Friday, October 21, 2016

Chamber of Darkness # 1, October 1969

Marvel Comics were still making history with their groundbreaking super-hero stories when Chamber of Darkness was published. This was a better series than most people thought it would be, although it never achieved the acclaim that its creators had hoped for. I suppose the main criticism then as now being that the tales fell short of the stark terror and often gruesome images that made comics like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror such collector’s items. The stories lack that horrific punch and come across as watered down ghost stories for general audiences. I agree with that criticism, but I still found merit in the series. The first story, “It’s Only Magic,” is credited to Stan Lee and John Buscema, with Buscema’s artwork being the highlight. Lee’s story falls flat. It’s about a teenager who taps into some arcane literature and awakens a Djinn, but there’s nothing scary here. Buscema’s artwork captures a nice October mood. I enjoyed the next story, “Mr. Craven Buys His Scream House!” by Dennis O’Neil with artwork by Tom Sutton. This seven-page tale is about a bitter old man who wants to destroy a house, but can’t. This is the best story in the issue, made palpable by Sutton’s artwork. O’Neil’s story is good, but might have been better if it had been longer. The final story is fair. “Always Leave ‘Em Laughing” is credited to Gary Friedrich with artwork by Don Heck. A scientist, tired of being ridiculed, travels to the past where he hopes to gain respect, but instead he finds himself yet again an object of ridicule. All of the stories are introduced by Headstone B. Gravely (H.P. Headstone), a pale imitation of so many better sepulchral horror hosts. I enjoyed the autumnal feel to Chamber of Darkness, and I still love that first issue’s cover. Marvel was also publishing Tower of Shadows and soon, Chamber of Chills, in their effort to capture the horror comics market. The days of the truly great horror comics had passed, but as most of you know, Marvel Comics struck gold with Tomb of Dracula in 1972, a series that lasted only a few years but left a lasting impression. Chamber of Darkness lasted eight issues.

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