Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics. If you don’t like the comics I’ve written, blame Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Adventures into the Unknown #143 [September 1963] was published by ACG - the American Comics Group - and edited by Richard E. Hughes, who also wrote many and perhaps most of the original stories in the company’s relatively few titles.  Ogden Whitney drew the sadly tame cover of this issue. The cover would have looked more lively if the three members of the Saloris tribe weren’t rendered in broken lines and colored green. But I’m not sure those cosmetic changes would’ve overcome the unfortunate dullness of the scene.

The inside front cover of the issue has a full-page ad for the “104 Kings’ Knights” set discussed in earlier parts of this series.  The same advertisers would place their ads in comic books from multiple publishers because it was a good and reasonably inexpensive way to reach their intended customer base.

Because none of the stories in this comic book have been reprinted, except in the black-and-white British comics published by the legendary Alan Class,  there will be SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

“Old Ya-Hoooo!” (12 pages) leads off the issue and it’s a emotional yarn written by Hughes as Shane O’Shea with wonderfully expressive art by Chic Stone. The tale opens in a mental institute and tells of Jim Yates. The patient was once a respected railroad engineer. The title of the story comes from the nickname and customized train whistle of his Engine 1913.

Yates was cocky and too prideful in his abilities and those of his engine. He successful drove a load of explosives through a raging forest fire. But a stray flame landed on the train and caused the cargo to explode when it reached the town of Menlo. Hundreds were killed. Yates was seriously injured and, brought to a courtroom on a stretcher, was found guilty of criminal negligence. He went mad and has grown to old age in the asylum.

Yates is near death when he hears that Menlo is in terrible danger. A dam is going to burst and flood the town, killing everyone in the path of those deadly waters. Yates escapes from the asylum with a mad plan to steal an engine and carry the townspeople out of harm’s way. Amazingly, Engine 1913 appears before him. The old man and his beloved engine rescue the townspeople, but, once the people are all safe, the engine unbuckles from the freight cars and plunges over a cliff. The people rush down the hill, but, before their startled eyes, both the old man and the old engine turn green - the color of ghosts in the ACG comics - and vanish.

Yates died in the asylum the previous night. He was already a ghost when he saved the town. His doctor gets the closing lines:

Just when they started filling in the grave, there came this sound, as if it was borne by the wind, sort of a mournful, grieving wail - “Ya=Hoooo! Ya-Hoooo!” Just like a farewell salute. Like someone saying goodbye!”

Two half-page ads follow the story. You could “Hatch Your Own Live Sea Circus” for only $1 (plus a quarter for shipping). It’s those familiar sea monkeys with a new sales pitch.

The other half of the page announces a “Reward $11,750.00 for This Coin!” Best Values will sell you its latest 1963 catalogue listing the actual prices you would pay for the U.S. coins listed in said catalogue. The price is a buck.

“Let’s Talk It Over!” is a lively two-page letters column.  Editor Hughes had some of the best letters columns in comics. He disagreed with readers when he thought their criticism of a story was wrong, admitted they had a point when a story came up short in his mind and almost always treated them with respect. The letters this time out were from:

Peggy Beadle (LaCrosse, Wisconsin)
Roderick McLean (Sydney, Australia)
Richard Weingroff (Baltimore, Maryland)
Robert Yu (Hong Kong)
Milton Gocus (Hammond, Oregon)
Jerry Randall (Savanna, Illinois)

“Through the Veil” (7 pages) is next. It’s a reprint designated as such by a “Fanfare Series” blurb. John Rosenberger is the artist, but the writer has not yet identified. The story first appeared in Forbidden Worlds #51 [February 1957] with the title “The Unseen and Unheard!”

This is a so-so story and Rosenberger’s art is not up to its usual quality. Patient Vic Bailey gets too big a dose of X-rays and finds himself able to communicate with aliens from another Earth that we can’t see, even though it’s part of our world. The aliens give all sorts of futuristic technology to Vic in the hope that he can make a bridge between our worlds. Unfortunately, Vic’s wife and doctors think he’s looney and cure his “condition” by exposing him to gamma rays. Though Vic is angry over losing his connection to the other world, he does not turn into the Hulk.

“You Can’t Teach Fairy-Tales!” (7 pages) is the last story in the issue. Written by Hughes as Zev Zimmer and drawn by Gerald McCann, it’s as dull as the cover it inspired. It’s probably not fair for me to second-guess an editor fifty years after he put together this issue, but “Old Ya-Hoooo!” could have provided a much more exciting  cover scene that this tale.

Professor of Anthropology Homer Addison is fixated on the legendary Saloris tribe of Africa, so much so that he is warned by the dean of the college to stop discussing the tribe in his classics. Since Addison is conveniently independently wealthy, he finances his own expedition to look for the tribe.

After harrowing adventures and abandoned by his bearers, Addison stumbles on a Saloris woman in jeopardy and rescues her. The white woman disappears in front of him. Later, when Addison faces peril, the woman returns with two black members of the tribe.  They rescue him and bring him to safety.

Back at the college, Addison refuses to discuss the Saloris tribe. The dean congratulates him on this.

DEAN: Congratulations, Professor. I heard that you’ve given up on the Saloris. Guess you abandoned your favorite subject because you found out there was nothing you could say about them, eh?

ADDISON: On the contrary, sir. There’s a lot I could say, but it would only make you repeat what you once told me – You can’t teach fairy-tales!

Following the story is a full-page ad from the U.S. School of Music offering a “Free Note-Finder” that “Guides Your Fingers to Right Key for Every Note!” This ad is a come-on which also offers a free illustrated booklet - “Now You Can learn Music in Your Own Home” - and asks which of 13 different instruments the responder would like to learn how to play.

The inside back cover ad is from the venerable Johnson Smith & Co. The lead item is a “New Jed Engine” that sells for $1.50. It flies by itself or powers your models. Other items include smoke bombs, a chameleon and a carbide cannon.

The back cover is the Christmas card ad from Wallace Brown Inc.  We wrote about it in previous installments of this July 1963 series.

Adventures into the Unknown was usually better than this off-issue would indicate. I’ll be writing about a few other ACG titles later in this series.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Meet me at the old Marvel Ranch and I’ll spin you a tale or two.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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