Chronological listing of all issues – with comments and annotations. We mention date of publication, cover motive and cover artist (if identified). Every issue has been indexed on the Grand Comics Database – the link will show you all available data, including cover shots and story descriptions.
Just click the underlined issue labeling.
A miniature splash page indicates that you can find this entire story in our “Stories” section. Just click to read it.
THE THING – 17 issues
THE THING #1
Cover: (Man lying in gutter, scared by floating green heads) – Albert Tyler & Bob Forgione, signed
“The Creature From Dimension 2-K-31” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“Grunwald” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“Nightmare” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“Hellfire of Doom” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
Please note some very interesting details about that first cover. First the title logo “consisting” of ghoul faces, skeletons and fright scenes – there’s even an eyeball in the exclamation mark’s dot.
Second, the subline (or “aboveline” if you will) reads “Weird Tales of Fantasy and Horror! A Songhits Comics Publication”. Songhits?! That’s what it says in the indicia on page 2 as well: “Song Hits, Inc.”. Charlton, you see, started out in 1935 by reproducing song lyrics in magazines as HIT PARADE and SONG HITS.
Now Charlton is going for a completely different kind of tune!
As the cover picture bears witness to: A man being frightened by three flying green shrunken heads (and mind you, GIANT shrunken heads, a contradiction in itself). So far so good. And so conventional.
But! Big but. That man there is sweating profusely and he is lying helplessly in a gutter! A pipe pouring water upon him. That is somehow disturbing and previously unseen. Will CHARLTON HORROR be “dirty” horror?! Is that an omen? Let’s go inside, shall we?
The silly sounding “The Creature From Dimension 2-K-31” is actually a wild tale taking many turns, blending “Heap”-like monster horror with the Korean War – and resulting in a “haunted tank”. Go read it on “The Crypt of The Cramps” blog!
It’s unclear if “The Creature From Dimension 2-K-31” is supposed to incorporate the title-giving THING. The story’s open-ended and will be continued in THING #2. There it is not referred to a “Thing” anymore.
However, in THING #1, this issue’s 2-page text story is called “The Thing”. Herein a sailor shares with us readers the secret of his cursed family. “The Thing” is a vampire ghost rising from a “bluish mist” and murdering everyone close to the narrator. In the end it comes to attack… the reader himself! (Cliché-ridden cheeeeesecake!)
“Grunwald” proves to be a first-person narrative survivor’s tale about a lighthouse being besieged by hungry rats. Not that bad.
“Nightmare” is another twisted tale of the police bringing down (by sheer coincidence, though) a head-hunting killer. The strangely drafted story jumps from character to character and even finds the time to come up with an artists’ in-joke on page 5. Magnify the scan and you will see that the paper hanging from the newsagent’s reads: “Extra! Forgione and Tyler going steady – Wives leave town”.
“Hellfire of Doom” is not a horror story, but a crime case in which a blackmailer burns innocent people with “a portable set of infra-red rays”. Quite shocking nonetheless.
THING #1 is a collaboration between the artists Tyler and Forgione, from first to last page! Strikes me as quite unique. I can’t think of any other pre-code horror comic book (except THE PURPLE CLAW) filled by just one (or a team of two) artist/s. It won’t happen again.
Correcting myself very hastily here: Ditko will be filling THE THING #14 & #15 all by himself, of course!
Summing up that first issue of CHARLTON HORROR, I have to say it’s… well, peculiar. I’m talking about the writing now. Their stories not only pack a twist, they’re packed with twists! All the stories are zig-zagging like a rabbit. Have a look at the one we posted in our “Stories” section: in “Nightmare” the presumably harmless man finding the bodies is not only the killer (as it turns out), but he’s living with a detached head!
You don’t need that second twist; it’s more of a nuisance. A disturbance to our logic (what happened to that immortal man after the police got hold of him?). But CHARLTON HORROR seems to work exactly that way. They give you more than you have asked for.
Clever tactic? Or over-the-top madness? We’ll see, stay tuned. And Charlton will be the house for show of violence. Graphic depictions of gratuitous mayhem and terror will be the rule. Please keep that in mind when we reach issue # 13 and upward.
We start with a sample from “Hellfire Of Doom”.
THE THING #2
Cover: (King fleeing from medieval castle, threatened by giant red spectre) – Bob Forgione, signed
“The Red Death” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“El Toro Diablo” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“The Creature” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“The White Rat” (Albert Tyler + Bob Forgione, signed)
“Impossible ?” (John Belfi, signed) – one-pager
It’s a nice leadoff with “The Red Death”, Forgione’s first solo piece (he’s doing quite well).
The Poe-influenced story about a “red plague” ravaging a pompous and uncaring king’s land foreshadows what EC will do half a year later by presenting its famous “Grim Fairy Tale”.
And after that straight story we’re back with Charlton craziness: “El Toro Diablo” is a winding tale which keeps you guessing where it will end. The horned child becoming a bullfighting matador sounds promising, but waters down to a “I-feel-ugly-but-wanna-be-loved” theme. Disappointing.
Following is part two of last issue’s “The Creature From Dimension 2-K-31”, simply abbreviated to “The Creature”. Continuing to be nothing but weird.
Earth has been befallen by a space plague causing cancerous growths everywhere. The creature rises to heaven and battles an evil planet (“for three days and nights”). Returning to earth it’s pinned down by a passing meteor (think of that exquisite “timing”!) and gets buried in the sands of a desert. Fin. What kind of mythological hogwash is that?! Space Jesus hitches a ride?!
This story feels like a leftover from an unpublished superhero book. Wacky. Go read it on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All”.
Wrapping the second issue up is “The White Rat”, a conventional retaliation story with a twist. But it’s always odd with Charlton. Here it’s the characters: a scientist and doctor is bullied by his strongman assistant (!). The doctor takes revenge by inventing a muscle growth serum and giving the bully a whipping in the wrestling ring. Very improbable if you ask me.
THE THING #3
Cover: (Green-headed fiend in white cloud form strangling man in foreground) – Albert Tyler, signed
“Weird Wonders” (John Belfi, signed) – one-pager
“The Clutch Of Doom” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“The Strange Riddle Of The Ghost Town Ghost” (John Belfi + Dick Giordano, signed)
“The Marching Dead Men” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“Crypt Of The Vampire” (? Martin, signed)
“Mirror, Mirror, On My Wall” (Albert Tyler, signed)
“Things You Should Know” (John Belfi, signed) – half-page filler
Enter Charlton’s bodiless host, “The Thing”. Without ever explaining WHO “The Thing” might be or WHAT it looks like the first story “The Clutch Of Doom” is introduced by IT.
See splash for first “appearance”. Or rather non-appearance.
Run-of-the-mill horror story about a family curse and a murderous detached skeleton hand. Fun in-joke on page 8: the inscriptions on the gravestones read “Al Fago” and “Belfi”, the names of Forgione’s editor respectively colleague.
“The Marching Dead Men” presents a weird, wacky and thus enjoyable blend of horror with the Korean conflict. A silly story through and through – from the hilarious prom night opening to the hotel of the living dead (standing room only) to the zombie attack on the Korean patrol. Read it in our “Stories” section.
“Mirror, Mirror, On My Wall” is a nice job by Albert Tyler, corresponding to this issue’s cover. A fog-demon does the murderous bidding of its master. And again, Charlton writers go for a very special mixture – blending a demon-plot to the criminal business of a dope-running ring. Find this story posted in our “Stories” section, too.
Rest of the stories are lame, crude and negligible.
THE THING #4
Cover: (Man in torn shirt stumbling through wilderness, scared by giant white-bearded head in thunderstorm) – Al Fago, signed
“Things You Should Know” (Dick Giordano, signed) – one-pager
“I Was A Zombie” (Al Fago, signed)
“The Promise Of Ying Ko” (Albert Tyler, signed)
“The Petrified Ghost” (???)
“Partners In Death” (John Belfi, signed)
“Twins Of Doom” (???)
“Things You Should Know” (???) – half-page filler
This issue features the only horror work (cover + lead story) by THE THING editor (!) Al Fago!
Before that he drew funny animal stuff for books like FRISKY FABLES and ELSIE THE COW COMICS. After “I Was A Zombie” Fago turned to Charlton’s own ATOMIC MOUSE.
The splash page is a reworking of the cover. The story itself is fairly entertaining and can be found on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All”.
Last Tyler with “The Promise Of Ying Ko”. He will remain to contribute the odd job for Charlton’s crime books, but his further horror work (just 6 more stories, mind you) will pop up in Trojan’s BEWARE and St. John’s STRANGE TERRORS and WEIRD HORRORS. The story seems to be out of place, because it feels and looks like a 1940s pirate adventure story in “Asiatic waters” (tagged with a ghost twist at the very end).
Mystery artwork in “The Petrified Ghost”, an amusing baddie about a statue coming to life after having absorbed human blood. The professor character is clearly swiped from Johnny Craig. First Charlton horror story to be done with Leroy lettering (a kind of typeset lettering done with stencils; Ace used these exclusively in all their titles from autumn of 1952 on).
As is “Twins Of Doom”, the other mystery artwork story. I believe this to be the same artist (story is executed in the same laughable vein, too). Both are Leroy lettered. Which will only happen once again in the run of CHARLTON HORROR (namely the next issue). I think we’re dealing with an outside job, bought in addition to Charlton’s own material to fill up this issue.
“Partners In Death” introduces as to the horror art of John Belfi. Having done “fillers” in the previous two issues, he’s now allowed to a long story. Belfi will become a CHARLTON HORROR regular (but only from THE THING #8 on!).
The story rotates around a business man being haunted by the ghost of the partner he murdered. Standard fare all in all – as is this whole issue.
Fun part about “Partners In Death” is how Belfi works in the bodiless narrating THING. Its text scroll creeps out of a file cabinet, an ink bottle, a pill box and even bubbles in a water dispenser (see picture).
THE THING #5
Cover: (Woman visiting dungeon is frightened by wax exhibits, beheaded fat corpse lurks over her from behind) – Lou Morales, signed
“Curse Of Karnak” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“Harmony Of Horror” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“Murderer’s Row” (Tex Blaisdell)
“The Tavern Of Terror” (Collier, signed)
Great sick cover by Lou Morales. Reminds me of his infamous title page art for the sister series LAWBREAKER’S SUSPENSE STORIES (#11 respectively) – a crime book yet missing on the internet. Someday I’ll get my hands upon you…
First person narrative by Mona Davis (“from the Bronx”) in “Curse Of Karnak”. I am very much surprised that this story is again done with Leroy lettering. This will be their very last try (were they emulating Ace or Story horror comic books ?). The story is as clumsy as Forgione’s artwork. Enjoyable baddie.
“Harmony Of Horror” follows suit in the same vein. Inventive murder scene on page 3.
The fun even cranks up a gear with “Murderer’s Row”, another crude run-of-the-mill story about horror in a wax museum. They leave out no cliché in this issue.
Some garish panels of gratuitous violence grace this inane tale, which is partly ironic, I believe (have a look at panel 3 on page 6). We post it in our “Stories” section.
The woman character stays astonishingly passive – concerning the obnoxious mayhem happening all around her.
First and only horror art by Tex Blaisdell, by the way.
A guy named Collier (no first name known) signed responsible for “The Tavern Of Terror”. Collier seems to have worked around Charlton’s crime and horror titles. Cruel story, cruel artwork. Fun part is the oil painting of the (ugly!) vampire lady posing lasciviously amidst her victims. Go look for it on the Digital Comic Museum, I uploaded the whole issue.
THE THING #6
Cover: (Native tribesmen conducting fire dance under full moon, giant shrunken head floating in the sky) – Bob Forgione, signed
“The Tale Of A Salem Witch” (Art Capello + Dick Giordano, signed) – one-pager
“The Weird Tale Of The Rock Bound Ghost” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“Vengeance Will Be Mine” (Dick Giordano, signed)
“The Warlock Of London” (Collier, signed)
“An Ancient Ghost Story” (Dick Giordano, signed) – one-pager
“Jibaro Madness” (Bob Forgione ? / Seymour Moskowitz ?, signature “RF”?)
The natives are restless on a nice Forgione cover.
Frankly, I don’t go for seaside / lighthouse horror yarns, which “The Weird Tale Of The Rock Bound Ghost” absolutely fits. Boooooring.
Enter Dick Giordano at CHARLTON HORROR. After having contributed fillers to THING #4, he’s allowed his first long story: “Vengeance Will Be Mine” – a crime / horror drama with nonsensical overtones (people falling unintentionally out of windows and such).
Giordano will be staying for just this issue! – then gets assigned to sister titles like SPACE ADVENTURES, LAWBREAKERS, HOT RODS and so forth. He will return to do STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES in 1954, though!
The fluctuation of employees continues. Next up is another Collier contribution: “The Warlock Of London” is about a gang of ghouls posing as members of the high society. That’s quite wacky, but Collier’s bland artwork lets it look run of the mill. Although we get a nice lot of bloody fencing on the final pages (see picture)!
What struck me in this story is an eerie resemblance of one of the Ghouls (Garth) with a character from “Hunger” (MISTER MYSTERY #16, published over a year later).
The sadistic dungeon keeper Cochon seems to be modeled after him. The crude artwork could never be identified. I wonder if Collier tried a comeback at Gilmor/Key…
The THING #6 highlight for me is the zany headhunting story “Jibaro Madness”. A classic “baddie” which I relished posting and commenting on my German website.
A party of adventurers is shrunk to miniature size and has to battle a guillotine-wielding madman called Maximo. That is only how it starts out. In the end giant spiders attack. You gotta see this to believe it.
Another madness begins with this issue. The typographic tic to letter any combination with “thing” in another style. Let me show you what I’m talking about:
They will continue to use this kind of special lettering as a trademark for THE THING. I think it’s irritating as hell! It’s needless, disturbing and pathetic. They’ll hang on to it until THING # 14, though. From time to time, coming back to haunt me…
THE THING #7
Cover: (Bird-Man-like creature scratching out the eyes of middle-aged bald man with its claws) – Lou Morales, signed
This issue was missing! Isaw it auctioned on Ebay in March 2013 and being sold for over 150 dollars; I backed out at 50… Anyhow, I managed to take photographs of this book from German pre-code horror collector „whitewolf61“ and now I, too, know what’s inside:
„Hell Ship“ (Bob Forgione, signed)
„Spiderman And His Web Of Doom“ (Bob Forgione, signed)
„Give The Devil His Due!“ (John Belfi, signed)
„The Gorgon’s Claw“ (John Belfi, signed)
„The Ghosts Of Gombi!“ (Lou Morales, signed) – one-pager
„Haunt Of The Vampire“ (Collier ?)
Infamous „Injury-to-the-eye“ cover.
Three bank-robbers make their escape on a haunted vessel in „Hell Ship“. Don’t ask why. Probably to show us scenes of cruel torture at sea. Not a good story; and not gory enough to rate it as over-the-top display of violence.
Fun returns with „Spiderman And His Web Of Doom„. A young couple move into a house with a haunted attic. There waits Mr. Nemo to drain their blood! It’s a standard vampire tale, but with a giant „spiderman“ instead of a bat-like creature. And I prefer any pre-code „spiderman“ to Peter Parker!
See it posted in our „Stories“ section.
It’s a three-page PUN story with „Give The Devil His Due!“. A farmer makes a pact with the devil. When time comes to pay the devil his „due“, said farmer gives the devil some „dew“ from the fields – because there was a typo in the contract. Ha-haw!
Interesting satirical horror story, though. And one of the very few ones in which the devil turns out to be the loser.
„The Gorgon’s Claw“ is the inside story referring to the grisly cover. If you ever wondered what’s happening on that title page, well… It’s a gorgon attacking the dean of Carlton (sic!) College, Prof. Thaddeus. The attack looks likes this, by the way (see picture). Entertaining story about a salacious professor who goes on a killing spree pretending to be a gorgon – just to make out with lovely co-eds! You can guess where this is going…
Will present whole story on my German website in the next days – link is now in place… done.
„Haunt Of The Vampire“ is signed with stylized initials which might read „TC“. This may well be a certain guy named „Collier“ who contributed to THING #5 and #6, but signed there with his full family name. Here he’s doing a lot of swipes.
A „swipe“ is a copy, a rip-off of a motif someone else has done before. Just to give you a sample from that story, here’s the splash and the model – Johnny Craig’s cover to VAULT OF HORROR #28 (published just weeks before!).
Craig’s cover story from the above shown VOH #28 is called „Till Death…“ – and „Haunt Of The Vampire“ looks shockingly like „Till Death…“ all over again! Hilarious swipe art! Will show you for the sheer hang of it two more comparisons.
And here we see how meticulously the artist really worked. You hardly notice the difference on a first glance. Okay, I’m flattering. I almost wonder that no one credited „Haunt Of The Vampire“ to Johnny Craig!
The story itself is a really really BAD one. Bad not in a fun way, but bad in a shake-your-head-in-sad-belief way. Annoying hodgepodge without any sense to it. Prime example for amateurish work all over! I’ll upload the whole issue in the next days. Have a look.
Postcript: Book now uploaded to the Digital Comic Museum!
THE THING #8
Cover: (Man and woman in attic flinching from magic mirror out of which supernatural figures are emerging) – Bob Forgione, signed
“The Ghost Of Abbey Playhouse” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“A Grave Situation” (John Belfi, signed)
“The Riddle Of Glamis” (???) – one-pager
“Vein Of Irony” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“The Haunted Bridge” (???) – one-pager
“Death Has Deep Roots” (Bob Forgione, signed “BF”)
This issue is a grave disappointment. Pun intended. The artwork’s grubby and the stories don’t surprise or astonish (or even alienate the readers, like Charlton writing so far did).
We just chose to post “Vein Of Irony”, a five-page vampire “quickie”.
It’s as flimsy as it’s brutal. Watch out for the gratuitous violence against women on the first pages and the outrageously bad finale on the last. Your typical pre-code “yecch” kind of horror story.
A dying man tell us his tale in “A Grave Situation” – and bleeds a lot from the mouth.
Posting you this a yet another example of Charlton brutality. They weren’t squeamish. As is the good doctor, calmly describing his patient as “a goner”. Thanks, doc.
By the way: I’m not sure if the signature “BF” stands for Bob Forgione or for Belfi & Forgione. Stories signed this way could be a collaboration…
THE THING #9
Cover: (Dr. Jekyll-type man carrying blonde half-naked woman through dungeons) – Bob Forgione, signed
“Mardu’s Masterpiece” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“The Road To Madness” (Bob Forgione + Vince Alascia, signed)
“Operation Massacre” (John Belfi, signed)
“The Dead Man’s Hand” (Bob Forgione, signed “BF”)
The issue leads off with (hooray!) a story about an art painter! You have not published horror comics if you haven’t at least ONE tale about mad painters dabbling with the forces of evil. So what’s the Charlton touch to this charming subgenre?
As a real Parisian bohemian Etienne Mardu talks of himself in the third person. His art is no good – until he starts painting with blood. Voilá. First his own, then the blood of his models. But the life-like pictures come alive on canvas and put an end to Mardu’s sorry career. No real impact in this story, how about the next?
“The Road To Madness” is an extremely violent treasure hunt tale. Francisco de Cobra (nice name there!) seeks to own the world’s largest diamond. To that avail he stabs his partner, burns his guide with a flame thrower and sets rabid dogs on a rival. Stiff and awkward artwork (Alascia’s heavy inks!) bring no glamour to a crime story with an arbitrary twist.
All hopes lie with “Operation Massacre”, which is a bit of a Belfi classic.
We welcome back Charlton cheekiness – only they dared to pull off hair-raising stuff like this.
A power-mad villain controls an army of robots by pure thought. But a funny thing happens on the way to world domination.
A stupid slip of the tongue finds Marko under the foot of his own killer robots. Hilarious.
Note that they have not only robots, but also mind control.
That’s jumping ahead centuries in science-fiction terms! But it’s obviously 1953.
Delectable nonsensical wackiness, probably by the same author who brought us “Jibaro Madness” three issue before. Find it posted on my German website.
Please note also Charlton’s full frontal graphic cruelty: There’s an iron hand ripping out the throat of a hapless male victim (just at the bottom of the splash, on the left) and of course, the finale – Marko’s arm is being ripped out of the shoulder (last panel on page 5) and his face is stepped upon (page 6) with a sickening and blood-red “Cruunch!”. Jeez.
CHARLTON HORROR is often enough going for “shock value”.
A fiery death, a hand cut off and multiple murders by mentioned bodiless hand are the gruesome ingredients for “The Dead Man’s Hand” – another typical pre-code no-brainer. See it posted on Karswell’s fabulous blog “The Horrors Of It All”.
THE THING #10
Cover: (Display of frightened faces, a werewolf and a devil looking menacingly in between them) – ???
“Flower Of Evil” (Bob Forgione, signed)
“Into The Fire!” (Stan Aschmeier)
“Rain Of Terror” (John Belfi ?)
“Death Has Three Fingers” (Bob Forgione + Vince Alascia, signed)
“Mark Of Violence” (John Belfi ?)
“The Devil’s Kiss” (??? + Vince Alascia)
Breaking it to you ungently: Though the story titles sound promising (and some panels certainly look that way), this is a lame issue. Violently weak plots without any edge. We were quite disappointed when we unearthed this book in autumn 2012.
Most interesting are “Mark Of Violence” and “Into The Fire!”. Latter one’s artist burrows definitely from early Jack Davis. Have a look at the first, fourth and last panel on page 3.
This may be the work of one Stan Aschmeier. I found his signature “Stan Ash” while rummaging/researching Charlton’s LAWBREAKER’S SUSPENSE STORIES #13. That’s the same artist. Says my art spotting capabilities – and ten bucks!
Again one of those rare issues in which the 2-page text story (“Darkness”) proves more gripping (a breathless depiction of humankind’s apocalypse) than the rest of the book.
“Into The Fire!” is posted in our “Stories” section (please note grimly humoristic bludgeoning of a man with a skull on page three of story); “Mark Of Violence” on our German website. And here’s just a graphic violence teaser from that story (to make sure you go there):
THE THING #11
Cover: (Ghoul swinging cleaver over blonde woman begging to frightened man amidst little devils and a pipe-smoking skeletal figure reading in book) – Bob Forgione
“Hansel And Gretel” (Bob Forgione + Vince Alascia, signed)
“The Glitter Of Evil” (Sid Check, signed)
“Beyond The Past!” (Lou Morales, signed)
“Deep Freeze” (Bob Forgione + Vince Alascia, signed)
“Blind Vengeance” (John Belfi, signed)
Wild Forgione cover fraught with details. The man/victim looks like he’s thinking “O no. What have I stumbled upon? Do I HAVE to be here? Can I go now?”.
What the man actually thinks is: “I’ve made a noise and… and… s-she’s seen me! Lord, what am I going to do now?” – as the splash of the first story reveals. The splash is used for this issue’s cover. Strange thing is, it’s NOT exactly the same drawing. Has this been drawn twice?
“Hansel And Gretel” is yet another rip-off/homage of/to EC’s “Grim Fairy Tale” feature, founded in autumn 1952 with “Marriage Vows!” in HAUNT OF FEAR #15. The famous grim fairy tale called “A Grim Fairy Tale” was the second installment and followed suit a month later in VAULT OF HORROR #27.
“Hansel And Gretel” plays nicely with the fairy tale pretense, presenting a very clever tale about ghouls – old and modern ones. To say more would be spoiling all the fun. Read it on Karswell’s fantastic blog “The Horrors Of It All”.
“The Glitter Of Evil” is more crime than horror. A greedy pearl diver getting too greedy and robbing natives until he meets his more than deserved fate… spare me.
“Beyond The Past!” is one of my favorite horror “quickies” (sporting only 4 pages). And it’s only because of the artwork! That page four by Lou Morales is just sen-sa-tio-nal!
Gotta show it you – here and NOW:
A lovely girl in a flimsy nightgown flashing a shapely leg (the prominent and dominant size of that panel!) contrasted to the gory remains of a man brutally slaughtered by a demon! Pin-Up and horror have never been combined better than in this ingenious composition – have a look at the whole story on my German website.
Hats off to Lou.
One of those artists you instantly want to see more of, but he didn’t do much. Some crime for Charlton, just one more horror story (a one-page filler in THE THING #7) – and that hideous cover for the infamous LAWBREAKER’S SUSPENSE STORIES #11 (a book I’d love to get my hands on, no one knows about the contents of that particular issue). Surely one of the most sought after crime-horror books ever.
“Deep Freeze” is uninteresting monster horror. “Blind Vengeance” is formula haunted murderer fare. CHARLTON HORROR keeps presenting itself in a zig-zag of stories worth reading and stories to forget about. Hmmm.
Note: Last appearance by Forgione! The artistic mainstay of CHARLTON HORROR so far will be replaced by a certain Mr. Ditko…
Change of guard with the advent of 1954. Belfi will be leaving as well, making way for Dick Ayers.
THE THING #12
Cover: (Vampire ladies descending flight of stairs and attacking women in medieval dresses) – Steve Ditko, signed
“Cinderella” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Melvin Comes Home!” (Dick Ayers, signed)
“The Mummy’s Curse!” (John Belfi, signed)
“Food For Thought!” (???) – one-pager
“The Sound Of Death” (??? + Vince Alascia ?)
“Greed…” (Anthony Tallarico, signed)
We are entering the year 1954 and things change dramatically at Charlton. The month before saw their continuation of Fawcett’s STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES (#16). And now a thrilling new artist joins the club: Steve Ditko starts working on CHARLTON HORROR.
Shout it from the mountain top: First Ditko!
Due to the occasion, let me first list some websites dealing with Ditko art:
Ditkomania Yahoo Group
Ditko Fever Compendium
With its very own “The Thing” section – no comic stories posted, though – but the blog features an extensive listing of all of Ditko’s work.
Steve Ditko Comics Weblog
And out there is a website called “The Charlton Comics Reading Library” – where you’ll find tons of stuff posted. For example the whole issue of THE THING #12.
“Cinderella” is Ditko’s first job for CHARLTON HORROR – and it is pure dynamite.
A gripping and suspenseful (and truly horrifying) reworking of the fairy tale. A cruel, senseless, depressing and bloody adventure into imagination. EC’s “Grim Fairy Tales” are looking almost small in comparison. What a dazzling debut for Ditko.
I tried to improve one of the two existing scans on the internet, but to no avail (scanning resolution was probably quite low and printing seems to have been dismal in the first place). Could always use a better one, though…
A comical story is “Melvin Comes Home!” wherein a miserly rival gets his payback. A first story by Dick Ayers for CHARLTON HORROR, welcome aboard. He obviously can’t draw women (not in a realistic fashion, anyway, see for yourself), but who wants to see women drawn in a realistic fashion in comics?!
John Belfi signed responsible for the artwork in “The Mummy’s Curse!” – and he should be ashamed. Not only are his drawings more than inane, he is deftly swiping from Rudy Palais.
If you’d like to compare, look at his story “Crypt of Death” (posted HERE on my German website).
Ditko’s very first contribution to this issue, of course, is his cover. His depiction of a powerful and strangely compelling vampire attack is just gorgeous to look at – and a classic pre-code horror masterpiece.
In our „Stories“ section we post the 2-page-shortie “Greed” – an interesting “filler” which ends on a strictly Darwinian note. I love this kind of Charlton nonsense.
THE THING #13
Cover: (Giant demon faces springing from magic book and leering down at shocked reader) – Steve Ditko, signed
“Library Of Horror” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Die Laughing!” (Steve Ditko + ?)
“A Tisket A Casket!” (Anthony Tallarico, signed)
“Avery And The Goblins” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Poor Fish!” (??? + Chic Stone ?)
Giant Ditko issue – three stories plus cover!
His lead story “Library Of Horror” is one of those delectable “insider” stories: Burnt-out writer for CHILLING MYSTERIES, Ken Rolland, dabbles with real black magic to get new inspirations. Get ready for a first flight into Ditko phantasmagoria!
Nice catch by a previous GCD-indexer: “The Executive editor of the fictional ‘Chilling Mysteries’ is named Allen Fargo, similar to real Charlton editor Al Fago.” Find the story posted on the “Steve Ditko Comics Weblog”.
Next up is “Die Laughing!”, a terrible cliché story about a group of boys daring to enter a haunted house for their initiation into a college frat. Utterly repetitious, foreseeable and plain right stolen from an old EC story: “House of Horror” by Harvey Kurtzman in HAUNT OF FEAR #15 (May-June 1950). The impudence, the impudence!
Third entry is “Avery And The Goblins”, an interesting tale of a treasure hunt in a castle brimming with evil, cannibal goblins! It’s weird, all right, and awards us with a panel of exquisite shock value.
Charlton will be probing even deeper into the realms of cruelty and graphic violence.
The art in “Poor Fish!” looks stunningly like Chic Stone’s work for ACE HORROR. Doesn’t strike me as a solo job, though. Guess he’s inking. I bet Stone’s involved, because he’s credited for Charlton’s TV TEENS. “Poor Fish!” is an enjoyable four-page “quickie” (or “shortie”, as fellow blogger Karswell once suggested). I guess “quickie” is more sexually connotated, but four pages are consumed just as fast… We post this fishy tale in our “Stories” section.
THE THING #14
Cover: (Man-Bats attacking townspeople in street, giant blue-haired bat-head hovering in background) – Steve Ditko, signed
“Rumpelstiltskin” (Steve Ditko)
“The Evil Eye!” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Doom In The Air” (Steve Ditko)
“Inheritance!” (Steve Ditko, signed)
This is the mother lode: Ditko from cover to cover. Will happen with issue #15 again. Nevermore.
Grim(m) fairy tale, Charlton style, the second: “Rumpelstiltskin” is a nice double feature with “Cinderella” from THING #12. The hairy, wild-eyed demon Rumpelstiltskin is quite an unforgettable Ditko character. The story has been expanded in a beautiful, dark way.
“The Evil Eye!” is one of the most vicious pre-code horror stories ever!
Warren Cairo puts his crippled wife Gerda in a car and drives her over a cliff. But Gerda’s a witch and takes revenge by not only branding her husband with a red-hot iron, but setting rats upon him to eat him alive. The poor sod is finally thrown into the sea and drowns.
The image of a man whose extremities have been chewed off by giant rats is nothing less but shocking – and nowhere mentioned in horror literature! In his “Terrology”-feature about Charlton comics, George Suarez shows the picture of the man floating to the bottom of the sea. We post the whole story in our “Stories” section (click miniature splash to get there).
“Doom In The Air” starts out as a western tale and becomes a story about a corpse awakened by an atom test bomb, stalking his wrongdoers and leaving a trail of radiation poisoning behind him. Interesting radiation horror!
Last entry is “Inheritance!”, a construed story about two archeologists and an Egyptian curse. It’s rather run-of-the-mill, very wordy – but offers a satisfying twist.
The first two stories from THING #14 make this book a classic. Let’s see if all-Ditko #15 can live up to that standard.
THE THING #15
Cover: (Giant metallic looking worm crushing buildings and setting city on fire) – Steve Ditko, signed
“The Worm Turns” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Day Of Reckoning!” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Comeback!” (Steve Ditko)
“If Looks Could Kill!” (Steve Ditko, signed)
“Family Mixup” (Steve Ditko, signed)
We have the next wild and weird cover by master Ditko: that saliva-dripping mechanical looking monster worm is something to dream about. Last THING with Ditko stories, by the way.
We don’t really know WHY Norman Thoma creates an invulnerable super-species – and why has he moved into a Frankenstein-like castle on the hill? Just to make our spines shiver, of course! “The Worm Turns” is fantastic fever dream of a story with a philosophical twist.
Charlton wackiness rules the earth again – not unlike the monster worm, feeding on our BRAINS!!! (Sorry, got carried away there…)
A next unpleasant scene awaits the reader in “Day Of Reckoning!”, wherein an old man gets his mouth sewn shut. An otherwise bland seafaring tale of murder and ghostly revenge.
“Comeback!” feels a bit like “The Evil Eye!” from last issue. An evil man murdering a woman (equipped with magical powers). Never a good idea. Because the lady will come back and have her revenge – in this case: You’re toast, buddy! Good, clean and brainless fun.
I love “If Looks Could Kill!” – this is CHARLTON HORROR at its worrisome finest. The plot is pure lunacy, plain folly: A surgeon (called “Gustave Savage” by all means!) gets kidnapped (by a hypnotist called “Merlin”). Merlin has strange powers and blinds the poor doctor. Robbed of his eyesight Savage goes savage and strangles the fiend. Then he transplants Merlin’s eyes for his own in a five minute ad-lib operation!
Savage is able to not only see again (see?), but now his looks can kill. As on onwalking hunchback and the doctor’s treacherous wife soon find out. Story is posted on the net (click title) and in our “Stories” section as well (go there to find a new edit).
Matrimonial alienation is its own sub-genre in the cosmos of pre-code horror. But hardly has it been as delightful and head-on as in “Family Mixup”. It’s cruel and sadistic and brutal…
Did I say brutal? Let’s have a picture here – of a woman who’s going to be pumped to death with air directed into her stomach.
The stories “Worm Turns” and “Family Mixup” are presented on a blog called “The Time Bullet”. Just to show you how many comics blogs are out there. Go have a look.
THE THING #16
Cover: (Big-eyed and fanged ghoul storming through graveyard) – Steve Kirkel ?
“Nothing He Couldn’t Do!” (Dick Ayers, signed)
“Death Of A Gambler!” (Joe Shuster & Vince Alascia, signed)
“Picture Of The Future!” (Seymour Moskowitz, signed)
“Mental Wizard!” (Bill Molno? / Joe Shuster ? / Ray Osrin ?)
“The Crusher” (??? + Jack Abel ? or Bernard Sachs ?)
Interesting and disturbing cover scene (have a look by clicking the underlined issue number). Who did this? It seems not to be Ditko. On Grand Comics Database an indexer suggested Steve Kirkel, because “the cover art is similar to the Jack Davis-esque art signed by „Kirk“ in „Through the Looking Glass“ in The Thing # 17”. Good point, valid point, I accept this guess.
Charlton goes big time for shock value with this issue. THE THING #16 is one of the most violent comic books of its time. And next to Moskowitz it’s now Dick Ayers joining in!
As usual I’ll post you proof of the gratuitous violence.
Ayers by the way continued his grisly career years later in the infamous magazines coming from Eerie Publications. There he relished in depictions of ripped-out eyeballs flying through the air. I direct potential voyeurs to this blog, sadly no more active: “The Bloody Pulp”.
And may recommend Mike Howlett’s excellent book about this crazy enterprise: “The Weird World of Eerie Publications: Comic Gore That Warped Millions of Young Minds”. Reviewed on said blog HERE.
But back to the matter at hands: “Nothing He Couldn’t Do!” is a bit of a classic atrocity story. Four shipwrecked men are stranded on a cannibal island and captured immediately. While three of them have high hopes of surviving for some days, the natives torture the ship’s handy mechanic Jonesy. Sickening twist (spoiler, don’t read if you want to know the ending): All men will be fabricated into canned meat (at once!), because Jonesy told them how to do it.
“Death Of A Gambler!” is a run-of-the-mill (nah, that’s unfair, but it didn’t grip me) story about a careless wealthy playboy type getting addicted to gambling and ending in the gutter.
(THE THING #1 just springs to mind, the cover depicting a man lying in the gutter…)
“Picture Of The Future!” is the next vehicle for violence. A magic scroll shows the future of two murderous thugs – step by step, death by death. Scenes of murder: 6. Body count: 4. Very bloody last page. See whole story posted in our “Stories” section. And here’s the fierce finale shown in the picture…
Mystery artwork in “Mental Wizard!” – seems familiar if you look at STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #21 & #22. It’s possibly Molno or Shuster with Osrin (just guessing here).
Blogger “Pappy” introduced his scan to this story with the following words:
“THE THING #16, a Charlton horror comic from late ’54, is notorious for having some sort of gory violence in every story: a spear through a guy’s throat, a guy stabbed in the chest, a spike through a guy’s cheeks. Kind of a one-note comic book! This story, „The Mentalist,“ has a spear thrown into a guy’s eyeball. It’s what Doc Wertham called „the injury to the eye motif.“ Whatever, this is one gruesome comic book.”
Go read the story, and of course, here’s the most vicious panel to “ogle” (sorry) up front:
“The Crusher” features similar artwork. Art spotting wizard Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. suspected inkwork by Jack Abel or Bernard Sachs. Did not dare to put a name to the penciller. Too many artists used that style of drawing…
The story itself sports pure terror in the jungle! Barney Tragg is now the name of the sadistic plantation owner who catches his wife and her lover red-handed. Like last month’s sadistic plantation owner Hugo von Mohl (in STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #20) Tragg likes to swing his whip. He flogs the lover to death and stalks his wife in the jungle. But the dead foreman appears and drags the “Crusher” into quicksand mire. Justice served. In a pre-code horror kind of way…
Boy, this is some mayhem-packed issue.
Made Dr. Wertham’s day.
THE THING #17
Cover: (Sorcerer in alchemist’s chamber summoning demon-like creature) – Steve Ditko, signed
“Through The Looking Glass!” (Steve Kirkel, signed “Kirk”) “Bad Blood!” (Dick Ayers, signed)
“Wishful Thinking!” (Steve Kirkel, signed “Kirk”)
“Weird Legend Of Trelawney” (Bob Powell) – reprinted from BEWARE! TERROR TALES #1
Last issue, sadly. Comes with a last Ditko cover, though (no story inside).
I didn’t know that Steve (or Stephen) Kirkel could look like Jack Davis, but he does here!
Interesting artist with only 39 spottings, Kirkel did mostly western stories for Youthful – before contributing 8 (maybe 9) pre-code horror tales. THING #17 is Steve Kirkel’s comic book (double feature)!
“Through The Looking Glass!” confronts us with a perverted version of the children’s book classic. Alice is a mean and sadistic girl who runs amok in Wonderland. What’s missing in this story is that we don’t feel for anyone because it’s all arbitrary violence. Interesting, nonetheless. Posted in our “Stories” section. Some faces are deliberately copied from Jack Davis, by the way.
Dick Ayers goes to town in “Bad Blood!”, providing us with an ultra-violent fight scene on page 2:
“Wishful Thinking!” feels like a collage from other horror stories from other companies. Emil Barto is a vampire aboard a ship and gets stranded on an island. One by one the party dies, and in the end Barto, too, by the hands of another vampire! That is quite lame and in no way logical. The last line “It takes a vampire to recognize a vampire!” sounds eerily familiar. I’m almost sure to have read this in another story! Do you know where? Drop us a line by e-mail.
In general is “Wishful Thinking!” a variation of EC’s “No Silver Atoll!” (HAUNT OF FEAR #23, January 1954), wherein a werewolf on a plane gets stranded on the island and starts killing the party of survivors.
Kirkel’s swipes of Jack-Davis-characters look lackluster in this story, maybe he was rushed into delivering the pages of his second contribution for THING #17.
“Weird Legend Of Trelawney” was originally published under the title “Ghost Hounds Of Trelawney” in Fawcett’s BEWARE! TERROR TALES #1 (missing on the internet). It’s great Bob Powell artwork (as usual). The story sports a breathless and breathtaking man-and-dog chase over 12 pages.
Since it seems not to have been shown online up to now, we chose to post it in our “Stories” section.
So we say farewell to the Thing (whatever it may have been) and bow to Bobby. Powell is one of my favorite five fifties artists. Before you ask, it’s Kurtzman, Craig, Krigstein, Crandall and Powell.
This is all very subjective, yeah. No Ditko?, you might complain. He has impressed me very much with his work for CHARLTON HORROR, but he drew too little pre-code horror to make my day. Okay, Kurtzman as well, but I fell in love with EC a loooong time ago.
So here’s the THING – our artists’ assignment count for THE THING:
|Bob Forgione||21||(4 with inks by Vince Alascia)|
|Albert Tyler||9||(7 with inks by Bob Forgione)|
|Dick Ayers||3||(2 with inks by Ernie Bache)|
Each 1: Dick Giordano, Stan Aschmeier, Lou Morales, Seymour Moskowitz, Bill Molno + Ray Osrin, Joe Shuster + Vince Alascia, Al Fago, Tex Blaisdell, Sid Check, “TC”, Chic Stone, Bob Powell (reprint) and a guy who signed by “Martin”.
This count does NOT include one-page “filler” features!