If you are reading this you are probably no stranger to the dollar bins at your local comic store. We’ve all spent time looking through these boxes filled with comics old and new looking for treasure. The dollar bins are great places to find some good comics that are worth reading, and depending on what you’re collecting you can fill some holes on the cheap. Often times these bins are collections that dealers have purchased and cherry picked all the high value comics from and now they are trying to move the rest.
When I’m at a shop or at a show going through the bins I can always find a couple of dollars worth of comics to make my time worth it. Now when I am searching I typically have a couple of things I am looking for specifically along with just wanting to find something fun to read. Last year I was able to put finish a complete run of Who’s Who in the DC Universe including the 84 and 85 updates. I also recently completed a set of All Star Squadron that with the exception of one or two issues I didn’t pay more than a dollar for any single issue. One thing I am ALWAYS on the lookout for are Sergio Aragones Comics. At a recent show in Uxbridge, Massachusetts I unearthed a real gem of a Sergio Aragones comic.
At this particular show I found an issue of Plop, the magazine of Weird Humor. I’ve only become aware of what Plop is after listening to Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill when they were discussing Mad Magazine and the the comics and magazines that it spawned. I don’t know how many issues Sergio Aragones worked on but for this issue he worked on the cover, the introduction, and several of the one page gags. When I saw this issue in the bin I recognized Sergio’s familiar marginal work and pulled it out and added it to the pile I was planning to purchase.
The title states that Plop is “the magazine of weird humor”, but it is really more than that. It is indeed an anthology comic with short stories and gags, but there is also light horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Plop ran for twenty four issues between 1973 and 1976 with the last couple of issues being Giant-Sized comics. The first nineteen issues of the series feature a similar style cover. Sergio Aragones does marginal style drawings all around the border framing a crazy character drawn by Basil Wolverton. At the bottom of the page the bizarre character on the cover is named and has a brief odd ball bio.
The stories are introduced by DC’s familiar hosts from the House of Secrets and Mystery, none other than Cain, Abel, and Eve. The comic is book ended with the trio addressing the reader directly introducing what’s to come and then closing it out. This particular issue features two short stories and several one page gags.
The Locked Door of Harkness House
Story – Maxene Fabe
Art – David Manak
Eve introduces the first story stating “This month we go topical — with tales and jokes relating to popular novel themes! There’s westerns, historicals, science fiction, medical and animal themes — plus this little Gothic Grabber”. The story begins with two spinsters sitting listening to the radio. Their program is interrupted with an important news bulletin that an inmate has escaped from the Kookville asylum for the criminally insane. One of the women asks the other what they would do if the escapee came to there house.
Later that night, someone breaks into the house by smashing the kitchen door window. The women try to call the police but the line is dead. A man, soaking wet, in a hat and coat enters the kitchen and they try to get him to leave by threatening him with a broom. Surprise though, the man is actually their long lost brother, Otto, who they thought was dead. Now we know the spinsters are sisters, Justine and Harriet. Once they realize who he is they bring him in, hang up his coat and get him some hot coffee.
Otto explains that he has returned to claim his share of the security bonds their dear departed father left them. Harriet and Justine explain that their father didn’t leave them anything besides the old house they are in right now. As Otto goes off to bed he thinks to himself that he doesn’t believe his sisters and that their father definitely had some money. Once everyone is asleep Otto decides to take a look around but his sister’s catch him trying to get into a locked door. He demands to know what’s behind the door and if their father’s money is in there. Justine explains again that there is no money and tells Otto to go to bed.
Otto is pretty heated at this point and tells his sisters that he doesn’t like taking orders, that he had to take too many orders at the asylum. Shocked the sisters realize their brother Otto is the escaped inmate they heard about on the radio. They tell Otto that he has to leave at once but he hams it up saying he’s sick, that he can’t go back to asylum, and really plays on their sympathy. Harriet feels bad and asks Justine to let him stay, he is their brother after all. Eventually they agree to let him stay and say they will discuss their father in the morning. Grinning, Otto thinks that his plan is going great.
In the morning Justine tells Harriet she is going out for a bit. Otto overhears this and decides to go to work on Harriet while the other sister is away. He starts going on and on about their childhood and Harriet is obviously a little worried. As she bends over to get something from the oven a key falls from around her neck. Otto grabs it violently, realizing it is the key to the locked door his sister’s won’t let him near. As he rushes upstairs to the room Justine comes home. Harriet tell her they have to hurry and stop Otto. They’re too late though.
Otto is through the door before they can stop him when he falls into a pool of water. Otto, wet again, asks why the sisters have a room like this filled with water and why they wouldn’t let him in. As they start to tell the story of how their father sent them a gift before he died in South America, a giant alligator lungs from the depths at Otto. The sisters close and lock the door quietly telling Otto that Suzy doesn’t take well to strangers. The final panel of the story is of the closed door where we hear Otto trying to plead with Suzy before the screams and chopping starts.
Script – Marv Wolfman
Art – Wallace “Wally” Wood
Abel introduces this story simply stating that is “a gem from the classics of Knighthood”. The story begins with a young man in chain mail rowing a small boat towards a castle on the coast. The sign on the hill reads “Welcome to Merrie olde England”. This first panel has a couple of funny gags in it including a submarine periscope, a buoy with a bell, a mine, and shark fin. It is almost like a picture where the reader has to find ten things wrong with the picture.
The young man is thinking to himself about how he is going to become a great knight of the round table like Sir Gawain or Lancelot. He thinks that he has completed all his assigned tasks except one, rescue a fair maiden. In his best “keep on truckin” strut he approaches an old crone who seems to read his mind about the fair maiden. She tells the young knight that there is a maiden in the Castle of Merlin, but warns him to be very careful, that death also stalks the castle. The knight to be enters the castle and is exploring it when he hears a scream. He dashes off sword in hand to save whomever is in distress.
As he enters a dark room he cannot believe his eyes. In a portal to another dimension is the beautiful maiden he came to rescue. Horrible monsters, one with a cigar, have the young woman’s dress in their clutches. The hero goes into the portal and attacks the monsters but his sword has no effect. They simply laugh and toss him about. A second time he enters the portal attacking the monsters this time with his dagger, but it still has no impact.
As he is flicked away once again he realizes that the monsters won’t come to the other side of the portal. He decides to try and drag the beautiful princess through the portal but a voice behind him shouts that he must not touch her. A small man with a long nose and even longer beard tells him that the princess has been there for ten million years and must remain there. For she is Purity and must remain between heaven and hell. He explains that she is suffering so that others do not. The little bearded man says that the knight must leave and forget her. The young man decides to heed the dwarf’s warning and leaves the castle dejected and wondering what went wrong.
There are a couple of more one page comics and then the closing from Cain, Abel, and Eve. All in all this was a fantastic comic. How could it not be with Sergio Aragones, Marv Wolfman, and Wally Wood? The first story was a lot of fun with a neat twist of an ending. David Manak’s art reminds me of the old Pink Panther show. The second story featured beautiful Wally Wood art and feels like it is based on one of the Arthurian legends. It does have a bit of an abrupt ending but it was still enjoyable. All this entertainment for only a buck, or a quarter if you bought this issue back in 1975, how can anyone beat that?
The comic also has some outstanding advertisements. There’s a classic DC Hero / Hostess fruit pie ad, an ad for DC comics subscriptions at three dollars a whack for 12 issues. What a bargain! There are a few DC House ads including one for the different lines of comics they were publishing at the time, the superhero books, the mystery tales and the all new fantasy adventure line that included Tor, Warlord, Claw, and Beowulf. By far the most interesting one is the one for the Wayne School that wants to help housewives finish high school.
I cannot believe this existed. The headline reads “Are your children ashamed that you never finished school?” and pictures a young woman with her apron in the kitchen and grim look on her face. The ad goes on to say that a child can tell if his friends parents are smarter than theirs, that they might speak better or know more about a lot of things. But there is hope, you can finish high school at home. You can make your kids proud and maybe even get an interesting job, just send in the coupon to get the booklet from the Wayne school. Oh boy, I’d love to meet the person at the Wayne school who decided that putting this ad in a comic meant for adolescents was a good idea.
I think that I’ve conveyed how much I enjoyed this comic. It was a fun experience at the show finding it and it was even more fun to read it. The next time I’m digging through the dollar bins I’ll be on the hunt for the other twenty three issues.