Ditko has Mr. Dedd dressed in period clothing on the splash page (perhaps inspired by Pat Boyette's earlier stories) although he returns to traditional attire for the rest of the story. "The Eternal Oak", Ghostly Tales # 71, January 1969.
(note: unless specifically stated otherwise all the stories shown are suspected to be written by Joe Gill).
Somewhere in the vastness of Brooklyn I sat in a local Barber shop, waiting for a haircut. Along with different types of magazines there were always a few comics on the table to keep the kids occupied. My attention fell on a cover depicting a teenage surfer fearfully looking over his shoulder at a ghostly figure riding the waves, while another devilish character cheerfully addressed the reader. This looked a little more interesting to me than a Frankie and Annette beach movie!
Jim Aparo's impressive cover to Ghostly Tales # 71 was based on Steve Ditko's interior story. At Charlton covers appear to have been drawn after the inside stories were completed. The editor then decided on the cover image and assigned an artist.
When I turned to the first story I recognized the distinctive poses, faces and figures. There was no doubt in my mind that the guy who drew this story was the same artist whose work enthralled me in back issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Tales reprints: I had found Steve Ditko.
The Charlton line of the mid-1960s was an unknown commodity to many fans, primarily due to limited exposure. Distribution in many areas, including my neighborhood in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, was largely nonexistent. When they were found at all, it was usually in the back shelves of a discount store, the equivalent to the 99 cent stores of today. My older brother John, who was the financial source for comics in my childhood, mainly collected Marvel but would also purchase comics published by DC, Tower and others whenever he could. His Charlton collection was limited with perhaps a few issues of Captain Atom or Thunderbolt, but this was definitely my first exposure to Charlton's ghost/anthology titles.
I don't recall if I was able to read the entire story before being summoned into the barber's chair, but it later became a part of my collection and a sentimental favorite. Ditko was in fine form, illustrating a story that transcended the centuries as an unjustly accused Native American places a curse on a family for generations.
"Fortune and Men's Eyes"; Don Perlin art, Ghostly Tales # 71, January 1969.
The second story in the issue featured atmospheric art by Don Perlin, who started out in 1949 working for a variety of publishers including Fox, Hillman, Youthful, Fiction House, Harvey and Timely/Atlas. Perlin was a prolific Charlton artist for some two decades, and could be found in many titles, including Attack, Fightin' Army, Hot Rods and Racing Cars, Ghost Manor, Strange Suspense Stories and Time for Love. In the 1970's Perlin showed up at Marvel, his best work appearing on macabre titles, particularly Werewolf by Night and Ghost Rider.
While Ditko never drew the Silver Surfer, based on the art in this story I have no doubt his interpretation would have been interesting. "Phantom Surfer"; Steve Ditko art.
Ghostly Tales # 71 ends with another Ditko drawn story; the cover featured tales is a weird mixture of teenagers and a ghostly surfer. While this type of story doesn't seem like it would be a good fit for Ditko, he comes through (excuse the pun) swimmingly. Ditko combines a touch of whimsy with the bickering young couple and uses panels of varied size to escalate the threat of the sea, leading to an ominous conclusion.
A Steve Ditko drawn Mr. Dedd graces the Table of contents page, along with reproductions of interior panels drawn by Jim Aparo and Pat Boyette. The bottom right panel is taken from the Ditko drawn story "The House of No Return" which begins on page 2. Ghostly Tales # 72, March 1969.
A fine effort by Jim Aparo, the splash page to "Uncle Henry's Heir" also doubled as the cover; a cost cutting device often employed by Charlton. Credits appeared infrequently in this period, although here editor Sal Gentile, writer Joe Gill and artist Aparo share the spotlight. Is that a Ghostly Tales hardcover collection on the table? How much is it selling for on Amazon? Ghostly Tales # 72, March 1969.
Charlton's letters pages often praised their staff of writers and artists. In this column Pat Boyette, Steve Ditko, Jim Aparo, Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia are singled out (the reference to Alascia as "an up and coming inker" is surely an inside joke, since Alascia's career dated back to the 1940s). It's interesting to note that Ditko's Question was apparently scheduled for another appearance at Charlton, although that never occured. Ghostly Tales # 72, March 1969.
In "Losers Weepers" a henpecked husband gets the Cinderella treatment, although there is no good fairy in this story. Ditko's humorous treatment of the characters perfectly suits the script with character names such as Prunella, Snotella and Scumella. Ghostly Tales # 73, April 1969.
Another excellent page from "Losers Weepers" You've gotta love the expression of the man in the final panel!
Korean artist Sanho Kim makes his first appearance in Ghostly Tales. Kim's stylized art and inventive layouts highlight this page from "Last Man Free". Kim worked almost exclusively for Charlton, pencilling, inking, lettering and sometimes writing stories. Kim always signed his work in the last panel, including the day and date he finished the story. Ghostly Tales # 73, May 1969.
Pat Boyette excelled at depicting WWI era stories and settings. In "Glory" his skillful illustrations of airborne battle make the story come alive. Ghostly Tales # 73, May 1969.
In this period Ditko began using a fine line inking style, adding a layer of texture and fluidity to his work. Coupled with his exceptional pacing, characterization and layouts there was usually something worth appreciating in every Ditko illustrated Charlton story circa 1969-70. "No Other Man"; Ghostly Tales # 75, September 1969.
Unlike some comic book companies Charlton featured a potpourri of divergent styles, with no attempt at conforming to a standard presentation. I've been unable to positively identify the above artist (art ID experts are encouraged to share their thoughts in the comments section), but whoever the mystery artist is, his (or her) textured penwork is a worthy addition to the Ghostly Tales regulars. "A Deadly Guest is Coming", Ghostly Tales # 76, November 1969.
Frank Bolle's credits are lengthy. A few highlights include western features for Magazine Enterprises (Red Mask, Tim Holt and Blonde Phantom); Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, Ripley's Believe it or Not and Doctor Solar for Western/Gold Key; horror stories for Warren and numerous comic strips and illustrations for children's books. Bolle's Charlton work appeared in Haunted, Sweethearts and the Phantom. Boll adds atmosphere to this tale of an Abominable Snowman. "Don't help Me" Ghostly Tales # 77, December 1969.
Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is a Spanish artist who drew for Charlton in the 1960's and early 1970's mainly in their romance line. He later went on to prominence at DC, where he worked on many characters including Superman, Batman, Deadman and Jonah Hex. His early work shows an illustrative style that would gain in strength over the years. "The Copper Kettle" Ghostly Tales # 77, December 1969.
Ditko drew a variety of locations in the mystery titles, such as this page in which a man explores a cave. The vertical panels give the scene a sense of depth. "Any Stranger", Ditko art; Charlotte Jetter lettering, Ghostly Tales # 78, February 1970.
Jim Aparo's strong compositions provided a dramatic punch to many Charlton covers. The sharp red of the Witch's cape contrasts perfectly with the blues and purples, making this a standout cover.
Bill Montes was a Charlton regular from the mid-1950's until the early 1970s, often teamed to strong effect with inker Ernie Bache. Montes work appeared all over the Charlton line in titles including Army War Heroes, Fightin' Army, Konga, Gorgo, Outlaws of the West and Fightin' Five. Montes inks himself here, and brings personality to his characters, especially on the faces of the card players in panel one. "His Friends in Need", Ghostly Tales # 79, April 1970.
Ditko brings his atmospheric style to a tale of witchcraft with strong results. As usual, Mr. Dedd narrates the festivities and chats with the reader. "Which Witch?", Ghostly Tales # 79, April 1970.
The pencil/ink team of Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia produced theTable of Contents page in each issue of Ghostly Tales, basing their art on scenes from the interior stories. Ghostly Tales # 80, June 1970.
Pat Boyette serves up a delightful splash page. Like Jim Aparo and Pete Morisi, Boyette inked and lettered his own work, adding a cohesive quality to the finished product. Ghostly Tales # 80, June 1970.
It's hard to pick out just one page to showcase Ditko's accomplished storytelling in this period, but this example shows how he masterfully composes each panel and keeps the readers eye moving, ending with an exceptional overhead shot. "The Treasure of the Swamp", Ghostly Tales # 80, June 1970.
Ghostly Tales # 80 closes out with "The Real Gone Ghost" another Boyette drawn tale displaying his unusual panel layouts. The prolific Boyette also drew the cover to this issue.
In "The Third Grave" Ditko portrays a trio of unsavory characters who meet their just rewards. The smirking face of Everett in Panel 2 is but one example of Ditko's ability to create character through expressions . Ghostly Tales # 81, August 1970.
Ditko's splash pages were often inventive. Here Mr. Dedd's cape is used to envelop the panel as he observes the characters. Ghostly Tales # 82, October 1970.
Ghostly Tales # 82 included a double dose of Ditko. The story begins in a WWII setting, with Ditko's commanding use of pen and ink bringing the castle setting to life. The narrator/host looms over three of the six panels, closing with him silently looking on. "The Last Battle", Charlotte Jetter letters.
Police officer by day; artist by night, Pete Morisi moonlighted under the pseudonym PAM because department rules forbid any freelance work. Morisi, however, felt compelled to draw, and continued to produce work for Charlton into the 1970s. While his style was a little stiff, Morisi had a strong sense of composition, as seen in the above splash. Ghostly Tales # 83, December 1970.
Ditko's portrayal of an artist's process was always fascinating. Panels one and two have the artists drawing in a circular motion and lightly sketching a face, a technique Ditko likely copied from his own experiences. In panel 4 Ditko draws the artist in silhouette. "The Work of Genius", Charlotte Jetter letters. Jetter lettered many stories for Charlton in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her clean style was employed at many companies, especially at Marvel in later years. Ghostly Tales # 83, December 1970.
In response to a question from a reader asking what the "L" stands for in Mr. Dedd's name, it is revealed as "Living", although in a later column the answer seems to have been forgotten and he is called Livingston. I don't believe either name was ever used in a story, though. While some letter writers asked about credits and discussed stories there were many (apparently younger) fans who wrote about their "supernatural" experiences. Ghostly Tales # 83, December 1970.
Pat Boyette's use of slanted panels was prevalent in this period, and it suited the mystery stories well. "The Eyes of Night", Ghostly Tales # 84, February 1971.
Incorporating the story title into the "eye" is an interesting technique, as is the bottom panel, with Mr. Dedd and the gypsy saddling opposite sides of the scene. Steve Ditko art, Ghostly Tales # 84, February 1971.
Steve Ditko employed a total of 27 silent panels in the 8 page Joe Gill story, "The 9th Life", a sample of which are presented above. The man agonizing over his daughter's illness is reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart in the Frank Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life" Ghostly Tales # 85, April 1971.
Although "The 9th Life" is often mistaken as being written by Steve Ditko, it is actually a Joe Gill script. What makes this story reminiscent of Ditko's independent work is not only the plot of a despondent man learning to improve his life and work to a positive resolution, but the images Ditko weaves throughout the story; the dichotomy between good/evil; positive/negative; right/wrong, life/death - but note that these symbolic panels are all silent; conceived solely by Ditko when he illustrated Gill's script. Ditko apparently saw an opportunity to incorporate some of the themes he championed in his own written and drawn stories of the period such as Mr. A and the Avenging World.
Joe Gill never had a problem with any artist playing with his scripts; he admittedly batted many out with tremendous speed, never looking back. In "My Friend -Number One" (Steve Ditko's 160-Page Package, 1999) Gill wrote:
"Steve moved at his own pace, doing his brilliant best, and he made my work shine."
Ditko returned the compliment in his essay "First Choice":
"Joe may have been partly responsible for my long stay at Charlton (actually, Charlton left us and the comic field). I know Joe's scripts made my stay and the work enjoyable and worthwhile. Our efforts are worth saving and still enjoyable in reviewing with a long list of favorites"
Ditko illustrates a second story in Ghostly Tales # 85, "Hide and Eeeeek" notable for Mr. L. Dedd taking part in the story, appearing in human form to combat a supernatural menace. Charlton's horror hosts made sporadic appearances as characters in the stories, Dr. Graves being one of the more prevalent protagonists.
In "Return to Die" Pete Morisi is on familiar territory, depicting his fellow police officers at work. Ghostly Tales # 86, June 1971. Pencils, inks and letters by Morisi.
Ditko's wispy line on the female ghost; the visual element of her expressive face and long hair and the utilization of the host produce a first rate page. "Someone Else is Here", Ghostly Tales # 86, June 1971.
Ditko turned out page after page of superior art for Charlton in 1971. In this example Mr. Dedd substitutes as the bridge or gutter between panels. "The Keeper of the Cave", Ghostly Tales # 87, August 1971.
Charles Nicholas does admirable work on this page, one of a few he apparently inked himself (thanks to Richard Gagnon for the info). Nicholas has a crisp ink line and it's unfortunate he wasn't able to produce more complete jobs. "I Had Died Before", Ghostly Tales #87, August 1971.
The team of Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia follow up on an undersea adventure. The colorists use of greens throughout whenever the story takes place underwater adds moodiness to the story. Ghostly Tales # 88, September 1971.
Beginning in Ghostly Tales # 88 a change in format occurred, as the Table of Contents page, which appeared in every issue since the comic began, was eliminated and replaced by an extra page of story/art.
Ditko has fun depicting scruffy hippies and a beautiful centuries old ghost who decides on a more contemporary look. "Dig This Crazy, Pad, Dad!" Ghostly Tales # 89, September 1971.
"The Mysterious Mansion of Baron Von Gruber" opens in a WWI era setting with the title character dressed for the period. Pat Boyette art and letters, Ghostly Tales # 89, October 1971.
As we've, uh, "seen" previously, the evil eye motif appeared more than once in Charlton's ghost titles. Ditko's art was an influence on many in the field. Gilbert Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame is one such artist; this gawking character "appeared" in one of his stories. "The Fatal Error", Ghostly Tales # 89, October 1971.
Even when there was no Ditko content inside the book, the artist often produced cover art based on an interior story. It's interesting to compare/contrast his version with that of his peers. Ditko's interpretation of the ghost and woman follow Pat Boyette's version fairly closely; although Ditko changes the woman's dress he retains the sash and hoop rings; the man is given a more conservative look, wearing a suit, and the backgrounds are slightly altered. The biggest change has Mr. Dedd's face coming through the wall, a composition that draws the reader in. "The Dispossessed", Ditko cover art; Pat Boyette interior splash, Ghostly Tales # 90, November 1971.
In "The Pendent" Pete Morisi seems to have used the likeness of Director/Actor Orson Wells for the man in the last panel . And maybe that's Pete making an appearance in panel 3! Ghostly Tales # 90, November 1971.
Although Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia's figures are often stiff, the artists bring a sense of force and movement to this story. "The Phantom Fish", Ghostly Tales # 90, November 1971.
While Ghostly Tales, like most of Charlton's mystery line, often followed a standard format consisting of three seven or eight page stories, there were notable exceptions. Issue # 91, (January 1972) offered a complete 23 page story written, drawn and lettered by Sanho Kim, whose name is even featured on the cover. Image from the GCD.
Fred Himes cartoony style was not a perfect fit for horror oriented material and much of his work appeared in romance and animated stories at Charlton. Himes did have an affinity for drawing sexy women, as can be observed on this page. The ghostly characters appearance may have been based on actor Jonathan Frid, known for his role as Barnabas Collins on the popular ABC supernatural serial Dark Shadows. "The Unseen", Ghostly Tales # 92, February 1972.
In late 1971 Charlton's ghostly lineup consisted of five titles, all of which featured narrator/hosts. House ad from Ghostly Tales # 92, February 1972.
A rare appearance by longtime artist Sam Glanzman, whose work often appeared in Charlton's war titles. Glanzman's gritty, raw style has a distinctive energy. Either he or the author were having a little fun, as seen on the bottle of "Rin Tin Tin Gin" and "Lung Buster" cigarettes. Ghostly Tales # 93, March 1972.
Another example of Ditko basing his cover on an artist's interior story. Here Ditko takes more liberties, keeping the characters likeness close to Pete Morisi's original, but changing his attire from an Russian officer uniform to a more casual jacket. Ditko also plays up the winter setting and the vicious wolf to better effect. Steve Ditko cover art; Pete Morisi interior story, "The Laughing Wolf", Ghostly Tales # 94, April 1972.
Joe Staton started drawing for Charlton in 1971. A versatile artist, Staton worked in a variety of genres for Charlton, ranging from horror and romance to adventure and animated. Staton's whimsical style was perfectly suited for E-Man, a character he later designed with creator/writer Nick Cuti for Charlton (the two often worked together). The above example shows the influence of Steve Ditko in his depiction of Mr. Dedd. The story is signed "Staton-Nick", apparently Charles Nicholas, who usually only penciled strips, inked some of Staton's early work. If so, his inking was likely influenced by longtime collaborator Vince Alascia. "Monster Muck", Ghostly Tales # 94, April 1972.
Wayne Howard's artwork was inspired by the exceptional style of Wally Wood. He produced many stories for Charlton and later created characters for Midnight Tales, which he was credited for. This is the third (and it won't be the last) instance of a story centering on a character with an over sized eyeball - a theme almost certainly repeated by Joe Gill. "The Eye of Evil", Wayne Howard art and lettering, Ghostly Tales # 95, June 1972.
Russ Jones and Bhob Stewart collaborated on several Charlton stories in the 1970s and both had interesting careers as writer/artist/editors. Jones initiated and edited the early issues of Creepy magazine for Jim Warren and drew stories for companies such as DC. Both Stewart and Jones assisted Wally Wood in his studio, and Stewart was editor of Castle of Frankenstein magazine (notice the reference to publisher Calvin T. Beck on the book in panel two) and the author of a compelling biography of Wood: Against The Grain.
Ditko portrays a nasty teenager who delights in making prank calls with great relish. "Answer the Phone, Dottie", Ghostly Tales # 95, June 1972.
Ditko's cover version of Fred Himes interior story points to his strength as a cover artist. Taking elements of the scene from page 7, he follows the general look of the satanic priest and the outfit of the woman, adding a devil horns to the back of her fur and rearranging the background figures for added drama. "The Devil's Bride" Steve Ditko cover; Fred Himes interior story, Ghostly Tales # 96, July 1972.
The final Ditko cover comparison has the artist basing his image on Don Perlin's splash. Ditko simplifies the scene, reversing the figures and puts the cat statue center stage, while Mr. Dedd appears only as a shadow on the wall. Impressive work by a master artist. Perlin's interior art displays a strong sense of storytelling and characterization. Steve Ditko cover art; Don Perlin interior story, "The Eye of the Cat", Ghostly Tales # 97, August 1972.
With issue # 97 George Wildman took over the editorship of the comic book line from Sal Gentile, who was promoted to Charlton's magazine division, which included titles such as Song Hits and Hit Parader. Wildman had been Gentile's assistant and was also an artist, regularly drawing their Popeye comic. Wildman hired Nick Cuti as his second-in-command; Cuti previously wrote stories for Warren's horror magazines and assisted Wally Wood in his studio. Cuti supplemented his income by writing scripts throughout Charlton's line.
Wayne Howard's attractive cover art to Ghostly Tales # 98, October 1972. Howard produced the sixteen page interior story almost entirely on his own. Image from the GCD.
Don Perlin produced several memorable stories for Charlton's ghost line; he was adept at strong figure work, mood and characterization. He was assisted by his son Howard on this story. "The Night Dancer", Ghostly Tales # 99, November 1972.
Wayne Howard produced two stories in Ghostly Tales # 99, a six pager and this one page story, likely written, drawn and lettered by Howard. His use of Zip-A-Tone (a self adhesive shading that could be cut and applied directly to the art) adds depth to the page.
We close out 1972 dated books with a final Ditko story involving a creepy ventriloquist dummy. Stories of this nature had appeared in books, on radio and television, including The Twilight Zone. At this point Ditko's art became less detailed and often lacked the soft, wistful inking of earlier stories, although there are still enough strong points to be worthwhile, including the dummy's eerie appearance in panel two. "Don't Talk Back", Ghostly Tales # 100, December 1972.
Sanho Kim illustrates the second story, bringing his own distinctive personality and innovative design, as seen on the splash page. Ghostly Tales # 100, December 1972.
The final story introduces us to another unique artist.Tom Sutton worked in comics for a few years before making his way to Charlton, drawing horror stories for Jim Warren's magazines (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella) and bringing Will Elder inspired humor to Marvel's Not Brand Echh. This mix of the macabre and the satirical served Sutton well over the years. He truly enjoyed working at Charlton and was in his element depicting spooky, mist filled graveyards, decrepit mansions and quirky characters.
Ditko, Kim and Sutton are examples of the diverse art to be found in the pages of Charlton comics. Even in a "bad" issue the odds were that - at the very least - one artist or story would be to your liking - a reason why Charlton's product is still worth seeking out all these years later.
Next Up: The final years of Ghostly Tales.