The Unexpected #164 (1975)
Not having much to do with the current DC Comics publication of the same name, The Unexpected was once one of National Publications most popular anthology series. Though falling firmly within Comics Code standards, in the seventies The Unexpected delivered some tame, but Tales from the Crypt-esque, features.
Also, it finally happened.
I can confirm that the images you see from the cover never actually occur in the comic. The two Nestor Redondo cover characters due bear a striking resemblance to the protagonists from the lead feature, but boy is the story different from the cover. In fact, it is distinctly more unexpected!
The lead feature in this issue is House of the Sinister Sands, wherein Gary, Linda and their dog Ginger discover a giant sand castle while on a trip to the beach. That’s not super unexpected, but boy does it get weird. Within the sand walls, they find a world of over-sized beach denizens, including crabs, turtles and romance novels. That last one was a lie. Anyway, the trio tango with the monstrous animals as a lifeguard and their parents attempt to free them. They honestly should have gone with a cover that reflected this unique feature a little more, though maybe they were hiding its contents to make it more unexpected!
I’m going to keep doing that.
While there is no official credit for the first story, I’ve found a few sites that credit the art to John Calnan, a regular contributor to the DC anthology series. It certainly looks like his work, and I’d guess there’s a good shot he wrote it as well.
Next up is The Big Heat!, a detective yarn which, yeah, is a bit unexpected after a story about a giant sandcastle. Not much to talk about here without ruining the ending, but Detective Frank Archer has a chip on his shoulder, and isn’t about to let the bad guy get away. Carl Wessler, one of the original EC horror and crime writers, is credited with the story. With a little digging, I found out that Nestor’s brother Frank Redondo was responsible for the art in this one, which is the highlight of the tale. Redondo does some fantastic facial expressions in the relatively short page count.
The book heads back to the beach with the deliberately named The Haunted Lighthouse. You know what, I think you already know the plot here and while the tale is a little less unexpected than I had hoped, Rubeny’s art is something to behold. Alongside the Redondo brothers, Rubeny (real name Ruben Yandoc) was one of a few Filipino artists working for DC at the time who had come out of their country’s fertile comics scene in the decades prior. It’s nice to see an overlooked piece of comics’ history on showcase here. Writing duties fell to George Kashdan, who is perhaps most notable for relaunching the Aquaman title with Nick Cardy in 1962. I guess he liked lighthouses. Not terribly unexpected, they are cool.
The Unexpected #164 is not the most expensive Bronze Age book, and if you want one, I’m sure you could track it down.
Oh! one more unexpected thing before I wrap this one up!
The interior front cover features an ad where Batman and Robin foil a mummy with Twinkies. Though there are some great online archives of this entire campaign, I’ve had a hard time finding credits. If you know who was behind this one, please comment below!