Indie Comics Review: Boris Karloff’s Gold Key Mysteries #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Publisher: Gold Key Comics
Writers: Michael W. Conrad, Steve Orlando, Craig Hurd-McKenney
Art: Kelly Williams, Jok, Artyon Trakhanov,
Colors: Williams, Jok and Sergey Nazarov
Letters: Kyle Arends
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Gold Key Comics relaunches with a new Mystery/ Horror anthology based on one of its classic Silver Age titles. Boris Karloff provides the terror in this first issue!
You may never have heard of Gold Key Comics, but you may know some of their characters: Magnus- Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar- Man of the Atom? If not, know that Gold Key was a smaller comic company that published a wide range of comics from 1962 to 1984. They published titles in almost every genre, funny animal, adventure, super-hero, mystery/ horror, fantasy, science fiction, television and other licensed characters including the first ever Star Trek comics. Now, with a renewed vigor the company is back under new ownership with Boris Karloff’s Gold Key Mysteries #1. For older readers this is a call back to a time when the comic book spinner rack had a wide variety of titles, and well, when there was a spinner rack! Gold Key Comics may not have technically been the best, but they were unique and often different. They certainly had their own sense about them. Above all there was something special about them. Even to this day, it’s hard not to pick up a Gold Key if you see it for a good deal. They are fun comics that are indicative of a different era of comics.
This inaugural issue begins with a clever framing sequence by Michael W. Conrad and Kelly Williams. The story of the “Where House” is both a fun play on words (“warehouse”) as well as a tribute to the original Gold Key title from which this new title descends. Gold Key published Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery from 1962-1980 totaling 97 issues! (The first two were under the title Boris Karloff Thriller mimicking the name of the TV show that inspired it.) Boris Karloff was perhaps the most famous horror movie actor of the 20th century starring in numerous films, most notably as the monster of Frankenstein and the Mummy in the Universal Studios film franchises that began in the 1930’s.
Conrad and Williams weave a tale of a house that mysteriously appears out of nowhere that certain government? agencies can’t make sense of. The surprise ending features our host, Mr. Karloff who as you may have expected is “warehousing” these stories for us. In the original Gold Key series, Karloff was the host and narrator of the stories and this first offering in the new volume homages that beautifully. Cleverly, this framing tale wraps up the issue with the reveal of the nature of the Where House.
The art by Kelly is wonderfully dark, mysterious and moody. It fits the tone perfectly. The art in the rest of the issue is equally evocative. The style here is not the traditional super-hero style, but rather varied approaches that fit the individual tales creating specific atmospheres and mood. All three stories are enhanced by the expressive nature of the art as the freedom to experiment and exaggerate fits perfectly into the concept of the anthology.
“My Twin No More” by McKenney and Jok takes a page from The Picture of Dorian Gray, only it’s not a painting. It’s a clever approach that is reminiscent of the stories found in Ahoy Comics’ Edgar Allan Poe series. It’s also a pretty gruesome concept that leans into the horror. As a restaurant manager in my day job I found a little more humor in “Cherry” than was likely intended, especially since at one point I worked for what is probably the real world equivalent of “Appleseed’s.” The detail in the twist is evidence that Steve Orlando has done his research on the cherry pit.
The cover is by Johnny Dombrowski and it is everything the cover to this first issue should be. We’ve got Boris Karloff with his tome of horrific tales in hand with appropriate smoking candelabra, lightning in the window and faces from the ancient gallery on the wall. Dombrowski has just enough retro in it to get the nostalgia started with a glance at the cover.
If there’s a negative, it’s that this issue felt too short despite it being a full 32 pages of story and art. Look, ma- NO ADS! This issue could easily have been 64 pages. Now, ads in the old Gold Key Comics are fun to look at still and as a kid back then they were always very different than what was in Marvel or DC. Although, the Hostess Pies with Marvel and DC heroes would show up when the titles were under the Whitman Comics imprint of Western Publishing. (That’s another story entirely!) Also, Gold Key Comics would also have the full cover art on the back cover without any text. If you miss this check out any Ahoy Comics issue, and ask Tom Peyer about why Ahoy Comics does that. The back cover to Boris Karloff’s Gold Key Mysteries #1 is, however, an appropriate memorial of Boris Karloff.
Horror, nostalgia, comics history, clever storytelling and evocative art are all present in Boris Karloff’s Gold Key Mysteries #1. It’s fun, it’s dark and a little gruesome. Perfect for the Halloween season or anytime you just want a little dread in your life. It’s entertaining as well as an exciting re-start for Gold Key Comics!