Saturday, February 15, 2014



Collects Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery Nos. 33-41 (originally published by Gold Key Comics, cover dates February, 1971- June, 1972)

Writers: Len Wein, Arnold Drake, Paul S. Newman, and other unidentified writers

Artists: George Wilson (covers), Tom Gill, John Cerlardo, Joe Certa, Jack Sparling, Stanley Pitt, Reginald Pitt, Luis Dominguez, Jose Delbo, Alberto Giolitti, Alan Weiss, Sal Trapani, Win Mortimer, Hy Eisman, and Oscar Novelle

I have a soft spot for the Horror/mystery anthology series. Like Creepy and Eerie magazines of the day, this series boasts a cast of notable artists. Some, like Jack Sparling, Win Mortimer, and Luis Dominguez, are DC Silver Age fan favorites. Others are comic book journeymen of the '50s and '60s. All of them are good and this is some enjoyable watered down for the Comics Code stuff. While formulaic and predictable by modern standards, these are some fun reads nonetheless. 

Issue 33's Only Skin Deep is really good. I enjoyed how the couple arranged their date by using a computer, which was perceived in 1971 as an act of desperation. These days it is probably more common than going to bars. To the folks who read these issues off of the stands we are living in Jetsons times...with a little 1984 thrown in for good measure. To Millennials it may seem bizarre to think of it as desperation, as there every waking moment is dictated by technology. The story itself is one that I have read what seems like a dozen times before in these various Horror mags, with the man being a werewolf and the woman being a vampire, or vice versa. 

Scan of original panel for comparison. I find doing this sort of thing to be fun. Your mileage may vary.

There is some early Len Wein writing throughout this book. Dragondoom (#34) features Len himself, portrayed as Leonard Wayne, as well as his girlfriend (and later wife) Glynis Oliver. This is a hoot of an inside gag, and what makes it funnier still is that he is uncredited in the original issue. He did all of this to amuse Glynis and himself. 

In the everything old is new again department we have The Summoning from #35. It is basically the template for the 2012 movie Sinister, where a filmed supernatural being/creature comes to life from celluloid when watched on a screen. The similarities end there but the concept is the same. Issue 36's They Are Already Here is one of those stories that some college kid who took too much LSD at the time probably wrote. How there are dimensions around us that you just can't see, man. Oops, I mean LTD. The chemist uses a powerful hallucinogen known as LTD, not LSD. Totally different.

#37's The Mystic Clay is one of those quaint old world type tales, where clay from a “mysterious Asian region” possesses mystic qualities. The Internet has made the world a lot less mysterious and it makes stories like this a tougher sell to those who grew up in this brave new world. For those of us old enough to remember watching shows like Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, this stuff is fun. The Luis Dominguez artwork does not hurt, either. Speaking of Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, that is another Gold Key series that I would love to see get the high end hardback treatment, ditto The Twilight Zone.

The winner for issue 38 is The Happy Weekend, where two star crossed lovers can't get things right. If only one would look and see what is right in front of them... #40's The Sadiki's Master is another Luis Dominguez masterwork, one of those monkey on your back, genie in a bottle, be careful what you wish for type of tales. Dominguez and John Cerlardo are my favorite artists in this book, as both consistently turn in quality work.

This is, barring some sort of miracle, the final volume of this series of Dark Horse Archives. They were cranking out these fast and furious, but I don't think that the sales were there judging by the ICv2 numbers. This book placed dead last in the Top 300 Graphic Novels the month that it was released, moving only 389 copies. It has been two and half years since this book was released, so I think that it is safe to say that this line is dead. That's too bad, because there is enough material for five more Archives. I did some five minute mapping on the invaluable Grand Comics Database to come to this conclusion. Between the gradual original content per issue decline from 26 pages (including cover and text stories) to 24 pages and omission of reprint stories and the all reprint issues, #78, 83, 84, 86, 90, 95, and 97 there is enough material for five 240 page books. Issue 88 features a new cover on what is otherwise an all reprint issue.

All of that stuff aside, this is a highly enjoyable book in it's own right. I'm glad that I picked it up when I did. I can't believe that it has taken me almost three years to get to it in my backlog.
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: Introduction By Leonard Maltin (1 page).
About Boris Karloff, a 2 page biography.

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, a real disservice to the artists. The color palette is faithfully maintained. I'll leave it to colorists of the world 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 and ink derived from lead paint chips, broken asbestos tiles, and mercury from recalled thermometers.

Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Beautiful Smyth sewn binding with 8 stitches per signature. The book block flexes a little in the casing but the book lays almost entirely flat.

1 comment:

  1. I remember seeing this series in the solicitations what felt like practically every month for a while...what a shame that it's dead. It's hard to fault Dark Horse for making a go of it, though.

    Did you ever watch The Practice? Your description of "Only Skin Deep" reminded me of a subplot in the first season, where Ellen uses "the Internet" to meet a man (who she's unable to actually see until she meets him in person). It was about the only subplot in that season played for laughs, although I think it did end on a more melancholy note. It just seems funny that people's views about "dating on the computer" in the late '90s were more similar to the views of the 1960s than to how people feel today.