31 Halloween Comics Master List

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Happy Halloween! For easier consumption, I have compiled a handy list of all 31 of this month’s suggested reading for Halloween comics.

#1- Batman: Madness

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#2- Creature From the Black Lagoon

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#3- Spider-Man: The Short Halloween

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#4- Treehouse of Horror #1

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#5- Classics Illustrated: The Raven

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#6- Spawn #8

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#7- Crime Suspenstories #22

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#8- Insane Clown Posse #1

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#9- Detective Comics #455

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#10- Godzilla Vs. Barkley

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#11- Marvel Zombies: Dead Days

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#12- The Goon #6

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#13- Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai

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#14- Classics Illustrated: The Invisible Man

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#15- The Vault of Horror #8

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#16- Godzilla, King of the Monsters Special

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#17- The Milkman Murders

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#18- Masters of the Universe: Dream Halloween

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#19- Punisher: The End

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#20- Dracula

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#21- Count Duckula #1

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#22- The Brave and the Bold #115

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#23- Classics Illustrated: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

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#24- The Creep

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#25- Crime Suspenstories #16

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#26- Gamera

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#27- The Vault of Horror #7

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#28- Scooby Apocalypse #3

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#29- Captain America: Man and Wolf

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#30- The Ghostly Tales of Spencer Spook

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#31- Arkham Asylum

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Happy reading and I hope you had fun reading these entries!

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31 Halloween Comics #31- Arkham Asylum

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For this Halloween, I am completing my list of 31 comic books to read for the holiday.

As the same as the last 30 days, spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS

The final entry of the list is Arkham Asylum.

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DC Comics originally released this graphic novel in 1989.

Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean.

The story starts with Jeremiah Arkham’s mother going mad when he was a child. In the present day, Batman arrives at Arkham Asylum at the behest of Commissioner Gordon. Earlier in the day, the inmates seized control of the asylum and now they want Batman to come in with them. They exchange hostages for him and Batman agrees to enter.

Batman is led around the institution by the Joker, they come across various doctors and inmates. We find that doctors Charlie Cavendish and Ruth Adams have refused to abandon the asylum and stayed behind.

Adams details some of the treatment with Two-Face as an example. Harvey Dent has been weaned off of his coin. Moving him from his trademark two-headed coin, to a die, to a deck of tarot cards. Unfortunately, increasing Two-Face’s choices has rendered him destructively indecisive, overwhelmed with options. Batman questions the doctor’s methods.

The Joker shows Batman a Rorschach test. In what is probably a first in Batman stories, we are shown that he sees a bat in the image. This will not be the last time this occurs in a Batman comic. Pretty much every time since the Caped Crusader comes across one, he sees a bat.

Throughout the book, we see flashbacks of Jeremiah Arkham’s life. From his creation of the asylum, to his eventual decline into madness. This is concurrent with Joker’s attempt to drive Batman insane as he faces his demons throughout the “hospital.”

Batman runs a gauntlet of villains who occupy the complex. He overcomes them with varying degrees of ease. Some of these battles are the most brutal Batman has ever endured. A fight with Killer Croc is particularly gruesome as he skewers Croc with a staff, but takes the other end through his side.

Jeremiah Arkham’s madness comes to a head as he sees a gigantic shadow of a bat the he claims is the cause of his mother’s insanity. After killing his mother, he dons a dress and realizes his mission of containing insanity within his asylum.

In the present, Batman encounters Dr. Cavendish. Cavendish is wearing Arkham’s dress and is holding Adams hostage. Pointing to Arkham’s journal, he declares that Batman is the bat that Arkham saw. As Batman has captured countless villains over the years, Cavendish claims he has been feeding the madness of the house.

Batman confronts Cavendish who attacks him. Dr. Adams grabs the razor that he was holding her captive with, and slits his throat, saving Batman. After making sure Adams has a way out, Batman heads back into the asylum.

Returning to the Joker, Batman tells him that they are all free. The Clown Prince of Crime, informs him that they know that already. Joker’s view during the story is that Batman is the one who is imprisoned. While trying to decide what to do with Batman, they both agree to let Two-Face decide.

Batman tosses Harvey his coin. Harvey flips the coin and says that Batman is free to go. Joker walks Batman to the door and tells him that there’s always room for him at the asylum. Later, alone, Two-Face looks at the coin still in his hand, with the scarred side up.

If you haven’t read this one, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Probably the darkest tale I’ve looked at this month, it’s also a modern classic that’s pretty much been in print ever since it was released.

While writer Grant Morrison and artist Dave McKean have had lengthy comic book careers, this one is a high point for both of their careers. Morrison’s examination of Batman’s sanity influences so much that came after. McKean’s depictions of Batman’s rogue gallery leads to some truly menacing takes on the characters. His innovative art in general stands out still in nearly 80 years of Batman stories.

The impact of this book has been felt for years. Morrison’s run on the Batman books years later, still depicted Joker as a being that constantly reinvents himself. The successful Arkham Asylum video games took a lot from this book. Aside from just the numerous easter eggs throughout the games, there are landmarks that originated here. There is a statue similar to the one from the Killer Croc fight. Also, there are circles of text on walls like Jeremiah Arkham’s.

Next year will the 30th anniversary of this book. Probably not coincidentally, Dave McKean announced on his twitter account the other day that DC is planning a remastered version of the book and is seeking out the original art pages. Could an Absolute edition be on the way for 2019? We’ll have to see, but it seems likely.

Well, that’s it for my 31 Halloween Comics list. Maybe I’ll do it again next year. (Gloved fingers crossed.)

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31 Halloween Comics #30- The Ghostly Tales of Spencer Spook

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For this treacherous Tuesday, I am taking a look at another comic book for the Halloween season. As all month long, not all of these will center around Halloween necessarily, but will be appropriate reading for the holiday.

Spoilers up ahead.

SPOILERS

Today’s comic is The Ghostly Tales of Spencer Spook.

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Released by Rising Tide Publications in 2018.

The first story “Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind” was written by Brian K. Morris with art by Eric S. Hawkins. Upset that he is relegated to empty houses, Spencer petitions for a new house to haunt. Spencer is told he can haunt the Transnational Space Station, since it is occupied by people.

Eventually traveling to the station, he finds bickering astronauts who don’t believe he is real. Aliens then arrive at the space station initiating first contact for humans with an alien race. It turns out that the alien visitors don’t believe in ghosts either.

After the alien ship docks with the station, Spencer accidentally vents the air from both vessels. Now running out of air, everyone must evacuate back down to Earth. Spencer comes up with the reasonable solution of just waiting for the air to run out and they call all be spirits. Thus, ending their need for air.

Not satisfied with Spencer’s solution, they all take the aliens’ saucer back to Earth. Unfortunately, they leave Spencer on the now empty space station.

Next up is “The Comic Book Restoration Hospital” by Ron Frantz and Eric S. Hawkins. This short story is about a doctor that restores old comic books and guest stars the titular Spencer Spook.

Last, is a reprint of the origin of Spencer Spook from Giggle Comics number 47. As it turns out, Spencer died fleeing from creditors. Due to this, he is cursed to haunt his former home until his debts are paid. When the current occupant of the home learns this, he offers to pay Spencer’s debts for him. Spencer refuses this offer as he is now content in the house.

The Ghostly Tales of Spencer Spook was a Kickstarter initiated by writer Brian K. Morris. I didn’t find out about this book until after the crowdfunding campaign and bought the book directly off Morris at a convention. The version I received has a variant cover by Ty Templeton (pictured above). I’m not sure how available this comic is now, but Morris attends conventions regularly and is always traveling. Odds are that he is coming to a convention nearby you.

These are some fun ghost stories that are a good read for Halloween. A ghost in space is a unique concept and the reprint tale is a neat bonus to see also.  Hopefully, there will be additional installments in Spencer Spook’s adventures.

Come back tomorrow (ghostly fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for the Halloween season.

31 Halloween Comics #29- Captain America: Man and Wolf

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On this menacing Monday, I am looking at another of the 31 comic books for the Halloween season. As always, not all of these stories feature the holiday, but all of them will be appropriately themed for Halloween.

Spoilers dead ahead.

SPOILERS

Today’s featured story is from Captain America #402-408.

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Straight outta Marvel Comics in 1992.

“Man and Wolf” was written by Mark Gruenwald with pencils by Rik Levins and inks by Danny Bulanadi. Our tale starts off with an anonymous man being attacked in the woods by a werewolf. Later we are shown that Wolverine in on the case. Back in New York City, Captain America is concerned about his missing pilot, John Jameson. John is son of the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson and is also the Man-Wolf.

Next, we see a man in a pit, whipping werewolves. Moonhunter is his name and he’s about as ’90’s as they come. Sporting a leather jacket with huge shoulder pads, a blank metallic face mask with red eyes, and “hair” made of barbed wire. Moonhunter’s job is to keep the werewolves in line here.

Cap checks in with Jameson’s father, J. Jonah, and then seeks out the aid of former Avenger, Doctor Druid to find John. Cap and Druid travel to where the man from the beginning was attacked only to be confronted by another werewolf. Suddenly, the werewolf has a noose slipped around her neck and is raised into the air by Moonhunter riding a sky cycle.

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Issue 403 has Captain America and Doctor Druid confronting Moonhunter. Later, they discover a small town. Inside a church, they find druid artifacts, implying that this christian church is now being used for another purpose.

Wolverine makes his way into the same town and is accosted by a group of werewolves. After blasting him repeatedly with a shotgun, Moonhunter manages to capture the X-Man. Further into town, Cap and Druid are surrounded by a mob of werewolves.

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Part three starts with Druid and Cap fighting the werewolf horde. Then, Nightshade, a scientist working for the unseen villain, experiments on Wolverine in a lab. Moonhunter goes to his boss, Dredmund, to report on Captain America and Doctor Druid. Dredmund is now in possession of the Moonstone, a jewel that gave Jameson his abilities as Man-Wolf.

Exploring the town, Captain America is attacked by Wolverine, now under the control of Dredmund. Cap is overpowered by Wolvie and awakens in a lab with Nightshade standing over him. She then injects him with a serum that will turn him into a werewolf!

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This issue starts with Captain America changing into a werewolf. Cap breaks loose as his thoughts become feral. Elsewhere, Doc Druid investigates their nemesis in an effort to defeat him. Dredmund finds him and the two face off.

Wolverine ambushes the now transformed Capwolf, who holds his own against the mutant. Moonhunter tries to lasso Cap as we saw him do previously. However, due to the werewolf serum mixing with the super soldier serum already in him, this makes Cap an even more powerful werewolf. As such, he drags Moonhunter behind him by the lasso as he seeks out Nightshade in an effort to cure himself.

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Capwolf is NWO 4 Life!

Capwolf confronts the other werewolves being held in the pit as Doctor Druid is captured by Dredmund. Elsewhere, leader of X-Force, Cable learns that team member, Feral has gone missing. Due to the machination of Dredmund, feral creatures are being called to the small town. This is what brought Wolverine there also.

Back in the pit, Capwolf gets his fellow prisoners to form a giant werewolf pyramid to reach the top of their cage. With the freed werewolves in tow, Cap leads them against the others and Dredmund and his goons. They overpower Moonhunter and unmask him. Apparently he’s just a guy named Zachary Moonhunter. The ’90’s, right? At least it’s not Blackagar Boltagon.

In the church, Dredmund slices Doctor Druid’s throat and uses his blood to empower the Moonstone.

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Part six opens with Dredmund transforming into Starwolf. Presumably, a cosmic-powered werewolf entity. Capwolf fights Starwolf in the church when Cable shows up, having already recovered Feral.

Dredmund attempts to crush Cap and Cable with a slab of a Stonehenge-like rock. Capwolf positions his shield so it takes the brunt of the blow. Wolverine, now free of Dredmund/Starwolf’s influence frees the pair.

Capwolf lunges at Starwolf and pulls the Moonstone from his throat. Cap tosses the stone to Cable who destroys it. Standing over the defeated Dredmund, Wolverine approves of Cap’s new look.

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Issue 408 acts as an epilogue to the “Man and Wolf” storyline. Nightshade is now working with our heroes to return the townspeople to normal. As she is administering the cure to Cap, a strange doppelgänger appears through a portal.

The creature attacks Cap as he is becoming human again. Now recovered, Doctor Druid tells Cap that the being is not really alive. Taking advantage of this loophole to his moral code, Captain America impales the bizarro Captain on his own buzzsaw-like shield.

Both now recovered, Doc Druid and Cap make their way home with Moonhunter. They fly off on his sky cycle with Cap’s in tow.

Later in the issue is a back up story with Moonhunter applying to become Cap’s new pilot after Jameson decides to leave the post earlier.

Throughout the comics, is a back up story starring Diamondback. This tale was published bi-weekly and so the main story is shorter. Presumably, this back up is to fill out the page count of the book to accommodate this. Diamondback’s story does not relate to the main tale.

This is another comic that is featured on “crazy comic book” lists on the internet. It’s not that weird of a story. If anything its the “Captain America as a werewolf” concept filtered through the ’90’s that makes it strange. Essentially a Silver-Age story done in a more contemporary setting.

A strange p.s. to this story is an action figure that was released a couple of years ago. As part of the Marvel Legends line, this Captain America toy was issued with an alternate wolf head. Obviously, inspired by this story line.

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Come back tomorrow (hairy, shield-throwing fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for Halloween.

31 Halloween Comics #28- Scooby Apocalypse #3

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On this scoob-tastic Sunday, I am taking a look at another comic book for the Halloween season. If you haven’t realized it by now, not all of these will center around Halloween necessarily, but will be appropriate reading for the holiday.

Spoilers right around the next corner.

SPOILERS

Today’s selection is Scooby Apocalypse #3.

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This comic comes from DC Comics in 2016.

From the minds of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with art by Howard Porter and Dale Eaglesham comes “Terror Incognita!”. The tale starts out with gang on the run from the monster infection that has enveloped the world around them. Currently, they are traveling through the Nevada desert in a tank-like “mystery machine.”

Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy discuss their predicament while Fred recuperates in the back with Scooby-Doo watching over him. Daphne mistrusts Velma as she was part of the government program which seemingly has caused a nanite virus to become unleashed and turn everyone into horrific monsters.

Afterwards, we are shown a flashback where the group is in a shadowy government complex, simply called “The Complex.” Being overrun by monstrous creatures, they fight their way to the garage and procure the military vehicle that we see them traveling in at the start of the issue.

Back in the present Daphne wakes up to discover she is alone in the transport. Rushing outside she finds Shaggy and Fred. Relieved that Fred is okay, she rushed up and hugs him. Fred takes the opportunity to once again propose to Daphne. We find out that this is a common occurrence between them, with Daphne constantly turning him down, but Fred persists.

Looking out onto a burning city before them, they try to figure out what has happened. Velma explains that it would have needed the consent of all four of her brothers that ran the project to unleash the nanites. Daphne remains skeptical of the truth as Velma starts to realize the consequences of the project.

Flashing back, the gang escapes The Complex as they fend off monsters that are clinging to the “Mystery Machine.” In the chaos, Fred receives the wound that we see him recovering from in the beginning. Once clear, and the adrenaline subsides, they start to panic as the reality of the situation sinks in for them.

They then drive to the Blazing Man Festival in the desert and realize that everyone there has also been transformed into beasts. Now they know that the virus wasn’t limited to The Complex, but the full scope of the dilemma isn’t clear to them yet.

Stopping at a gas station in the present, the guys and Scoob stock up on food and supplies. Meanwhile, Velma and Daphne discuss the scope of the virus and Velma claims that it has probably spread worldwide. Inside Fred and Shaggy wonder if there are any monsters nearby.  Shaggy claims that they haven’t seen any for 30 miles. Unknown to the pair, a vampire-like creature spies on them from a back room and brings the promise of future calamity for the gang.

Scooby Apocalypse is a fun series that is still a good read. Sort of “Scooby-Doo meets Walking Dead” concept has turned out to have legs for the title. (At least four of them.) Having the characters face off against monsters in a wasteland has led to some fun tales and interesting concepts. Including, the recent death of a main character!

This issue, early in the run, helps set the tone for the book and is a good introduction to it. Crazy monster fights create the backdrop while these characters meet for the first time in this world and get to know each other. The art splits up here with Porter doing the present sequences and Eaglesham contributing the flashbacks. It fills more organic that just a fill-in issue and helps to clarify when events are happening in the story.

While not a kids book, Scooby Apocalypse creates a great new take on the characters that have had many re-imaginings already, but this is definitely one of the better ones.

Come back tomorrow (paws crossed) for another comic book tale for the Halloween season.

31 Halloween Comics #27- The Vault of Horror #7

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On this scare-tastic Saturday, I am continuing my look at 31 comic books that you can read just in time for Halloween. While not all of these tales will involve the holiday specifically, all will be appropriately themed for the day.

Beware: spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS

For this installment I will be discussing the Vault of Horror #7.

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Originally published in 1951 by EC Comics, my personal copy is a reprint from 1994 by Russ Cochran. This one features another fun Johnny Craig cover.

First up is “Sink-Hole” by Johnny Craig. Shirley meets a man, Aldous, through a lonely hearts pen pal club, falls in love, and agrees to marry him. When she travels to meet him, she discovers that he is much older than he lead her to believe. Resolving to marry him, Shirley soon discovers that her dream man is not what she envisioned.

After a while of living on his dilapidated farm, and his constants mistreatment of her, she regrets her decision. Her only salvation, is Rick, a younger man who stops by occasionally to inspect the farm. Shirley knows that Rick would be with her only if she wasn’t married to Aldous.

One day, Aldous mentions a sink hole to her that nearly enveloped him and the tractor whole. Shirley seizes her opportunity and knocks Aldous out cold. Taking him and the tractor out to the sink hole, she dumps him in, and he is taken away by the underground river.

Now free of Aldous, Shirley tells Rick of her wishes to be with him. Rick informs her that his happily married with a family and rebuffs her. Despondent, Shirley goes to the well one day to get water. The bucket is stuck and instead up comes the corpse of Aldous, who drags Shirley into the well! TWIST!

Next, is “Lend Me A Hand!” courtesy of Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines with art by Jack Davis. A surgeon has his hand amputated after a terrible car crash. His career now lost to him he schemes on replacing his missing limb. After kidnapping and killing a drunk, he performs a transplant of the dead man’s hand in place of his. At first, the hand seems non-responsive. Eventually, he discovers the hand is active when he sleeps. One night he awakes as the hand is digging up the body of its former owner. Shockingly, the hand tears itself free of its new home and strangles the doctor! TWIST!

The third tale is “The Mask of Horror” again by Feldstein and Gaines with accompanying art by Jack Kamen. Here a man buys a costume for a masquerade party, sight unseen. On his way to the party his girlfriend says she is ill and is staying home. Rushing back to her place to get his mask, he discovers her with another man.

(By the way, why was adultery such a big theme in EC stories? Did the writers have some issues they needed to talk about?)

Later, at the party he finds a woman who entered the costume store after him. She also was unaware what costume she was purchasing, but the store keeper informed them both that the masks would reveal their true face. His is a hideous corpse face, hers an ugly vampire.

At midnight, they slink away to unmask, alone. She takes off her mask to reveal a face identical to the mask and attacks him. He drowns her, saving himself. His mask now off, he sees his reflection now matches his mask! TWIST!

Last is “Dying to Lose Weight” once again from Feldstein and Gaines with Graham Ingels providing the art. A doctor comes to town with a miracle pill that he guarantees will help people lose weight. After a few weeks the residents who took the pill all lose a noticeable amount of weight and the doctor moves on to the next town. Eventually though, the people continue to lose weight until they waste away and die.

Months later, the doctor, now disguised returns. Stopping on the edge of town to fill up his car, he is recognized as a mob chases after him. Seeking refuge in a cemetery, the doctor hides in a mausoleum. Unbeknownst to him, this is the resting place of one of his “patients.” Uncovering the casket lid, the doctor is devoured by a gigantic tapeworm. TWIST!

Spooky stories abound in this installment from EC Comics. This issue is more great reading for the Halloween season.

Be sure to come back tomorrow (tapeworm emaciated fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for Halloween!

31 Halloween Comics #26- Gamera

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For this fright-filled Friday, I am looking at the next of the 31 comic books for the Halloween season. As previously, not all of these stories feature the holiday, but all of them will be appropriately themed for Halloween.

Spoilers coming your way.

SPOILERS

Today’s entry is Gamera #1-4.

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From Dark Horse Comics in 1996 comes this adaptation of the movie, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. Written by Dave Chipps with pencil art by Mozart Cuoto and inks from Mike Sellers.

In issue one we are introduced to Asagi, a girl who goes to see a supposed monster at a tourist trap. Upon being confronted by a chihuahua in a poor costume, Mr. Lutz, the proprietor offers her a ride in a seaplane instead.

Elsewhere a team of scientists arrive on an island and find evidence of an attack by the monster, Gyaos. Back in the plane, Asagi tells Lutz of an amulet she has that affords her a connection to the giant turtle-like monster, Gamera. Her amulet starts to glow as Gamera rises from the ocean and travels in search of Gyaos.

On the island, it is revealed that the scientific station has been creating monsters and is responsible for Gyaos. Finally, Gamera confronts Gyaos and they battle in the city. Aboard the plane, Asagi starts to develop wounds. Due to her connection with Gamera through the amulet, when Gamera is hurt, so is she. She runs off into the city to aid Gamera.

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Issue two starts with Lutz running after Asagi as the monsters fight throughout the town. Gamera defeats Gyaos, but the conflict has taken a toll on Asagi, who Lutz delivers to a hospital.

The station on the island is destroyed as two ne’er do wells abscond with a single vat, containing the last surviving monster, Viras. After his plane crashes at sea, Lutz is taken in by a French naval vessel. They are conducting a nuclear test which attracts a new gigantic monster that rises from the ocean.

Gamera shows up but is felled by the new monster, and falls into the ocean. Overhead, in outer space, an alien aboard a spaceship receives an alert and takes off, presumably, for Earth.

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The third issue finds Lutz imprisoned by the French for “interfering” with their nuclear test. Meanwhile, in a submarine, the villains from the island view a now fully grown Viras on the ocean floor. One of them is clearly now under the control of the massive squid-like creature.

Lutz describes to one of the other scientists from the island, Gamera’s fight with the mystery monster who appeared after Gyaos. We are shown Gamera now defeating the monster and dropping it in a volcano. Afterwards, the alien from the previous issue shows up at the volcano. Lutz and Mayuma, the “good” scientist are then teleported by the same alien aboard her ship.

Outside the ship is attacked by Viras, now in the city. Surprisingly, Gamera rescues Viras from a tank’s blast. The “evil” scientist that Viras has taken control of Gamera!

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The final issue concerns the humans, and alien, fighting to stop each other and help Gamera. Gamera and Viras’ battle continues throughout Paris. Eventually, Gamera frees himself and lashes out on Viras. Hurling buildings at the creature, Gamera finally gets the upper hand. Chomping down on one of Viras’ tentacles, Gamera throws him and impales him on a church spire. Finally, Gamera flies off, spinning into the distance. Throughout the series Gamera has only been depicted flying like Superman and not with his trademark spin. It is the one Gamera hallmark that was missing from the tale. At the end Lutz walks off with amulet, with plans of adventures ahead.

I have been a fan of Gamera since being introduced to the giant turtle on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This comic mini-series was made in conjunction with the then new ’90’s movie, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. The movie is alright, not great, but better than his previous series of films. I own a VHS copy, but haven’t seen it for years.

This 1996 series is Gamera’s only foray into comic books, in the west at least. With the occasional resurgence of Godzilla’s popularity it’s surprising that Gamera doesn’t pop back up periodically also. To take advantage of demand for kaiju entertainment at least.

Gamera’s final blow against Viras is probably my biggest complaint with the story. With the final battle taking place in Paris, France, how did they not have him impale Viras on the Eiffel tower? It’s in the story, and would only add to the scale of these monsters. Oh well, Thursday morning editing.

Come back tomorrow (giant amphibious fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for the Halloween season.

31 Halloween Comics #25- Crime Suspenstories #16

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On this terrible Thursday, I am continuing my look at 31 comic books that you can read just in time for Halloween. To reiterate, not all of these tales will involve the holiday specifically, but they will all be appropriately themed for the day.

Warning- spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS

For this installment I will be discussing the Crime Suspenstories #16.

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From 1953, comes another twisted EC Comics classic. My personal copy is a Gemstone reprint from 1994

Our first feature is “Rendezvous” by Johnny Craig. We are introduced to a bookkeeper, Joe. Around the office Joe and his co-workers have a hobby of buying flight insurance for any employee who is traveling. As a sort of joke they all pitch in a few cents, the idea being that if someone dies on their flight, the rest of the workers will strike it rich with the insurance payout.

Later,  we see Joe travel to a home aside from his where we are introduced to Nickie, a woman who Joe is putting up. Apparently she has expensive tastes and expects Joe to foot the bill. Back at work Joe’s boss, Mr. Holmes tells him of his suspicions that someone is embezzling from the company. Unbeknownst to Holmes, the culprit is Joe. To keep Nickie in the lifestyle she is accustomed to, Joe has been stealing from his company.

When Mr. Holmes tells him that he has to take a last-minute trip to another office, Joe hatches a scheme. Joe gives Holmes a suitcase that he says belongs to a member of the office and asks him to return it. In reality, the suitcase contains a homemade time bomb. Joe has taken out their “joke” flight insurance on Holmes and has plotted his death.

Joe calculates that the bomb will go off when the plane is over a certain area in the desert. Driving out that night to confirm his machinations, Joe finds the plane overhead. The bomb goes off as planned, but the plane comes down on Joe and kills him too. TWIST!

Next up is “Fission Bait” by writer Albert B. Feldstein and artist Jack Kamen. Here, Eddie gains a big army contract after WWII to create fuse casings for atomic bombs. Eddie and his wife strike it rich thanks to the lucrative contract. Eventually, Eddie falls in love with another woman and kills his wife. Unfortunately for Eddie, a prospector finds her body out in the desert and is arrested. The police inform him that the prospector was looking for uranium and found the wife’s body due to her watch’s radium dial. TWIST?

Third, is “Come Clean” from writer Albert B. Feldstein and artists Al Williamson and Angelo Torres. Ralph Jansen is on death row and is contemplating how he got there. Ralph claims he is innocent and believes the key to his salvation lies in his memories.

After going home with a woman he met at a dance, Ralph goes home only to be stopped by the police a few days later. They inform him that the woman was killed the night he was at her place. Ralph left an hour before she died, but the woman’s landlord and witnesses claim he is to blame.

All those who saw the killer identified a jacket that he was wearing. Finally, as the switch is thrown, Ralph remembers that his similar jacket was at the cleaners that day and that would prove his innocence. Too late though, as the officials at the prison ruminate on how every one in the chair claims innocence in the end. TWIST!

Last, is “Who’s Next?” by Albert B. Feldstein and Joe Orlando. This entry is a Haunt of Fear selection hosted by the Old Witch. Tony, a barber is having problems with his wife but can’t figure out what the issue is. Going about his day at the barbershop, Mr. Barker, the local bank president comes in every day asking how long the wait is. Too busy to wait, Barker leaves and keeps coming back the next day to repeat the pattern.

At home, Tony’s wife keeps spurning his affections with no explanation. One day at the shop, Mr. Barker comes back in but drops his wallet as he leaves. Tony rushes out to find him and return it. Astonished, Tony sees Barker entering his home. Barker has been finding out how busy Tony is at his shop and then visiting Tony’s wife. The pair have been carrying on an affair.

The next day, Tony opens up the shop but doesn’t see any customers until Barker comes in. Freed up from his schedule, Tony gets Barker in the barber chair, and proceeds to kill him with a straight razor. Barker’s screams attract a crown at the window that looks on in horror. The Old Witch returns at the end to inform the reader that Tony bobbed his wife’s hair the previous night, with an axe. TWIST!

Another good EC horror comic read. As with some other EC books, the requisite twists here aren’t as strong as most. This is really my only critique of EC comics. Obviously, there was some kind of editorial edict that required twist story endings. Therefore, some of them feel tacked on. Again, this issue spotlights a quality Johnny Craig cover, adapting the final story’s climax (spoilers!).

Be sure to come back tomorrow (straight razor wielding fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for Halloween!

31 Halloween Comics #24- The Creep

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For this weird Wednesday, I am looking at another of the 31 comic books for the Halloween season. As always, not all of these stories feature the holiday, but all of them will be appropriately themed for Halloween.

There be spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS

The featured funnybook for today is The Creep #0-4.

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From Dark Horse Comics in 2012 comes this tale of Oxel Karnhus, investigator.

Written by John Arcudi and art by Jonathan Case this miniseries also features a wealth of talent with the cover artists. On the zero issue, Frank Miller provides the cover.

Issue zero, collects installments that were released in one of the Dark Horse Presents series. Here we see Oxel, an investigator that resembles film actor Rondo Hatton, receive a letter from an old girlfriend that tell his that her son killed himself. Strangely, one of the son’s friends killed himself 2 months previously and Stephanie, the mom, is suspicious. After she is ignored by the police, she asks Oxel for help.

Oxel travels to the home of the other boy and talks to his mother. She steers him in the direction of Stephanie’s father. Now homeless, and out of touch with reality, Oxel realizes that mental illness runs in the family and that is probably the cause of Stephanie’s son’s suicide.

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Issue 1, with a cover by Mike Mignola, starts with Oxel in a room with a woman as he pours over photos Stephanie has sent him. It becomes clear that some time has passed since the last issue and Stephanie has not heard from him. After talking to Curtis’ (Stephanie’s son) father, Oxel calls Steph to tell her he is going to take the case, but in a drunken stupor calls the other boy’s mom accidentally, and she angrily hangs up on him.

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Next, issue 2, cover by Ryan Sook, Oxel continues his investigation and goes back to the home of the other boy. Throughout the issue, we see Curtis’ grandfather cleaning himself up in the shelter. Later, Oxel receives a call from Stephanie informing him that her father took her credit card and has disappeared. This chapter ends with the grandfather, delusionally thinking he is with the dead boys, heading off in a bus.

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For issue three, cover by Tonci Zonjic, Oxel heads off on a bus in search of Curtis’ grandfather. When arriving at his destination, Oxel meets up with some local cops and heads out into the woods to track down the missing grandpa. Eventually, Oxel finds a trail of blood. After previously seeing a bear, he assumes the bear has attacked the man he is looking for. At the end of the trail, Oxel comes upon the grandfather, huddled on the ground with bloody hands where he has been digging in the snow and ice.

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The last issue, four, features a cover by interior artist Jonathan Case. Here, Oxel and company are attending the grandfather’s funeral. Afterwards, Oxel leaves without talking to Stephanie. Throughout the story, Oxel has only communicated with her on the phone and through letters, never in person.

Later, he goes to the homeless shelter where Curtis’ grandfather was living and collects his items. Among them, is a journal by Curtis’ friend who killed himself first. Here, the boy recounts the events that lead to his and Curtis’ suicides.

Curtis, his friend, and grandfather went camping in the woods. While hunting, the grandfather accidentally shoots a man. The three bury the body in the woods to protect the grandfather. With his history of mental illness, they believe that he will be sent away if the incident comes out.

Later that night, their campsite is attacked by a bear. Hiding up in the trees, the trio sees the bear dig up the body and attack the man, who is still alive. The three witness the man being mauled by the bear and killed.

This is what pushed the grandfather over the edge once again, and the boys to do what they did. Now knowing the truth, Oxel realizes that if he tells Stephanie what happened, it will end her friendship with the other mother. At the end he calls the lieutenant who helped him find the grandfather, presumably to tell him what he has discovered.

Arcudi and Case have created a good mystery story and introduced a great character in Oxel Karnhus. It’s a shame that there hasn’t been a follow-up to this with him investigating something else.

Oxel isn’t the first time a comic book character has been modeled on actor Rondo Hatton. Dave Stevens’ character of Lothar in the Rocketeer was also based on him. Various comic stories have also featured easter eggs of characters that look like him.

While not as black and white as some of the stories in this series, The Creep stands out for this reason. There is not a clear-cut monster in this tale. Maybe one could point to the grandfather, or possibly the bear, but are either of them really at fault? Despite his monstrous appearance, and how others treat him, Oxel is clearly the hero of the story. If anything, the monster of this narrative, would be that of mental illness. Here we have a monster that is not easily overcome.

Come back tomorrow (bloody fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for Halloween.

31 Halloween Comics #23- Classics Illustrated: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

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On this treacherous Tuesday, I am examining another of the 31 comic books for the Halloween season. As previously, not all of these stories feature the holiday, but all of them will be appropriately themed for Halloween.

Spoilers past this point.

SPOILERS

Today’s comic is Classics Illustrated: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

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Another of the Classics Illustrated series by First Publishing from 1990.

John K. Snyder III adapts Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale here. Like some of the other adaptations on this list, if you know the source material, you know what happens here. Henry Jekyll’s descent as he is associated with the repugnant Mr. Hyde until it is revealed that they are one and the same. The doctor’s experiments as he transforms into his baser self is still a valid examination of the nature of humanity. Naturally, this story has lasted as long as it has by still being relevant due to these themes.

Even if you are familiar with Stevenson’s book, this comic variation is still worth picking up. Snyder’s take is unique and brings something new to the tale. His moody art, sets the tone perfectly for the narrative. Every character looks individual and stands out in their own way.

Naturally, the shift from Jekyll to Hyde is well done also. The straight-laced Victorian Jekyll appears to be a typical upstanding citizen. In contrast, Snyder’s Mr. Hyde is miles apart. While most of his exploits occur during the night, Hyde is portrayed almost entirely in silhouette. The angular outline of his cloak and top hat create a decidedly demonic appearance. Crazed eyes and jagged teeth complete the look. In the end, Hyde appears to be a singular person, apart from Jekyll. His dark appearance adds to the metaphor of the darkness within Jekyll.

While some of the other offerings from this Classics Illustrated line play with the format, Snyder keeps pretty close to tradition here. While his stylized art is assuredly unique, and brings a lot to the issue, the format is typical panels, world balloons, etc. Until the end anyway.

For the final chapter that chronicles Jekyll’s account of the tale, Snyder changes things up. The art is almost a montage of the events described. Meanwhile all word balloons are absent. Instead are long captions detailing the text. This slows down the momentum of the story in a real way at the end. While the rest of the book keeps to one pace, the ending almost hits a wall with this due to the sheer word count this late in the issue. It also takes the reader out of the book some. This abrupt choice seems ill-advised.

Ending aside, this is a good book to read for the Halloween season. Robert Louis Stevenson’s tragedy of Dr. Jekyll is still enjoyable to read today. Plus John K. Snyder III reinvigorates the classic with his exclusive take. I’ve read Stevenson’s novel a couple of times over the years and we are all aware of the story. Snyder’s greatest accomplishment here is bringing a new version of it to the page.

Come back tomorrow (shrinking, brain-manipulating fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for Halloween.