Well kiddies, it's almost Halloween and that means it's time for more eerie Tales Of Deep Irony to mystify, confuse, and be forgotten as you eat your hard-won candy. Here are three stories reprinted in the same issue of Vault Of Evil that lurch up out of the grave in an attempt to startle you in between ads for Grit and some kind of scam that involved trying to get kids to join a national motocross club. But that's outside stuff, and we don't want you outside, we want you inside reading comics!

Don't get too alarmed about that murder you just saw - it was just one puppet killing another puppet. Kind of like those Punch and Judy shows, only even more violent, and apparently watched by grown adults who paid to get in, as opposed to bored kids herded onto amusement-park benches so Mom and Dad can sit down for five minutes.

Like all good puppeteers, our master puppeteer Zorasto talks to his puppets as if they're real, as if they were his slaves who are murdered horribly every night for the entertainment of strangers. You'd better hope this isn't one of those stories where the puppets come to life and start murdering on their own, Zorasto! And since that's the only story anyone ever tells about puppets, the chances of that happening are pretty good!

But the audience demands it, and I'm just their puppet, says Zorasto. Their highly paid professional entertainer puppet. That's a weird definition of "puppet" but okay. Meanwhile the following evening we find horrifying murders, identical to the puppet murders, are taking place all over town! How can this be? How can a fairly simple puppet knifing possibly be replicated by real people?

What? An identical murder in the same identical location at the identical time of night? What a break for the police! Just stake that location out and watch the NEXT murder for clues as to how the previous murders were committed! But our puppeteer has other plans - he'll change his puppet murder slightly and try to break that chain of transference between the puppet murders and the real murders. Why not try a puppet bank robbery? You could use some extra cash.

Stretching credulity here are the capacity audiences turning up night after night, entertained beyond belief at the spectacle of puppets murdering each other. Are all their televisions broken? Are the movie theaters closed? Is there an actor's strike crippling the legitimate theater? No elementary school pageants happening anywhere?

"Looks like my plan of changing the scene of the murder to Broadway and the murder weapon to an axe worked great! Now I'll walk home down Broadway, right past this guy holding an axe. Dum de dum."

So now you're probably ready for the ironic shocking twist ending of our story of puppet murders being replicated in the real world and the amazing reason such things are happening. Are you ready? Are you sure you're ready? You're sure? OK then.

Yes sir, it's puppets all the way down. Or up. Aren't we all puppets, being controlled by ugly sky hands to commit senseless acts of violence for what we can only assume are audiences of giant sky people? Or did Stan Lee just write himself into a corner? I think he just wrote himself into a corner... or was he FORCED to write himself into a corner because HE'S a puppet TOO? Think about it, man.

But enough of that, on to our next story!

Say, what kind of comic book is this anyway, one of those Eric Stanton bondage things that Steve Ditko helped out on? Because those are really weird!

Nope, just the sad story of a movie star desperate to get rid of his wrinkles so he can continue to play leading men well past his sell-by date. Somebody tell this guy about "makeup." Actually, wait, nobody tell this guy anything. He just paid two hundred dollars for mud! Easy marks like this are hard to find.

Buddy, relax. You're a middle aged Hollywood actor, they'll be casting you opposite 20-year olds for at least another ten years, no matter how old or creaky you get. That's how it works.

"My last chance to get young, so I can throw furs and jewels at this obvious gold digger who might as well be holding up a giant neon sign reading I AM ONLY HERE FOR FURS AND JEWELS, is to find some strange old man in the swamps, who hopefully is a psychiatrist who can get to the deep-seated roots of the many mental health issues that are causing these behaviors."

Two hours later deep in the swamp country somewhere... what swamps are two hours from Hollywood? The Old Swamp Man is surprised that people would come to his Swamp Shack looking for pills that make you twenty years younger. I guess Old Swamp Man didn't think anyone would take that newspaper report seriously. Think again Old Swamp Man!

A good tip for Hollywood movie stars is to always carry a knife so you can steal those youth pills from the surprisingly elderly man who invented the youth pills and yet has not availed himself of the youth pills. No! Don't take those youth pills, they're only half done, which is why I keep them in pill form in a pill bottle as if they were pills people should be taking!

So, are your irony hats on? Seat belts fastened, shock absorbers tuned up, ready for that big twist ending? Are you sure?

Those pills were only half done and now your face is half young and half old! In fact the older part of your face is even older and more hideous looking! Trust me, Hollywood will go NUTS for your new disfigured face! You'll be the next Rondo Hatton, in that your disfigurement will be exploited for a series of low-budget shockers and then you'll be cast aside as the industry tires of you! Well, that's show biz.

But wait, there's one more shocker!

Was it the editor who decided their readers were so ignorant they needed reminding of what a "pitchman" is? Wasn't Stan Lee editing all these books? Maybe it was Martin Goodman. All I know is that anybody who was reading more than one of these dopey "shock ending" comics was, indeed, probably pretty stupid and would likely purchase a cheap fake ring from a guy on the street, like our friendly out-of-towner here is about to.

That's what New York is known for, "bargains". Not theater or Times Square or museums or the Statue Of Liberty or the Empire State Building, "bargains".

Wow, that pitchman made five bucks yesterday from the yokel, and today the yokel is back, spending a whole seven-fifty! These are the kinds of massive financial deals that New York is known for!

And here's the part where the pitchman thinks, well, I've soaked this guy for a whole twelve dollars and fifty cents, maybe he has another four or five dollars on him! Go for the big score, pal!

Yes kids, it's the oldest gag in the world, selling someone a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge. Nowadays you couldn't get away with a scam this dumb without dressing it up with a lot of techno-babble buzz-speak about "disruption" and "paradigms" and "connectivity," renting an office in Palo Alto and hiring some Stanford students in black turtlenecks. These days with the right window dressing you could probably make fifteen or even TWENTY dollars with a scam like that.

so are you ready for the big shock ending? The yokel takes the deed home, frames it, and has a hilarous story to tell his friends and family about his gullible naivety for years to come? Is that the big twist ending coming from that master of the comic book form and the movie cameo, Stan Lee?

Surprisingly enough, no! Turns out that really WAS the deed for the Brooklyn Bridge. Hunkle actually bought it. And, for the benefit of our slower readers, the Brooklyn Bridge really does have "BROOKLYN BRIDGE" written across the toll gates. That's the big ending, he really did buy the thing he thought he bought. Shocking, huh? No? Mildly amusing? Barely able to hold our attention? Just on the edge of deserving our contempt? Rightly forgotten, completely disposable pulp junk barely worth the paper and ink? Welcome... to Stupid Comics.

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