Thursday, March 13, 2014

MENACE #1-11 (Mar/53 - May/54)

Back in 2009 I wrote the introduction to Marvel's hard cover reprint of the prototypical Atlas pre-code horror title Menace. Marvel published the series in their then ongoing Atlas Masterworks line. The volume turned out wonderful, a "done-in-one" volume that was hopefully one of a steady-stream of varied Atlas reprint volumes (where the source material is endless!). Alas, except for the somewhat ongoing, bi-annual Strange Tales, Journey Into Mystery and Jungle Girl volumes (which also have seemingly nearly ground to a halt), no further branching into the rich breadth of Atlas material has come forth. 

I'm going to present an updated and slightly expanded version my original unedited introduction laced with cover images, select interior images, a few stories and possibly some new observations made about the stories and the contemporary history since the piece was written in July of 2009. Readers should realize that the essay deals primarily with the Masterworks volume of issues #1-11 published in 2009, not the actual individual Atlas comics themselves in general, although there's really no difference in 98% of the commentary other than references to already published contemporary Masterworks volumes and creators found therein. I'll update a handful of the contemporary references, but will leave most of it untouched. Originally, this piece ran under the title THE HISTORY OF ATLAS HORROR/FANTASY : PRE-CODE 1953-54 : MENACE, which corresponded to my ongoing examination of the Atlas horror titles across several Masterworks volume introductions, in what we all thought was going to be (sigh...) an extensive ongoing series.  

If you don't have the collection above, it's probably still available in comic shops, discounted at Tales of or, and worth every penny, as mid-grade copies of the original comics will set you back well over $1000 to acquire issues #1-11. The cover scans below are my personal original copies of the actual comics. No full reprinting of issues will be presented and minimal complete stories shown due to the fact that you should support the series by purchasing the book.

So without any further digression, I present....

MENACE #1-11

If there is one title that epitomizes a reader’s view of what constitutes Atlas pre-code horror, it is the singular title Menace.  In a newsstand sea of Atlas horror titles sporting all manner of nefariously descriptive sobriquets (“Marvel”, “Mystic”, “Mystery”, “Uncanny”, “Strange”, “Suspense”, “Weird”, “Terror” and “Unknown), the most intriguingly riveting, most impendingly foreboding of them all, was “Menace“.

We’re taking a trip off the beaten path now, once again branching laterally off the Atlas timeline. We've already looked at the first 40-50 issues of Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery in the Atlas Masterworks line, taking us from cover date June/51 (S.T. #1) to Apr/57 (S.T. #57).  These two titles would ultimately continue on through the decade into the Marvel age of the 1960’s. Menace, our first new, short-run, strictly “Atlas” title in our survey (as opposed to ST & JIM reaching the Marvel period), covers the same ground as the recently examined Journey Into Mystery #6-15.  There was one big difference though between the two title spans, Stan Lee.

The history of Menace is tied in with the history of the Atlas title Suspense, which began as a two-issue crime comic book sporting photo covers in late 1949. Suspense #1’s cover had a vintage black and white photo of Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet in a scene from the 1946 film “The Verdict”.  

These crime issues reached the stands at the same time that Timely’s first horror title, Amazing Mysteries, changed format from horror to crime for its final 2 issues, also sporting photo covers.  With Suspense #3 (May/50), the content changed to reflect the blossoming horror field, and it’s interesting to note that Amazing Mysteries started as horror and changed to crime while Suspense started as crime and changed to horror, showing Martin Goodman’s penchant for indiscriminate mixing and matching on a whim. Like a bloodhound following a scent, if he sniffed a change in the newsstand air, all he did was shuffle the deck and deal out the cards again in a different pattern, hoping to get a better hand the second or third time.

Suspense was a licensed title that blared on the cover of the first 8 issues “based on the gripping CBS radio-television series!”, and notable for the fact that many issues of the run, more than half, were thick 52 page issues, issues #1-8 and then #17-23. This gave the reader a lot of value for his dime and one of the main reasons Suspense is well-known as a literal cornucopia of Atlas pre-code horror.

The early issues of Suspense sported some of the earliest cover artwork of Joe Maneely’s career (#4, #5) and story art by Atlas royalty : Gene Colan (#2, #3, #4, #8, #9), Joe Maneely (#3, #5), John Buscema (#4), Bernie Krigstein (#5), Bill Everett (#5, #6), Dick Briefer (#5, #7) and Russ Heath (#5, #6, #8, #10).  By issue #11 (Nov/51) we see the first historic pairing of Stan Lee and Joe Maneely on the story “Haunted!”.  This also happens to be the very first pre-code horror script by Stan, who earlier had dipped into the “weird menace/murder mystery genre via the book-length “Fear in the Night!” in Complete Mystery #3 (Dec/48). 

As the horror genre took root at Timely and flourished from late 1949 through 1952, Stan Lee was at the helm of the largest comic book company, title wise, in the industry.  His main duties were piloting the day to day navigational course of Martin Goodman's mammoth newsstand behemoth by supervising sub-editors, scripting humor features for the teen books and plotting a great deal of this same material for others.  By the end of 1951 and into early 1952, Stan Lee-scripted horror stories began to pepper one book after another in titles like Astonishing, Mystic, Uncanny Tales, Strange Tales, Spellbound, Adventures Into Weird Worlds, Adventures Into Terror, Marvel Tales, Mystery Tales, and by cover date July/52, Suspense #20.

The editorship of the horror titles is now worth looking into. I have in my possession several original typed pre-code horror scripts by writer Burt Frohman. What is notable about them is that some are addressed to “Hank Chapman, Editor, c/o Timely Comics, Inc.”.  Chapman was a voluminous war comics scribe for Timely who wrote and signed stories from 1950 to the end of 1953 on features like Combat Casey, Combat Kelly and Battle Brady, as well as tons of war filler stories.  In addition to a smattering of horror, romance and crime, Chapman seemingly ended his Timely tenure writing issue #3 of Speed Carter Spaceman. Much earlier, Chapman was a member of the Funnies Inc. shop and helped write numerous early Timely hero stories including the epic Human Torch/Submariner battle in the early 1940’s. Timely staff artist Marion Sitton recalled to me numerous instances of Chapman visiting the Timely offices in 1949 to drop off scripts and confer with Stan Lee and various artists.  So in addition to all the scripting above, Chapman was also one of the editors of the horror line of titles, a line that by early 1953 included often as many as 13 horror releases a month.

By Suspense #20, it becomes apparent that there is more than one horror editor and Stan Lee is now at the helm of this particular title. Stan has one story in #20 and by #21 he institutes a letter page called ”Suspense Sanctuary”, which will appear in nearly all issues through #28, except for #24 (Nov/52). For an 8 month period between cover months Aug/52 and Apr/53, Stan Lee attempts a "real" letter page in titles he was directly editing. The letter page has an editor byline at the bottom but upon a close look, it becomes fairly obvious many letters are planted. #21 has a letter by a Burt Loman (Burt Frohman?) and Carl Winters (Chick Winter?), #22 and #23 have letters by a “Lester Keyes (thinly veiled Goodman Marvel Science Stories pulp associate editor and some-time horror/sci-fi comic writer Dan Keyes) as well as by "S. Martin" (completely transparent as Stan Lee, considering the address is Woodmere, Long Island!)

SUSPENSE #23 (Oct/52)

The missing Nov/52 letter page (missing from #24) is found instead in My Own Romance #25 (which also has a letter page in #24, Sept/52) and this letter page has a letter from a Joan Clayton from Newcastle on Tyne, England (Stan Lee’s wife, Joan!).  Stan even tries a letter page on the war title Battlefield, placing "Battlefield Bivouac" in issue #4 (Oct/52). All three letter page experiments appeared around the same time and possessed the same format and design. All would vanish shortly after appearing, the longest lasting being "Suspense Sanctuary", with 8 appearances into 1953.

MY OWN ROMANCE #25 (Nov/52)

Overall, the letter pages are fun and Stan sports the same snappy patter he will use in the future on early Marvel letter pages and Bullpen Bulletin pages.  Stan was trying to give this title its own unique feel as it was the only horror title to possess an ongoing letter page. 

Stan Lee will have single scripted stories in #20 and #21.  By #23, the last 52 page issue, Stan will have three stories and three also in #24.  There is one in #26, two in #28 and three in #29, the last issue of the title.  Out of the scores and scores of freelancers coming through the Timely/Atlas line of titles, Stan is primarily working with a small core of favorite artists in these final issues, names long familiar to us like Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, Fred Kida, John Romita, Carmine Infantino, Jerry Robinson and George Tuska. 

The influence of Bill Gaines’ E.C. line now becomes enormous.  Stan was quite aware of what was going on in the industry and what his competition was doing.  E.C., under Gaines and artist/editor Al Feldstein, was arguably the industry leader in terms of unsurpassed quality both editorially and creatively.  E.C. used their small cadre of artists to extreme advantage, tailoring unique artistic styles to specific story settings and plots. While Stan may not have been quite so particular, he was certainly willing to try to give E.C. a run for its money.  He would  take over an entire book and do it all himself, like Feldstein did, with his own small group of top-line artists. First though, he needed a title, and the title was not going to be Suspense, which was due to be shelved. The title required would be a new title, Menace, and it would debut one month before Suspense ended.

Suspense was cancelled with issue #29 (Apr/53).  The logical reason could be that Martin Goodman got fed up with paying the license fees. Although the reference to the radio and television show had not appeared on the cover since #8, two whole years earlier, the indicia through #29 states a copyright by the Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. 

(The original licenses for Suspense, My Friend Irma and Casey Crime Photographer, were set up by Arthur Perles, brother of Goodman's business lawyer Jerry Perles, in his capacity as Assistant Director of CBS publicity in 1950. Arthur Perles's connection to Goodman goes back even further to 1936, where he was editor on Goodman's short-lived True Crime Magazine pulp.)

A close look at the Atlas line also shows that at the moment Suspense was jettisoned, two other horror titles immediately changed from monthly to bi-monthly, Astonishing and Spellbound.  The following month (May) saw Men's Adventures change genre content from war to horror. Goodman was tinkering with titles and genres, attempting to leverage readers’ interest away from competitor’s titles towards his own.  With newsstand rack space and title visibility being crucial, covers were becoming more shocking and boundaries were being pushed across the industry. 

Right before the very last story Suspense would ever publish in issue #29 (Apr/53), there was a full page ad heralding Atlas’ newest, recently released horror title, Menace. The copy at the top blared “In These Pages are the Most Unusual, Terrifying Tales Ever Told!!!”  The copy at the middle of the ad roared America’s Newest and Greatest Weird Stories!”  And the banner across the bottom read “Tales of Maddening Menace”.  Right smack dab in the middle was the cover to Menace #1 for readers to see for the very first time one of the most horrific pre-code horror cover images of the era, illustrated in all its gruesome glory by the great Bill Everett.

Menace was published by Martin Goodman's Hercules Publishing Corp. and ran a total of 11 issues. The most standout issues were the first six with Bill Everett covers. Taking the aforementioned cue from E.C., Stan culled from an enormous freelance artist pool and pulled together a small group of his absolute favorite artistic collaborators : Bill Everett, George Tuska, Werner Roth, Russ Heath, Joe Sinnott, John Romita, Joe Maneely, Fred Kida, Gene Colan and Syd Shores.  It’s no surprise nearly all of these artists would one day reappear again to collaborate with Stan Lee in the Marvel age. Over the course of the first seven monthly issues, utilizing these same ten artists over and over (and super favorites Everett and Heath in the first 6 and 8 issues respectively),  Stan would script “every” story himself (something unheard of before in Atlas horror), gearing his stories to mild, often predictable shock-ending, O. Henry type finales in the very last panels.  Each of the first seven issues would only feature four stories, a long 7-pager, a 6 pager and two 5 pagers. Issue #8 would feature two final stories by Stan and then it was over. Stan Lee was through with horror.  His byline would not physically appear on a horror or fantasy story until his collaboration with Steve Ditko in the pre-hero period, starting cover date Oct/61. 

Did Stan see what was on the horizon as pro-Wertham magazine articles and rumblings became commonplace and more frequent?  

I covered the Wertham era in great detail here and here:

Wertham part 1

Wertham part 2

Was Stan worried about having his name being attached to material so reviled by “family” oriented segments of society?  He and Joe Maneely had already parodied such foolishness in the final issue of Suspense with “The Raving Maniac”, a quick jab struck back in the name of  common sense and reason.

Following this, without batting an eye, he seemingly barreled ahead and immediately thrust forth Menace as a counter response. Perhaps the answer is that he was just burned out on horror and when sales stalled due to natural (or unnatural) attrition bolstered by societal pressures, he retrenched and fell back on his forte`, westerns, teen humor and light comedy titles, which were always stronger sellers anyway.

With the publication of issue #8, Menace goes on hiatus (possibly cancelled) for three months and reappears to finish bi-monthly with the addition of several artists outside the core 10 mentioned above. Its termination with issue #11 comes at a time when Martin Goodman is reorganizing his horror line-up in response to the stepped-up pressure being exerted by pro-Wertham forces and Seduction of the Innocent, published in the Spring of 1954. Simultaneously, Adventures Into Terror is also cancelled and within a month likewise is Adventures Into Weird Worlds and Spellbound, although the latter will be brought back 16 months later as a post-code title.

As I lay out the contents of Menace below, for the benefit of those joining us for the first time, I’m going to re-visit the artists I've already discussed (in other Atlas Masterworks editions) in spite of the fact that all save two in issue #11, we've seen their work reprinted before. A lot of what follows will be, in addition to discussion of the story plots, also will consist of mini-biographical Timely/Atlas histories of the artists involved. Hopefully this will flesh out their careers for readers not a familiar with their lesser known work of the period.

MENACE #1 (Mar/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#C-169 "One Head Too Many!" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art
     TEXT STORY #C-281 "Quest" (2 pages)
#C-189 "The Man Who Couldn't Move" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, George Tuska art
#C-188 "Poor Mr. Watkins" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Werner Roth art
#C-190 "They Wait In Their ... Dungeon!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art

The debut issue of Menace hit the stands like a visual bombshell. Bill Everett turns in quite possibly the most horrific Atlas horror cover of all time. Set in a graveyard scene, this stunning cover portrays a large image of what appears to be a reeking, rotting, moss covered, two-headed corpse. Behind this are two additional similar two-headed abominations rising from graves to startle a well-dressed walking young couple and grabbing their feet in an icy grip. Why is the couple walking in a graveyard at night? It’s not important. The cover is pre-code horror at its finest.  Large gruesome images, horrified onlookers, all a shocking attention grabber for perusing newsstand readers. This is the first of 6 straight covers Everett will draw and all 6 issues will feature his stories, often as the issue’s lead tale. 

The lead Everett story in #1 is the 7-page cover story, “One Head Too Many”.  It becomes obvious that Everett drew this cover before the actual story was written because this story is a science fiction tale featuring a secret invasion by green two-headed Martians! No corpses, no graveyards, just a twist-ending plot that will be used again with Steve Ditko in Journey Into Mystery #93 (June/63), “I Saw A Martian!”.  Stan’s narrative propels the story along nicely and Everett’s lush artwork is a joy to behold, fluidly flowing eerily from panel to panel in a loose, cartooney rhythm.

Bill Everett started his career in the late 1930’s at Centaur and became art director for Lloyd Jacquet’s Funnies Inc. shop, creating the Sub-Mariner, used first for an ill-fated giveaway comic book Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, and then for Martin Goodman’s first foray into comic books, Marvel Comics #1.  Everett’s gorgeously fluid artwork graced the Sub-Mariner and The Fin until he went into the service, returning to Timely later in the decade and picking up where he left off. In the 1950’s, along with Joe Maneely, Everett was one of the most important artists Stan Lee had in his Atlas stable, drawing in all genres : romance, war, western, crime, even funny animal, but most notably in the pre-code horror titles, where he turned in some of the most visually chilling covers and stories of the period.  In addition, Everett depicted the adventures of Namora, Marvel Boy, Venus and returned to his godchild, the Sub-Mariner, in the mid 1950’s during the Atlas hero revival.  Everett worked for Stan Lee up to the Atlas implosion in the spring of 1957 and then went on to Cracked and ultimately advertising art including working for a greeting card company.

Everett reappeared in the Marvel age, co-creating Daredevil, drawing the Incredible Hulk in Tales to Astonish and other features, occasionally inking artists like Jack Kirby (spelling Vince Colletta on Thor) and then once again drew the Sub-Mariner, before passing away in 1973.  Bill Everett, one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, is totally under-appreciated today.  His horror work is on par with anything ever done at EC and it is only the lack of Atlas critical scrutiny over the years, scrutiny deservingly given to EC,  that has kept him from being as appreciated as a Graham Ingels or a Wally Wood.

The second story is drawn by industry veteran and future Iron Man artist George Tuska.  A predictable, yet enjoyable tale of murder and comeuppance.  One thing very noticeable in the dialogue spoken by characters in this story is how colloquial slang and speech patterns of thugs and tough guys sound almost exactly like the voices of the Marvel age Ben Grimm and Sgt. Nick Fury, seen later over Jack Kirby’s stunning visuals and storytelling.  It’s actually quite uncanny. 

Tuska, an Eisner/Iger and Chesler shop alumni from as far back as 1939, freelanced for Stan Lee from 1949 to 1957 in all genres except humor.  His Atlas character features included Rocky Jordan  in Private Eye, Clark Mason in Spy Fighters, Doug Grant in Spy Cases, Rex Lane in Young Men, Man-oo The Mighty in Jungle Tales, Greg Knight in Lorna The Jungle Girl, Captain Jet Dixon in Space Squadron, Speed Carter in Speed carter Spaceman, a turn on Two-Gun Kid in Black Rider and Wild Western, and Black Rider in Two-Gun Kid.  Prior to that, and concurrently, he worked for practically “every” comic book publisher in the industry and is considered one of the most prolific artists of all time. One of his specialties was gritty crime comics and he did superlative work for Lev Gleason in that regard, as well as in Atlas titles like All-True Crime, Amazing Detective Cases, Crime Can't Win, Crime Cases, Crime Exposed, Crime Must Lose and Justice Comics

Werner Roth is next on a weak tale about a prankster who gets what’s coming to him. The story starts off fun but the telegraphed ending is poorly executed.  

Roth was a fabulous stylist whose work for Stan Lee goes back to 1950 on tiles as diverse as Reno Brown and Venus.  He worked everywhere and drew tons of genre filler stories including 14 great romance stories from 1952 to 1956, two scripted by Stan Lee, in titles like My Own Romance, Love Tales, Lovers, True tales of Love, Girl Confessions and Actual Confessions.  Without a doubt, he did his finest work on Atlas character features. He drew Captain Jet Dixon in Space Squadron for three issues following George Tuska in 1951. In the westerns he drew the gunfighter Matt Slade and Kid Slade, as well as being the long-time artist on The Apache Kid, his greatest western character.  But even that takes a back seat to Roth’s masterpiece, Lorna, The Jungle Girl

On Lorna, Roth went all out depicting the pre-code adventures of the buxom Atlas jungle queen.  His stories were stylized, exciting and a heck of a lot of fun.  Lorna’s “figure” was decimated by the comics code so definitely look to the pre-code stories for the best introduction to Roth’s good-girl rendering. After the code, Lorna’s bust was toned down and  Roth left the feature, turning it over to Jay Scott Pike who drew it solo for a while and then only penciling it for Chris Rule.  Roth never signed his work throughout the 1950’s yet his artwork is unmistakable to the trained eye.  Readers who only know Roth through his later X-Men penciling are in for a treat as his greatest inker was always himself.  Finally, Roth was notorious for putting decorative boxes and borders around the job numbers on the splash page.  While this story lacks such a border, I’m betting he drew the scroll around the splash page copy and Stan Lee’s signature!

The final story to this debut issue is a neat little tale about abused convicts finally getting revenge on their brutal prison warden.  The art is by Russ Heath, one of Stan Lee’s favorite artists who will have nine stories in this short-run title including one in each of the first eight straight issues. 

Heath was nearly unsurpassable in his ability to depict dark, brooding and grim hopelessness, and was one of the top three Atlas cover artists of this period, joining Bill Everett and Joe Maneely.  He began at Timely in 1948 and broke in on westerns like Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, Rex Hart and Arizona Kid.  By the time the bullpen closed down Heath was freelancing all over the place on pre-code horror and tons of war stories across every title Atlas published.  His work petered out in the post-code period as he was working primarily for National but did do a fair amount of humor work in the Mad magazine clones Crazy, Wild and Riot, as well as in the first issue of the Mad Magazine copycat Snafu.  Heath returned to Stan for a tiny handful of pre-hero stories in 1959 and 1960. I asked Russ last year about his recollections of this period and his answer was that while he enjoyed the work, he had no real preference between horror and other genres.  He enjoyed them all equally.

At the end of the last story Stan Lee, looking for feedback, asks the reader what he/she thought of the first issue of Menace and asked for letters of comment with the obvious intention of once again running a letter page.  He then makes the extraordinary offer that “every” letter writer would receive “... a picture of “The Men With Two Heads” … autographed by artist Bill Everett.” This would have been some sort of autographed print of the cover to Menace #1!  As far as I know, no copy of one of these premiums has ever turned up to this day.  Asking Stan Lee about this recently, he didn't recall exactly what the
premium was but was pretty sure if the offer was made, copies certainly were sent out.

MENACE #2 (Apr/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#C-289 "The Man in Black" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, George Tuska art
      TEXT STORY #C-368 "Fair Exchange" (2 pages)
#C-288 "Burton's Blood!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art
#C-298? "Rocket To The Moon" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Sinnott art
#C-287 "On With The Dance!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art

Issue #2 starts off with a skeletal-themed graveyard cover by Menace cover artist Bill Everett, depicting his own story inside, “Burton’s Blood”.  The image is of a man tied to a stake in a graveyard while a skeletal, vampiric menace approaches and hooded skeletal  specters watch from the background. Along the left side of the cover are three story-title boxes with illustrated vignettes of the stories inside.  

The first story, “The Man In Black”, is a cold war communist spy thriller by George Tuska without any supernatural elements, yet the cover box sports a shrouded man dressed in black within a graveyard setting! Once again, obviously, the covers are drawn before the artist knows what the stories are even about, seemingly basing the images on the titles alone. 

The second story, “Burton’s Blood”, is Bill Everett’s cover story entry this issue and the tale, while a vampire story, has nothing to do with the cover depicted.  The plot involves a vampire who survives a nuclear war only to wake up in the future and realize, to his dismay and doom, that only robots have survived! In my opinion, a perfect post-apocalyptic comeuppance. Everett's artwork is fantastic and slickly rendered. The perfect melding of pre-code horrific rubbery cartooniness!

Next is a story is by Atlas mainstay Joe Sinnott, “Rocket To The Moon”. In this pedestrian tale a timid scientist, terrorized by his boss, secretly builds a rocket to reach the moon. Under cover of night, the jealous boss sneaks aboard and blasts off alone seeking fame and fortune, only to find out the trip was a planned one way trip!  

Joe Sinnott began his career ghosting for artist Tom Gill on Red Warrior and Kent Blake and in his Atlas tenure drew hundreds of stories in every genre including character features like, Rick Davis in Spy Thrillers, Iron Mike McGraw in Marines in Battle, Devil Dog Dugan and The Kid From Texas. His greatest Atlas character feature was the western Arrowhead, both in his own four issue run, and as a back-up in Wild Western, Black Rider and Ringo Kid #1.

#E-922 ARROWHEAD #4 (Nov/54) p.1

Arrowhead was spectacularly drawn and possibly Sinnott‘s finest work of the 1950‘s, depicting the adventures of the courageous Native American hero. With almost 20 installments, it would make wonderful reprint compilation. Sinnott would bridge into the pre-hero period, dabble on early Journey Into Mystery Thor stories in 1962-63 and then become arguably Jack Kirby’s greatest inker in the Marvel age, setting a “house” super-hero inking style that lasted for decades and would influence countless other inkers.

The last story is by Russ Heath, “On With The Dance”.  Stella Stevens, a cold, selfish and calculating show-girl, picks the wrong dancer to strong-arm, a witch, who condemns her to dance for all eternity.  With crisp and clear storytelling, Heath turns in a satisfying job, except the end loses its impact when the witch is ridiculously shown on a broom in the last panel. 

Stan would re-use this plot several times in the pre-hero period, with Steve Ditko, “For Whom The Drum Beats!” in Tales To Astonish #22 (Aug/61), and with Don Heck, “Dance, You Fool” in Tales To Astonish #34 (Aug/62). All three stories have exactly the same plot.

Once again, at the end of the last story, editor Stan Lee beseeches the reader to write in with comments, this time offering the 100 most interesting letters an autographed free picture of “The Man In Black” by artist George Tuska. This changes my thoughts now.  Last issue’s offer was the cover story so the assumption was Stan offering a print of the cover.  This issue’s offer was not the cover story, yet Stan made the same offer, presumably a print of the Tuska splash page, unless both Tuska and Everett were doing specialty drawings for this offer. 

MENACE #3 (May/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#C-608 "Men In Black" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, John Romita art
     TEXT STORY #C-461 "The Urge to Kill" (2 pages) 
#C-482 "Werewolf!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art
     TEXT ILLO. from #A-644 splash in Strange Tales #9 (Aug/50) by Marty Elkin
#C-607 "Rodeo!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art
#C-323 "You're Gonna Live Forever" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Maneely art

Bill Everett starts off issue #3 with a werewolf cover depicting an unseen woman holding a shotgun to the creature at the front door.  John Romita draws the first story, “Men in Black”, a definite nod to the occasional socially conscious E.C. stories.  This is a tale about bigotry as an “American” is incensed that he is fired from his job by a “foreigner”, blaming all “foreigners” for every bad break he’s had in his life.  Organizing a “black-hooded” mob, he goes to seek his xenophobic revenge, only to fall victim to his own psychosis, in a satisfying E.C. ending, an ending I won’t spoil here.  As before, the cover box of this story has no similarity at all, depicting two silhouetted black-hatted men in a cemetery. 

John Romita was out of the Caniff school, starting out his Atlas career ghosting stories for artist Les Zakarin in 1951, one of which we’ve already seen in Strange Tales #3.  Romita drew almost 200 stories for Stan Lee between 1951 and 1957 in all genres as well as character features like Jungle Boy in Jungle Action, The Crusader in Black Knight, The Jungle Adventures of Greg Knight in Lorna The Jungle Girl, a long, definitive run on Western Kid and Captain America during the Atlas superhero revival in Captain America, Men's Adventures, and Young Men.  After a long stint drawing hundreds of romance stories for National from the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s, he returned to Marvel, first drawing Daredevil and then following Steve Ditko on the Amazing Spider-Man, his signature character.

Bill Everett’s cover story “Werewolf!” is next. Nicely rendered, the cover actually is spot on depicting a climatic scene from this story.  Nothing spectacular story-wise, just another boilerplate werewolf story. The illustration accompanying the text story this issue is a panel drawn by Marty Elkin from the story “The Strange Game” in Strange Tales #9.

Next we have “Rodeo”, a predictable take on unrequited love, rodeo-style, beautifully executed by Russ Heath.  In five quick pages Lee and Heath set up the plot… Clown loves girl, girl loves cowboy, clown plans “accident” for cowboy, accident happens to clown instead.  Simple and predictable, yet elegant!

Our final story this issue is the first by Joe Maneely, Atlas’ most prolific artist of the 1950’s, on the seven page “You’re Gonna Live Forever”.  In a briskly paced tale, a harried fugitive hides out in a scientist’s lab where he drinks an elixir that will allow him to live forever.  Totally invulnerable, neither bullets, nor automobiles, can kill him.  Heading down south to cool his heels and plan his next move, fate steps in.

Joe Maneely was to Atlas what Jack Kirby was to Marvel, and his accomplishments in the 1950’s are too voluminous to list here.  For a nice overview of his career, I’ll recommend  a 12 page biography I wrote in the recently published Black Knight / Yellow Claw
Masterworks.  The reason Menace somewhat suffers a dearth of Joe Maneely stories, especially during the Stan Lee scripted issues, is explained by the fact that simultaneous to the launch of this title, Joe was the artist on the Combat Kelly feature, drawing 40 pages alone in the two months preceding and concurrent to Menace #1. After Joe’s story in issue Menace #5, he immediately began work on Speed Carter, Spaceman, where he drew the entire first three issues coinciding with the publication of Menace #7-9.  This was in addition to over 20 other genre stories and at least 12 covers.  Quite simply, even Joe Maneely had physical limitations!

For the third straight issue, The book ends with a request by Stan Lee for letters of comment.  Stan also leaves a hint for readers to look for a particular character in one of the stories of the next issue, a character called “The Madman”. 

MENACE #4 (June/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#C-814 "A Vampire Is Born" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Fred Kida art
#C-753? "Escape To The Moon!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art
     TEXT STORY #C-520 "The Scheming Woman" (2 pages)
#C-807 "Genius!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Maneely art
#C-683 "The Madman (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art

Bill Everett, once again, graces the cover of issue #4, depicting “The Four-Armed Man!”. The first story is a real treat.  Stan Lee and Fred Kida tell the story, completely in narrative form without dialogue, of an old vampire struggling to survive in a world where townspeople are not as frightened as before, choosing to fight back with silver bullets and sharp stakes. Taking on human form, he enters and hides in eastern European society, rises in prominence and ultimately gains power of the country, finally revealed to be….. Well, read the story yourself after you buy the book! I won’t spoil it!

Fred Kida was a master of dark, impending gloom. His characters always wore grim expressions and rarely did they display any outward emotion.  Kida drew tons of  Atlas genre stories in every genre throughout the decade, including five romance stories.  He was very busy drawing character features including Two-Gun Kid (when the character was revived with #11 in 1953, after a four year hiatus).

Kida also drew Waku, Prince of the Bantu in Jungle Tales and Jann of the Jungle, Willie The Wise-Guy, and following Joe Maneely on Ringo Kid in Ringo Kid and Wild Western, and The Black Knight.  Kida, at some point, was possibly on staff in the post-code period, part of a friendly, close-knit group consisting of Kida, Joe Maneely, John Severin, Bill Everett and Stan Goldberg.

Russ Heath follows on a tale of cold war spy intrigue with a sci-fi twist, “Escape to the Moon”, a story that ends on a somewhat sophomoric note and may have been better suited for one of the Atlas spy titles like Spy Cases.  

The third story is Joe Maneely’s “Genius!”, a story I recall being reprinted in the 1970’s in one of Marvel’s horror reprint titles.  A child genius grows up, arrogantly looking down on “regular” humanity, ultimately becoming bored with his life.  When contacted telepathically by a superior female brain from Saturn (with an accompanying gorgeous image of the brain’s owner), he uses his fortune to build a rocket to join her, only to be shocked by what is under her mask.  A silly story admirably drawn in Joe Maneely’s inimitable style.  Note that Joe draws Stan Lee into the story on the splash page as the child genius’ father! This is the same caricature of Stan that Joe drew in Suspense #29’s “The Raving Maniac”. Hell, any horror comic with both Joe Maneely "and" Bill Everett is worth 10 times the price of admission!

The fourth issue ends with Bill Everett’s cover story “The Madman” (titled “The Four-Armed Man“ on the cover), as previewed by Stan Lee at the end of issue #3.  In a creepy tale of a dark, decrepit insane asylum, a pretty young nurse begins her new job working for a gaunt, elderly doctor.  One of the patients deemed pathologically insane (and forbidden for her to speak to) shouts over and over about having seen four-armed men from under the earth plotting to overthrow humanity.  After sneaking off to see him, the last panel sports a surprise and Everett renders eerily dark and grotesque visual narrative against a foreboding, bleak setting.  

Never one to let a good plot go un-reused, Stan will repeat this exact same story, pretty young nurse and all, with Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers in Tales to Astonish #26 (Dec/61), “Look Out!! Here Come The …Four-Armed Men!!”, this time likely scripted by Larry Lieber, utilizing Stan’s original story/plot.  This re-hash cannot hold a candle to Bill Everett’s original treasure. 

Stan ends the issue again requesting letters of comment on all the stories and previews the next issue #5’s highlight, “The Zombie”, showing that he was plotting and writing stories well in advance of publication.

MENACE #5 (July/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#C-952 "Zombie!" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art
     TEXT STORY #9687 "Mind Over Matter" (2 pages) 
#C-999 "Crack-Down!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Maneely art
     TEXT ILLO. unknown Dick Ayers panel
#C-968 "Nightmare!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, George Tuska art
#C-969 "Rocket Ship!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art

Menace #5 is probably the single most notable Atlas pre-code horror issue of all. Stan Lee has now perfected his simple, basic, descriptive narrative technique, and together with Bill Everett, are both at the height of their pre-code talents.  First there is the starkly gripping cover.  We’ve already seen various depictions of familiar horror characters like animated skeletons, vampires and werewolves. Now blaring across the middle of the cover is the solitary word “Zombie!”, and Everett renders a horrific, wasted, emaciated corpse-like abomination bursting through the surface of a nighttime city street to the shock and horror of stunned pedestrians.  Though not graphic to the extent issue #1’s cover was, this image is incredibly jarring it its effect.

Inside, the first image seen is an Everett splash page depicting a shot of the zombie standing solemnly amidst a fetid swamp.  Stan’s hyperbole at the top of the page informs the reader that he/she … “ is about to read a tale which is simply, merely the greatest!”.  The story is a simple one, for the first time in history a zombie rebels against his master, and with good reason (which I won’t reveal here).  Without having to resort to horrific graphics, Everett’s storytelling paces Lee’s narration (written as a full script) to a poignant conclusion.  The story is a perfect meshing of plot, mood and setting.  Everett’s artwork is fantastic, inked in a slick manner, yet the artwork is much tighter than his usual  renderings.  He has taken greater pains on this story and languished the panels with incredible beauty and characterization. His characters are fully conceived from the moment they appear in panels. You know the Zombie master’s personality and motivations from his initial image. It’s all right there. 

Here is a scan of the splash from my own original issue of Menace #5, slightly cleaned up by myself...

Here's the entire story cleaned up and restored for the Masterworks volume. While some have not taken kindly to the modern coloring used in the masterworks, I think the story below looks fantastic!

“Zombie!” was the apex of both creators’ pre-code horror work, a genre soon to be short-circuited by the advent of the comics code. Yet, the "Zombie" would live again.  Flash forward exactly 20 years. Marvel editor Roy Thomas was in the midst of a full-fledged horror revival both in the four color comics (Werewolf by NightTomb of DraculaGhost Rider) and the black and white magazines (Dracula LivesVampire Tales).  Together with writer Steve Gerber, the Zombie was revived and given a name (Simon Garth) and his own black and white magazine, Tales of the Zombie, lasting 11 issues from 1973 to 1975. 

The first issue featured a beautiful painted cover by famed fantasy cover artist Boris Vallejo and story art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer, fleshing out the back-story of all three main characters from the original Lee/Everett Atlas gem.  

Following part one of this new debut story, the original Everett 7-pager is reprinted, time-lined to follow the events in the opening tale (and will be reprinted a third time in the final issue, an annual, #11). Strangely, the Everett gem, while reprinted in black and white, has a page 2 in two-tone black and green. I checked this against a second copy I have of this issue and it's the same in both. Inexplicably, a handful of other pages in the book similarly have this weird green-tone coloring effect. 

Further, Marvel in the 1970's touched up the artwork (changing hair and eyes) and even changed exposition and dialogue from the original story to update continuity towards the now ongoing series with a backstory. Even the image of Simon Garth's daughter was re-drawn, turning her from a brunette in the original Everett story to a blonde in the new series (including re-drawing the panel to reflect this in the reprint). Garth's hair is also changed from slick 1950's short, to a mangy-long 1970's style.

Then the second part of the debut story concludes at the end of the book with artwork by John Buscema again, this time assisted by Syd Shores. Horror stories, both new and Atlas reprints, filled out the rest of the magazine and this format would persist throughout the run. Simon Garth, “The Zombie!”, has since secured a fixture of sorts in the Marvel universe.

The second story this issue is another tale illustrated by Joe Maneely, his second.   Up above the story title Stan once again writes a little intro but not before letting his readers know that “Zombie!” is predicted to become… “a masterpiece of comic art and script!”.  “Crack-Down!” is a neat little ironic yarn about a senate investigation of crime, an underworld mob boss, a nickel-and-dime crook, and a shock ending,  Maneely’s gritty inking lends itself to coarse depictions of unsavory characters quite nicely.  The text illustration accompanying the text story is a panel from an unidentified Dick Ayers story.

Our third story gives us one final look at George Tuska artwork in this title, “Nightmare!”  A murderer with a guilty conscience keeps having the same recurring nightmare about the man he killed.  

An editor’s note at the end of this story notes the lack of a letter page allegedly requested by readers.  Stan assures us every letter is read by him and that he’d rather give an extra page of story instead.  Is this the real reason no letter page ever appeared in spite of repeated requests over the first 4 issues for letters of commentary?  We’ll never know for certain.

Russ Heath rounds out the issue with a science fiction tale “Rocket Ship!”. Beautifully drawn, in the year 2005, mankind attempts to ease Earth’s overpopulation by traveling to colonize Venus, to disastrous results.  The issue ends with a preview of a ghost story in the next issue and another request by Stan for more letters, this time, telling readers he’s hoping to get ideas out of them!

MENACE #6 (Aug/53):

Cover: Bill Everett
#D-046 "The Graymoor Ghost" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Bill Everett art
     TEXT STORY #8745 "Trapped" (2 pages)
#D-166? "Checkmate!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Gene Colan art
#D-304? "The Corpse" (4 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art
#D-144 "Flying Saucer!" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, John Romita art

Issue #6 starts with a Bill Everett cover and lead story, “The Graymoor Ghost".  A deceitful antiques dealer gets an unexpected surprise in a Scottish castle.  Everett’s frequent use of a loose cartooney, almost rubbery style makes his stories a lot of fun as all characters seem to be in constant motion.  

The second story is the first in this title by Gene Colan, “Checkmate!”, a story about a European chess champion and murder without any supernatural elements, perhaps better suited for an issue of Justice Comics. Colan renders the story in realistic images, using his mastery of shadow, shading and realism to a great cinematic effect, like a noir film unfolding. 

Gene Colan’s career at Timely began as a bullpen staff member in late 1947 under the mentorship of Syd Shores, where he began to pencil crime stories in titles like Lawbreakers Always Lose, All-True Crime, Crimefighters, Justice Comics, Complete Mystery and Crime can't Win.  

Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Sept/48)
Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48)

Gene also drew select stories of the Human Torch and Captain America in their own titles and segued to romance, western, and by 1949, horror, as those genres supplanted super heroes. 

 Human Torch #31 (July/48) 
Captain America #72 (May/49)

When the staff was let go, Gene became a voluminous freelancer, working in all genres.  By the post-code period, he worked nearly exclusively in the Atlas war books, drawing over 200 stories there in a two and a half year period alone.  All of these post-code stories in "all" genres are unsigned (as Gene was concurrently over at National) and featured large, single panel splash pages.

TRUE SECRETS #38 (May/56)
Marines In Battle #10 (Feb/56)

In the Marvel age, Gene was the long-running definitive artist on Daredevil, drew Iron Man in Tales of Suspense, and drew the Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange.  In the 1970’s he did brilliant work on Howard The Duck and reached his peak on his masterpiece, Tomb of Dracula.  A master of light and shadow who brought a cinematic approach to comic book storytelling, Gene Colan is one of the absolute greats of comic art.

A ghost story by Russ Heath, “The Corpse”, follows next, a tale of a dead wife and a grieving husband who refuses to let go.  

The issue ends with a science fiction story by John Romita, “Flying Saucer!”. In 1953, with the country in the cold war midst of the first UFO hysteria, flying saucers were all the rage as exhibited by cheap B-films of the era and sci-fi comic books and pulps.  This story about an alien invasion ends on a silly note with Stan really stretching this time for a shock ending.  At the very end, Stan once again asks for letters from readers and wasn't kidding when he mentioned last issue he’d be using readers’ ideas for future stories!

MENACE #7 (Sept/53):

Cover: Carl Burgos
#D-290 "Fresh Out of Flesh!" (7 pages) - Stan Lee script, Syd Shores art
     TEXT STORY: #D-173 "The Dream Castle" (2 pages)
#D-276 "The Planet of Living Death" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art
#D-225 "The Witch in the Woods" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Sinnott art
#D-225 "Your Name is Frankenstein!" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Maneely art

With issue #7, we get the first change in the Menace format that prevailed for the first six issues.  For the first time the cover is drawn by someone other than Bill Everett, nor will Everett appear at all inside.  My best guess is that this is primarily Carl Burgos, the creator of Timely’s Human Torch and an unofficial cover editor of the Atlas years.  Burgos drew scores of covers in the 1950’s and was probably in the top five quantity-wise, joining Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, Russ Heath and later John Severin.  Issue #7 is also the last issue to feature all Stan Lee scripted stories. 

Syd Shores leads off with his first work in this title, “Fresh Out of Flesh!”, a story about thinking robots and a plot to take over the world.  

Shores hailed back to 1940 at Timely, his earliest work out of the Chesler shop on features like "The Terror" in Mystic Comics, Mr. Liberty / Major Liberty in USA Comics (scripted by his wife's first cousin, Phil Sturm), assisted on earliest issues of Simon & Kirby’s Captain America (later becoming the major Captain America artist of the 1940’s, primarily inked by Vince Alascia), Blonde Phantom and others. 

U.S.A. COMICS #1 (Aug/41) (Major Liberty) p.1

An unofficial art director of the Timely bullpen, Shores was a mentor to a young Gene Colan in 1947-49.  Shores also drew, along with Russ Heath, a large portion of Timely’s earliest western characters like Black Rider, Kid Colt, Rex Hart and Two-Gun Kid

WILD WESTERN #36 (Sept/54) p.1

During the Atlas years, Shores freelanced across all genres and on features as diverse as Battle Brady, Battleship Burke, Black Knight, Lo-Zar and Man-oo in Jungle Action, Sailor Sweeney, Greg Knight in Lorna, The Jungle Girl and Tales of the Jungle/The Unknown Jungle in several jungle titles, a jungle documentary type feature. 

From 1952-1955 Shores also maintained a commercial art studio with partners Mort Lawrence and Norman Steinberg.  Leaving comics after the Atlas implosion, Shores did commercial art and returned to Marvel in the late 1960’s, inking Jack Kirby on Captain America and Gene Colan on Daredevil, and drawing features like Red Wolf, The Beast, The Gunhawks, and Frankenstein, before passing away in 1973 at the age of 59.

Russ Heath follows with a sci-fi tale that wilts towards the ending. It seems Stan Lee is tiring of coming up with shock endings as stories are becoming strained.  

Joe Sinnott is next on a humorous take on the contemporaneous anti-horror comics hysteria being stirred by Dr. Fredric Wertham.  In “The Witch in the Woods”, we see a large splash of a young boy reading an issue of Uncanny Tales in bed, only to be chastised by his father. Dear old dad then proceeds to choose “better” reading material for his son, a Grimm fairy tale about Hansel & Gretel, only to be shocked at the violence of the child’s fairy tale ending, violence even worse than his son’s comic book! Look for a Graham Ingels “old witch” swipe on page 3, panel 6.

For the second time in less than a year, Stan Lee mocks the ridiculous nature of the anti-comics crusaders (the first was Suspense #29’s “The Raving Maniac”).  As someone who was earning his living writing and signing his name to such stories, the pressure of making himself a target may have contributed to Stan’s decision to leave the genre shortly.

The issue ends on a high note as the final story is the classic take on Mary Shelley’s famous monster, “Your Name is Frankenstein!”.  With a plot and an ending that we will see over and over through the years on stories like “A Monster Among Us” in Amazing Adult Fantasy #8 (Jan/62), Joe Maneely renders a wonderful version of an iconic horror character. Page one alone is chilling as Maneely gives us a 4-panel sequence of the monster rising from the swamp, slowly brushes himself off and turns to face the reader.  The words spoken in the last panel ring familiar “…no, the only real monsters on earth are … we humans!”.  Stan ends the book asking readers to write in with their favorite “types” of stories, hoping to give readers what they want. It looks like Stan's interest is waning.

MENACE #8 (Oct/53):

Cover: Carl Burgos
#C-332 "The Lizard-Man" (6 pages) - Stan Lee script, Joe Maneely art
#D-159 "The Werewolf Was Afraid" (4 pages) - Unknown script, John Romita art
     TEXT STORY: #D-272 "The Collector" (2 pages)
#D-325 "The Face Of Horror" (5 pages) - Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art
#D-233 "3-Dimensions" (3 pages) - Script unknown, Russ Heath art
#D-255 "The Wooden Woman" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Bob Fujitani art

Issue #8 draws a close to what is considered the “classic” issues of Menace.  First, it is the very last monthly issue and the title vanishes for three months following publication.  Secondly, and more importantly, issue #8 marks Stan Lee’s farewell to pre-code horror.  Only two of the stories are scripted by Stan, and sequenced by job #, the Russ Heath story this issue is the very last pre-code horror story he will ever write.  A third reason is the fact that story artists will now come from the wider Atlas freelance pool, basically whoever is available. With Stan’s apparent departure as a writer, the final three issues of Menace will be nothing more than standard Atlas horror with interchangeable artistic contributors. Additionally, an extra fifth story is added to each issue from #8 to #11 as the 7 page stories are shortened to 4 or pages, as well as the occasional addition of a brief 3-page story.

The cover to #8 appears to be again Carl Burgos and he does a better job on it than the actual story inside. Stan Lee and Joe Maneely present the lead cover story, “The Lizard-Man”.   This sci-fi tale of a lizard-man from the Earth’s core who wants to meet with the leaders of all the countries of the earth is a bit of a stretch as the plot reflects at least 3 different B movie science fiction films including "The Day The Earth Stood Still". Joe Maneely also turns in one of his lesser efforts and his depiction of an anthropomorphic lizard-man rings extremely silly, especially when he stands up on his hind legs like a knock-off Godzilla. The story is also completely out of sequence, the job number placing its script somewhere between Menace #2 and #3.

John Romita follows with the title’s first non-Stan Lee story, “The Werewolf Was Afraid”, and the less said about this one, the better.  

Stan and Russ Heath then team-up for a final time in Russ’ 8th story and Stan’s very last, “The Face of Horror”, batting out one last hit.  An ugly man would do anything to have his face fixed, and gets one last shock at the end. 

Heath follows this up with a second story this issue, “3-Dimensions”, a three-pager scripted by an unknown writer.  Nicely rendered, nothing special here. It's very rare to see 2 consecutive stories by the same artist in an Atlas anthology book.

The fifth and final story, “The Wooden Woman”, looks likely to be drawn by Bob Fujitani, an industry veteran who freelanced for Stan Lee from 1952-1954, on war, romance, western, spy and horror stories. He had a short turn on Two-Gun Kid in 1954 and Kent Blake in 1953.  Nothing special about this story either.  

Menace now goes on hiatus, appearing again after three months, cover dated Jan/54.

MENACE #9 (Jan/54):

Cover: Gene Colan
#D-386? ""Kill Me A Monster" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Paul Reinman art
     TEXT STORY: #D-407 "The Groom Wore Black" (2 pages)
#D-385 "Blood Relation" (4 pages) - Unknown script, Ed Winiarski art
#D-449 "The Fangs Of The Wolf" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Bill Everett art
#D-406 "Symphony In Death" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Joe Maneely art
#D-438 "The Walking Dead" (4 pages) - Unknown script, John Forte art

Issue #9 gives us a real treat, a cover by Gene Colan!  Colan drew on a tiny handful of covers in the Timely/Atlas years, five by my count, and last seen by us in the Masterworks on the cover to Journey Into Mystery #14.  The others are Battle Action #4 (Aug/52), War Comics #17 (Mar/53), Adventures Into Terror #27 (Jan/54) and the last issue of the golden-age Captain America, Captain America's Weird Tales #75 (Feb/50). 

Paul Reinman draws the first story, “Kill Me a Monster”, a tale about a hired gun and shape-shifting, body-snatching aliens. 

Reinman was a veteran golden-age artist who drew a handful of stories for Timely in the early 1940’s (The Whizzer in All Winners #2) and bounced around the industry, specifically doing a lot of work for National.  In 1950 he drew the syndicated feature Merrie Chase and Tarzan, returning to Stan Lee in early 1951 and peaking as an artist in 1952-53 on Atlas war stories in titles like Battlefield, Battle, War Action, War Combat and Men In Action.  His specialty was WWII and cold war stories where his Caniff-influenced style harshly depicted Nazi horrors and concentration camp brutalities.  Trained as a fine artist, Reinman’s inking of his own work exhibited an excellent use of lighting in his panels and while he worked for years afterward, never hit this peak again. Following the Atlas implosion, Reinman worked on early issues of Cracked, did work for Charlton and returned in the pre-hero period, becoming the fourth artist behind the pre-hero clique of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck on fantasy and sci-fi vignettes. In the Marvel age he inked Jack Kirby on early issues of the Avengers and X-Men before leaving for Archie Publications and Tower, ending his career at Skywald and Western in the early 1970’s.

MERRIE CHASE - art by Paul Reinman (8-31-50)

Timely veteran Ed Winiarski is next in “Blood Relation”, a weak, generational vampire story.  Winiarski was a long-time Timely staff artist who dominated the Timely funny-animal books of the early and mid 1940’s on features like Krazy Krow, Oscar Pig and The Creeper, in Comedy Comics, Krazy Komics and Terrytoons.  In the hero books he drew The Vagabond in USA Comics and was often inked by George Klein, making a nifty artistic combination.  As an Atlas freelancer, his work took on a scratchy, hay-like appearance and suffered, in my opinion.

Third is the final Bill Everett Menace story, “The Fangs of the Wolf”, an excellent werewolf yarn. Everett does his usual superlative job, but now a new wrinkle develops. Having read 30 consecutive Stan Lee scripted stories over the course of seven and a half issues, I’m somewhat convinced Stan Lee wrote this story, in spite of its lack of a signature.  All the clues seem to be there ... the descriptive narration, the technique of asking a question in the final panel ... it all “reads” like a Stan Lee story.  Could this be proof that Stan deliberately began to leave his name off stories in the wake of pro-Wertham hysteria? Stan told me he didn’t believe this was so but I really have to wonder.

Joe Maneely’s “Symphony in Death” follows, a harried story about a pompous music critic who destroys artists with his reviews. Once again, this unsigned story “reads” like Stan Lee to my ears.  As this tale and the Everett one previously were with his two favorite artistic collaborators, it quite possibly could be Stan scripted a final few for his pals and left his name off them.

The last story is a 4-page zombie clunker, adequately drawn by John Forte. The basic plot and execution of the story is not up to Menace's previous standards by any means.  At the end of this book, an “editor’s” voice invites the reader back next issue without any further comments. This does not sound like Stan Lee any longer and he's probably left the editorship of this title.

MENACE #10 (Mar/54):

Cover: Russ Heath
#D-599 "Half Man, Half ... ?" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Robert Q. Sale art
     TEXT STORY #9762 "The Haunted Lake" (2 pages)
#D-699 "The Night Crawlers" (4 pages) - Unknown script, Tony DiPreta art
#D-565 "The Fake!" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Al Eadeh art
#D-666 "The Plotters!" (3 pages) - Unknown script, Sheldon Moldoff art
#D-636 "In The Cardboard Box" (6 pages) - Unknown script, Joe Sinnott art

The final two issues of Menace are nothing more than standard Atlas horror fare.  The first thing we notice is that the Menace logo has changed. Issue #10 has a nice cover by Russ Heath and the five story artists are all individuals we've seen before.  

Robert Q. Sale draws the cover story, “Half Man, Half…?”,  a sci-fi tale of mutated monsters and a traitorous atomic scientist, with an unexpected ending.  I might also add that the cover image has absolutely nothing to do with the actual story.  Sale was very prolific for Atlas, drawing over 250 stories from 1952 to 1957, in a style that, on the surface, reminds the reader of a cross between Joe Maneely and Bill Savage . He was the long-running artist on Combat Casey and is known for some of the most violent war art in the 1950’s.  A veteran of the Funnies, Inc. shop in the 1940’s, Sale, like Maneely before him, died way too young  at 38 in 1962.

The familiar Tony DiPreta is next, already seen throughout the Atlas Masterworks volumes reprinting stories from  Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales.  “The Night Crawlers” is a pretty silly story with a ridiculous ending.

Al Eadeh follows with a great story, one of my all-time favorites, “The Fake!”. In a past essay, you may recall I mentioned that Al Eadeh could draw both beautiful women and horrendous hags equally well.  This story give him the chance to do both in the same story, on the same woman! (Although there is no way in heck I’ll believe make-up could transform this horror into a beauty!)  Eadeh worked all around the comic book industry in the early 1950’s. For Stan Lee he seemingly appears in 1950 drawing romance stories, possibly as a freelancer, and works through 1954, including a short run on Black Rider in 1951, returning for additional stories in 1957, before leaving comics forever. Although his career was brief, Al Eadeh left some memorable comic stories and is worthy of my presenting the entire 5 pages!

Shelly Moldoff follows with a short, weak 3-pager about an attempt to take over the earth by one of its zoological denizens.  We have recently seen a strange signed Moldoff story penciled by Ed Moline in Strange Tales #20.  Moldoff only drew a tiny handful of stories for Stan Lee and is one of the giants in National’s history, hailing back to 1938 and onward through the years.  Shelly also did early work for EC, including Moon Girl.

The last story is another by Joe Sinnott, his third and final in this title, a creepy tale about a head-chopping murderer, a wheel-chair bound old man and a dark and stormy night.  Nice, atmospheric artwork by Sinnott makes this story work.

Menace #11 (May/54):

Cover: Harry Anderson
#D-922 "I, The Robot" (5 pages) - Unknown script, John Romita art
     TEXT STORY #D-925 "Gambler's Haunt" (2 pages)
#D-977 "A Fate Worse Than Death" (4 pages) - Unknown script, Sy Moskowitz art
#E-014 "Only A Beast" (4 pages) - Unknown script, Al Eadeh art
#D-915 "My Other Body" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Jack Katz art
#E-059 "Locked In!" (5 pages) - Unknown script, Bob Powell art

The last issue of Menace, #11, starts off with possibly the most horrific cover of the run. Not in a strict graphic sense but in the realization of what we are seeing, a man with his head pulled back greater than 90 degrees, by monstrous hands, until his neck has snapped.  This cover was drawn by Harry Anderson, who drew about 20 sterling covers for Stan Lee in 1954. Anderson, a veteran of the Binder, Chessler and Funnies Inc. shops, was a beautiful stylist in the Graham Ingels / Berni Wrightson mold who worked all over the golden-age, including stays  at Orbit and Quality on lush romance and crime stories in titles like Love Journal and Wanted.

The first story by John Romita, “I, The Robot”, is the debut story for The Human Robot, recently revived and depicted in the Marvel series Agents of Atlas.  The robot is re-programmed to kill human men and ends up destroying his creator and the evil re-programmer. 

Sy Moskowitz is next on “A Fate Worse Than Death”, about a marooned explorer on Mars and an ugly Martian maiden who wants to marry him. Moskowitz  drew about 15 stories for Atlas in 1954 and 1955, including at least 5 inking Joe Kubert. Asking Kubert about this once, Joe couldn’t ever recall working with Sy. 

Al Eadeh is back again in a clunker this time titled “Only a Beast”. 

The fourth story is a brand new artist to our hardcover reprint survey, Jack Katz‘s “My Other Body”.  Using a gritty and almost “underground” style, Katz depicts the story of a tenement loser who robs a jewelry store to impress his girlfriend, only to be caught by the ghost of his own guilty conscience. 

Katz  drew about 30 stories for Atlas in primarily in 1954 & 1955, usually specializing in period war stories in titles like Battle, Battleground, Battlefront, Battle Action and War Comics. Katz also was the first artist on the long-running jungle feature “The Unknown Jungle”, launching it in Jungle Tales #1. Today’s readers may know Katz better from his epic 1970’s independently published, creator-owned series The First Kingdom. Using Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant as a format standard, Katz brilliantly brought to life his own world in a series of 24 graphic novel magazines of unimaginably intricate detail.  First published in 1974, The First Kingdom was completed by 1986, having a huge influence on both Cerebus The Aardvark and Elfquest, which soon followed. 

[2014 note: Titan Books is in the process of collecting the entire run of this opus in a series of  beautiful black and white hardcover reprint collections. As of this writing, one volume has been released.]

The final story drawn by Bob Powell, “Locked In!” is a excellent little story about a magazine columnist who writes stories on rich hermits, seeking them out throughout the country.  The send-up explains the reason why and Powell does a more than adequate job delineating creepy old mansions and decrepit huts.

Powell had a long career in comics hailing back to Fox in 1939, Fiction House in the 1940’s, drawing “Mr. Mystic” for Will Eisner in the “Spirit” sections, and working for nearly every publisher in the 1940’s and 1950’s.   Powell’s artwork was the sum of several artists where he was the main penciller and his assistants Howard Nostrand, George Seifringer and Marty Epp, did backgrounds, inking and lettering.  One of their largest accounts was Street & Smith, where the Powell “shop” provided an enormous amount of the story art for the line, including great work on “The Shadow”. 

Powell shows up at Timely in 1949 and draws in every genre but primarily the horror and war comics, where he had a tenure on Combat Casey, also drawing two Sub-Mariner stories during the Atlas hero revival in Men's Adventures and Human Torch. Powell shows up in the Marvel age penciling Human Torch stories in Strange Tales and Giant Man in Tales to Astonish, passing away in 1967 while art director of Sick magazine.

The end of the book invites the reader back next issue but this was not to be as Menace was cancelled with #11. Here’s an interesting tidbit, though. A recent discovery among the first generation stats in Marvel’s warehouse turned up proof that originally there “was” going to be a 12th issue of Menace.  Story art was already prepared and slated for a July cover date release.  When the word came to scuttle the title, the contents were held over as inventory for another 3 months and ended up being published in Astonishing #35 (Oct/54), which happens to sport "another" Harry Anderson cover!

Astonishing #35
(would be contents of never published Menace #12!)

Menace will always hold a unique place in the hearts of Atlas pre-code horror enthusiasts.  From the Stan Lee scripts and incredible Bill Everett covers and artwork, to the stories by a coterie of future Marvel era greats, this volume is a wonderful slice of forgotten Marvel history, produced at a time when the very same creators who would one day help build an institution, toiled in near anonymity and under mounting pressure from outside the industry. For this reason alone, readers will always look fondly upon and remember the “Tales of Maddening Menace!”

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