Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Countdown to Halloween: Retro-Review - Adventures Into the Unknown #1, Part 2!

advsunknown01_08The second story in this book is “The Living Ghost,” a 12-pager by Fred Guardineer.

The first anyone sees of the Living Ghost is at a switching tower, when the operator is attacked by the Living Ghost! With the switchman dead, the Living Ghost causes two trains to crash together! Shortly afterward, at the Daily Bugle, Gail Leslie, a reporter, is assigned to cover the story of the train crash, and when she arrives on the scene, she meets up with Tony Brand, the DA's special investigator!

advsunknown01_09Brand shows Gail the body of the switchman, and tells her the man was strangled. This causes Gail to react like women typically react in these stories, so Brand tells her to take off, this isn't a woman's business, but that he'll find the killer! The next night, however, at a local lover's lane, two teenagers, Jean and Ned, are acting like no teenager in real life ever has, with likes like “Golly, Jean, you're the cutest girl I ever knew!” But then, the Living Ghost attacks!


As you can see above, Gail and Brand are on the scene to investigate, and Gail mentions smelling gunpowder again (the first time she mentions it, it's not entirely clear if she was actually smelling gunpowder, or if she was using the phrase much like saying “I smell a rat”). But she then decides maybe it's brimstone she smells, but Brand says she's crazy for thinking that. However, he does invite her out to go dancing that evening, which she accepts. Gail then wanders around the scene, and finds a footprint of a cloven hoof! She follows the hoofprints to a cave, which happens to be the lair of the Living Ghost! She leaves before the Ghost decides to attack her, but later, at her apartment...


The Living Ghost introduces himself, and tells Gail it would've been easy to kill her in the cave, but he decided she was too beautiful, so he decided to follow her home, and now he's decided to make her his! He picks her up and leaps out of the window, flying her away with him!

Brand arrives at the trashed apartment, sees the words “The Living Ghost” written on the wall, and then finds something that really shakes him up... “A face so terrible that it's etched itself into the mirror. A – a face that's out of the grave!” This convinces him that the supernatural does exist. Having become a believer, he figures out where he needs to go for advice:


advsunknown01_13So, the Doc tells Tony the rest of the legend of the Living Ghost, and that once per century he walks the world again, and that it's time! Tony asks what he can do, and he's told... well, it's best just to show you -->

In the meantime, the Living Ghost has brought Gail to his cave, where he tells her that Gail will join him in the legion of the undead... as his queen! Of course, Gail is not interested in this, and pushes him away. So the Living Ghost decides to demonstrate his powers! Casting a spell, the Living Ghosts call upon... The Hosts of Age-Old Evil, which you really have to see to believe, but I'll just show you two of the panels below:


Meanwhile, Tony is searching the scene of the last murder when he sees a trio of the undead shambling past him! Well, Tony calls them “specters – inhuman!” Anyway, he follows them secretly to the Living Ghost's cave, where he sees the Legion of the Condemmed approach the Living Ghost and Gail! Tony thinks quickly, and puts a coating of mud over himself to disguise himself as one of the undead in order to infiltrate the cave.

Yes, that's right, a coating of mud. And considering that it worked, I guess you'd have to say that the Living Ghost and his undead legion aren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier! Tony comes up behind Gail and reveals to her that it's him in disguise (yes, that's right, Gail, a reporter, is not observant enough to tell that Tony is not an undead person thanks to the coating of mud). He tells Gail his plan, and she tells the Living Ghost that she'll rule with him, if he'll only get rid of the “awful creatures!” The Living Ghost sends them away, and then notices that Tony is still there – and finally sees through his disguise! The Living Ghost says, “You fools – thinking that you culd fight a superhuman power! There's only one answer – death!” But Tony has an ace up his sleeve... or rather, a petrified olive branch!


Despite the fact that the now-mortal Living Ghost looks to be about 10 feet tall, Tony punches the Living Ghost in the nose, but the Ghost responds by grabbing Tony's neck in his hands and forces him to the floor of the cave! Gail grabs a football-sized rock and hits the Ghost in the back of the head, giving Tony a reprieve while the Ghost attacks Gail. This galvanizes Tony into action, giving him apparently superhuman strength!


Bizarrely enough, the police do manage to apprehend him, and the Living Ghost is sentenced to the electric chair (sadly, we don't get to see the trial itself), but, when the switch is thrown, the Living Ghost vanishes instead! Gail and Tony hear the news on the radio.


So, an interesting concept, isn't it? A continuing character in a horror comic book, with mere mortals going after him? Aside from Dick Briefer's Frankenstein and Marv Wolfman's Tomb of Dracula, I'm not sure that there were any other examples of this (unless one counts The Claw).

Next time: “It Walked By Night”!


  1. intresting.. no one seam to know who wrote 'The Living Ghost' and while this is pre-Comics code, it seams odd that have refered to him as a Living Ghost when.. well.. It's a Zombie by any other name really.

    And i hate to be too critical of someone like Guardineer, who is a fairly known name in comics (unlike some of my favorites that are.. lesser known) but when the 'living ghost' attacks Gail.. well.. the face we see is in the mirror right? yet his Red eye is the right one.. It's normally the right one, but this time, it's the right side only in the reflection, as the none reflectio we see, has the right side eye clearly being white.. of course, that size changing is a bit.. weird too ^_^

    Of courser, looking at the last panel, i think the reason for the name was he was made to be ongoing, which you do comfirm, which means the name makes a little more sense.. still a bit silly though.. It's like all them cheap Mummy films that are thing like 'Attack of the Living Mummy'.. I guess 'Attack of the Dead Mummy' doesn't have much of a ring to it..

  2. I don't really see the Living Ghost as being a zombie, as he demonstrates powers beyond zombie abilities!

    He certainly is some form of undead, with supernatural powers that defies classification among the standard undead (i.e. vampires, ghouls, zombies). I suppose "Living Ghost" is as good a label as any, since he's known by that specific name (indicating he's one of a kind).

    So far as the coloring on the reflection goes... back in the day, it was extremely rare that any coloring input was given by the artists of comic books. Instead, the coloring was done by (usually) women, who picked whatever colors from the limited palettes they had, and often set the coloring of the character's costumes! (This would, perhaps, explain why the Alan Scott Green Lantern had a red shirt, among other costume features that don't fit the "Green" idea).

    Guardineer certainly wasn't at his best when doing this story... I'm not all that familiar with his career, but it seems he bounced around a lot between different publishers after leaving DC... perhaps he wasn't inking his own work here, or else the pay was so little he didn't put his usual amount of care into it?

  3. maybe ^_^ The thing that made me more think Zombie was in the non correct Zombie.. i mean, the correct type are basically puppets controlled by someone but, hey, try to find a version like that ^_^ I was more going by the look of a partly decayed corpse, but then, that's a bad thing to judge it on. but then, the amount of things that have zombies with super-human strength and stuff..

    personally, i think alot of writers back then and even today (more so today) have the problem with the fact that everything has been done in a way.. Oh Horror! A Werewolf! oh wait.. everyone knows pure silver can stop them.. that's no danger.. Oh Vampire! Lets try bright light and garlic.. Oh Zombie! Well.. lets just lock the door.. they aren't strong enough to brake it down...

    How can the writers try to figure out the horror with the limits.. well.. tons of ways but they like to give up and just change things Like, Oh, he is a vampire but he can walk around in daylight! or look! Super Human talking Zombie! I guess one of the reasons i though 'Ghost' was a bit of a bad name was that a ghost is pretty much the spirit of a person that died.. I can buy the spirits being able to touch stuff and have human form and all but.. well.. it does look more like he is just a guy that came back to life but in a semi-dead (undead) form.. and i make the stupid mistake of mostly referring to reanimated corpses as Zombies.. Of course, they could be vampires, a Jiangshi, hell, a Frankenstein monster or Captain America


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