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for Wednesday, March 22, 2005

Amazing Stories of Suspense 198

Stories from three different American publishers were combined in AMAZING STORIES OF SUSPENSE #198, an Alan Class comic book from the 1980s or thereabouts. As veteran TOT readers know, there were no dates on the black-and-white reprint comics. When I write about them, the best I can do is guess/estimate their publication dates. More knowledgeable Alan Class collectors are invited to correct any errors they find in these columns.

The cover story - "Judomaster...Traitor" - is from Charlton's JUDOMASTER #90 [August, 1966]. There are six stories, including a text story, from Atlas/Marvel mystery titles of the 1950s. There's also a single tale from Tower Comics, the original publisher of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Judomaster was created by Frank McLaughlin, who wrote and drew "Judomaster...Traitor!!" (20 pages). This third adventure of the World War II hero was so exciting it needed two exclamation points in its title. In it, Sgt. Rick Jagger, who had been taught extreme martial arts by grateful Pacific islanders, is given the mission of destroying a Japanese super-missile capable of reaching the United States and the plans for the missile. To accomplish this, Jagger battles his way through a good chunk of the Japanese army and into Japan's military headquarters. That would be a good day's work for Superman, though Judomaster is eventually captured and tortured by the Japanese.

Jagger pretends his captors have broken him and does a guest spot on a Tokyo Rose radio broadcast. His telling our soldiers to surrender is a prearranged plan to let his commanding officer know he's completed his mission. Jagger escapes almost immediately, but his success comes at a price: his fellow G.I.s believe Judomaster is a traitor.


Judomaster was a fun series. Its eleven issues would be just right - hint, hint - for a trade paperback collection.

The Atlas stories reprinted in this issue are a quirky bunch. Three of them are from JOURNEY INTO UNKNOWN WORLDS #57 [May, 1957]. "Someone Is Following" (4 pages) is a neat story about a mysterious and seemingly invulnerable fighter who inspires a village to stand up to a Red Chinese overseer. It's drawn by Richard Doxsee, whose best work has a nice Al Williamson vibe to it.

"It Happens At Night!" (3 pages) is an odd story of a greedy businessman who receives buy/sell advice from the windows of an old building across the street from his office. The windows light up to spell "buy" or "sell". A power failure prevents the businessman from getting crucial information. He loses his fortune and, when the electricity comes back on, the windows spell "justice". That's when a police officer informs him that the building was abandoned long ago. It hasn't had electricity in years. Unfortunately, due to the story's short length, we never find out why the businessman deserved his fate. The tale was drawn by Fred Kida...and my thanks to Dr. Michael J. Vassallo for that identification.

"The Man In Black!" (4 pages) puts us back in "evil dictator" territory, which is surprising given the appearance of "Someone Is Following" in the same issue. This time around, the tyrant Buloff forces his subjects to throw a celebration in his honor. But the festivities are disrupted by a silent man who wears a somber black suit instead of bright clothing and who frowns instead of smiling as decreed by Buloff. That's enough to inspire the townspeople to overthrow Buloff and toss him in irons. But the silent man was not of this world.

"The Man In Black" disappears and reappears in the dimension from whence he came. He tells his fellows that his mission to our world was a failure.

"Our dimension is not parallel to theirs...but a mirror-image instead. Everything here...our manner of garb, the way we express our emotions, is the exact opposite of theirs! And they do not comprehend our means of silent communication!

"When I saw them engaged in joyous festivities, I tried to join them! I dressed joyously as we do, wearing black...I walked among them, expressing joy as we do, by means of frowns! And they were angered...they tried to harm me!"

The traveler's fellow smile widely in sadness:

"Our oppositeness is too great a barrier! Too bad...your journey was fruitless!"

But this Joe Orlando-drawn story ends on a happy note for the villagers.

Man in Black

"But was the journey 'fruitless'? No! For the people in the other dimension, heartened by the stranger's successful thwarting of Buloff, rose to overthrow the tyrant! And now they were really joyous!"

The Cold War certainly had its heartwarming moments in these Atlas mystery comics.

"Ride to the Future" is a charming two-page text story about a comics contest that leads to an interplanetary friendship between a hard-working youngster and a boy from another world. Originally titled "Ride the Future," this tale first appeared in ASTONISHING #52 [August, 1956] and was later reprinted in TALES TO ASTONISH #46 [August, 1963]. Thanks to Tom Lammers and Ronald Byrd for tracking this one down for me.

"The Dreadful Dream" (3 pages) comes from WORLD OF MYSTERY #4 [December, 1956]. Drawn by Manny Stallman, it's a dream within a dream within which convinces its dreamer to stay home from work the next morning and avoid being in a train wreck. The story doesn't reveal if this somehow prevents the wreck from happening or if the dreamer has only saved himself.

I got the biggest kick out of "He Hides By Night!" (4 pages) because it was drawn by Sol Brodsky, who I worked with at Marvel in the early 1970s. This tale of revenge, which originally appeared in JOURNEY INTO UNKNOWN WORLDS #58 [June, 1957], involves a crook who murders his partner and, directed by a mysterious "benefactor" he never sees clearly, holds up in the secret cave he used to play in when he was a kid. He squeezes into the cave, planning to hide there until the heat's off. His benefactor brings him food - lots of it - every day. That's when the crook learns his benefactor is the ghost of the partner he killed...and that he's gained too much weight to get back through the cave's narrow opening!

He Hides

Now that's what I call a satisfying ending! Both on its own merits and because it made me think of Sol, a good and talented guy from who I learned a great deal.


"Menthor Vs. The Entrancer" (10 pages) is from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #5 [June, 1966]. Written by Lou Silverstone, better known for his contributions to MAD and CRACKED, and drawn by John Giunta, it's mediocre at best. The villain is a thief who steals a magic gem that allows him to project lifelike illusions. He takes over a small country with this lame power. The United Nations sends in Menthor, who promptly gets himself captured and separated from the helmet which gives him his mental powers.

Menthor escapes with the help of the daughter of the lama who owned the gem before the Entrancer killed him. He gets his helmet back and occupies the villain long enough for the woman to grab the gem. To be honest, I'm embarrassed for Menthor. Either Dynamo or NoMan could've taken out this villain in half as many pages. Heck, I think *I* could have done it in eight.

This is the charm of these ALAN CLASS comics. You never know what wonders - good or bad - you'll find in an issue. Considering I have dozens of issues waiting to be read, you can expect I'll be writing about them in future columns.

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

Tony Isabella

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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.

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