Monday, March 29, 2010

Introduction to “Ghost Brain”

Ever played What’s Up, Tiger Lily? with somebody else’s artistry? The exercise takes its name from a motion picture of 1966, in which Woody Allen substantially rewrote a self-serious Japanese espionage picture as a spoof — closer to Theatre of the Absurd than to outright comedy. The practice is much older than that, of course: Contrived captions for ordinary photographs can only date from the beginnings of photography. And in just the few years preceding Tiger Lily, Harvey Kurtzman had built much of HELP! magazine around newsphotos and movie stills embellished with crazed word-balloons. To say nothing of Jay Ward’s Fractured Flickers teleseries, whose shtik was to dub silent motion pictures with incongruous dialogue.

The comic-book sector of Forgotten Horrors — especially the censor-bait comics that proliferated during the immediate post-WWII years — runs thick with such temptations to commit vandalism. Yes, and why restore or even just rediscover an ineptly written story when one can replace its banal and overobvious dialogue with non-sequiturs and outright groaners?

Such a piece is the anonymously rendered “Ghost Brain,” which comes from a magazine called Weird Horrors (Issue No. 2; St. John Publ.; 1952). Actually, a cloaked-phantom image foreshadowing this yarn dominates the cover of Weird Horrors’ Issue No. 1, while a mere cover-cameo graces the issue in which the story appears. Go figure.

Anyhow, a Tiger Lily’d version of “Ghost Brain” follows — a preview of a book in preparation for Baltimore’s Midnight Marquee Press. (The early volumes in this Marquee series include Scream Chills Illustrated, Carnival of Souls & Other Futile Inquiries, and Michael H. Price’s Great Big Crock of Christmas! — all in the catalogue at

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