I figured - why stop with just the TV shows? I might as well have a look at some of the Twilight Zone comics published first by Dell and then, after Dell's split from Western Publishing, under Western's imprint Gold Key. The series ran off and on from 1961 to 1982, when a single issue was published under Gold Key's brief successor Whitman.
The whole Dell/Western/Gold Key saga is an interesting slice of comics history, but for our purposes here, it's enough to know that the The Twilight Zone was one of several licensed properties Gold Key turned into comics in the 60s and 70s. Most of the back half of the series simply reprinted earlier stories, so we probably won't look at much past the 60s.
The issue I want to look at today - Gold Key's sole Twilight Zone offering of 1962 - is unnumbered but is generally considered to be Twilight Zone #1. It consists of three stories, one page of prose ("Wings of Death," which was okay, but I declined reviewing it here), and two educational inserts:
|I love stuff like this in old comics.|
The "Custer's Last Stand" insert relates to the 2nd of the 3 stories, "Do Not Touch Exhibit." The writer is uncredited - actually, all of these stories are uncredited but I tried to track down some of the credits here and here: "Those cited by the Who's Who as writing mystery stories in the early Sixties for Western (which would include TZ at Gold Key) include Leo Cheney, Royal Cole, and Marshall McClintock. There are no specific stories they're known to have done, so I can't match up the unknown writers' styles with particular authors."
So, it's a mystery. Anyway, it's an okay story - a crook fleeing police breaks into a museum to try and evade them. He hides in an exhibit in the American History Wing, but a sudden, unexplained flash of light sends him back into the past. Surrounded by what appear to be US army troops, he's thrown in the stockade when he attacks the base captain. When his food is brought the next morning, he knocks out the guard, steals his uniform, and escapes the base disguised as a soldier. Unfortunately, the troop in which he tries to hide himself is the Seventh Calvary, on route to its fateful encounter with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Meanwhile, in the present, the police discover his body in the museum:
The art is by Tom Gill, best known for his long run on The Lone Ranger, which is probably why he was chosen for this. The story's okay - it was easy enough to guess the twist ending from the moment he went in the museum, but no big whup - but the art is certainly pretty slick, particularly the line work on the horses.
Given the nature of our other two stories, I thought I'd let the screencaps do the plot summary for me. Here's "Voyage to Nowhere," written by Leo Dorfman, prolific writer and editor of the Silver Age who ended his days on DC's Ghosts - my personal favorite of that era's DC's horror anthology titles - and illustrated by EC legends Reed Crandall and George Evans:
Pretty standard little ghost story, eh? Perfectly enjoyable, though personally I'd have preferred the POV stay with Roy after he boards The Wanderer.
The last of our stories is "Perilous Journey," also illustrated by Reed Crandall with author unknown. And once more I'll ask you to do a little of the work yourself by reading through the following panels which attempt to pictorially summarize the plot (with a couple of captions here and there):
|She leads him into an ice cavern after fleeing an indestructible polar bear.|
|They are separated in the avalanche, but Larry's cries are overheard.|
Okay, so just a couple of things:
1) Let's talk about that one panel up there, for starters. You know the one I mean:
Okay, so we know from the last two panels that Dan and Larry are spacemen from Earth. Are these unfortunate representations of Asian children meant to throw us off track and make us think we're in the Himalayas or something? Why do they look dead? Larry falls into a hole in the ground and finds himself at a skating rink of dead racist caricatures? Who attack him with a furious volley of... snowballs?
2) Let's talk about his savior. Why exactly does she save him? Why does she say nothing until she gets him into the ice mirror room? And as for what she does say, what the hell does any of that mean?
3) I think it's safe to say Larry's interest in his little girl savior gets pretty prurient pretty darn fast once she casts the illusion of being an adult full-figured woman. Creepy enough, but what's with his sudden smashing of the walls? What was he trying to prove? Or accomplish?
4) And then the end - this is all some space expedition? What the hell is the point of that? I love it.
One last thing - Gold Key was / is known for its iconic painted covers. Many of them, including the one for this first issue of the Twilight Zone, were painted by George Wilson. I've got an issue of Comic Book Artist devoted to Gold Key (I love its Bruce Timm cover so much) and broke it out last night to see if there was any Twlight Zone info in there. No luck, really, but there's a nice, short interview with George covering his career. "George was an enigma, shy and outgoing, reticent and generous, open and articulate but protective of his privacy, talented and modest. He was grateful for having his work appreciated but adamant about not seeking fame for his efforts."