The first one is titled "The Eyes of the Basilisk," from House of Mystery 184 (the same issue that featured Alex Toth's story "Turner's Treasure"), written by E. Nelson Bridwell and inked by the great Wally Wood. "The Eyes of the Basilisk" demonstrates that dynamic art can elevate an otherwise mediocre story.
The tale opens in the mythical kingdom of Karinek, where four young herdsmen named Dikon, Jalk, Adro, and Wark are lazing about in a field while their cattle roam free. Suddenly, the cattle are all killed by a frightening, serpent-like creature known as a Basilisk, which has the ability to kill with its gaze.
The creature terrorizes the town to the point that the king, Lundru, consults his "chief wise man," Canthros (Jesus, I hate these stupid fantasy names). Canthros explains to the king that, while he may have 99 problems, the Basilisk ain't one.
Actually, the Basilisk is one of only two problems the king apparently has, the other being an unmarried daughter, Princess Adeen. Canthos explains that Lundru can kill two birds with one stone: offer the princess as the prize for defeating the Basilisk. Coincidentally, this is exactly how I solved a landscaping problem I had earlier this summer.
Word gets out that any man who kills the Basilisk will score a hot princess, so a bunch of douchebags give it a shot, and they all fail.
Eventually, word of the challenge gets to "Dursus the Clever" and his brother, "Ulfar the Afflicted." It sucks enough being the brother of Dursus the Clever, but then to be stuck with the epigram "the Afflicted," especially when no one goes on to explain what the affliction actually is. It leaves too much to the imagination.
Dursus decides that all the other men failed because they weren't clever enough, and he devises a plan where he will use a polished shield to serve as a mirror, so he doesn't have to look directly into the Basilisk's eyes.
This plan does not work at all.
Ulfar is stricken with grief at the loss of his no-longer-clever brother, and he decides to take on the Basilisk in order to get revenge, despite the "affliction." Ulfar then uses a mirror to shine in the Basilisk's eyes, thus turning the deadly gaze back on the creature.
The Basilisk dies, and as promised, Ulfar gets the hand of Princess Adeen. Adeen is excited because Ulfar turns out to be pretty hot himself. He then goes on to explain why he was especially suited to defeating the creature, which gives us the story's ironic twist:
Quietly, the king replaces Adeen with his even-more-unmarriable daughter, Ugleen.
But seriously, Wally Wood's tight inks on Gil Kane's pencils are just fantastic here, and the Basilisk itself looks pretty awesome. Kane did a lot of work for the DC mystery titles in the late 60s and early 70s, even though the bulk of his work at the time was done for Marvel. We'll be picking up some more of these great stories in the coming weeks.