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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, July 7, 2014


Horror comics from the 1960s can't compare with the mad, bad comics of the 1950s, but Gold Key's BORIS KARLOFF'S TALES OF MYSTERY was one of the better titles of the sixties. In general it managed to project a good sense of creepiness, even with the limitations of the Comics Code, and often boasted striking painted covers.

Take issue #10, from 1965. The cover story dealt with a couple of American entrepreneurs trying to unearth treasure from a volcano in Peru. They dismiss the idea that the area may be haunted by "the Hill Barbarians," a vicious gang of cutthroats who were vanquished centuries ago when the volcano went off and encased them all in lava.  Naturally, the undead warriors, horses and all, come back to life when one of the entrepreneurs tampers with their burial site. In keeping with the Code, no one is violently killed by the spectres, but there's a creepy moment when one of the locals observes that the barbarians are wasting away to skeletons even as they ride against their old enemies.

The most puzzling aspect of the tale is that the uniforms of the warriors are clearly modeled on the Spanish conquistadors. Yet at first the writer refers to them as "the Hill Barbarians of Peru," as if they are native to the realm. Then later, the characters referring to the warriors as "the Spanish barbarians," though there's no still no acknowledgement that they're literal conquistadors.  Maybe the unknown writer started out using conquistadors, but decided that he wanted them to be local bandits, who would be more likely to plunder Peruvian villages on a regular basis, rather than stealing from them legally, through taxation, as the conquistadors did.

A more satisfying refutation of European imperialism appears in BKTOM #24, from 1968. Suffice to say that the evil, red-bearded fellow on the cover ends up getting his from the magical "demon masks" of a tribe of Asian headhunters, and that his own head rests less than easy by story's end.

This issue, however, is more interesting for the story "The Guardians," which although it is narrated by Boris Karloff, contains references to "The Twilight Zone" in Boris' ruminations. Most probably this was an inventory story done for Gold Key's TWILIGHT ZONE title. Someone decided to adapt it to BKTOM by simply re-drawing Rod Serling to look like Karloff, but the editor didn't bother to correct the text. I expect horror-stories in comic books to be rather thinly plotted, but these two issues don't exact speak highly for the skills of the Gold Key editorial staff.

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