August 17, 2008

Tales of the Mysterious Traveler #15 [1985]

Original material from Steve Ditko appeared in Charlton comics until 1978, and from then on it was a steady stream of reprints, usually two or more a month, for as long as Charlton was a going concern.

Then, late in the company's run, there was some new Ditko stuff printed in their pages again in 1985, only this time it was material owned by Ditko.  Two issues of CHARLTON ACTION FEATURING STATIC presented revised versions the first two chapters of Static previously published by Eclipse, along with some other new and revised Ditko stories, and after reviving the 1950s series TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER with an all reprint #14 they included a new Ditko story among the reprints in #15, which turned out to be the final issue.

The issue opens up with a reprint of the 5-page "The Desert" from TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #4 [1957] (though with the first page edited to remove the title to make room for the indicia). A decent little story about two men trapped for months in an remote Arctic outpost until the younger man gets cabin fever and decides to brave the elements.  Nothing too special, but the giant floating head of the Traveler watching the proceedings is always interesting.

The new story follows, "Deadly Shadow", an 8-page story written and drawn by Ditko. The Traveler only appears at the beginning and end.  Clever little morality play about a down-and-out inventor who comes up with a device that turns him into a living shadow, and uses it for criminal purposes.  A series of double crosses and betrayals and hasty actions leaves him with a serious dilemma in the end.  A solid example of Ditko's work of the era, finding different ways of exploring a theme to keep it visually interesting for the length of the story.

"Mister Evriman" from TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #4 [1957] has always been one of my favourite of these 1950s Charlton shorts.  The 6-page suspense story starts with the Traveler musing about that impact of this new-fangled "television" thing on American society, with a nice symbolic urban background dominated by antennas on every building.  A pollster doing some research finds some disturbing correlations about the negative impact of game shows, and how they're setting the world up for tyranny and destruction, until a game-show contestant named Homer Evriman shows up, who everyone sees as a reflection of themselves, setting the cosmic balance straight. Sure, it makes little sense, but it's a tale well told.

THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED #16 [1958] is the source for the 4-page "The Night Was Strange", a science fiction drama narrated by Dr. Haunt, who we're supposed to believe is someone other than the Mysterious Traveler. Actually, he's slightly re-drawn and coloured here to make him seem even more like the Traveler, not that it takes a lot. This science fiction story has an astronaut returning from a two year mission on an experimental rocket, only to find himself in some totalitarian future. A nice little twist at the end improves the story somewhat, and as usual Ditko does a better job with the storytelling than the story needed.

While all-Ditko in the middle, the story opens and closes with some non-Ditko, a very strange Alex Nino cover and a Henry Boltinoff gag page that could have come right out of a 1950s DC comics.





4 comments:

  1. I was not aware at all that there was an issue of TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER printed that late, with new Ditko, no less!!

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  2. Yeah, I don't think these books were widely seen. It was very much a death rattle for Charlton. Fortunately, with the magic of the internets, you can fairly easily find stuff like this, especially if you're willing to spend a few bucks and settle for a lower grade.

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  3. Also, stuff intended for further TMT instead showed up in the Snyder edited "Murder" comic at Renegade (where new Ditko stuff also showed up after Charlton went under.

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  4. Yeah, the Ditko stuff in Robin Snyder's books from Renegade came from some interesting places, including this short-lived Charlton revival. A few of them were already mentioned on this weblog (see the sidebar link to the index of posts), I'll get to the rest of them eventually.

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