Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Psycho #1

Brendon Lynch provides a strong cover for this first issue of Psycho, dated January 1971.

First is "The Skin and Bones Syndrome" by Roger Ellson (story) and Gray Morrow (art). A mysterious beam starts appearing on Earth, causing anyone it touches to immediately turn to a skeleton and die. While the Earth's scientists try to figure out what is going on, a young man named Jimmy sends out a radio signal into space and it successfully reaches the planet Aranus, who is sending out the signal. The inhabitants of Aranus are horribly disfigured, due to a mysterious plague that arose from a space probe. Realizing that the signal they are sending is causing death on Earth, they decide to blow up their entire planet! Wow, it was surprising to see a race of alien beings willing to off themselves like that to save Earth. It was good to see Warren regular Gray Morrow here.

Second is "The Glistening Death", drawn by Martin Nodell and Vince Alascia. Warren Arno gets in trouble in the city and heads to the swamp lands where his reclusive uncle Robert lives. Robert warns him to leave, saying there is an unknown terror out in the swamp, but Warren doesn't believe him. That night a blob-like creature comes in through the window but flees when Warren wakes. The next day a beautiful woman comes to see Robert and Warren follows her into the swamp, soon coming upon the creature again. He returns to his uncle's home where he finds he has been hoarding gold and kills him. Suddenly the woman appears again, and reveals that she is the swamp creature and had given Robert gold in exchange for bringing her red meat, essentially making him her slave. With Robert dead, she takes on Warren as her new slave. This is a decent story but the reproduction of the art, at least in the copy I'm reading is quite horrendous making everything quite dark.

The next story is "I Painted Only Terror!". An artist, Paul Beaumont only paints one subject, people that look scared or terrified. His doctor tries to get him to paint other things to stop some nightmares he's having, but Paul instead decides to paint one supreme masterpiece to obtain worldly fame. He recruits a model, then gets into a monster costume to scare her, but it ends up frightening her to death. Soon, her ghost starts appearing, urging him to paint. Eventually Paul's apartment is broken into by the police after his rantings make his housekeeper think he's gone out of his mind. Inside they find Paul dead, and his painting completed, showing him terrified.

Following this story is a one page feature, "Psycho's Gruesome Gallery No. 1", showing a monster coming out of a mirror, as drawn by Steve Hickman.

Incidentally enough, the fourth story is "The Thing in the Mirror" drawn by Everett Raymond Kinstler. James Crawford is an orphan brought up by a wealthy family who grows up mean and cruel. At the age of 25, James becomes obsessed with a woman named Barbara, who is marrying an older man, George. James goes to work for George and causes him to get electrocuted in what he makes look like an accident. Soon James starts seeing strange visions of a monster in the mirror. Eventually, George's ghost appears and transforms James into the small, monkey-like monster he had been seeing in the mirror. In this new form, James wonders out of the mansion he lives in, is captured and becomes part of a freakshow! I enjoyed the ending to this story quite a lot.

Next is the text story "The Steps in the Cellar!" by Art Stampler. A man named Pete Welch finds an abandoned home in a storm. Looking for alcohol, he dismisses a warning message in front of a door and heads down to the cellar. He finds an old woman in the cellar and continues past her, making his way to a chamber with men chanting and where a woman is sacrificed to summon a green scaly monster. The old woman, who is named Mother Satan decides to keep him alive as a witness. Pete is able to use a wine bottle given to him to kill Mother Satan, but fails to kill the fetus Asmodeus she was carrying, lord of the Netherworld. A baby, Asmodeus is found by a couple and adopted.

Fifth is "...And Then There's Cicero" written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Paul Reinman. Ben Slick goes to stay with his elderly aunt Hildy, who has numerous cats, including one named Cicero who she says never seems to be around. While she's asleep, Ben searches the house for her fortune. Seeing a key around her neck, Ben is convinced it leads to her fortune and throws Hildy down the stairs so he can take it. He opens the locked door with the key, only to discover that Cicero is a tiger, who promptly eats him! The start of this story is quite similar to "The Glistening Death", but it does end in a new direction.

Next is "Anatomical Monster" with art by A.C. Hollingsworth. A medical student named Jack Kirk, while shopping for something for his girlfriend is instead given an anatomical chart of a human body by a shopkeeper. Jack gives the chart to his professor who uses it in teaching. However that night the image in the chart comes alive and stalks the city, soon killing a couple. Jack confronts the shopkeeper, who reveals how the chart came to be. As a young man, he was jealous of his colleague Bill and killed him. He drew the chart, basing it on Bill, but soon found that he came to life and started killing people. Back in the present, to destroy the monster, Jack and the shopkeeper burn the chart, but realize it is now blank. The monster comes from the darkness and kills the two of them.

Our next story is "The Hands of Death", drawn by Norman Nodel and Vince Alascia. Eric Dulan, a world famous violinist has his hands mangled in an accident. Devastated over the fact that he can no longer play the piano, Dulan resorts to black magic, finding a man named Dr. Necros who claims he can give him new hands in exchange for "everything". Dulan is able to pick a new pair of hands from a group of dead men. He returns to his career as a violinist, but finds the hands on their own trying to kill someone. He locks himself away, only to kill his friend when he finds him. Dulan goes on the run but is caught by the police. Fingerprinting him, they find it to be the hands of a previously convicted killer and lock him up. Dulan screams for Necros to take back the hands as the dead mock him.

The issue concludes with "The Gruesome Faces of Mr. Cliff!", written by Len Wein and drawn by Mario Acquaviva. Noel Cliff is a once great actor, known for playing monsters in various plays. Now he is an old man, suffering from pain and told he has an incurable disease. Cliff decides that he wants to return to playing the monsters as one final performance, but upon putting on the costume of one of them, becomes the monster itself and kills someone. Cliff starts putting on different costumes, becoming said monsters and killing more people. When a woman at a bar taunts him, he dons the costume of Dracula and kills her, but is chased by the police. Running onto a stage with bright lamps, he finds he has truly become a vampire and dies from the light.

This is another issue dominated by reprints, with only "The Skin and Bone Syndrome", "...And Then There's Cicero" and "The Gruesome Faces of Mr. Cliff" (as well as the text story and one page Gallery feature) being new. The rest are reprints of 1950s stories. That said, I did enjoy this issue a bit more than Nightmare #1.

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