Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Weird Mystery Tales #17. "A catchphrase, kid. You gotta have a catchphrase."

Weird Mystery Tales #17, a butler enters a hallway to encounter his employer who has been turned into a crocodile or alligator in clothing

A life lived in the light is rarely free of shadows and thus we once more delve into the haunts of darkness and torment with yet another DC horror title. This time it's one of their less celebrated mags, having lasted a mere twenty four issues. I suspect there was a limit to how many noticeably similar comics the market could bear and Weird Mystery Tales seems to have been the one that found that limit.

I couldn't claim to have an intimate knowledge of Weird Mystery Tales, what with only ever having had two issues but, from those two issues, it seems a little lighter than the likes of House of Secrets, Ghosts and House of Mystery. Perhaps a little quirkier but also a little less focused.

Weird Mystery Tales #17, alchemist get his come-uppance

First up is the tale of a man who runs a pharmacy by day and an alchemists' by night. When a man from The Board comes round to inspect his shop and deems it unacceptable, our villain decides to kill him, only to get his comeuppance in a pleasingly twisted manner.

Weird Mystery Tales #17

Next, a hitman makes the mistake of being nasty to Satanists and is subsequently doomed to keep dying over and over again. As you can guess from that, it's a standard story but drawn by ER Cruz whose artwork always seemed to be in some way rotting on the page in front of you and was thus perfect for such tales. Regular readers of horror mags won't need help to guess the true identity of the mysterious surgeon who finally removes his mask at the denouement. All I'll say is, with the number of horror stories that climaxed with this particular character revealing his true identity, it's a miracle he ever had time for his more "regal" duties.

Weird Mystery Tales #17, human cannonball

Last up's the tale of a stunt man who, told by a fortune teller that he'll only die by hanging, is convinced he can't die unless he commits murder. Needless to say, this being a horror mag, within mere pages, he gets a bit of a shock.

The truth is there's nothing outstanding about the issue, the twists are obvious and, as it uses just Ruben Yandoc and ER Cruz, it's visually indistinguishable from all the other DC horror mags of the time. Its use of a witch as narrator draws to mind DC's own Witching Hour and, unlike that comic, it doesn't benefit from the availability of a catchphrase to end each tale with and thus create a brand for itself. All of this means it's hard for Weird Mystery Tales to justify its existence but, maybe I'm perverse or maybe I just like a plucky underdog but there's something about it I like.

Actually, the real highlight of the issue for me is the long running ad for 132 Roman soldiers for $2.25. Like the Sea Monkeys ad, the thing seemed to run for years and years and years, ignoring inflation with all the determination of the Roman Army itself. Not only do you get four generals (mounted) you also get for four buglers, meaning they could form their own swing band. I wonder what'd happen if I sent off for them? I wonder what'd happen if I left them too close to the fire? I wonder what'd happen if I strayed too close with my vacuum cleaner?


Marc said...

I was hugely desirous of those toy roman soldiers - alas, airmail postage would no doubt have soured the apparently gainful nature of the offer.

Anonymous said...

I remember those ads, with the fine print saying, "Imaginary battle scene shown." The actual toy soldiers were less than 2" tall, flat, and all one color. IIRC, half were yellow and half were dark blue, I guess so you could tell the opposing armies apart, since they were identical except for color.

Steve W. said...

That's interesting, Anon. I always assumed they were those tiny little one centimetre tall figures that you used to be able to buy en masse in polythene bags. The ones that always had spare bits of loose thin plastic sticking out of them and had barely any detail, due to their cheap production.