August 7, 2008

Fantasy Masterpieces #2 [1966]

This issue reprints "Those Who Lurk Below", a 6-page Ditko story from TALES OF SUSPENSE #12 [1960]. At a 19th century penal colony, one prisoner, Pierre, is singled out for especially cruel treatment by the guard Kragok. Assigned to clean up some ancient ruins in a tunnel, he finds an old book called "The Legend of the Earth Dwellers". From this book Equality learns of the Unspeakable Word. Sorry, that's not right. He finds out about an ancient race which was unable to live on the surface so retreated underground using powerful brain-operated digging chairs. Bolstered by this new hope, he keeps working, and finally finds a digger, not realizing that Kragok has planted both it and the book to give Pierre false hope that he could then crush. Imagine his surprise when the chair works, Pierre escapes to an underground utopia that Kragok is doomed to spend the rest of his life searching for.

This story, especially the page shown, is a great little showcase for the expressiveness of Ditko's faces. The feelings of hate and fear and anger and hope and surprise all come through loud and clear on all the characters. And interesting to note that his visual concept of a utopian city remains consistent through the years, as that last panel is pretty much a different angle view of the city on the cover of AVENGING WORLD [1973] (and reprinted as the cover of AVENGING WORLD [2002]).

Part of a Ditko panel from page 6 is used on the cover of this issue, and the three artists reprinted in here (Kirby, Ditko and Heck) actually all get billing on the cover with their story titles, something not too common at the time.

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