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Weird Mysteries February 1952

The first story in this issue of the horror anthology comic is The Devil's Bottles. Danny Fowler is one of those people who never accepts responsibility for the bad things he does, instead blaming others for making him do them and getting mad about getting caught. He gets fired for stealing from his job and his landlady tells him she's going to kick him out if he doesn't pay his rent.  He does what many of us have done when we've had an especially bad day and goes on a drunk. The devil pays him a visit and makes a deal with him. He is given 5 bottles. Four of the bottles have "genii" in them, each of which will grant one wish. But Danny can't open the fifth bottle, or his soul will be doomed.  Of course, he gets revenge on the people he believes have wronged him, becomes rich and attractive and successful. And also of course, there is a price to be paid in a twist ending that you see coming for a mile. But while it may be predictable, it's pretty well written, especially for a 50's comic. It's an enjoyable read if you like the kind of horror that these kind of books, and movies like Creepshow, offer up. 

Robot Woman tells the story of the world's greatest mechanical engineer, Fozzmo. (So the wrters were not great at names.) Fozzmo is world renowned for his creations, but he is lonely because he is disfigured and ugly. So he decides to use his genius to make himself a mate. He builds a robot woman, just like the title says) who is completely devoted to him. At first he is ecstatic, but after a while she starts to get on his nerves. Fozzmo ends up behaving in the same ways that other people have treated him, with disastrous outcomes. While the story may be pure 50's cheese, the art style seems ahead of it's time. It reminds me of some of the art I saw in old issues of Heavy Metal. Of course, this is exactly the kind of comic that those artists would have been likely to read and be influenced by.

Return to darkness is a short prose story about a soldier who is afraid of the dark. He has to overcome his fear to save his platoon from a machine gun nest. His bravery is rewarded with a horrifying fate.

Turnabout is about an astronaut on a rocket ship who likes to mess with the ants they have on board. He keeps filling in their hole to watch them dig it back out. The ship gets sent to an asteroid to see of there is life on it. They find that there is life in the form of giant ants, or at least one who destroys the ship and food supplies and kills all the crew except the captain and the ant torturer. It's pretty easy to see where the end of this story is going, but I still won't give it away. A typical moral fable of the time trying to teach kids two lessons, be kind to all creatures no matter how insignificant they may seem and karma's a bitch.

First Come...First Served shows a man who goes to a poisoner to hire him to kill his wife. The poisoner asks him some details to help him accomplish the job. The man explains that his wife loves licorice, in fact they both do. The poisoner agrees to take the job, but says that he has another job that he has to do first. I won't give away the "twist" ending, though I guess you can figure it out. The easily predictable end isn't the problem, though. It's the way they present it. They obviously didn't have enough pages to do the story justice, because instead of showing the end play out, the poisoner talks to his cat and sort of lays it out in exposition. Hokey can be forgiven if the gruesome details are shown, but like the band Rush said in the song show me don't tell me.

Ordeal by wax is another story that could have been very interesting if given enough space to play out properly, but was instead crammed into just a few pages. It begins with a cop finding a man crouched over a dead body. The man runs and finds himself at a costume shop asking the old proprietor to hide him from the cops. The old man agrees is the fugitive agrees to do anything he is asked. The deal is struck and the old man shows his new accomplice a room full of wax figures that he explains are real people covered in wax. He never explains why he does this, and the lack of reasoning behind turning his victims into a wax museum that no one will ever see is one of the shortcomings of the story. The fugitive's job is to help the old man lure customers of the costume shop to a trap door in the floor where they will be dropped to their doom. But even though the fugitive is already a murderer, the sheer volume of bodies begins to weigh on his conscience. The end doesn't make much sense, again at least partly because it's rushed and things that should have been told in a page or two are crammed into a couple of panels. Overall, the book isn't as good as Tales From The Crypt, or even Boris Karloff's Thriller. Even for a horror book aimed at kids from the 50's, it's pretty lame really. Hopefully the other issues I have of this title will prove to be less disappointing.


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