Thursday, 24 May 2007

Hanged by the neck: A classic Reed Crandall story

Even taking into account the fact that I bit my lip and refused to get drawn into the amazing "3 Marvel essentials for the price of 2" offer at Gosh!, I could still have spent a LOT of money on comics today. Honestly a bundle of good stuff came out this week and I really had to force myself not to buy it all.

Of course I still dropped a sizable wedge at Orbital, taking home

Fell trade paperback Volume #1
Back Issue #22
2000AD prog#1538
New Universal #6
Irredeemable Ant-Man #8

Captain America #26 (Which features a spiffing Epting cover)
Criminal #6 (Yay! New issue of Criminal!)
and best of all from Orbital's magical 50p boxes: issues #1 through #5 of Eclipse's 1980's pre-code horror reprint series Seduction of the Innocent.

What a treasure this little lot is. Wall to wall chills, 1950's style. Check out the cover of issue #1, it's by Reed Crandall from the story "Hanged by the neck" which originally featured in the 1953 comic Out of the Shadows #9

Hanged by the neck is a classic pre-code horror story beautifully drawn by Crandall and brought to life by some atmospheric inks from an unknown source.

It's a tale about a magician by the name of El Rondo whose ability to hang himself on stage every night without dying proves a big hit. After being taken ill one evening, El Rondo's young apprentice Leonardo (notice the partial anagram of El Rondo there) has to act as his mentor's understudy.

Leonardo isn't ready to do the hanging trick yet, but his good looks and novelty turban wow the audience anyway. Worse still, Leonardo's act also earns him the attention of the girl El Rondo secretly lusts after, Carla.

And so a dastardly plan begins to form in El Rondo's mind. He chums up to Leonardo and much to the young magician's delight teaches him the world famous hanging stunt.

What a fucking fantastic panel that is by the way

yes indeed. El Rondo rigs the knot so that it kills Leonardo.
Problem solved
Or so it seems, for on returning to his dressing room, El Rondo is greeted by this...
And now the story really takes off. The next few panels contain everything I love about pre-code horror comics

Just a sensational panel that one. As good as any I've seen. Great use of shadows and real terror in that scream from El Rondo. I love this shot.

That tips El Rondo over the edge and into this....

Saweeeet pre-code goodness for us, waking nightmare for El Rondo.

Carla takes it all pretty well, but El Rondo just can't come to terms with the fact that Leonardo's burial outfit is now hanging in his wardrobe. Eventually his fragile grip on sanity slips under the pressure....

Clearly he's in no state to perform the hanging trick. But perform it he does...
and of course that's Leonardo's cue to return from beyond the grave and exact his ghastly revenge...
How indeed? A fine ending to a pre-code belter which I had never seen before. I've used a lot more panels than I normally would in one of these posts, but I just think they're all so damn fine that it's worth getting a few extra ones in. I hope someone out there will get as much of a kick out of them as I did.

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