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Surprise Adventures, Vol. 1, No. 3
Monday, May 03 2010 @ 01:56 PM PDT|
Contributed by: MacQuarrie
Title: Surprise Adventures
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May, 3, 2010
Issue #1282 of 1282
Issue: Vol. 1, No. 3
Date: March, 1955
Publisher: Sterling Comics, Inc.
Cover Artist(s): Mike Sekowsky
Most successful cartoonists have “ghost artists” — mighty Mike
B’WANA BEAST) Sekowsky had himself a genie! (No wonder he
was so prolific!) SURPRISE ADVENTURES doesn’t even begin
to describe this Oddball Comic -- which also features a story
drawn by the man behind the infamous “Split!” version of CAPTAIN
MARVEL! (And what is its connection to the LI’L ABNER comic
The mid-1950s was a very odd time for comic books, especially for those with the controversial themes of “horror” and “crime”, since they were the primary targets of Dr. Fredric Wertham’s funnybook witch-hunt a few years earlier. The newly-formed Comics Code Authority (check out the size of that CCA seal on this cover), made sure that horror and crime comics were de-sensationalized and referred to as “suspense” comics. Such is the case with SURPRISE ADVENTURES, a series that featured stories with rather played-down themes of murder and the supernatural, all with somewhat ironic twist-endings. Even the title mentions the element of “surprise” present in each story; in fact, it’s interesting to note that SURPRISE ADVENTURES’ first two issues bore the much more lurid title of TORMENTED! This was the first issue under the new title, and it lasted until its fifth issue (cover-dated July, 1955).
Rather than depicting the sort of lurid situations associated with horror and crime, this issue’s cover features a whimsical scene. Specifically, it has a self-portrait of cartoonist Mike Sekowsky — whose voluminous resumé included everything from teenage comedy such as GEORGIE to superhero action such as THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA to Oddball characters like “B’wana Beast” and “The Maniaks” in SHOWCASE — who’s surprised that his comic strip starring a genie has conjured up a real-life one!
Unfortunately, although the cover-scene of this issue of SURPRISE ADVENTURES is certainly intriguing, the disappointing “surprise” is that it has no counterpart in the interior’s offerings. However, these stories, features and advertisements are included in this issue of SURPRISE ADVENTURES:
- “Reduce With Delicious Kelpidine Candy Plan!”, a black-and-white, inside-front-cover ad for weight-reducing candy available via mail-order from the “American Healthaids Company”.
- “Guilty?”, penciled by Mike Sekowsky. — “He was innocent...and yet his iron-clad alibi was a floating corpse in the river — put there by his own hands! How could he possibly prove that he wasn’t guilty?” Despite his protests, handcuffed Dr. Don Simmons denies killing his brunette fiancée, Edith, to the police detectives who’ve arrested the physician. In an extended flashback, we learn that Don maintains a rather aloof and detached attitude around the girl, primarily because he’s actually in love with Joan, a red-haired torch singer. Don plans to marry Edith, not for love, but because her doctor father is the head of a hospital who can assure a rapid rise in his career. Later, back at his apartment, a group of Don’s friends shows up for a bachelor party, with a big surprise for Don -- they’ve brought along Joan! As one of the guests reminds Don, “Well...this party is a farewell to the old life...ands wasn’t she part of your old life? You dog, you!” During the party, Joan corners Don in his examining room (in his apartment?), becoming hysterical as she declares her love for the ambitious physician. Rebuking her, Don steps out to rejoin the party, and when he returns later, he finds Joan dead, with a bottle of poison lying next to her lifeless form. Panicking, he tells the other guests that Joan needs to compose herself before he walks her home. But after they leave, he receives a concerned phone call from Joan’s father, asking if Don knows where his daughter Edith is. Apparently distraught, she went for a walk and hasn’t returned. Breaking out in a sweat, Don gathers up Jean’s purse, gloves and coat — but neglects to pick up a polka-dotted yellow scarf -- and hauls her corpse down to his car. Driving to the outskirts of town, he weighs down Joan’s body with stones and tosses it in the river, along with her possessions. Then Don races back to his apartment, expecting Edith to arrive any minute. But instead, two police detectives show up, looking for his fiancé. Don claims he accompanied her home hours earlier, but when they notice the yellow scarf, the lawmen become suspicious. They reveal that Edith’s body was discovered a short time ago; she was strangled to death — probably with that scarf! But how could that be, considering that the scarf was Joan’s? Or was it? As the police detectives lead him away, it suddenly strikes Don: “It was Joan who strangled Edith with the scarf in a jealous rage...and Joan who was his iron-clad alibi!” Unfortunately, Joan is no longer alive to confess to the crime!
- “$7.18 Worth Of Stamps, All Yours For 25¢”, an ad for a “giant imported collection of 338 different stamps” available through mail-order from the “Zenith Co.”
“One Way Trip!
”, drawn by Myron Fass
. — “All the plans were made and the two couples were leaving at dawn on a joint vacation...But now, John Redfield had a surprise for his partner and house guest, Martin Hepburn...
” The night before the two couples are scheduled to leave on their trip, John begs off, explaining that an important business matter has arisen. Despite Martin’s protests that his partner is a “workhorse
”, John asks his butler, Summers, to move the luggage from his car to that of his partner. But since both cars are identical, Martin volunteers to drive John’s car; after all, “both cars are exactly alike
”. John asks Summers to check the gas and oil in his car to make certain they have no automotive problems. After Martin and his wife bid them goodbye, the Redfields go to bed, but not before John promises his gorgeous brunette wife Jean, that someday, he’ll “lay the whole world
” at her feet. Later that night, while Jean sleeps, John steals out to his garage, thinking, “The business doesn’t make enough to support two families on the scale I want my life to live! Besides, I do all the work, and that leech, Hepburn, sucks out all the profits...
” After determining which car is his, due to the luggage in its trunk, he plants a mysterious object under its back seat. Redfield then returns to bed without ever waking his wife. But the next morning, when John awakens, he discovers that his wife has decided to accompany the Hepburns, with John joining them a few days later. Redfield freaks out — Jean is riding in the car he booby-trapped! Still wearing his pajamas, John rushes out, jumps into the Hepburns’ car and takes off in the hopes of catching up with them. But en route, he encounters one obstacle after another. First, a traffic cop pulls him over for speeding and issues John a ticket. Next, he accidentally sideswipes a jalopy full of teenagers; they cut him off and refuse to let John drive on until he hands over a “flock of bills
”. Then, John becomes snarled in a massive traffic jam; a highway patrolman informs him that the backup is due to a bad accident up ahead. John reacts to this in horror
, then dismay, as he realizes that he’s too late to save his beloved wife Jean. He turns the Hepburns’ car around to go back home, but before the distraught, pajama-wearing businessman can travel much further, the car blows up, instantly killing him! Meanwhile, not far away, Jean and the Hepburns relax around a swimming pool, while Martin reflects, “Heh! I hope your butler reminded Redfield to have that low tire checked! I’m sure we’d have wound up with a flat if we hadn’t switched tires!
- “The Luckiest Man In the World”, penciled by Mike Sekowsky. — “Call it luck! Call it anything you want! But a shadow appeared on deck before it happened...a shadow Graham alone saw...and followed. And the result...when the ship capsized, Graham was thrown free. The others went to their doom. Graham found a piece of floating debris and held on. But one thought kept turning over and over in his mind...” As he bobs on the ocean’s surface, Ed Graham realizes that if it weren’t for him following that mysterious shadow, he’d be dead now. The next morning, a rescue crew picks up Graham, the sole survivor of the seagoing disaster, and returns him to civilization. A month later, while on the job at the Bronson powder plant, Graham once again sees the shadow and follows it outside — immediately prior to the entire plant blowing sky-high in a massive explosion. While being interviewed by the press, Graham makes no mention of the mysterious shadow that lead him to safety, instead attributing his continued existence to good luck. Suffering from a case of “survivor’s guilt”, Graham confides in his fiancée, Madge Harris, that he can’t understand why he’s still alive. Two days later, Graham reports to his new job at the Metropolitan Tunnel Authority; apparently, he got the gig because his new bosses claim to need someone with his “luck”. After Midge gives him a kiss for good luck, Graham starts to work in the tunnel. But that afternoon, an explosion triggers a cave-in just before Graham returns from his lunch break. A few days later, while working in Tunnel 12, Graham sees the mysterious shadow again; this time, it spares him from drowning when water starts coming through the tunnel’s ceiling. Back home and brooding, Graham confesses to Midge about the shadow that somehow helps him evade these disasters, but she convinced it’s only Ed’s imagination. A week later, on his new job as a construction worker, Graham follows the shadow before being crushed by debris from a collapsing skyscraper! Fed up with these work-related disasters, Ed and Midge take the first plane out of town. But when Ed tells the passenger sitting next to them that he’s “the luckiest man in the world”, the stranger makes a surprising observation, “You seem to be a disaster wherever you go! Your luck spells everybody else’s doom! I’d cal you a ‘Jonah’...a CURSE!” Suddenly, as if to prove this theory, one of the plane’s motors catches on fire, causing them to lose altitude. Like before, Graham notices the mysterious shadow appear and move to the rear of the plane. Determined to save Midge’s life, Ed refuses to follow the shadow, instead hurling himself out of a nearby escape hatch — and this time, the shadow follows him! As Ed falls to his death, the plane’s motor-fires are extinguished and it regains altitude. “The plane climbed and climbed but the ’luckiest man in the world’ lay in a heap on the ground...in a shadow! He’d learned at last what the shadow was...DEATH!”
- “Prize Contest Winners”, a 1/3-page notice of the winners of a contest, one that was apparently held through another comic book: “The Editors Of ‘Tormented’ would like to thank the many readers who sent letters for the contest. We sincerely wish it were possible to give everyone a prize. But the inspiring praise and constructive criticism we received renews our determination to make our magazines the very best! (signed) Editors, Sterling Comics”.
- “Reversible Auto Seat Covers Made Of Flexton — Service Gauge Plastic”, an ad for seat covers in “Snake-Zebra” and “Leopard-Cowhide” designs — as well as a “combo” wrist watch, a “little rocket radio” and “long view binoculars” — all available via mail-order from ”Mardo Sales Co.”
- “Reasonable Doubt”, an illustrated two-page text-story.
- “Kids! Be The First To Send For This New Plastic Aircraft Carrier With 5 Catapulting Jets”, an ad for a set of toy naval ships, available through mail-order from “Lucky Products”.
- “The Last Number”, drawn by Edvard Moritz. — “This report begins on the very day Harry Cobb became certain that Eddie Shipman had developed what (for a bank teller) can be a fatal malady — sticky fingers!” After Harry notices Eddie pocketing a wad of bills, he approaches his co-worker to warn him that he’ll never get away with the crime. Later, while on their lunch break, Eddie admits his guilt, but explains that he desperately needs the money “to make a killing on the horses” before the bank examiners arrive the next week — and he’s already $5000 in the hole! Then Eddie tells Harry why and how he got into this mess in the first place: “Well you used your head, Harry — you saved your dough, and you stayed single! But me? I got married — to a beautiful girl! Beautiful — and expensive...” Harry tries to talk Eddie out of any further gambling, and to turn himself in to the bank’s officials and plead for mercy, but before he can convince his fellow teller, “Baldy” the bookie shows up. Despite Harry’s protests, Eddie puts his stolen swag on a nag, based on the license plate number of a nearby parked car — thanks to a sarcastic suggestion by Harry. When Eddie’s horse wins the race, Baldy convinces him that Harry should determine all his bets! The next day, although Harry refuses to believe he has any effect on the races, he picks a license plate number that pays off for Eddie, coming close to erasing his debt. When Eddie makes a third bet, Harry’s skepticism begins to falter, and when Eddie wins enough to completely pay off his debtors, Harry catches the gambling bug while Eddie swears never to gamble again. But when Harry can’t read the license plate number of an approaching car, he runs into the fog to get a closer, clearer look — and is run into and instantly killed. If that isn’t enough, it turns out that the driver — who swears that Harry ran out in front of his car — is revealed to be none other than Baldy the bookie!
- “Draw Any Person In One Minute”, an ad for the “Magic Art Reproducer” (also known as an “artograph”), available via mail-order from “Norton Products”.
- “It’s Great Fun To Play A Guitar And It’s So Easy, Too!”, an ad for mail-order “Picture Way” guitar lessons available from “Bob Atcher”.(Hmmm, I wonder if any returned orders to the company were marked “Right Back Atcher”?)
- “Come On, Buddy, Quit Being A Bag-Of-Bones Weakling Like I Was — In 10 Minutes Of Fun A Day You Can Do All I Did!”, a black-and-white, inside-back-cover ad for mail-order bodybuilding lessons from the “Jowette Institute Of Physical Training”.
- “Gain Weight In 7 Days — Or Don’t Pay!”, a black-and-white, back-cover ad for “Pounds Plus”, a “delicious pleasant-tasting tablet jam-packed with wonder calories”, available through mail-order from the “Pounds Plus Company”.
ODDBALL Factoid — SURPRISE ADVENTURES was edited by Elliot Caplan, the brother of syndicated newspaper comic strip cartoonist Al (LI’L ABNER) Capp!
Bonus ODDBALL Factoid —Cartoonist Myron Fass, the artist of “One Way Trip!” in this issue of SURPRISE ADVENTURES, later became a publisher of black-and-white horror comic magazines, as well as M. F. Enterprises’ short-lived — and completely unauthorized -- Oddball version of CAPTAIN MARVEL, as well as an ARCHIE-esque series starring the teenage super-spy, HENRY BREWSTER!
Special ODDBALL Flashback — Thanks to Official Oddball Archivist Jeff O., I now realize that ODDBALL COMICS has spotlighted this particular comic book once before, waaay back on Tuesday, November 14, 2000. Oddly enough, it’s an entirely different column! So please enjoy this vaguely familiar blast from the distant past of Tuesday, November 14, 2000:
LOG LINE — It’s ODDBALL CARTOONIST COMICS Week! You won’t believe the startling surprise in store for you in today’s ODDBALL COMIC!
COMIC BOOK TITLE — SURPRISE ADVENTURES
ISSUE NUMBER — Vol. 1, No. 3
COVER DATE — March, 1955
PUBLISHER — Sterling Comics, Inc.
COVER ARTIST — Mike Sekowsky
Commentary by ODDBALL COMICS curator/creator SCOTT SHAW! — That’s a self-portrait of cartoonist Mike Sekowsky on the cover of this comic! SURPRISE ADVENTURES #3 includes the stories “Guilty?” and “The Luckiest Man In The World!” (both drawn by Mike Sekowsky) and “One Way Trip!” and “The Last Number” ...and not a cartoonist in the lot of ‘em! Apparently, this issue of SURPRISE ADVENTURES really lives up to its name, because this cover scene appears nowhere within the comic itself! Surprise!
Mike Sekowsky and I became friends in 1979, when he moved to California and began working at animation studios in Hollywood. (Mike was probably best-known for his work on DC’s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, WONDER WOMAN, INFERIOR FIVE and “Jason’s Quest” in SHOWCASE, but he had a long career in comic books before those, doing work in nearly every genre at nearly every publisher since the Golden Age began.) Over the years, we worked together at Hanna-Barbera, Marvel Productions and even the short-lived Tom Carter Productions. Mike and I also did quite a few comic book stories (with Mike penciling and me writing and inking) for both Mark Evanier and Roy Thomas. After Mike died in 1989, his widow gave me boxes of Mike’s sketches, art supplies, reference books, and his drawing board, which is depicted here on this very comic book cover!
ODDBALL Factoid — Cartoonist Mike Sekowsky also worked on the 1981 live-action Disney film CONDORMAN, about a cartoonist (played by Michael Crawford) turned superhero. Mike drew various comic book pages that were used as props for the cartoonist’s studio-set. Some of those pages included Mike’s caricatured version of >ahem< Yours Truly as a drug-smuggling bad guy!
Next Week -- ODDBALL COMIC #1,128: MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006 —What has two famous funny animals with speech impediments, an ostrich that acts like a boomerang, a crooked landlord named Squire Squeeze and some of the wildest-looking hallucinations ever seen this side of Timothy Leary? Why, an outrageously ODDBALL issue of PORKY PIG (guest-starring Sylvester the puddytat and Porky’s girlfriend, Petunia Pig), that’s what! And th-th-th-that’s not all, folks!
For more from Scott Shaw!, visit his Web site at http://www.shawcartoons.com/.
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