Oddly, I never knew of this photo until years after writing the story below.
Maria Montez in Cobra Woman (1944)
After Russ Jones and I did the series of stories for Charlton in 1972, we moved on to stories for Marvel. "The Collection" below was published in Marvel's b/w magazine Vampire Tales
#3 (February 1974), edited by Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman. The credits are not exactly as they appear. It was drawn by Paul Reinman, but for reasons I don't recall, it came back to us for the finish. The inking is by Russ, and I did background inking and the title display lettering.
Russ had no input on the script. The story was entirely scripted by me. I got the idea from a photograph that had once appeared in Esquire
showing the actress Jeanne Crain with a collector of Jeanne Crain memorabilia, who did indeed have posters varnished into the floor just as I describe in the story. However, the character of Millicent Mason was not inspired by Jeanne Crain but was based on the B-movie actress Maria Montez (1912-1951), who appeared in such films as Sudan
(1945) and Siren of Atlantis
Note the partially obscured mention of the low-budget Monogram Pictures, one of Hollywood's leading Poverty Row studios of the 1930s and 1940s. I don't know why I made the reference to Laura La Plante; Russ had designed a beautiful hardcover book about Hollywood mansions, so maybe that was a source. Or maybe because she was associated with creepy mansions in The Cat and the Canary
(1927) and her other long-ago films.
photo haunted me, as I kept wondering: What was the reaction of the collector to having the actress he idolized standing in the middle of his collection? Had he collected her in a sense? The Cornell Woolrich type twist would be to instead have her collect him. My original ending was a panel showing three weak and pale, half-starved guys standing in the basement near the hot water heater with Millicent Mason saying, "You see, I didn't have many fans, but those I did have, I kept." She then locks him in the basement with the other fans she had collected. As far as I knew, no story had ever used that premise. I wanted to title the story "The Collector", but that title could confuse the reader because it immediately made one think of the 1963 John Fowles novel and the 1965 William Wyler film, The Collector
, with Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.
I was stunned to read the published story and see my Woolrich-like pay-off was gone. Marvel had rewritten and redrawn the last panel to make Millie a vampire, turning a psychological crime story with a fresh approach into a routine, forgettable cliche. The top of the first page also appears to have been altered with a crude and amateurish paste-up. I don't know what was changed there, but note the thought bubbles directly over Chris' head, indicating a thought balloon that has been covered.
The editors' disrespect for my original ending was so disappointing and disturbing that I never submitted any script to Marvel after that.
Labels: maria montez, marvel, memoir, paul reinman, russ jones