“Torment of the Phantom Face!”
|Script: Carl Wessler
Pencils: Noly Zamora
Inks: Noly Zamora
|Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Benjie Pabulos
Synopsis: Walter, a “world-famed television make-up artist,” murders his assistant after he overhears him trying to take his job. Though he staged the murder to look like a mugging gone bad, his conscience (or perhaps a ghost?) doesn’t let him off that easily. Soon enough, he soon starts to see his victim’s face everywhere: on mannequins, on people in the street, even in his own reflection. He decides the only way to escape the “ghost” haunting him is to use plastic surgery to give himself a whole new face, and so he cuts up magazine photos to show his surgeon what he wants to look like. Only — what a twist! — it turns out he subconsciously asked for his victim’s face, and his plastic surgeon unknowingly obliges him. Driven mad by what he sees, Walter flings himself out a window to “get away from that damnable face!”
“Gamble with a Ghost”
|Script: George Kashdan
Pencils: Dick Ayers
Inks: Joe Giella
|Colors: Bob LeRose
Letters: Shelly Leferman
Synopsis: It’s 1891 and we’re aboard the Mississippi riverboat Natchez heading for St. Louis. When “One-Eye” Jack Philbin accuses professional gambler Ben Hanley of cheating, the scuffle ends with Hanley accidentally killing Philbin. The following night, Hanley can’t win a hand at the table — his opponents seem to always know what cards he has. Soon he feels a sharp pain in his forearm, and everyone at the table sees he has a “hidden card-springer” that helps him cheat. After Hanley falls to his death in the river, the other gamblers see the card he was hiding up his sleeve — a one-eyed Jack, with the face of “Old Jack Philbin” himself.
“The Phantom’s Flock”
|Script: George Kashdan
Pencils: Rudy Florese
|Inks: Rudy Florese
Colors: Bob LeRose
Synopsis: On an early morning in 1953, Alfie Klegg is rifling through “a dingy flat in London’s East End” in search of his aunt’s hidden money. When she walks in on him, he throws a knife in her back to keep her quiet, then escapes across the rooftops when he hears her neighbors coming to investigate. He comes across old Len, who’s always out on the roof at that hour, and throws him to his death. As he runs across the rooftops, a pigeon lands on his shoulder… then another… and another… and soon Alfie is feeling “hundreds of razor-sharp claws that dug in with death-grips.” They lift him up into the sky and then release him, screaming, to his death. Soon the people on the street piece together what happened: Len was on the roof tending to his birds and they figure “it must’ve been old Len’s ghost wot sicced the birds on Alfie!”
Prime Cut Panels: All three stories in this issues are pretty good, but I’ve got to give it up to Florese and his rendition of this brutal murder of a defenceless old woman. I mean, ye cats, he threw that knife into her back so hard it knocked her slipper right off. I get the feeling there was a lot more in that throw that we’re shown in the story, like Aunt Harriet was really mean to Alfie as a kid or something. (Also? Not for nothing, Alfie, but you do your thieving in the middle of the night, not early in the morning — especially if you’re robbing from elderly person who tend to wake up early. Dumbass.)
Filipino artist Rodolfo “Rudy” Florese (1946-2003) started in comics at age 17, drawing several short stories for Aksyon Komiks and, eventually, illustrated the novel Tres Cruzes. Through fellow artist and countryman Nestor Redondo, he found work with DC, contributing to Tarzan and Korak, Son of Tarzan, as well as DC’s horror/mystery titles like Ghosts and The Unexpected.
Great Moments in Advertising: “ACTUALLY FLIES!” Well, sure, so does my pet Labradoodle if I hurl him hard enough. But I think it’s a stretch to call what he does while in midair “flying.” Ah, the fine print tells all: “aero-dynamically balanced for excellent gliding.” For the record, gliding =/= flying. (Heh, I just noticed the ellipsis at the end of that claim, as if the marketers ran out of room to say “ACTUALLY FLIES!… sort of.”)
“MADE OF STURDY EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE” — otherwise known as Styrofoam. I think they had to go with a drawing of a smiling kid because they couldn’t find an actual kid happy to be holding an airplane-shaped piece of Styrofoam.
Random Thoughts: Ghosts was one of DC’s horror anthology titles that ran in the ’70s and ’80s — and there’s not much more you can say about it. Other titles had mascots that would introduce the stories (much like EC’s The Crypt-Keeper), but the stories in Ghosts were usually standalone affair, often with credits that suggested the writers were relating actual ghost stories that they researched. There were also short pieces about actual ghosts that supposedly haunted places in the real world; this issue, for instance, starts off with a one-page piece that highlights some of the ghost stories of New York City.
The art in this issue — with two of the three stories drawn by Filipino artists, who contributed to a lot of DC’s horror, war and Western titles at the time — is fine, and the stories are well-paced if a little repetitive (in all three tales, someone murders someone else and then gets their just desserts through some supposedly supernatural intervention). The best compliment I can give is that anyone who’s a fan of DC’s supernatural output from this time period won’t be disappointed.
Me, though… I don’t know. I came into comics a few years after this issue was published, just as anthology titles were on their way out. And after reading this issue, I can see why characters like the Crypt-Keeper or DC’s Cain and Abel were created to give their books some personality. Without a host to liven things up, it’s easy to see why horror anthologies in the branding-driven Eighties didn’t have a ghost of a chance.
The challenge: Can I review a month’s worth of DC books from January 1980 in under a month?