Released by: IDW Publishing/Yoe Books
Released on: August 17th, 2016.
Written & Illustrated by: Various
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Snakes! Maligned since the book of Genesis, they’re often the stuff of sinister legend, nightmare fuel. We see this in pop culture all over the place, from movies to TV shows to… comic books. And some of those comics books just so happened to have been published in the pre-code glory days of the industry. The good people over at Yoe Books, ever determined in their quest to bring you the best of the worst of the best of the pre-code trash/horror classics, unleash upon an unsuspecting public one hundred and forty eight full color pages of Snake Tales!
Here’s what you’ll find underneath that alluring, sexy, slithery cover piece…
Mirror Image from Weird Terror #8, November 1953. Art by Rudy Palais: It couldn’t possibly be, and yet it was! Jim and Nora Winters tend to their kids but when weird and wealthy Uncle Hugo shows up, familiar excitement turns to terror. See, he accuses everyone of trying to kill him for his cash but enjoys playing ‘death pranks’ on all of those near and dear to him. Imagine his horror then, when he comes face to face that very night with a deadly snake! This is a goofy but fun tale of paranoia with a neat twist.
The Serpent Queen from Unknown Worlds #1, June 1952. Art by Bob McCarty: Two brave and super smart white guys enlist the aid of some natives to help climb a giant mountain, but those natives aren’t having any of it – they warn them, oh, they warn them! And thus, we learn the story of a doomed expedition and then come face to face with Shanri, the titular dark haired hottie of a Serpent Queen and her oddly phallic one-eyed serpentine companion! This one also features some cool disembodied heads, a skeleton and a rad jungle setting to accompany all the snake action.
The Echo from Dynamic Comics #16, October 1945. Art by Paul Gattuso: The Echo, his brother Dr. Doom (not that Dr. Doom, mind you) and his sister Cora come into town only to run into trouble with a strange cult ‘dealing in death!’ and snakes! This one is pretty nutty, the art is really over the top and exaggerated but all the better for it. “You will know about your faith! When the Rattler strikes you will prove your worth!”
The Fangs Of Death from Nightmare #11, February 1954. Art by Bernard Krigstein: A poor unfortunate guy lies dying from the bite of a cobra when this story begins, but before he passes on we flashback with him to the past where he and a native named Ali went into the jungle. Why? I dunno, really, but they snag a rare white cobra and bring it back for ‘the collection’ after it fights a mongoose. Then the man, not too bright it would seem, decides to make this thing his pet, only to realize that, yeah, it has fangs of death.
Medusa from Dark Mysteries #9, October – November 1952. Art by Hy Fleishman: This story has a cool Crypt Keeper style horror host who pops up here and there. As he does, we learn about Jeff Loundes who, after being bitten by a snake as a child, has become the avowed enemy of snakes! Imagine the irony then when this snake shootin’ sonofagun hooks up with a dark haired hottie whose hot dark hair isn’t hair at all but…well, you get the idea. This is called Medusa after all.
The Phantom Python from Eerie #8, August – September 1952. Art by Everett Raymond Kinstler: In the ‘dark days of Africa’ the commissioner has to leave his sick daughter with a native named Zimba who, like all good natives do in the insanely racist world of old comic books, calls the guy B’wanna! When the girl gets worse, Zimba recruits a witch doctor, which is never a good idea. One thing leads to another and before you know it a big damn snake is wreaking havoc. But there’s a twist! The snake is pretty big though.
Cup Of Moonglow from Nightmare #3, October 1953. Artist unknown: What would you do with a cup of moonglow? We’ll ignore that question for now in favor of the story of a convicted murderer named John Carrack. He’s escaped from prison and is hanging out in a canoe in Africa somewhere wishing he had something to eat. He heads to land, almost gets eaten by a crocodile and then meets a dark haired hottie (snake comics are full of dark haired hotties) who nurses him back to health. She’s got magical powers and a sacred amulet that John can’t help but notice. As he tries to take advantage of her, she reveals her true form. This is one of the highlights of the book. Whoever did the art for this was some sort of mad genius as the style is just flat out bizarre and unlike anything else in this collection.
High Priestess Of The Snake People from Challenge of the Unknown #6, September 1952. Art by Frank Giusto: A man visits a tobacco shop in Switzerland where the weird old lady behind the counter insists he meet her daughter, a dark haired hottie with the unfortunate name of Gilda! She convinces him to visit Zellmott, he can’t resist her charms despite the fact that he almost gets bit by a deadly snake shortly after he meets her. Could she possibly be the High Priestess of the Snake People? All signs point to yes… and while Burbrink and Howlett may successfully make the cast that snakes are good, Snake People are most certainly ALWAYS evil.
The Were-Serpent Of Karnak from Skeleton Hand #2, November – December 1952. Art by King Ward: Cathy and Gene are sent the their editor at LIVE Magazine to go the ruins of Karnak in Egypt where archeologists have uncovered a ‘monstrous stone serpent!’ They oblige, and even put on ‘Arab disguises,’ but soon get more than they bargained for when it turns out that snake cult responsible for the statue is very much alive and well. One evil witch and a serious magic battle later and they come face to face with a were-serpent!
The Snake Pit from Chilling Tales #14, February 1953. Art by Bob Baer: Three strange people climb Mount Talon in the middle of the night to reach ‘The Haunt Of Evil’ where they then throw some poor bugger into a snake pit! He falls into a ‘bottomless abyss’ but soon reaches the bottom (???) where he meets a green skinned, dark haired hottie who tells him he has fallen into the land of the Snake People. See above. Never. Good.
Beware The Snake Queen! from The Hand of Fate #17, April 1953. Art by Charles Nicholas: On the upper west side of Manhattan there exists an ‘Explorer Club’ where rich white guys named Jim and Chet talk about a friend of their who went missing in Haiti. Being members of the ‘Explorer Club’ it will shock no one to learn that they decide to go to Haiti to find him. There they encounter a native who they cannot buy off with their American dollars who warns them of ‘Snake Queen… she bad spirit, you leave island!’ Nothin’ doin’. Deep into the jungle they go only to eventually find a dark (green) haired hottie far more sinister than they could ever imagine!
Serpent Of Doom from Adventures Into Darkness #22, December 1953. Art by John Celardo: Lydia Hampton is a ‘bitter, nagging’ dark haired hottie that falls for a pretty obvious trap when she’s offered wealth and power by the snake people (watch out for them) servants of the evil god Seth! She kills people in her underwear, marries some poor bastard and then, after a quiet wedding, begins her transformation…
The Big Snake from Tales of Horror #3, November 1952. Art by Mel Keefer: The Big Snake is a story about… a big snake. It’s really big. Big enough to wrap itself around the Empire State Building and hold all of Manhattan captive. How? Why? Ask John Reid, the leader of the Scientific Research Committee and he’ll tell you all about a crazy guy named Paul, jungle shenanigans and a two hundred foot snake! If the army can’t stop it, who can?
The Pool Of Eternity from Mysterious Adventures #5, December 1951. Art by Lou Cameron: David Murdstone is in the middle of a jungle trying to find the secret of eternal life. What he finds, after his plan crashes is a dark haired hottie and some pissed off natives who worship a snake goddess! There’s old witch here that kinda looks like E.C.’s Old Witch as well as a giant bat, some shrunken heads, a cup made out of a human skull and even a decapitation! Hot Damn!
The Fangs Of Fate from Out of The Shadows #7, January 1953. Art by Rocco Mastroserio: The mysterious Dr. Kissack is ‘hated and feared’ by his fellow villagers because he runs a snake farm on the outskirts of town. When the tension between he and the villagers gets dangerous, he turns to murder and with some help from his pets, tries to cover it all up – but then a giant snake shows up and all Hell breaks loose.
In The Coils Of The Python Queen from The Beyond #23, November 1953. Art by Jim McLaughlin: Harley Dolan is on an expedition into deepest India to find giant snakes for a circus and, if they’re lucky, a beautiful native girl to bring back home to appear in the act with the snakes. Huh. And he finds one, a dark haired hottie recently widowed named Boidae. She accepts his offer to come back to America but once they get back, well, it has to do with snake people – bad news indeed!
Hissing Horror from Fantastic Fears #4, November 1953. Art by the Iger Shop: Lawrence Mason is a tough guy with a weak spot – the ladies. He spends an inordinate amount of time on his island home shooting snakes. One night he’s shocked to find a beautiful woman at his window, a blonde (for a change) bombshell named Aspetha. Mason takes her in, feeds her and quickly falls in love with her. This makes him even more determined to call all the snakes around, he doesn’t want them freaking her out after all. But when she sees him in action and doesn’t even try to hide her disgust, it appears that maybe they don’t see eye to eye on this whole ‘shooting snakes all the time’ thing he’s so into. Snake people alert!
Meet Me At The Cemetery from Hand of Fate #14, November 1952. Art by Sy Grudko: Last but not least, Kate Sefton has lost her fiancé, Yates Zachary until he went to India and fell for another woman. She died but Yates brought the body back to American to be buried. When Kate feels bad for the poor dead woman and tries to lay some flowers at her grave, she’s surprised by the sudden appearance of a cobra! It kills a caretaker but she makes it out alive and heads to Yates’ office to tell him what she’s seen. She feels they need to do something about this, and so Yates takes his six-shooter and drives off to the cemetery to take care of business. There he meets a dark haired hottie with weird eyes and two pointy fangs. He really should have known better than to offer her a ride, but he’s a bit of a dog. ZHJ! ZHJ! Snake people alert.
All in all, this is pretty great stuff. Don’t take any of it seriously or you’ll give yourself a brain aneurysm but there’s lots of screwy entertainment to take away from this collection. Sure, the stories are a bit repetitive and predictable but the different art styles are a lot of fun to take in and each ones of these stories is guaranteed to deliver a stupifyingly snake-tastic shock ending!
In the middle of the book we get a seven page cover gallery showing off some pretty fangtastic cover pieces featuring deadly snakes aplenty. This hardcover collection also features an interesting forward from Dr. Frank T. Burbank, the Curator Of Reptiles And Amphibians and the American Museum Of Natural History entitled Ophidiomania Vs. Ophidiophobia that runs four pages. Here he writes about man’s unusual history and relationship with snakes and how the fantasy depicted in these vintage horror comics contradicts reality on pretty much every level. If that weren’t enough, howlin’ Mike Howlett, the man behind The Weird World Of Eerie Publications, contributes a text piece called Snakesploitation. Here, for five fantastic pages, Howlett waxes poetic about the importance of checking one’s brain at the door in order to enjoy trashy pre-code delights such as those contained in this collection. He then offers up some history and insight into each of the stories selection for this anthology. He’s also been kind enough to include an archival image of Zorita, possibly the real life inspiration for the various snake-goddess stories that have been told over the years (hubba hubba!).
It’s also worth taking a bit of time to talk up the presentation. Yes, these are grubby old cheapies, pre-code quickies, the kind that a lot of ‘serious’ comic fans will write off as trash but they have their place in four color funny book history and it’s great that we’ve got a company like Yoe Books collecting this stuff for posterity’s sake. The individual pages in this book, which are printed on a heavy stock and have a nice feel to them, are printed slightly ‘yellowed’ to replicate the look of cheap old newsprint comics. The front of the hardcover has a nicely embossed image that feels awesome in your hands, and that carries over to the back cover too. It’s just a really nice, deluxe presentation – a lot of times people don’t call this out but it makes a difference to some of us and as such, it’s much appreciated.