Friday, June 19, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Witching Hour #4

Witching Hour #4 (On Sale: June 19, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy. I like the way the girl is reciting the book's title, something they did often in the early issues.

This issue's framing sequence, "The Witching Hour Welcome Wagon" is drawn by the great Alex Toth. Cynthia has talked Mordred and Mildred into visiting the new neighbors. They each tell the new neighbors a tale. Mildred tells "A Matter of Conscience" drawn by Winslow Mortimer. Harvey Harrington thinks his house is trying to kill him and so he goes to Exorciser Inc, where he hires the services of Tamroth. They go back to Harrington's house where he informs Tamroth that all of the ghostly action takes place in one room, the room his wife died in twelve years ago. he is positive that she is trying to kill him, but he swears that he did not kill her, that he tried to get her a doctor, but was too late.

Tamroth lights the "torch of the blue flame" and the room shimmers around them as they are transported to the realm of the underworld. They are drawn towards a hooded figure which Tamroth tells Harrington is the one he seeks. The hooded one sends forth a swarm of flying creatures and while Tamroth fights them Harrington moves toward the hooded figure. Using the torch Harrington lashes out at the figure who is the "one at fault," never noticing that the hooded figure is Harrington himself.

Suddenly they are back in Harrington's home and Tamroth explains that he is actually a psychiatrist and that Harrington is suffering from a guilt complex over his wife's death, that he is the cause of all the disturbances at his home. But just then a vase crashes against the wall.

Next it is Cynthia's turn to spin a tale. "Disaster in a Jar" is drawn by Pat Boyette. Amos Canby is a door-to-door salesman who can't make a sale. Everyone thinks he is a fraud and a phony. What he peddles is Magic Youth Skin Cream, a product of his own creation. He goes from town to town and it is always the same. They call him a "fake" and a "cheat" and a "bum." but Amos knows something everyone else does not; his cream actually works. He decides that what he needs to do is give away some free samples and that night he makes up a new batch, a batch that he calls "extra special."

The next day he starts giving out samples and the women flock to him. Within three weeks Amos is a rich man and decides to spend his cash in the stock market, cornering a market. Meanwhile a local research lab does and analysis of the cream but can't figure out what it is.

One year later to the day Amos's customers all lose their hair, starting a run on wigs. For weeks there are runs on wigs all over the country and on the news one night it is revealed that every facility for manufacturing wigs in the country is under the control of Amos Canby. Money well invested I would say.

By the way, Boyette does a great Chet Huntly and David Brinkley in this story. And take a look at the page here, particularly the fourth panel. I don't know how much of this was in the script and how much is Boyette having fun, but the "DownEnOut Hotel" and the "Rooms $1.50 and Down" signs cracked me up, not to mention the man throwing his wife out of the window and her response, "I've lost his love!"

Lastly it is Mordred's turn and she tells the tale "A Fistful of Fire!!" drawn by Jose Delbo. It is 1692 and Judge Samuel Sewell has just burned another witch at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts. The town doctor asks Sewell how long the witch burnings will continue and Sewell replies that the burnings are indeed unpleasant, particularly on an empty stomach. Judge Sewell invites the doctor to his house for dinner and they take a short-cut through the woods in hopes of getting home before a storm breaks. While in the woods Sewell admits that the evidence against the witch today was sketchy at best, but that is because the really are no witches, he is simply ridding the world of evil people and calling them witches makes the job easier to do.

At the same time a coven of witches is casting a spell against Sewell and they catch up to the two men in the woods just as the storm breaks. The witches attack but are repelled by the doctor who reveals that he too has magical dark powers. Be bests the witches at their own game and they rush away convinced that they have tussled with the devil himself. But the doctor reveals that he is actually a warlock.

This is Jose Delbo's first artwork for DC. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1933 where he became the assistant of comic artist Carlos Clemen, Delbo moved to the US in 1965. He worked at Wally Wood's Tower Comics drawing Secret Agent Mike Manley in Fight the Enemy. At Gold Key he drew Buck Rogers and Doctor Solar.

At DC Delbo would draw 163 stories between 1969 and 1990. Besides his work on the horror books, Delbo would draw the second-string strips: Robin, Batgirl, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, The Atom, Superboy. Tomahawk, Sandman. He did a number of Red Tornado stories in World's Finest Comics a string of Superman/Batman stories also for World's Finest Comics and finished his DC career drawing The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. In between he managed to draw the daily Superman newspaper strip. But he is mainly remembered at DC for a six-year stint on Wonder Woman, where his pencils were usually smothered by Vinny Colletta.

At Marvel Delbo drew the Thundercats and he did a three-year run on The Transformers.

Jose Delbo retired from the comic book business and lives now in Boca Raton, Florida, where he runs the Delbo Cartoon Camp, a summer camp for teaching children how to draw comics.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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