Thursday 20 August 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #04 - Devil Priest Pack Part IV

Well then, after the easy-peasy cards to identify last time, our next pair present quite the challenge. Indeed over the years, many have thought that this pair were actually the product of the demented imaginings of the unnameable Horror Top Trumps artist. And at first glance, you may be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there was a title mix-up with these two as well. I mean, surely that hooded bloke with the scythe should be Death not that goggle-eyed muppet!

Ah Death, possibly one of the most enigmatic of all the Horror Top Trumps cards. Whole generations puzzled over it. Firstly everybody wanted to know why this card didn't show the expected skellington and scythe. The more technically minded Top Trump players wanted to know how in the seven names of Hades was it possible for Death - Death itself for Pete's sake - only had a Killing Power of less than 100. While the more eagle-eyed amongst us wanted to know whether Death was actually being pictured as wearing a large wide brimmed hat, possibly a sombero... I mean, look at that building in the back ground! Is that one of those sun-bleached little churches that always appear in spaghetti westerns? 

But as perplexing as all the above queries where, there was one question that, if you pardon the pun, trumped all the rest. And that was simply - What. The. Hell. Is. THAT? 

Well dear friends, I can now at last reveal the truth! Although the bizarre nature and slapdash penmanship of the card do rather suggest that this was the product of a deranged imagination, Death is in fact another rip-off, although admittedly a somewhat obscure one. The card is actually based on a mask made by the legendary Don Post Studios. 

Founded by Don Post (obviously) this outfit began producing novelty items in the late 1940s, and by the 1960s had become famous for their full head latex masks. Post soon brokered a deal with the likes of Universal and began producing masks of the famous movie monsters based on the original make-up. What's more he took casts of living cult icons such as Tor Johnson and William Shatner to make masks in their image - famously Michael Myers' mask in the original Halloween is actually a modified Post Shatner mask!  Furthermore the range of deadly masks from Silver Shamrock in Halloween III: Season of the Witch are Post creations too. However aside from doing classic movie monsters and having the licenses to produce Planet of the Apes and Star Wars masks, Don Post Studios also created their own original creations - one of which was this chap (no doubt inspired by the Star Wars spawned SF boom) who appeared in the 1977 Don Post catalog - the Coridian Alien! 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen I believe we have a match! Incidentally Top Trumps wasn't the only thing to recast the Coridian Alien mask either. As Don Post masks were of such good quality it wasn't unusual for them to be used in low budget movies and TV, and hence the Coridian Alien appeared in the short-lived Logan's Run TV series. In the second episode, The Collectors, which aired on 23rd September 1977, Logan and his companions encounter nefarious shape-shifting aliens disguised as humans. This sneaky lot were collecting samples of different lifeforms for the usual conquer everything schemes, and the Coridian Alien masks were used as the true monstrous features of these intergalactic ne'er-do-wells revealed in the finale! 

Given their brief screen time in the Logan's Run TV series episode, it's unlikely the Horror Top Trumps artist copied it from there. However considering that Don Post were advertising in a variety of horror and SF magazines in the '70s, its far more likely the Coridian Alien was discovered in such an ad. Indeed it would seem likely that the mags like Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog were the source of many of the images cribbed for the Horror Top Trumps, and our next card bears this out...
In the 1970s there was a huge boom in horror related magazines, with the charge being led by Warren Publishing. Now famously horror comics had been effectively banned in the US since the mid 1950s,  thanks to the Comics Code Authority. However having produced two successful magazines celebrating monster movies - the afore-mentioned Famous Monsters and Monsterworld, the ghouls at Warren realised that the Code didn't cover magazines being larger and pricier fell outside the CCA definition of a comic. Hence in 1964, Creepy was launched, and as the world didn't collapse in a riot of moral decay, was soon followed by Eerie and Vampirella. The mix of articles, comics strips, and text stories proved to be highly popular and other companies such as Skywald were soon producing rival publications. By the early '70s, even the mighty Marvel had got in on the act with a whole slew of horror mags published under the imprint of Curtis Magazines, which delivered a similar blend of text and comic books features.    

One such publication was Vampire Tales which ran bi-monthly for 11 issues from August 1973 to June 1975. As well as the usual one-off anthology stories, the magazine starred Morbius the Living Vampire, a former Spiderman villain now getting a new lease of life in pure horror comics, and introduced to the world Satana, the Devil's Daughter who would later migrate to the Marvel superhero universe. Now evidently the mysterious Horror Top Trumps artist was scouring the monster mags of the day for things to pinch, for who do we find menacing Morbius on the cover of issue #3? Why it's Devil Priest! 

OK so he's traded his purple clobber for a more tasteful blue and has been flipped from left to right, but Devil Priest is unmistakably the leader of the Demon Cult pictured above! 

1 comment:

Peter A said...

Russell T Davies owes someone a fiver for his Ood creature design I think!