Forgotten Masterpiece: THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES #5

I’m pretty certain that it was Fred Hembeck who turned me on to this super-cool short story buried in this obscure issue of Charlton’s mystery anthology series THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES. Series such as this one were plentiful in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, each issue filled to the brim with short spooky tales, most of which were forgettable and throw-away entertainment. But every once in a while, somebody produced a story that stuck to your ribs. This was one of those.

It was, for its time, a very meta and self-reflective story, one that perfectly encapsulated the somewhat fractured viewpoint of its writer, Steve Skeates. Skeates worked for just about all of the major companies in this era, but his best work was somehow just a little bit off the beaten track. He seemed more comfortable on features where he could display his imagination and creativity without a lot of interference. So Charlton was a perfect place for him.

The artwork by a pre-DC career Jim Aparo is already quite polished and sharp. Aparo could draw anything well. He was also an accomplished letterer, and usually wound up lettering his own stories, which gave him control of how the balloons and captions integrated into the page. He’d use them as a natural part of the design, in the manner of Will Eisner.

Things are veering into surrealism at this point.

Yes, that’s right. It’s a bit of a riff on the TWILIGHT ZONE episode “5 Characters In Search Of An Exit” but with a more naturalistic entry point. Fun to watch the characters bang into the panel borders, as hoary as that gag might be.

And here there are echoes of the classic Warner Brothers cartoon Duck Amuck.

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