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.