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Sunday, 28 November 2021

Black Magic #6.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Black Magic #6, DC comics
If there was one thing you couldn't move for in the 1970s, it was DC horror anthologies, with the spinner racks awash with the likes of House of Secrets, House of Mystery, The Witching Hour, The Unexpected and a zillion other titles.

However, one was different.

Unlike those other books, Black Magic was a reprint title and was, thus, more in the vein of the horror anthologies Marvel was producing at the time, such as Tower of Shadows and Tomb of Darkness.

Sadly, this policy didn't prove any more successful for DC than it was for Marvel and, despite its enticing title, the book only survived for nine issues before meeting its maker.

While I remember there being plenty of DC house ads for issue #1, issue #6 is the only one I ever actually owned.

So, let's see what this nightmarish delve into terror contains.

Black Magic #6, the 13th Floor
For a start, it contains The Thirteenth Floor! in which  Clement Dorn is out to commit suicide - if he can only find the right spot from which to do it.

Seeking a high window to leap out of, he makes his way to a room on the 13th floor of a building, only to discover, when he enters, that it's the waiting room for the Afterlife and that he's now in danger of being dragged off to hell by Satan himself.

Happily, he finds his way back to the outside world and, lesson having been learned, decides not to commit suicide, after all.

That synopsis makes it all sound quite nightmarish but, despite being played totally straight, it's surprisingly light in spirit, bringing to mind such movies as A Matter of Life and Death.

Black Magic #6, Satan's Sister
Next, we get Satan's Sister! in which reporter Mark Kenyon tries to discover just why Peggy Farr hates her identical twin sister Lisa.

Mark's problem is Lisa says she can't marry him as long as the shadow of Peggy hangs over her. Thus, he sets out to talk sense to the magnificently psychotic Peggy who responds by deciding she's going to kill him.

It'll come as a surprise to absolutely no one that the tale climaxes with Mark discovering Lisa doesn't actually have a sister.

And we end with a cliffhanger, as the door of the room he's in starts to open and Mark doesn't know if the woman walking in through it is going to be Lisa or Peggy.

Now, we're offered The Girl Who Walked on Water! brought to us by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Black Magic #6, the Girl Who Walked on Water
In it, Walter Zeiss and Ernest Hunt spot their chance to make a fortune when they meet a girl called Anna Marie Kunowski who can walk on water (and walls).

But their plans are scuppered when her friend Tommy tries to copy her feats, and falls from a window. So badly injured is he that it destroys her belief that it's possible to do such things. And, thanks to this, her ability abandons her.

But we end with I Wouldn't Let Him Die, a one-page text story which I haven't read because it doesn't have pictures, and I have a pathological fear of comic book stories that don't have pictures. I'm sure it's great, though.

So, how does this collection of Golden Age goodness stand up?

Surprisingly well. I've commented before that Golden Age horror tales are not exactly terrifying. Then again, neither are Bronze Age ones. And these are definitely not terrifying.

But the first two tales really do have a strong movie feel about them, as though you're seeing cinema acted out before you in the form of comic book panels. The third feels more like a comic book tale but has a surprising potency, thanks to Anna Marie's distress over the harm poor Tommy comes to because of her. We never learn how serious that harm is but we are told he's, "Hurt awful bad."

So, yes. to my surprise, I give it a thumbs up. 

And that means I'm going to view it as an affront to the powers of darkness themselves that it only lasted for a handful of issues.

Assuming, of course, that the powers of darkness care.


Unknown said...

Steve - What a wonderful review. Love the DC stuff you've been presenting us with the past year or so! As you write, the S&K story was worth a look. Every now and then these 50s horror stories were a winner!

If I understand correctly, Black Magic's rollout had a lot to do with Kirby's return to DC. Many of the stories were his and Simon's, being reprinted. Apparently they generally reworked his covers though, finding them not up to snuff with the 1970s. ???

Also Twomorrows' latest issue of "Back Issue", # 121, does a nice summary of Kirby's DC stint, including the less discussed titles such as Sandman, Black Magic, Boy Commandos, Dingbats....


Anonymous said...

Was 'Black Magic' published to beat a rival anthology, named 'Milk Tray' ?

I'll get my coat...


Anonymous said...

BLACK MAGIC’s very existence as a DC comic has always puzzled me a bit. Sure, i can see it would likely have had something to do with both Simon and Kirby doing new work for them at the time, but since DC didn’t publish the original comic themselves, i would think that they would have had to have paid S&K license fees etc — still probably cheaper than commissioning all-new stories and art but not as purely profitable as Marvel’s monster/horror reprint mags.

The Grandenetti cover art and that weird mechanical type-face remind me of other Joe Simon-produced DC books of the period (PREZ, THE GREEN TEAM etc) so my guess is that Simon was more directly involved in the BLACK MAGIC reprint mag than Kirby was (he had his hands full with writing and drawing KAMMANDI, THE DEMON, OMAC and other books).

As to the actual stories and art — I have the entire DC run (they were ubiquitous in Dollar Bins everywhere for decades) but don’t think I’ve ever sat down and read any of them. But Steve’s review makes them sound kinda cool, so maybe I’ll have to go dig em out…


McSCOTTY said...

I only ever had Black Magic issue 3 which was ok but it didn't inspire me to pick up any other issues, mostly as an all reprint golden age comic never appealed to me when there were so many (then) new comics to buy. Saying that the cover to issue 1 was a classic (the "Head of the family" with a guy sitting in a chair with a massive head) and I always wanted to pick that one up -I really liked Grandenetti's covers on this series . DC seemed to have a few reprints comics at this time like Challengers of the Unknown, Doom Patrol, Four Star Battle, Wanted , Johnny Thunder etc maybe they were running out of ideas for new books or just filling a quota .

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't just have been a question of license fees b.t.
The stories in DC's Black Magic weren't exactly reprints. For a number of reasons - not having the original artwork, the need to resize the pages from the wider dimensions of 50s comics, and to update the look of some figures to the 70s - they were actually redrawn. Or rather light-boxed and re-inked, with some alterations.

Somebody has to be paid to do that. Obviously its cheaper to pay someone to go over the old linework than inking pencils from scratch, let alone produce completely new stuff, but as you say its not purely profitable.
But there often were costs involved with reprints back in the day, as some touching up/redrawing was fairly common practice (Marvel used to do it too). I expect Black Magic was a small part of DCs deals with Simon and Kirby, and worked out as a pretty cost effective way of taking up added space in the racks with a new title.


Anonymous said...

The interesting thing about DC's version of Black Magic is that by '73 they were able to publish so many pre-code horror stories without any changes being made (other than 'fixing' the artwork).

Ok, the original Black Magic was intended to be conceptual rather than an injury-to-the-eye type gore-fest but even so a story from #29, "The Greatest Horror of All' (aka 'Beautiful Freak'), was cited in the senate sub-committee hearing on comics and juvenile delinquency as particularly objectionable - well done Simon and Kirby (; - but it appeared in DC's first issue with no problem.
Although they didn't reprint the original cover, which is a shame because its one of Kirby's best pre-Marvel -

Great post btw Steve - you got it exactly right. For someone who doesn't know much about DC you seem to have read and enjoyed a lot of their comics.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Seems Black Magic was relaunched in 1973 to retain copyrights from the original publication in the 1950s (50’issues total). Also DC was countering Marvel swamping the spinners with reprint material.

But with DC aggressively publishing 100-pagers they needed everyone foxused on them and not the twenty centers.

Seems Simon had to deal with 2-3 100 page Love comics and he was not digging it. Also Kirby was soon returning to Marvel. Since this was driven by Simon, Kirby jad no interest, in rhe first olace the project ended at issue 8.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Did you know rhat “meet your mate” prior to the great vowel shift 500 years ago would have been pronounced “mate yourr meat?” Crazy, huh?

Redartz said...

Thanks for the write up on another horror book, Steve! Always good to give them a look. Especially as I've never opened an issue of this title, focusing my attention on the other DC anthologies. Don't think one finds these in the dollar bins so much anymore...

Anonymous said...

Great review of an interesting comic, Steve. I gotta agree with b.t., the very existence of such a comic is weird.
Y'know, that scene where Anna is walking up the wall like that (at a 90 degree angle!) is actually creepy. In the hands of the right director, that could be a chilling scene in a movie.
If my explorations into horror fiction and film (and, lately, gothic novels) has taught me anything, it's that these "powers of darkness" are not to be trusted. In fiction, at least, one deals with them at their peril.
Who wants to end up like Melmoth the Wanderer or the monk in the novel, the...uh, The Monk?
On another note, Charlie, I share your fascination with the evolution and history of the English language, but as our friend Sean can attest to, M.P. is strictly an amateur in the study of linguistics.
Heck, I gotta rely on "spell-check" to an embarrassing degree.
Little M.P. used to be an ace speller in grade school, but now, not so much. I blame it on beer.

"That old black magic
Has me in it's spell
That old black magic
You weave so well"


Anonymous said...

Steve, sorry if I posted the same comment twice, please delete the first one.
Thanks, M.P.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for all your comments, everyone. At the moment, Google is marking every other comment as spam and blocking its publication. So, I'm having to unblock them manually, which means it might take time for them to appear. I'm hoping it's just a temporary glitch. I think I've now managed to unblock all the comments that have, so far, been made on this post.

Anonymous said...

No worries, Steve. Thanks for another great post.


McSCOTTY said...

Sean; That's amazing that the strips were all redrawn / copied was that something that happened before on other reprints ( apart from touch up panels).

Anonymous said...

Steve - Thanks for the post!

M.P. - I read Melmoth some years ago. For the author, "casement windows" seemed a preoccupation. He was mentioning them all the time. In my ignorance, I had to look up what "casement windows" were/are! However, I may be confusing the casement windows thing with 'Wieland' - by Charles Brockden Brown (a very early US horror novel), which I also read around the same time. I suppose Melmoth has a bit of commonality with the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.

I'm also interested in old English, etc - but, like yourself, don't know as much as I should. One thing that I find interesting, was that in Shakespeare's day, some words' vowel sounds were being pronounced in more than one way.

In Ben Jonson's English grammar, he explains that, in this era, the word "mice" was pronounced both to rhyme with lice, and also peace (he doesn't use those two examples, but it's just off the top of my head!) Two pronunciations of the same word! I suppose, as Charlie told us, Scotland kept some of the pre-great vowel shift pronunciations. Rabbie's cowering timorous beastie, etc! What also puzzles me about the great vowel shift, is that all it happened relatively quickly.


Anonymous said...

M.P. - That didn't come out how I meant it to! I didn't mean to say YOU should know more about old English, but that I should! No offence intended!


Unknown said...

Based on what I've read in this month's issue of "Back Issue"...

They describe Joe Simon or others projecting the pages onto a piece of paper and then tracing the lines. Eventually some lines would be modified (maybe to remove/add a wart on someone's nose?) and then re-inking and re-coloring.

But they said in some of the issues, the inking is so thick as to resemble "wood block" engraving from centuries earlier.

But in general, with Kirby never really interested in the project (though the cover on issue 1 promotes "Simon and Kirby Back Together" and Simon getting burdened with 100-page love books, 8 issues was all that got out the door. And apparently Simon left DC soon after.

I did have a few of these via trading / swapping or garage sales. I mean, all those 50 horror stories are really just "50s horror stories" There must be a 100,000 of them out there, lol?

Unknown said...

Phil, MP, et al. That great vowel shift took place over like 300 years?

There is no certain reason for it.

Some speculation is that, after the French conquest of England in 1066, folks started pronouncing words more as the french did.

Others speculate that, after the French conquest, folks started pronouncing words so as to NOT sound close to french, lol.

But if IIRC from the many youtube videos, they seem to concur that English was much more consistent between spelling and pronunciation prior to the Shift. After the Shift everything went to hell, though spelling of words was standardized until... when.. starting in the 1700s? 1800s?

Mice and Meece? LOL! How many times have I heard Curly on the 3 Stooges refer to Mice as Meece!!!

Anonymous said...

Unlike a lot of comic creators - and fans - Kirby was generally more interested in his current and new work than revisiting old stuff, Unknown Charlie.
Even when he did return to his earlier work he took it in new directions (you won't find any tedious Bucky bollocks in his '70s Captain America).

Anyway, I did a quick search and for anyone else who's interested and doesn't have this month's 'Back Issue' heres a piece looking at how the artwork was re-done for Black Magic, with a few examples for comparison (including the cover for DC's #6, and the Kirby original it was based on) -


Anonymous said...

Paul, yeah, that cover for Black Magic #1 is great. But even without knowing anything about earlier versions, the old fella in the chair is such an obviously Kirbyish image.
The origin of MODOK maybe...


Anonymous said...

Charlie - When you put it like that, 300 years does seem a long time.

However, Chaucer's English (late 14th century) seems like a foreign language - whereas Shakespeare's is largely recognizable. That English should have changed almost beyond recognition, like this, in a mere 300 years, seems extraordinary.


Anonymous said...

Thinking about it, maybe 250 years!


Anonymous said...

Philip, that seems extraordinary to us because we live at a time when literacy is common, and English is (more) fixed.

In the 14th century vernacular culture was oral - Chaucer was unusual, as the minority who read and wrote by and large did it in Latin - so quite variable. Shakespeare wrote not long after Henry VIII's original Brexit, when the English took back control and first really established their language as a literary one (particularly through the King James bible).

Elizabethan/Jacobean English seems more familiar because it was the basis of modern English. Before the Irish refined it.


Anonymous said...

That makes a lot of sense.

Refined, Sean - don't you mean invented it?


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - I want to thank your lot for inventing spacing between written words. Can you imagine reading Phillip's massive summaries over the past year on UK Marvel without spaces. Blimey!

Regarding the Canterbury Tales my GF can recite it from heart as I just found out! But it is unintelligible to me. However reading it one can certainly well infer the meaning as there is a fair amount of similarity to modern english, especially if you have exposure to say french and german. That said, my gf could not tell me if she was reciting pre- or post-Shift, lol. But it certainly seemed pre-Shift.

Beowulf, on the other hand.... forgetaboutit!

Anonymous said...

Charlie - As regards comparing Chaucer to French, in Chaucer the word 'for' is frequently placed in front of the infinitive (unlike in modern English). This reminds me of French, in which you get things like 'pour aller'. Charlie, with your background in languages, you probably notice many more things like that!