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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
psychotic adventures _ Psychotic Adventures 2 _ Psychotic Adventures 3
Psychotic Adventures #1
Psychotic Adventures #2 Psychotic Adventures #3
Psychotic Adventures Illustrated

1972-1974 / Company & Sons - Last Gasp Eco-Funnies
Psychotic Adventures Illustrated is the creepy yet beautiful creation of Charles Dallas, one of the true enigmas from the golden age of underground comix. Psychotic ran for just three issues, but they are filled with extended, nightmarish comic stories that Dallas specialized in so well. Dallas had multiple appearances in other titles, including Insect Fear, Paranoia, Skull Comics, Slow Death and Real Pulp Comics, but Psychotic was almost entirely his (Larry Todd produced one story for the third issue) and some of his best work can be found here. Then again, Dallas didn't produce any work that really sucked, so you can't go wrong seeking out anything he did.

The predominant objective of Psychotic Adventures is delivering spooky horror stories in the EC Comics tradition, though the second issue does take a slight detour. Dallas was also creatively inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, as evidenced by the first issue where Dallas declares that he was "a resident of remote and deserted Dunwich, Massachusetts for nearly two-hundred and fifty years." Dunwich was the fictional Massachusetts town in Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror," one of his most popular horror stories.

Throughout the series, Dallas portrays everything from cannibalism to ruthless murder with lurid, unflinching detail, which made his work popular with some of his fellow creators and not so popular with others. But no one could deny the haunting quality of his stark, knifelike inkwork, and most of the violence presented in his stories was inherent to the plot, not gratuitous. Of course, it could be argued that the stories themselves were gratuitous, but nothing in this series suggests that Dallas was either a chauvinist or a misogynist; he was simply relaying stories with horrifying content, much like Poe or Lovecraft or any of the masters who preceded him.

Not much is known about Charles Dallas. Nobody seems to know where he came from, but he showed up in San Francisco in the early '70s and, according to Kim Deitch, was discovered by the late Jack Jackson. Initially, his artwork was produced on large illustration boards with multiple ink wash shadings, which would have been very laborious to reproduce for comic books back in the day. Obviously, Dallas made the shift to screentone shading and his work was soon published in several different comics. Company & Sons, which published a Dallas story in Paranoia, gave him his own title to play with and he produced Psychotic Adventures Illustrated #1.

Company & Sons went out of business in 1973, but Ron Turner and Last Gasp gave Dallas two more issues of Psychotic. Despite the high quality of the work, only the last issue enjoyed a second printing and Dallas was barely getting by from his work in comics. Sometime in the mid '70s, Dallas and his wife left San Francisco and moved to another state, which is when just about everybody lost track of him. Deitch has written that he did get a letter from Dallas some time later, which contained a clipping of a fashion illustration Dallas had drawn for a local newspaper. "It was quite good and well drawn," Deitch wrote, "but it had a sinisterness about it that fascinated." Deitch can't remember what state Dallas had sent the letter from, but says he probably has the letter and the clipping "buried somewhere in my files."

Though Charles Dallas did not produce a huge volume of work and hasn't been heard from in almost four decades, I'm not alone in thinking he is one of the most overlooked underground artists in the business. But Dallas arrived a bit late on the scene and the nature of his work left him with few venues to make a living. It's a shame he disappeared like he did, but at least he made some impact while he was here. And by my estimation, the three-issue series Psychotic Adventures Illustrated should be considered his master work. Furthermore, the third and final issue of the series is one of the absolute classics from the genre of underground comic books.