"The Spook" (which later became "The Spook and Crackermeyer" after Budd Lewis took over the serial and added another main character to the series) was one of Warren's most socially relevant continuing series of the early '70s. It was fairly long-running, going for seven entries, and it exploited another popular horror trope during that decade, voodoo and zombies. Warren rival Marvel Comics was also featuring voodoo and zombie horror in its monster line of comics, and today "The Spook" is often overshadowed by Marvel's fine TALES OF THE ZOMBIE mag. While Marvel's main zombie character, Simon Garth, was usually a mindless pawn of anyone who possessed the magickal talisman used to control him, Spook was truly a hero in many ways, in part because he had full possession of his original personality. The full origin of Spook was never revealed in the series, though it was made clear that Jessala the voodoo priestess reanimated him.
Spook was especially important to the Warren line of characters in that he was a champion of the oppressed black people during the days before the Civil War had concluded. He unhesitatingly stalked and killed any white man who was a particular threat to the black people of the time, and he opposed cruelty with an equal degree of malice from the various weapons that he wielded, which included daggers, chains, and even an arrow in one case (though he was never seen to have archery skills). In the final story in the series, he even utilized a vintage Civil War gatling gun. The Spook was originally a mysterious figure, though his real identity was revealed in the climactic story in the series.
Due to the Marvel Universe [MU] popularity of Simon Garth the Zombie during the 1970s, "The Spook" series has often been eclipsed by the former more popular zombie character. The Warren fans of the time seemed to have mixed reactions to the serial despite the fact that it was one of the finest series produced by Warren during the heyday of the company's popularity, and it deserves much more attention than it has received in the past. The series was started by Doug Moench, who gave us the first three entries in the series, though Budd Lewis took over for the final four installments and he introduced a new voodoo character into the proceedings, the enigmatic Crackermeyer. Crackermeyer may have been Warren's answer to Marvel's Brother Voodoo. Though he would eventually be given title billing with Spook, the fans' reactions to this new character were likewise mixed. Nevertheless, Lewis put his heart and soul into the character, thus making Crackermeyer an important part of the Spook mythos.
In EERIE #67, Budd Lewis and Leopold Sanchez attempted to revive Crackermeyer in a new series, "Papa Voodoo," but that tepid effort didn't last more than one entry.
The Spook is a part of the Wold Newton Universe [WNU] thanks to his brief crossover with Vampirella and the Rook in the Vampirella and the Time Force story in EERIE #130. It's a shame that he didn't cross over with other Warrenverse characters. As a result of the above crossover, the Spook clearly merited an index of his own on this site.
"Stride Spider Sponge-Rot"
Story: Doug Moench
Art: Esteban Maroto
The Spook was gliding through the Louisiana bayou on his modest skiff at midnight, circa early 19th century [see Time Frame below], and the text informs us that Spook likes women "good enough" but never to the point of allowing them to affect his heart [I didn't know that zombies, even fully cognizant ones, still seeked out romance…but what do I know?]. This was because many years ago, before his death and resurrection as a zombie, he loved a woman named Sarena, who turned out to be extremely evil.
Though Sarena was now physically elderly, she had since learned the power of voodoo magick [see Comments below]. Now a ritualist of impressive power, she set up a mystical ceremony in a graveyard holding the interred bodies of slaves. As she danced over each grave she absorbed the necromantic energies in each one, which augmented her life force and restored her to physical youth and beauty. She was surrounded by several living underlings who provided her with the rhythmic drumming needed to conduct her ritual. As the dark ceremony continued, one of her underlings threw a large snake that appeared to be a python onto her. Psychically bonding with this snake as she danced in front of a large bonfire, she attained spiritual unity with the serpent god Dhamballa, the most powerful of the Loa (the deities of the voudun religion).
Meanwhile, the Spook continued to row towards the area on his skiff, and his memories provided the reason why he was headed to this destination.
While standing beside his hut within the bayou, he was approached by Jessala the old, haggish voodoo priestess who had used her magick years earlier to resurrect the deceased Spook in his current zombified form. Jessala proceeded to explain to Spook in her usual haughty attitude that there was a woman who pretended to be a voodoo priestess, even though she was merely a "petty dabbler" in the mystic arts [for a mere petty dabbler, her magick sure was effective. Is it really that easy to utilize magick in the WNU?]. Her motives for this woman's current ritual, Jessala explained, was hatred for the white people who enslave blacks, an enmity that Spook shares. Sarena tried to encourage many of the slaves to rebel against their white masters, but they refused a violent revolt. As such, this woman turned to voodoo magick to gain power over the dead, power she would bring to bear against the white slavemasters. However, just when one would think that Spook would have no problem with her ambitions, Jessala mentioned that this mysterious woman planned to use the power of Dhamballa to resurrect a contingent of the dead to first murder the black slaves who refused to follow her into rebellion. She will then use her magicks to raise these dead slaves as her mindless zombie underlings (presumably by animating them with loa spirits), and to use this vast army of the dead to begin killing the white slavers.
As Jessala said, "So you see, dead man, while she claims to hate the whites for enslaving the blacks…
"…in truth, she herself would enslave the blacks…in loyal death, as her mindless, soul-less zombies."
As Spook set off in his skiff to stop the mystery woman's machinations, Jessala reminded him that he was once again in her debt [how did the old hag come by this information? She must be a truly powerful psychic].
As Spook heard the sound of beating drums, he realized that he was close to the voodoo graveyard where the ritual to raise the dead was taking place. In the meantime, at the graveyard itself, Sarena finally merges completely with Dhamballa in a perverse mystical rhapsody, and she screamed in "ecstatic agony" as the ritual reached the equivalent of a spiritual orgasm. With the magick thus released, the power of Dhamballa unleashed caused the decayed, fetid corpses to begin to rise from their graves as mindless zombie thralls of Sarena.
As Sarena succumbed to exhaustion for a few seconds, her living underlings kept up the drumming until one of them was suddenly killed by a dagger thrown into his chest. Enraged at her ritual being interrupted in so ghastly a manner, she saw Spook standing before her. Recognizing her old lover, she was startled that he was animate again. Spook was equally startled to see Sarena, especially since she still appeared to be young and beautiful, just as he remembered her. As her human underlings ran off, Sarena ordered her new zombie slaves to attack and destroy Spook.
However, these walking mindless corpses were no match for the superior speed and fighting skill of Spook, who began smashing them to a bloody pulp in a fierce battle. However, these walking corpses kept on coming, and Spook knew there was but one way to halt them for good. Attacking Sarena, Spook threw his former love into the flames of the bonfire, where she was quickly consumed. As she died, the necromantic energies empowering her zombie horde was ended and all of the walking corpses became inanimate again. Spook simply walked away from the mass of dead bodies in front of him, silently left to his memories of a love he once had.
Comments: This series was treated to a sizzling debut with this initial entry. Voodoo was frequently used as a horror device in the annals of genre fiction, and just as Marvel Comics was then probing the depths of voodoo terror and zombies with their Brother Voodoo series in STRANGE TALES (Vol. 1) and exploits of the zombie Simon Garth in their slick mag TALES OF THE ZOMBIE, Warren made its own contribution into the voodoo sub-genre with this interesting offering. Like Simon Garth, it appeared that Spook's soul had never fully left his body when he was resurrected by Jessala, and as a result, he was fully cognizant with a complete retention of his original personality and mannerisms. Garth, however, like the vast majority of zombies, was usually mindless, his body animated by the loa which co-habited his body along with his own soul, and only rarely exercised full cognizant control over his now unliving body.
To date, there are two other zombies that I am aware of in fiction who retained their own personality at all times after becoming one of the walking dead.
The first was the character of Steve Soto from the two Universal Monster novels THE DEVIL'S BROOD and THE DEVIL'S NIGHT. Soto also appeared to have retained his own soul after his body was killed, thus enabling him to fully control the reanimated vessel.
The second such zombie I learned of courtesy of creative mythographer Jay Lindsey: "In THE KATRINA PROTOCOL, Hugo Van Helsing's lawyer and sidekick Zigor is killed by a group of Tonton Macoutes employed by Legendre, and later, when Legendre begins raising the dead of Hurricane Katrina as a zombie army, is among the reanimated corpses. However, he alone maintains his human personality, which is claimed to be a gift from the deities of voodoo, who want Legendre stopped as well." It can likewise be surmised that the Loa wanted Spook to be a champion against black oppression and therefore made sure that his soul was restored to his body after he was reanimated as a zombie.
Early advertisements for Spook on the back of various Warren mags months prior to this series appearing seems to have originally intended a somewhat different interpretation of the character. For instance, rather than having a bald pate, the zombie giant was drawn with a huge afro, and the series appeared to be initially inspired by the black exploitation flicks of the early '70s. Thankfully, that direction was changed by the time the character saw print.
Some people were offended by the title of this series, as "spook" is a pejorative term for a black person. However, this was likely intentional for ironic intent. This series was in no way derogatory to black people, as the Spook was an avenging anti-hero who protected black people. It's a shame that the irony of the character's name was lost on many overly sensitive people.
Voodoo has a portrayal in horror fiction that is every bit as skewed as that of Witchcraft. Although Voudun ("voodoo" is a common mispronunciation) is not evil, it does use ritual magick which calls upon the Loa, including Dhamballa, for various effects. To quote from Wikipedia: "Voodoo is a religious tradition originating in West Africa, which became prominent in the New World due to the importation of African slaves. West African Vodun is the original form of the religion; Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo are its descendants in the New World."
Though voodoo is often bastardized as being used for evil purposes, including the reanimation of the dead, in horror fiction, as noted above there have been heroic characters who have used voodoo for benevolent purposes, even though such characters still tend to remain horror-oriented in theme. This includes Brother Voodoo, a MU super-hero who likely has a counterpart in the WNU. Spook can be considered a hero despite his proclivity towards murder, as he fought against white slavers, which many people of a modern ethical sensibility perceive as being involved in 'evil' activities (it should be noted that during the time period when this series took place, the majority of white people in the U.S. didn't consider slavery to be wrong, particularly Southern whites). Of course, Spook's incessant willingness to kill may cause many to categorize him as an anti-hero instead of a true hero, and I will (as always) leave it up to the individual fan boy to decide for themselves how the character is best categorized.
This story was a good first effort by Doug Moench, who was responsible for the first three entries into this series before Budd Lewis took over the scripting chores. Estaban Maroto was a good choice for artist, as he was one of the most popular South American artists then working for Warren, best known for his series "Dax the Warrior," until Leopold Sanchez took over starting with the next story. This entire series was very didactic, as it was a protest to chattel slavery and it used the horror medium to argue an important point of social relevance. As such, "The Spook" may have been one of Warren's best series ever. Though this initial entry in the series was entertaining to read, it was predominantly filled with Moench's descriptive first person prose narrative, and the fight scene at the end of the story was predictable.
WNU Connections: At some point in Spook's career, before his ultimate destruction, he was briefly transported forward to the year 1981 by the sorcerer-scientist Ten Ichi to be used as one of his second 'Time Force' slaves to use against Vampirella and her own Time Force allies in EERIE #130 (this crossover is indexed elsewhere on this site, in the Index for "Vampirella and the Time Force"). This appearance crossed him over with many other denizens of the Warrenverse, thus making it clear that he was part of that shared universe. As such, EERIE #130 officially brought the Spook into the WNU.
It would appear that in the WNU, the voodoo religion has many evil practitioners much as Witchcraft in that universe has gothic witches who likewise utilize black magicks. It's possible that those who wish to use voodoo for truly evil acts may actually call upon the power of various demonic forces rather than the Loa, and these beings may possibly impersonate the Loa on these occasions. I hope to do some further research on this subject in the future, and I encourage other creative mythographers to do the same.
As I noted above, Spook was the first zombie character in the WNU that I am aware of who retained his full mortal cognizance after being zombified. He would be joined later in this sub-category of zombie by Steve Soto in THE DEVIL'S BROOD and THE DEVIL'S NIGHT.
Time Frame: It was a while before the Spook stories started listing specific dates, but this first tale clearly took place in New Orleans at some point in the early 19th century, though it's my current conjecture that this story took place in the late 1830s, based on info from subsequent stories in the series. It should be noted that by the beginning of this story, the Spook had already been around for at least several years and was already considered a legend in the bayou.
Story: Doug Moench
Art: Leopold Sanchez
As this story opens, Spook sits in his hut staring at the intricate work of a spider making its web. However, suddenly some force seemed to take over the small arachnid and it began weaving words in its web, specifically the words, "Dead Man[--] Death Stalks Me." Realizing this message came courtesy of the magicks of Jessala, the Spook quickly boarded his skiff and rowed through the swamp over to the location of the old crone's cave. There he found the old woman brutally beaten and near death. Barely able to speak, Jessala told Spook that he must avenge her, and that the small fire she had burning near her would show him who did the deed. Looking into the flames, Spook saw a large boat owned by a white man named Reevers, along with some of his employees [see Comments below].
Just then, the old woman expired. Since Spook owed Jessala a huge debt, he set out to avenge her on these men.
Quietly rowing his skiff up to Reevers' boat, Spook attacked Carter, one of Reevers' men, from behind and severed his head with his blade.
At the same time, Reevers was scolding one of his employees, telling him that he didn't want to hear another word about voodoo. His employee replied, "Look, Reevers…all I say is we never should have killed that old woman! She was a voodoo priestess! She could come back to life with her magic!"
Reevers angrily told his employee that the woman convinced the rest of his men that she was a witch, and "even told some of them that their souls were fair game for her picking when she died…!" As a result, a lot of Reevers' employees vacated their job, since all of them, being black men native to the area, feared the power of voodoo [not all of Reevers' employees were black…evidently, there were some free blacks around this area during that time period]. As the argument commenced, another man ran up to them and informed Reevers that Carter was dead. Just then, Carter's severed and mutilated head was thrown at the three men's feet. As Reevers shouted to all of his men to come on deck, he was suddenly killed by an arrow that pierced his throat [Spook sure was versatile with weapons! And where did he hide that bow and quiver?].
Spook then snuck aboard the large boat and after a short battle, killed the rest of the men. He then severed their fingers as fetishes for the purpose of reviving Jessala.
Upon returning to the witch woman's cave, Spook dropped the men's severed fingers into the flame, and as they were consumed, the necromantic energies of this consumed flesh restored Jessala to life [I am presuming that this can only be done less than 24 hours after the person expires, or the person's soul will have passed into an afterlife realm and be beyond summoning back to the mortal plane; this may explain why Spook acted with such haste in avenging his erstwhile ally]. Jessala was pleased that Spook had avenged her, but he was rather angry, as he told her that the reason those men killed her was because she threatened to steal the souls of their brothers [Reevers didn't seem to believe in the reality of voodoo, and he said he participated in the murder simply to silence her from scaring his men off of the job, which sounds very extreme and ignoble of him; also, see Comments below]. Jessala exclaimed, "They were evil, dead man! They transported guns to the country south of here! They did not deserve their souls!" To which Spook responded, "And you did? In the cause of your eternal life?"
Spook then told Jessala that while he stole the souls of men for her that night due to the huge debt he owed her, he was not pleased with it. He then told her that since he restored life to her body just as she had done to him years ago [though Jessala was evidently not a zombie], his debt to her was now paid. As Spook departed on his skiff, he told the voodoo priestess that neither of them deserves to live and that both of them should have died years ago. Jessala then told him that he shouldn't scoff at what he did since he restored to her "the beauty of life." To which Spook replied, "I have seen more beauty in a spider's web!"
Comments: This second story in the series left much unexplained. Reevers and his men were evidently gun-runners, though why this upset Jessala to the point that she wanted to steal their souls wasn't made clear. Evidently, writer Doug Moench wasn't as interested in explaining the motivations of Reevers and his men as he was in just finding a good excuse for Spook to run off and kill some men for the purpose of reviving Jessala. At least in this story, Spook was finally freed from his debt to Jessala, though he continued to seek her wisdom.
It appears that in the WNU, houngans (voodoo priests and priestesses) are able to steal the souls of certain people who die. How this is accomplished was never explained in the story, though evidently the necromantic energies of their spirit forms can be used to empower spells or even to augment someone's life force so as to keep them living indefinitely, as Jessala appeared to be doing. As this story made clear, Jessala was very much a gray character, as she had her share of dark secrets despite the fact that she seemed dedicated to aiding Spook in his mission to protect and avenge black slaves.
In this story, Leopold Sanchez took over the art chores, and he seemed more suited for this series than Estaban Maroto, despite the fact that Maroto was a terrific artist in his own right. The Spook looked truly menacing under Sanchez's pencils.
This story didn't have anything to do with slavery, making it one of the least didactic of all of the Spook stories in the series.
Time Frame: This story apparently took place at some point following the previous story in the series. It's not certain how much time had passed; it could be anywhere from a month to a few years, at some point in the late 1830s.
"Knucklebones to Fever Twitch"
Story: Doug Moench
Art: Leopold Sanchez
This third story opens on a slave ship bound for New Orleans. On the deck, the cruel captain was beating on one of the captive slaves who had complained about the low quality of the food that he and his fellow slaves down in the cargo hold were given ("Animals eat what they can find…after men have eaten! You'll take what we give you, animal!"). The captain then ordered one of his men to start whipping the battered slave on his chest, and after he began bleeding, the captain started rubbing salt into his wounds, causing him to finally die in extreme agony. The captain then had his men throw the dead body into the cargo hold, where he told the large number of slaves down there that this was their next meal [at this point, we couldn't wait for Spook to get his hands on this bastard].
All of the slaves were kept in an extremely cramped condition in the cargo hold due to their large numbers, and all of them suffered from heat exhaustion, low oxygen, lack of exercise, starvation, thirst, and illness (including spongerot, hence the title of the story…the way author Moench explained this in the text was extremely creepy, with a good use of evocative language). Fenton, one of the captain's men, told his boss that he needed to let the slaves up for some air, but the captain refused to "scum up" his deck by allowing any of the slaves up there. As the spongerot spread in the dank, musty cargo hold, all of the slaves died just as the vessel was approaching the shores of New Orleans. Just as the captain noted that they would get "thirty a head" for each of the "scum" in his cargo hold, he was extremely chagrined to find that all of the slaves had died due to the captain's extreme negligence and murderous cruelty. When one of his men asked the captain what they were going to do about this, the latter told them that they would go back to Africa to pick up more slaves, but they would have to wait until they were en route to dump the bodies; otherwise, if it was discovered that all of them died, Congress would revoke the captain's sailing privileges.
As the ship docked with Louisiana, the captain planned to get provisions for the mission back to Africa, so most of his men disembarked with him. However, he left four of his men on board the ship to make sure that nobody from the city boarded it and discovered a cargo hold full of dead slaves ("If anybody finds those corpses in the hold…we're all finished!"). The four men left to guard the ship were quite peeved, and one complained that they spent eight months aboard that ship for what ended up amounting to a pointless journey. Another man then said, "I'm none too happy about it neither, mate! I told the cap'n nothing could live through that treatment!"
Little were these three men aware that the Spook was sneaking on board. The muscular zombie giant attacked and killed three of the men, and then removed their fingers as part of his usual M.O. One man managed to leap into the water and reach shore, where he ran to warn the captain and the rest of the crew.
In the meantime, Spook made his way to Jessala's cave (her name was spelled "Jeesala" in this story). Upon asking the witch woman for some of her "corrupt wisdom," the zombie giant noticed that she was young and beautiful once more, and he never doubted this was because she had stolen the energies of more souls. ..perhaps the souls of dead slaves. Jessala then guessed that the purpose of Spook's visit had to do with those very same dead souls. Spook wanted the voodoo priestess to reanimate the corpses of those slaves so that they could "walk on a deserving errand." To do this, however, Jessala would have to sacrifice much of the energies she used to augment her life force, thus causing her to age into an old crone once more. When she asked why she should divest herself of her youth and beauty to help these men avenge themselves, Spook lamented, "Because they were our people…!" To which Jessala haughtily replied: "Your people…not mine! My people have no heritage, save that which sprang from Satan's loins…no color, save the tinge of darkness!" [Was she implying that she was of a race of people who were spawned by demons or some other category of dark entity?]
Jessala decided to acquiesce to her giant ally's request, and began the ritual to reanimate the dead slaves.
Meanwhile, the man who escaped from Spook ran into a nearby tavern to tell his captain that a "demon" had assailed him and his three cohorts, killing the latter. The bartender, to his horror, realized that this man was describing the Spook ("…and not many are the number who've seen him to escape a quick grave."). As the captain asked him to clarify, the bartender explained, "The Spook…a black man returned from death! The darkies sing of him, call him the black angel of justice! But to whites he's the very devil himself…wreaking hell with slavers…!" But the captain, who had killed many men in the past, announced that he feared no man, dead or alive, white or black, and he and the rest of his men ran back to the ship.
Spook and Jessala watched this through the scrying flames of a small bonfire that the witch had started, and the zombie giant told her that she must make haste in casting her spell to revive the dead slaves. She then informed him that she required the fingers of the slavers that Spook killed as fetishes for the ritual, and, of course, the zombie giant wasn't negligent in acquiring them. Dropping the severed fingers into the bonfire, Jessala called upon Satan [see Comments below] and began her ritual. Transferring the life force she had taken from the dead slaves back into them, Jessala promptly aged again. She then handed Spook the knucklebones of the slain slavers, telling him to "wear them over your heart…and they will grant you courage and strength…!"
Jessala then told Spook it was only just that she return the portion of their souls that she had previously intercepted before they could find their way to the hereafter, and the zombie giant hastened to his next destination…the ship.
As the captain and his men returned to the ship, they suddenly found themselves under assault by the bodies of the slaves they had killed, now all reanimated as zombies. Failing to stop the walking corpses with bullets from their guns, the captain and his men were all brutally killed by the zombie slaves, who avenged their deaths. As this situation ensued, the Spook spread gunpowder from a keg and lit it, which ended up destroying the ship in a huge explosion, thus ensuring that the souls of the dead slaves would be freed from their reanimated corpses and go to their proper places in the afterlife.
Spook's parting words in the story: "They were mindless, Jeesala! I could not let them live [?] like that…but your efforts were not in vain! My brothers have been avenged…!"
Comments: The second and third stories in "The Spook" series both appeared in EERIE #58, a rarity. Spook was given the cover of this issue, courtesy of the talented Manuel Sanjulian, and it was quite a haunting painting. The cover blurb read: "The Spook seethes with rage…when dead slaves of the killer witch-woman return from the grave!"
This was the best story in the series thus far, and the white slavers, particularly the captain, were depicted as being so over-the-top evil that the reader couldn't wait for them to meet their just desserts. In this tale, the Spook did what he does best to good effect by author Moench and artist Sanchez…he avenged the horrific treatment meted upon black slaves by the white slavers. This particular story was a good representative tale for the entire series.
In this story, Jessala calls upon Satan, rather than Dhamballa or any other loa spirit, when utilizing her magicks to revive the dead slaves as zombies. This, coupled with her comments implying that she might be of a race of people who "sprang from Satan's loins," seems to add further credence to my theory that many evil practitioners of voodoo in the WNU (and possibly in the MU and other alternate universes where magick is a potent force to be reckoned with) may actually call upon demonic forces rather than the dark but non-evil Loa in order to work their magicks. If any of my readers or fellow creative mythographers have anything further to add about this, or any hypotheses or theories of your own, be sure to let me know.
This story was the swan song for Doug Moench on the series. Budd Lewis would take over beginning with the next entry in the series. Leopold Sanchez would remain as the terrific artist of this series until its very end.
WNU Connections: As noted in the Comments section above, I have formulated a theory that many evil practitioners of "voodoo" in the WNU are actually calling upon Satan or other demonic forces.
Time Frame: This story occurs an undetermined length of time following the previous story, at some point in the late 1830s.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Leopold Sanchez
On January 1st, 1815, a child was born to a free black couple on Honey Island Swamp. The boy's name was Andrew Jackson Tobias, and he was born with a caul over his face. As the text explained, "The caul membrane meant something special to the superstitious negroes. A child born with the caul was a chosen one. This child would be trained in the swamp sciences…the black arts of voodoo."
The child grew quite fast, and by age ten he was nearly the height of a full grown man. Just before reaching adulthood, he was well over six feet in height, and as a free black man he went to work as a hand on the Meyer family plantation. Tobias was placed in charge of the slaves on the plantation, and he became a close friend and companion of Herman Meyer, the young son of the plantation's owner. As a result of this, Herman gave Tobias the surname of Meyer. In time, Tobias earned the nickname "Cracker," and after combining this with the 'Meyer' name he was called "Crackermeyer."
Finally learning the trade he was born with great potential for, Crackermeyer quickly became known as Crackermeyer the Voodoo Man.
Following the above prologue, the main story begins in the home of a white government procurement agent called Ansloc [don't you just love the weird names that Warren writers often came up with for their villains?], who stated that the Army wanted him to buy up some land that had been legally left to black people down in New Orleans. He noted that he never before had any difficulty taking land from share croppers, but now his agents ran across an acre of prime property where a church and graveyard for the small black community of that area stood. The government couldn't legally take it away, and the people who lived there refused to sell it. He had just read in his local paper that the black people there were complaining that the government was trying to steal their land. Grabbing his gun and preparing his horse and carriage for a trip to southern Louisiana, Ansloc was determined to "put a stop to it even if I have to kill every spook in that parish!"
After a while, Ansloc arrived in Louisiana, and the land procurement agent confronted several of his underlings who were camped around the church. Angrily noticing that his agents were peaceably socializing with the black people, Ansloc approached them and was told by one of the agents that the black people in that community weren't doing anything wrong, they just wanted to keep their church and cemetery, both of which were sacred to them. Referring to the agent as "nigger-loving white trash," Ansloc attacked him with a whip. Now approaching the black community members standing nearby, Ansloc asked who was the owner of the property.
In response, Ansloc was greeted by the grandnephew of the man who originally owned that land, holding the man's will. Noting that this will seemed to be the cause of all his trouble, Ansloc grabbed it and began reading it, and it said that that previous owner left the land where the church and graveyard rests to the black folks in the area forever, or "until the Lord sees fit to take it." Ansloc then shouted to the people of the community that the will means nothing until a court decides that it does, and he is sending the will to the federal court for judgment. Then, brandishing his gun, Ansloc stated that he was going to stay on the property until he receives the court judgment, and he will kill anyone who comes within a mile of it. When one member of the community stepped forth to tell him that he had no legal right to do this, Ansloc responded by shooting the man through the head. Terrified, the rest of the community fled the area.
Regrouping outside the vicinity, an older woman called a young man named William to get his mule and ride into the swamp for help. She told him to find Crackermeyer and bring him back to them. When William rode through the bayou, he had the strange sensation that the crickets, frogs, and sounds made by the other animals of the swamp were begging him to stay, that this was where he truly belonged. But he noted that he had to find Crackermeyer and couldn't stay…and within seconds, "it was as if the entire swamp gasped a deep breath to hold at the mere mention of the name." Suddenly, the voodoo master called Crackermeyer stood before young William.
Making their way to the home of Crackermeyer, the tall mystic told William that he was aware of what was happening and that he had already prepared. The mage then lamented that Ansloc would go and fetch more white men with guns, and bring them to slaughter the black folks who rightfully owned that land. But he said that was being taken care of. He brought William's attention to a glass jar underneath which was a large swamp spider. He deprived the spider of food and water for three days, then he caught a cottonmouth snake and took some of its venom. Then, feeding this venom to the spider, the arachnid's system suddenly filled with the poison, which she could then inject into anyone she bit [is such a thing really possible, even in the Warrenverse? I need to do some research on this!]
Crackermeyer intended the spider for Ansloc, the white killer that he wanted most of all.
When William asked Crackermeyer why he was fighting on the side of the other black people despite the fact that he didn't even live on their land, the voodoo master told the boy that all he ever had and loved was buried in that graveyard, and that this made it "his fight." He then reminisced about how he became something of a mentor and companion to Herman Meyer, and how the whole family taught him the ways of the white people. One spring, Yellow Fever killed the entire family, and Crackermeyer buried them in that graveyard, right next to his mother. "No one's gonna foul that sacred earth," Crackermeyer said as he angrily shoved a knife into a tree.
Crackermeyer then began a magickal ritual, placing special powders into a small bonfire he started and incessantly tapping on a hide drum. For three days, Crackermeyer sat there working his magicks. When the man of magick finally opened his eyes, he saw William there, who warned him that white men with guns now surrounded the churchyard and had the intention of taking it by force. As soon as Crackermeyer stopped his drumming, Spook appeared to aid his longtime friend and ally. Crackermeyer told William to go and tell his people to hide, and to allow him, Spook, and the spider to take care of everything.
In the meantime, the armed government agents were sitting around the churchyard at night, and Ansloc told them to keep their wits about them or the black people would kill them (a foolish thing to say, since all of the black people of this community were unarmed). Ansloc also mentioned, in his charming fashion, that he wanted all of the black people in the community dead. Suddenly, a strange braying sound came from the direction of the swamp, and Ansloc assumed that the black people were up to something there. He thus had all of his men rush the area, prepared to shoot to kill.
In the darkness of the bayou, all of these soldiers were easy prey for Spook, who slit the throats of each of the men in turn (most of the killing took place off-panel, but we got the general idea). Soon only Ansloc was left, and as he called to his men, he failed to notice the large spider crawling up the lapel of his coat. The arachnid bit him, injecting her deadly cargo of borrowed snake venom, and Ansloc fell to the ground dead in front of Crackermeyer.
At dawn, the black people of the churchyard community, including the older woman described above, returned to their land and had the impression that Crackermeyer and Spook were never there, as William said they would be, and that the government agents decided to change their minds about their illegal and murderous attempt to take the church. "They musta' realized the Lord aint yet seen fit to take it!" she told William. "Yes suh…the powers of Heaven are on our side!"
Comments: This story was an excellent effort from new scribe Budd Lewis, who presented us with a wonderful revenge fantasy against not just white racists who sought to circumvent the law by killing innocent black people who rightfully owned the land the white people were trying to take, but also making a statement against a government that was often complicit with such crimes back during the pre-Civil War days. Though Spook usually protected black slaves, it was interesting to see him protecting some free black people who were also subjected to virulent racism and violence during this era. It was also nice to see some decent white people in a Spook story for once, even though they appeared only briefly and didn't have a major impact on the story. It should be noted that this story was in harmony with the liberal sensibilities of the early '70s, when it was written, and without the Comics Code to insist that the government and the status quo be portrayed in a positive manner, scripter Lewis was able to write a story that he likely couldn't have done for Marvel or DC at the time.
The major personal imprint that Budd Lewis did for this story was to introduce Crackermeyer, an intriguing character who would appear in the rest of the series alongside the Spook, often pushing the star of the series into the background of his own stories. In fact, in this story, Spook was largely just an ancillary guest star, with the origin and actions of Crackermeyer taking up most of the story. It was interesting to see a non-evil practitioner of voodoo in the WNU, as they seemed to be in the minority in regards to horror stories. Lewis used Crackermeyer in place of Jessala as the voodoo master that Spook came to when he needed magickal help or wisdom, and Jessala never appeared in the series again under Lewis' pen. Her ultimate fate remains a mystery…it's possible that something bad had befallen her by the time of this story.
Leopold Sanchez looked like he rushed through the art chores on this story, though it still had haunting imagery.
Budd Lewis would remain with the series until its end, and though he probably did stories much different than what Doug Moench would have come up with, he did the series proud and came up with some very good, socially relevant stories. It's fortunate that Lewis didn't steer Spook in a different direction, but maintained the theme that Moench had started. As such, the Spook may be one of the best fantasy revenge characters ever created.
Cousin Eerie hosted this story, a rarity for a series tale in EERIE.
Time Frame: This story took place an undetermined amount of time after the previous story, possibly a few years later. I believe it took place at some point between the late 1830s and early 1840s, though prior to 1843.
"Stumpful of Grandaddies"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Leopold Sanchez
As the prologue of this story opens, a black butler named Jeffery sees the last remaining guests to a party the mistress of his house just conducted out the door. He then told his mistress that he would see to the house being cleaned up in the morning, and his mistress retired to bed. As soon as Jeffery was left alone, he suddenly made a startling transformation. He stripped off most of his clothing to become something akin to a jungle savage, and he ran into the swamp searching for something. He soon found it…a nest of "granddady" spiders [since when do spiders live in nests?]. Grabbing as much of the granddaddies as he could, Jeffery placed them in a glass container and ran off to give them to Spook, who needed them for some purpose (which would become clear as the story progressed).
The next morning, Crackermeyer was being dragged through the streets by an angry white mob, many of whom were clamoring him to be hung for a crime (though some people in the crowd thought he should be let loose). Finally, the voodoo master was standing in front of a judge in court, who told him that he was being charged with the kidnapping and murder of a woman named Mrs. Patrick L. Savoie III, wife of the late Mr. Patrick Savoie and daughter of Samuel T. Lagrone. Asking him how he pled, Crackermeyer said, "Judge, I want only for justice to be served. I'm not the murderer that should be on trial here today. But you'll find out, hang me or not."
Taking this as a plea of not guilty, the judge turned the floor over to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor then told the jury the story of the late Mrs. Savoie. Making sure to mention that Crackermeyer was a practitioner of voodoo magick (as if to bias the jury against him), he then alleged that the mage approached the Savoie plantation where she apparently sat mourning the recent loss of her husband. Kidnapping the woman, the prosecutor claimed that Crackermeyer subjected her to a magickal ritual where he ripped out her heart. The prosecutor hoped that this would justify a guilty verdict.
However, a group of black people were hanging outside the courthouse, worried that their hero, Crackermeyer, was going to be executed. They contended that black people cannot get a fair trial at the hands of white people, and that a black person was a "handy thing to put a blame on." They also had an interesting story to tell about the current court proceedings.
Master Savoie's only child, young Patrick, was born mentally retarded. When old Mr. Savoie died, the now adult Patrick found himself the master of the plantation. However, due to his severe learning impaired condition, he couldn't manage, so the black slaves took over running the plantation. That arrangement was torn asunder when an older man named Samuel Lagrone appeared with his equally scheming daughter Annise. The woman was married to Patrick Savoie, and she thus found herself mistress of the lucrative plantation. A few weeks later, Patrick became severely ill and soon died. The black servants there had no doubt that Annise poisoned the unfortunate young man.
As it turned out, Master Lagrone was now owner of the plantation, and he proved himself to be one of the cruelest slaveowners the South had ever seen. He pushed his help to work harder than humanly possible, and if any of them complained, they were whipped and hanged to death. He was responsible for many other atrocities as well. Finally, horrified at this treatment, the slaves on the Savoie (now Lagrone) plantation called Crackermeyer for help. Annise soon disappeared, and Lagrone blamed this on Crackermeyer since he was "always into something like this." When another person listening to this tale asked if the voodoo master had indeed kidnapped the woman, he was told, "Don't know. All this ain't over yet!"
Meanwhile, as Jeffery walked into the swamp carrying his jar full of granddaddies, he was attacked by a large cottonmouth (which was drawn by artist Sanchez to look almost as large as a python), though the man managed to grab the reptile and thwart its attempt to strike him [the whole scene, running for four panels, was rather pointless, and seemed to exist for no reason other than to provide us with an additional action sequence in a story that had almost none]. Finally meeting up with Spook, Jeffery handed him the stumpful of granddaddies. Inside of Spook's hut was Patrick Savoie III's body, and the zombie giant began the complicated process of returning it to life [see Comments below].
Spook directed Jeffrey to take a cooking pinch of special powders out of thirteen jars on the shelf and to combine them in another jar, mixing them all up. He then pointed out that in one of those jars was the dust of long dead white men and black men, and he noted the following: "When you've gone back to dust nobody cares who you were or what. You're just accepted as a fistful of dust. Pity we can't do that before we turn to dust…just be accepted as an Earthful of folks." Spook then surgically removed Patrick's heart, told Jeff to quickly wrap it in leaves and then place it under burning coals he had prepared. The heart had to be dried out and crushed into dust.
Next, Spook needed thirteen drops of deep fluid from a living heart. Since his own heart was no longer living, he had to extract the fluid from Jeffery's heart (in a rather painful scene where he stuck a thin tube into Jeff's chest and dropped the blood into the jar of granddaddies). Jeff bravely allowed Spook to do this, despite the obvious physical pain involved [Spook must have had impressive skills in this area to do this without killing or seriously injuring the man]. By sun-up, the heart was sufficiently dried to be crushed into powder, and all the ingredients described above were poured into the glass jar holding the spiders. He then poured the entire contents of the jar into Patrick's chest, and sewed it up.
After this, Patrick Savoie III's corpse rose up again, under the control of Spook and Jeff.
Back in the courthouse, the trial was coming to an end and the judge found Crackermeyer guilty. He then sentenced him to death by hanging. Just then, the reanimated corpse of Patrick Savoie entered the courtroom, and the zombie pointed out Lagrone as his killer. Terrified, Lagrone pulled a gun and shot the walking corpse several times (the corpse fell, which is surprising since zombies have usually proven resistant to gunfire). Panicking, the judge ordered the security guards to stop Lagrone, and one of them shot him to death.
In the meantime, Crackermeyer was still taken outside to be hung for the kidnapping and murder of Annise. However, before the execution took place, he was told that with Lagrone dead and Annise gone, the ownership of the plantation was awarded to the black people who homesteaded it [does this mean they were all free men and women now?]. Just as the voodoo master was hung, a dagger flew through the air and cut the rope, causing him to fall to the ground before he was strangled to death. Suddenly, one of the onlookers shouted that the hanging must be stopped…Anisse Lagrone was alive. As the woman emerged from the woods surrounding the swamp, it was assumed that she came down with a fever and wandered into the bayou (it was obvious that the woman was transformed into a zombie, as she had a granddaddy spider on her chest and her eyes were pale and devoid of any signs of life, like most zombies…did Spook do this? How long was this supposed to fool the townspeople? Did Crackermeyer really kill her? None of this was explained).
As it was, Crackermeyer was declared innocent and released.
Crackermeyer then returned the dagger to Spook, who had thrown it, and told him that he cut things a bit close (pun intended). As the two men walked off into the swamp, Crackermeyer said, "Man alive! These white folks…
"…if there's a blame to be put on somebody about something, I just don't know what they'd do without a nigah to put it on."
Comments: Budd Lewis provided his readers with a very offbeat Spook/Crackermeyer story with this tale, one that was almost without action sequences but which worked well without any. The complicated procedure that Spook went through to create the zombies in this story was extremely interesting, and may have divulged an important secret of the Warrenverse and the WNU regarding magick. The fairly complex plot of this story showed Lewis's writing talents at their best.
Sanchez's artwork was also well done, though I didn't like how he drew the snake and the spiders. That is just me, though.
As I noted in the synopsis above, despite the excellence of this story, there was much that was left to the reader's imagination. Does Crackermeyer have a darker side than we imagine? Did he kidnap and kill Anisse? It seems unlikely, but what caused her fate was never revealed. Also, someone apparently brought her back to "life" as a zombie using the very same methods that Spook used to reanimate Patrick Savoie. So certain plot points in this story were left ambiguous to the readers.
This was the first Spook story that I ever read, as EERIE #63 was the first issue of the mag to ever be purchased for me way back in the winter of '74. I even remember going to the deli near my school where my mother purchased the mag for me. I remember how haunted I was by the scene of Anisse Lagrone returning to life as a zombie (not to mention the scene where she was deprived of her heart). I also thought the scene between Jeffrey and the snake was interesting and well-rendered, though I now see the scene as unnecessary and extraneous.
In the letter's pages to EERIE, it was becoming clear that some readers resented the inclusion of Crackermeyer, as they felt the Spook was being relegated to a back-up character in his own strip, and preferred the zombie giant as a loner. Others felt that the voodoo master was a cool addition to the series. Spook was never truly a total loner, as Jessala basically fulfilled the same role in the series later provided by Crackermeyer, though she didn't push Spook into background status.
WNU Connections: This story may have described an interesting albeit complex way to make a zombie in the WNU.
Time Frame: This story occurred an undetermined length of time after the previous story, perhaps several months to a year. It took place, most likely at some point in the late 1830s-early 1840s, though again, almost certainly prior to 1843.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Leopold Sanchez
This story begins with Crackermeyer in Africa. He was distressed as he saw black tribesman sell some of their own people into servitude to the white slavers, and the voodoo man did the best he could to make the slaves as comfortable as possible. Giving water to one of the slaves who was being placed on a boat in chains, two white men who worked on the slaver ship were enraged to see a free black man helping the slaves. One of the men, named Jock, picked a fight with Crackermeyer, who quickly proved himself capable of physically intimidating the troublemaker into giving him a strained apology. Just when Jock was about to shout a threat to the departing Crackermeyer, his friend informed him that this wasn't a wise thing to do, as he was a master of voodoo magick and would be traveling back to Louisiana with them aboard the slaver ship. When one of the white men asked Crackermeyer what made him different from the slaves, he said, "…could be cause I'm an American…just like these blacks and their children will be some day. Hell…with a little luck, they might even get to be free men, like you!"
The white man responded that he certainly wouldn't live to see any of the slaves go free, but he was told that it may happen sooner than he thinks.
As Crackermeyer relaxed on deck, marveling at the mysteries of Africa, he was approached by a man named Oliver W. Tootie, late of Her Majesty's Navy. Tootie told the voodoo master that he was needed below deck, as a slave woman was about to give birth. Tootie had heard that Crackermeyer was some sort of doctor. Though he wasn't a physician he stated that they couldn't find a better midwife. When the baby was born, the observing crewmembers thought it was a monster, to which Crackermeyer informed them was simply because the baby's face had a caul on it. Removing the caul, Crackermeyer was fascinated by it, explaining that a caul is like a magickal talisman. He kept the caul, since they are said to have magickal properties.
Later, talking to Tootie, Crackermeyer asked him what he was doing aboard the ship, and was told, "I…don't know. I just ended up here, selling people to bondage…and me soul into hell." Telling Tootie that he will bless his soul if he looks after the woman and her child until they reach New Orleans, Tootie noted that there was something "beyond human ken" about the voodoo master, something that completely fascinated him.
Tootie then asked Crackermeyer to further explain the meaning of the caul to him. The voodoo master described how shamen and holy men were often chosen from birth, and if anyone was born with a caul over their face, they were believed to be destined to greatness. The caul of a great person was also considered extremely valuable financially, and they were placed on the market as "the greatest of all charms," often selling for thousands of dollars in the Western world (which was a lot of money in earlier eras). He then mentioned that he was also born with a caul over his face, and because of that he was educated in the mystic arts. He then began describing how he ended up on that slaver ship.
Crackermeyer recently received a letter from the Spook, where his zombie ally told him that a few days before he was visited by a young slave who was looking for help. A slave owner in New Orleans hired a slaver ship known as the Congo Star to bring him a large shipment of black slaves from Africa. This order came from a mysterious individual named Toorean, who only six months earlier ordered another shipment of slaves, despite the fact that he owns no farmlands or plantation to justify needing that many slaves. Ordering one hundred slaves, he told the captain of the ship not to question him any further or he would take his business elsewhere. As Spook talked to more slaves he was told that a hundred slaves were seen to enter the Toorean mansion, yet none ever came out again. From spying on the slavers, the zombie giant learned that the Congo Star was going to be purchasing slaves in an area of Africa close to where Crackermeyer was studying magicks on the Dark Continent. Spook urged his friend and ally to be there and to book passage on that ship. He also told Crackermeyer to bring a token of strong magick back with him, because he would surely need it for the mission ahead.
As the weeks passed and the ship sailed towards New Orleans, Crackermeyer shared a friendship with Tootie, at one point telling him of the origin of the black man, which was described by shamen upon slabs of mud called kitabs. Learned whites and black mystics talk about one thing in common…the Garden of Eden. Modern historians now refer to the sunken land mass it was on as Atlantis, while the black shamen called it Bamboula Land [could this reference bring Prince Targo into the Warrenverse? Hmmm…].
Soon after the men on the ship spotted the Georgian Islands, they were suddenly approached by another ship bearing the law. Beginning to panic, the captain ordered the slaves to be gathered up and thrown over the side of the ship, to prevent the law from identifying the ship as a slaver ship [I had no idea that slaver ships were illegal in this area of America during this period of time (1843…see Time Frame below), especially since slavery was still legal at the time…does any of my readers have any historical knowledge of this?]. Crackermeyer refused to let the captain harm the slaves, stating that his magick would turn the law ship away and pretending that he didn't want to disappoint Toorean by failing to come through with his order. Refusing to believe in the mage's capabilities, the captain attacked him with a knife, only to be disarmed and having his throat cut. Crackermeyer now found himself captain of the ship [wasn't this an illegal mutiny?] True to his word, Crackermeyer managed to use his magickal charisma to convince the law ship that he was merely a trader in spices [in a manner similar to how Jedi Knights of the Star Wars Universe accomplish the feat].
Claiming that the captain died of an illness while en route to America, one of the crew members told the mysterious Mr. Toorean that his order was filled. After handing the man a check for services rendered, Toorean told him to deliver his slaves before dawn.
Finally united with the Spook, he and Crackermeyer watched the slaves brought into Toorean's mansion through the basement. Crackermeyer wondered aloud what Toorean does with so many slaves considering he has "no fields to work" and "no cotton to tend." After asking if he, perhaps, eats them, Spook replied, "Bad choice of words." Breaking into the cellar of the mansion, the two men noticed a door and upon looking through the window, Crackermeyer learned, to his horror, what happened to the previous shipment of slaves. The slaves were chained to the walls of the cellar, some of them hanging upside down from the ceiling, with many of them having their heads severed. From the stumps of the necks a young slave boy was draining the blood into jars. Smashing through the door, and outraged that this black boy was helping Toorean commit such horrors, Spook used his dagger to cut off the boy's head with one mighty slash [Spook was strong even for a zombie!]. Crackermeyer freed the new slaves from the wooden cage they were entrapped within and everyone there began razing the cellar.
Suddenly, Toorean appeared. Proving that he was a racist as well as a monster, he said, "[w]hat makes you think you can end something your ape-like minds can't even comprehend?" Some force held Spook enthralled (apparently his fully cognizant mind is vulnerable to mesmerism) as he slowly reached for a large piece of splintered wood. At the same time, Crackermeyer reached for a magick talisman he had in his back pocket, his mystically trained mind capable of resisting the mesmerism. It was then that Toorean bared his fangs and revealed himself to be something called a "damvere" (obviously some strain of vampire). Just as Toorean was about to make Crackermeyer his next victim, the mage quickly threw the caul onto his face, which began burning him. As he was distracted and lost his mesmeric control over Spook, the zombie giant quickly shoved the wooden splinter through the vampire's heart.
Crackermeyer then noted to himself that there was truly no greater magick than the caul [see Comments below]. That evening, all one hundred slaves became free men and American citizens, and they celebrated by burning down the Toorean mansion of horrors.
Comments: This story pit Spook and Crackermeyer against a type of vampire, which was an interesting foe for them to overcome. And the main theme of the story never wavered from its commitment to dealing with the horrors of chattel slavery.
With this tale, the series was officially renamed "The Spook and Crackermeyer," to pay homage to the voodoo master's prominent part in the series. Budd Lewis appeared to be quite fond of this creation of his, and once again the Spook didn't appear until later in the story and the majority of the tale focused upon Crackermeyer.
This story made it clear that the caul is a powerful talisman in the WNU, and is capable of burning vampires in a manner similar to garlic and holy water.
Little was revealed about Toorean the damvere in this tale, and it would have been interesting indeed to learn more about this particular type of vampire. The WNU appears to have numerous different strains of vampires, each with both similarities and differences. The damvere appeared to be vulnerable to wood, just like many other supernatural strains, as well as having the power of mesmerism and vulnerability to sunlight (which was why Toorean wanted the slaves delivered to him before dawn), and he also had pointed ears. The idea of a vampire during the pre-Civil War era purchasing slaves to use as a blood supply was truly chilling and quite logical. It was also unknown how Toorean made his great fortune.
Leopold Sanchez's artwork suffered a bit in this story, as it was sometimes hard to tell certain characters apart and he drew Spook as being rather slim when previous stories made it clear that he had a musculature like a weightlifter.
This story featured one of the very rare occasions that Spook was seen killing a black person. The only other time he did this anywhere at all in the series was when he was forced to kill Sarena in the first story (indexed above).
Time Frame: In this story the date was specifically given as 1843. This works well with my conjectures about the overall time frame of the entire series. At the beginning of this story, Crackermeyer was in Africa studying the mystic arts for an undetermined amount of time, and was also described as beginning to get older and gray. Hence, it's possible that this story took place a few years after the previous one. I am not yet sure how much time passed between each of the stories. Until further notice, I am presuming that all of the stories took place in chronological order as published.
"Coming Storm…A Killing Rain"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Leopold Sanchez
It was 1862 [see Time Frame below] and the Civil War was now raging on. Standing in a torrential downpour, the now elderly Crackermeyer ruminated about the war. Just then, a young black boy ran up to the voodoo master and told him that his mother asked him to come out of the rain. The boy also warned him that Yankees were coming up the road and that it was best if neither of them were seen there. Sending the boy away without him, Crackermeyer was determined to stay and watch the Yankee contingent marching through his land. His thoughts: "Northern gloryboys. Each and every one of them still flushed with fever from reading 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' Coming south to right the wrongs…and burn fields, houses, rape women, slaughter stock, poison wells and steal anything!"
As the Northern infantry encountered Crackermeyer, the latter was sarcastic with them. Telling him they were fighting a war to free him while displaying their own typical-for-the-time racism, the soldiers were told that the black people would take care of their own and that the soldiers weren't needed. Crackermeyer then commented that the white man wasn't truly free, as they were "chained and shackled to [their] stiff, souless heritage." Becoming annoyed with Crackermeyer's defiance, the soldier kicked him, knocking him down and left to rejoin the column. Continuing to shout at the soldiers, Crackermeyer exclaimed that white men claim to be free but are actually "strangle[d]" by his civil institutions, that the black man's enlightenment will free them from bondage when they are ready, and that he wanted the soldiers to cease murdering in the name of the black man.
Once the soldiers were gone, the boy seen previously returned, and this time Crackermeyer agreed to go to his house with him to dry off. As the man now referred to as Papa Crackermeyer chatted with the boy's mother, she told him that there was nothing that one man can do about the war. He replied that while one man cannot do anything, one voodoo man might be able to do something. Using his hide drum and mystical abilities, Crackermeyer summoned forth the Spook. Telling Crackermeyer that he never seems to send for him anymore unless he has troubles, Spook was nevertheless glad to see his old friend. As the two old allies waded through the swamp on a skiff, Spook mentioned that he had been laying low lately, "watching the movements of the earth, the animals, the insects…and white folks." He had a premonition that something serious was coming. Crackermeyer simply told the zombie giant that if this war continues, they will never be able to wipe the stain of blood from the black man's name [see Comments below for my evaluation of the political underpinnings of this story].
The two men snuck into the soldiers' camp that evening, determined to steal the wagons containing the gunpowder so they would be unable to fight the war. Taking out a Yankee guard, the two voodoo warriors managed to capture a gatling gun (Spook thought it looked like a pepper grinder…ha ha). They located the wagon containing the ammo for the gatling gun and they planned to hitch it to the other wagons containing gunpowder and ammo so they could make off with all of them. However, one of the guards caught them and alerted the rest of the camp. Moving quickly, Spook and Crackermeyer managed to steal one wagon and the gatling gun. They fled the area, with the soldiers in hot pursuit. Racing through the forests surrounding the bayou, Crackermeyer armed the gatling gun and drove the soldiers away with its firepower.
Just then, the boy seen previous in this story appeared behind the two and informed them that "help" was "just over the hill" [actually, it wasn't help, it was the Confederate army…I'll assume this was a story error]. Shooing the boy off to his mom again, the two voodoo warriors realized that with the two opposing factions of America about to meet, a bloody war was soon to be fought. Once again concerned that the bloodshed over the black man wasn't worth the stain on their collective souls, Crackermeyer left Spook on the hill with the gatling gun and decided to try and stop the two military units from fighting. Crackermeyer told them there would be no war in this area, lamenting, "[y]ou say this war is being fought for the black people. Ask these people if they want men to die for them." Crackermeyer said this as he noticed a group of black people congregating around the area, also seemingly determined to stop the war. Crackermeyer continued: "Tell your soldiers to go home…blue and gray! Tell them this is a war of economics…not a gallant crusade for human rights."
The soldiers warned the people to get out of their way, and when they refused, determined to stand their ground, the soldiers began shooting the people. Horrified, the voodoo master called out to Spook, who unleashed the fury of the gatling gun on the soldiers. Now enraged, Crackermeyer and the Spook were determined to give both sides a real war, no longer trying to avoid bloodshed [it was odd for the two voodoo warriors to condemn killing in the first place, considering both of their track records with dispensing death]. However, the gatling gun jammed, and the soldiers continued to attack the two men. Exclaiming to the voodoo man to stop them, Crackermeyer said a quick incantation and caused the ground to explode around several of the charging soldiers [since when could the voodoo man do this? He must have perfected his mystical talents over the past two decades].
This wasn't sufficient to stop all of the soldiers, however, and another group of them attacked the Spook, who was now standing on top of all the boxes of gunpowder that he stole. Battling all of the soldiers single-handedly, the Spook screamed for Crackermeyer to flee the area and stop the war. Crackermeyer refused to leave his old friend (referring to him as "Johnny"…see below) and told him that he would save him. Spook then exclaimed that his existence was over, and that he loved Crackermeyer, calling him by his real name (which was "Andy"). Immediately following this, one of the soldiers accidentally fired his gun at the gunpowder, causing a huge explosion that destroyed both the Spook and the rest of the soldiers.
Crackermeyer was mortified at the loss of his beloved friend, and he now believed that he was wrong that two voodoo men could stop the war…he now concluded that only the leaders from both sides could do that. Continuing to speak in the Spook's memory, Crackermeyer said, "This war will end one day, Johnny! But the one you began fighting thirty years ago, will go on and on…until our people are ready to free themselves.
"I'll help them. I'll go on alone. But somehow you'll always be with me. From now until the end of my days…I'll tell them to remember…remember the one who died twice for them! Remember my little brother…John Mathew Tobias…the Spook!
"I love you too, Johnny! Goodbye."
Comments: This was the final entry in the series, which definitively ended with the Spook's destruction. It may have been the best story of the entire seven-part series. The themes that author Budd Lewis explored here were extremely deep and displayed a side of the Civil War that we scarcely hear about in the history books…the idea that many black people may not have wanted the North to spill blood in their name and that they would have preferred to have freed themselves rather than having another group of white people come in and do it. Of course, unbeknownst to Crackermeyer at the time, the white soldiers from the North would indeed end up freeing the black people, and the war only went on for a few years.
Budd Lewis was on target with his statement that the reasons for the Civil War were primarily economic, not ideological. The North was quickly developing a factory economy that needed free wage workers and not chattel slaves, which was more advanced than the increasingly moribund plantation economy of the South. I am not saying that many white people from up North didn't have a strong ideological conviction that slavery was wrong and a strong desire to end it. Abraham Lincoln was morally opposed to chattel slavery, though he, like most of the soldiers, didn't consider blacks to be equal to white men. It was a common form of bigotry at the time. This is not to take away from the historical importance of the Civil War in changing the landscape of America and in bringing down the final curtain on slavery. In our history books, we are often told that the North had nothing but heroic intentions in fighting the war, but there were definite material reasons for fighting this war that had nothing to do with an ethical desire to free slaves. That is the official and historical cover given to the war, and it was interesting to see author Lewis deal with the idea of the black people of the South being in favor of neither side. You certainly wouldn't have seen a story like this in Marvel or DC Comics. This is what made Warren unique during this era of time, and why their freedom from the Comics Code was gravely important for them to be able tell the type of stories that they wanted to tell.
In this story, it was revealed that the Spook was actually Crackermeyer's younger brother, John "Johnny" Mathew Tobias. This was a fairly surprising twist for the readers and an interesting climactic discovery, especially since the Spook was depicted as an inveterate loner at the beginning of the series and Andrew Tobias wasn't said to have any siblings in his origin account in EERIE #62. Crackermeyer remained the central focus of the Spook stories under Lewis' pen, and with this final story in the series both characters' names were given equal size in the title logo (something that didn't happen in the last story's title logo, where Crackermeyer's name was given in a smaller font than the Spook's name). In EERIE #67, the extremely eldery Crackermeyer appeared as "Papa Voodoo" in a new tale, but all he did was tell a story to a group of children about a Western hero called Rufe Gold. That tale was said to take place in the year 1910, but it's highly problematical that Crackermeyer could still be alive over 50 years after this story. The single Papa Voodoo story is best considered an aberration and forgotten, though I will do more research on it in the future.
EERIE #65 again featured the Spook on the cover, and a fine cover it was with the zombie giant lashing out with the gatling gun, painted by the legendary Ken Kelly
Time Frame: In this story, the text specifically stated that the date was 1862. This is why Crackermeyer appeared much older than in the previous tale, so it's quite possible that 19 years passed between this story and the last.