Category Archives: Halloween

October’s Great Cover is a Howler

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I mean it’s a howler in the sense that it is October, the month of Halloween, and I chose a comic book cover with a werewolf on it. And werewolves howl, so…

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Marvel titles was Werewolf By Night. I was and still am into Universal Studios’ classic monster movies: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man (1941). And the Werewolf By Night series went hand in hand with those movies. I especially liked the first few issues with the incomparable Mike Ploog’s artwork. However, my favorite single issue is still Werewolf By Night #9, which was wonderfully draw by Tom Sutton. I wrote about that issue a long time ago.

As you have probably noticed, this month’s great cover isn’t an issue of Werewolf By Night. I did one of those covers as my first great cover of the month blog. No, this one is an issue of Moon Knight (#29 – March, 1983). It’s drawn by one of comic books’ most intriguing artists: Bill Sienkiewicz.

I first saw Sienkiewicz’s work in this Moon Knight series. I thought he was good, if a bit of a Neal Adams look-a-like. But, soon, much like Barry Winsdor-Smith, John Romita Jr., and Mike Mignola, Sienkiewicz stopped trying to draw in the fashion of most comic book artists and allowed his own style to emerge. This cover is from the beginning of that emergence.

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More man-like version.

There was also a change in how the Werewolf was depicted. The decision was made to move away from the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man look to a more wolf-like monster. It would still walk upright like a man, but its face would be that of a wolf. More like Marvel’s character Man-Wolf.

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More wolf-like version.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a bit torn by that change. I really like the early version, but this version is more horrifying and much more monstrous. Especially the way Sienkiewicz draws the creature on this cover and in the book.

There are five elements to this cover illustration: The eyes, the fangs, the blood, the crescent blade, and black. The use of black is brilliant. It can’t help but create a mood of horror and dread. This creature isn’t human. It can’t be reasoned with. The earlier version of the Werewolf could, at times, look almost cuddly. This version is poised to bite your face off.

This cover certainly caught collectors’ eyes back in 1983. It’s still eye-catching now.

It’s such a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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A Hobo, a Hunchback, and a Weird Old Lady Walk Into a Haunted House…

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Guest blogger Michael Noble returns with a Halloween tale…

Of course, despite the debacle that was playing “war,” [see Mr. Noble’s previous guest bloggery] Doug Schlaufman and I remained good friends. As is evident in the photo provided above during one of our Halloween outings.

This particular Halloween of our youth was a bit of a milestone: It was THE Halloween night we were going to visit the famed haunted house down the street from where I lived, a house we hadn’t dared go into previously. The hauntings and blasphemies and tales we’d heard about the place had kept us at bay for a long time. This year? It was the year we popped our haunted house cherry and ventured forward.

Back in the day, Halloween was a much anticipated free-for-all.

There were pillowcases that needed filling with candy and treats in the course of several trips in and out of the surrounding neighborhoods. There was the goopy make-up that got in your eyes and stuck there throughout the next day when you went to school, no matter how hard you tried to scrub it off. There was the toilet paper. There were the pumpkin guts tossed in the middle of the street we slipped on when we crossed from house to house. There were the dark, foreboding pathways leading up to houses, lit by little more than a single, ominous red or blue light bulb. The dogs scaring the bejeebers out of us when we approached a house. The thoroughly creepy music emanating from the background somewhere. Dank, moldy figures sitting on porches, waiting to make us leap screaming as they suddenly “came alive” and lurched menacingly at us.

Those were the days.

The old Polariod photo is of (left to right) Doug Anderson (hobo), myself (hunchback … and yeah, hunchbacks wore jeans) and Doug Schlaufman (weird old lady), complete with my father’s bright orange ‘68 VW in the background. It was 1973 (I think) and I was twelve years old. What a motley looking crew we were.

I remember that particular night vividly. We ran wild in the streets for hours, collecting as much as we could. I recall we came back with bags full of stuff, our loot practically giving beneath its weight. We’d dump it all on the kitchen table for Mom to go thorough, snag a piece or two for the road and then we were out the door for more.

We were unstoppable.

There was a house about a block away. It was transformed into a Halloween haunt during the season. We never had the guts to go into it before, but this was the year. I remember we saved that place for last. We wanted to go in, but we didn’t want to go in, if you know what I mean.

Toward the end of the night – feet tired, arms weary from lugging pounds and pounds of tooth-decaying treats – we ventured to the haunted house of doom.

We were greeted by an ominous voice inviting us to enter at our own risk. We were genuinely frightened out of our wits, but none of us backed down. We were going to go through with it. Mom knew where we were, even if she didn’t know who these people were. It was all good.

We carefully tip-toed inside. Just past the front door, ripped shreds of material hung. We had to make our way through them. Some were sticky. With what we hadn’t a clue.

A left turn took us into our first room of terror. We stopped dead in our tracks: a surgeon came into sight just around a wall. He had a mask on his face, scalpel in hand. We couldn’t see who he was “working” on but he beckoned us toward him. We tentatively took steps forward and, as we did, an operating table came into view. A balding man was atop it, mouth in a grimace, reaching out toward us and moaning. We could see his naked belly, a belly spilling out spaghetti entrails and red ooze.

Our hair was standing on end. The patient moaned louder and reached for us, but we backed away, right into a couple of hideous ghouls who had snuck up from behind us. We started and yelped and saw yet another figure closing the door we’d come through. This one had a scythe in one hand and what looked like intestines in the other. I felt a hand on my shoulder and screamed.

One of us bolted for the door, grabbed and opened it. The gruesome troop came at us and we dashed out of the room, back down the hall, through the front door and out into the street at a pace I would never again run.

We ran all the way back to my house, terrified as we bolted from the place, laughing at our scared selves the remainder of the way. One of my friends suggested we return and go through the rest of the place; the other blurted, “No way!”

We made it back to my house with nary a scratch. Halloween, again, was the blast we’d remembered it to be.

Inside the kitchen, my mother asked about the haunted house. We all agreed it was thoroughly creepy, but fun. Something caught her eye as she looked at me … and a look of utter disgust came across her face.

“What in the world is on your shoulder?!?” she half yelled. She grabbed a dish towel from the kitchen and came at me. I stood frozen still. My friends were looking at me wide-eyed, no laughter left on their faces.

My mother reached over and took whatever it was from my left shoulder. She showed it to me.

It was a huge piece of raw calf’s liver, a real one, obviously used as one of the props in the haunted house. That hand on my shoulder had left it there for me as “a parting gift.” It left a dank, blotchy, wet stain.

That’s the kind of Halloween I remember as a kid. They were good times … good times indeed.

Michael Noble blogs regularly at Hotchka.com and can often be heard on the Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules podcast.

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A Couple Haunted Houses To Visit this Halloween

This weekend is Halloween, the bestest, most greatest holiday of them all. I thought I’d suggest two of my favorite haunted house movies to help keep you creeped out after the Trick-or-Treaters have finished their pilfering on your candy bowl. Both are available to stream through YouTube; one for free, the other for a mere $2.99.

I will avoid spoilers.

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First up is the 1980 MGM release, The Changling starring George C Scott and Trish Van Devere. Scott plays John Russell, a music composer and professor who, early in the film, suffers a terrible tragedy. When Russell begins his life over again, he accepts a position as a music professor and lecturer at a college in Seattle. He takes up residence in a huge, historical mansion that hasn’t been lived in for years.

Soon after he moves in, Russell begins to experience strange sounds and visions that lead him to investigate the house and its history. He finds a hidden room high in the house, in which there is a sad, tiny wheelchair meant for a child. He also finds a music box and soon realizes that something in that house is trying to communicate with him and is compelling him to solve a mystery.

A mystery that involves an elder, well-respected Senator played by Melvyn Douglas. What is the dark secret that ties the Senator to the spirit in that house?

"Uh. Could someone please stop shaking the table?"

“Uh. Could someone please stop shaking the table?”

My favorite sequence in the film involves a seance, in which a psychic attempts to communicate with the spirit of the house, and its aftermath, in which Russell discovers something very important and frightening.

Or perhaps you’d like something a little creepier and sexier?

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If so, my next suggestion is 20th Century Fox’s 1973 release The Legend of Hell House. It stars Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, and Gayle Hunnicutt as a team of investigators charged with the task of finding evidence of life after death. And the answer is thought to be able to be found in the Belasco House – Hell House. “It is the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”

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The house had been owned by the very wealthy and very strange Emeric Belasco. Belasco would hold parties that would last for days, in which all manner of hedonistic pleasures were pursued. The last party had ended tragically as, after concerned family members had the house broken into, it was discovered that all the guests were dead. But missing from the dead was Belasco himself. He was never found.

The evilness of Belasco and his debauchery had saturated the house with a malevolent (and sexual) energy that continues to haunt the mansion, long after the disappearance of its enigmatic owner. This haunting threatened the very lives and sanity of any who dared enter it. Previous investigations into the house resulted in horrible tragedies, one of which McDowall’s character, Benjamin Fischer, was the sole survivor.

This movie has lots of great moments. One of my favorites takes place early on as the investigators, having just arrived at the house, discover a phonograph with a record containing a message of greetings from Belasco himself (voiced by Michael Gough, who goes uncredited). When the message plays out, Fischer, a psychic himself, makes an observation that is very eerie. It fits the tone of the whole movie.

Both films use very little in the way of special effects. They rely on the atmosphere created by the setting and the actors and, especially in Hell House’s case, the musical score.

The Changeling is available here for free. The Legend of Hell House is here for the nominal fee of $2.99.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Sounds of terror!

So, last week I made a parody ad for Jarts. My intention was to poke fun at the apparent disregard the adult world had for kids back when we were kids. Toys were dangerous. There were no car seats and seat belts were rare. There was lead in everything. Adults just didn’t seem to give a damn.

There also seemed to be a nonchalant attitude as to the health of our little minds. I’m specifically referring to one item here. In 1974, Pickwick International released an album of terrifying, creepy, and disturbing sound effects as a Halloween treat. It was called ‘Monster Mash: Sounds of Terror’.

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My older brother bought this record way back when and we kids loved it! Some of the tracks were a bit cheesy and the repeated use of the same scream on several tracks would make a nit-picker, such as myself, say, “Heard it.” But, it did have several effective bits that could be quite chilling.

I recall listening to the Headless Horseman track, alone, in the dark, while imagining myself hiding in the underbrush alongside a lonely country road as the Horseman rode by. The use of stereo in that scene really worked well. I would get so freaked out as I imagined him riding by me, laughing that insane laugh. “Please, don’t see me! Please, don’t see me! Please, don’t see me!”

Each track would have an announcer set the scene and then the terror would begin. There were a few with our favorite monsters including Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, and the Werewolf. There’s a track of King Kong battling another giant creature, in which Kong sounds more like a leopard or cougar than an ape. And there’s the inclusion of the Halloween novelty hit: ‘Monster Mash‘. It’s not the original Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers, which really is the only version worth listening to.

So far everything has sounded fairly innocent, right? Well, there are a few tracks which I don’t think would pass muster today. The album is split into two halves. The first half (side one) is labelled “Famous Monsters and Ghouls,” while the second half (side two) is under the heading “Man’s Inhumanity to Man.”

It’s that second half that gets pretty messed up, although there is one track on side one that is the most messed up of any of them, but more on that later.

Side two includes tracks such as: “Burned at the Stake,” “Victims of the Guillotine,” “The Torture Chamber, ” and “Buried Alive.” Imagine me as a nine year old listening to an exorcism taking place. Yes, an exorcism was one of the tracks. The film ‘The Exorcist’ was a big hit at the time, so why not have a track with a fellow repeatedly saying, “May the power of Christ compel you!” accompanied by the sounds of screams, hisses, squeals, pig grunting (that’s right!) and bouncing bed springs?

However, the most disturbing track, to me anyway, was on side one and was about an actual murderer: Jack the Ripper. The announcer sets the scene by giving a little information about how London was in the grip of terror of this crazed killer of women. (The album didn’t mention the profession of those victims. We don’t want kids hearing about prostitutes, do we?) Then we are transported aurally to Victorian London. We hear Saucy Jack attack his victim and that same scream again. We also hear the wet sound of a knife plunging again and again into the flesh of the victim. Really!

People getting stabbed, keel-hauled and eaten by sharks, burned at the stake, buried alive, and tortured are all offered up as Halloween entertainment. You know, for kids.

Boy. Those were the days.

You can hear most of the tracks here. Have fun!

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