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Control click heading to hear Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" performed by concert organist Frederik Magle on the 1883 Walcker organ in Riga Cathedral (Latvia).
Portion of EverGreene Studios 130' x 75' lobby mural painted in 1994 for the Sony Lincoln Square (now the AMC Loew's Lincoln Square 13) at 68th and Broadway.
"Scream Test!" was the first comic book story I wrote, a collaboration with John Benson. It was published in Creepy
#13 (February, 1967) and later reprinted in the 1968 Creepy Yearbook
. Scroll down to read the story.
With lettering by Ben Oda, Angelo Torres drew very effective panels, adding moody Sunset Boulevard
atmospherics, but the unmasking is somewhat confusing. Kire (an anagram of Erik) was supposed to be well lit throughout, not in shadows, so he would look normal until the mask is ripped off. Unfortunately, at the climax, the burned face and the mask don't look that much different, and the drawn image is overwhelmed by the movie still. So the pay-off just doesn't work as I had intended.
I don't remember too much about the creation of the story, only that we began writing about a creature coming to life in a refrigerator, based on my real-life experience with rot and mold filling a refrigerator when I didn't pay the electric bill. The script seemed so cliche that I interrupted and said, "As long as we're doing this, why don't we go for something unique and different?" John said, "Okay, like what?" That's when I suggested doing a story combining artwork with photographs, adding, "So the best situation for that would be a story set in a theater with the photos showing what's on the movie screen."
With that premise, we abandoned the refrigerator idea and began to develop "Scream Test!" (I later worked the unpaid electric bill into my 1974 story "Bugged"
, posted here last month.)
To fill in my memory lapses, I asked John what he remembered, and he replied:
As I recall, we worked on one other script together, the one about the thing that grew in the ice box of someone whose electricity bill was cut off due to nonpayment. I couldn't find this with a quick look through the checklist; I wonder if maybe we never finished it. (I also collaborated on a script with Clark Dimond, "Snakes Alive," in Creepy 14, and wrote one on my own.)
We worked together on the script, I don't remember exactly how. I do remember that one time we were working in the living room, I sitting at the typewriter, which was on a card table, and as we talked out the story I would type it up. An indignant downstairs neighbor came up to complain that we were "jumping around on pogo sticks." Apparently the typing went through the card table into their ceiling. (Usually I wouldn't be typing in the living room.) However, I can't say that we worked that way exclusively. It's possible that you wrote something out. But I think we talked out the detailed plot together and I did type the final draft. Dialogue was probably done by us together.
I supplied the stills, which I made from a little gizmo that I purchased that would make a photographic negative from a 16mm film. I had about 100 feet of the unmasking scene from The Phantom of the Opera that I'd probably gotten mail order. We may have tried to find stills before resorting to this process.
More recently, John Benson made a scholarly study of the naturalistic romance comics created by writer Dana Dutch for St. John Publications during the 1950s. To probe the period, he interviewed Leonard Starr, Joe Kubert, editor Irwin Stein (later the publisher of Lancer Books) and others. This material stretches over two Fantagraphics Books, Romance Without Tears
(2003) and Confessions, Romances, Secrets and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics
(2007). Some of this can be read using "look inside" at Amazon.
In a switch from girls to ghouls, Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s
, co-edited by John Benson and Greg Sadowski, will be published next month by Fantagraphics. It features work by Bernard Baily, Jack Cole, L.B. Cole, Steve Ditko, William Eckgren, George Evans, Matt Fox, Frank Frazetta, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton and Wallace Wood.
The Four Color Fear
front cover is a montage of art by Reed Crandall ("The Corpse That Came to Dinner", inked by Mile Peppe, Out of the Shadows
9) and Howard Nostrand ("I, Vampire", Chamber of Chills
24). How many books have ever been published with the word "Free" on the front cover? Also note the tiny figure at the foot of the curving staircase around the giant vat of blood for industrialized vampires. The title design is curious. Yellow type vanishes into a white background, and magenta was never used in four-color comics; it was mixed with yellow to make the familiar comic-book red. Oddly, it looks like a can of paint one might find at Home Depot, but maybe that adds to the surreal midnight snack.
Angelo Torres used movie palace historian Ben M. Hall's The Best Remaining Seats
(Clarkson N. Potter, 1961) for reference on old theaters. At the time, that was the only book with photos and color architectural renderings of the 1920s movie palaces.
Theaters named Alhambra were quite common. According to Cinema Treasures
, there once were more than 50. Most of these have been demolished, and today there are less than ten.
The horror of "Scream Test!" pales in comparison with what happened to Ben Hall. He lived at 181 Christopher Street near the Hudson River in the former offices of a steamship company. With an elaborate gold eagle door knocker and a colorful umbrella table on the rooftop, it was a distinctive building, and the 49-year-old Hall was murdered there December 1970. For more about Ben Hall and the Theatre Historical Society of America (which Hall founded), see this article by Steve Levin
On March 11, 1927, the opening night film at New York's Roxy Theatre was The Love of Sunya
starring Gloria Swanson. When the Roxy was demolished 33 years later, Swanson stood in the ruins October 14, 1960 for Life
photographer Eliot Elisofon.
Labels: archer st. john, beacon, ben hall, ben oda, crandall, creepy, gloria swanson, john benson, magle, memoir, nostrand, roxy, sadowski, torres