Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Witching Hour #8

Witching Hour #8 (On Sale: February 17, 1970) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

This month DC put out two excellent horror/mystery comics, House of Secrets #85 and this book. Not surprisingly, they are both the work of editor Dick Giordano. This issue's framing sequence, "The True Picture of the Servant Problem at the Witching Hour" is drawn by, well, my guess is Alex Toth and Neal Adams. It might be Adams by himself, but if so he is surely channeling the work of Toth; it is a beauty. It seems the girls have hired photographer Renay Phydeaux to create a family portrait. In order to set the mood for Renay, the girls each tell a tale...

The first real story is "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty" written by Sergio Aragones and Neal Adams and drawn, so they say, by Neal Adams. I say that because this is obviously Neal's inks, but the pencils have got to be by someone else. Neal doesn't draw entire pages with no backgrounds; it just doesn't happen. Stylistically this reminds me of "The Succubus" from Vampirella #10, which was penciled mostly my soon to be comic writer Steve Engelhart. I don't know if Steve was apprenticing with Neal here a year earlier, but it has that look of Neal working with a raw, young talent, rather than Neal blasting through a story.

Don't get me wrong, the artwork is extremely nice, just the lack of backgrounds makes you wonder. Also, the layout is very straightforward; most pages are in a three-tier, six-panel fixed format. Not very Adams-like, but his may have to do with Aragones, who was known for turning in his stories as quick-sketch layouts.

Regardless, old, rich Jonas Sentry spends his days contemplating the glories of his past. He wishes he had a young body again, like that of his butler, so that he could chase after beautiful young women, like his chambermaid Maria. His butler overhears him one day and says that for his soul, a deal can be struck, where Jonas could have the butler's young body. Over the next few days, Maria seems more attentive to Jonas than ever and finally he confronts her, will she be his?

She says that it is not possible due to the difference in their ages, but if he were young like her, she would marry him in an instant. And with that incentive the deal with the butler is done. As Jonas moves from his old body to that of the butler, the devil emerges from the butler's body. Jonas kicks his old useless body down the stairs and grabs Maria as the devil phones the police to report that Jonas Sentry has been murdered by his butler. Jonas tries to explain, but in the end he is sentenced to life in prison. This story has been reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #17 and Deadman #4.

Next is our cover-story, "Three Day Free Home Trial" drawn by Nick Cardy. A housekeeper named Winifred offers Emily Carson three days free of charge to test out her abilities. On Wednesday Emily finds her house to be the cleanest she has ever seen it, but she feels a bit faint and Winifred offers her some more of her wonderful tea, an old family recipe don't you know? For some reason Winifred shoos away Emily's cousin Elmer. By Thursday Emily's head feels like it is going to explode. but the doctor she has summoned is sent away by Winifred, who offers up more tea as her cure-all.

Later that evening Emily awakens to some horrible noises in her house but finds the door to her bedroom locked. Looking through the keyhole she sees Winifred dancing and cavorting with all manor of demon and creature. Winifred comes in to calm her, but so do her fiends. they leave poor Emily in her room going mad while outside the loud noises continue. Then, abruptly, they end. The silence is deafening, but it to eventually ends, replaced by the thumping of footsteps, getting closer and closer. The door slowly opens and in walks Cousin Elmer.

He finds his cousin in a state of shock and summons a doctor. They find a note to Emily from Winifred reading, "Dear Miss Emily, I thank you for the use of your lovely home!! It made our annual meeting a great success! You really must learn to relax more! Get Well! Love Winnie! P.S., Hope to see you again next year...that is if we don't find a better place!" It is the morning of Friday, the 13th.

Our last story is "ComputERR" written, drawn and lettered by Alex Toth. It's a cute little piece: Kipp meets Rod through computer dating and they get married. Rob moves Kipp to his house, a huge mansion all alone in the hills. It's a sweet place, just Kipp and Rod and, oh yeah, Ferencz, a trollish little bald fellow who takes care of Rod's every need. Days turn into weeks and Kipp and Rod are in bliss in their new life together, just the, eh, three of them; Ferencz is ever-present.

One day Rod is missing, gone on a business trip and it is just Kipp and Ferencz together for a bit. Rod's trips become more frequent, more lengthy. Ferencz tries to entertain Kipp, but she begins to resent the ugly little fellow. They have no phone, no car except the one Rod takes on trips, they get no mail, Kipp has no contact with the outside world; her house has become a prison and Ferencz is her jailer. Finally she can stand it no more and confronts Rod, either Ferencz goes or she goes.

Hearing this sentence of confinement Kipp hops into Rod's beautiful 1937 yellow Cord and attempts to drive off. Rod tries to stop her and she backs into him as she leaves. Ferencz runs to Rod's side. Later we see Ferencz working on Rod's insides, he is a robot. and Ferencz promises that he will make him better than before and they will once again use their computer-match service to find a more quiet, stay-at-home type of girl. Just then there is a knock at the door. The police want to know if Ferencz owns a yellow Cord and when he replies in the affirmative they want him to come with them to the site of the wreck. "Wreck?" he asks?

There is something they want him to explain to them. When they get there, he sees the body of Kipp, thrown from the car and lying on the road. She has been ripped apart and her mechanical insides are showing.

This brings us back to the wrapper story, which now looks to be totally Neal Adams art. The girls' stories have petrified Phydeaux, so Igor shows him out, dragging his chair behind him as he goes and then trudging off into the swamp. The girls are sure the readers will be upset with them as they promised the readers a picture of Igor. There is a pounding at the door and the girls worry that the readers are in revolt, but at the door they find waiting for them a cute little girl, holding a big envelope. She gives the witches the envelope then runs off. Inside they find a picture of the girl and Igor. Of course, you can't see much of Igor, but what did you expect?

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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