Monday, 5 January 2015

Midnight Tales

Midnight Tales is a great little forgotten book from Charlton, one of their seemingly endless run of mystery anthologies, but with an interesting twist.
Like all mystery books, all the way back to EC, Midnight Tales has a couple of narrators to introduce it's spooky stories, in this case weird old Professor Cyrus Coffin and his sexy niece Arachne.
But unlike every other mystery title, these two don't just appear in one splash panel at the start and end of each tale, but get their own adventure interspersed throughout each issue as they tell, or more often are told, each story.

The Professor works at Xanadu University ( the same place Nove Kaine of E-Man attends, in a neat bit of continuity ) and is an expert on all things creepy, while go-go girl Arachne reluctantly studies there.
In each issue, the pair meet with other denizens of their world and relate less than terrifying tales from musty old tomes, the Professor fascinated in gathering new knowledge, while tetchy Arachne would rather be out dating the Captain of the football team.

Each issue is themed, with each of the three stories based around a single idea, be it witches, Sci- Fi, mythology or evil kids, and the Professor & Arachne having their own suitably in tune adventure around them, giving the whole book much more of  a cohesive feel than others from the Charlton stable.
Occasionally the book went even further, and followed one character or story throughout both each separate tale and the back story, making it like a kind of ' jam ' book.
In issue #7. For instance, we follow a gelatinous lump called, variously, Goo, Ooze, Sludge or Muck throughout history until finally, in the present day, a suitably ironic denouement.

Also, each issue's cover had nothing to do with the inside's contents, but was a stand-alone gag, or as one letters page cheekily declared, meant you were getting five stories for your money.

Midnight Tales was created by Wayne Howard, who was an assistant of Wally Wood, as you'll spot instantly, and though his art is stiffer, and obviously nowhere near as skilled as Wood, it does have a twisted charm all it's own. Each issue of Midnight Tales carries a ' created by ' logo on the cover, apparently the first time a comic ever did that, but as editor / writer Nick Cuti said: It was his idea, his concept, everything.
Most issues consisted of Howard doing the wraparound, with him, Tom Sutton & Joe Staton on each story ( with an occasional piece from Don Newton ). Here's a typical issue, the first two stories with such random, out of left field endings I guarantee you won't see them coming.

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