to set a trap for Gaio to clear his name with the court. His deception now uncovered, Gaio uses his influence to plot a quick rebellion by using the invincible gladiators as a means to regain power.

Gaio tortures an exhausted slave

Michele Lupo's follow up to his excellent THE REVENGE OF SPARTACUS (1964) has pretty much the entire cast returning in a slightly different capacity. Some of the sets and locations are reused and the stunning Monte Gelato makes yet another appearance in a sword and sandal adventure. In addition to that oft used locale, the film begins with an expansive view of massive waterfalls.

Balisten (right;Gordon Mitchell) insists Marco (left;Roger Browne) kill his opponent to gain favor with the bloodthirsty crowd

The production itself is less grand than the previous movie. Told on a smaller scale, it retains a good amount of intrigue and several dramatic sequences. Towards the end, the subterfuge is piled on thick and while there's not a whole lot of action, what's here is well choreographed. The few arena battles are nicely done, the seven gladiators themselves have interesting costumes complete with these large black helmets in the shape of a horses head. The final duel between Marco and Gaio is spread all over the Roman city, which is a nice change.

Gaio (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) discusses his plans with the investigating Marco (Browne) and Emilio (Germano Longo)

Marco and Gaio battle all over the city ending up in the arena

The script and acting of Giacomo Rossi Stuart goes a long way in making the character of Gaio truly one to hate. Stuart also played the lead heavy in the first movie and was definitely gifted at portraying villainy. He gets even more scenery to chew in this film and goes to great lengths to eradicate Marco. The humiliation he suffers is almost like an obsession. Gaio uses any means possible to kill him off even after his own treachery is discovered. With his own army searching for him, Gaio turns to a band of Arab traders (led by Calisto Calisti) he shadily dealt with earlier to help him overthrow the proxy in a last ditch effort. Of course this is foiled by the seven gladiators of the films title.

Marco catches Goliath after stealing baskets of food from a merchant

There's a few extra comical scenes here in contrast to the sole comedic sequence in the first movie. By the third film, the comedy was more prolific. Here, it's all relegated to midget actor, Arnaldo Fabrizio and his very tall friend. Arnaldo plays a character named Goliath of all things. There is a genuinely funny scene where Goliath steals a lot of food right out from under the nose of a street merchant. I really have no problem with midget action in these movies, although some fans say they are an annoyance. Italian filmmakers frequently utilized them in these movies and always for comic relief.

Marco and Claudia share an embrace moments before he's arrested, framed for the slave rebellion by Gaio

Roger Browne is just as intense here as he was in the previous production. His role and motivation is almost identical. It would seem the script for REVENGE OF SPARTACUS was refurbished to dwindle the slaves from a whole army down to six plus Browne's character who suffers similar indignities this time out. Now, he's a Roman tribune who is framed for trying to cease needless violence against the slaves being used by Gaio and his army. He then becomes a fugitive. In the previous movie, he was again a Roman soldier who rebelled once his family was killed for housing followers of Spartacus. Again, he becomes a fugitive.

Marco teaches the six escaped slaves how to fight with swords for their mission

Gordon Mitchell plays a farmer who is unjustly arrested by Roman soldiers to be used as a slave during the first scene in the movie. Mitchell is actually the co-star as he was in the previous picture. His character is a bit different, though. Here, Mitchell is a good guy from start to finish. He's the leader of the six rebel slaves joined by the fugitive Marco Aulo. Mitchell is good in the fight scenes and he and Browne both vie for screen supremacy. Both have good chemistry together and it would have been great if Mitchell had been available for the third outing.

The absolutely gorgeous Scilla Gabel returns for the second go round, but in a slightly lesser capacity. Again, she's window dressing, but her role has been dramatically condensed from before. Here, she once more is the love interest to Roger Browne's character, but has far less to do than in the prior peplum picture. What's funny is the film ends almost verbatim the way REVENGE OF SPARTACUS ends with both Browne and Gabel in a loving embrace. Francesco De Masi also encores to deliver another score, but this one is much less ambitious in scope from the one he did the first time around.

Balisten looks to the crowd to make the final decision to spare, or kill his opponent

With some well directed scenes of pathos akin to Lupo's previous effort, this slightly lesser and smaller scale motion picture will be of most interest to die hard fans. The story is simple, but gets a bit convoluted as the film goes on. Mitchell fans will enjoy his presence and Roger Browne is intense as usual. All in all, it's not a classic by any means, but much more accomplished than a lot of entries from 1964. The end was coming, but director Lupo had one more torch and toga movie left in him.

This review is representative of the Italian Eagle Pictures R2 PAL DVD
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