Red Circle Sorcery #7 (1974)
While the stories within are the wild tales you’d hope for, Red Circle Sorcery has an interesting history itself. Beginning publication as Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told by Sabrina, the book would drop the Teenage Witch in favor of a more adult image under the Red Circle Comics Group imprint. For those who don’t know Red Circle was an MLJ/ Archie Comics brand that focused on superheroes and other genres outside of their typical fare. If you watch Riverdale, you may have heard that name before. Anyway, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery would become Red Circle Sorcery at issue #6, and the world would never be the same.
To start our journey into the mysterious and macabre, writer Steve Skeates and artist Carlos Pino bring us “A Twist in Time!” Though they misspell his name here as “Skeats”, the writer was already a well known name in the industry, having had a memorable run on Aquaman and even winning some awards for his work in humor comics. Pino, a protegé of Gray Morrow, provides some terrific art for the feature.
So, the big question.
Does the cover art happen in this tale?
Kind of. The story does begin with Merlin looking into his crystal ball to see the future, and Gray Morrow does a wonderful job matching his Merlin to Pino’s, but he does not see Jack the Ripper. We have to wait for that. What he does see is Anton Isadore, recent murderer. The thing is, Ol’ Anton can see Merlin too, and can’t kick this recurring dream where he’s trapped in a ball, being watched by a bearded man. Skeates inserts a few tongue in cheek moments here to keep you laughing through this bizarre narrative and, rest assured, there is an EC Comics style twist at the end. Yeah, it’s silly, but this one is pretty fun.
Next up is a brief feature entitled “Essays Into The Supernatural: Dibbuk“. As the title implies, this is more of a brief, illustrated essay than anything else. Marv Channing writes about The Dibbuk, a possessor spirit from Hebrew folklore, with a few panels from Gray Morrow. A nice little interlude.
Marv returns along with Vincente Alcazar, who was also brought in to American comics by Morrow. Alcazar would go on to freelance in the U.S. for years, working in all aspects of the art. “The Knife of Jack The Ripper” finally fulfills the cover’s promise, but in a way you’re not likely to expect. The feature tells the tale of David, an expert on the Victorian serial killer and author. He formulates a plot to steal the knife of Jack the Ripper and, well, things just don’t go as planned. Though not a graphic as some other horror anthologies, the end of this one is surprisingly brutal for a Code carrying comic.
Turn the page, and under an advertisement for coming Red Circle title The Super Cops, you’ll find a profile of Gray Morrow, naming him the “Demonic Delineator”, which is about as sick of a nickname as any other. That’s really it, but The Super Cops look like total bad-asses.
“The Rivals” is brought to us by Channing and Bruce Jones.
The story concerns a childhood rivalry, which eventually involves a creepy old woman and, eventually, Prohibition era gangsters. I don’t want to tell you more because it is a real treat. Sure, it’s short, but it’s something that could have easily been an episode of Tales from the Crypt.
Marvin once again writes, this time a prose tale entitled “The Man Who Would Not Laugh“. The story concerns a bet between Satan and one of his minions, and has the distinct feel of being folklore, though I could not find the story when attempting to research that. Basically, The Devil bets that through cruelty, he can make anyone laugh and offers the demon freedom if he is proven wrong. Not a bad story, but the highlights are Morrow’s two panels inserted below and above the two pages.
Prolific horror comic writer T. Casey Brennan brings us “The Benefactor“, and though art is comically attributed to “U. Hack”, it appears to be more work from Alcazar. Our titular benefactor is a strange being named Gabriel. Less of a horror tale and more of a contemplation of human nature, “The Benefactor” is an intriguing addition to the anthology.
The issue closes with another “Essays into the Supernatural“. This time, it concerns “Possession and Exorcism“…actually, the first time it did too, but let’s give the Demonic Delineator a break here, as he had to both write and draw this feature.
Red Circle Sorcery #7 sells for between $5 and $20. While it is fairly typical of its time, if you’re looking for a fun collection, this might be a nice book to pursue.