Monday, October 17, 2011

2nd Annual Spookey Month: Get this guy some Halloween candy... fast!

On second thought, never mind. Candy goes right through him. DC's old timey horror comics are pretty cool. Obviously, my first love is The Witching Hour, because Mildred, Mordred and Cynthia are the hosts with the most personality and endlessly entertaining byplay. But Cain of House of Mystery and Abel of House of Secrets are pretty nifty, too. Of those perpetually battling siblings, Cain is my favorite because he's the dominant one. Abel is a lovable soul, but he's a little on the soft side. Cain has the gleeful, almost manic, demeanor befitting a horror comic host. I prefer the active over the passive. The Unexpected has some fantastic stories, but I'm just not that into the Mad Mod Witch.

House of Mystery #207 not only features this macabre (is there any other kind?) Bernie Wrightson cover-- not quite as gory or as frightening as some of his other work-- but has a strange little story by Sheldon Mayer of Sugar and Spike fame.

It's called "This Evil Demon Loves People," and it stars Geoffrey, an adorable little tow-headed lad who delights in sing-song rhyme and shrinking humans down and imprisoning them in bottles as if they were insects. His father's most annoying employee goes first, followed by the babysitter. Mayer, a master plotter, doesn't allow Geoffrey to stop there, as his singular talent escalates from the mildly amusing to the bizarrely apocalyptic.  The somewhat banal art works in the way a dead-on parody of a 1960s family sitcom might, if the producers got all the little details of a living room set just right and then Gidget or Laura Petrie suddenly started chopping up their friends and family with axes.

Comic book horror stories work best when they don't cop out, and Mayer's story is no exception, despite a complete lack of the usual violence or gore.   What makes it fun how Geoffrey, with a childish lack of any sense of proportion, passes judgement and metes out a completely unfair punishment on everyone, everywhere.  The protagonist in "Last Ritual Last Rites" deserves his fate.  A cheating husband poisons his wife, meets a gruesome demise; it even has the usual EC-style twist at the end, complete with a rotting corpse.  What elevates it beyond cliche is the gorgeous art by Bill Payne is a style that favors heavy black-spotting giving way to psychedelic linear freak-outs.

Who is Bill Payne?  According to the Who's Who of American Comic Books, he was a cartoonist sporadically active with DC, Charlton and in Heavy Metal magazine during the 1970s and early 1980s, but I can't seem to find anything else on him beyond people on message boards asking, "Who is Bill Payne?"

New Spookey videos are even more elusive than the mysterious Mr. Payne, so how about some 5678s instead?  Here goes:

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