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cover
 
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
Psychotic Adventures Illustrated #1
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AVERAGE SCORE 8
Only Printing / 1972 / 36 pages / Company & Sons
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When Charles Dallas is given his first chance to do a full-color comic book cover, he depicts a monstrous, alien beast devouring the entrails of three young adults camping out under a canopy of idyllic palm trees. There's no beating around the bush for Charlie!

Though the cover art actually portrays a scene from the last story in the book, it also sets the tone for the first, "The Book of Zee," which takes place in a ravaged future and is about gigantic insects who breed humans for food. After a well-paced introduction, the story plods along a bit predictably and isn't that spooky, but there are some nice touches along the way: one is a panel that shows a man and woman standing in front of a library of books from the "golden age of mankind," and the book titles (e.g., Collected Creepy, Illustrated Beatle Lyrics, Sex for Over 70's) are pretty funny.

The second story, "The Dreamer," is about a man who apparently dreams about decapitating a woman with a knife and keeping her head as a souvenir. Only a dream, right? But in reality the man was sleepwalking and actually did cut off a woman's head and brought it home. The last panel shows the severed head sitting on the sleeping man's nightstand, where he's sure to discover it in the morning. Surprise, your dream actually happened! The story concept is classic archetype from EC horror comics, and it offers no new twists (the script was written by Dallas' wife, Sharon Goodyear), but the art is effectively moody and foreboding.

The gem of Psychotic Adventures #1 is the last story, "The Underground Artist," which is also the longest (it takes up half the book). The story is told in the first person by a man named Fred, who is recalling his tragic tale after the fact. It's about three hippies in "the city" who are so sick of the noise, pollution and paranoia that they scheme to deal drugs and pimp whores to raise money and buy some land far, far away. After 18 months they've saved up 15 grand and end up buying a boat and sailing off with their three girlfriends to a remote island in the Pacific.

After the first night on the island, the three couples split off to search the island for a good campsite. Fred and his girlfriend, Bluebird, hike for hours before discovering a cave, which they promptly explore. The cave gets narrower and tighter before it opens up to a large cavern, where Fred discovers the walls are covered with strange paintings of "monstrous beasts of prey." He wants to capitalize on this archaeological discovery by making money, which pisses off Bluebird (a true Bohemian) and they get into an argument. She leaves him in a huff but Fred doesn't care and keeps studying the cave paintings.

Fred's flashlight suddenly goes on the fritz and works intermittently, which leads to him being captured by the lone native resident of the cave, an unearthly yet manlike creature with evil intentions. In the next ten pages we witness a bizarre and gruesome ritual, an unexpected transformation, and a grisly massacre. The story concludes with a one-page epilogue back in the city that does not—can not—include Fred.

"The Underground Artist" is one of Charles Dallas' best comic stories and features startling plot twists and some harrowing scenes of carnage. There's quite a bit of exposition (internal pondering by Fred) that aesthetically lightens the shadowy atmosphere of peril, but this is still a dark and menacing adventure that delivers on its potential.

After two stories that are somewhat humdrum, the last one elevates the first issue of Psychotic Adventures to an essential read for fans of horror comics.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
Company & Sons printed approximately 10,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.
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COMIC CREATORS:
Charles Dallas - 1-12, 13-17 (art), 18-36
Sharon Goodyear - 13-17 (script)