Review by Frank Plowright
Craig Yoe has amassed a vast collection of rare comics from the 1940s to the 1960s, many from publishers whose lifespan has long elapsed. It’s enabled him to release historically fascinating, themed anthologies of material both long out of print and copyright. Everything supplied here was originally published between 1955 and 1968 by Charlton Comics, a company about which rumours abound, some confirmed by Yoe’s introduction, and with a reputation for conservatism. Yet in 1955 they issued two entire anti-war comics titled Never Again, and Yoe leads off his anthology with them and constructs his theme around them.
Written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Bob Forgione, they’re unusual for the era in looking at a number of ordinary men fighting in different centuries each hoping there will be no further war, that hope in some cases spurred by the invention of an awesome new weapon, such as the longbow. There is an anti-war sentiment, but it’s definitely a case of playing both sides as there’s plenty of war action. What makes this stand apart, though, is the protagonists questioning why they’re fighting instead of a blindly patriotic message.
The writer of almost all the other material remains anonymous, but as Gill wrote so many Charlton scripts, there’s a fair chance it’s him providing a succession of stories using aliens as metaphors for real world threats in the Cold War era. It’s rather a stretch, however, to label some of them anti-war, as they’re the standard twist ending 1950s short story. The main interest is the selection illustrated by a youthful Steve Ditko, around forty pages worth, showing far greater imagination than the likes of Rocke Mastroserio and Bill Molno (sample art left), who draws more pages than anyone else. Regarding most of the other art, it was well known Charlton’s rates were low, and they got what they paid for. That applies to their notoriously poor printing also, with pages out of register faithfully reproduced as such by Yoe.
Ditko’s work is interesting, but the one true gem here is ‘Children of Doom’, a full length piece produced to an impossibly short deadline by Denny O’Neil and Pat Boyette. It’s an eerie mood story about humanity changed via a doomsday device implanted beneath the Earth to prevent the use of atomic bombs. Boyette delivers some panels in a grey wash instead of colour, and is memorably experimental in his designs and layouts, while O’Neil’s script is jumpy, but heartfelt in delivering a message concerning something he felt strongly about. Given more time to polish the story, he’d no doubt have made refinements, but the sense of desperation shines through something that may be of its time, but remains a heartfelt statement.
Yoe’s a pleasing editor, but too much of the remainder only vaguely fits the anti-war theme, and lacks anything of interest beyond that.