BHOC: THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES #25

In addition to the issue of THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES that we spoke about yesterday, Modern Comics reissued at least one other issue of the series as a part of their line. This one, however, was entirely devoted to one-off weird tales, and consequently was of scant interest to me as a reader. But due to the fact that the earlier issue contained what I would quantify as a super hero story, I hung onto this book anyway, in defiance of my typical custom. I don’t think I’ve looked at it once since the 1970s, to be honest. It’s a good example of the kind of fare that Charlton was pumping out: reasonably crafted but forgettable stories.

Which isn’t to say that these Charlton mystery books were without their charms. If nothing else, some interesting artists passed through their pages. The lead story (after a contents page describing all of the stories that were to come) was illustrated by Pat Boyette, who had a very nice linear style to his work. It felt detailed and distinctive, and just a hair stiff maybe. But it made for a good package. This opening story, and the entire comic actually, was written by Charlton workhorse Joe Gill. Which maybe explains why the stories are so unremarkable. I don’t mean to crap on Gill, he was only making two bucks a page, and so in order to make a living he needed to turn out a remarkable amount of material every day. And he did so. But that meant that he was often writing without really having thought things through and without any particular inspiration.

This first tale is about a pair of archaeologists, Dr. Juana Alvarez and Dr. Rex Moltrie, who are investigating an Mayan ancient ruin, despite the curse said to be levied upon it. In the course of doing so, they come across an emerald the size of a man’s fist embedded in an ancient idol. Moltrie, of course, wants to steal the gem for himself, and arranges a helicopter to air lift him out of the area with it. But in doing so, he triggers the curse, and Dr. Ramirez causes him to fall to his death. She is, you see, the last of the Mayan priestesses who have been responsible for human sacrifice to their gods. So not a whole ot of interest here apart from the artwork, which is quite attractive.

The second story was drawn by Charles Nicholas and inked by Vince Alascia, and the art is a bit less polished, more posed and lifeless. It’s really not very good at all. The story is another bunch of forgettable, familiar nonsense. An old woman on her deathbed insists that her grand-niece Isadora and her husband, Leonard Fleese (a pretty great name, there) must take care of her cat Delilah in order to inherit her wealth. Fleese hates the animal and plans to have it euthanized as soon as he’s gotten his hands on wife’s Aunt’s dough. He tries to arrange a natural-seeming death for the cat by locking it in closets for long strings of time, but the darned thing always seems to be able to escape.

Later, Isadora is lured by the cat in her slumber to leave her regular bed and go sleep in her dead Aunt’s place. When Fleese tries to wake her, she answers with the voice of the dead Aunt. This is the final straw for Fleese, who attempts to kill the beast by filling a locked closet with deadly gas. But no sooner has he locked the door than he discovers that he is somehow now trapped inside the closet, with the gas filling the place. At this point, the cat chooses to take mercy on Fleese and releases him from the room–but Fleese now understands that despite his allergy to cats, he needs to take care of and pamper Deliliah for the ret of her days–or else! Again, nothing too genre-breaking here, just a basic, straightforward story.

The final story in this issue was also drawn by Pat Boyette, so it is again a step up, at least visually. Writer Archer Flynn has been commissioned to write a biography of the deceased millionaire Jason Carrocks, who claimed in life that no grave could hold him. Instructed to begin by entering the dead man’s tomb and reciting from an ancient scroll, Arches does just that–and sure enough, the spirit of Jason Carrock pulls himself out of his crypt.

In the years since his death, Carrock’s wife has remarried and she and her daughter are living happily in their old home. when he was alive, all Carrock cared about was making money–and seeing how his family has prospered after his demise and how they’re enjoying his former wealth irritates him. He begins to put things right as an unseen spirit, cutting off her daughter’s phone line when she talks for too long, lowering the thermostat and generally behaving like a nuisance. They realize that the spell that Archer recited must have freed Carrock’s spirit, so the writer dashes back to the crypt and reads it again–in reverse! This succeeds in returning Carrock’s restless spirit to his grave, and all is thereafter well. And that’s it. Once again, the stakes here are slight, and the resolution pat. Nobody’s taking home any Eisner Awards for this one.

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