Saturday, July 26, 2008

Haunt Of Fear #18

1991, I was 9 years old, and already a pretty devout fan of comics, though my tastes were predominantly skewed towards Marvel books at this point. I also was aware and very excited by the HBO series, Tales From The Crypt, which provided a great mix of T&A and Gore. I never bought comics from anywhere but the grocery store. I had no idea that comic shops existed and I'm not so sure I knew there were any other kinds of comics besides Marvel and DC.

There I was, shopping with mom like usual and I immediately wandered to the spinning rack. The bright green masthead caught my eye immediately and I recognized the subtitle "Tales From the Crypt presents..."

What was this? A book based on that kick ass Cable show that includes any possible celebrity on any given week? The image on the cover was so striking. Weird little creatures with hands for bodies, animals with human heads, a gigantic Frankenstein face with an ugly guy held captive bulging from the faces various orifices. All of this imagery acting as a border for the creepy "Old Witch". Look at the way Graham Ingels drew her hands! I had to own this book.

So mom gave in and let me have the comic (she always encouraged literacy even if it was reprinted 1950's trash that was responsible for the nations juvenile delinquency).

I read and enjoyed the book. Many times. It was creepy. It was odd. The art was steeped in reality which made each story more uneasy to me, almost like they were based on true events or something. Some of the less fantastic and more crime driven stories seemed very plausible at the hands of Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, and Jack Davis.

Now I understood the Tales From The Crypt tv show and how, each week, you could expect there to be a crazy ending of just desserts which would usually mean the death of the main character who we've gotten to know during the course of that particular hour, especially if they engaged in some kind of cruel, greedy, bullshit. I get that, but with this one particular story I felt it ended on a cliffhanger that would be resolved in the next issue. Let me explain:

The story's called "Bedtime Gory". The details aren't that important. The structure is pretty basic involving Milton, an upwardly mobile douchebag who will do anything to get ahead, and Lorna, the dumb chick who buys Milty's B.S. thus sacrificing her fortune to the guy. Anyhow Milton is bad, kills Lorna's dad, marries her for her cash, ends up revealing his plan and socks her in the jaw:
So flash forward a bit, Milton wakes up from a nap and the story ends with the kinky bitch having tied him to the bedposts. The creep probably thinks he's going to get some freaky loving from the broad but we find out that he's really attached to a stretch rack (where a scorned, lovesick house-frau finds a stretch rack I don't know):
This is the only story in the book that has the antagonist still alive in the last panel. I couldn't imagine that the crazed lady would go forward with ripping the dude apart. That doesn't happen in comics. Usually Spiderman would swoop in and save the day, maybe trade quips with the villian and then go about his business. But I was confused as to who the villian even was in this tale, sure the stretchee was a bad dude but did he deserve to have his arms and legs ripped off? I mean look at that final illustration, that's some painful retribution, I felt like I could hear his muscles snapping and rolling up like one of those slap bracelets we were all playing with in 1991! I found the stretching to be a bit excessive and I villified Lorna a bit for getting so crazed and torturing the poor guy. All superhero comics ended with this sort of cliffhanger, it's sort of a bait-and-switch to get you to pick up the next issue. And in the next issue, thanks to some sort of Deus Ex-Machina, the cliffhanger is solved within the first few pages and you move on to the next tense moment.

I couldn't imagine this was really the end of the story so I eagerly picked up the very next issue of The Haunt of Fear and to my surprise, there was no "Bedtime Gory Part II". Thats when I really had to deal with the fact that Milty met his maker. He got all stretched to hell and that was it. No second thoughts on the part of Lorna, she didn't come to her senses and stop the process, offering Milton "no hard feelings"!!

I was beside myself. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I decided that it was time to read more comics than just the stuff Marvel had to offer.

Ed Piskor, Cartoonist

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