A Tribute to the of

These special tribute Sage efforts are not my favorite thing to do, but I’m afraid it’s become necessary once again as Tom Palmer has passed away. Once again, he crossed into my BACK ISSUE world in a somewhat tertiary fashion, but had kind of a hand in getting me started. I’ll try to explain.

Anybody remember when I reviewed a story from House of Secrets #100 titled “Round-Trip Ticket?” I chose that one specifically to accompany the interview I enjoyed with Tom Palmer as he did the artwork for it. As a dedicated DC guy, I have to confess, Tom wasn’t really on my radar, but after comments from three other interviewees, namely Neal Adams, who named Tom his favorite inker over his Marvel work, Mike Esposito and Gene Colan, I decided to track him down and was really happy to get acquainted with this fine gentleman.

So, as luck would have it, the story was written by Lore Shoberg, another unfamiliar name. I queried my readers to see if anyone had heard of him as I could find precious little. One of my readers got in touch with a friend who was an excellent amateur detective and put me on Lore’s trail and I enjoyed an interview with him, which, as best I can tell, is the sole existing interview with the man, who sadly has also passed. After completing the interview, I shared the transcript with the woman who helped me out and she suggested it would be a good contribution to Alter Ego or BACK ISSUE. Hmm. So, I contacted Michael Eury, the editor of BACK ISSUE and he liked it and bought it and it eventually ran in issue #52, my very first professional writing gig. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. So, I told Tom about it and he was pleased for me and then proceeded to share a couple of scans of the original art from that very story with me. How totally cool are they?

We exchanged Christmas cards and I kept in touch as best I could, trying to be respectful of the time of this working professional, but he occasionally fed me other goodies, like this sneak peek at a collaboration for Marvel where he was once again teamed up with Neal Adams.

So, in honor of Tom Palmer, I got to DC’s venerable House of Mystery to look at another early effort with inks by Tom titledThe Burning!” It’s from issue #206, with a publication date of September 1972 and an on-sale date of July 20th of that year. Joe Orlando is the editor with an assist from E. Nelson Bridwell. That spooky cover is by Tony DeZuniga and the 8-page tale was written by Jack Oleck with penciling by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Tom and lettering by John Costanza.

As was the case with these anthology books, the story is a short, freestanding one and Cain, our host, introduces us to Adam Strat, who owed “the witch” everything to include his life, but he looked on with perverse glee while she was burned at the stake and she pronounced a curse upon him.

We soon learn that Adam first encountered Meg the witch woman after she found him in the fields and brought him to her home to save him from the burning fields. The locals were burning the straw residue. Adam seems to be suffering from amnesia.

She dubbed him Adam Strat and urged him to stay with her, but he wants to go to the village to be with his own kind. She begs and pleads and he stays, partially due to the weakness he is suffering as she attempts to nurse him back to health. Her ugly visage has caused her to be terribly lonely and she simply wants company. He stays, but still wants nothing to do with her, despite her efforts to win him over, including converting iron to gold coins for him.

Finally, he leaves for the village, but the locals recognize the man who had been with Meg and begin to stone him. He flees back to the witch’s cottage with the villagers in pursuit. She scares them off with threats of spells, but instead of being grateful, Adam Strat is resentful, blaming her for his predicament and rejection. He begins to plot and insists Meg continue to make gold coins for him until he has chests filled with them, a highly wealthy man.

Finally, in a ruse, he offers her a drink to toast their being together for a year, but he has drugged Meg and then hurried to the village to trade her to them for his acceptance into society. Meg is captured, tried and sentenced to be burned, but she tells Adam, referring to him as Judas, that with her death, he will again be what he was. A nothing and a nobody, but he is nonplussed and joins in the gawkers to watch the sentence carried out.

Then, he begins to feel strange and notes how very hot the fire is burning. He closes his eyes and is suddenly transported back to the fields he first knew where the farmers are burning away the straw residue. The fires are getting close to him and he tries to flee, but cannot. Only then did he realize the terrible truth about the curse Meg placed upon him. How he would again be what he once was. He discovers that he is again the scarecrow she animated to have some company and now the fires burn ever closer to his straw body.

Another great twist story worthy of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

Thank you, Tom Palmer, for all that you gave us and may that work ensure your immortality. Rest in peace, old buddy.

The Silver Age Sage will be back in about two weeks, or September 15th, if you prefer. Be sure to let me know if you have thoughts or requests. You know how to reach me: professor_the@hotmail.com. See you soon and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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