Tuesday, 29 October 2019
Atlas Comics (as Seaboard Periodicals Magazine)
Issues 1 - 2 USA 1975
Devilina... Illustrated Stories of Female-Filled Fantasy!... was one of Atlas Comics attempts to do a black and white comic book magazine in the style of Marvel’s Savage Sword Of Conan or, more than likely in terms of this particular title, something along the lines of Warren’s Vampirella comic magazine. The result is kinda curious and an interesting read but, alas, it obviously didn’t prove as interesting a read with the general public because the title was very short lived, folding after just two issues.
The first issue hit the ground running with an editorial called The Devil’s Dungeon, which talk ed about how the publishers want to adhere to the legacy of ‘fright fraught’ literature (their term, not mine) as popularised by such writers as Poe, Lovecraft and Hawthrone.. so, setting their sights high. However, this seems to be a general editorial column applicable to a range of their mature titles and, somehow, Devilina is conspicuously absent. So that’s all a bit strange. No version of this editorial column appeared in the second issue.
The magazine itself comprised of several short horror stories with the usual shock endings to them plus, first and foremost, a story involving the title character. The first Devilina story, Satan’s Domain, written and drawn by Ric Estrada, tackles her origin as the daughter of Satan’s mother, making them siblings. Satan’s mother is exiled from Hell and raises Devilina as some kind of ‘good witch’ until she reaches her 18th birthday, when she finds some horns on her head... some people might think that, given that she’s explained as having a superior IQ to most people her age, the fact that her mother named her Devilina might have been a bit of a tip off but, what do I know? One of the girls at her college asks if her name is Polish so... yeah. It’s not explained within these two issues if she can retract these horns at will but, since she decides to spend her time graduating from college and majoring in ‘occult journalism’, instead of taking Satan’s offer of ruling in Hell with him, I can only assume that these horns aren’t a permanent fixture. It’s sometimes hard to tell with her hair style. However, Satan is not happy with this arrangement and, after burning her boyfriend to death, sets out to scupper her attempts to live a ‘normal’ life at every turn. He even employs some kind of black arts super sorceress named Corrupta in the Devilina story in the second issue’s lead story, The Curse Of Corrupta. This, not too exciting, chapter of what was never, unfortunately, destined to be referred to as The Devilina Saga, even leaves things on a kind of soft cliff-hanger ending, with Devilina’s best friend and room mate’s body suddenly playing host to Corrupta’s soul. However, like I said... only two issues ever hit newsagents.
Actually, it’s some of the back up stories which are quite a bit more interesting than the title character’s adventures. Especially in the first issue which has, admittedly, a dully plotted story called The Lost Tomb of Nefertiri, dealing with the resurrection of a bandaged up female mummy who seems a not very distant cousin of the one who is so obsessed with Tom Cruise in the 2017 iteration of The Mummy (reviewed here). The story is uninspired but the artwork by Pablo Marcos is brilliant, utilising some amazingly dynamic page layouts with elements of the panels (many of them open ended panels) over-lapping into other panels and leading the eye through the path of the story. Despite the lack of story pacing, however, the strip does have a nice twist ending.
Of course, twist endings is what both horror and science fiction anthologies are all about and the various stories scattered through the two issues of Devilina are no different. They’re not all exactly unexpected reveals, such as the first issue’s Lay Of The Sea, which features a topless, serial killing mermaid who is captured and raped by the crew of a ship before being left for dead and eventually returning riding a sea monster to deal with the enemies of the one man who stood up for her during her ordeal. I loved the idea that her ‘all male’ victims were found dead with seaweed pulled tight around their necks but there’s a strange jump in the story, although not in the page count, which makes me wonder if this particular tale was either censored or possibly self-censored before publication.
One low point, for me, was a comic strip adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest... which also had some nice art but which, frankly, just reminded me that I really don’t like ‘the bard’s’ writing and I was glad to see the end of it.
The second issue is... well, the Devilina story is a little better than the first (with it’s cliffhanger ending, as detailed earlier) but the supporting stories didn’t really have anything notable about them... which is a hard blow to take when you realise that one of them is a werewolf tale. The theme which I’d barely registered in the first issue but which is much more obvious with the drop in the quality of the stories in the second issue is the reliance on barely consensual sex, rape and brutality to women. Which kinda doesn’t really do much to enhance a positive version of that ‘female-filled fantasy’ the magazine covers proudly proclaim as their mission statement.
Each issue contains one magazine article also, accompanied by a set of illustrations. In the first issue, the subject is modern vampire movies but, it really seems to be an excuse just so the editors can publish some stills from the Hammer Horror films The Vampire Lovers and Twins Of Evil. The slightly longer article in the second issue, presumably to show just how ‘adult’ or ‘mature’ this magazine is when compared to the competitors’ comics, is a fully illustrated review of Flesh Gordon, the soft porn spoof of... well, you know. And talking of their competitors, since Marvel comics were often known as The House Of Ideas, it’s kind of interesting to find adverts for the regular line of Atlas comics in these two issues where they brazenly proclaim themselves to be The New House Of Ideas. One wonders how Marvel took that one.
And, yeah, there’s not much more to tell about these two issues of Devilina. One of many, I am sure, curios of comicdom but they are kinda intriguing and I had a good time with some of the content, despite the misogynistic overtones throughout. Worth picking up, should the opportunity arise, if you are interested in exploring some of the less remembered avenues that comics publishers took in their long history but, perhaps, left alone if the horror anthology format is not your cup of tea.