BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY ARCHIVES VOL. 5 (Dark Horse, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery Nos. 25-32 (originally published by Gold Key Comics, cover dates March, 1969- November, 1970)
Writers: Dick Wood and other, unidentified writers.
Artists: George Wilson (covers), Sal Trapani, Art Saaf, Mike Roy, John Celardo, Joe Certa, Frank Bolle, Bob Jenney, Oscar Novelle, Luis Dominguez, Tom Gill, Jack Sparling, Alberto Giolitti, Ed Robbins, and other, unidentified artists (possibly Till Goodan).
While not as edgy as the Warren Magazines of the day (Creepy and Eerie), Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery is still a fun, solid dose of homogenized newsstand friendly mystery/horror comics. Fans of DC titles of the era like House Of Mystery and the like will enjoy this book. Those weaned on Saw films who think that Crossed isn't edgy enough...well cripes, you've got bigger problems than not liking this book!
The stories all tread the same familiar ground, featuring ghosts, monsters, lost species/civilizations, haunted houses, and curses. Some of the edgier ones have swamp monsters and even zombie sailors. Boris Karloff plays the role of host and narrator, appearing in the splash page and final panel of every story, as well as popping up during the story like Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone. Speaking of which, now that Dynamite has the license to that property I hope that we see reprints of Gold Key's 1960s The Twilight Zone comic book. I had hoped that Dark Horse would do them while they were cranking these books out a couple of years ago, but no dice. Dark Horse has seemingly abandoned their Gold Key Archives, since there is only one more volume in this line. It's a shame, since the series ran for a good long while afterward.
The painted covers by George Wilson are incredible. Painted covers for magazines and book covers are a lost art. While I am not anti-technology when it comes to computer aided artwork, I admire the skin and bones craftmaship of hand painting and drawing. There is no cheating and it is harder to correct errors. Also, art supplies were more expensive, so these cats had to be good if they wanted to make any money.
Issue 25's Death Is The Hunter is a cool story about Lord Jason De Wolfe, an 18th century English huntsman who often ruined farmer's crops during his hunts. He casually murders Silas Krane's son. Krane's grandmother was a witch, and the old black arts run in the family. Silas ends up casting a spell on De Wolfe, changing him into a wolf-like creature...which his own hunting party kills, mounting the head on his wall with his other conquests.
Issue 26's The Petrified Creature has really unique artwork. Listing creator credits was sadly not an industry wide practice even at this point in time. This book does not list the artist, while my beloved Grand Comics Database (www.comics.org) credits Till Goodan. It is possible that the artist was identified after this book was published. Even the GCD doesn't have any information as to who wrote most of these stories. It is sad that so much of the history of our hobby is lost. That same issue's Beast Of The Bayou is a fun “swamp monster” riff predating DC's Swamp Thing. The original swamp monster in comics was The Heap back in the 1940s. Issue 28 has another swamp monster story, this one called Creature Of The Swamp.
My favorite regular artist in this book is John Celardo, particularly his work on When Children Speak. That tale is about a boy sent to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents die. Life on the farm is boring, so he designs robotic monster suits that “look just like the ones in the woods”. While many of these stories are fairly predictable, the craft and execution are all effective. Other favorites of mine is this book are issue 32's Eyes Of The Monster and The Goddess Of Greed.
These stories are all fun escapist reads. While this series didn't set the world of comics on fire, sometimes reading something for the sheer pleasure of being entertained is enough. You could certainly do much, much worse than this book. I'm just sad that the sales of these Archives weren't strong enough for the line to be completed. Icv2 showed that only 421 copies of this book shipped during the month of it's release (March, 2011).
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Dark Horse Archives are really nice books.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreward by Sir Christopher Lee (1 page)
Introduction by Frank Sinatra, Jr. (1 page)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.75 out of 5. There are a handful of pages with slight pixelation, but the restoration is about as tight as it can be. I would say that this was scanned from the original issues rather than film. The printing on the original issues was godawful crap, so that's another reason why things look “rough” at times- because the source material was rough when originally published. The color palette is faithfully maintained. I'll leave it to colorists to philosophize about whether there should be 10% more cyan here, 25% less there, so on and so forth. It looks good to me, it is faithful enough to the original comic books, and it looks worlds better than the original issues.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick semi-glossy coated stock with that sweet smell that the Chinese sweat shop printing presses achieve by using only virgin Amazon rainforest trees.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Beautiful Smyth sewn binding. The book block flexes a little in the casing but the book lays almost entirely flat.