Over the past two decades I’ve picked up a bunch of issues from the various horror anthologies published by Charlton Comics during the 1970s. Although regarded as a third-tier publisher, with low page rates and cheap printing, half a century ago Charlton was one of the best places for young, up-and-coming artists to hone their abilities. Some of the most talented creators of the Bronze Age of comic books got their start at Charlton.
For Halloween back in 2013and 2014 I spotlighted a few of my favorite Charlton horror covers and the Charlton horror work of artist Tom Sutton. This year I’m looking at some more great spooky covers from the fearsome folks at Charlton.
Before he gained critical recognition at DC Comics as one of the all-time greatest Batman artists, Jim Aparo contributed to a wide selection of genres in titles published by Charlton, including action, romance, costumed crimefighters… and, of course, horror. Aparo’s cover to Ghostly Tales #79 (April 1970) provides a preview of the atmospheric work the artist would regularly thrill readers with on his Batman stories in just a few short years. That’s the host of Ghostly Tales, Mr. L. Dedd (later known as I. M. Dedd) in the lower left-hand corner.
Wallace Wood protégé Wayne Howard’s career in comic books did not really extend beyond Charlton… which was a great pity, because Howard was undeniably talented. His covers for the anthology series Midnight Tales, for which Howard received a practically unprecedented “created by” credit, showcase both a deft skill at rendering highly-detailed work and a humorously bizarre sensibility. Midnight Tales ran for 18 issues between 1972 and 1976. The series starred Professor Coffin aka the Midnight Philosopher and his coquettish niece Arachne, who each issue presented a different-themed selection of horror & fantasy tales. The cover to #6 (November 1973) offers a good example of the duo’s macabre misadventures.
Acclaimed horror artist Tom Sutton drew a number of hyper-detailed blood-curdling covers for Charlton throughout the 1970s. For Ghostly Haunts #38 (May 1974) he rendered this unsettling depiction of early 20th Century “cosmic horror” innovator H.P. Lovecraft accompanied by his mythic tome of unearthly lore, the Necronomicon.
As I’ve blogged about in the past, one of my favorite creators, who happened to get his start at Charlton, is the great Joe Staton. In addition to co-creating cult classic heroes E-Man and Nova Kane with writer Nick Cuti, Staton was a regular contributor to Charlton’s horror anthologies. For the anthology series Scary Tales Staton designed the book’s hostess, the sexy vampire Countess R.H. Von Bludd. Staton rendered a painted cover for Scary Tales #1 (August 1975) which, even with the rather lackluster printing, still stands out as a testament to his impressive early abilities.
Steve Ditko was obviously not a newcomer to comic books in the 1970s, but he found Charlton, with it’s almost complete lack of editorial oversight, to be a welcome home. Ditko also had a very good working relationship with Charlton’s main writer Joe Gill. Here is one of Ditko’s numerous eerie Charlton covers, for Ghostly Tales #122 (August 1976).
Mike Zeck, who in the 1980s found acclaim at Marvel Comics for such titles as Captain America, Secret Wars, and The Punisher, also got his start at Charlton. Among this various jobs of the Derby, CT based publisher were several striking stories & covers for Monster Hunters. Zeck’s cover for issue #9 (January 1977), which he also colored, sees professional monster hunter Colonel Whiteshroud stalking a werewolf. Or is that the other way around?
If you browse around at comic conventions and on eBay you can often find relatively affordable copies of the Charlton comic books from the 1970s. They’re worth seeking out for some entertaining stories and quality artwork.
Welcome to another collection of the Daily Comic Book Coffee. I have been posting these daily in the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The challenge by group moderator Jim Thompson was to see how many different pencilers you can find artwork by featuring a specific subject. I chose coffee.
36) Murphy Anderson
Today’s artwork is from the Atomic Knights story “Danger in Detroit” drawn by Murphy Anderson and written by John Broome, from Strange Adventures #153, published by DC Comics with a June 1963 cover date.
The Atomic Knights was a wonderfully weird post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature created by Broome & Anderson. It appeared in every third issue of Strange Adventures from #117 to #156, with a final chapter appearing in issue #160. DC issued a hardcover collection in 2010.
Set in the far-off future year of, um, 1986, the Atomic Knights were a team of adventurers who sought to restore civilization to North America after World War III left the planet devastated. The six Atomic Knights all wore suits of medieval armor that, through some fluke, had become resistant to radioactivity. From their base in the town of Durvale, the Knights fought a variety of offbeat monsters and menaces that plagued the devastated world.
In the previous installment in Strange Adventures #150, “The Plant That Hated Humans,” the Knights encountered an army of giant ambulatory plants created by the botanist Henderson. The Trefoils turned against humanity, but the Knights defeated them by cutting them off from their water source.
As this story opens, we see two of the Knights, Douglas and Marene, having some after-dinner coffee in the Durvale Community Hall. They are being served by “an unusual-looking waiter,” namely a Trefoil. Henderson managed to create a new strain of Trefoils, “one without a trace of the vicious hatred of humanity that the old crop seemed to grow with.” Nevertheless, Marene bluntly states “That creature Mr. Henderson sent us gives me the jim-jams!”
Looking at this from a 21st Century perspective, you have to wonder at Henderson’s decision to resume his experiments after they almost ended in disaster the first time around, as well as the ethical issues of creating a new life form designed to be servants.
Marene’s thought balloon in the final panel, complete with “and yet I’m just a woman,” hasn’t aged well, either.
All that aside, I still enjoyed the Atomic Knights. Broom’s stories are imaginative, quirky and fun. The artwork by Anderson is absolutely gorgeous. Broom and Anderson both considered the Atomic Knights to be among their favorite work from their lengthy careers.
37) Dave Cockrum & Gonzalo Mayo
Harbinger Files #1, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Gonzalo Mayo, written by Fred Pierce & Bob Layton, lettered by Rob Johnson & Santiago Vázquez, and colored by Mike McGuire, published by Valiant with an August 1994 cover date.
Toyo Harada is one of the major antagonists in the Valiant universe. An incredibly powerful telepath & telekinetic, Harada established the Harbinger Foundation to recruit & train those with similar psionic abilities. Harbinger Files #1 reveals his previously-untold origin, as well as explaining how he survived his encounter with Solar, Man of the Atom.
After his private jet crashes on a desolate mountain, the badly-injured Harada is rescued by hermit Dusty Berman. Recuperating in Berman’s cabin, Harada details his history & motivations. Seeking to convince the skeptical recluse, Harada uses his powers to levitate Dusty’s cup of coffee.
Harada is an interesting figure. A charitable view of him would be that he is a well-intentioned extremist, someone who feels compelled to make difficult choices to save the world from itself. He could be viewed as an embodiment of the expression “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” A much more skeptical analysis of Harada would be that he is engaged in a massive self-deception, that he is in fact an incredibly selfish, avaricious, tyrannical individual who has managed to convince himself that he is working towards noble goals.
Dave Cockrum was one of the preeminent artists of the Bronze Age. He played a major role in the successful revamps of both the Legion of Super-Heroes and the X-Men. Unfortunately by the early 1990s Cockrum, like a number of his contemporaries, was having difficulty finding work, his style regarded by certain editors as “old-fashioned.” I am a huge fan of Cockrum’s art, so I was glad when he got a couple of jobs penciling for Valiant in 1994.
“Redemption and Reward” is a story that mostly consists of Harada and Dusty conversing, with flashbacks to Harada’s early years. You need a penciler who is really strong at storytelling & characterization, which is just what Cockrum was. He does an excellent job with what is mostly a “talking heads” story.
Inking is by Gonzalo Mayo, who worked regularly at Valiant. The Peruvian-born artist has a very lush style to his inks. He worked really well over a number of different pencilers at Valiant, giving the art a very nice illustrative look. I got my copy of this comic autographed by Cockrum a couple of years after it came out, and he told me he liked Mayo’s inking over his pencils.
38) Steve Ditko
I’m glad I located a coffee-drinking page drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko. This is from the story “Partners” written by the prolific Joe Gill from Ghostly Haunts #29, published by Charlton Comics with a January 1973 cover date.
“Partners” is the tale of prospectors Max Aarens and Henry Farr. As the story opens Max and Henry are in the Northern Canadian wilderness, sitting by the camp fire drinking coffee as they celebrate having struck gold. Unfortunately greed & paranoia soon descend, and each man makes plans to betray the other.
Ditko utilizes some extremely effective layouts on this story, superbly illustrating both the brutal blizzard and the psychological trauma that strikes the characters. The facial expressions & body language of his characters is incredibly evocative. Even here, on the relatively quiet first page, Ditko deftly establishes the mood of harshly cold isolation, and foreshadows the treacherous nature of the protagonists.
By the way, the lady in green & red on the left side of the opening splash panel is Winnie the Witch, the lovely host of Ghostly Haunts. As he often did on the Ghostly Haunts stories he drew, Ditko has Winnie lurking in-between panels and on the borders of pages of “Partners,” knowingly observing the unfolding events.
I originally read this in black & white in Steve Ditko’s 160-Page Package published by Robin Synder in 1999, which collected 20 of the Ditko-illustrated stories from the various Charlton horror anthologies. It looks really crisp & effective in black & white. There are scans of the full story in color from Ghostly Haunts #29 on the blog Destination Nightmare.
39) Dwayne Turner & Jerome K. Moore
Sovereign Seven, created by writer Chris Claremont and penciler Dwayne Turner, was the result of an interesting arrangement: It was published by DC Comics, and set within the DC Universe, but all of the original characters introduced in it were owned by Claremont. These two pages are from S7 #1, cover-dated July 1995, and issue #6, cover-dated December 1995. Turner inked issue #1, and Jerome K. Moore inked #6. Letters are by Tom Orzechowski & Clem Robbins, and colors are by Gloria Vasquez.
The Sovereigns were a group of aristocratic refugees from different parallel Earths whose worlds had all been conquered by the mysterious Rapture. They were gathered together by Rhian Douglas, aka Cascade, who was fleeing from her seemingly-tyrannical mother Maitresse, although eventually we discover there is much more going on there than either we the readers or Rhian herself suspect.
The main setting of S7 is the Crossroads Coffee Bar, situated at the intersection of three state borders (implied to be Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts) and which contains portals to other dimensions. Crossroads is run by sisters Violet Smith and Pansy Jones, who were based on folk musicians Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland. It is here that the fleeing Sovereigns find sanctuary. As a result, there were a lot of characters drinking a lot of coffee in a lot of issues.
To earn their keep the Sovereigns end up working at the Crossroads. It’s somewhat odd to see a group of what are basically One Percenters sliding into the thankless service industry with a bare minimum of complaints, although it is implied that the societies they came from all possessed systems of noblesse oblige, and that the conquest of those worlds by the Rapture brought these seven down to Earth, both symbolically and literally.
Darkseid shows up at Crossroads in the first issue, and it is suggested that he has frequented the establishment in the past. Sipping an espresso, he satisfactorily comments…
“An excellent brew, Violet, as always. I can’t get anything quite like it at home.”
Perhaps someone ought to explain to Darkseid that if he hadn’t transformed Apokolips into an industrialized fascist hellhole it might be much easier to come by quality caffeinated beverages?
Jumping forward to issue #6, it’s Halloween at Crossroads. Italian mercenary Marcello Veronese has come to town, and he is instantly taken with the fully-armored Fatale, who he spots serving coffee.
Marcello: That waitress in black, she is one striking woman!
Pansy: Say that to her face, you’ll see just how striking.
Marcello: The reward, I’ll wager, would be well worth the risk.
Pansy: You want risk, chum, I’ll introduce you to my sister.
I found S7 an interesting & enjoyable series. That said it probably was overly ambitious. Launching a book with seven lead characters, an expanded supporting cast, and a complex backstory right when the comic book market was experiencing a glut might have been a mistake. I think S7 ended up getting lost in the crowd. It did ultimately last for 36 issues, plus two annuals and one special, which is a fairly respectable run.
We will return to S7 and the coffee-drinking crowd of Crossroads in a future entry, when we look at the work of the series’ second regular penciler.
40) Terry Moore
My girlfriend Michele is a huge fan of Strangers in Paradise, which was written & drawn by Terry Moore. SiP is a semi-comedic soap opera that eventually ventured into mystery and crime noir. I figured there would probably be at least a few coffee-drinking scenes in SiP. Flipping through the first “pocket book” trade paperback from Abstract Studio, I found one from the very first issue of volume one, which was originally published by Antarctic Press in November 1993.
I asked Michele if she could briefly explain what SiP was about. She started telling me how it was about two women, Katrina, aka Katchoo, and Francine, who are best friends. Katchoo is bisexual and is attracted to Francine, but Francine is straight and wants to one day have children. Making things even more complicated is David, an artist who falls in love with Katchoo. After attempting to summarize the various plotlines that Moore had running through SiP over the years, Michele finally shrugged and said “It’s complicated.” She then suggested I look it up on Wikipedia.
Michele also had this to say about Strangers in Paradise…
“My issue with SiP is that it borrowed from Love and Rockets in regards to the (that word again) “complicated” relationship between Maggie and Hopey. SiP does manage to steer into its own plots. Just that similarity. Terry Moore is a great artist.”
In this scene from the very first issue, Katchoo and David have met for the first time at an art gallery, and David has convinced the very reluctant Katchoo to have a cup of coffee with him. They walk over to the coffee shop in a rainstorm, and when David suggests to the sneezing Katchoo that she take off her wet clothes, she goes ballistic.
It’s a funny scene that establishes right off the bat that Katchoo is assertive, but also very melodramatic. The page ends perfectly with a waitress who deadpans “How about that de-caff now, honey?”
Last week it was announced that legendary comic book creator Steve Ditko had passed away in late June. He was 90 years old.
Ditko is best known for having co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange at Marvel Comics in the early 1960s. However, he was actually a prolific creator who worked on innumerable titles for a variety of publishers, as well as a number of creator-owned self-published projects, during a career that lasted 65 years, from 1953 until the time of his death.
I wanted to pay tribute to Ditko, but I never worked with him or met him, and so outside of a brief correspondence with him several years ago I cannot say I knew him. Certainly I am ill-equipped to assemble a comprehensive overview & analysis of his career such as the one that appeared in The Comics Journal.
It then occurred to me to look at one period, one facet of Ditko’s career that especially appealed to me, and explain why I held it in such high personal regard. I am going to take a brief look at Ditko’s work on the Charlton Comics horror anthologies of the 1970s.
About a week ago I happened to be chatting with comic book creator Dean Haspiel. During our talk, we briefly touched on the subject of horror comics. I broached the opinion that horror is a genre that is often difficult to utilize effectively in the medium of comic books. Haspiel appeared to concur, and suggested it can be difficult for many artists to effectively utilize the pacing and storytelling and layouts necessary to convey true horror & suspense, with many instead relying on gore & violence.
(I’m paraphrasing what Dean said, so DO NOT take any of the above for a direct quote!)
Just a few hours later the news broke of Steve Ditko’s passing. It immediately hit me square in the face that one of the few comic book artists who DID genuinely excel at illustrating horror material was none other than Ditko himself. Certainly that talent was frequently on display in his work for Charlton.
Located in Derby CT, Charlton was infamous for its low rates paid to creators and the cheap quality of its printing. However the company also had very little in the way of corporate or editorial oversight. This was something that appealed to Ditko, who very much valued his creative independence.
In my teens and 20s I had seen reprints of Ditko’s Spider-Man and Doctor Strange stories, as well as his more recent work for Marvel from the 1980s. Though I liked it, there wasn’t anything that especially appealed to me. At times I even found his art to be weird and off-putting.
About a decade and a half ago I was at a local comic book convention where I happened to buy a few back issues of some of the Charlton horror anthologies. One of these issues was Ghostly Haunts #23 (March 1972) which featured a striking cover by Ditko. Inside this issue were two stories illustrated by Ditko, “Treasure of the Tomb” and “Return Visit,” both of which I later learned had been written by Joe Gill.
Let me tell you, Ghostly Haunts #23 was a genuine revelation. I don’t think I truly “got” Ditko’s work until that point. His art on those two stories struck me like a thunderbolt.
Ditko’s layouts, the pacing of his stories, his heavy inking, the contorted body language & wide-eyed, twisted facial expressions of his figures, all combined to create a palpable mood of fear and anxiety and tangible horror. Ditko genuinely excelled at generating an atmosphere of dread and suspense, of unsettling people and places that were more than slightly askew.
I also loved Ditko’s beautiful, sexy depiction of Ghostly Haunts hostess Winnie the Witch. Ditko’s women often exuded a dangerous sensuality, and that was certainly present in his depictions of Winnie, who was cute but also possessed of a coy edginess. Additionally, I enjoyed the effective way in which Ditko had Winnie lurking on the borders of the pages, or in-between panels, an omnipresent spectator who was almost but not quite involved in the proceedings of the narratives.
Subsequently I began searching out other back issues of the various Charlton horror anthologies. The prolific Ditko illustrated dozens of stories for the company in the 1970s, appearing in numerous issues of Ghost Manor, Ghostly Haunts, Ghostly Tales, Haunted, Scary Tales, and others, making his work fairly easy to locate.
Additionally, 20 of the horror stories that Ditko did for Charlton were subsequently collected together in black & white volume Steve Ditko’s 160 Page Package. This was released in 1999 by Robin Snyder, who printed & distributed many of Ditko’s later works.
At times the stories in the Charlton anthologies were clichéd or repetitive or predictable. Since the pay rates were so low, Gill and his colleagues often had to literally crank these things out one after another in order to be able to make a decent living. Nevertheless, in spite of the variable quality of the writing, as well as his own low page rates, Ditko invariably gave it his best, always producing eerie, unsettling, effective work of a high caliber.
Being exposed to Ditko’s work on these books rapidly caused me to reappraise his other material. Soon after I re-read Essential Doctor Strange Volume One, and enjoyed it tremendously. It’s since become one of my favorite trade paperbacks, either to read yet again, or just to flip through to marvel (no pun intended) at the exquisite artwork.
I also began to look more favorably on Ditko’s work for DC Comics in the late 1960s, where he created such unusual characters as Hawk & Dove, the Creeper, and Shade the Changing Man. Fortunately much of this material has now been collected, making it much easier to obtain.
I serious doubt I will ever find myself in agreement with the Objectivist philosophies that became prevalent in Ditko’s later creations and stories, but I certainly appreciate the craft and talent that was on display in his artwork.
Steve Ditko was a unique creator possessed of one of the most distinctive, individual voices to have ever worked within the medium of comic books. His work for Charlton in the 1970s represents but a fraction of his output. Nevertheless it remains among my favorite material by Ditko, for the quality present within it, the visceral impact it delivered, and the fact that it led me to a deeper appreciation for his entire body of work.
Today, to celebrate Halloween, I am spotlighting the work of an artist with one of the most distinctively eerie styles I have ever come across, Tom Sutton. Born in 1937, Sutton had a very prolific career. Unfortunately he is probably not nearly as well known as some of his contemporaries due to the fact that he rarely worked on super-hero titles. His style was not particularly well-suited to the spandex set, and he himself was not especially fond of the cape & cowl crowd. However, when it came to horror, mystery, science fiction, romance and even humor, Sutton was a perfect fit.
Sutton worked for several companies, among them Marvel, DC, Warren, Skywald, First, Eclipse and Fantagraphics. He did an especially large body of work for Charlton Comics, that third-rate outfit run out of Derby CT that specialized in low page rates, cheap printing, poor paper quality… and almost unlimited creative freedom. As I’ve written before, for up-and-coming writers and artists who were looking to break into the biz & find their feet, or for more seasoned creators who were seeking a publisher with little editorial or corporate oversight, Charlton was the place to go in the 1970s.
I am going to focus on Sutton’s output at Charlton, because he did really great work there… and because I really don’t have too much of his other material readily at hand. Especially his Warren Publishing work, or his art for Marvel’s black & white magazines. But I have at least a couple of dozen issues from among Charlton’s various horror anthology titles, many of them containing superb work by Sutton.
Interviewed in 2000 by Jon B. Cooke for Comic Book Artist #12 from TwoMorrows Publishing, Sutton explained the appeal of working at Charlton:
“They published weird stuff, and I have always been fascinated by weird stuff, and the weirder the better…. I do owe a certain amount to Charlton, because they allowed me to write a lot of ditties of my own, to paint a lot of horrible covers, and they never, ever, ever remarked on my technique.”
Sutton’s artwork was undeniably distinctive, leaving an impression upon readers throughout the years. The juxtaposition of a quirky, cartoony style with the use of an absolutely insane amount of detail played a significant part in generating the disquieting impact of Sutton’s illustrations. There is what I would describe as a psychologically unsettling quality to his work. I definitely see that epitomized in his ghoulishly insane cover for Haunted #23 (September 1975) pictured above.
Sutton was an expert storyteller. He knew how to pace his layouts and position the figures in his panels for maximum dramatic impact. In much of his work there is a palpable sense of anxiety and dread.
One of the best examples of this was the story “A Budding Evil” which he wrote and drew. It appeared in the pages of Haunted #17 (July 1974) for which he also illustrated the cover. I featured that piece in last year’s Halloween spotlight on Charlton Comics horror anthologies blog post. This time, above, is a page from that story. That wide-eyed gaze of the female protagonist in the last panel is a trademark of Sutton’s. He very much specialized in rendering people wrought with fear & dread, capturing the quality of souls in anguished terror.
On the other hand, “The Night of the Demon” from Haunted #36 (May 1978) very much demonstrates Sutton’s versatility. Charlton mainstay Nicola “Nick” Cuti wrote the tale of Sonya & Tanya Marcus, mother & daughter witches living in medieval times. Sonya utilizes magic for good, and she seeks to instruct her daughter to follow in that path. Sutton’s work on this story has a great deal of atmosphere, but in this case it is of a fairy tale nature. Yes, there is a bit of a dark undercurrent to some of it, as Sonya lectures her daughter on the powerful, dangerous demon Ailurikos, who must be invoked very carefully, and only on occasions when he can be directed towards benevolent goals. Sutton renders Ailurikos as a sleek, sinister amalgam of a panther and a bat. But for the most part Cuti’s tale is one of whimsy, and Sutton’s art reflects that. He certainly draws the young Tanya as a sweet, adorable figure. (And quite coincidentally Diversions of the Groovy Kind is spotlighting “The Night of the Demon” as part of Halloween Week.)
Another interesting story illustrated by Sutton was “Baku the Dream Eater.” This story neatly straddled the genres of horror, fantasy and romance. Sutton’s beautifully rendered title splash, posted above, is absolutely amazing. It’s another fantastic piece by Sutton, as once again it demonstrates his flexibility as an artist. Certainly it is a very nice example of how adept he was at illustrating beautiful, sensual women, as well as his usual bizarre monsters. I scanned this from Ghostly Tales #163 (October 1983) which was an all-reprint issue (by the early 1980s Charlton was on its last legs and recycling a great deal of older material). According to the Grand Comic Database, “Baku the Dream Eater” originally saw print in Ghostly Haunts #55 (October 1977).
Speaking of romance, one of the odder Charlton titles (and that is definitely saying something) was the very short-lived Haunted Love, which lasted a mere eleven issues. As Cuti explained to Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Artist #12, the Haunted Love series was an attempt to combine their readers for ghost comics, who were mostly young boys, and their readers for romance comics, who were young girls. Supposedly this would result in twice as many sales. But, as Cuti humorously observed, “As it turned out, instead of combining our two audiences, we would up alienating both audiences.”
Nevertheless, during its short run Haunted Love featured some decidedly oddball & offbeat, but still interesting, stories. One of these was “Beware: Do Not Love Him!” in issue #10 (July 1975). Written by prolific Charlton scribe Joe Gill, it featured gorgeous artwork by Sutton in the gothic romance tradition.
Some people find spiders scary. Speaking for myself I have always thought they were pretty cool. Plus they are cheaper than hiring an exterminator! (I must have read Charlotte’s Web one too many times as a child.) Having said that, I can certainly understand why a giant spider would be a source of anxiety. Obviously so too did Sutton, who illustrated an awful arachnid in its wicked web on the cover of Ghostly Haunts #40 (September 1974) seen above. Appropriately enough he signed this piece as “Grisly.” That lurid green coloring maximizes the impact of this one. Within the pages of this issue is the bizarre accompanying tale “The Game Keeper,” which is both written and illustrated by Sutton.
The aforementioned Tom Sutton interview in Comic Book Artist #12 contained several examples of Sutton’s Charlton work. Among these was the above piece, a striking black & white illustration featuring several of the Charlton horror hosts which originally saw print in Charlton Bullseye #1 (1975). Front-and-center is my favorite of them all, the lovely Winnie the Witch. Looking over the cool double page spread drawn by Mort Todd for The Charlton Arrow #1 (order your copy now if you haven’t already) I can identify the other spooky subjects of Sutton’s illustration. Floating above the group is Impy, standing behind Winnie is Mr. I.M. Dedd, on the left with a noose is Mr. Bones, and at the right with a book of occult lore in hand is Dr. M.T. Graves (you have got to love those names).
Tom Sutton passed away on May 1, 2002 at the age of 65. He left behind him a rich legacy of distinctively macabre art. I think that there have only been a handful of comic book artists over the decades capable of conjuring up a genuinely frightful mood though their work. Sutton was undoubtedly one of them. If you are not already familiar with his art, I highly recommend seeking out some of the many comic books that he illustrated throughout his career.
By the way, I bought about half of the Charlton horror issues at various comic book conventions over the years. The others were found in the back issue bins of Roger’s Time Machine aka Mysterious Island, a comic shop that for a long time was on West 14th Street. Now known as Mysterious Time Machine, it’s located at 418 6th Avenue, between 8th and 9th Street. It’s a great place with a huge selection of comics, including those old Charlton books.
After weeks of cold and snow, we finally got some rather pleasant weather here in New York City yesterday, with temperatures actually climbing to around 55 degrees. Michele and I were happy to be able to get out of the apartment. We spent most of the afternoon in Manhattan, walking around the West Village after having lunch in a nice Greek place.
Earlier this week, when I was on the M Train heading into work, I was reading a trade paperback, namely Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby. A guy sitting next to me asked “Are you a Jack Kirby fan?” I answered that I was, and we ended up talking about comic books for a few minutes. Right before the guy got off the train, he asked me which comic shops I went to in the city. I mentioned the usual places: Midtown Comics, Forbidden Planet, and Jim Hanley’s Universe. He commented that he liked Roger’s Time Machine. I replied that I hadn’t been there in over five years, and I hadn’t even been sure they were still in business.
So, there I was on Saturday with Michele in the West Village, walking uptown. She asked me if I wanted to go anywhere in particular. I remembered my conversation on the subway a few days before, and I mentioned Roger’s Time Machine. By now we were only a few blocks south of West 14th Street, which is where they were located, so we decided to head over.
It turned out that Roger’s Time Machine is now known as Mysterious Island. But they still have the same incredible selection of back issues that I remembered from my last visit. It’s a good thing that I was on a budget and that Michele was there because, wow, I probably could have spent a couple of hours browsing. As it was, I did end up picking up several cool back issues.
My first selections were Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #s 226 to 229. Those comics feature (37 year old spoiler alert) the first appearance of Dawnstar (designed by artist Mike Grell) and the death of Chemical King. I’ve wanted to read these stories for quite some time, so I’m glad I’m finally going to have the opportunity.
I then took a look through the section of Bronze Age back issues for smaller companies, with an eye to finding some Charlton horror comics. The store had quite a few, and I selected Ghostly Haunts #39 and Haunted Love #s 4 & 10. I also came across several books published by the short-lived Atlas Comics in the mid-1970s. One of these was the first (and only) issue of Demon Hunter, which was plotted & illustrated by Rich Buckler, with a script by David Anthony Kraft. Demon Hunter’s career may have been cut unceremoniously short, but a year and a half later Buckler & Kraft introduced the very similar Devil-Slayer within the pages of the Deathlok story in Marvel Spotlight #33.
Finally, from the 99 cent long boxes, I picked out a couple other things. I found Secret Origins #26, featuring a Black Lightning story by his creator Tony Isabella. I wasn’t even aware of this issue previously, so it was a pleasant surprise. And for Michele, I bought Howard the Duck #8, the issue where Steve Gerber’s cigar-chomping misanthropic mallard ran for President.
All in all, I came away with a nice haul, as well as an affordable one. I’m looking forward to reading this selection of Bronze Age goodness.
Mysterious Island is located at 207 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor, right by Seventh Avenue. I highly recommend stopping by there. They’ve got a lot of really great stuff.