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for Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sinister Tales 144

ALAN CLASS COMICS, those black-and-white reprints from Great Britain, continue to be part of our TOT cover rotation. It's true they were your least favorite opening segment in recent TONY POLLS voting, but they remain a passion of mine. However, that's not to say I won't strive to make the segment more interesting to those of you who aren't as passionate about them.

SINISTER TALES #144 cover-features creator/writer/artist Pete Morisi's Thunderbolt, one of the exciting "action heroes" who too briefly flourished at Charlton Comics in the 1960s. As this issue falls almost exactly in the middle of SINISTER TALES's 25-year run, I'm guessing it was published in 1976. As I've mentioned, no dates appear on these Alan Class publications.

Morisi's "The Evil That Is Evila" hails from THUNDERBOLT #51 [March-April, 1966]. It's his second Peter Cannon story, the first having appeared in THUNDERBOLT #1. With this 20-page thriller, the series took over the numbering of SON OF VULCAN, which, previously, had taken over the numbering of MYSTERIES OF UNEXPLORED WORLDS. My head always hurts when I think about Charlton numbering...and this was one of the less complicated examples of it.

Peter Cannon's parents were doctors who died while treating a Himalayan community for the plague they conquered, only to become its final victims. In gratitude, the community's monks made their son Peter their chosen one, teaching him the incredible secrets of mental and physical perfection which he alone would be allowed to master. Today, that seems counter-productive to me; back in 1966, Morisi's breathtaking mix of pulp adventure and super-heroics kept me too entertained to think about such things.

Morisi was a terrific storyteller. One page was all he needed to repeat T-Bolt's origin. A few more pages covered the fate of "the Hooded One" - a disgruntled aspirant to the secrets given to Cannon - and his latest plan to conquer the world and take down his hated foe. The plot and the action moved forward at a rapid pace, but Morisi still found time for a cameo appearance by archaeologist Dan Garrett (Blue Beetle) as well as grim, occasionally sarcastic banter between Cannon and his faithful friend Tabu. Visually, his crisp art - inspired by the work of George Tuska - told the story with skill and alacrity. Small wonder THUNDERBOLT was my favorite of the Charlton action heroes.

Evila? She's a powerful sorceress of the Nile whose mummified remains are brought back to life by the Hooded One. She builds a criminal army, threatens the world, and, in an hours-long staring contest with Thunderbolt - I'm not making this up! - is turned back into a mummy. Her menace was ended. Or was it?


From the same issue, SINISTER TALES #144 also reprinted "The Atmosphere," a three-page true facts feature drawn by Bill Fracchio (pencils) and Tony Tallerico (inks). Shorts like this were common in the Charltons of the day, often written so quickly they seem to end in the comics equivalent of mid-sentence.

The rest of SINISTER TALES #114's 64 interior pages are filled by ten Atlas/Marvel "mystery" stories from the mid and late 1950s and a one-page tale from the American Comics Group.

Inside the Iron Man

Three of the Atlas stories, including one drawn by Morisi, are from UNCANNY TALES #52 [February, 1957]:

In "Ju-Ju," American scientists meet Africans who have a drug that can shrink humans to a foot in height. It's a three-page tale drawn by Syd Shores.

"Those Who Disappear!" involves a bus driver wrongly accused of crimes committed by a scientist. The four-pager has wonderfully expressive art by John Forte.

"Inside the Iron Man" is the Morisi story. Set in 1984 amidst an actual shooting war between the West and the East, its hero is a scientist who uses a robot to spy on those evil commies. This is another tightly-woven four-pager.

Two stories came from STRANGE TALES OF THE UNUSUAL #10 [June, 1957], neither of them notable save for their artists. Human Torch creator Carl Burgos drew "The Threat" (three pages) and Gray Morrow drew "Don't Answer the Phone" (four pages).

Adventures Into Mystery 8

ADVENTURES INTO MYSTERY #8 [July, 1957] with a cover by John Severin also supplied two stories:

"The Night of March 5th," a tame time travel tale (four pages) drawn by Robert Q. Sale; and,

"Mister Mason's Strange Problem" (four pages), a wonderfully unsettling yarn about a man cursed to be forgotten by all who know him. It's drawn by Dick Giordano.

Uncanny Tales 31

The remaining Atlas stories come from three different comics. From UNCANNY TALES #31 [May, 1955], we have the four-page "It Grows on Trees" with art by Ed Winiarski. This one is more ludicrous than uncanny, but the issue's Carl Burgos cover is nice.

Anything Can Happen

Both "I Saved Mankind" [STRANGE TALES #43; February, 1956] and "Anything Can Happen" [ASTONISHING #40; August, 1955] had familiar plots. But the pair of four-pagers are worthwhile for exuberant art by John Forte in the first and the team of Dick Ayers and Ernie Bache in the second.

Pictures on the Wall

The ACG story - "Pictures on the Wall" - was first published in ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN #104. This one-page quickie has two archaeologists finding cave paintings that predict the future. It was likely written by editor Richard E. Hughes and definitely drawn by future Marvel Comics superstar John Buscema.

One final Alan Class note for today:

I must extend thanks to my good friend Paul Fearn who has sent me dozens of Alan Class comics over the past year. I also want to thank Nova Land, from whom I just received 14 Alan Class comics he acquired while going to school in England. It's all I can manage to tear myself away from these books long enough write today's TOT. In one venue or another, Paul, Nova, and the rest of you can expect to see and hopefully enjoy my writing about Alan Class comics for a long time to come.

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