A Tribute to the of

Well, faithful readers, here we are again on the cusp of Halloween, even though 2020 seems like it’s been one extended nightmare. I hope the trick-or-treaters aren’t completely thwarted this year, but who could blame them for sticking to small parties or other activities.

As is my sometimes tradition, I’ve decided to pick out a mystery tale to review in honor of the holiday. The venerable House of Mystery is always a good bet and I located a short story with some major talent on it for this time around. The issue is #196 (+ original art) from November of 1971, so just a bit past the Silver Age and into the Bronze. The on-sale date is September 21, 1971 and that moody cover comes courtesy of the great Tony DeZuniga with the equally great Jack Adler adding color. Our editor is Joe Orlando with assistant editing duties taken care of by Mark Hanerfeld. I picked the final tale in this great anthology, written by Jack Oleck, lettered by Milt Snappin and illustrated by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia. Let’s check outThe Little People!

The story centers on Mike O’Bannion, “A hard man, and bitter.” It is also noted that this story happened centuries ago in the Old Country. With a name like O’Bannion and dealing with little people, it is obviously Ireland.

It all kicks off with what one would presume is the mid-wife bringing O’Bannion his new child, but announcing that his wife died giving birth. He’s hoisting one, but he is in no mood to celebrate when he learns he has a new baby daughter. “I need a son! I’m a farmer! A farmer whose land is all rocks and clay. I need a son, not a squalling girl child!

Off he goes onto his farm, cursing the fates and uttering those words one must be most careful with: “I’d give anything for a son! Anything!” That, of course, was the cue for a diminutive bearded man to appear, assuring Michael that he can have his wish and it won’t even cost him anything of value. He is invited down through a hole in the ground by a twisted and blasted tree by the wee man who also mentions that they do like their little jokes.

The tunnel the pair follow leads to the home of the little people and their leader, seated on a throne of gold and ivory. Soon a bargain is struck and the Macleish says O’Bannion will have his wish. A son in exchange for the daughter he doesn’t want. Michael cannot understand their willingness to help him, but his greed takes over and he makes the pact. He becomes dizzy, loses consciousness and finds himself in precisely the same place as before, but this time, it is announced that he has a son.

The son turns out to be strong as an ox and able to do the work of 10 men, so the farm thrives, but the downside is that he is deformed and mute. Michael O’Bannion is a wealthy man, but still bitter and lonely so he soon makes his way back to the underground dwelling place of the little people to make another bargain. He tells them he was cheated, given a hulking monster in exchange for his daughter. He asks for the girl back and they quickly agree, but with the caveat that the deal is final.

Back at his grand house, he anticipates the return of his daughter and contemplates his wealth when she appears, but it’s not what he had anticipated. Having spent the last 20 years underground, she is more like the little people and is a horrifying sight. She reaches for a fireplace poker and begins to swing it at O’Bannion who pleads with her, but as he tries to escape, he recalls the mention of the little people loving their little jokes. The daughter giggles insanely as she prepares another swing at Michael and this unsettling little story fades to black.

I realized as I was going through this story that I’d run across the name Jack Oleck more than once, but knew next to nothing about him. Apparently, he was the brother-in-law of Joe Simon and even did work for the Simon-Kirby studio, EC comics and others during his career and right up to his death in 1981. See the details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Oleck

Don’t forget to come visit us again on the 1st of November when we’ll share another review from the archives. Also, your feedback is welcomed, so tap your way to my e-mail at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

We’ll be looking for you and until next time...

Long live the Silver Age!

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