Ghosts #100 (1981)

Ghosts #100 (May, 1981)
“The Ghost Gladiator: The Blackmailed Spirit”
“The Ghost Gladiator: Spectral Dream”
“The Ghost Gladiator: The Phantom’s Final Debt”
“Hands from the Grave”
Writer – George Kashdan
Pencillers – Fred Carrillo & M.D. Bright
Inkers – Fred Carrillo & Vince Colletta
Letterers – Esphidym Mahilum & Shelly Leferman
Colorists – Jerry Serpe & Bob LeRose
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.50

Welcome to day three of the big October special.  I’ve taken to referring to it as “Boo, Haunted Blog!”… which, yeah… it’s lame, but I kinda dig it.  Plus, it gives me a way to catalog all these scaaaary stories.  So, like… the next time you’re huddled around a campfire, just pull out your tablet and click the #boohauntedblog tag.  Your friends will be sure to thank you… for the sleep-aid, if nothing else…

Anyhoo… onward and upward to our Ghostly tales…

Heyyy… it’s the one-hundredth issue of Ghosts… let’s celebrate by checking out the covers of past landmark issues… and ask ourselves if we still believe.

Our first chapter this issue opens at an archaeological dig site.  Old coot and digmaster supreme, Sir Alex Quayle confides in his (relatively) young aide, Ernest Langford that he has been seeing ghosts.  Just then, he gets the bejeezus scared out of him by an apparition while Ernie can’t seem to see it.  Sir Alex has himself a bit of an episode, and passes out.

Later that night, Alex wakes up.  He thinks to himself that what he saw couldn’t have been a hallucination… and begins wandering around the site.  That’s smart, right?  Anyhoo… he walks past Ernie’s tent to hear him in the midst of an argument.  Alex throws open the flap, and finds that Ernie was arguing with the g-g-ghost… for, ya see… he wanted the ghost to scare poor Sir Alex into retirement so that he may take over the dig!  Good plan!

Sir Alex asks how Ernie was able to pull it off… rather than tell him, Langford pulls a gun on the oldster!  He takes him, by gunpoint to a building in a remote corner of the site, where through a window they find an ancient Pompeiian gladiator laying in perfect condition… preserved, and alive!  But how?  You may be asking… well, ya see when Vesuvius erupted, the lava coated this building and hardened… leaving it airtight!

The g-g-ghost is the Pompeiian gladiator, who only agreed to help Ernest if he would break the window and allow his body to die.  Now, however, Ernie has raised the stakes.  He will free the ghostiator only if it kills Sir Alex!  The ghost is all “screw that” and refuses.  Amid the quarrel, Alex picks up a stone and throws it right through the airtight window.  The apparition reenters his body… and finally dies.

Our second chapter opens during World War II in… you guessed it, Pompeii.  German Captain Lothar  Von Koenig notices that the Italian soldiers are surrendering in large number.  He decides to wait until the Americans arrive in Pompeii… and then blow the entire city up.  Dang… that’s hardcore.

I guess I’m not the only one that thinks so, as a German soldier crosses enemy lines to tip off an American fleet to the boom-boom in Pom-Pom.  The Colonel ain’t buying what ol’ Himmel is selling, and decides that they’ll proceed into Pompeii anyway.

Corporal Haskell pleads with the Colonel to heed the German’s warning.  He states that he is, by profession, an archaeologist, and would hate to see so much history destroyed.  The Colonel gives Haskell one night to reconnoiter the terrain and report back.

Our man Haskell… ehh, he ain’t no Solid Snake.  Just moments after entering Pompeii he is spotted by the German’s.  They chase him into a house, and fire off a few shots… with one grazing his head.  He lay unconscious for a time, before waking up when a spear hits the wall by his head.  He finds himself in ancient Pompeii!  A Gladiator stands before him… like the one in Sir Alex Quayle’s diary… hey, we know him!  The Gladiator shows him the secret passageway out.  In time, he really wakes up… and uses the passageway he learned about while out-cold.

Haskell reports back to camp, and tells the Colonel that he found underground passages they could use to get a jump on the Nazis.  The G.I.’s claim Pompeii, and everything’s cool!  We close with Haskell showing the Colonel where he had his dream… and he finds that spear he dreamed about embedded in the wall… Whoa

In our third chapter, we join a museum reenactment of Mount Vesuvius doin’ it’s thing all over Pompeii.  The attendees all comment on how realistic the exhibit looked.

We meet Walter B. Fraser, the man behind the exhibit.  He reveals that the entire works was done via holographic hooziwhatsits.  Later, he is met by his girlfriend Alexandra.  She is upset that he didn’t mention that she helped him with much of the exhibit… and so she shoots him.  No wait a minute… somebody else shoots him… right in the back.  He collapses to the ground.

The man with the gun shows himself and demands Alexandra give him the key to a silverworks display.  Before she can act… the ghost of a gladiator appears!  He chases the gunmen, and he flees… up the phony Vesuvius?  Yeah, that’s not smart.  Guess what… he falls in… and dies.  The woman?  Alexandra– Quayle!  The Gladiator Ghost just payin’ it forward.  The End.

Wait… there’s another story in here?  It’s a shorty… here goes… A man has his hands chopped off after slapping a Middle-Eastern Sheik.  He would then be executed… handless!

From that point on, the Sheik is haunted by terrifying nightmares consisting of… haunted hands… He imagines them choking him.  He struggles to remove them from around his throat… but to those around him, it just looks like he’s choking himself… to death!  Now, that’s impressive stamina!

We close out on the executed fellow in his casket… with both hands and a broad smile on his face.

This wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it might be.  I was fully prepared to groan my way through this review portion… but, it was a pretty decent book.  The art was very nice all throughout, and the story/stories were pretty neat.  While I was reading through this, I wasn’t paying attention to the story titles… I figure, this is an anthology book… and totally glossed over the fact that the first three stories were part of the same series.  When the Gladiator appeared to the American Soldier in Pompei, I was actually a bit surprised.  It totally enhanced the story for me… and had I been more vigilant in my “title reading” I don’t think it would have had the same effect.

I will say… this issue did drag on a bit.  Once I finished with the Gladiator story, I was ready to put the book down… only to find that the Haunted Hand story was there.  I know it’s ridiculous to complain about extra content… especially in the comics era we now live in, where certain companies have tried selling us 16 pages of story for upwards of four and five bucks, but I did find myself feeling a bit of morality-play-disguised-as-horror-story fatigue by then.

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