COVER STORIES for 11/12/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #79
Greetings, and welcome to installment number 79 of "Cover Stories," in which I typically feature four or five covers with a common theme... well, except for that one time a month I feature "Comics They Never Made," or, as is the case today... the latest revolving feature...
This time around, the 1-10 spotlight is on the American Comics Group title Forbidden Worlds!
Now, I should admit right now that I have never read a single issue of this comic book... well, I might've latched onto one of the A-Plus Comics reprints... but judging from the covers alone, this was one of the funkiest "horror" books ever published!
Then again, you've probably noted, too, that I just love using any ACG comics cover I can, since they fit about as many themes as a Wonder Woman cover!
But enough of that... you want to check out those first ten covers, don't you?
Here's the first issue, a "Giant 52-Page Size" (hey, weren't comics originally that size or bigger?) that came out in 1951. Now, one of the things I love about ACG covers is that you see stuff there that you won't see anywhere else! Like what? Well, there's this cover's two-headed green-blue demonic-looking ghost, for starters, menacing a couple (the man dutifully trying to shoot the thing, God only knows why). And as if that's not enough, there's DINOSAURS on this cover, too! Check it out! There's a small triceratops-looking creature (sans the horns) in the foreground, and some pteranodons or pterodactyls flying in the back!
Dinosaurs AND two-headed ghosts on one cover? Only at ACG, friends. This cover was by Ken Bald. The stories in this issue were "Demon of Destruction" with art by Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson, "Love of a Vampire" with art by Paul Reinman, "The Way of the Werewolf" with art by Emil Gershwin, "True Ghosts" with art by Mel Kiefer, and "The Monster Doll" with art by Edvard Moritz. I'm guessing that "Demon of Destruction" was probably the story featured on the cover - but it could've been any, or none of those tales!
And honestly, were you surprised as I was to find art by Frazetta and Williamson here?
Here's issues 2 through 4... let's look at issue 2, shall we? It's got more of a science-fiction theme this time, with those fire beings (hey, Marvel had their Lava Men, I can buy fire beings here without their being supernatural - although the cover does say "Exploring the Supernatural," doesn't it?). Again, note that the leading man is using a very ineffective method of attacking the supernatural threat to him and his lady-love (good grief, bullets against a ghost was bad enough, but fighting fire creatures with BARE FISTS?????).
This cover was also the work of Ken Bald. The stories in this issue were (with art by - the Grand Comics Database doesn't have writer credits for much of the ACG line): "The Mists of Midnight" by Lin Streeter, "The League of Vampires" by Charlie Sultan, "Dead Man's Doom" by King Ward, "Kate Vs. Andrew Jackson - True Witches" by Morris Waldinger, "The Magic Coin" by George Klein, "Uncanny Mysteries - Sky Ship" (presumably a text feature), and "True Ghosts: Boy Who Talked with Spirits" by Bill Molno.
If any of those was the cover feature, it had to be "The Mists of Midnight," I'm guessing.
Then there's issue 3 (also drawn by Bald)... no leading man this time, just a brunette in a yellow dress being menaced by an apparent Tyrannosaurus Rex... and then there's an evil Missing Link ready to snatch her up, too (a gray-haired Missing Link, at that!). Nasty overbite on that T-Rex, isn't it?
The stories in this issue were "Lair of the Vampire" by Emil Gershwin, "The Vengeful Spirit" by Ogden Whitney, "The Domain of the Doomed" by King Ward (I'm guessing that's the cover tale), "Giants of the Earth" (text feature?), "Skull of the Sorcerer" by Al Williamson and Wally Wood, and "The Witch's Apprentice" by Leo Morey and Edvard Moritz.
And there's another surprising entry in the list of artists who worked on this title... Wally Wood! Of course, we all know his work from the classic EC comics, as well as the Avon one-shots, and the later T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and his DC and Marvel work... but ACG?
Note the name of Ogden Whitney - he was a prominent contributor at ACG!
And then there's issue 4... a classic Wolfman cover (again, by Bald), complete with full moon. This Wolfman sure looks like the classic Lon Chaney, Jr. Wolfman, doesn't it? One half expects that the last name on the tombstone behind him to be "Talbot"!
No woman being threatened this time... but there's a guy shooting at the wolfman.... And did I mention that wolfman is glowing green? I'll bet this indicates that not only is this a wolfman, but it's a ghost of a wolfman (if he was colored all green, that would cinch it).
Of course, a green-glowing wolfman being shot at isn't enough... they had to throw in a howling wolf, too - and a huge freakin' bat in front of the full moon (don't ask me why the colorist decided the night sky was bright yellow, though).
In this issue: "A Queen for the Voodoo Chief" by Richard E. Hughes (writer) and Paul Cooper, "The Fiend in Fur" (ah! The cover feature, no doubt) by George Wilhelms, "True Ghosts: Spectral Sleepwalker" by Charlie Sultan, "Whirlpool of Death" (credits unknown and un-guessed at), "The Doom of the Moonlings" by George Wilhelms, and "House of Horror" by Al Camy.
Is that the funkiest looking reptile on the cover of Forbidden Worlds 5? Kind of reminds me of Reptilicus, the leading monster from a foreign film of the same title (who was the star of his own short-lived series at Charlton Comics). Actually, it looks more like a T-Rex head on a centipede body, doesn't it?
Why it's attacking the ferry is beyond me... unless it's a warm-up before attacking New York City (it's gotta be NYC - that has to be the Empire State Building in the background!).
Yes, this was another Ken Bald cover. The stories in this issue were "The Tomb of Terror" by Lou Cameron, "The Merman Menace" by Lin Streeter (could this be the cover story?), "Priestess of the Sphinx" by Al Camy, "Uncanny Mysteries: The Dance of Savages" by Dick Beck, "The Day the World Died" by George Wilhelms, and "Land of the Living Dead" by Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel.
I'm sure I've featured the cover of issue 6 here before... or if not, you can look forward to seeing it again some day, when I do the theme "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery!" Yep, they're doing the King Kong thing, just updating the airplanes! Oh, and trying to make it kind of look like he's climbing the Empire State Building, but not really.
The scale is way off on this issue's cover, isn't it? Compare the wreckage of the jet in the ape's left hand with the woman he's holding in his right - and then look at the windows compared to the toes on his right foot! The woman and the windows are pretty close to the right scale, but those jets must be piloted by midgets!
I have to smile at the banner at the top of the comic, too... "American Comics Group - Tops for Laughs!" Was that really appropriate for the cover of a book that's "Exploring the Supernatural"?
Do I have to mention this was another Ken Bald cover? Inside: "The Domain of the Dead" by Pete Riss, "The Haunted Gallery" by Sam Cooper, "The Flopping Head" by Al Williamson, Larry Woromay, and King Ward, "The Haunting Refrain" (no credits available), "The Devil's Typewriter" by Pete Gattuso, "Bride of the Beast" by Sam Cooper (the cover feature?), and "Uncanny Mysteries: Were-Jackals" by Paul Gustavson and Charles Quinlan.
Issue 7's cover is another of those "Can't put too much here" covers - a cemetery at night with a full moon, and two monsters battling it out! The winged thing appears to be a combination vampire/werewolf, while the other seems to be a zombie, or maybe a man-made monster.
Note the tombstone... with the first name "John" on it! Issue 4 also had a tombstone with the first name "John" on it as well! Coincidence? "John" is just a common first name? Or is it something more?
You'll note, too, that this issue was the first monthly issue of this title.
Guess who did the cover for this issue? Oh, you must've peeked! The stories were: "The Vampires Strike" by George Wilhelms, "The Ream of the Monsters" by Harry Lazarus (a good bet that's the cover feature), "The Ghoul's Return" by Sam Cooper, "The Gambler and the Devil" by King Ward, and "The Prowling Terror" by Pete Riss.
Last three covers for this 1-10! And they're all Ken Bald covers, too!
Issue 8 features a nice voodoo-style cover (complete with a ghostly zombie!), but not much else to comment on there! The stories in this issue were "The Fangs of the Field" by Art Gates, "The Zombie's Doom" by Harry Lazarus (got to be the cover feature), "True Ghost Experiences" (credits unknown, and I'll bet they weren't true experiences, either), "The Strange Circus of Dr. Namirha" by Al Camy, "Uncanny Mysteries: Oliver Cromwell" by King Ward, and "The Eyes of Death," also by Ward.
I'm sure I've shared the cover of issue 9 before... with the ghosts of a frontiersman and a Native American fighting on, even though they're dead! Want to guess which story was the cover feature? Your choices are "The Flying Head" by Jon Blummer, "Bride of the Swamp Monster" (credits unknown), "The Doom of the Gnomes" (credits unknown) and "The Phantom Fountain" by Al Camy. My money's on the latter tale.
By the way, somewhere between the first issue and this one, the page count dropped from 52 pages to 36 pages per issue. Just thought I'd let you know.
And then there's issue 10's cover... once again, we're at a cemetery (although the name "John" can't be read on any of the tombstones"... and there's a ghost... or something there! Kind of looks like a pale devil, doesn't it?
So, make your best guess which story was the cover feature: "The Unknown Vampire" by Al Camy, "The Bride of Doom" by Jay Disbrow, "Strange Machine" by John Blummer, or "The Curse of Rada" by Charlie Sultan - the only one of those I'm willing to toss out of the running is "Strange Machine"!
Of course, it's not entirely unheard of in comics for the cover illustration to not occur in a single story in the comic itself... so my guesses (and that's all they are, to be honest) could be way, way off!
I hope you enjoyed this look at the first ten issues of "Forbidden Worlds" - I don't know about you, but after all that, I'm finding myself wishing there was an Essentials or Showcase Presents-style volume of these tales to read!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," when I'll present some covers of Foreign Edition comics, and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !