Do you have this vague memory from your childhood, say a movie or TV show or perhaps a book or comic book that you read/saw/etc. and would love to see again but you just don’t quite know what the thing you read/saw/etc. was?
I have plenty of such fragmentary memories and, luckily for me, we live in an era where if you look around the internet with a bit of diligence you may eventually find such items.
In this particular case, it was a comic book story. I recalled it involved a guy -our main character- who goes to a cornfield looking for work. There, he meets Death. Death, as it turns out, is tending to his crop of corn.
The upshot of the story is that Death is looking for a replacement, someone who will tend to the crops and, at day’s end, take some of the grown corn to his shack where they will eat them. See, each individual kernel of corn has the face of someone who will die on it. Thus Death has its “meal” and those whose faces are on the kernels die, including (the story’s punchline) the main character’s wife.
For many, many, many years I’ve sought that story. I’ve longed to see it once again but I had only vague memories of where it could be.
I was certain it was published in a comic book released likely in the late 1970’s. I realized, after a while and after collecting horror comic books from that era, that it was likely a DC comic and I became certain, based on memory alone, that the artist who drew the story was likely Jerry Grandinetti.
While over the passage of years certain artists may become very famous and their work well known, others may fall by the wayside and be somewhat forgotten.
Jerry Grandinetti (you can read his Wikipedia entry here) was a great artist who was primarily known for doing DC war books.
His work was even (ahem) used by Roy Lichtenstein in a couple of his pop art pieces.
By the 1970’s his artwork had become very unique and, let’s be honest, perhaps a little too odd for popular consumption. The artwork, in my opinion, looked like comic book versions of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, expressionistic works with heavy shadows and almost bizarre backgrounds. The piece below appeared, based on what is written at the top of the page, in the DC horror title Unexpected…
It was because I spent some time into the 1980’s and 90’s (perhaps even a little beyond) collecting DC horror titles like The Witching Hour, The House of Mystery/Secrets, The Unexpected, and Ghosts among other titles and stumbling upon stories drawn by Mr. Grandinetti that I realized my memory of that corn-farming Death story was very likely drawn by him.
But where was it?
I couldn’t recall which of the DC horror books it was in. I couldn’t recall the cover of the particular issue it might have been in.
And over the weekend, I thought about that story and decided I would once again try to find it.
This time, I succeeded.
Looking around over the weekend, I found a website that offered a list of Jerry Grandinetti’s comic book work and, specifically, his stories presented in the DC Horror comics and, voila, I found House of Mystery 261 from October of 1978.
As you can tell from the cover alone (something I don’t recall, even though I do recall the Grandinetti illustrated story within!) it is obviously showing Death holding corn and, you guessed it, the cover very much ties into the story. The story is called “The Husker” and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Mike Kaluta cover (spectacular, by the way) was drawn first and Greg Potter’s story was subsequently written to tie into that cover concept.
Anyway, looking around a little more, I found a website which offered the contents of the issue and there, finally and after all these years, I once again read the comic and the Jerry Grandinetti illustrated story. There were, to be clear, other stories within the issue but for whatever reason they didn’t stick to my mind quite as much as the Grandinetti drawn piece…
I know it is a total dream on my part, but I would dearly love it if DC comics would collect and offer a large trade paperback of all of Jerry Grandinetti’s horror stories. As I mentioned above, I’ve stumbled upon other stories he illustrated while collecting DC’s horror books and each time I find a story drawn by him I’m delighted by his weird compositions, heavy blacks, and overall look.
Either way, it’s great to finally have this particular “itch” scratched after all these years!