Saturday, January 5, 2013


Mystery Tales was, as noted on the Grand Comics Database, a horror
and science fiction title...”one of five such anthologies launched
in a six-month period...increasing Atlas's SF line from seven to
twelve books.
" It ran 54 issues until August 1957 and the collapse
of Atlas's distributor and the subsequent restructuring known as
the "Atlas Implosion".

Mystery Tales #1 [March 1952] hit the newsstands in my birth month
of December 1951.  Neither the GCD nor the Atlas Tales website has
been able to identify the cover artist.  However, thanks to comics
historian Ger Apeldoorn and the Timely-Atlas mailing list, we have
a great deal of information on the issue’s contents.

“The Dark Tunnel” (5 pages) was drawn by Gene Colan, who signed the
story.  The GCD synopsis for the tale: “An exterminator enters into
a dark tunnel on one of his jobs and is taken captive by giant
telepathic cockroaches who are waiting for mankind to destroy
itself before they emerge and rule Earth.”

“The Little Black Box!” (5 pages) is by Hank Chapman with art by
Joe Maneely. Both signed the story. The synopsis: “A man finds a
black box which grants him wishes when he tells a lie. When he gets
the black box open, the spirit inside incinerates him to take his

The art on “The End of the World” (3 pages) has been attributed to
Paul Reinman, but the work is unsigned. The synopsis: “A carnival
swami predicts the world will end at midnight. His skeptic client
scoffs at the prediction, but the man's words haunt his thoughts
for the rest of the evening. When the clock begins to strike
twelve, he is distracted by it, and doesn't see the vehicle that
strikes and kills him.”

“The Horror on Channel 15" (6 pages) has been attributed to writer
and editor Stan Lee, an admitted guess since the story apparently
isn’t signed.  The art is by Pete Tumlinson, who did sign his work.
The GCD synopsis: “A man in a small Iowa town creates a monster for
a TV show that comes to life and kills everyone in the town.”

“The Stroke of 12" (4 pages) is drawn by Paul Reinman, who signed
his work.  The GCD synopsis: “An embalming assistant murders an
undertaker for his money...when he goes to the cemetery at midnight
where he hid the money, the undertaker drags him into the grave
with him.”
Like a boss.

Keep reading the bloggy thing. You’ll see more vintage comic-book
covers from the month of my birth.


Carol Lay’s Illiterature: Story Minutes Vol. 1 [Boom! Town; $14.99]
is your passport to more strange worlds than any single cartoonist
should be able to imagine. Page after page, the amazing Lay creates
realities in which the world’s last racist is put into a zoo, where
dreams are recorded and sold, where a sleeping man becomes a cult
culture superstar and many more.  What makes these tales even more
remarkable is that most are just a dozen panels long. This book is
one to keep near at hand, ready when you need a quick entertainment
or inspiration.  That’s where my copy now lies.  I recommend this
book and, for that matter, anything by Lay, to one and all.  She’s
a comics treasure.

ISBN 978-1-60886-282-5


My disorderly reading habits and vast accumulation of stuff has me
slowly reading DC’s JSA book that ran from August 1999 to September
2006.  I have been reading them in trade paperbacks received from
my local library system or, when the library is missing volumes,
from trades that have surfaced from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.

The most recent volume I read was JSA: Savage Times by Geoff Johns,
David Goyer, Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne [2004; $14.99].  The
volume reprints issues #39-45.  These are mostly done-in-one tales
bracketing a time-travel adventure and with the preliminaries to a
story involving Mordru. These are very well-written and well-drawn
comics published before DC’s super-hero comics took their most
recent turn for the worse.  I’m enjoying them a lot.

“Peacemakers,” the final story in this volume, raised a question I
would now answer differently than I would have when I was writing
super-hero comics on a regular basis.  There will be some spoilers
ahead.  You have been warned.

The super-terrorist Kobra is on trial.  He’s guilty as all get out
and everyone knows it.  Kobra is unconcerned. Because his followers
have turned fifty of their number into human bombs and those people
are outside the court protesting the “persecution” of their leader.
If Kobra isn’t released from custody and allowed to teleport away
with them, they will all go up in flames.  With no time to figure
out an alternative, the authorities release Kobra.

This does not sit well with two JSA members: Atom Smasher and Black
Adam.  They feel the JSA should have killed Kobra when they had the
chance.  They feel they should track him down and kill him as soon
as they find him.  They quit the JSA, presumably to follow through
with those feelings.  I’m with them on this one.

I am bone-weary of comic book stories in which mass murderers are
allowed to go free to kill again.  Yes, Batman captures the Joker.
But the Joker always escapes and always kills again and it defies
logic that no one hasn’t just emptied their gun into the murderous
clown's face.  I absolutely guarantee the person who did that
would be acquitted, if he or she was even arrested.  As I see it,
as long as the Joker lives, killing him is an act of self-defense.

I recently suffered through Marvel’s AvX: Consequences.  This was
a five-issue series which, from the title, you would think showed
the consequences of the mad actions undertaken by Cyclops and his
fellows, actions which included the murder of Charles Xavier before
several witnesses.  Except there were no consequences for Cyclops.
He gets busted out of prison by Magneto and, with a team of fellow
mutants, will be able to continue his mission as he sees it.  The
guy murdered Xavier - no self-defense involved - and he absolutely
got away with it.

Even worse was Marvel’s Fear Itself: the Fearless, a twelve-issue
series which ended with mass murderer Sin escaping justice.  Again.
Give me a break.

Sometimes heroes have to make life-and-death calls.  Sometimes the
survival of innocents depend on those calls.  Taking the shot, the
lethal shot, should never be done cavalierly and never pass without
question or consequences.  But, sometimes, the hero must take that
shot.  Because, sometimes, that is the necessary thing to do, the
right thing to do, the moral thing to do and, yes, even the heroic
thing to do.    

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. I dislike how over the past ten years Marvel Comics has become entirely about the heroes fighting other heroes and the villains largely get left in the background or are co-opted into being yet another gang. The one writer I felt did anything decent in the wake of Civil War was Dwayne McDuffie, who was the one writer who thought "Hold on - how would Doctor Doom react to the American superheroes fighting with each other?" and rightly concluded that he'd be playing up his role as a peacekeeper on the world stage, if only because he could get The Accursed Richard's goat by paint him - not unfairly - as a fascist lunatic who was jailing children.

    When was the last time we saw a really good Doom story? Been a while, hasn't it?

    AvX suffered from the same problem as Civil War but ironically, the opposite problem at the same time. While the idea for Civil War was an interesting one, the execution left a lot to be desired - chiefly because the main writer had one view as to who was "right", most of the other writers contributing thought the other side was right and nobody much was focused on the idea that both sides had legitimate points to make.

    Somehow, the lesson Marvel took from the fan backlash was that nobody will ever view Captain America as being wrong and so they set AvX up with the conceit that clearly everyone would see the X-Men as the bad guys in this scenario. Never mind that The X-Men had taken better steps to deal with the Phoenix based on past experienced, vs. The Avengers who were pretty much winging it. Also, Captain America's plan involves kidnapping a teenage girl and taking her from the only family she's ever known so they could try and do what the X-Men were already doing anyway, but with the added stress of the already tormented Hope now going through the added stress of being in fear for her life.

    That's why I think Cyclops turned the way he did at the end - because The Powers That Be couldn't understand why the fans wouldn't take one side in the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict and people kept pointing out holes in Cap's plan and behavior. TPTB couldn't handle that, so they had to make Cyclops a killer of his own spiritual father and a traitor to every ideal he'd ever held as a hero in order to let Cap save face in the face of his loss.

  2. I recall the ending of the Kobra/JSA storyline causing me to drop that book. I had really been enjoying it up to that point, but felt a better ending could have been arrived at. I completely agree with you, Tony.

    While I didn't read the AvX books I don't seem to have missed much and the idea of Scott killing Prof X, just makes me ill. Yeah, I know he'll be get better, but still. Here I think Starman makes some good points.

  3. The solution to the "killers get away free" situation is ridiculously simple - so simple that only a modern comic book writer (present company excluded, naturally) couldn't get it.

    The Joker is a mass murderer and keeps getting away. The solution? DON'T WRITE THE JOKER AS A MASS MURDERER. Yes, it is a VERY easy trick to show someone as evil by showing them as killing. It takes no writing skills because a lot of people think that killing is evil. And then, when the Joker is caught, they can write him as going free because "the Joker always goes free" - another cheap and easy writer's trick.

    Make him evil by other ways. Stealing has always been a good bit. Taking hostages is a great way to show evil intent, and that supplies story - Batman has to find and save them before the bomb goes off.

    Heroes don't kill. If a writer creates a situation where a hero has to kill, then it's a bad story.

    As for heroes fighting heroes - that should happen ONCE. In the Marvel Universe, it should have stopped occurring after Fantastic Four #26 - "Enter... The Avengers!"

    If it does reoccur RARELY, it's an interesting story take. If it's an annual crossover event, it's lazy and sloppy writing. Which seems to be a job requirement at DC and Marvel these days anyhow.

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Bad Clown...


  4. [T]he Joker always escapes and always kills again and it defies logic that no one hasn’t just emptied their gun into the murderous clown's face.

    Amen. I'm not the bloodthirsty sort either, but even if I didn't personally believe that it was right to take out the Joker based on past and certain potential for future crimes I can't buy narratively that somebody wouldn't have nailed him, ideally Gordon, a detective, or a beat cop in a standoff that could be entirely justifiable as lethal force in the face of immediate danger to themselves and civilians. There's a scene in No Man's Land that made me angry (one among many in that misguided experiment) for exactly this reason.