Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Here’s another marginal comic book from the I.W. Publications/Super Comics empire of outsider publisher Israel Waldman. We’ve discussed his operation (kind of like a comics equivalent a budget record label, one which re-issued in exploitative and deceptive manner older material which it may or may not have had full rights to release) in previous BTC reviews. I should point out that the release numbers (according to Toonopedia) of these Waldman comics are NOT indicative of how many issues of something have been released. This would not have been the 16th issue of MYSTERY TALES. Remember, IW/Super was re-issuing existing but forgotten comics under new names, and one of their Super Comics magazine titles could be used for material from various older source comics for which IW/Super had printing plates...so different issues of MYSTERY TALES might have been taken from different original comics. No, what “16” indicated was that it was in the 16th round of releases from IW/Super. They could start a new magazine title, and if the first issue came out around the time of their 16th round of releases, then it was issue #16. According to the Grand Comics Database, MYSTERY TALES had only 3 issues: 16, 17, and 18. I’m lucky enough to own all three.

Interestingly, while the IW/Super magazine contents were pillaged from earlier comics, the covers were often new, and often do NOT depict scenes from the story. I’ve read about how Waldman hired comics artists to draw new covers, but in some cases, he must have just given the artists the story title, and maybe a brief verbal synopsis, and not had them look at the actual story. In any event, he certainly had a gut feeling for what sells comic books to adolescents....just take a look at this cover. Can you imagine how excited a 12 or 13 year old would be with it? Why, this would look even more exciting than any of the 50’s sci-fi or horror movies they showed on the local UHF station on Saturday nights!

Fortunately, the stories deliver the goods...and then some. All the contents of this issue were lifted from a 1952 comic called TALES OF HORROR (see scan of that cover), undoubtedly influenced by TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which began in 1950, from the legendary EC Comics. TALES OF HORROR was published by the obscure indie Minoan Magazines initially, then seems to have been reissued two years later by Toby (by the way, I’d LOVE to own some issues of Toby’s JOHN WAYNE ADVENTURE COMICS, which ran 31 issues! I notice that some of that run has been re-issued by Golden Age Reprints--guess what I’ll be ordering next payday!). However, I can’t imagine anyone who bought this in 1964 (and they might well have bought it in 1966 or 1967, as Waldman did not date his comics, so they were never out-of-date and could continue to be sold) finding it dated, anymore than they’d complain in 1964 about a 50’s giant-insect sci-fi film being ‘dated.’

With this being an offering from IM/Super Comics, we should remember that no one would have paid full price for it. It would have been part of a cheap bagged multi-pack sold at a low-end department store, or the individual comics would have found their way into the discounted marketplace or sold with “used magazines,” which at one time were available in small neighborhood markets, off-brand gas stations, and the like. So kids would have paid a nickel or maybe 2-for-15 cents for this. Also, even today, most of the IM/Super Comics offerings can be gotten relatively cheaply, if you are willing to get an ungraded “reading copy” (as it’s called in the trade). I’ve seen this one online for as little as $2.

The budget-label record business model always relied upon quantity sales, and the “budget comics” model probably did too. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the Charlton “Modern Comics” line of budget comics, sold in cheap multi-packs by low-end retailers and markets, were printed in large qualities, one reason why you can still get them cheap today. Why pay $6 for the Charlton copy of something when you can get the exact same comic with only minor revisions for a dollar or so in the “Modern” version.

The 50s were a Golden Age in horror comics in the TALES FROM THE CRYPT tradition, so it’s no surprise that every story here is a winner. The art style is functional enough to provide a kind of realism, but exaggerated and grotesque enough to provide a frightening horror experience....as much as, say, an AIP or Allied Artists 50’s sci-fi/horror B-movie would....and really, these kind of magazines (like crime comics) are pretty much delivering three or four mini-movies for the mind in each issue.

THE THING IN THE POOL has a creepy and mean home-builder who lusts after his secretary, but she announces she’s getting married to someone else and he flips out. However, once he regains his composure, he offers them a fancy, modernistic new home as a wedding present--one problem, though....that “thing” in the pool. THE HAND OF JAO TZE has a sleazy seaman in Asia who pretends to fall in love with a young lady whose father controls some ancient jewelry with spiritual significance, and of course, anyone who’s ever seen a MUMMY film knows where that’s headed. The only question is HOW the ancient spirits will get their revenge on this infidel. In THE RIPPER’S RETURN, there is a rest home where the patients are given some kind of potion--the kind you find only in comic books and horror movies--which makes them think and act like historical characters....Napoleon, Plato, etc. Unfortunately, one of them starts channeling Jack The Ripper. Finally, LOVE FOR A PLANT, the story depicted on the cover, offers a serious version of the murdering-plant set-up later used for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. In this one, a horticulturalist with a nagging, shrewish, overly-demanding wife starts to create a fantasy world in his hothouse and creates a plant which he comes to fall in love with....and let’s just say that eventually even the plant becomes a little too demanding.

If you have a taste for vintage comic books and for horror anthology TV shows (even something like the 1989-1996 TV version of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which was aspiring to re-create this kind of model), give this a try. It’s perfect for a cold, rainy night....a few of the stories even have some variation on the crypt-keeper as a “host” in the first panel of each story, although that aspect is not really developed in this issue.

We love budget labels here at BTC....and we love budget comics too!

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