Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unexpected #116

Unexpected #116 (On Sale: October 7, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

We begin with a Mad Mod Witch story, "Express Train to Nowhere" by Dave Wood and Artie Saaf. Four passengers board a train to, well, we are not sure. they are Alex, just fired from his job for having no imagination or drive; Doc, a brilliant surgeon leaving the city to become a country doctor because of shaky hands; Linda, an artist who flopped int he big city and is now heading back home in shame, and Zaroff, a circus aerialist who turned to crime to make ends meet, now on the lam.

The train heads into a strange mist and stops. The four exit the train only to find a world of zombie like automatons. They realize their train has vanished in the mist so they attempt to follow the automatons but find themselves trapped by an electronic barrier. Alex convinces Linda to use her makeup to make him look like one of the automatons and in his disguise he is able to pass through the barrier. With Linda's help they all get free.

Only now they find their path blocked by a giant skull. Though Doc doesn't think he can do it, they talk him into climbing the skull and using Linda's nail file and scissors he is able to operate on the skull, triggering the jaw to open. Inside they find a path that eventually is bisected by a deep chasm. Zaroff uses their shirts and jackets to make a rope and uses it to carry Linda across the chasm, like walking a tightrope. Doc realizes that he has seen Zaroff's face on a wanted poster and wants nothing to do with him, but the others convince him to use the improvised rope to cross with them.

Once on th other side they hear the sound of a train whistle in the distance and make a run for it, finding the train pulling out just as they get there. In a mad dash they all make it and the train ends up back where they started. But Linda now has confidence in her artwork and decides to stay, Alex feels he has plenty of imagination and aggressiveness and decides he will prove it, Doc realizes he still has some surgical skills and notices how steady his hands now are, and Zaroff decides to turn himself in and take his punishment. As Alex leaves he knows that once he feels he is a success he will be looking Linda up.

Next is "Steps to Disaster" drawn by Pat Boyette. A Dutch cobbler finds a piece of mahogany floating int he water and decides to make some wooden shoes out of the beautiful wood. A worker in the tulip fields kills his boss and takes the payroll and heads out of town, planning to steal a boat for England. One night a week later he sees the cobbler making shoes and needing shoes he steals the mahogany ones and kills the cobbler. He then steals a sloop and heads for England, but is pulled out to the deep Atlantic by a storm, being pulled ever northward for days. A sudden lurch tosses him into the water where the wooden shoes begin to pull him down. He sees an iceberg as a spectre of death and then sees hundreds of skeletal people trapped in an ice prison. A giant face materializes saying that it is his own evil that has brought him to this place. The shoes pull him under and as he dies the shoes slip from his feet sinking to the bottom where they come to rest at the wreck of the Titanic, where the mahogany beam had come from. Reprinted in Unexpected #162.

Next is "Mad To Order" a one-pager inked by Murphy Anderson. I don't know who penciled it. In it a man invites two tailors into his room for a fitting of a new jacket, but finds the jacket too small, too tight and too constraining. As they leave the room we see him in a straight jacket in his cell saying how he will never by anything from them again.

That is followed by "Ball of String" drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Ethatn had been saving string since he was a small boy and had amassed a gigantic ball, when his landlord threw him our for keeping "that sphere of rubbish." In a fit of rage Ethan kills his landlord and wraps his body up in the ball of string. He places the ball into an open carriage and heads out for the country to bury the body. However, his cat had grabbed a hold of the end of the string and as Ethan drove through town the ball was slowly unwinding, revealing the body inside to a passing policeman. Reprinted in Unexpected #161.

Lastly is "Ashes to Ashes, Dustin to Dust" by Murray Boltinoff and Sid Greene.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

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