"I suppose it is hard for a fine woman like yourself to understand anything as masculine as hunting!" - Police Inspector
Guess the tagline gives this one away, we're talking a nine story anthology featuring brushes with the supernatural and not so supernatural. Murray Comics here present a DC Comics exploration of the dark and sinister world just beyond the everyday, where things unexplainable can happen, and where the antagonists not only get their due reward, but get that reward in uniquely appropriate fashion. Can we take the untethered horror of what looks like a late 1970s comic?
We've decided to go more retro than Jason Paulos and explore what was happening in the history of Downunder dark genre comics. Surprisingly it appears that it was pretty much all reprints of U.S comics dominating Newsagent shelves with very little local content flavouring the offerings. So anyway this comic is a case in point, Terror Tales Album No. 7 is a combination of DC offerings, though jumbled up and churned out in a line up removed from the U.S original. If after U.S originals then don't buy the Australian editions as they won't match the releases up North. Long story short, we'll bring on reviews as we source early comics, though like any journey into the past it can be haphazard as we're reliant on third parties unearthing the history and offering it for sale via eBay and other online options.
If you happen to have a box of old Aussie editions stuck in the back bedroom drop us a line, name your price, and we'll see if we can't reach a deal. Okay on with the spine chilling horror of Terror Tales.
The first story in the Anthology, Hit Parade of Death, besides having an overly dramatic title sets the tone for the rest of the comic. Scott is a radio DJ, did they really sound like that? - who asks his wife Bess for a divorce so he can marry her sister Mona, not unsurprisingly Bess isn't having a bar of this rather odd request. Naturally Scott in a sign of the times kills her, and unbelievably, even though she was present, Mona is still in love with the murderous melody player. I kid you not, this is the plot, and it gets worse. Scott starts to hear Bess calling for revenge on the records he plays over the air. No one else can hear the voice from beyond so Scott is naturally thinking he's being set up by someone out to get him. Anyone else starting to think Scott has a few Roos loose in the top paddock? In one of those weird moments that only fiction can serve up Mona is testing a recording machine she brought for Scott's birthday, naturally Scott doesn't believe her and adds to his body count. Result he now has two ethereal voices coming out of the platters! Awesome, Scott naturally goes berserk destroying equipment and maybe being haunted by the revenge seeking sisters, this naturally doesn't end well for our death dealing DJ, but then we didn't expect it would.
DC Comics, who were at about this stage bucking the Industry's self-imposed code of practice, surprisingly were quite moralistic in their output with Hit Parade of Death pretty much working as a blue print for the type of story they pumped out in various publications. The stories might involve the supernatural leaking into the everyday, but invariable the supernatural element involved a mechanism to exact punishment on a villain who might otherwise have escaped any sort of penalty. Was horror seeping out of the crypt in the guise of a morality play?
Our second tale of carnage involves a small time thief out to steal a cursed crown from an Egyptian Mummy exhibition at the local museum. We learn gradually that the thief has a small dose of claustrophobia, no prizes for guessing his ultimate fate. Here an unnamed Writer mixes the revenge theme with another DC trope, curses are real, stealing from the dear departed is never a good idea, especially if the departed are Egyptian royalty or lost African tribesmen.
Perhaps fearing that all this horror might warp developing minds, turning the teenage purveyor of the anthology instantly into a juvenile delinquent, the third story Perfect Poison dispenses with ghostly trappings completely and deals with Elvira who is sick and tired of the plantation life her husband Charles has lead her into. Charles is actually catching snakes to build a collection and reputation for a dream job back in civilisation. Apparently, according to the comics, that's all it takes, that education thing is for the egg heads hippy cats. Anyways Elvira rather than simply exiting stage left concocts a plan involving poison administered by her native servant to do away with Charles. Naturally it all goes awry with Elvira fittingly becoming paralysed and a victim waiting to happen as a large boa constrictor makes the scene.
Elvira is the standard female character in many of last Century's dark genre comics, over ripe and operating in black widow mode. When a girls too tired for the kitchen sink a spot of murder can be just the cure apparently.
Time to speed this one up.
Cry, Clown, Cry returns us to the supernatural curse arena as a circus clown discovers making people laugh isn't all it's crack up to be. Unfortunately one of the weaker stories ensues as a standard horror trope is center stage in the big ring. I don't even want to go near Frank Robbins' Bride of the Falcon, we're into murder, mystery, and the sort of plot that Stephenie Meyers wished she could write if she had any talent. It's overly long and I have to say not that interesting, which pretty much sums up those Twilight books come to think of it. Anyways the less said the better on this one. You would think that being ship wrecked on an Island full of hot chicks would be enough for most dudes, but apparently not when it involves hot lava, fountains of youth, and middle age. Generation Gap threw a twist at me that was pretty much appreciated. The Doomsday Trapeze sees a return to the punishment fitting the crime theme, as a thoroughly despicable villain doesn't get the girl but gets exactly what he deserves, maybe he shouldn't have aimed so high! Highlight story The Phantom That Never Was takes the ghost story, gives it an extra-large twist, and goes nautical on us. I was quite surprised how original this yarn was which just goes to show that there is life in the dark genre yet for those with imaginations. And finally The Root of This Evil Curse brings us back full circle to the old cursed loot not benefitting anyone schlock.
Throughout Terror Tales you get that 1970s circa 1950s artwork that magazines like Eerie and Creepy preyed upon and improved. It's sort of like protozoa Jason Paulos primordial slime but for anyone steeped in the older styles, a journey down memory lane. I was digging it, sort of an archaic reminder of where everything came from, though I don't think a lot of modern Artists or Writers would claim Terror Tales as an influence.
Overall I had a reasonable time with the comic, some of the stories are pretty much re-treads of other outings, but there was enough original content to have me happy with the reading experience. The magazine never scales the heights of greatness, which is surprising considering the Editors had the pick of DC content, but then besides Bride of the Falcon it never plumes the depths of wrongness either. A good solid enough read for those after some nostalgia, worth a look from a historic context.
Not sure where you can pick up the comic if after a copy, I scored the review copy off eBay but noted during the week not a lot of current content on the Site. Good luck if hunting out Terror Tales Album No. 7, maybe try one of those second hand emporiums, you just might unearth a few treasures in amongst the chipped coffee mugs.