Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Bubonic, one of my recent Wacky Package gags.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vault Lines

Vault 22

The Vault of Horror 22 (December 1951-January 1952) featured an Al Feldstein story with a plot borrowed from Ray Bradbury and another in which Feldstein developed a tale from his own premise. Interviewed by John Benson, Feldstein explained the origin of “Gone…Fishing!”: “I got the idea for that while I was surfcasting. Living on Long Island, one of my hobbies on the weekends was going out to Jones Beach or Fire Island and surfcasting, early mornings, late evenings. And I got this idea while I was surfcasting, and I came to Bill with it, and I said, ‘You always bring springboards. I’ve got a springboard.’ And he said, ‘Go write it.’ And I wrote it, and much later it was adapted into that short movie, which they did a pretty good job on.”

The film Feldstein mentioned is a French-produced short, The Fisherman, which he happened to see at a Manhattan art theater in 1966. He called Bill Gaines and said, “Hey, Bill, we’ve been ripped off.” Gaines contacted the producers and secured both an on-screen credit (“adapted from EC Comics”) and copies of the film for both himself and Feldstein. In 1972, this film was shown during the EC Comics convention at New York’s Hotel McAlpin. 

Bradbury’s Dark Carnival (Arkham House, 1947) exerted a powerful influence on Feldstein, who commented, “Our plots came from a conglomeration of sources, movies we’d seen, books we’d read. I wasn’t doing very much reading in those days. I was letting Bill give us the springboards, so I would be free in my mind to enter into the more original areas, if possible, because we weren’t really intending on stealing stuff. We were looking just for inspiration to give us ideas to come up with something original. My function was to kind of take the springboards with Bill out into a new area… Not only borrowings in terms of plot, but borrowings in terms of writing style. I was very impressed with Ray Bradbury. I read Dark Carnival and The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man and whatever else I could get of Bradbury’s at the time. I was very impressed with his writing style, and I tried to emulate it, I think, in the comic style. We didn’t consciously steal from him, you know, but again, we might have been pretty close.”

With a print run of 3,112 copies, Dark Carnival was Bradbury's first published book. It contained 27 stories, and 21 of those were reprinted from Dime Mystery Magazine, Harper’s, Mademoiselle and Weird Tales. The six non-reprints were “The Maiden”, “The Emissary”, “Jack-in-the-Box”, “Uncle Einar”, “The Night Sets” and “The Next in Line”. Weird Tales was the major source, with 16 of the stories from the pages of that magazine as published between 1943 and 1948. Thus, the influence of Weird Tales on EC was considerable.

The life of Bill Delaney (1892-1986), publisher of Weird Tales, Short Stories and World Astrology, parallels the history of popular fiction during the 20th Century. During the years Delaney published Weird Tales (1938-54), with Farnsworth Wright and Dorothy McIlwraith as his editors, the magazine printed six Bradbury stories which later became memorable EC adaptations, illustrated by Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen and Joe Orlando: "There Was an Old Woman" (Tales from the Crypt 34 from the July 1944 issue of Weird Tales); "The Lake" (Vault of Horror 31 from the May 1944 Weird Tales); "Let's Play Poison" (Vault 29 from Weird Tales, November 1946); "The Handler" (Crypt 36 from Weird Tales, January 1947); "The October Game" (Shock SuspenStories 9 from Weird Tales, March 1948); "The Black Ferris" (Haunt of Fear 18 from Weird Tales, May 1948).

During the early 1950s, when the 279-issue continuous run of Weird Tales was winding down, a glance at a newsstand revealed the magazine's strong influence on comic books. In a 1980 paperback revival of Weird Tales, Lin Carter wrote, "I can think of no other magazine in history which exerted quite the same sort of influence which Weird Tales exerted over the genre it shaped and perfected, and the authors who contributed to it so devotedly over the years... And there can have been very few fiction magazines in the history of publishing which have had as many of their stories dramatized on radio, television and in the movies."

Fifteen of the 27 Dark Carnival stories were later reprinted in The October Country (1955), some with revisions. Bradbury did an extensive rewrite of "The Emissary" for The October Country. When Feldstein wrote “What the Dog Dragged In!” he borrowed the premise of the Dark Carnival version, changing the central character of a boy to a young woman.

“The Jellyfish!” in The Vault of Horror 19 was suggested by Bradbury’s “Skeleton”.  The idea for “Skeleton” came to Bradbury when a “strangely sore larynx” prompted him to visit his family doctor, who said, “That’s all perfectly normal. You’ve just never bothered to feel the tissues, muscles, or tendons in your neck or, for that matter, your body. Consider the medulla oblongata.” Recalling the incident, Bradbury wrote, “Consider the medulla oblongata! Migawd, I could hardly pronounce it! I went home feeling my bones—my kneecaps, my floating ribs, my elbows, all those hidden Gothic symbols of darkness—and wrote “Skeleton”.” It was published in the September1945 issue of Weird Tales and reprinted in Dark Carnival.
                                                                              --Bhob Stewart

Above: Joe Mugnaini illustration for "Skeleton".

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After Seduction of the Innocent was printed, these pages were razored out due to fears. Thus, surviving copies are rare collectibles.

For many scans from the book, go to My Comic Art.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Charles Bukowski's Nirvana from Patrick Biesemans on Vimeo.
W. Watts Biggers died 2/10, as noted in this AP obit.

ART of "The Man Inside" by W. Watts Biggers from One Brick Films on Vimeo.

Bamberger Books did a reprint in 1999: "Fiction. THE MAN INSIDE was first published in 1968, and has long been unavailable. Bamberger Books and SPD are proud to make this thought-provoking, emotionally rich novel available once again. Caro, as the hero comes to be called, is found to be living in a state of 'continuing amnesia' -- not only has he no memory of the past, he also forgets each moment as soon as it passes. While trying to read his way through a world full of possible signs (as well as an entire library), in search of his elusive purpose, Caro is ensnared by the machinations of those insidious characters who surround him."

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vault Lines

Vault 21

The Vault of Horror 21 (October-November 1951) is notable for the introduction of artist Howard Larsen and the absence of Graham Ingels. Other than this exception, the Vault of Horror lineup was standardized with Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Graham Ingels and Jack Kamen.

When Ingels returned in issue #22, he started signing his work “Ghastly”. Prior to that, as evident in #19, he used “G. Ingels” as his signature. The nickname began in the letters pages (see #18 and #19) where Gaines and Feldstein gave him the “Ghastly Graham Ingels” label. He obviously had no objection, because all of his Old Witch stories soon displayed the “Ghastly” signature. While Feldstein’s version of the Old Witch remained on the front covers of #18 through #29, Ingels’ depiction of the Old Witch was evolving inside, possibly influenced by two 1937 witches: Horrit, the Witch in Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, and the Witch in Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Old Witch's origin story is "A Little Stranger!" in The Haunt of Fear #14. The Old Witch was inspired by Gaines’ memory of hearing Old Nancy, the witch of Salem, who was the host of Alonzo Deen Cole's The Witch's Tale, broadcast from 1931 to 1938 on the Mutual Broadcasting System. (Miriam Wolfe was 13 years old when she began portraying Old Nancy in 1935; she died September 29, 2000.)

Howard Larsen dished out a sinister meal in the shadowy nightmarish zoo of “That’s a ‘Croc’!”, while Craig’s gator aid to this tale is a rainswept front cover that diverged from the interior storyline to present a more fantastic situation.

Larsen’s work brings to mind the phrases “darkness at noon” and “day for night”. Note that the night scenes on page four do not look that much different from his daylight depictions in other panels.

During the 1940s, Larsen mainly specialized in crime and Western stories while drawing for a variety of publishers, including American (Spy-Hunters), Avon (Romantic Love, Slave Girl, Wild Bill Hickok), Charlton (Marvels of Science), Et-Es-Go (Suspense), Fiction House (Jungle, Planet, Wings), Novelty (Blue Bolt), St. John (The Texan) and Victory (X-Venture).  For EC he contributed to Crime Patrol #12 (“The Hanged Man’s Revenge”) and returned with “The Borrowed Body” in Tales from the Crypt #26.

“Child’s Play” is another in Kamen’s “widdle kid” series. EC later did a different story titled “Child’s Play”, illustrated by Joe Orlando, in the fifth and final issue of M.D. (December 1955-January 1956).

“Trapped!”, illustrated by Jack Davis, is based on the simple premise that it’s not easy to handle flypaper. Such a situation was used most famously by the animator Norm Ferguson in Walt Disney’s “Playful Pluto” (1934), a cartoon viewed by prisoners in Sullivan’s Travels (1940). Pluto trapped in Tanglefoot flypaper is regarded as an important milestone in the history of character animation because Ferguson illustrated thought processes through pure pantomime. Pluto was seen not just as a dog but as a thinking character.

“Trapped!” has a number of inconsistencies and unanswered questions. Why is Marty King “ridin’ hobo style” on a freight train when he has a bag full of cash? Why not just buy a ticket? Perhaps he stole the money, but there is no mention of such. Why does he kill the friendly old man? The reader is given not even a hint, other than the unconvincing notion that a ”cursed place” could trigger such a sudden unmotivated action. With this weak explanation, the plot pieces come unglued, and the story collapses despite the vigorous art treatment by Davis.



Saturday, February 16, 2013
1919 Boston Molasses Disaster


Thursday, February 14, 2013
Third installment from EC Archives.

Vault Lines

Vault 20

The Vault of Horror 20 was yet another plateau for Craig, as he decided to upgrade his art with a new approach. The front cover of mob frenzy ranks alongside #15 as the best of his early Vault covers, and like #15, it could have dispensed with the unnecessary speech balloon. Jack Davis’ “The Reluctant Vampire!” was chosen as the cover story, and Craig offered his interpretation of Davis’ closing page. Yet the cover is imbued with Wally Wood atmospherics, as Craig explained to John Benson, “I think of Wood when I see the cover of #20. He inspired that cover, probably, by his ability to handle that type of situation. It’s another example of spotting something an artist does and trying to see if it works for you. I think that in “About Face!” I was trying to change my technique a bit. I was trying to become more illustrative, with a thinner line. My girls were starting to improve, too.”

“Revenge Is the Nuts’!” and “The Reluctant Vampire!” were both adapted for HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series. In the sixth season, “Revenge Is the Nuts” was telecast 16 November 1994 with a cast of Anthony Zerbe, Teri Polo and John Savage.  In the third season, “The Reluctant Vampire” was telecast 10 July 1991 with a cast of Malcolm McDowell, Sandra Dickinson and George Wendt.

The short story “Mr. George” by August Derleth (1909-1971), writing under the pseudonym Stephen Grendon, provided the inspiration for the ghostly bodyguard of “Grandma’s Ghost!!” (again with two exclamation points), illustrated by Jack Kamen for another in his “widdle kid” series. It borrows the major plot elements of Derleth’s “Mr. George”. (Coincidentally, “Craig” is George’s surname.)

Derleth’s story was published in the March 1947 issue of Weird Tales. Because the prolific Derleth had so many stories in Weird Tales (a total of 137), he used his Grendon pseudonym, but the pen name seemed pointless since the front cover of the March 1947 issue proclaimed, “Mr. George by August Derleth”. The contents page carried a deceptive disclamer: "Through a regrettable error, this story is announced on our cover as by August Derleth. Mr. Derleth acted as agent for Mr. Grendon's story, and someone in our office confused the agent's name for the author's. The error was discovered too late to stop printing of the cover." To make matters more confusing, Derleth used Grendon as both a pseudonym and a character name.

In his introduction to the collection Mr. George and Other Odd Persons (Arkham House, 1963), Derleth wrote, 'The tales in this book were written all in one month 20 years ago specifically to swell the log of Weird Tales… All these stories appear here as they were first written down--for time did not permit revision and re-typing in those hectic days; each story was put down on paper ready for the printer, and went off next day in the mail.”

By day, Derleth was working on a novel, so he wrote the stories late at night amid interruptions from visitors and students:  “Never earlier than nine o'clock, and on, frequently, to two o'clock in the morning… These narratives were written under conditions in which the average writer could not have begun to function.”

Derleth often employed plots with a “revenge from beyond the grave” premise. Darrell Schweitzer described the story in Discovering Classic Horror Fiction 1 (Borgo Press, 1992): “It was in the 1940s and 1950s, however, that Derleth matured as a writer of weird fiction. This is shown by the high percentage of original and impressive work from this period in Lonesome Place (1962) and Mr. George and Other Odd Persons (1963). Appropriately, the stories in the latter—his best collection—were published under the pseudonym of Stephen Grendon, the name of the autobiographical character in the Sac Prairie saga. For in many of them the contributor toWeird Tales merges with the mainstream author. In the story “Mr. George” itself, for example, the working out of a vengeance from beyond the grave is given conviction by the matter-of-factness of the style, and still more by the vivid characterizations, the realistic texture of the background, and the touching depiction of the relationship between a child and her father, which continues even when he is dead.”

“Mr. George” was adapted twice to television, first for a telefilm by Revue in 1953. Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff, carried an adaptation on May 9, 1961. Directed by Ida Lupino, it starred Gina Gillespie as the child, along with Virginia Gregg, Howard Freeman and Lillian Bronson. 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Next installment of my EC Archives article. Much of this segment was edited out by Grant Geissman and Russ Cochran, but here it is as I wrote it.                                                               

Vault 19

Craig’s front cover for The Vault of Horror 19 (June-July 1951) illustrates Graham Ingels’ story “Reunion!”, but it echoes the rural elements found in the Craig cover for #18. The cover situation comes across as lightweight when compared to the horrific closing page of “Reunion!”, and the character name is changed from Roger to Ralph for no apparent reason.

Jack Kamen’s “Daddy Lost His Head!!” (with two exclamation points in the title) introduced to Vault what Gaines called EC’s “widdle kid” stories, and two more by Kamen appeared in issues #20 and #21.

With “Southern Hospitality!” Craig managed to create an interesting cast of Southern characters for this melodramatic tale, but it curiously carries absolutely no hint of a Southern setting. Completely blank backgrounds are conspicuous in 17 panels. Later, the magnolia murders, mossy horror and decaying mansions of EC’s Southern Gothic tales became closely identified with Ingels.

“Southern Hospitality!” is notable as a turning point in Craig’s writing with the use of far fewer captions. Compared to Feldstein's writing, Craig chose to tell more of the story visually. This continued to evolve in later issues, but this issue is where it began. Leroy lettering often crowded Feldstein’s stories, but Craig’s minimal use of the Leroy lettering gave his stories a distinctive look.

The Vault of Horror and other EC Comics used Leroy lettering by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Margaret Wroten. On the Feldstein-edited titles the artists received pages minus layouts but with the Wrotens’ inked lettering already down on the boards.

Leroy lettering requires a collection of templates and a small handheld instrument, the scriber. An inked letter is produced by the penholder on one side of the scriber as the metal stylus on the other side follows the grooves in the template positioned an inch below.

EC’s extensive use of Leroy lettering, one suspects, derives as much from Bill Gaines‘ compulsion for neatness as it did from the reasons he offered in The Comics Journal #81 (May 1983): “My father, when he did Wonder Woman, and I have no idea why, used Leroy lettering… The older Wonder Womans were Leroy lettered by Jimmy Wroten, who started out as a salesman for Keuffel & Esser, who made, among other things, my slide rule. They were the big company for slide rules, for templates, for Leroy lettering. Leroy lettering mostly was used for lettering charts, engineering charts and so on, which it is beautiful for. How the hell it got involved in comics I don’t know, but it suited us very well because Al was a script-oriented person. Although he is an artist, and a pretty good one, when he started writing, he was more interested in the script than the art… Because Al used so many words, we found we could do it more clearly with Leroy lettering. If we had wanted a hand-letterer to work that small, to get all that copy in, it would have been very difficult for him. You’ll notice Kurtzman’s stuff has very light copy. He never liked Leroy lettering; he wanted the feel of the hand-lettering, so we used Ben Oda, a fine Japanese hand-letterer, who still works for DC and occasionally does something for us.”

While scripting directly on the boards used for the finished art, Feldstein penciled in the copy in a system advantageous for Wroten, as Gaines explained: “He would take his six, seven or eight sheets of paper, because we had a formula—it was either an eight, seven or six-page story. He’d take a ruler, rule out the panels, he’d letter right into the panels, he’d hold his lettering three lines down so the letterer could read what he was lettering, because he used Leroy lettering with templates, and he had to leave room for the template.”

Since all Feldstein-edited books, over a period of years, featured Leroy lettering, readers assumed Feldstein chose to use Leroy lettering as the ideal adjunct to his clean, crisp art technique, but in 1975, he told interviewer Ed Spiegel (Fanfare #1, Spring 1977) that this choice was not his preference: “I inherited that. When I joined Bill, they were already using it. I think it was a mistake. Harvey didn’t want any part of Leroy. But the fellow who did it for us, Jim Wroten, had this whole family arrangement, and we didn’t have the heart to take it away from them. Jim and his wife did it. We published all those years with it, and I think it made the books appear a bit static. But there’s another angle to examine, and that’s whether the heavy captions I did would have been harder to read without it. It’s not easy to sustain good lettering over a whole paragraph.”

Jim and Margaret Wroten’s studio, Wroten Lettering, remained in operation for decades until Jim Wroten’s death in 1980. The couple, who first met in elementary school, grew up together in Baltimore. When I interviewed Margaret Wroten in 1986, she talked about the mid-1930s when Jim’s uncle helped him land a job at Keuffel & Esser in Morristown, New Jersey, leaving her in Baltimore. A year later, in 1937, they married. “Remember, it was the pit of the Depression,” she recalled. “You couldn’t get jobs. I had worked for the gas and electric company when he worked for Keuffel & Esser. I was just a housewife. He had been with them for about 18 months when we were married. Jim was about the best Leroy letterer around. He taught me how to do it. He demonstrated for Keuffel & Esser at different trade shows; that’s how he started doing it.”

He continued as a Keuffel & Esser salesman during World War II, exempt from military service because of his “confidential work for the government,” as she put it. Wroten Lettering began at the end of WWII when the couple, in 1945, joined William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) and others on the Wonder Woman team at 331 Madison Avenue. 

“Jim quit Keuffel & Esser when we got our studio; he thought it would be a nice little business for the two of us to do together. Our studio was Doc Marston’s office. We were on the 12th floor. The art studio where Harry G. Peter worked was upstairs, right over us on the 13th floor. They had another artist, a girl named Arlene, who did backgrounds for him. Harry G. Peter was a nice old gentleman; he was just a nice person. We went out to Doc’s home several times, but after Doc died we never kept in touch with the rest of the family. He had an assistant who helped him write stories; her name was Joye Hummel. She married, and I think she’s down in Florida someplace.

“That’s how we started. We got started doing Wonder Woman, and through that we met Mr. Gaines [Max Gaines] and did work for him—because Doc Marston and Mr. Gaines were good friends. For Mr. Gaines we did Picture Stories from Science, the books on history and the story of The Bible. We worked on all of those.”

Wroten Lettering’s list of clients boomed in the post-WWII years. “We worked on EC Comics. We worked on Hillman Comics. And Victor Fox—we worked on some of his too. We did charts, and we did lettering on some romance magazines at 500 Fifth. At one time we had some help, but mostly it was just my husband and myself. I liked working with him, and I happened to like Leroy lettering. I think it’s a very fine kind of lettering. In addition to the comic books, the Wrotens also lettered for comic strips—Bert Whitman’s syndicated Debbie Dean (1942-48) and Stan MacGovern’s antic angle on human behavior, Silly Milly (1939-50), which had little syndication but appeared in the featured slot at the top of the New York Post’s comics page. In Sinclair Lewis’ novel Bethel Merriday (1940) a character leaving New York remarks that they won’t miss the city except for Silly Milly. Once toasted in a “Stan MacGovern Night” at Leon & Eddie’s nightclub, the talented MacGovern became one of the more curiously neglected cartoonists of the 20th Century because his popular Silly Milly was never seen nationally. He abandoned cartooning in the 1950s, opened an unsuccessful East Rockaway, Long Island gift shop, and then worked at a Long Island furniture store. He was 72 when he committed suicide in 1975.

With the advent of EC’s New Trend, the Wrotens often worked evenings and weekends to keep pace with the ever-increasing number of words per page. “When we went into the horror comics, heck, the lettering on the horror comics practically took up half the panels. All you were getting was heads, a lot of heads. When we first got into the business, a survey was taken that said the concentration span of a child was very limited—and they said 35 to 40 words a page. Those you could turn out in 15 or 20 minutes. Bill Gaines was paying $2.50 a page. I’d count the words sometimes and find 400 to 500 words on a page. That’s a lot of words. The average way it used to be when comics were first done was with 35, 40 or 50 words a page, and you could do a page in 15 to 25 minutes or half an hour, depending on the words.; 400 to 500 words a page would take an hour or so. When it got so terribly heavy, I think we just reduced the size of the template. We had to go down to a #140 template, I think, because you couldn’t use a #175 with all those words on a page.

“We got it done. We always got it done. We worked night and day on those things. Many nights we stayed until nine o’clock to get something out that they needed the next day. We delivered and picked up our own work. This way we knew it got there; I don’t believe in that messenger stuff. Whenever they would finish the stories, they would give us a call; we would come down, pick up the work, do the lettering and take it back to them when it was done. We tried to proof everything before we sent it down. If Bill found a mistake or made a change, he would mark it off in blue in the margin, and then we would just correct it. Sometimes when there would be changes or he would want to do something else, we would put them on little strips, cut them to fit and put them on with rubber cement.” (This created a problem for reprints many years later when the rubber cement dried, and the tiny strips fell off.) 

This exchange of pick-ups and deliveries kept the Wrotens actively involved with EC, since the procedure often necessitated traveling downtown to EC’s office three or four times a week. The Wrotens saw the EC artists not only at the annual EC Christmas parties but also in the course of their work, since the deadline pace occasionally required the artists to go to 331 Madison. “We just had one big room. It was a small office, but it was large enough for three boards. If they didn’t finish something, or if they wanted to make a last-minute correction, they could do that. Once in a while they would stop in and pick up work from us. If they needed to make a correction, we had pens and ink they could use. This didn’t go on all the time. This was just if they wanted to to do something quick or change something. Lots of time they would even bring up the work. Jack Davis used to come in, and Wood came in. We always had an extra drawing board, and they could sit down and do whatever they wanted to do.

“Bill had very good artists. We always got comic books. I had loads and loads of them. I gave them away. I shouldn’t have, should I? The last comic books we did were for EC, and then Jimmy just got out of it. He went into doing charts, badge cards, formulas for chemical houses and floor plans for trade shows all over the country. We sublet part of the studio during the 1960s. I gave up the studio after he passed on six years ago.” 
Sunday, February 10, 2013

Beginning of my article for EC Archives: The Vault of Horror

Vault Lines

Vault 18

In The Vault of Horror 18 (April-May 1951) and the half-dozen issues that followed, the EC artists were evolving and experimenting.

When The Film Noir Encyclopedia was published by Overlook Press in 1979, it became clear that Cornell Woolrich stories and novels had provided the source material for more 1940s film noir screenplays than any other writer. Dozens of Woolrich stories were dramatized on Suspense and other radio anthology programs during the 1940s.

Johnny Craig had a fascination with fiction by Woolrich, and “Sink-hole!” offers an opening seemingly suggested by the femme fatale of Woolrich’s Waltz into Darkness, published in 1947 under Woolrich’s pseudonym, William Irish. The novel was filmed by François Truffaut as Mississippi Mermaid (1969) and remade 32 years later by director Michael Cristofer as Original Sin (2001).

In Woolrich’s noir narrative, set in post-Civil War New Orleans, wealthy coffeehouse owner Louis Durand has been corresponding and planning marriage with Julia, a woman he does not know. When he waits at the steamboat dock to meet her for the first time, he expects a plain-looking, middle-aged woman but is surprised by the arrival of an attractive younger woman. He ignores her suspicious behavior and is stunned by her betrayal when she vanishes with his money. Seeking revenge, he stalks women who resemble Julia, hires a private detective and chases a masked girl through the streets during Mardi Gras.

In Truffaut’s film adaptation, wealthy tobacco plantation owner Louis Mahé (Jean-Paul Belmondo) lives on exotic Reunion Island (off the coast of Madagascar) during the 1960s. At the docks, he awaits his mail-order bride, Julie Roussel (Catherine Deneuve), whom he met through personal ads. When she arrives on a French ocean liner, the Mississippi, he does not recognize her because she looks unlike the photographs he had received in the mail. After they marry, she cleans out their joint bank account and disappears into the night.

Original Sin changed the setting yet again, this time to late 19th century Cuba, with both parties deceptive: Julia (Angelina Jolie) explains that she mailed an advance photo of a plain-faced woman because she has been searching for a man interested in more than just an attractive female, while wealthy coffee company owner Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas) had Julia believing he lived in poverty.

Revamping the beginning of Waltz into Darkness for his “Sink-hole!” set-up, Craig employed a gender twist and then took his tale in a totally different direction, one “full of passion, grief… and hate,” as the Vault-Keeper notes in his introduction. These emotions erupt “with shocking force” when Shirley swings the frying pan on page five.  The climax of “Sink-hole!” is telegraphed on page seven, perhaps even page six. Oddly, the front cover completely reveals the story’s conclusion.

Craig did a nice job of visualizing the “parched, sunbaked earth” and the dusty farmland. The reader is given no clue as to the state where this farm is located, but sinkholes are prominent in Florida and Michigan.

The “ramshackle farmhouse” is rundown and dilapidated, but the farm machinery is state-of-the-art, indicating Craig had access to 1950-51 farm machinery journals or brochures. “Intercontinental Diesel” is an obvious reference to International Harvester, and the tractor depicted resembles the 1951 International TD-6 tractor crawler, which had the words “Diesel International” on the hood. (Go to YouTube to see a TD-6 crawler in operation.)

Adapted from Shirley Jackson's The Bird's Nest

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