I got an interesting present last Christmas.
Adventures Into The Unknown!
I would not blame you for never having heard of the American Comics Group. In the fifties and sixties, they were by no means the only company publishing one-shot horror/sci fi comics. Publishers like these would spring up, sell cheaply made comics as fast as they could, then get driven out of business by the Comics Code Authority. Think of them as filling the same cultural niche as Goosebumps.
Except legitimately insane.
The Inevitability of Mystery Science Theatre
I’ve talked before about how MST3K was so vital to the internet’s sense of humor, but I think something like it was inevitable, something that got mileage out of holding up the cultural artifacts of the American 50s and 60s and mocking them, because they were pre-eminently mockable. Every one of the stories in the collection I’ve got proceeds on insane moon-logic. They’ve never heard of suspension of disbelief. And they all seem to take place in a world inhabited by robots who view “explaining the plot to one another” as a normal and healthy reaction to everything from terror to heartbreak to mild indigestion.
Here. Let me hold up this cultural artifact of the American 50s and mock it.
Marriage of Death
Each issue of Adventures into the Unknown would contain multiple stories. This one is the first.
Man, Skullsman and the new Mrs. Skullsman–congratulations, by the way–have a pretty serious threshold to cross. I don’t mean that metaphorically, like married life is a threshold, I mean look at this… tunnel? Space portal? It’s got planets and stars and seems to be coming from some kind of fancy restaurant. I bet that’s a long trip. I don’t blame her for trying to catch a nap.
But never mind that, ol’ Granny’s had a fall. She’s got Danny WORRIED! But she doesn’t WANT to die, although she changes her mind about that in the very next panel, because death’s WIFE IS ONE OF HER OLDEST FRIENDS!
You don’t have to shout, Ma’am. He’s right there.
You see what I meant about the characters explaining the plot to each other?
Wheelchair Chase Woo
So grandma runs into a lady who she thinks she recognizes. Annette, for tis she, denies it for all of three and a half seconds before breaking under Granny’s ruthless interrogation techniques of Asking a Question and Not Anything Else. For years she’s been in dread of her secret being revealed! Which is why she’s going to reveal it all to you right now!
Kudos to the artist for using distinct styles of clothing to establish that this flashback is even longer ago than the previous flashback.
But Dr. Colenel Sanders is right, Annette, you only have a year to live, so you need to live it to the fullest. Why, with determination, you can sit in a fancy hotel and excitedly point out when people spill things! They might even turn out to be Handsomely Gaunt.
Maybe they’ll even turn out to have a mysterious secret like… randomly walking away in the middle of a conversation. That’s not mysterious, lady, that’s your boyfriend being a jerk.
Ah, but in the last panel, all is revealed. Her fiance is secretly a mascot for a laxative, and he’s been summoned to cure this man’s crippling constipation. “It’s time to go now,” indeed. And go he does, with a hearty Arrgh.
Then He Dies, Though, So That’s a Pretty Rough Laxative.
It wasn’t a face, it was… the Great Papyrus! He really is the best at dates! Nyeh heh heh!
“Answer me–Don’t stand there with your mouth open! Stand there with your mouth alternating between an open state and a closed one, thus forming words, with which you answer me!”
Pierre peaces right the heck out of his own wedding, which let’s be honest, lady, is only continuing the pattern he started during the engagement, ok? You had plenty of warning about this guy’s commitment issues that you chose to ignore. I shouldn’t have to tell you that if guy doesn’t volunteer basic information like HIS ADDRESS, maybe don’t rush into a relationship!
Good Thing She Went to the L’Hotel D’Exposition
Oh, I get it. This is one of those “American tourist goes to France and can’t speak French” situations.
It’s really hardly surprising that Death’s name turns out to be “Death.” The real mystery is why is Death’s first name Pierre?
“You think that disappearing act is impressive, Mr. Death? I’ll show you how to get out of a Marriage!”
So… death will never touch you, because you’re his wife.
Cause if there’s one thing married couples never ever do, under any circumstances, it’s touch each other. I knew the fifties were prudish, but sheesh.
So the horror of it burned searingly into her brain, and then the horror of it seared burningly into her brain, and the searing of it brained horrorly into her burn. Welp! Only one thing for it, in that case, flee sexily in nothing but a diaphanous sheet!
Dang it Abelard, throwing a knife is your answer to everything! How many coma victims has this man killed?!
Though you’re no better, Other Abelard. Just cause she got up doesn’t mean you can jump to conclusions and start screaming bloody murder, maybe this woman wasn’t dead? Maybe you’re just a crappy morgue guy!
Yes, I know she’s wed to Death Itself and No Longer Of This Earth but you don’t know that! You just see a lady in a hurry and go straight to “Knife Time!” You maniacs.
Abelard Used Knife! It’s Not Very Effective!
See Abelard? Now you don’t even have a knife anymore. This is what happens when we can’t be responsible with our things.
You can pour on the scary block capitals all you want, comic, but “I DO NOT DESTROY THAT WHICH I LOVE” isn’t ominous, it’s just sensible. It’s how you’d describe the concept of love to an evil A.I. that had just become self-aware. It’s decent marital advice, even.
Granted “don’t destroy things you love” isn’t exactly advanced marital advice, but this is a story that thought “husband wanders off randomly mid-sentence to kill passerby with his dark powers” was a problem that she should just, like, learn to get over already. If this is where they end up, then that’s the healthiest their relationship has ever been.
Also… “dead bodies can’t change?” Really? Cause Vampires, Zombies, Liches, and the art of every black Magic: the Gathering card would beg to disagree. We have an entire industry dedicated to keeping dead bodies from changing long enough that we can actually have the funeral, lady. For somebody married to Death, you sure don’t have the slightest idea how it works.
Now Back To You, Old Biddy
“You see why I’m interested… in DEATH? Because it sounds to me like Annette got a sweet deal! So pucker up, Grim Reaper, granny’s fixing to break me off a piece!”
And how does Granny know that death is single again?
Pile of dust, huh? Guess they finally got around to that “touching.”
No exaggeration, reader, every story in the collection is like this. “Marriage of Death” is nowhere near the silliest, nowhere near the funniest, it’s just the first.
Adventures into the Unkown, Vol III, is available from PS Artbooks, or from My Parents at Christmas.
There’s Lots More Where That Came From,
-The Guy Who Wrote This.