I like to reminisce about my childhood experiences with horror and delve into what made me the horror fanatic I am today. One of my fondest memories is when I was 7 or 8 years old and had gotten my hands on some of the book-and-record sets put out by a company called Power Records. Power Records was a branch of record label Peter Pan Records that specialized in children’s music. Power Records was geared towards older children. The book-and-record sets frequently featured original comic books along with an extended-play 7″ record of the story. These book-and-records sets were meant to aid in helping children with reading. The tie-in to popular characters of the time would be the first in a long, successful series of story records based on television shows, comics and movies. They had dozens of titles including such subjects as Superman, Batman, and Spiderman of the comics, Star Trek, Six Million Dollar Man, and Kojak from television, and some of the Planet of the Apes movies. What drew me in was their line of monster book-and-record sets. Their monster series was primarily based on Marvel comics characters.
A favorite of mine from this series was titled, The Curse of the Werewolf. It featured comics character Jack Russell, the lead in Marvel’s Werewolf by Night comic series. It tells the story of how Jack Russell was cursed to become a werewolf. It recounts how his father was a werewolf and that he passed his curse down to his son Jack, and on his 18th birthday he would become a werewolf. It’s a wonderfully exciting story, full of frights and the music from the record was really creepy. The comic was full color and included a 45 rpm record of the story to listen to as you read.
Another in the series was a Frankenstein story entitled The Monster of Frankenstein. It retells the story of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein as Victor recounts his efforts to create life out of the corpses he has stolen. He successfully manages to bring life to his creature but realizes he has made a grave mistake as the monster is uncontrollable in his bloodlust to destroy everything that is dear to its creator. After succumbing to grief and exhaustion from the loss of his family to the monster, Victor ends up in an asylum. Months later, he is released with a vow to track down the monster and seek revenge for his family. He tracks his monster to the arctic and faces an exciting and harrowing conclusion. This is another great story made even more so by the wonderful voice acting, sound effects, and creepy music score. It included a full color comic and a 45 rpm record of the story.
The next in the monster series was Dracula-Terror in the Snow. It was also based on a Marvel comic character from their series The Tomb of Dracula. It was a reprint from the original comic with a story by the famed writer Marv Wolfman. The granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing is trapped in the Transylvanian Alps with Dracula after a helicopter crash. The two need each other to survive, each hating the other with all their passion. Rachel needs Dracula in order to survive the ordeal and Dracula needs her as a possible food source if they are stranded too long. The blizzard filled mountains provide a harrowing backdrop to this suspenseful story. The voice acting is good as well as the sound effects. It also includes a full color comic book and a 45 rpm record of the story.
Continuing in the series is the Man-Thing in his story called Night of the Laughing Dead. The Man-Thing was Marvel’s answer to the more popular Swamp Thing character from rival DC comics. The story begins as a carnival clown commits suicide by shooting himself in the head (great children’s story, right). He was in love with a woman who didn’t return his love so he couldn’t make people laugh as a clown when all he felt inside was pain and sadness. The Man-Thing comes across his body and decides to bury him deep in the swamp. The clown does not rest in peace when his ghost tries to seek peace and crosses paths with his girlfriend and some carnival villains; the Man-Thing must come to the rescue. This story was one of the more morbid stories in the monster series and I find it hard to believe that the subject matter was approved for children. This also followed the same format as the others providing a full color comic with a 45 rpm record.
The next release was a little different format compared to the other releases, this one contained a larger 33 rpm record and a larger LP size comic. A Story of Dracula, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein was released in 1975. It was an anthology that combined the story of the 3 monsters similar to Universal studios monster mash movies like House of Dracula and Frankenstein.
“Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, and the Werewolf all meet under unusual and bizarre circumstances in this masterpiece of terror and suspense. Power Records is proud to present this magnificently illustrated original tale. Heightening the intense dramatic portrayal are sound effects and music that will keep you on the edge of your chair. This package is designed to be read and played — and treasured for years to come.”-back cover blurb
It tells the story of Baron Frankenstein’s nephew Vincent and his girlfriend as they are helped by a kindly, aristocratic man who offers them refuge in his castle. Well, he turns out to be Dracula of course, and he wants Frankie’s nephew to create a monster for him that will obey and watch over the Count while he sleeps during the day. Dracula threatens to kill Victor’s girlfriend so he will make him a monster. The monster comes to life and throws Victor’s girlfriend out the castle window and she is attacked by a werewolf, thus turning her into one as well. The action concludes as all 3 monsters clash in the story’s finale. As a child of 8, this was the ultimate monster book-and-record set due to the fact it had all of the “big 3” monsters all in one story. The artwork was fantastic and the record story was terribly exciting and scary all at the same time.
Finally, this next one was never part of the monster series, but it was a favorite of mine nonetheless. It was a Spiderman story called, The Amazing Spiderman-The Mark of the Man-Wolf! J. Jonah Jameson’s son John was an astronaut who returned from a moon walk. He had a moon stone he picked up that was turned into a pendant he wore. The moon stone possessed a power that turned him into a werewolf during the full moon. He couldn’t take off the pendant because it had grafted itself to his skin. When in wolf form, his instinct was to kill the ones he loved, his father, his fiancé, etc. Spiderman had to save his enemy J. Jonah Jameson by battling the werewolf. It was a great story and an interesting spin on werewolf mythology by using a moon stone as the source of the curse. The Man-Wolf went on to battle and team up with Spiderman in several other issues of Marvel comics.
The Power Records monster series was a huge influence on me when I was a kid. They not only helped me in the reading process but helped scare me as well, thus helping to cement my love of horror and monsters in particular. I will always remember listening to these records as I read along with the stories. The hiss, crackle, and pop of the vinyl records is something I will never forget. It was an art form and media source that was unique to the time, something from a bygone era.