Twilight Zone Comics (1962)

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."



  1. Okay, now I'm excited.

    Believe it or not, I actually owned at least two copies of issues from this comic. They were antiques and I don't know what happened to them.

    Now that my memory is catching up, I may have bought just one and leafed through the other right there in the back issue comic store where I found it.

    The clearest memories I have of those issues are one where two gangsters are have broken into a house (they may have committed murder to do it) and are looking for a pile of cash hidden somewhere in an old Civil War era house.

    The robbers decide to spend the night and continue their search for the money stash in the morning. During the night, one of the robbers is awakened by the ghost of its Civil War owner. I think he was supposed to be a Union Army commander or something, which is sort of a change of pace for this type of story, I guess.

    The ghost, a literal shade with army features, points the robber to a spot on the wall, then vanishes. The robbers break open that section of wall and find the money they are after. Next morning, they leave the old house, only they find that the road they took looks a lot different than when they first arrived. Eventually, they are stopped by a troop of Union Army soldiers. The money is discovered on their persons, and so the Union Army immediately hog ties the robbers and they are given a summary execution. The Union troop then trudges onto the next battle in the War of Southern Aggression. The End.

    So yeah, its a time-travel as cosmic karma story, with the robbers ending up trapped back in the Civil War.

    To be concluded.

    1. Concluded from above.

      That story was from the issue I left on the rack. The one I can recall from the issue I took home involves an naval unit installing an underwater atomic bomb/nuclear missile launch sort of thing.

      What they don't know is that they are being watched by an unseen entity. This story alternates between the third person omniscient perspective on the naval crew in scuba gear as they set up the bomb/nukes, and the first person perspective of the watcher who is observing them.

      Because the watcher's viewpoint is first person, we never see this entity for a long time, just word panels overlaid on illustrations of various underwater aquatic life. The images themselves are normal, yet with the dialogue overlay they take on a kind of menacing tone, or at least that's how I recall it.

      I remember the voice of the unseen observer as being both frantic while also carrying a strange kind of detached quality. Again, the result was unnerving. The single line of dialogue I think I remember comes from this unseen character, and it went something like "can't happen again etc" or something like that.

      As the story progresses we follow this watcher as the character gets closer and closer to the naval crew, the thought panels getting more panicked. I think at one point there's a moment of indecision about whether to "take action" or something.

      Finally, the faceless observer charges at the crew. Topside, the entire crew is knocked off balance by a brief yet strong underwater THUMP as something hits them underwater.

      They submerge but find nothing, however the device they were loading their doomsday weapons on has been irreparably damaged, meaning the nukes won't work.

      In the final panels, we are shown the identity of the mysterious "watcher". It is revealed as a solitary, sentient dolphin, who has just disabled a nuclear device by ramming it. As the dolphin swims away, we learn that this isn't the first time its tried to "save us from ourselves".

      The first story sounds very much like a riff on the "Custer" issue above. I don't know why I remember that environmental nuclear disarmament one. I think it might be because something in the presentation of an earthly, yet alien life averting Armageddon just somehow has an archetypal quality to it or something.

      At the very least, I don't remember feeling lectured to. So I guess that must be plus in the comics favor.

      As for the third story, I'll swear I don't know. I think a Shangri-La riff of the Country where everyone is eternally young.

      Looking forward to more of these.


    2. Sounds cool - I'll keep an eye out for them as I go along, I'm sure I'll be getting to them sooner or later.

      I wonder if there's some kind of graph of Civil War time travel stories that charts just how many of them ended with an ironic death. That's true of a lot of time travel stories, but Civil War ones in particular usually have some kind of twist like that, eh? Seems that way, at least. (That's why I want to check the graph! There needs to be a proper Starfleet computer at the ready for moments like these. I suppose we're getting there.)

      (IF we get there, we're getting there!)

    3. Chris, the plot summary of the Civil War one rang a crapload of bells for me -- I swear I think I've read that! I don't remember ever having any copies of that comic, but that don't mean it wasn't so.

      How weird!

    4. Yeah, that is weird in a cool sort of way.

      (Cue Iconic "Zone" theme).

  2. (1) That advert is full of shit. Jupiter doesn't have a surface made of ice! Liars.

    (2) It had not occurred to me until reading this, but Serling's intros and outros on the series really are perfectly comic-book-y in style. Not at all unlike the Cryptkeeper or whoever.

    (3) Has anybody named Carlotta ever NOT been a ghost (or, at the least, an accused ghost)?

    (4) I think the Asian zombie-children MUST be designed to make you think you're in the Himalayas. I mean, what other acceptable answer could there be?

    (5) One of the kids -- the one in the middle of the panel where the man says "Glad to get away!" -- has eyes that are freaking me the fuck out.

    (6) Is the girl who goes into the mirror room supposed to be Caucasian? If so, that's kind of weird. If not, it's even weirder that she turns Caucasian when her reflection takes over. This thing is a big ol' pile of WTF.

    (7) They were in space?!? WHA...?!? I'm going to just assume it was on Jupiter, which I have been told has an icy surface.

    1. (2) and (3) Good points.

      (6) I didn't even think of that! I was too weirded out by everything else going on, but yeah, absolutely. In a story with a dozen red flags, there's a whole dozen wrapped up in one.

    2. (2) The comic intros seem okay, yet I don't know if they ever reach the same level of resonance that Serling was often able to hit on the show itself.

      (5),(6),(7)So...Shangri-La in Space?....(shrugs).


    3. Jut found some helpful info.

      The Civil War Ghost story I mentioned can be found in issue #5. I recognize the cover after all those years (and yet I still forget my keys on occasion). I think the title to look for might be "The Fortune Hunters".

      The Nuclear Holocaust Averted story might be in issue #31, entitled "A Different Point of View".

      At the very least I recognize 31 as being the issue I owned.

      The link for all this info can be found here:


    4. Hmm. The cover doesn't look familiar, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Thanks for the link!