Armagideon Time

It occurred to me this morning that I’ve made it through two-thirds of this year’s Halloween Countdown without indulging in a snarky recap of a goofy Bronze Age horror comic tale. That’s unforgivable, considering such oh-so-2006 content has been a staple of this feature since its inception.

Today we’re going to rectify that egregious omission with a look at “The Devil’s Bride” by George Kashdan and V. Alcazar in The Witching Hour #49 (December 1974).

The tale begins on a godforsaken moor, when a be-sideburned little drip of a dude seeking a favor from the Powers of Darkness. The drip is besotted with lust for a demure lass named Tess, but his matrimonial intentions have been thwarted by a lack of means. Enter “Mr. Baal,” a duly licensed and bonded emissary of Satan himself, who offers the drip the deed to a gold mine in exchange for his immortal soul.

The drip — knowing a good bargain when he sees one — agrees to the deal and rushes off to woo his wasp-waisted vaguely Victorian honey. Tess accepts the drip’s proposal, yet drags her heels on setting a date. The delay infuriates Mr. Baal, forcing the drip to unsuccessfully bargain for more time.

The story is unclear about why Baal is so irked about Tess’s hesitation. He’d already completed his bargain with the drip, so there was no real reason for him to stick around afterward. Time and (presumably) sweet irony would ensure Baal would receive his contracted due, yet he keeps hand-holding this particular client. Maybe he’s nervous because he drew against his commission, or maybe he really has his coal-black heart set on winning a set of satanic steak knives.

In any case, the midnight meetings between Ball and the drip arouse Tess’s suspicions and convince her to crash their unhallowed gathering.

Tess makes Baal an offer — if he relinquishes his claim on the drip’s soul, she will consent to become Baal’s bride. The drip is understandably upset about this, but Ball is over the gibbous moon about the prospect of wedding such a comely mortal lass. The Horny Horned One’s only caveat is that Tess prove her suitability for demonic spousehood by committing a suitably evil act.

While Tess initially despairs over that stipulation, she eventually seals the deal by murdering her beloved nanny and roping in the drip to help dispose of her dismembered remains.

“I love you so much that to keep your soul from Satan’s clutches, I made you an accessory to the murder of a kindly old woman!”

Ain’t love grand?

While the drip is appalled by his beloved’s journey into darkness, he doesn’t let it prevent him from hanging around Tess’s heels right on up through the wedding. A ceremony, I should add, performed by the most metal minister ever.

No sooner are the demonic vows exchanged than the shocking — I say SHOCKING — truth is revealed. Tess was actually *gasp* a WITCH all along, and was using the drip’s soul-bargaining thirstiness to draw Baal into her matrimonial web.

Baal is less than pleased that his new bride turned out to be less Gibson Girl than Henry Gibson but, honestly, who cares about cloven hooves when the lights are out?

The drip’s reaction wasn’t shown, but I’m sure he got over his heartbreak by living a rich life full of other really, really stupid dick-driven decisions.

Kidding (mostly) aside, “The Devil’s Bride” exemplifies Bronze Age DC “horror” comics — and not just because nearly every single issue of The Witching Hour featured some oddly Freudian variation of the “got tricked into marrying a hideous witch” theme. The combination of sub-EC “twist endings” and incredible artwork (much of it by members of the publisher’s pool of Filipino illustrators) is atmospherically compelling despite frequent forays into outright goofiness. The whole might not have been greater than the sum of its parts, but it did join up to create something suitable weird, wild and rarely outright boring.

Recommended listening: Claude Bolling – Strange Magic (from the Qui? 7″, 1970)

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The power of Gallic freakbeat compels you.

Related posts:

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  2. Halloween Countdown: October 29 – And you should know
  3. Halloween Countdown: October 26 – Gonna show you something

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