Sunday, June 17, 2012

Give Me Back My Brain!

Since I was an over-imaginative extra-sensitive wuss of a kid, my parents rarely let me have B&W horror magazines.  After all, even a single panel from a Marvel/Curtis Planet of the Apes could give me a screaming fit at bedtime for two or three nights running.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced their objection was mostly about the price tag.  My parents were, for lack of a better word, cheapskates and 75 cents was a ridiculous amount to pay for a funny book, magazine sized or not.  On the other hand, my mom never practiced literary censorship in the home.  I read John Irving's World According to Garp with its descriptions of masturbation and marital infidelity before I was old enough to masturbate or get married-- remember, I grew up in the Deep South-- myself.

The kid across the alley, on the other hand, had stacks of B&W mags.  All those Marvel zombie and Exorcist-inspired stories, the science-fiction ones, the kung-fu ones.  Every once in a while when we weren't playing with Hot Wheels cars or plastic army men, we'd have a reading session and out would come the financially forbidden magazines of doom and I'd give into the feelings of curiosity inspired by the invariably lurid cover paintings.  I vaguely remember something about astronauts trying to land on Venus and ending up on the sun only to suffocate to death, a story of claustrophobic and apocalyptic despair that depressed me all afternoon.

The one that really scared me, though, was something called "Give Me Back My Brain!"  The plot is your standard EC zombie comeuppance tale.  I think it'ss about some jerky doctor type who removes another guy's brain for reasons I no longer remember.  Why do these comic book characters do the things they do?  Usually there's some sort of gain involved, romantic or financial.  Maybe the doctor just had a thing for brains, a fetish.  Maybe he saw a CAT scan and thought, "Wow, that is one hot brain.  I gotta take it home and do things to it.  Wild, erotic things!"  Probably not.  His motivation wasn't all that clear to me at the time, either.  Just the horrible end result-- the dead man with his skull cap flopping open showing up at the doctor's mansion and demanding, "GIVE ME BACK MY BRAIN!"

That was the story's hook.  The doctor is all, "Wait, dude, I ain't got your brain and even if I did, you're dead and got no use for it no more!" and the zombie is all, "GIVE ME BACK MY BRAIN!"  There was a chase through the tastefully appointed rooms of the doctor's mansion and finally a scene where the zombie shambles back to his grave.  Cut to the dead doctor, his own cranium opened and emptied of its brain.

Jumbo Size!  For jumbo-sized crapitude!
Come to think of it, I'm not even sure the villain was a doctor.  Whatever he was, why ever he did what he did, it's one of those stories that practically write themselves.  You could come up with all sorts of variations, too.  Give me back my sternum/my tattoo/my ear hair.  Creep victimizes sucker, is outcreeped in turn by sucker's corpse.  Satisfied, the corpse lumbers away.  Shock panel ending, lots of gore.

Today I started thinking about "Give Me Back My Brain!" again and decided to use my valuable work time doing a little research.  The story didn't appear in a Marvel magazine, which were relatively classy if not quite as visually compelling as anything from the prime years of Creepy or Eerie-- despite sharing a few name artists like Tom Sutton and Neal Adams.  Instead it appeared in a cheap knock-off apparently called Classic Horror Tales, and it wasn't even an original.  It was a re-write of an older story from Harvey's Chamber of Chills #6 (1952).  Checking the info on GCD, almost all the stories in this mag are re-worked or re-printed from Chamber of Chills.

The cheapness extends to the cover.  Pure ugly.  Why bother to paint figures that will only be covered by copy and inset panels?  It's a poorly planned composition, indifferently executed.  I'd love to find a copy and see if the interior art measures up to my memories, but looking at this cover I have my doubts.  This is one case where my hyperactive imagination must have done a number on my brain.

Give me back my brain, you stupid horror magazine!

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