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.