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for Monday, May 16, 2005

Secrets of the Unknown 223

We start today with SECRETS OF THE UNKNOWN #223, another Alan Class reprint comic published in England in the mid-to-late 1980s. The cover is from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #24 [May, 1955] and drawn by my former boss Sol Brodsky, a good and immensely talented man who could do any job in comics and do it well. Today's comics industry could use a hundred of him.

All this issue's tales are from 1954 and 1955. With thanks to FRANK MOTLER and DR. MICHAEL J. VASSALLO for providing some artist identifications and original issue numbers, here are the contents, art credits, and page counts.


"The Locked Drawer!" (Bill Benulis; 4 pages)

From MARVEL TALES #135 [June, 1955]:

"Mr. Dugan's Dragon (Mort Drucker; 5 pages)

"The One They Spared!" (Ed Winiarski; 4 pages)

"Joe's Jalopy!" (Dick Ayers; 5 pages)

"Wings On His Feet!" (Mac L. Pakula; 4 pages)

"Worlds Apart" (John Tartaglione; 5 pages)

From MARVEL TALES #128 [November, 1954]:

"Oh, Baby!" (John Forte; 5 pages)

"The Search!" (text story; 2 pages)

From MARVEL TALES #133 [April, 1955]:

"The Lonely Little Boy" (Vince Colletta with a possible assist from John Tartaglione; 5 pages)

"Inside the Box" (Ed Winiarski; 4 pages)

"The Coward" (Mac L. Pakula; 5 pages)

I'm fascinated by the Atlas/Marvel "mystery" books of the era. They couldn't show the gore of their pre-Comics Code counterparts, so they turned to an understated horror or, more properly, unease. Once, joking around with writer Steve Skeates, I came up with the name UNSETTLING TALES for a low-key horror comic. That title fits many of the stories reprinted in this issue.


We never see what's in "The Locked Drawer" of a dresser bought by a well-to-do Bordens. The only person who gets a glimpse is the workman hired to open it. Afterwards, the drawer still unopened, he claims to have seen nothing but also warns the couple to "leave that drawer alone...forever!"

A synthetically-grown robot twin is built to help "The Lonely Little Boy" develop normally, but, after a while, the boy's parents can't tell them apart. That's when they learn their doctor is also a robot and that robot twins have been placed in homes all around the world:

"We are never ill, never die, never make clumsy mistakes. You will have to treat your robot child as your own...give him the same love and opportunity, since you can't tell them apart!"


Look at the mother's face in the final panel. What thoughts race through her brain? Now that's a chilling ending.

I get the distinct feeling Marvel/Atlas readers could never be sure what would await them in any given issue of the mystery books. An injured athlete wins a race thanks to the gym socks of Hermes. A modern test pilot gains an appreciation for the knights of olde. "The Coward," a tale which takes place in France during some 1700s or 1800s war, has no fantastic or supernatural elements whatsoever. But, even when the plots didn't make sense, most of the writers and artists did a fine job within their limited page counts. At their worst, these are fun and/or intriguing stories...and there are some definite gems among them.

I hope you're enjoying these Alan Class comments as much as I enjoying bringing them to you and justifying my tax deductions for buying them. More to come in future TOTs.



References to comic books and related pop culture are common in Mark Tatulli's HEART OF THE CITY strip. Tatulli's strip for May 1 lauds one of my all-time favorite comics magazines:

Heart of the City

Tatulli's May 6 strip celebrates another American institution, the friendly neighborhood comics shop:

Heart of the City

Okay. I admit "American institution" is wishful thinking on my part, but what's the harm in imagining a better world where our beloved shops would be afforded more respect?

One more for today.

Reality Check

From COMICS.COM, here's a quick introduction to Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK:

REALITY CHECK is a glimpse at everyday life situations through cartoonist Dave Whamond's eyes -- a wacky vision of the world that exposes the hidden hilarity in ordinary circumstances. Reality Check started April 3, 1995 in newspapers nationwide. "My goal is to make Reality Check consistently funny and fresh," says Whamond. "I think it's important to be topical, but at the same time you have to try to find new approaches to what everybody else is doing. Reality Check is more a state of mind than anything else. The characters could be people you know, maybe even a bit of yourself, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Whamond's approach to the comic is similar to his approach to life. "I like to add levity to everyday situations," he says. "People take life far too seriously and Reality Check is a reminder of that. I just frame some of the silliness of everyday life in the comic and I invite people to do a double-take -- to look at life from another angle."

You can read REALITY CHECK online at:

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.



Hi and Lois

Above is the HI AND LOIS strip from April 29 by writer Brian Walker, editor Greg Walker and artist Chance Browne. The strip was created by their fathers, Mort Walker and Dik Browne.

Y'know...I would never want "conservative" to be considered a dirty word. There are situations which call for more conservative approaches and I'd hate to see those who propose such approaches in good faith to be vilified as liberals have been vilified. It would be wrong. Just plain wrong.

On the other hand, I could probably live with a decade or so where the words "Bush" and "GOP" and "Republican" made people turn away in disgust. Fair's fair.



Today is your last full day to vote on our previous TONY POLLS questions, all of which involved FREE COMIC BOOK DAY in one form or another. Until sometime after midnight tonight, you can still cast your votes at:

Sometime tomorrow, I'll be posting a new series of TONY POLLS questions for your balloting entertainment. I'm still working on them, but the most likely subjects on my list of possible questions are the new DC Comics logo, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, V For Vendetta, and Fantastic Four.

Vote on last week's questions today, then come back tomorrow to see and vote on the new questions.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/15/2005 | 05/16/2005 | 05/17/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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