Mystic #6: "Skull-Face"

Mystic #6
January, 1952

Story: Stan Lee
Art: Tony DiPreta

It was only fifteen years ago that movie theaters across the nation saw
the release of the greatest horror movie ever made... "Skull-Face."
Lines were standing room only, with many patrons waiting at least a half
hour to see the film.  In this new year, Hollywood producers have found
difficulty in attracting their audience.  Gimmicks such as free dishes,
bingo, vaudeville acts, amateur nights, double features have failed.  One
person at a meeting has an idea.  Since "Skull-Face" was a thirty million
dollar moneymaker, it is decided that this particular film be re released
for a new generation of moviegoers.

With a large publicity campaign, "Skull-Face" will mean big business for
the movies.  Full page newspaper ads, television commercials, skywriting
airplanes, and men carrying sandwich signs bring news of the upcoming
release to the public's attention.  One idea man in Hollywood has his own
notion of how to bring "Skull-Face" to the public eye.  Since audiences
know the character from the movie, Tom Fenton wants to find a real

At a curio shop, the publicity man and his assistant want to buy a
skeleton, but the proprietor hasn't got one for sale.  When the assistant
points towards a nearby skeleton, the shop owner tells them that this
once had been a man who was burned at the stake for being a demon.  He is
reluctant to part with such a dangerous object, but when Fenton hands him
a thousand dollars, the deal is made.  After dressing the skeleton to
resemble "Skull-Face," Tom and his assistant carry the skeleton back to
the studio laboratory.  Just the sight of it makes the aide nervous.
After telling the assistant to contact Professor Thornton, Fenton calls
up the newspapers.  Time passes, with a gathering of reporters about to
witness the creation of a real-life "Skull-Face" in the studio lab.  The
professor is having fifty million volts of electricity running through
the skeleton for twenty-four hours a day... until "Skull-Face" comes to
life.  When one of the reporters wonders if the readers will buy such a
thing, another tells his colleague that they'll swallow anything.

The wave of publicity continues, with radio reports about the
biochemist's attempts to bring "Skull-Face" to life.  While the campaign
heads into high gear, the skeleton sat in the studio lab with fifty
million volts running through it.  Two months pass, with Tom Fenton's
plan deemed a complete success, and a bonus check for the publicity man.
When Thornton asks what they should do with the skeleton, Fenton suggests
that the scientist hang it on his wall as a Halloween decoration.  When
the professor returns to the studio laboratory, he is in for a big
surprise.  The following day, the body of the world famous biochemist is
found on the lab floor.  When asked who could have had a motive for the
killing, Tom Fenton suggests that "Skull-Face" was the culprit, but the
idea man is rebuffed for his crass attempt at publicity.

The murder of Professor Thornton remains a baffling mystery in the
Hollywood Gazette.  When he meets with the city editor, Fenton's theory
about the identity of the killer is rejected.  After others have turned
him away, Tom gives up, and decides to get out of the business.
Unfortunately for the publicity man, there is one more task to be
completed.  "Skull-Face" has come for him, blaming Fenton for being
revived in such a gruesome state.  As the frantic idea man tries to call
the police, the card-playing officers at the precinct figure that
Fenton's up to his old tricks again.  With Tom screaming in his final
moments, the neighbors figure that the publicity man must be working on a
new record for the horror movie.  The listening audience has swallowed
Fenton's publicity stunts, but the one time he had gotten ahold of the
real thing, they had turned away... except for "Skull-Face."  If the time
comes for you to see "Skull-Face"... make certain that it's the movie
before you agree to such a thing.

This story was reprinted in Tomb Of Darkness #20 (May, 1976).

As drawn by Tony DiPreta, Tom Fenton resembles none other than Bill

I know that television programs and movies use consultants, but would a
world famous biochemist really work on such a project at a studio

The use of print ads, television commercials, skywriting airplanes, and
skull-masked guys carrying sandwich signs seem light-years ahead in
imagination when compared to the numerous movie previews we suffer
through at the local theater.

Does anyone on the list have any fond memories of going to drive-ins and
matinees during the 1950's and like to share some of them?

I'm interested because I think that folks tended to have more fun at the
movies than they do nowadays.

Stan Lee hit it on the head with this particular tale.  There's just
something inherently interesting about a walking skeleton wearing an
orange suit that makes you clamoring for more.

Skull-Face later reappeared in What If The Avengers Had Fought Evil
During the 1950's? (#9, first series).

The concept and script were by Don Glut and Roy Thomas.  Alan Kupperberg
provided breakdowns, while Bill Black did the finished art, and inks.
Carl Gafford was the colorist, while Tom Orzechowski was the letterer.

The walking skeleton was one of the villains used by the Yellow Claw
against the 1950's Avengers.

According to the Grand Comics Database, Tony DiPreta drew for Quality,
Hillman, Lev Gleason, as well as for Marvel. 

There's one more story to review from Tomb Of Darkness #20.

Since I've posted the cover of T.O.D. #20 to the photo section, you can
see how the skeleton clad in tatters is trying to get a kiss from a
bell-bottomed beauty.

What is the significance of Mara and the kiss of death?

I'll promise to have the review for you tomorrow.

Same SAR-Time.

Same SAR-Channel.

Steve Chung