Monday, July 31, 2006

Forbidden Worlds #135

Forbidden Worlds #135, May-June 1966, American Comics Group
writers: Zev Zimmer, Pierre Alonzo
artists: Pete Costanza, Chic Stone

The cover of this issue promises "Stories of Strange Adventure," and I'll admit, each of the three tales within contain a peculiar element that would make even Agents Mulder and Scully cock a melodramatic eyebrow. Forbidden Worlds was another serial series, or as I'm calling them now, another training ground for up and coming artists of the era. Who knows if Zev Zimmer or Chic Stone are pseudonyms, but when the creators' names are cooler than their heroes' – i.e. Magicman – I think strange is the appropriate word for it.

Indeed, the first tale features headliner Magicman, and, although his adventures seem rather pedestrian from the start – he saves his dimwitted friend from plummeting off of a rollercoaster – things take a turn for the peculiar when they return to their hotel room. Magicman dreams of his medieval father's demise and conjures a spell to travel back in time to rescue him. Yes, an image of a doomed patriarch vaguely resembles a Shakespearean influence, as does the swashbuckling sword fight with the wizard's dissenter, but in this case, Rosencrantz saves the day. Magicman's tubby sidekick, the same oaf he saved from the treacherous rollercoaster, literally catapults to the hero's rescue, and in an odd digression from the story's tone, nearly marries a princess until she inexplicably falls for this adventure's villain on his way to jail. It's as weird as it sounds. By the end of the yarn, the magical time travel seems almost commonplace compared to these fickle, unconventional characters. Their quirks made the short as entertaining as it was strange. Magicman's proclamation of note: "I'm Magicman – I've got muscles and I've got strong magic! What can beat that combination?" What, indeed?

The other two stories are less character, more concept pieces, the first of which is entitled "The Vengeance of the Vine!" Explorer Roger Dennis plunders a golden idol from a "missionary post, deep in the backcountry of the Amazon," and the scientist among them sends Dennis a chunk of the living vine that protected it. Despite Dennis's best attempts, the vine reproduces on its own, consumes his home, and nearly takes his life. In the end, he turns himself in to the FBI. Who wouldn't? This tale is the epitome of the "man versus nature" conflict paradigm we all learned about in elementary school reading class. Interestingly, although this is the only story of the three without creators' credits, I thought these pages were well illustrated, its characters extremely expressive. For a tale that could've been a bunch of talking heads, the artist branched out and established some roots for himself in the industry. I'm sorry; I couldn't resist.

The final tale is a macabre and predictable tale about "Ghostly Revenge!" Steve McWhyte, "the most dangerous criminal of the age," is executed, but his sheer hatred is enough to keep is spirit alive long enough to kill the people responsible for his fate. Fortunately, a visit to the Institute for Psychic Phenomena offers the Travana Smoke, an odd vapor produced from burning a mysterious ash that repels ghosts. This story is very wordy for four little pages, and although the story was a simple one, it could have been stretched out for dramatic effect. I mean, we scarcely see any real death, except for a newspaper headline that proclaims, "Man Who Arrested Steve McWhyte Mysteriously Dead in Room Locked From Inside." Wouldn't life be so much easier if all headlines were that specific?

Speaking of headlines, to conclude, this comic lives up to its byline more than its title. Strange, yes, but forbidden? We the readers were granted complete access to these worlds, via their creators' odd storytelling styles. I hope these guys were proud of what they produced. Individually, these stories may not be gems, but they were packaged together for a reason in the first place. As one solid read, they're magic.

No comments: