Tag Archives: Tom Tully

Scream! #11, 2 June 1984

 

 

 

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Ken Noble)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist José Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: A Fatal Extraction – final episode (artist Jim Watson, writer R. Hunter)
  • Library of Death: Ghost Dance (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Angus Allan)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • A Ghastly Tale – Behind the Door! (artist Eric Bradbury?)
  • The Nightcomers (artist John Richardson, writer Tom Tully)

More attempts at Ghastly’s face this week. None succeed, but one extracts another clue and a second has the honour of being on the back cover (above) because it is so well drawn.

Scream 11 From the Depths

Scream 11 Dungeon

Stakis manages to escape Dracula’s trap and put the stake into one of his servants. That’s one down, but there are two more and Drac himself to go. Meanwhile, Drac has to resort to a condemned house for his new hideout, and shows that even he turns up his nose at drunks because booze makes their blood unfit to drink. He throws a good scare into them instead.

Groan. Uncle Terry kills again. This time it’s self-defence against two men who tried to kill him because of his appearance.

Max shows mercy to the latest visitor to his Thirteenth Floor, who is being punished for shoddy repair jobs, because he begged for it. This shows Max is learning where to stop with the Thirteenth Floor and trying not to let it go too far, as happened in some of the earlier episodes.

The (yeouch!) cover gives you an idea of how things end up for Sweeney Todd dentist Thorpe in the final episode of the Leper’s tale, doesn’t it? Yes, it turns out Makepiece the ghost had more than just revenge on his mind in killing Thorpe’s assistant Grimes. He uses his dark magic powers to turn Grimes into an animated corpse to wreak his revenge on Thorpe. Makepiece sends Grimes and Thorpe straight to Hell through their own Sweeney Todd chair – after having Grimes give Thorpe a taste of his own dental treatment, of course.

This week’s Library of Death tale is an intriguing one. It raises a few eyebrows and is full of surprising ironies, some of which you may find amusing as well as scary. The lead of a pop group mocks his fellow members for believing in ghosts although they use a ghost gimmick. So what happens when they shoot their latest video in a place with a reputation for genuine ghosts? Read it and find out.

(Click thru)

 

 

In a Ghastly Tale, a boy dreads what is behind the door. And what is behind the door? It is a common thing that boys don’t like. Clue – there is a lot of steam coming out from the door.

In “The Nightcomers” Beth rescues her brother Rick just as Cutler and his flunky are about to burn him alive, along with the house and the demon haunting it. However, it’s the flunky who gets burned alive and he throws himself down the well. Then another entity appears, and appears to be an unhappy female. Cutler clearly knows who it is and is terrified of it…but why do we sense it is more friendly than the demon?

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Scream! #10, 26 May 1984

Scream cover 10

 

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Simon Furman)
  • The Nightcomers (artist John Richardson, writer Tom Tully)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist José Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: A Fatal Extraction – (artist Jim Watson, writer R. Hunter)
  • Library of Death: Night of the Cobra! (artist Julian Vivas, writer Angus Allan)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • A Ghastly Tale – Goodbye Uncle George!

The latest attempt at Ghastly’s face is more successful than most so far because it actually hits on something about Ghastly’s face. Reckon the entrant should have been given extra money for that?

Scream 10 From the Depths

Dracula’s latest feedings are in the headlines as murders, but only Stakis realises their true nature. Unfortunately, Dracula has realised there is a vampire hunter on his tail after Stakis has a close encounter with Dracula’s new servant. Dracula does a runner while setting a trap for Stakis in his abandoned hideout. And Stakis walks straight into it!

The Rogans finally make their way into Raven’s Meet. While disposing of Cutler’s dead dog, Rick gets knocked out by Cutler and his flunky – who looks like Frankenstein’s Monster, minus the bolts on his neck.

This week’s Thirteenth Floor story is one that everyone who has been hit by a dodgy repairman should love. Two sleazy plumbers, who did shoddy work that actually hurt someone, find themselves on the Thirteenth Floor where pipes burst and threaten to drown them. Then they are trapped by raging fire.

In part two of the Leper’s story, the ghost of George Makepiece is out for revenge against dentist Thomas Thorpe, who murdered him Sweeney Todd-style. Too bad for Thorpe Makepiece was an occultist, as he and his assistant Grimes discover when they try to rob Makepiece’s house. Makepiece uses his powers to kill Grimes with a Sweeney Todd stunt of his own and sends him to the bottom of the river!

In the Library of Death, a laboratory in Malaysia is home to every species of snake. A newcomer on the science team is an unpleasant type who is only in it for the money that will get him out of debt. He is warned never to underestimate a snake. He would also be well advised not to underestimate a place that is nicknamed “the house of death”. But of course he doesn’t heed those warnings.

Scream 10 Dungeon

Oh dear, Uncle Terry’s done it again. He’s trashed a café with that horrible temper of his. At least he didn’t kill anyone this time. But now there are enough eyewitnesses for the police to get an identikit of Uncle Terry. And it’s one that will stick in anyone’s mind, because he looks just like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Uncle Terry and Ken continue on their way to Scotland to find the doctor who could help.

In the Ghastly Tale, the Jordans aren’t shedding a tear at Uncle George’s funeral. They think they are well rid of their kooky scientist relative and those crazy experiments of his. They throw the last one he made, labelled “life potion”, down into his grave as he is being buried – er, life potion?!

Scream #9, 19 May 1984

Scream 9 cover

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Simon Furman)
  • Library of Death: Ghost Town (artist Steve Dillon, writer Simon Furman)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist José Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: A Fatal Extraction – first episode (artist Jim Watson, writer R. Hunter)
  • A Ghastly Tale – The Summoning (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • The Nightcomers (artist John Richardson, writer Tom Tully)

The cover for Scream #9 is one of Scream’s gorgeous wrap around covers, so both back and front cover are produced here. In addition to the regulars on the cover we see some familiar faces from complete stories in previous issues (The Punch and Judy Horror Show, The Drowning Pond and Beware the Werewolf!). No attempts at Ghastly’s face are published in this issue. Ghastly launches a second creepy captions competition because the first was so popular.

Scream 9 From the Depths

The writing credits for The Dracula File change again. Was Gerry Finley-Day writing under pseudonyms for this or were some of the episodes farmed out to other writers?

In the story, Drac’s a bit put out to find his servants have housed his home soil in the (hee, hee!) bathtub because there is no coffin in his new hideout. Waahh! Wanna coffin! While his servants scramble to find one Drac is off in search of more victims to feed on. Meanwhile, Stakis arrives in Britain to hunt the vampire down, and he’s assembled a full vampire-hunting kit.

The Library of Death story is about an American ghost town, which is haunted by skeletal ghosts. The ghosts constantly set a deadly trap – which includes lynching – for unsuspecting motorists. It’s their revenge for a motorcar causing a catastrophe that destroyed their town years before, albeit accidentally.

Max demonstrates a new power – the power to hypnotise people. He uses it to get a tenant to take the latest victim of his Thirteenth Floor back home because he can’t risk any more Thirteenth Floor victims, dead or otherwise, to be found in that lift.

We know going to the dentist in the 19th century must have been murder, but this is ridiculous. In the new Tales from the Grave story, dentist Thomas Thorpe isn’t “too particular” in how he treats his patients, but for the rich ones he has an extra-special treatment – murdering them Sweeney Todd-style in order to rob them. However, Thorpe’s latest victim, George Makepiece, is rising up from the river swearing revenge, and he looks kind of ghostly…

This week’s Ghastly Tale has some dark magic practitioners in a graveyard trying to summon a demon. Instead, they get one angry corpse telling them to stop making such a racket.

Ken and Uncle Terry went on the run without any place to run to. But in this week’s episode of “Monster” they finally find a destination from a newspaper – a doctor who could help with Uncle Terry’s temper problems that can cause him to kill. The trouble is, the doctor is in Scotland, which means a long trek to get there. They manage to sneak aboard a lorry, but while Ken is buying food the lorry takes off – with Uncle Terry on board. Oops!

In “The Nightcomers”, Raven’s Meet is making The Amityville Horror look like a G-rated film. First, the Rogans meet an enormous demon. It is obvious that this demon is what is haunting the house, and Beth’s psychic powers tell her it killed their parents too. Next, blood comes pouring down the front steps of the house!

Scream! #8, 12 May 1984

Scream 8 cover

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Ken Noble)
  • The Nightcomers (artist John Richardson, writer Tom Tully)
  • A Ghastly Tale – The Pharaoh’s Curse (artist Tony Coleman)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist José Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Library of Death: Beware the Werewolf! (artist Steve Dillon, writer Simon Furman)
  • Tales from the Grave: The Cabbie and the Hanging Judge – final episode (artist Jim Watson, writer Ian Rimmer)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)

Dogs, wolves and werewolves are cropping up a lot in this issue, starting with the cover. Even our vampire in “The Dracula File” takes his wolf form. He rescues his servants, claims a couple more victims, and sets up shop in London. Meanwhile, Stakis is on his way to stop the vampire, but at the cost of defecting from the KGB, becoming a fugitive, and getting out of the Eastern bloc without paying the price of a Soviet gulag or something.

From the DepthsGhastly Faces

The Nightcomers arrive at Raven’s Meet. They are quick to realise that whatever is in there wants them dead. Simon Cutler, who definitely knows something about it, escaped by the skin of his teeth after the evil of Raven’s Meet possessed his dog and nearly killed him. At least the blurb for next week will tell us what the horror actually is.

A dog also attacks and frightens a man to death during a visit to King Tut’s tomb. The twist is the hieroglyphics on the door aren’t about a pharaoh’s curse – they say “Beware of the dog”.

In “The Thirteenth Floor” Max manages to squirm his way out of the cloud of suspicion. How very prudent of the policeman to tip him off about the error that aroused his suspicions, which enabled Max to cover it up quickly. Back to business, which Max resolves must be conducted with more care in future. The next victim at the Thirteenth Floor arrives in response to Max’s call about knocking down a girl’s dog and not stopping. He finds himself in the middle of a road filled with cars threatening to knock him down.

In “Tales from the Grave” we learn how the wheels of justice turned for “The Cabbie and the Hanging Judge”. There is a final twist that has the Leper laughing, but might have someone turning in his grave…

Cabbie and the Hanging Judge 1aCabbie and the Hanging Judge 2aCabbie and the Hanging Judge 3a

The Library of Death story is of the werewolf that appears on the cover. The hunter on his tail looks a bit like a fascist in the way he is dressed and is the werewolf’s own father.

In “Monster” the police hunt for Ken and Uncle Terry intensifies now they have a very good lead – a man who almost got killed by Uncle Terry and got a very terry-fying look at what looks like a monster. And they’re bringing in tracker dogs. Dogs again…

Scream! #4, 14 April 1984

Scream 4 cover

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • The Library of Death: All Done with Wires (artist Cam Kennedy, writer J.H. Teed)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: “The Undertaker” – final episode (artist Jim Watson, writer Tom Tully)
  • Terror of the Cats (artist John Richardson, writer Simon Furman)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • A Ghastly Tale! – Mirror, Mirror
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)

Ghastly introduces another competition. Meanwhile, he publishes another failed attempt to capture his likeness.

Scream 4 from the Depths

The vampire from Rumania has turned the agent who was on his tail into another servant to do his bidding. Then he’s off to the cinema in pursuit of more victims. And they would just happen to be watching a movie called “Dracula’s Death”. Dracula, of all things!

In the Library of Death a fraudulent medium gets his punishment-fitting-the-crime comeuppance, and it’s all done with wires. And in the Ghastly Tale “Mirror, Mirror”, the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors are, shall we say, producing some unusual effects on people.

Scream 4 A Ghastly Tale

As shown below, the punks out to beat up a tenant emerge from The Thirteenth Floor as nervous wrecks. They won’t be in any condition to beat up anyone for a long time. But another transgressor is always coming along to the Thirteenth Floor, and this time it’s a gang of actual criminals.

(Click thru)

It’s the last episode of the Tales from the Grave story, “The Undertaker”. Murder plotters Sleeth and Emily discover too late that Emily’s fiancé Clive had committed the murder himself, for the same reason as Emily. The wires of the two murder plots got crossed, causing everything to backfire on all the plotters. Clive kills Sleeth and goes down for double murder. Emily tries to feign innocence with the police, but Sleeth’s apprentice Smyte is a witness to the truth, so she ends up in prison. And whose coffin on the cover is the Leper burying? Sleeth, the undertaker he was talking about the whole time, of course.

It is finally revealed why “The Terror of the Cats” is attacking the hospital. The cats are after a male nurse, Jim Wardon. Wardon helped Dr Kruhl with his diabolical experiments that are making the cats go crazy, and now he’s regretting it. Wardon’s making a run for it, not realising Kruhl’s cats are watching. Meanwhile, Woodward makes his way into Kruhl’s lair surprisingly unmolested by the killer cats. But then he bumps into a killer cat of a different sort – a tiger!

Scream 4 competition

“Monster” Uncle Terry is out of his attic prison for the very first time in his life. It’s in response to one of Dad’s dodgy creditors, Joe Thacker, attacking Kenny and robbing him of money in order to reclaim his debt. Unfortunately Uncle Terry ends up killing Thacker. Oh, no, that’s the second time he’s killed someone, and it’s another corpse for the garden.

 

 

Scream! #3, 7 April 1984

Scream 3 cover

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • Terror of the Cats (artist John Richardson, writer Simon Furman)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: “The Undertaker” (artist Jim Watson, writer Tom Tully)
  • The Library of Death: The Drowning Pond! (artist Julian Vivas, writer B. Burrell)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • A Ghastly Tale! – Green Fingers (artist John Richardson)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)
  • Ghastly’s Creepy Creature Quiz!

No free gift came with the third issue of Scream!, which goes against the tradition of a free gift with the first three issues of a new IPC title. However, the first attempt at Ghastly’s face is in, as is the second person to spend the week in the London Dungeon.

Scream 3 From the Depths

A British agent is on the trail of the Rumanian defector who’s a vampire and the nurse he’s hypnotised into becoming his servant. But the vampire escapes him. In the preview for next week there’s a panel of the vampire going to the cinema, and it looks like he’s going to make a Dracula film more realistic than usual…

Last week “Monster” changed credits completely. This week it is “Terror of the Cats”, with new artist John Richardson and writer Simon Furman. In the story, the cats have the hospital under siege now. The man in charge of the cat victims tells Woodward he suspects Dr Kruhl is behind the crazy cat attacks. So Woodward is off to check out Kruhl – and finds the killer cats waiting outside. How can he get past them?

The second round of transgressors arrives for Max’s special treatment on “The Thirteenth Floor”. A tattoo one of them has provides the inspiration for their punishment, as seen below.

(click thru)

In “Tales from the Grave”, Sleeth the Undertaker thinks he’s got the murder he was contracted to commit all sewn up and his victim is now at the bottom of the river, eaten up by rats. But his client Emily has a nasty surprise for him – she has just found that same victim (her uncle) poisoned. So who the heck was Sleeth killing just now? Er, it looks like that horribly injured, but still alive and very angry man who’s now barging in through your door, Sleeth. What’s more, he’s saying, “I have survived to wreak the vengeance of death on your foul and treacherous soul!”

The story in this week’s “Library of Death” is the one that readers request the most on Ghastly’s “Back from the Depths” site. It appears below for the benefit of any curious readers.

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It’s back to the one-page format in this week’s Ghastly Tale, and the moral is never to touch strange meteors. A boy does and it gives him the power to make plant life grow out of everything and everyone he touches – including his mum, and now’s she’s a horrible plant freak. He’s worried about what will happen when his father comes home. Never mind that, laddie – how are you going to eat when everything you touch turns into these freaks?

This week we learn more about Uncle Terry from the note Kenny’s mother left behind. As we do, we are more horrified by how Uncle Terry has been treated all his life than his appearance. Poor Uncle Terry has spent the whole 32 years of his life locked in the attic, in neglect and squalor, because his parents couldn’t stand his appearance. As a result, he is retarded, clearly brain damaged, and can barely string a few words together, but he is dangerous if provoked and can kill. Terry’s treatment improved somewhat under Kenny’s kindly mother, but she could not help him fully because of her abusive husband (why the heck did you marry him, lady?). After she died, cruelty towards Terry resumed under the husband. Now Kenny has inherited the task of minding Uncle Terry, and he’s only 12, but the note says Mum was dead against the idea of institutionalisation for Uncle Terry. As if an institution could be any worse than that squalid attic.

Scream! #2, 31 March 1984

Scream 2 cover

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: “The Undertaker” (artist Jim Watson, writer Tom Tully)
  • The Library of Death: Spiders Can’t Scream! (artist Ron Smith, writer John Agee)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • Terror of the Cats (artist Gonzales, later John Richardson, writer John Agee)
  • A Ghastly Tale! – a complete story (artist José Casanovas)

The free gift that came with Scream #2 was a big, black, spooky spider, so it’s little wonder that spiders are big in this issue, beginning with the cover (front and back) profiling what horror awaits in this week’s Library of Death story. We are also told that Max will unleash spider terror as his next punishment in issue three.

Meantime, Max forces the harsh debt collector to enter a debt collector computer game – where the computer always wins, of course. The concept might almost be funny if the debt collector had not died of a heart attack because The Thirteenth Floor frightened him to death.

More ghoulies get added to the “From the Depths” letters page. It’s the “grislies”, and you are invited to draw your own.

From the Depths

In “The Dracula File”, the East is confident the Rumanian vampire defector they allowed to escape to the West will not unleash a reign of vampire terror there because he cannot live without his home soil. They don’t realise he has found the answer to that problem – the home soil left behind from previous Rumanian vampires who got to Britain. So his reign of terror has started.

The plot between “The Undertaker” and Emily Carlisle to kill her uncle looks simple and foolproof (and gruesome!). All it needs to kill him is a sudden shock, so the Undertaker takes him to the river and unleashes some rats in his carriage to not only frighten him but also eat him alive. And it would look like he just drove too close to the river and the river rats got him. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the blurb for next week does say “A fatal mistake…”.

The credits for “Monster” change to Jesus Redondo (artist) and Rick Clark (writer). Strangely, the reprint volume gives the change of writer as John Wagner. Was Wagner writing under a pseudonym here? Anyway, Kenneth has now seen what’s in the attic and it’s…the Hunchback of Notre Dame?! Something tells us Kenneth is now lumbered with the role of Esmeralda. Too right. Kenneth finds a letter from his late mother explaining that the, um, “monster” as the family dubbed him is in fact his Uncle Terry. Terry’s parents (Kenneth’s grandparents) kept him locked in the attic because of his appearance, and Mum says it’s now Kenneth’s job to look after him. Whoopee…

Uncle Terry

Allen Woodward tried to stop “The Terror of the Cats” striking the hospital, but all it’s done for him is get him into trouble with the police and on the run. But that’s nothing compared to what he finds when he hides in a cupboard – another crazy killer cat!

A Ghastly Tale is longer than the one-page spread last week. It’s also a tale of nature striking back at the abuses of humanity in the 21st century. How far ahead of its time was this story? It has been posted here for your judgement. Besides, it’s drawn by José Casanovas, and who doesn’t like his artwork?

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Scream! No. 1, 24 March 1984

Scream 1 cover

  • The Dracula File – first episode (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • Monster – first episode (artist Heinzl, later Jesus Redondo, writer Alan Moore)
  • The Thirteenth Floor – first episode (artist Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: “The Undertaker” – first episode (artist Jim Watson, writer Tom Tully, later John Wagner)
  • A Ghastly Tale! (complete story)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – humour cartoon reprinted from Cor!! (artist Graham Allen)
  • Library of Death: At Death’s Door… – complete story (artist Cam Kennedy, writer Barrie Tomlinson)
  • Terror of the Cats – first episode (artist Gonzales, later John Richardson, writer John Agee)

Our Halloween theme continues with Scream! This was a short-lived publication, lasting only 15 issues before it disappeared during the same strike that brought down Tammy (though opinions from former IPC staff differ as to just what killed it off). Nevertheless, Scream achieved a cult status that has made its issues collectors’ items, spawned fanzines and websites, and now it is enjoying a revival with the Misty & Scream Halloween specials and volume reprints of its strips.

The gift that came with the first issue of Scream was a set of Dracula fangs, approved by the famous vampire himself, who leads off with his very own strip inside, “The Dracula File”. A Rumanian defector has escaped to the West. However, his Eastern bloc pursuers have realised that he is a vampire and decide the West can have him: “He is their problem now!” The poor RAF pilots flying the defector into Britain don’t realise the horror they are about to unleash…

Scream 1 Dracula

Before the strips begin, however, the host of the comic, Ghastly McNasty, sets things up with the letters page and the special features it offers. There is “The Dracula Spectacular”, where Ghastly has fun turning someone into something hideous. To make it even more fun for readers, he wants them to provide the victims (teachers, family members, themselves, etc) and the reason why. Ghastly also invites readers to nominate someone for appearing in “The London Dungeon” for the week and the reason for this punishment, and the comeuppances would be drawn accordingly. Who would you like to see in the London Dungeon for the week? How about the Tammy editor for leaving us dangling on the final episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”? Or how about Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin?

Scream 1 letters page

Of course a new comic would not be complete without a competition, and this is one that really tests deductive, artistic and maybe even clairvoyant skills. The challenge is to draw Ghastly McNasty’s face absolutely right. This is no easy task as the face is hidden in complete darkness under his hood with only lights shining where his eyes are. Clues include him being extremely ugly, too much tree root in the beauty treatment he tried that backfired, and other clues that would be dropped as the competition progressed. An actual likeness of Ghastly had been drawn and was being kept secure. The best but still-failed attempts would be printed, comments were made about any clues the pictures had hit upon, and the winner would get £5. The one to hit the absolute mark would win £50. The top prize was still unclaimed when Scream abruptly disappeared.

Scream 1 Monster

“Monster” is one of the Scream stories that would continue and finish in Eagle. It is the “something monstrous hidden in the attic” story. It’s so secret that Kenneth Corman’s abusive father gives him yet another walloping for even saying he heard something up there in the locked attic room. The father goes up to the attic to get rid of it, only to get horribly murdered, with deep claw marks on his body. Kenneth opts for secretly burying his father in the garden instead of calling in the police, and now he’s heading for the attic himself to deal with whatever is up there.

Scream 1 13th Floor

“The Thirteenth Floor” was another Scream strip to continue in Eagle, and now it has its own reprint volume and return appearances in the Scream & Misty Halloween special. Max is the computerised superintendent of council-run Maxwell Towers. Max takes his duty of looking after his tenants very seriously. In fact, it’s so seriously that anyone who threatens the safety and well-being of Max’s tenants is sent on a trip to his secret Thirteenth Floor through the lift, where Max wreaks a computerised, holographic punishment upon them that he deems the most fit for their crime. The first transgressor to pay a trip to the Thirteenth Floor is a merciless debt collector. On the Thirteenth Floor he meets the Grim Reaper, who says, “Welcome…to your death.” Erk! Is Max really going to go as far as murder? We find out next week.

Scream 1 Leper

The Leper (so named because of his medical condition, appearance and lack of social acceptance) is a 19thcentury gravedigger and host of “Tales from the Grave”. Not surprisingly, these tales are associated with death, the Victorian fascination with it (murders, executions, body snatching, Goth etc) and the stories behind the graves in the cemetery. The Leper’s first story is “The Undertaker”, about a Burke and Hare-type undertaker named Joshua Sleeth: “If you wanted someone buried, ole Sleeth was the man to do it, no questions asked […] Sleeth was an evil beggar all right. If yer needed a helpin’ hand into the next world, so to speak, he was always ready to give it…”. Sleeth’s reputation has reached the ears of Emily Carlisle, who wants a helping hand in getting her Uncle Henry into the next world so she can inherit.

Scream 1 Cats

The final serial is “The Terror of the Cats”. All the cats in the neighbourhood are going crazy and attacking people for no apparent reason. Reporter Allen Woodward is on the story and also that of Dr Kruhl (nicknamed “Cruel” because of his reputation), the Director of the Government Research Institute. It’s soon obvious to the readers that the two stories are linked somehow, though Woodward hasn’t clicked yet.

Scream 1 Library

As with Misty, Scream has complete stories, though less prolific. One format is uncredited one-page one-shot stories, some of which end with a dash of humour. The other format is the “Library of Death” (yes, more death tales), which has more pages. The first tale is about a boy who gets strange, frightening visitations in his bedroom after his parents deny him his request to go into the Ghost House at the fair.

For the resident funny cartoon, Scream is reprinting Fiends and Neighbours from Cor!! An ordinary couple are looking forward to meeting their new neighbours – only to get the shock of their lives when they find the newcomers are a regular Addams family.

The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain (1975)

Sample Images

bamboo curtain 1

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bamboo curtain 2

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bamboo curtain 3

Writers: Charles Herring, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Tom Tully (?). But only Charles Herring appears in the writing credits.

Artist: Giancarlo Alessandrini

Publication: Battle 8 March 1975 to 24 May 1975

Reprint: Tornado Annual 1980

Plot Summary

In World War II, “Big Jim” Blake is a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp in Burma where prisoners are forced to build a bridge on the Benwaddy River. Sado, the cruel commandant, takes great delight in punishing his prisoners by having them run the gauntlet in the Bamboo Curtain, a bamboo forest on one side of the camp that is laden with deadly booby traps. Concerned at the intimidating effect the Bamboo Curtain is having on his comrades, Blake deliberately gets himself sent to the Bamboo Curtain, in the hope that if he can somehow beat it, it will break Sado’s hold over them.

Sado declares Blake dead after seeing him fall into one of the booby traps and forces the prisoners to cheer at this. However, Blake escapes. He is then surprised to stumble across a band of British soldiers in Japanese uniform who are acting as if they are brainwashed/hypnotised and don’t even feel pain when branded. One of them he recognises as “Handlebars” Lewis from his old unit. He soon finds out Sado is behind it, but the men disappear into a ruined pagoda before he can investigate further. He decides that for the soldiers’ sakes he will return to the camp to find out what is going on, although he is risking big trouble from Sado.

Everyone at the camp is surprised to see Blake has not only survived the Bamboo Curtain but returned as well. Blake’s purpose in going into the Bamboo Curtain is fulfilled; the prisoners now see it is not so unbeatable and become more rebellious and rallying around Blake as a hero. Jensen, Blake’s best friend, is sceptical when he hears the reason for Blake’s return, because Handlebars had been sent to the Bamboo Curtain several months previously.

Sado starts inflicting heavy punishments (actually, tests) on Blake. He starts with the sweat hut, but loses face when he realises Blake is too strong to break that way. Next, Sado forces Blake to fight a masked man to the death, and Blake is shocked to discover it was Handlebars. The next punishment (Sado’s final test) – forcing Blake to find a way to escape from a minefield – backfires when Blake escapes into the Bamboo Curtain and back to the pagoda. There he discovers another soldier undergoing the brainwashing process. The process takes effect, and it causes the prisoner to go wild and nearly kill Blake. Then Sado recaptures Blake and takes him back to camp – by shackling him to the back of his jeep and dragging him along until he blacks out.

Sado now brings Blake to his hut for a surprise spread of food. Suspecting his food is drugged, Blake contrives to switch it for Sado’s plate. His suspicions are confirmed when Sado’s cat Suki goes crazy from eating the food and attacks Sado. Judging by what he saw with the brainwashed soldier, Blake guesses the drug in the food must be part of the brainwashing process and this was what Sado intended for him. He also notices the door to Sado’s office is heavily padlocked and suspects the reason is that the key to the mystery is in there.

Jensen has the men start a riot at the bridge as a diversion so Blake can go back to investigate the office. Breaking in through the roof, he rips open a desk, where he finds a paper listing the men who have been sent through the Bamboo Curtain – and his own name is at the top of the list. The rest is in Japanese, but Jensen can translate it.

However, Sado has guessed the reason for the now-quelled riot and returns to his office to check. He discovers the theft, but Blake manages to escape with the paper. Upon translation, it reveals that the true purpose of the Bamboo Curtain is a survival of the fittest test. Soldiers who survive the Curtain are incorporated into Sado’s private army. They undergo a brainwashing process to turn them into crazed killers who obey Sado robotically. The paper also reveals there is a secret entrance under one of the flagstones in the pagoda.

Determined to get his paper back, Sado has turned extra-nasty towards the prisoners. He is forcing them to work under even worse conditions (extra hours, reduced rations and sleep, drinking from a malaria-ridden source) until someone comes forward about the theft. This has Jensen and Blake escape before someone breaks and lets on, and they flee into the Bamboo Curtain. But Jensen gets caught in a quicksand trap and Blake fails to save him in time. Jensen’s death hardens Blake’s resolve to stop Sado.

Blake heads for the pagoda, where he disguises himself as one of the brainwashed soldiers. He learns that Sado is sending his army against the approaching British forces, and sets up an ambush for them at Hsenwo Valley. Blake slips away to warn the British forces, but the commander does not believe him and locks him up. Blake escapes, but bumps into some of Sado’s goons. He manages to fight them off, but then hears Sado’s signal to the brainwashed soldiers to attack the British forces. Blake stops the attack by taking Sado hostage.

Now the British forces have seen the brainwashed soldiers for themselves, they finally believe Blake. Sado is taken into custody and the brainwashed soldiers are sent to an army hospital in England for deprogramming. Soon Blake and the British are on their way to liberate Sado’s camp.

Then a report arrives to say that Sado has escaped. Blake insists on going after Sado personally and heads for the Bamboo Curtain, figuring Sado has gone there. But Sado corners Blake and is on the verge of killing him. Then Suki trips Sado up and he falls into the same quicksand that claimed Jensen. Sado begs Blake for help and mercy, but Blake rebuffs him, saying he never showed mercy to anyone. Blake leaves Sado to the quicksand while Suki looks on, and departs to rejoin the war that still needs to be won.

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Thoughts and Discussion

Although this story is from a boys’ comic, it has come up in many discussions of girls’ comics, with particular reference to discussing the slave story theme and transposing the themes of emotion, suffering, and cruelty used to revive girls’ comics in the early 1970s with Tammy to revive the boys’ titles with Battle and Action. It has also come up in several websites where former creators reminisce on what went on behind the scenes of IPC comics and the writing and editing processes of both boys’ and girls’ comics. And it has been mentioned several times on this blog. So now it is going to have its own entry here as it is related to the context of girls’ comics.

Tammy had led the field in the revival of girls’ comics in the 1970s with its emphasis on cruelty, suffering and deep emotion as opposed to stories on boarding schools, ballet and ponies. Girls were frequently abused and subjected to over-the-top tortures in schools, quarries, factories, abusive homes and other settings. The early Jinty followed in similar vein, but eventually developed her own character with science fiction, sports and fantasy stories. And finally there was Misty, who dared to be a horror comic for girls. Parents hated it, which meant their daughters loved it, and sales for the early Tammy soared.

The same elements of cruelty, emotion and suffering in Tammy were applied to Battle to make it the spearhead in reviving boys’ comics, which had fallen into a similar slump as the girls’. As Pat Mills explains: “…When we did Battle and so on, we followed the girls’ comic role model, and my boys’ comics were, and I take great pleasure in saying this, disguised girls’ comics!” http://www.comixminx.net/comixminx/articles/Entries/2008/5/31_Pat_Mills_at_CAPTION2004.html

Although this approach did make Battle a success, the creators soon discovered that there were differences between the sexes that made some formulas less successful than others. And Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain is one example where a girls’ comics formula (the slave story) proved less successful in the boys’ because of the differences between the sexes. So much so, in fact, that they never tried it again, which makes Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain a one-off stand-alone story in Battle. For this reason it is now undergoing reappraisals, with collectors appreciating what a unique story it was in boys’ comics.

The formula that Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain followed was the slave story theme, which is one of the lynchpins for a girls’ comic. The story had a group of girls (or one girl) who were being used as slaves or prisoners in an extremely harsh institution (reformatories, islands, quarries, factories, boarding schools and workhouses are frequent settings, while more unusual ones have included ships, restaurants, despotic regimes and dystopian worlds). The protagonist refuses to break under the torture, so her tormentors subject her to extra-harsh torture to break her down. Sometimes there is a mystery element involved, such as who is the mysterious masked helper who turns up to secretly help the girls, and solving the mystery is critical to the resolution of the story. This certainly was the case with Bamboo Curtain.

But Pat Mills believes it was the mystery element in Bamboo Curtain that made it unpopular and short lived in Battle:

“Mystery stories – girls, female readers, love mystery stories, say a school where there’s a mysterious headmistress, and girls are disappearing, and other girls are turning up in the dormitory – this gets them going! And the explanation can be complete crap, and it usually was, and it doesn’t matter!

“We tried this with male readers, we only did it once, and they hated it! That was Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain… You could see the thinking; we had the sadistic Japanese commander of the prisoner-of-war camp, and prisoners are disappearing, and strange things are going on, and the readers DID NOT CARE! They weren’t bothered about the mystery, they just wanted to see the action! What was the Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain? Who cares, bring on the violence! A female readership, even if you’ve got a mystery as simple as “What’s inside that box?”, that’ll keep them going for weeks! It’s a fundamental difference between the sexes”.

http://www.comixminx.net/comixminx/articles/Entries/2008/5/31_Pat_Mills_at_CAPTION2004.html

But co-writer John Wagner has a different opinion on what made Bamboo Curtain less than successful:

“… It wasn’t that popular a story, I think because they were prisoners and they weren’t proactive. They were having it done to them, rather than doing it themselves”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Less-than-proactive prisoners are a typical element of the slave story, even with the protagonist who refuses to be broken and is a constant rebel against her tormentors. And although Bamboo Curtain has its share of Blake striking back against his Japanese jailers (slugging guards and Sado, shooting out watch towers, fighting the masked man), he does fall into the same vein as his female counterparts when he throws away his escape from the Bamboo Curtain and returns voluntarily to the camp to solve the mystery, although he knows he is risking death at the hands of Sado. Boys must have been outraged because they had expected a more proactive approach, such Blake turning jungle commando or something to bring down Sado once he had escaped. And the cowering prisoners in the first episode must have left them less than impressed either. And they must have been used to oppressed men rising up against their oppressors and bringing on the ass-kicking action that boys wanted to see.

But now Bamboo Curtain is attracting comment and reappraisal online for daring to be different. And it is not just because it was a brave, if unpopular, attempt at transposing the slave story formula into a boys’ comic. The story also dared to break clichés:

“[Comics] had been too safe, samey, sanitised. Characters never died, nothing ever changed, nothing progressed. Like Captain Hurricane went on episode after episode, the same formula, he’d throw a raging fury and rip tanks apart, and in his raging fury always win the day. It was so unreal and we were fed up with it. We wanted to kick some butt”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

The biggest kick in the butt has to be where Jim Blake actually fails to save Jensen from the quicksand trap. As Pat Mills explains:

“My favourite [great moment in the story] – Blake trying to rescue his buddy who is sinking into a swamp. “Will Big Jim save his friend? Find out next week!” Next week Blake fails to save his friend, who sinks and dies. I took such pleasure in writing that scene, because it raises truths we all have to deal with, that heroes don’t always arrive in time. And it mocks the cliché ending! Even today, in comics, we don’t challenge the clichés enough – although I do my best in Marshal Law”.

https://patmills.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/misty-the-female-2000ad/

The cliché gets mocked again right at the end when Sado falls into the same quicksand. You expect the hero to do the noble thing and extend a hand to save his/her enemy, as Patti does in “Children of Edenford”. But Blake does not. Instead, he leaves Sado to die, saying he never showed mercy to anyone. This is a most shocking and unexpected thing to see a hero do in comics and readers must have been wondering about Blake after reading the ending.

While the story turned some clichés on their heads, other clichés were hammed up. This is the case with Sado. He is cast in the model of the stereotyped Japanese, and he certainly is evil, sadistic and loves inflicting torture. Yet he is so campy that he is such an engaging and colourful villain, and he is the source of all the humour in the story, with lines like:

  • “See Fearnly run! He think he okey dokey, but he no get far – you see!”
  • “Englishman sing! He too tough for sweat box. Sado lose much face!”
  • “See – Suki like. Big boy like, too! Please to eat.”
  • “Sado have way of making prisoners talk. Work them double chop chop. Soon someone break – talk turkey with Sado.”

“Bouncie, bouncie! Big boy bounce along path like rubber ball!”

With lines like those you just have to laugh, even at the lines that show just how evil Sado is. Pat Mills says “It was even funnier when John and I were acting these lines out to each other”. It is small wonder that “Sado was popular in the company while we were writing it. One guy made and wore a ‘SAVE SADO’ badge”.

https://patmills.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/misty-the-female-2000ad/

But it seems that either the writers or editor did not agree, because Sado is not saved in the end.

The glasses Sado wears serve to heighten his role as a humorous villain and help dilute his evil to less extreme levels (it seems to be something about comic book characters who wear glasses). His cat Suki does fall into the cliché of the villain having a soft spot. Yet the Siamese does add a subtle sinister note to the story. For example, it knows all the safe routes in the Bamboo Curtain, and it gives the impression that it is deliberately luring Blake into a trap when he follows it. Blake knows the cat will lead him to Sado without falling into any booby traps, but what he does not know is that Sado is planning another trap for him – leaving a gun for him to find that is rigged to fire backwards.

The campiness of Sado was deliberate because: “This story didn’t work until we hyped up Sado. It was sitting there. We kept going over it and over it and couldn’t see what was wrong with it. Decided to hype up Sado”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Even with Sado hyped up, writing the story proved extremely problematic:

“I’m sure we wrote the first episode of this one [Bamboo Curtain – Herring, Wagner/Mills, Tully?]. Anything you see with Charles Herring on it, it was rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. He had lots of good ideas. You had to take one of Charles’ scripts and pick out those good ideas. This story didn’t work until we hyped up Sado. It was sitting there. We kept going over it and over it and couldn’t see what was wrong with it. Decided to hype up Sado. But it wasn’t that popular a story, I think because they were prisoners and they weren’t proactive. They were having it done to them, rather than doing it themselves”.

Here’s what Battle staff editor Dave Hunt had to say about how Mills & Wagner worked…

“Pat and John wrote the initial episodes and then farmed them out to other writers. GFD was the author of D-Day Dawson. Lofty’s One-Man Luftwaffe – that was John and Pat. Their brief was not only create a new title but bring in new talent into the industry. We’d worked with a bed-rock of people. When you launched a new title, you rang up Tom Tully, he would do four of the new strips, Ted Cowan – people of that era – Ken Mennall. A lot of the people in Battle #1 were new to me.

“John and Pat always listened and got what they wanted from you. They would see a glimmer of an idea in a script and the writer would get paid for it. John and Pat would shape that glimmer. You’d re-read it 14 attempts later and the idea would still be there but developed. I was full of admiration for them. Being freelance themselves, they always felt they shouldn’t destroy a contributor, they felt that was the last thing they should do. They wanted to train them more into their way of thinking. Often it didn’t work…I had absolutely no idea where the story was going. I’m sure we hadn’t thought past the first episode. We knew it was something pretty awful, believe me! [Sadism, violence and black humour?] That’s what happens when you put a couple of freelancers in a room together! They just egg each other on. Part of it all was a reaction to the way comics had been up until then. They had been too safe, samey, sanitised. Characters never died, nothing ever changed, nothing progressed. Like Captain Hurricane went on episode after episode, the same formula, he’d throw a raging fury and rip tanks apart, and in his raging fury always win the day. It was so unreal and we were fed up with it. We wanted to kick some butt”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Despite these problems, the end result is a story that is gripping and filled with themes (brainwashing, struggle for survival, fighting adversity, war, black humour) that are guaranteed to grab the reader. The structure is well paced and the plot holds together extremely well. There is a discrepancy or two (such as Blake losing his boots in the minefield, but suddenly wearing boots again when he leaves the pagoda). But the overall product is strong, with its greatest strength perhaps lying in the characterisation, particularly of the villain. Nobody reading it would have guessed the problems the writers had in drafting it. Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain deserves to have more appreciation than it received when it was first published. But the attention it is getting on the Internet indicates that it is getting that appreciation now.