Sunday, 28 October 2018

Atlas Comics' Tales of Evil #1.

Tales of Evil #1, Atlas Seaboard
It's time to tremble with fear because we're mere days away from Halloween, that terrifying time of year when witches fly, skeletons leap from their coffins and newspapers try to spread panic about pumpkin shortages.

It can only mean one thing.

That it's time to take a face-first leap into terror and look at what the short-lived Atlas Comics had to offer us in terms of horror.

Of course, a more cynical man than me might argue that the entire history of Atlas Comics is a horror story but I'm not that cynical man and, so, I shall, instead, take a look at the only horror comic by them that I ever owned.

And that was Tales of Evil #1.

It kicks off with Spawn of the Devil in which a madman puts the spirit of Satan into a doll which then takes possession of a young girl who goes on to kill everyone she knows, before transforming into the devil and flying off to unleash yet more evil upon the world.

Atlas Comics, Tales of Evil #1, Spawn of the DevilIt's a strange story that makes little sense (why does the devil want to inhabit a doll?) and, unusually for a comic book horror story, seems to contain no moral. The victims are innocent people who've done nothing to bring their fate down upon themselves. They just happen to be unlucky.

I must confess I find this lack of a moral compass somewhat refreshing and I do approve of its bloodthirstiness which, to me, seems to be much livelier than was normal in mid 1970s mainstream colour horror comics.

Next up is A Matter of Breeding, in which two wig makers concoct a cure for baldness, which turns their wealthy client into a homicidal werewolf.

Atlas Comics, Tales of Evil #1, werewolf
With a terrible inevitability, the toupee-ists get their comeuppance - but not before they've shipped ten thousand of those baldness cures to the public at large.

There's some sort of attempt made to convince us they're bad people who deserve what they get but, to be honest, they don't seem that bad to me. There's really no reason given for them to think there'll be any negative consequences to their actions and they're not really even ripping off their moneyed benefactor, so it's a somewhat odd attempt.

That's followed by Stake Out, in which a man agrees to spend a night in a cemetery that's reputedly the haunt of a vampire - only to mistakenly kill an actor who's playing a vampire in a movie being filmed in that graveyard.

Needless to say, as he's being taken away by the police, a chilling twist is revealed.

Atlas Comics, Tales of Evil #1, Stake Out, vampireThe first and last tales are drawn by Jerry Grandenetti, while the middle story's drawn by Mike Sekowsky. All three yarns are written by Russ Jones, although he does hide behind a pseudonym for one of them.

Anyone familiar with those two artists will know they had a much more vigorous style than many of the horror artists DC Comics was using at the time; the likes of E.R. Cruz, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo and many others. While this means the book looks less sophisticated and stylish than many of DC's ostensibly similar horror monthlies, it's also noticeably more lively. This, coupled with the lack of any desire to distinguish between right and wrong, means the book is simple-minded fun.

Sadly, none of that vigour was enough to save it and, after just three issues, Tales of Evil disappeared, like a phantom, from the news racks, never to be seen again, a feat that numerous Atlas titles managed to replicate.

Did it reinvent the horror comic? No. Did it leave a lasting impression within the minds of all who read it? Probably not. But, like all Atlas Comics, it's hard not to have an affection for it that's out of all proportion to its actual merits as a comic.

23 comments:

Killdumpster said...

If only there was a collected edition of all the Atlas/Seaboard comics. I was only able to get a handful of issues, at a close-out/bargain store.

The ones I read, and the ones that have been talked about on this site, seemed more brutal & shocking than what DC & Marvel was putting out.

As stated before, I hardly even recall seeing them on the magazine & spinner racks here in the US. I guess most of the time they were ignored by the distributors, then sold to overseas buyers. From previous posts it seems you folks had no problem picking up the books.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

KD - as much as I bemoan Marvel's distribution issues (I wouldn't know about DC since I only collected a few very short runs like JLA 100 - 110ish and Shadow) I never had much trouble with Atlas.

ALso, I do recall thinking they were more aggressive in the horror stories than the others.

Regrettably I seldom enjoy MS's art. I'll just leave it at that... LOL.

I have a handful of ATLAS that I am getting ready to give to the Salvation Army, actually. There is no market for them. (Send me your address and $6.96 for the fixed-price, first-class shipping envelope and they are YOURS!)

I do hold ATLAS in affection since they challenged the Big 2; it was an exciting time to be a kid!

Killdumpster said...

Charlie, that'd would be the cat's pajamas!

Lemme see if I remember how Steve said to do this without getting pummeled with spam. I'm going to semi-encrypt my email address, just eliminate the asterisks & full spellings.

K*i*l*l*d*u*m*p*s*t*e*r* at g*mail*dot* community.

I'll have envelope & payment in the mail next weekend. Oh boy!

Anonymous said...

"Its a strange story that makes little sense"
Really? Haven't read the comic myself Steve, but the way you describe the plot of Spawn of the Devil it sounds brilliant.

The lack of moral compass was definitely the strong point of the Atlas comics I read, but I don't know if "vigorous" is quite the right word to describe, say, Iron Jaw.

-sean

Anonymous said...

I've picked up a few old back issues of Atlas at the comic shop. I was careful to wear a heavy disguise at the time, a fake beard, wide-brimmed hat, trench coat and sunglasses so I wouldn't be recognized. I paid in cash and left quickly.
I was wise to take precautions, because those were some weird comics, man. I read them with sick dread and consigned them to the basement, far from the sight of man.
Seriously, something was off about those. A lotta cannibalism going on, usually by the protagonists!
I can dig weird just as much as the next guy, but M.P. is a squeamish cat. He's got his limits.

M.P.

Steve W. said...

Spawn of the Devil is definitely not brilliant but it is brainless fun.

I do generally feel there are no words that could adequately describe Iron Jaw.

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh, M.P.'s comment will offend the cannibal community.

-sean

Anonymous said...

That's all I need-those guys coming after me.
I'm not gonna end up in a stew, am I?

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...




Well I just read the first story from that Tales of Evil "Spawn of the Devil." I can confirm it makes little sense and makes me think the author needs a thorough psychiatric evaluation. (I can hear his neighbors now, on TV, "Gee, he seemed like a normal fellow... quiet... never did no harm..." as they dig up his crawl space for bodies.)

Also, as a parent, I can assure you that I would notice if my 5 year old daughter had several slain cats and dogs, on a makeshift alter, with a large pentogram, in a circle on her floor and she found a doll with a goat's head to be cute.

KD - I am sending you this as quick as I know how!!! I have it in the box now, with a crucifix on top of it!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you can't be too careful.
Believe it or not, my mom has a second cousin who murdered her husband and buried him in the back yard. Swear to God. I'm told he wasn't exactly Prince Charming, but still, that's pretty severe.
The back yard's the first place the cops look!
That and the freezer.

M.P.

Killdumpster said...

Charlie,
Take your time. I won't be able to get to the post office till Friday anyway.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

They should have kept the Comics Code in place, IMHO, for stuff like this. LOL.

Killdumpster said...

Man, when I was in 10th grade riding the school bus to drop off a a kid his mother ran up to the bus screaming " I SHOT HIM! I SHOT HIM!"

It was his step-father, who he had told us before that he was an ass.

She was dripping with blood & gore! She gave him both barrels of a shotgun at close range. All the girls on the bus were shrieking.

Poor Marge Dingle, our bus-driver. She was never the same again.

Gotta love that country livin'.

Killdumpster said...

Real life was (and is) way-harsher than what the comics code was worried about in what we were reading.

Unless, of course, if all you read was Archie & Richie Rich.

Killdumpster said...

Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle!

Just want to wish all you guys a happy Halloween. Probably the only time I wish I had a little one, to go door-to-door for candy.

I think last year I told you that I dressed as a werewolf in the mid-70's and chased the kids down our driveway after they got their treats.

I'd probably go to jail for that now.

Steve W. said...

Happy Halloween to you too, KD.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hello all! United kingdom gentlemen, is it appropriate to wish you a happy guy fawkes day? It’s just around the corner?

Steve W. said...

You're perfectly free to wish us a happy Guy Fawkes day, Charlie. Generally speaking, it's more a case of Guy Fawkes Night, as nothing really happens until after sunset. November 5th is when it all kicks off.

Colin Jones said...

Yes, we say Guy Fawkes Night, Charlie, not Guy Fawkes Day. It's also called "Bonfire Night". I always go into my back garden to watch the many local fireworks displays so I hope it doesn't rain on the 5th.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

But November 5th is also the date of my mother's death in 2009 so it's quite a poignant day for me overall - I'm remembering the bonfires and fireworks of childhood as well as remembering my mother.

Steve W. said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Colin. You have my best wishes.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Happy Guy Fawkes night! In advance!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin Red and Marti have been trying to reach you but your email is not good.

Killdumpster said...

Colin-

Cudos for making an event, that happens during a soul-stirring time, into one of remembrance.

I'm in kinda the same boat, during the holidays. Hard to loose a parent.

It's okay to cry a little bit.

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