cover to Haunted Love #5

Haunted Love #5, December 1973

Tom Sutton’s glorious cover — with a colour hold no less! — graces this issue of Charlton’s Gothic Romance title.

“Until We Meet Again” by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko sees Sheila, grieving widow of a dead sailor, scouring the sea in desperation when she comes across the near-dead body of a man. Bringing him ashore, she nurses him back to health and is overjoyed to discover that he is in fact possessed by the soul of her husband. The pair live happily ever after.

The second story, “Curse of the Byrnewyres” by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton, finds young college graduate Susan coming to visit her sweetheart Emil Byrnewyre. He appears none to happy to see her, though she is invited to stay and goes for a relaxing bath (in a completely gratuitous scene — hey, this was the 1970s!). Later that evening a commotion reveals that Emil’s brother is a werewolf! Lycanthropy strikes all male members of the Byrnewyre family at the age of 25 — unfortunately, Emil’s 25th birthday is next week!! At dinner with the rest of the Byrnewyre clan Emil begins to change, but Susan informs him that she knows he is, in fact, not a Byrnewyre, he was adopted as a child. The “curse” is actually the result of hypnotism: the Byrnewyres intended to experiment on Emil to perfect a cure for their own lycanthropy. None too pleased to hear this, Emil and Susan leave for a happy life together.

Joe Gill and Tom Sutton’s “Mother’s Boy” follows the machinations of the evil Mrs Hoyt as she manoeuvres young lovers Richard, her son, and Kate into marriage so that she can possess her own granddaughter and gain a further lease on life. However, she dies before the pair can marry. Once they are married, Kate feels the portrait of Mrs Hoyt above the fireplace is evil. When she becomes pregnant she refuses to live in the same house with the portrait and orders Richard to destroy it. At that, the portrait seesm t come to life as Mrs Hoyt’s spirit curses them. Kate rips the painting off the wall and throws it on the fire, breaking the spell. Or does it? Later, as their baby daughter crawls in front of the fire, an evil grimace crosses her face…

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A very effective issue, mainly due to the quite chilling final story. The Gill/Ditko piece is completely pointless, and the Cuti/Staton one ludicrous in the extreme — fans of gratuitous nudity in comics, however, might enjoy the bathing scene — I know I did! “Mother’s Boy”, though, is a worthy addition to the ranks of Gothic Romance. One can imagine a Hammer movie could’ve been made of this, or, at least, a segment of one of those portmanteau films popular at the time. Unusually, the tale largely deals with sex, as the whole piece revolves around Mrs Hoyt’s need for a baby granddaughter to inhabit and so extend her life, hence her forcing Richard into a romance with a “suitable” girl. And, most unusually, she actually succeeds: at the end, the little baby is indeed possessed by her evil granny!

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