Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Crypt of Shadows #19 (September 1975)

This is a nice, eye-catching cover, isn't it? It's what motivated me to spend $3 on a somewhat less than mint copy of this book I fished out on one of the boxes on the floor at the comic shop. Crypt of Shadows is not exactly well-remembered today, even among aficionados who collect this sort of thing. It appears to have been solely a reprint book, and was probably just another title designed to take advantage of the horror comic boom in the first half of the 1970s. Issue #19 is from near the end of its run. The series wouldn't make it to a 1976 coverdate.

Now let's take a look at the contents. The first story does feature a giant robot similar to the one on the cover. Of course, the 70s covers are a bit more...aggressive than even the originals. Witness Strange Tales #72! This is a Jack Kirby drawn tale that is possibly a bit predictable, but still pretty relevant.

The second story fascinates me, in that the "villains" (Martians) are portrayed as essentially being justified! The very first panel makes it clear that the human race are the jerks. Two panels later, we see that the Martians "...hate us because our people exploited them and took over their planet!" WOW! There are also some surprisingly subtle things going on in a story from 1953. Impressive.

Our third tale is drawn by the masterful Steve Ditko. The leader of the planet Gorgon is a classic Ditko alien. Man, I just love this art, even with the poor printing of the decade making it all muddy. The plot is one we've seen hundreds of times, but the nuances are kinda clever.

Lastly, we have the most vexing segment of this comic book. It's a three page "story" (more like a vignette, really) about a window washer who falls off a building. I'd give you a spoiler alert about the ending here, but 1) most of you won't care and 2) the story's flippin' title is "He Never Reached The Ground!" Trouble is, there is no justification in the version I just read! The guy falls, people panic as he does, he disappears, the end. What?

According to the GCD index, the man is "saved by a Tibetan mystic indebted to his great-grandfather." That's all well and good, but there is not a hint of this in the comic. However, a quick pop over to World of Fantasy #11 indicates the story was originally FOUR pages. Either an entire page was omitted, or the story was reworked entirely to reduce it to three. I can't tell for certain.

Why do something like this? You need to go back a few months to discover the answer. Earlier in the year, Crypt of Shadows was running 20 pages of content. It was reduced to 18, to sell more ad space. I'm guessing this story was the candidate for trimming, and it's possible the book was already assembled ahead of time when the change occurred. Incidentally, this was not unique to this title - I am pretty sure both Marvel and DC reduced their story pages across the board in 1975.

Speaking of the ads, this comic is like 1970s comic book advertising in a nutshell. I notice Marvel has fewer house ads than DC did at this time, which may speak to which way the wind was blowing in terms of circulation. But gosh, there are lots of tiny ads on the Marvel pages. By this time, plenty of comic book dealers were in business, and though there are many familiar names, I don't think any currently active dealers are among them by this point. But such old stand-bys as Charles Atlas and the Johnson Smith Company are still there.

In closing, I'll just say that Crypt of Shadows #19 would have been a good investment of your quarter in 1975. It's not outstanding in any respect, but if the cover sucked you in, you'd probably enjoy it. However, it is a trifle confusing, and if anyone can shed some light on the rest of that edited story, I will be grateful!


  1. I have a scan of the original story if you want it, and yes it is four pages.

  2. @Michael - Sure! You can drop me a line at christopherelam [AT] gmail (you know how it goes) if you'd like. Thanks in advance!