Beware the pit of evil!
A treasure from the John Ryan Comic Collection
31 October 2014
Halloween is upon us, and what better way to celebrate the season than to bravely venture into the Pit of Evil!
I absolutely love the horror genre, so was very excited when I came across this title in the John Ryan Comic Collection. The first issue of Pit of Evil was published by Gredown, Sydney, in 1975. On 29 August 1977, all further issues were banned in Western Australia under the Indecent Publications Act 1902-1974. Leafing through number ten, I couldn’t see anything offensive to the everyday person. Curious as to what could cause a title to be banned in a decade where I thought anything was permissible, I looked up the Act and discovered the following:
Any advertisement, picture, or printed or written matter relating to any complaint or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual intercourse, or to nervous debility or female irregularities, or which might reasonably be construed as relating to any illegal medical treatment or illegal operation, shall be deemed to be indecent within the meaning of the Act.
Western Australia. Indecent publications (no. 14 of 1902), p. 3
With this new-found knowledge, I looked back through number 10, and found that with a stretch of the imagination the stories could perhaps be seen as having reference to illegal medical treatments or illegal operations, but what would you expect from a ghoul raising someone from the dead or people with somewhat inappropriate diets, or a touch of murder and mayhem? Certainly no worse than many movies of the time! On 26 June 1980, approximately one year after Pit of Evil had come to an end, sense prevailed and the indecent publications ban was lifted.
So grab your wooden stakes, silver bullets, holy water, crucifixes and protective charms, and we’ll venture into the Pit of Evil together…
The Ghoul / art by Walter Casadei
Surgeon Lawrence Romaine’s partner, Susanne, has died of a heart attack. He works tirelessly on his “replacement technique” in an attempt to bring her back to life, using the “strong, durable heart” of a corpse he has dug up under the cover of night. He also digs up Susanne, who has been buried for three months by this stage (but it doesn’t show!), to perform the heart transplant. Lawrence is initially thrilled when Susanne becomes reanimated, but is puzzled when she walks right past his open arms. Lawrence turns to find the heartless corpse in the doorway, and is horrified on realising Susanne only has eyes for it.
The Gruesome Cannibal / art by Oscar Stepancich
Police blame a spate of killings occurring around London on a cannibal with a horrible laugh. Night after night, a murder occurs, despite the police trying to enforce a curfew.
Sergeant Alf Ross is in love with Cockney waitress Libby, who works night shifts in the local diner. Libby rejects Alf’s affections, and chooses to go out with Mr Darrow instead. Everyone tries to warn Libby off Mr Darrow, as he’s a stranger in town and the trouble didn’t seem to start until he arrived.
Night after night, Libby and Mr Darrow date. As the murders escalate, Libby’s boss is beside himself with worry, so he implores Libby not to let Mr Darrow in her house, but she ignores him. Libby’s boss runs off to find Sergeant Ross to report his suspicions. By the time Sergeant Ross gets to Libby’s, Mr Darrow is nowhere to be found. Relieved, Alf asks Libby out to dinner, and Libby replies that she can’t even think of food at the moment. Libby then starts to laugh horribly, which is when Alf discovers that she is, in fact, the Gruesome Cannibal!
Lottery of Horror / art by Antonio Reynoso
A group of explorers descend two thousand miles into the Earth and come across an unknown civilisation living in an undiscovered and seemingly ideal place called Centralia. Centralia is hundreds of years ahead of Earth scientifically, and has vehicles run by the energy emanating from their bodies, beds suspended on invisible light columns, and an air filtration system. The air filtration system eliminates all illness from Centralia, making the average life span of a Centralian 250 years. There is also no crime in Centralia, therefore no need for doors on buildings, or a police force (the last police force was abolished 300 years ago.)
After resting and researching in Centralia for a couple of weeks, the one thing the explorers aren’t sure of, is what the Centralians eat (the explorers have been living off their own rations.) They go off in search of food, and find a huge crowd in the town centre. They’re told it’s a lottery, and are each given tickets. If their numbers come up flashing red, then they’re the winners. The explorers all win, and think it’s just the town being nice to their new guests.
They’re guided to a building to collect their prizes. The men step onto a moving walkway inside, wondering where it will lead to. The guy at the back of the pack yells, “Don’t hog the best prizes, Brad! Leave something for us!” Suddenly as the first of them drops from view, the rest of them hear a terrifying scream. As the remainder of the explorers fall into what turns out to be a pit of spikes, they realise that Centralians are cannibals!
Death is an artist / art by Rudy Palais
Artist Paul Chambre wants to win the Academy’s grand prize for painting and sculpting. Year after year, try as he might, he just can’t win, and is told that his works lack reality. Refusing to admit defeat, Paul changes his modus operandi, and hires Elena, a young woman looking for work, to be his model.
Paul keeps Elena prisoner in his mansion, repeatedly scaring her and painting the resulting reactions. He finally understands where the critics have been coming from, and believes these latest works of art to be his greatest so far.
Meanwhile, the woman’s brother comes looking for her in the mansion, thanks to having hired a private detective. On seeing how old and haggard the constant scaring has made his sister, the brother pushes Paul into a vat of molten bronze Paul uses for casting his statues. Not informing the authorities of what happened, the woman’s brother delivers the bronze statue to the Academy, where it wins the grand prize.
The Skeletons / art by Cirilo Muñoz
Ann, Frank and Rod, three college friends from way back, receive an invitation from rich chemist, Avery Lawton, a student they used to make fun of, to spend the weekend at his luxury retreat. On arrival, while they suspect something is going on due to their host’s odd behaviour, they don’t want to sacrifice their chance of a weekend of luxury.
The following day after breakfast, their host suggests they go for a swim while he looks on (he uses the excuse he won’t look good in swimmers next to their trim and toned bodies.) All of a sudden, Lawton’s butler comes rushing onto the scene, but it’s too late: the skeletons of Ann, Frank and Rod come to the surface, as it turns out the pool contain “the formula that would destroy every vestige of animal flesh in a few moments!”
An argument between Lawton and his butler ensues, and Lawton pushes him into the pool of skeletons. On his way to a chair to sit down and enjoy the view before cleaning it up, Lawton catches his foot in the belt of Ann’s discarded robe, and falls into the pool of skeletons himself.
To read this title in its entirety (if you dare!), and other comics in the John Ryan Comic Collection, please visit the Pictures and Manuscripts Reading Room at the Library. As this title is “rated A for adults”, be sure to bring some ID.
Issue numbers 1, 3 and 6 of Pit of Evil are held in the Nick Henderson Zine Collection. Please visit the Petherick Reading Room if you would like to view them. They contain horrifying tales such as Revenge of the dead, Evil prowls the night, The monster on the moors, Doorway to hell, Coils of terror, and so much more.