Saturday, May 9, 2020

My Top Skywald Stories

Many years back when I covered Warren I made a post of my favorite Warren stories; now the time has come to do the same for Skywald. For Warren it was fairly easy to determine my top stories, as there were quite a number that really stood out to me just from memory. For Skywald it was a bit harder. Very few stories were as striking to me, especially from an intellectual level. Not that I didn't enjoy going through the Skywald library; I absolutely did, but it unfortunately never hit the heights for me that Warren did. That said, I've spent the time going back over my prior posts and synopsis and have come up with my list of what I considered the highlight of Skywald. While my picks were primarily based on the writing, I will admit that the art at times also came into play, and many of the stories were concentrated from a few artists. Hewetson was the writer for all but one of those included in my top 10 list.

This list is specifically one-time stories; all ongoing series have been excluded. This wouldn't have had that major an impact on the list aside from a few stories that come to mind including one of the stories in the Shoggoths series, one of the stories in the Autobiography of a Vampire series and the Saga of the Victims series as a whole. I'm not sure if all 3 would have made my top 10, but they'd at least rank among my honorable mentions, which I have included below:

Time Stop - Nightmare #2
Gruesome Crewcut - Psycho #3
Slime World - Nightmare #5
Broken Sparrow - Nightmare #6
Horror Has 1 Thousand Faces - Psycho #7
Alone - Nightmare 1972 Special
The Transplant - Psycho #10
The Comics Macabre - Scream #1
What the Hell is Dracula Doing Alive and Well in 1974?! - Nightmare #19
A Tale of Horror -Nightmare #20
I Never Heard of a Ghost Actually Killing Anyone! - Scream #9
Kill, Kill, Kill, and Kill Again - Nightmare #22

My Top 10 Skywald Stories

10. "Whether Man or Scarecrow" - Nightmare 1973 Winter Special; story by Al Hewetson, art by Felipe Dela Rosa

This one is a fun combination of a Pinocchio-type story (with a scarecrow coming to life instead of a puppet) and the concept of having wishes. A scarecrow named Perry is approached by an old man one day who claims he can grand him three wishes. In a traditional tale, Perry would take advantage of this to become human and be with his crush, the farmer's daughter, Judy. And well, while he certainly tries for that, things go spectacularly bad for him in every way possible. Like many stories on this top 10 ranking, Hewetson takes things really over the top here, and its a blast.

9. "...Suffer the Little Children" - Psycho #9; story by Al Hewetson, art by Xavier Villanova

A governess arrives at a mansion to take care of two young children, Flora and Miles, only to find that things are totally not what they seem. Both children are mentally disturbed, impacted by the recent death of their brother. From here the story takes a lot of twists and turns, bringing the reader on an exciting ride up to its surprising ending.

8. "A Plot of Dirt" - Psycho #9; story by Doug Moench, art by Felipe Dela Rosa

Like EC comics, Skywald did a number of stories featuring corpses returning from the dead; this story was one of the best. It features Philip, a corpse summoned from the grave by the evil Craig, who was responsible for his death due to jealousy over a woman. Largely told from Philip's perspective, we have a sympathetic protagonist, despite being a corpse and hope he will be able to come out of Craig's spell and get his revenge.

7. "The Old Vampire Lady" - Psycho #16; story by Al Hewetson, art by Jesus Duran

Every once and a while Hewetson would eschew the typical type of plot and instead provide us a story that acted more as a historical account or biography. This is one of such stories. A young photographer comes across the titular vampire lady, who tells him her horrifying life from her childhood to now. Jesus Duran was one of my favorite Skywald artists and he does an effective job providing a scary atmosphere throughout.

6. "Now... Another Maniac!" - Psycho #18; story by Al Hewetson, art by Maelo Cintron

This story was a rare one drawn by Maelo Cintron that did not feature the human gargoyles characters. It also is unique for a Skywald story in that it has no supernatural element to it. Our protagonist plans to kill a man. While he is able to successfully pull it off, a bike he ran over comes back to haunt him in a big way. The story also is memorable for me as the first Skywald story I ever read, due to coming across it in a collection of horror comic stories years ago.

5. "The Artist's Other Hand" - Psycho #14; story by Al Hewetson, art by Jesus Suso Rego

One of the really fun things about Skywald was their willingness to break the fourth wall, and this story is a perfect example of that. It stars the story's artist, Suso, who gets sick of the ridiculous story his editor, Hewetson, writes for him. The two get into a big conflict over how to improve the story, and neither can come to an agreement resulting in a fist fight between the two. Hewetson loved to put himself in his stories (off the top of my head I think this happened at least 10 times, if not more) and this is the best such example.

4. "Limb from Limb from Death" - Nightmare 1972 Special; story by Al Hewetson, art by Pablo Marcos

One of Skywald's most gory and over the top stories. A trio of men are trapped in the Sahara desert. One of them, a doctor, convinces the other two that the only way they have to survive is to eat each other. Each of the other two men gives up an arm for this, under the promise from the doctor that if they are saved he will have his own arm sawed off. Well, they are saved before that happens, so the big question is whether the doctor will actually go through with it?

3. "Diary of an Absolute Lunatic" - Nightmare #14; story by Al Hewetson, art by Felipe Dela Rosa

A man named Munro appears in the 1920s in an insane asylum, claiming to be a time traveler. Coming from 70 years from the future, he tells of how a madman threatens to destroy the Earth if his demands are not met. Munro makes his way through time, including witnessing the Earth blow up! Is he telling the truth? While we don't know with absolute certainty, the ending to the tale provides a pretty strong indication. Beyond being a fun story to read, this story also boasts some strong artwork from Dela Rosa, particularly during the time travel sequence.

2. "The Day That Satan Died" - Psycho #13; story by Al Hewetson, art by Felipe Dela Rosa

This story proves that Hewetson could turn out a great story even if the ending is literally spoiled in the title. A young woman hijacks a small plane and then purposely causes it to crash into a snowy mountain. Its all part of a plot on her part to get one of the other passengers to sacrifice their soul so she can satisfy a deal with Satan to preserve her youth. Only she soon learns to her dismay that her fellow passengers include the abominable snowman, a vampire and Satan himself! The sheer ridiculousness of this story makes it quite a fun one to read and Dela Rosa's artwork serves the story quite well.

1. "The 13 Dead Things" - Psycho #15; story by Al Hewetson, art by Jesus Duran

An imprisoned count in the 17th century sits in a cell in a tower, and comes up with an idea about how to fake his death so he can escape and take revenge. For pages on end we see our protagonist imagining himself going on a rampage and brutally killing those who have wronged him. When he realizes a possible flaw in his escape plan this doesn't stop him from continuing to plot his revenge, and we see him once again slaying those who have wronged him, but this time as a corpse! The story is topped off by a hilarious, but very fitting ending. This story is so ridiculously over the top it needs to be seen to be believed. Just when you think it can't get any more absurd after seeing our protagonist kill so many people in horrifying ways, we get it repeated with him doing it as a rotting corpse.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Skywald's Recurring Series

Today I'll be discussing many of the various ongoing series that we saw in the Skywald magazines. Which ones were good? Which were bad? Or are you just looking for an index of any such stories within them?

The Heap
The Heap (Psycho #2)
The Heap Meets The Horror Master! (Psycho #3)
Night of Evil! (Psycho #4)
Cavern of Doom (Psycho #5)
Dark Victory (Psycho #6)
A Spawn of Satan (Psycho #7)
What Has Hell Wrought? (Psycho 1972 Annual)
Even a Heap Can Die! (Psycho #10)
A Ship of Fiends (Psycho #11)
And the World Shall Shudder (Psycho #12)
When Dies a Lunatic… So Dies a Heap (Psycho #13)

At 11 stories, the Heap was the longest running series to run in Skywald. Like many long running Skywald series, its creative talent changed up during its run. Ross Andru and Mike Esposito provided the artwork initially, with story by Andru and Chuck McNaughton. Al Hewetson would eventually take over writing the series, with Pablo Marcos coming in as artist, then later Xavier Villanova to wrap things up. Jim Roberts, a crop duster, becomes the titular Heap after he is contaminated by falling into some chemicals. After realizing his best friend and fiance were going to screw him over, he goes on a rampage, killing them. From here on the Heap experiences a series of adventures, including a memorable early story where he fights the corpses of some of the most horrible individuals in human history. For much of the series we see the struggle of Roberts and his periodic ability to turn back into human, only for things to go horribly wrong and for him to turn back into the Heap. As the series starts drawing to a conclusion though, Hewetson goes in a different direction with the last 2 stories, making the Heap a mindless beast for whom the authorities try to capture. As the series ends he ends up on the farm belonging to his parents and stays with them! The Heap was a fun series for much of its run, although it did eventually hit a point where it was drawn on too long. I wasn't a big fan of Hewetson's decision to abruptly change the Heap's character as the series came to its conclusion though.

The Human Gargoyles
A Gargoyle - A Man (Psycho #8)
I and I Equals 3 (Nightmare #10)
Only the Strong Shall Survive (Nightmare #13)
And They Did Battle with the Thing From Underneath (Nightmare #14)
Once Upon a Time in Alabama: A Horror (Nightmare #15)
The Human Gargoyles vs. The United States of America (Nightmare #19)
The Freaks (Psycho #20)
I, Gargoyle (Nightmare #20)
The Human Gargoyles vs. The Human Dead (Nightmare #23)

The Human Gargoyles is one of the most well known series that Skywald published. It was written by Al Hewetson and Maelo Cintron handles the art for all but the first story, which was done by Felipe Dela Rosa. The series features two humanoid gargoyles, Edward and Mina, and eventually their son Andrew as they make their way from Germany to America and struggle as outsiders. Nearly every story in the series has Satan sending monsters of minions after Edward to fight him, which gets him in bigger and bigger trouble with the authorities, eventually making his way into jail after the mental toll it has on him. Edward is able to tell his tale via an autobiography though, and through the help of an understanding judge is let out and tries to build a life with his wife and son. While Cintron's art throughout the series is strong, Hewetson's story is quite awful and this was one of my biggest disappointments of my tour through Skywald. Edward taking on Satan's minions is repeated ad nausea throughout the series. The series' attempt to show the struggle of our titular character's life in America is undercut by how stupid they come off as characters, such as multiple times leaving their young son alone to be kidnapped. The series is quite sprawling, nine parts in total with no end in sight when Skywald folded. Regardless of any possible hype surrounding it, this is a series worth skipping.

Saga of the Victims
What is Horror? No, Who is Horror? (Scream #6)
I Am Horror (Scream #7)
I... Am Torment (Scream #8)
I am Treachery... I Am Horror (Scream #9)
I Am A Proud Monstrosity (Scream #11)

The Saga of the Victims is one of Skywald's most well known series, and for good reason, it is one of, if not their best. The series was written by Al Hewetson, with art from Jesus Suso Rego. Suso was one of Skywald's best artists, and it was always a treat to see in these stories, each of which was 20 pages in length. I have heard that Hewetson put this story together with the goal of it being very unpredictable, so no one could guess how it would end. The series features two college students, Anne and Josey who suddenly find themselves in one horrifying moment after another. Across 5 stories and 100 pages they are captured by monster and set to be executed, meet a man with no skin, a vampire robot, are seized by a dinosaur, are taken a hold of by a dwarf Nazi in a sea craft made to look like a giant squid, are seized by an African warlord, travel through the desert attacked by snakes, fall into boiling water, hide from an army of dead Nazi corpses and even more. This series goes all over the place and Hewetson absolutely succeeds in his quest to make it unpredictable. Unfortunately Skywald went out of business before the final story could see print, but as covered in my recent feature for Scream #11, I was able to track down the final part online, which would be published many years later and its a pretty good and fitting conclusion.

Where Lunatics Live (Scream #1)
The Name is Sinner Cane... And the Name Means Evil! (Scream #2)
The Tale of Another (Scream #3)
When the Dusk Falls... So Does Death (Scream #4)
And the Gutters Ran With Blood (Scream #6)
Satan's Third Reich (Scream #7)
My Prison in Hell! (Scream #8)
Who Killed the Shark? (Scream #9)
I Kill to Live (Scream #11)

Nosferatu ran for 9 parts, all of them in Scream, with writing from Al Hewetson and art from Zesar Lopez. This series was a lot more anthology in nature than most, with the titular Nosferatu acting more as a framing device. Nosferatu has summoned approximately a dozen hooded and masked individuals to dine with him. In each story one of the individuals, each who wearing their own unique animal mask, tells their tale. This series succeeds quite well from an atmosphere standpoint. Lopez's art, with rare exception is quite strong, and as one of Skywald's best artists, you are assured of nearly always getting high quality, scary artwork. The downside to the series is that after a bit the conclusion of the stories become a bit repetitive. Each story ends with the teller removing their mask and/or hood and revealing the horrifying state their body has now become. There is only so far they can go with this concept, and we do eventually hit a point where things seem somewhat repetitive (such as multiple stories featuring the teller consumed by animals). Despite that, the stories in this series were often a highlight of the issues they were in and it goes down as one of my favorite Skywald series. Its unfortunate Skywald went out of business before it concluded.

Monster, Monster
Monster, Monster on the Wall! (Nightmare #12)
Monster, Monster in the Grave! (Psycho #13)
Monster, Monster Rise From Thy Crypt (Psycho #16)
Monster, Monster Heed Death's Call (Psycho #17)
Monster, Monster Watch Them Die (Psycho #18)
And in this Land... A Monster (Psycho #19)
Visions of Bloody Death (Psycho #24)

This seven part series was written by Augustine Funnell (the first being his Skywald debut) and went through 3 artists, starting with Pablo Marcos, then going to Ricardo Villamonte, with Paul Puigagut handling the final segment. Its focus began on a boy who was ugly and made fun of, but became a werewolf and as he grew up came back home to take his revenge. At the conclusion of the second story in the series he shoots himself in the head, which ordinarily would end our series right there, but somehow he is brought back to life, despite the bullet lodged in his head and the series continues for several more parts. From here the series takes a turn and our protagonist gets involved in a conflict involving gypsies which goes on for several parts, primarily surrounding a magic amulet. Many side characters entry the fray and die, and the series seems to hit a logical conclusion with its fifth part, only to continue on even further, bringing the setting to America where our protagonist finds a werewolf friend although loses him after a battle with a demon in the final part. Like several Skywald series, this one went on a bit too long. Its initial concept was a fairly good one and I would have enjoyed reading more about it. Unfortunately the whole gypsy element I was never a fan of and that dominated much of this series that I just couldn't get into it enough. Changing artists multiple times didn't help either.

The Shoggoths
The Skull Forest of Old Earth (Nightmare #9)
Where are the Inhabitants of Earth? (Nightmare #11)
This Archaic Breeding Ground (Scream #1)
The Grotesque Green Earth (Nightmare #15)
The Vault (Nightmare #19)
The Scream and the Nightmare (Nightmare #20)

The Shoggoths were beings originally brought up in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and while none of the stories in this series are explicitly adapted from a Lovecraft tale, the stories of this series show clear influence, especially starting with the third story in the series. From that point on the stories are predominantly a protagonist (eventually becoming Al Hewetson himself) leading journeys into the lairs of the Shoggoths, typically just barely escaping with their life. The first two stories don't have the Lovecraft style as such, but are still quality tales. Zesar Lopez provides artwork for three of the first four stories (with Jose Gual providing the outlier) and Jose Cardona takes over starting with the fifth story, also appearing in the series himself. Each of the artists do an effective job portraying the Shoggoths, which come off as quite scary, although our protagonist repeatedly escaping from them alive lessens things.

Chapter One (Psycho #3)
Freaks of Fear! (Psycho #4)
The Sewer Tomb of Le Suub! (Psycho #5)
The Phantom of the Opera (Psycho #6)
Frankenstein 1973 (Nightmare #13)
Frankenstein 2073: The Death of the Monster (Scream #6)
The Descent Into Hell (Scream #7)
The Brides of Frankenstein (Psycho 1974 Yearbook)
Die, Frankenstein's Monster! (Psycho #22)

Skywald's take on Frankenstein is two separate series, with the first 6 stories above under the "Frankenstein Book II" moniker and the series restarting for the final 3 stories. Tom Sutton originally wrote and drew the series (with some help from Dan Adkins and Jack Abel), for the first 4 parts, but once he departed Skywald the series goes on a long hiatus before being taken over by Al Hewetson and drawn by Xavier Villanova, for a single story, before going on another long absence, wrapping up with a final story, now drawn by Cesar Lopez. I presume as a way to quickly wrap up the series and go in another direction as desired by Hewetson, as very soon afterwards another Frankenstein series kicks off, also drawn by Lopez. Sutton's take on Frankenstein is quite an entertaining one, and takes place right after the book ends. Victor Frankenstein is really brought through the ringer, being brought back to life by the monster, getting torn to shreds by an angry townsfolk, then brought to life again, ends up as just a head, and other hilariousness. The monster goes on his own journey, meaning a companion in Lilith, fighting off a sewer octopus and taking part in a crazed experiment by the Phantom of the Opera. Things go in a sci-fi direction after that, with the monster transported to the future, first where he takes on Nazi corpses then a society of all women who intend to make him their king, only for him to accept death instead. The restarted series is a bit calmer but is still pretty good, focusing on storylines such as a bride fo the monster and him meeting Dracula. While at its peak when Tom Sutton was handling it, these series were typically of good quality.

Lady Satan
The Macabre Beginning (Scream #2)
What is Evil and What is Not (Scream #3)
Satan Wants a Child (Scream #4)
The Son of Lord Lucifer (Psycho #19)

The Lady Satan series was written by Al Hewetson, with art primarily by Ricardo Villamonte, although Pablo Marcos handled the final segment. This series features a woman named Anne, whose body is hijacked by a black witch Satanist, the titular Lady Satan. Throughout the series she struggles with control of her body with Lady Satan, and is eventually impregnated by Satan himself, causing her to throw herself in a fire, killing it and horrifically burning herself. It is here where the series ended, although I don't think intentionally. That said, it ended a good while before Skywald went under. At the very least this overall mediocre series ended at a logically enough place.

Autobiography of a Vampire
The Autobiography of a Vampire, Chapter 1 (Nightmare #17)
The Autobiography of a Vampire (Scream #5)
My tomb is My Castle (Nightmare #19)

This three part series was written by Al Hewetson and Ricardo Villamonte. It features a vampire calling himself Judas, who tells the story of his life. We start with how he became a vampire in the first place, due to Prince Rodion Zosimov, who slays his parents and later abandons him, only for Judas to later take revenge. The second part tells of Judas' failed attempt at love, which results in him slaying his beloved. The third tells of his time living with an old blind man and the misfortune he was responsible for. While not as ambitious as some of Skywald's other series, this is one I constantly enjoyed, and wish we had more of.

Nightmare World
The Nightmare World of James Edgar (Nightmare #9)
The Nightmare World of Trisha Hamlin of Livingston, Kentucky: They Crawled Out of the Crater (Nightmare #10)
Nightmare World: The Beasts of Tomb Beach! (Nightmare #11)

Nightmare World was a short lived series, only going for 3 stories, but was an interesting concept. Hewetson would take the dreams or nightmares of one of his readers and turn it into a story! This results in a non-serialized approach, with more variety added by the fact that each story was drawn by a different artist. The first two stories feature some considerable bizarre monsters and events and were quite memorable. The third such story was a little less out there and not as memorable, but still worth a read.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Skywald's Most Prolific Contributors

In this post I'll be identifying who were the most prolific contributors for Skywald. I had done a similar feature a number of years back for Warren.

Most Prolific Story Artists

1. Ricardo Villamonte - 29
2. Pablo Marcos - 27
3. Jose Cardona - 20
4. Felipe Dela Rosa - 17
5. Zesar Lopez - 16
6. Jesus Duran - 14
6. Jesus Suso Rego - 14
6. Xavier Villanova - 14
9. Mike Esposito - 13
10. Maelo Cintron - 12
11. Antonio Borrell - 11
11. Ferran Sostres - 11
13. Cesar Lopez - 10
14. Fernando Rubio - 10
15. Tom Sutton - 9
16. Ross Andru - 8
16. Serg Moren - 8
16. Maro Nava - 8
16. Juez Xirinius - 8
20. Luis Collado - 7
20. Jack Katz - 7

Ricardo Villamonte being Skywald's most prolific story artist wasn't much of a surprise to me. He really dominates the magazines once he arrives, often having 2 stories for many issues that he appears in. Despite how prolific he was, it wasn't for that long a time, as it was only a run of 7 issues or so for each respective title that he was around. Marcos being #2 is also pretty expected, like Villamonte he dominates Skywald during the time he worked for them, which incidentally enough was coming to an end right around when Villamonte appeared. Like both of them, Cardona also dominates the magazines when he arrived, often having 2 stories per issue, coming close to the end of Skywald's run.

Selecciones Illustrada artists dominate the listing, with 15 of the 21 slots here (I went with 21 rather than 20 because both Collado and Katz have the same number of stories). Mike Esposito was Skywald's most prolific American artist, although his work is primarily from early in Skywald's run, with one story from Psycho #14 likely an inventory story, appearing far after the others.

Most Prolific Frontispiece Artists

1. Pablo Marcos - 20
2. Maelo Cintron - 12
2. Domingo Gomez - 12
4. Gene Day - 7
4. Bill Everett - 7
6. Felipe Dela Rosa - 5
6. Ferran Sostres - 5
6. Ricardo Villamonte - 5
9. Juez Xirinius - 4
9. Zesar Lopez - 4

Most of the frontispiece artists are ones who appeared on the above story list. Domingo Gomez's work was primarily frontispieces, with him doing only 2 full length stories (both of them in the same issue). Gene Day arrived very close to the end of Skywald's run but despite that put out a lot of frontispieces getting him near the top of this list.

Most Prolific Cover Artists

1. Vicente Segrelles - 10
2. Sebastian Boada - 7
3. Salvador Faba - 6
4. Ken Kelly - 5
4. Boris Vallejo -5
6. Fernando Fernandez - 4
6. Xavier Villanova - 4
8. Jose Antonio Domingo - 3
8. Jose Miralles - 3

Skywald's cover artist again are dominated by foreign artists, most of them from Selecciones Illustrada. Ken Kelly, the top American artist was also a prolific cover artist for Warren, and in fact their most prolific American cover artist too.

Most Prolific Writers

1. Al Hewetson - 232
2. Ed Fedory - 27
3. Augustine Funnell - 16
4. Doug Moench - 11
5. Chuch McNaughton - 10
5. Gardner Fox - 10
7. Marv Wolfman - 9
8. Ross Andru - 6
8. Tom Sutton - 6
9. Bruce Jones - 5
9. Chic Stone - 5

Al Hewetson, as expected, massively dominates Skywald's writing, having nearly 10 times as many stories as the second place finisher, Ed Fedory. Only Fedory and Funnell were regular contributors after Skywald's early years, with the other writers making up this list being ones that primarily appeared before Hewetson became editor.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Psycho #24

Today I'm covering Psycho issue 24, cover dated March 1975. The cover is provided by Sebastia Boada. This is both the final issue of Psycho and the final issue of Skywald overall! The end has finally come. Gene Day provides the one page frontispiece.

We start with "A Fragment in the Life of Dracula: Within the Walls of Castle Dracula!" by Al Hewetson (story) and Jose Martin Sauri (art). This story continues the storyline started up in Scream #10. Vlad the Impaler is a werewolf, but has not become a vampire yet, with this story telling how. He goes to where he has many prisoners locked up and speaks to one, a gardener, Rathskeller, whose son fled rather than provide him service. Vlad decides to free the man during the full moon, telling him he can go free if he can escape him. Ratskeller flees through the dark woods and eventually is come upon by a number of vampire bats. Vlad consumes not only Rathskeller's body, but that of the bats as well. He returns to his castle, having become a vampire. As usual, really strong art from Sauri here, although he once again appears to be taking clear inspiration from Esteban Maroto's "A Most Private Terror" from Creepy #52.

Second is the return of the series, "Monster, Monster" after a long absence with "Visions of Bloody Death". While Augustine Funnell still provides the story, Ricardo Villamonte has been replaced as artist by Paul Puigagut. Our protagonist, currently living in New York under the name Vincent Crayne continues to turn to a werewolf at the full moon. The woman with the amulet whom he is seeking decides to send a demon after him, while also fearing for her son, his roommate. The demon attacks Crayne and she also transforms the landlady into a demon as well to fight him. Crayne comes out on top and turns back into a human, but his roommate is dead. He realizes the woman is going to England and decides to pursue her there. This series continues to be meandering and rather pointless to me. Puigagut's art is very impressive though and a big upgrade from Villamonte. The downside is it can be somewhat confusing at times to figure out what is going on.

Third is "Daughter of Darkness" by Joan Cintron (story) and Maelo Cintron (art). A rare Cintron story that is not part of the Human Gargoyles series. It is his wife providing the story. The story claims this is her first work for Skywald, but she also had contributed to a short story by him early in his Skywald career. A prince's wife is giving birth, but she passes away due to it, making him quite upset at the child, especially when he realizes it is a girl. Two decades pass and the girl is now grown up, asking the midwife about her mother. She is forbidden from leaving, nor from ever loving anyone. That night a vampire appears, flying down to her room and bites her neck. She goes down to see her father later, asking permission to be married, but he refuses and says she is forbid an heir. Suddenly the vampire appears and along with her, bites her father's neck, and she claims there is no need to worry about an heir as he will now live forever. A pretty decent story, and it was good to see Cintron do something outside of the Gargoyles series.

Next is the two page "The Book of the Dead!" by Al Hewetson (story) and Domingo Gomez (art). This brief feature is about H.P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon, and features various monsters and best. It also features an old woman for whom I've seen drawn by at least 3 other Selecciones Illustrada artists, what must be from a very popular photo reference.

Next is "From Hell to Eternity!" by Ed Fedory (story) and Jose Cardona (art). Two men and their assistant Carlos have come to the Pacific island of Zacatecas, with a map on human skin that they believe will lead to riches. They are seeking the tomb of Moran-Kula, ruler of the Toltecs, whom upon his death was bound up in the tomb, his mouth sewn shut. Eventually waters rose and covered their entire city and the tomb. After diving underwater, they find the tomb, and riches within. Thinking there are jewels in Moran-Kula's mouth, they cut open his sewn lips, but flesh eating beetles come out of his mouth and devour them. Meanwhile, Carlos celebrates above water, returning to shore with a giant chest they brought up, but the beetles are inside it as well and consume him too!

Next is "The City of the White Wolf" by Dave Sim (story) and Luis Collado (art). The hunter William Ashton Perry has brought a group to hunt in the winter wilderness. He decides to use himself as bait, putting himself in a fake bear trap. A white wolf approaches him, but then turns, getting William upset as he thinks he can make a thousand dollars from its pelt. William heads out on his own at night and finds the wolf, shooting at it and successfully killing it. In short order however he finds himself surrounded by a pack of wolves. The next morning William's body is found, with much of it having been eaten by the wolves. A unique type of story in that it has no supernatural element to it at all. Sim does a good job in his one and only Skywald story, as does the artist Collado.

The following story is "..If I Should Die Before I Wake..." by Al Hewetson (story) and Jose Cardona (art). A vampire grows nervous about what may happen if his body is found in the graveyard where he makes his home, knowing that even children could kill him during the daytime. He decides to move to some other place the next day. Unfortunately for him, that very day men come to destroy the mausoleum he sleeps in and put his coffin outside, unopened. The coffin is brought to the morgue where his body is discovered and believed to be that of a dead man. As a result, his body is frozen. The vampire dies as he feared, but not in the way he thought! This story's ending is very similar to "I Was a Vampire for Hire" from Scream #2.

Our final story is a second story in "The Fiend of Changsha" series, with "Dead by Day, Fiend by Night" by Al Hewetson (story) and Sanho Kim (art). Our protagonist Chan Hai returns to life after a thief takes the blade that is sticking out of his body. He finds himself unable to step outside in the sunlight due to his being a vampire. Meanwhile the police chief visits the scholar Man Lao, who recognizes Hai to be a vampire. They find Hai, who was a former student of Lao. Hai agrees to go with Lao who can teach him about being a vampire and what he can do about it. The police chief leads him into an ambush though. Hai slays him by drinking his blood, then turns into a bat and flies away. Lao worries the curse he has put upon China by spreading vampirism. A pretty good story to wrap up this issue of Psycho, and Skywald as a whole. Too bad the series has to stop here partway through!

And with that, my coverage of Skywald's individual issues comes to an end. It has been a fun ride to finally experience their works, which while not at the level of Warren, was still a pretty memorable journey. I do plan on making a few more posts about Skywald now that I have finished, focusing in particular on matters such as my favorite stories, features on some of the artists, a discussion of the series used and some other things.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Scream #11

Today I'm featuring Scream issue 11, cover dated March 1975, which is also the final issue of the title. The cover is provided by Ballestar.

First is the latest story in the Nosferatu series, "I Kill to Live" by Al Hewetson (story) and Zesar Lopez (art). The latest person to tell their tale is Antie Mae Dippie. She explains how as a child, her father was a philanderer and her mother a drunk. One night he got so angry at her he killed her with an ax. Mae then killed him with it. She was found by the authorities and thrown in an asylum where she spent her life, growing up then growing old. At 65, she decides to escape, stowing away with a nurse whom she then strangles. She heads to the Australian outback where she finds a stray dog that accompanies her and eventually an old man living in a cabin. The old man has reported her though for the reward money, and when they arrive she is able to blow them up with dynamite then chops off the head of the old man. She flees with the dog, but when a snake attacks them, she kicks the dog in the way, which is bitten and killed in her place. She kills the snake with the rock, then puts the dog out of its misery. Devastated by what she did to her friend, she takes out an ax and chops herself in the head. Back in the present, Mae takes off her mask, revealing her head with a large gash in the middle. Nosferatu unfortunately stops before the end point, with a few characters left to go, but given that it was anthology based in nature it doesn't hurt as much as the fate of Saga of the Victims, seen later in this issue. This story features an introductory page that shows Nosferatu and the various characters who have told their stories throughout the series. As always, Zesar's art is lovely to look at.

"I Kill to Live"
Next is "You Can't Judge a Killer by the Corpse!" by Augustine Funnel (story) and Jose Cardona (art). This story takes place in London in the 19th century. Our protagonist, Paul, heads out to find work for the day only to find the body of his friend on the ground outside. Upset over the authority's inability to find his killer, he decides to investigate himself, but no one will speak to him. Paul eventually finds another body, and is told off by the tenant of a nearby apartment, 14, who says he may find the same happening to him if he's not careful. After speaking with his wife, Jen, he decides to confront the man and they head to see him. Paul quickly slays the man, not even giving him the ability to defend himself. But he soon finds out that its his wife who is the killer, as she has transformed into a werewolf, and kills him! What was a pretty decent story is ruined by a horrendous ending. If Jen was the killer the whole time and was fine with killing her husband, why wait until now?

"Who Are they? The Breeders!"
Third is "Who Are they? The Breeders!" by Ed Fedory (story) and Luis Collado (art). A young woman walks down an alley where she is confronted by something unseen. Her shrunken, disfigured corpse is found by the authorities. The focus then shifts to her husband, who is quite mad that his wife, who had recently lost a lot of weight and become beautiful as a result, is dead. He blames the diet chocolates that she was eating and heads out, trying to find where they were made. He breaks into the drug store she had shopped from and knocks out the store keep, afterwards being able to find out where he ordered them from. He heads to a mansion where inside the old man owner talks to his unseen pets. Our protagonist breaks in and the old man claims to be guardian of the Breeders, which are upstairs. Our protagonist heads upstairs, finding the breeders to be tapeworms, which kill him. As the story ends, the old man plans to send them out via more "diet chocolates". This story seems inspired by an old EC story which essentially had the same premise; a businessman coming to a town with a solution for people to lose weight, but it being revealed that it was due to tapeworms.

Fourth is an adaption of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" with adaption by Al Hewetson and art by Peter Cappiello. This is an adaption of arguably Poe's most famous tale, and is about a man mourning the death of his beloved Lenore. The titular raven appears, keeps saying the word "nevermore" and he gets upset enough that he ends up killing himself. Some dramatization and dialogue have been added by Hewetson.

"I Am a Proud Monstrosity"
We conclude with the fifth story in the "Saga of the Victims" series, "I Am a Proud Monstrosity" by Al Hewetson (story) and Jesus Suso Rego (art). This story begins with some thoughts from an unseen figure in a castle. We then return to our protagonists, Josey and Anne, who are in the hands of an African warlord. They are suddenly sucked through a portal and find themselves in a desert. They are first tormented by a sandstorm, then an attack from a snake, and then the ground collapses beneath them, causing them to fall into boiling water! After escaping from a tentacled being, they make their way to a cave, where Nazi storm troopers, now corpses, walk by. The cave they are in starts getting filled in from above with dirt, but they are able to crawl out of it and back outside. Anne starts shouting out that whoever is tormenting them has lost, but then a voice rings out that they have lost, but can rest easy as their torment is over. A flying craft then arrives, piloted by some monkeys! It brings them back to Manhattan, and Scollard Manse. Revealed to be the castle from the start of the story, it suddenly blasts off as if it was a rocket!

With the end of Skywald this series unfortunately ends with the final chapter yet to go. That said, the final chapter had been written and at least partially drawn, and would eventually see print years later. I recently had the opportunity to read it. In this final chapter, Josey and Anne meet an alien being that had been responsible for all the experiences they had gone through. The being constantly changes its form, to that of many of the horrors they had experienced throughout the series. It explains that it comes from another universe and was investigating ours, and put the two through all this to test them. The two of them continue to push back as they have throughout the series. The alien then destroys the Earth, grows giant in size, and crushes the two of them in its hands! As the story ends we find that the entire universe that Earth is in has been destroyed, but the other universe that the alien was from remains. Josey and Anne still exist in that universe as some sort of spiritual flotsam. The series ended in quite a bizarre fashion, in tune with the rest of the series. I will say the art for the final chapter is a lot lower of quality than the previous ones had been.

This is the penultimate issue of Skywald's horror line. With my next entry I'll be covering Psycho #24, Skywald's final issue! The end is just about here!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Nightmare #23

With this we have hit the final issue of Nightmare, issue 23, and also identified as the 1975 Nightmare Winter Special. It is cover dated February 1975 and has a cover by Vicente Segrelles.

Gene Day draws the one page frontispiece, advertising the next issue of Psycho.

Our first story is the latest in the Human Gargoyles series, "The Human Gargoyles vs. the Human Dead" by Al Hewetson (story) and Maelo Cintron (art). This issue also includes a one page summary of the series and a Vicente Segrelles promo cover of a future Gargoyles special which was never published. Edward and Mina are now in their castle, talking about their son Andrew's schooling. Meanwhile, outside, Satan plans his next move. Edward has publicized his battles with Satan, but Satan wants humanity to stop believing in him so they can't reject him. But for now, rather than focus on that, he decides to revive a number of corpses from the dead and send them to attack the castle. Edward makes quick work of them but then he and Mina find their son has been kidnapped. With the end of Skywald coming soon, this would be the last story in the Human Gargoyles series and is mediocre as the rest. In fact it is largely pointless and a retread beyond perhaps some of Satan's scheming which will never come to pass due to the end of the series. The kidnapping of Andrew is something that this series has already done before and seems to be used largely just to give the story a cliffhanger. Once my coverage of individual Skywald issues is over, I'll do a post or two speaking to the company's main series and will offer some final thoughts on this one at that point.

"Tradition of the Wolf"
The second story is "Tradition of the Wolf" by Ed Fedory (story) and Jesus Martin Sauri (art). A blacksmith and his son work in their shop and the father tells him he is going to go out tonight, the night of the full moon, in order to hunt a werewolf. The werewolf indeed appears and slays one of the men in his party. One of the men believes he has found the werewolf and fires, only to realize he shot one of his colleagues, the blacksmith. The father tells his son something behind closed doors, and dies. The son continues his father's work as a blacksmith and heads out to hunt the werewolf on his own. But he is not really hunting him, but in fact has become a werewolf himself! While the story itself is nothing special, Sauri's artwork continues to be quite amazing. That said, probably more so than any other story of his, the numerous swipes he is making from other artists is quite noticeable. In particular the stories "Werewolf by Frank Frazetta in Creepy #1 and "A Most Private Terror" by Esteban Maroto in Creepy #52.

Third is "Death Walk" with story by Ed Fedory and art by Jose Cardona (credited to Andy  Crandon). At the funeral for a young girl, a doctor who is said to have drained her blood is told off. A gnome approaches him, wanting to buy the blood he has drained, but the doctor claims he is a phlebotomist and is doing this to research blood disease. He refuses, and the gnome claims he will still get the blood. That night, the gnome's master, the vampire Baron Korlok arrives at the doctor's home and senses that he has seen him somewhere before. The doctor shows no fear and instead uses a stake rigged up behind a canvas to slay the Baron. The doctor transforms, revealing him to be the king of death, which is why the vampire had recognized him. I was expecting a more ingenious way to slay the vampire (what if he missed?) but at least the end reveal of the doctor's true nature somewhat makes up for it.

"Death Walk"
Next is "Time for Living, Time for Dying", a brief text feature by Al Hewetson with a page of art by Gene Day.

Fourth story is "The Vampire Freaks" by Al Hewetson (story, credited as William Davie) and Paul Pueyo (art, credited as Stan Connerty). A group of freaks, about to be let go by a circus try to determine a new business to form and decide on a cruise ship, the Good Ship Fortune. Suddenly someone is found dead, bitten by a vampire. There is a lot of blame tossed around, in particular at the freaks and a smaller one in particular, Tony, who dies when the boat hits the shore. One of the little kids on board reveals that the victim actually died of a heart attack and was bit by a water rat. The freaks decide to continue their cruise and tell someone to get off their boat, although the final panel is so small we can't tell who. This is a bit of a mess of a story, with some rather weak or confusing art by Pueyo as well. I can't figure out for the life of me how Tony died or why it was a little kid who figured things out.

Fifth is The "Thing in the Ragged Mountains" by Al Hewetson (story, credited as Ted Freeman) and Amador Garcia (art, credited as Walter Fortiss). A trio of men hunting in the West Virginia mountains come across a Bigfoot-like creature. One of them shoots at it but it has no effect and the Bigfoot kills him. The other two wait in a cave but one of them swears revenge and fires right into the head of the Bigfoot, to no effect. One of the men tries to flee, but trips over a rock and is come upon by the best. It then heads towards the cave where the last one is. It suddenly turns around though. Shots fire out and the last survivor, Ted, finds a rescue party outside. It is the sheriff and some deputies come to arrest him for shooting his colleagues. There is no trace of the creature and his colleagues were killed by bullets. Ted is put into an insane asylum, with this story as his defense, which the writers claim was provided to them. He believes the creature shot the men in order to frame him! While Garcia's art is average at best, I enjoyed this story quite a lot for its uniqueness.

"The Thing in the Ragged Mountains"
Sixth is "Fistful of Flesh" by Al Hewetson (story, credited as Leslie Jerome) and Folsengo Cabrerizo (art, credited as Denis Ford). A movie shoots a scene featuring a vampire biting a young woman in an old town in Arizona. Later, when shooting a scene about a mob forming to slay the vampire they realize the actor playing the sheriff is dead, slain as if it was by a vampire. A detective has five suspects, those actors who weren't necessary for the day, but the one playing the vampire is the chief suspect. We then cut to a courtroom, where the vampire actor's defense attorney claims his client was on Malibu beach and the stuntman is the real killer. The attorney claims the stuntman is a vampire himself and was worried that he would be found out when he went under the makeup chair. He pulls open the curtains, letting the sunlight in and it kills the stuntman, who really is a vampire. This story is over rather abruptly and surprises me in that there really wasn't a twist at the end.

We wrap up with "Snakewizard!" by Augustine Funnell (story) and Jose Cardona (art, credited to Andy Crandon). Two men, Murray and Lee, travel through the jungle in search of gold, stealing from an innkeeper along the way. Lee is soon attacked and bitten by a snake, which escapes into the jungle. Soon a native comes out, claiming he can help and sucks out the poison. The native claims the snake was his pet and he is a snake wizard. They demand he lead them to the temple of the snake and he does so, at gunpoint. They are soon brought there and find a tremendous amount of gold. But the snake wizard claims they are trespassers and must be dealt with. He turns into a snake and bites them, causing them to turn into gold. The snake wizard being the snake was incredibly obvious to me from the outset, but kudos to Funnell for adding in the gold element which at least provided slightly more interest to the ending.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Psycho #23

Sebastian Boada provides the cover for this issue of Psycho, cover dated January 1975.

We start with the frontispiece, "People of the Dark" by Robert E. Howard (story) and Gene Day (art).

First story is "The Phantom of the Dead: Midnight in Wax" by Al Hewetson (story) and Jesus Martin Sauri (art). This story is hosted by the Vulture, who had just appeared in Nightmare #22 and as such may have originally been intended for the Tomb of Horror magazine. Once again the vulture introduces a new horror character, this time the titular phantom. Charles Ogle has a wax museum with various fiends and monsters including the Phantom of the Opera. On a stormy night, a bat smashes through a window and lightning strikes the museum, bringing the Phantom to life! We find that the Phantom was built with actual joints and other body parts which enables it to move. It goes outside, scaring a couple, who calls the police. It doesn't respond to the police when they come, but instead goes to a graveyard. When the sun comes up it starts melting, but heads back towards the museum and is found by Ogle. Ogle rebuilds the Phantom, claiming he'll construct it even better this time, and use a human brain! An average story, but Sauri's artwork continues to be very strong.

"Midnight in Wax!"
Second story is "The Curse of the Snake Goddess" by Al Hewetson (story) and Jose Cardona (art). An archaeological dig takes place in Egypt, finding a four thousand year old tomb. Those who have dug it up take their treasures from it, but several suffer mysterious deaths. The finds of the expedition eventually make their way back to America. While the archaeologists work on translating things, a young woman, one of the assistants, finds a snake necklace that she hopes to sell and make a lot of money off of. She ties a rope and starts making her way out the window, but the necklace turns into a snake and kills her, revealing itself to be the source of the deaths. This story was a bit simpler in nature than I expected it to be. Early in the story we have a rather odd segment where a character drives while drinking beer, something quite idiotic, although it is never touched upon again later in the story.

Third is "A Garden of Hellish Delight" by Al Hewetson (story) and Cesar Lopez (art). Earnest is a gardener who is in love with the wealthy heiress Angela. Her father refuses to let them be married however. Earnest cries and his tears cause his plants to grow and kill Angela's father during the night. He and Angela are soon married. Now wealthy, Earnest doesn't need a job but spends all his time on the garden. Many years go by. Earnest and Angela are now old and she has grown bitter over him paying all his attention to his garden rather than her. When she demands a divorce, Earnest cries again, and his tears once again cause his plants to come to life and kill her. He uses her body as fertilizer and spreads this garden throughout their mansion. At the end of the story we see his now dead boy, also being used as fertilizer for the plants.

"The Werevampirewolf"
Fourth is "The Werevampirewolf" by Al Hewetson (story) and Jose Cardona (art). This story is quite the oddity in that it features text only at the start and end of the story. Otherwise every panel has no captions or dialogue. It shows a tale of a vampire and werewolves from 19th century Germany. It includes a vampire being set loose, a mob of werewolves and the vampire becoming some sort of werevampire at the end of the story, despite having been staked in the heart.

Fifth is an Edgar Allen Poe adaption, "The Man of the Crowd" with adaption by Al Hewetson and art by Ferran Sostres. Our protagonist on an autumn day sees a rather disheveled looking man wandering around. He decides to follow him, thinking he is a pick pocket, then a thief, then a murderer, but he does no such things. He decides to confront the man, but the man doesn't react to him, leaving our protagonist to wonder if he's a ghost, mad or imbecile. Not much of a plot to this Poe story, which I recall being a bit happier with when it was adapted by Warren. At a mere 5 pages it goes by pretty quick, but Sostres provides a usual strong art job.

Sixth is "The 300th Birth Day Party!" by Al Hewetson (story) and Ramon Torrents (art). This is a reprint of a story that originally appeared in Nightmare #9. Odd to see a single reprint story in an issue that is otherwise all new, although I always enjoy seeing work from Torrents. Cecille is married to the ugly and scarred, yet rich Walter, and is carrying on an affair with her doctor. When Cecille discovers she has cancer, the only option is to freeze her body, until a time in the future when a cure is found. Cecille willingly goes through with it, hoping that when she awakens she'll have her husband's money, but he'll be long dead. She wakes up 3 centuries later, but finds to her horror that due to advantages in medicine, Walter is still alive!

"The Man of the Crowd"
Seventh is the second chapter in the "Mummy Khafre" series, "The Murderess" by Al Hewetson (story) and Cesar Lopez (art). Khafre decides to flee, jumping into the wagon of a traveling salesman. She takes off her bandages, realizing that only her head remains preserved and the rest of her body is mummified. The salesman spots her and she slays him. Despite the state of her body, she is able to move around and breathe normally and puts on a dress to make herself look normal. Khafre returns to Egypt and finds her tomb. She finds a series of Ushabtiu, small curios which she is able to bring to life to act as her slaves. They lead her to Neferches' tomb where she destroys his mummy. She is found soon after and while she struggles, is taken captive, forced to remain bound. As the story ends she summons the Ushabtiu to set her free. A decent continuation of this series, although with the end of Skywald nearly here we probably won't see much more of it.s

The issue concludes with a one page Zombie Pin-up by Gene Day.