October 4, 2014

Ye Olde School Café: Strange Tales vol. 1

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Written by: Billy
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Hello and welcome back to another edition of Ye Olde School Café! This time, I’ll be focusing in on some of the fantastic work by legends of the comic book industry from its pre-code days. These men should be lauded for their incredible efforts, and paving the way for all to come. Sadly, most of them aren’t with us anymore, but their legacy lives on in the pages of books like this one!

This beautiful hardcover, Strange Tales volume one,  announces right on the cover that you’ll see the work of names like Joe Maneely, Gene Colan, John Romita, Joe Sinnott, Bill Everett, Dick Ayers, Russ Heath, and more! This first volume contains issues one through ten, and after even just skimming through it, you can really get a feeling for the work ethic these men possessed (and in a few cases, still do). I’ll spotlight a couple of issues, and hopefully you’ll get aroused enough to go out and find a copy for yourself! You can usually find this book at conventions for a good deal (M.S.R.P. $54.99).


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In issue one there are five stories, two of which don’t even have any credits (back then, it was common for companies to not list creators, and also for the creators to not sign the work). One of the stories, “The Beast,” is about a crazed scientist who injects a serum into a man, and turns him into an ape-like creature. The creature then goes on a rampage, but ends up in a zoo, with apes. There’s a prose story as well, one of the “author unknown” chapters in this book, called “Death!” It features a conch that brings a man nothing but terror. Another story shows a hiker that comes upon a house in the woods, but after witnessing a murder there, he’ll never be the same again!

The second issue opens with “The Egg,” and it shows that sometimes even a broken egg can have dire consequences. Another prose story that features a great illustration (image below) to go along with it follows that story.”Trapped in the Tomb” is a really good story that features a nagging wife who has her husband on the ropes. He gets his hands on a device that mimics a genie’s lamp, and uses it to get away from his significant other. His wife finds another, more sinister use for the device, though!


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Moving on to issue four, which opens with a great story by Bill Everett called “The Evil Eye.” This one shows a gigantic eye of destruction that’s summoned to the earthly plane by a wacky scientist. By story’s end, the mad scientist regrets this decision. Wonderful illustrations (image below) by Everett. One of my favorite stories, by John Romita, follows in this issues. “It” shows a baby, and his loving parents, as they live a quiet life in the suburbs. But this baby is more than he seems, and in the end we see a baby brandishing a firearm!


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In issue six, the opening salvo is from Russ Heath, and in “Uninhabited” we get a sci-fi story that features exploration, tension, disappearing shipmates, and death! Incredible work by Heath on this one, and it makes the entire issue worth it all by itself. A traveling salesman that visits a funeral parlor and never leaves, a virus that turns people into serial killers, a prison escapee that finds out the hard way you get what you wish for sometimes, and a prose story about a vampire, all make this issue one of the strongest in the book.

The next two issues bring the brilliance of Gene Colan, Joe Maneely, and Joe Sinnott. Colan presents a vampire story (“He Wished He was a Vampire”) that’s hilarious, and then a tale that is down right creepy (“The Old Mill”), even by today’s standards. A story called”Tap, tap, tap” is a work of brilliance by Joe Sinnott. It’s basically a war story that features men on a submarine, and a tapping noise that drives them insane. Sitting back and thinking about it, you can see how it would make a person crazy being in that situation. The final story, illustrated by Joe Maneely, features a shoe repair guy who gets murdered, but as the killer soon finds out, you might not want to walk a mile in someone’s shoes!


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The last two installments of this hardcover are just as solid as the previous issues. “The Monster’s Son” is fantastically illustrated by Jim Mooney, and is kind of an homage to Frankenstein (visually). A really whacked out story about a man on the wrong end of a pack of rabbits, a wild tale about Nazis, and a shooting gallery gone wrong, are what finishes off this wonderful collection. Mike Sekowsky, Dick Ayers, Bernie Krigstein, and others on credits.


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If for no other reason, grab a copy of this book for the outstanding contributions by these comic book legends. Any horror, sci-fi, or just plain old fan of comic book art should get this book. There’s no way possible you won’t be satisfied by this volume of comic book history!

Billy Dunleavy



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