Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Actually, the DC letter printed below couldn't have been that first one after all as a quick read makes mention of the fact that Superboy's parents look younger due to a serum from another dimension. Clearly this is a reference to a SUPERBOY story that appeared in, I believe, late 1967 or early 1968 in which some enterprising other-dimensional alien is using the Boy of Steel's real life as the basis for a TRUMAN SHOW type series. When told that his Q ratings were skewing too old because of the older "actors" playing the Kents, the sneaky fellow, realizing that he can't replace them, sends a youth potion their way and its effects are (conveniently) irreversible
When's the last time you saw one of these? Surely thousands were sent out in response to letters to DC in the 1960's but other than the few I retained, I've never seen another. Marvel Comics, who chose to ignore every letter I ever sent them ,reportedly sent out empty envelopes to "no-prize" (get it?) winners while DC apparently sent out what amounts to FAQ sheets to every correspondent. My first letter was written to GREEN LANTERN in 1966 and while it was never published, I was delighted to recieve the above response in the mail a few months after I wrote it. My first published letter finally appeared in a 1968 ADVENTURE with all but a couple lines edited out. Still, you always remember your first. To this day, when traveling, I'll annoy comic shop owners by grabbing a back issue and pointing out my letter!
Oh, by the way, I don't live at that address anymore but I did recently take my 8 year old son there and take a picture of him sitting on the porch just like I did when I was his age. Ah, nostalgia!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
As I recall, this movie came out of nowhere in 1979. This ad that appeared in the Sunday comics section was the first I'd heard or seen of it! It's also another one of those where the most memorable thing about the movie was, in fact, the ad!
Drawn by comic artist Alex Saviuk who was then or right around then drawing Marvel's flagship Spider-Man, it promises classic comics style adventure. It also seems a tad racist and incredibly generic, all of which are true.
Seriously, how could a picture go wrong with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and...MICKEY ROONEY?? Well, luckily, the Mick doesn't have much to do here. Unfortunately, neither does Cushing! One Oliver Tobias gets the most screen time as the hero in this G rated effort, a bit unusual when you consider he was best known (if at all) at the time for his rather explicit sex scenes with Joan Collins in 1978's THE STUD, a low budget adaptation of Joan's sister Jackie's novel of the same name.
Since ARABIAN ADVENTURE he's continued to work but mostly in European productions. I've never heard of any of them and I'm betting you haven't either. You want to talk about Rooney's comeback in SUGAR BABIES? I'm with you. He actually handed me a bag of the candy at one performance. Lee's continued career that led him to both LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS? Hey, he's one of my all-time favorites! I can even hold forth on poor Capucine's suicide or remind you that eighties uber band Duran Duran was named after Milo O'Shea's character in BARBARELLA! The problem is, I can't really remember much of anything about this incredibly unmemorable movie...except the above poster.
Artist Alex Saviuk, by the way, most recently assisted the late Will Eisner on what turned out to be his very last SPIRIT story, published earlier this year in THE ESCAPIST.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Then check back here often. I'm still working the bugs out but if my #$@#!!! home computer will stop locking up every time I try to post a scan, watch out!!
Oh, I've also figured out how to turn on the comments so comment away! Enjoy!
The rather pulchritudinous young woman to the left here went by the unlikely name of Cissy Colpitts. Her star shown briefly in the 1970's. Her best known appearance would have to be as the young potential rape victim in BILLY JACK, saved by Tom Laughlin's half-breed avenger who forces her attacker to drive his car into a lake. Other early film appearances included PORKY'S II.
I first discovered her, however, on THE TED KNIGHT SHOW, the short-lived sitcom that preceded Ted's more successful TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT. She was hilarious! She affected a very Marilyn Monoroesque (Hey, I coined a word!) delivery and it was a scream, easily stealing the show for me. Ratings were initially high and my 18 year old self decided to write her a fan letter. Then the series was cancelled. Imagine my surprise to recieve a letter from Ms. Colpitts some months later. Not JUST a letter, mind you! I wouldn't be surprised if mine had been the first fan letter she had ever received as she hand wrote a three page missive talking about life, work and the episode of THE LOVE BOAT she had just finished. Along with that was this postcard (I was 18, remember!) and two gorgeous signed publicity photos. Not long after that, she changed her name, undoubtedly at someone's intelligent suggestion, to Cisse Cameron. I heard somewhere that the new name came from her father, noted hack actor (in the sense that he would take any job that came along) Cameron Mitchell. While she did appear with Mitchell in a later film, I've never been able to confirm their father-daughter relationship. Cisse was given bigger roles in better films, appearing opposite James Coburn in THE BALTIMORE BULLET and the Tim Conway/Don Knotts team in PRIVATE EYES. Ultimately, though, she ended up in low budget thrillers like the dreadful SPACE MUTINY(1988) with her husband Reb Brown (TV's cheesy Captain America in two terrible seventies films).
Now here's the really interesting part: Welsh film director Peter Greenaway has done four movies in which four different characters are named...you guessed it...Cissy Colpitts! I hope Cisse got a smile out of that. IMDB lists her last picture as 1997. Wherever you are now, Cisse, thanks from the 18 year old boy who stayed one of your biggest fans for thirty years!
Saturday, August 27, 2005
As mentioned earlier, the Library contains one entire bookcase of nothing but books on the Beatles. Among the earliest books in this collection are the two at right.
THE BEATLE BOOK is a quick cash-in puff piece for insatiable teens of the day, loaded with "facts" about the lads as well as the widely seen shots of photographer Dezo Hoffman that were the basis for some of the group's antics in their first film, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT.
By contrast, THE TRUE STORY OF THE BEATLES by Billy Shepherd is surprisingly accurate as it was printed less than four months after the Beatles' invasion of America made it marketable. Oh, sure it leaves out the pills, the groupies, Brian's homosexuality and the seamier aspects of Hamburg but it has the tragic story of Stu Sutcliffe, written here perhaps for the first time as well as the firing of Pete Best, Epstein's micromanaging them to the top and other less than TIGER BEAT worthy information. On the final page of the book, the author questions what the future will bring for the Beatles but even at this early stage points out that their place in history is secure. "The era of Beatlemania'" says Shepherd, "will be remembered for a long, long time as one of those incredible phenomena that can only happen in show business."
Friday, August 26, 2005
SPIDER-MAN VS. TERRORISTS!
Did I mention that the Library here also has an extensive collection of TV GUIDE clippings and Fall Preview Issues? The clipping at right seems positively prehistoric in the wake of Sam Raimi's Spidey but to a generation, Nicholas Hammond WAS Spider-Man...or maybe just the boy from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Even though this is an illustration rather than a photo, the Spidey figure is awkwardly posed, the belt with the weird face buckle looks stupid as does the rope-like webbing, the Swiss army watch webshooter and his rather prominent...you know.
The reason that show flopped, of course, was that unlike the contemporary HULK show with Bill Bixby, this featured regular characters in regular settings. For all intents and purposes, the HULK was actually an anthology show, allowing writers to have different characters and settings every week while maintaining a central lead that could himself play different roles each episode. Similar hit shows with this concept included RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, THE FUGITIVE and QUANTUM LEAP along with dozens of travelling cowboy westerns in the fifties and sixties. The timing was off for Spider-Man, the people behind the series didn't actually "get" the concepts! Around the same time, oddly enough, a Japanese TV version of Spider-Man got much of the idea right but stuck our hero with a transforming car and a formula plot that featured him fighting a giant monster at the climax of each episode. One episode actually featured the Thing (the FF's, not Howard Hawks' version) as the giant monster!!
Thursday, August 25, 2005
By all accounts, he truly hated being called "Wally". In fact, his close personal friends called him "Woody". He is generally considered one of the best and most influential comic book, science-fiction and humor artists in spite of a long track record of using assistants and a steadfast refusal to ever completely go commercial. He also harbored more than his share of personal demons but he always loved drawing!
Look closely at the above panel and you'll see that it's signed "Woody". This particular panel comes from the issue of KING COMICS at your left. Some years ago as I was passing through one of my infrequent Popeye phases, I picked it up for the strip reprints only to discover the Wood artwork accompanying the mandatory text story. (Why was the text story mandatory in an otherwise all strip reprint title, you ask? Let's just say ridiculous postal regulations that saved comics companies a ton of money and leave it at that.)Noting that this illo did not appear in any checklists of Wood's artwork that I had...including his own "official" listing, I knew that I had something special. Assuming that this was probably not Wood's ONLY contribution to KING, I began searching for affordable copies of surrounding issues but they're rarer than whiffle hens and I never was able to check for more! When Bhob Stewart came out with his "Complete" version of a Wood checklist a year or so back, I heard about it too late to contact him in time but he was delighted to see this rare piece and said it would definitely be included in any update!
Speaking of Woody and his assistants, toward the end of his life, he formed a personal fan club and agreed to provide original illustrations to all who joined the Friends Of Odkin (FOO). I joined and for years have treasured my original nude pin-up illustration of Wood's SALLY FORTH character...only to have Bhob assure me that it was probably actually drawn by an assistant, perhaps Paul Kirchner, then signed by Wood, himself. Sigh. Wally, ya big lug, you! I scanned it, put some clothes on the girl (Hey, it gets cold, y'know?) and colored my SALLY and here she is to share with you.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The comic strip BLONDIE is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month with the most crossovers from other strip characters since Mort Walker's legendary SAM'S STRIP. Here at the Library we celebrate by showing off this item, a paperback collection from 1968 that was meant to cash in on the hot new TV sitcom version of BLONDIE that debuted that fall. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that hot and was quickly a trivia question. My own personal recollection is that it was pretty funny. Patricia Harty was featured as Blondie and Peter Robbins who played Charlie Brown in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS was Alexander. A future Lucy Van Pelt, ubiquitous child star Pamelyn Ferdin, was Cookie and former TV cowboy Will Hutchins was Dagwood. Here's a picture of your Librarian himself with Mr. Will "Call me Hutch" Hutchins taken last year at the Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. He said that not a year passes that somone doesn't ask him if he has copies of those BLONDIE shows (He doesn't), especially one that featured Bruce Lee as a guest star! I guess the point is that a lot can happen to characters in 75 years...but they're still here and that's more than can be said for just about any other strip that shared "the funny pages" with BLONDIE back in the day. Happy Anniversary, you crazy kids!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Do you know Justin Green? Along with Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Spain, Trina, Jay Lynch and Dan O'Neill, Green was one of the pioneering writer/artists of "Underground Comix." If you're under a certain age, you've probably never even seen an Underground. Born in the early sixties, they flourished briefly a decade later, not just pushing the envelope on subject matter but tearing that envelope open, chewing it up and setting the leftover bits on fire! The sex probably shocked Larry Flynt, the violence perhaps curdled the stomach of Charles Manson and the political sentiments were decidely left-wing, much to the chagrin of the Republicans in power at the time! The undergrounds also invented the autobiographical comic. You know, the type that wins all the awards these days and gets reviewed in TIME. Justin Green's BINKY BROWN MEETS THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY was easily the most prominent and influential of these. Based on his Catholic upbringing, it remained in print from Last Gasp for many years, more recently collected as a graphic novel itself along with some of the artist's other works.
Last year, at the bookstore where I worked, we got a call from a "Justin Green" asking us to stock his latest book. It turned out to be THE Justin Green, a spectacularly modest , soft spoken white haired man who, along with his wife, artist Carol Tyler, now (or at least then) lives in Cincinnati and makes his living doing (I believe) freelance design work for businesses--signs. When he came in to autograph some books, we spoke for quite awhile. This was a man whose work I had discovered in THE BEST OF BIJOU FUNNIES back when I was still too young to legally read it. He is a living legend, featured in last years NEW SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMICS (along with his wife!) and even cited by reluctant media darling Crumb in a recent interview as an influence! He even invited me to see his studio but I was too awed to take him up on that.
This book is, itself, enjoyably sensationalistic. Collecting a series of one page biographical strips on music stars from rock and country to swing and ragtime, his use of design is better than ever and the added color in some strips is uniquely and amazingly applied. A self-deprecating introduction tells us that he didn't think the finished material was all that good and that it was often a struggle to complete but he did so and comics and music fans alike should enjoy this great collection, still in print and available through your local bookstore, comics shop or Amazon.
When I told one local comic shop owner who had run his store for more than fifteen years that Justin Green lived nearby, he had no idea who I was talking about. Mention of BINKY BROWN or INSECT FEAR brought blank stares. Surely comic shop owners should KNOW living legends in the field!! Kirby's gone, Kane's gone, Eisner's gone, Ditko's...well... but Justin Green deserves to be celebrated because he started something new and did it better than just about anyone...and he's still here! Thank you, Mr. Green!
We thought Jim Steranko was just THE coolest comic book artist in the late sixties! There was one point where I had to trade five JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY Thors (and a JIMMY OLSEN as I recall) to get a copy of NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. number one! It was more than worth it.
In 1971, I was standing in front of a bookstore waiting for a bus when I saw Steranko's wordless cover for the first printing of THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS, volume one. It was purchased immediately and became my absolute favorite book.
A year or two later, ads for a volume two appeared in Marvel comics and I dutifully ordered one, naively presuming that the book was already published and sitting in a warehouse ready to mailed on request to my house. I forget how long it was before I finally received the book but I had fired off several letters to Steranko's Supergraphics in the meantime threatening legal action if I didn't get my book or my money back!
When it did arrive, however, I was not disappointed. In fact, the very envelope in which the long-awaited book arrived featured the above eclectic collection of super heroes as envisioned by the great artist himself! Batman, in particular always struck me as a very unique view of the character. In fact, years later when I finally met Jim Steranko at a Columbus, Ohio con, I spoke to him about that impression rather than about my threatened teenage lawsuits.He kindly signed another version of HIS Batman, from his MEDIASCENE newspaper, to me. Today, though, it's the envelope picture that's still prominently displayed in the Library. I've only once seen another copy (San Diego, 1988) and have never even found an on-line scan...so I scnned it myself. Comics writer extraordinaire Mark Waid pointed out to me recently that the poster-- and particularly the Torch --is similar to Jim's more or less contemporary poster for Marvel's in-house fan club, FOOM.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
If ever a TV series practically screamed DVD, this would seem to be it! It's developed a cult following despite not having been seen on the air (as far as I know) since its original 1982 run. Highly touted at first, the tale of Professor Quentin E. Deverill, the forward-thinking, eccentric Edwardian inventor failed to attract an audience for its unusual mysteries and thus ran only six episodes. Over the years as star Sam Waterston has become more and more of a TV staple, I've encountered a number of people who recall this show fondly. Only six episodes. Waterston doing commentary perhaps. Maybe $29.95. If they can issue the JOEY BISHOP SHOW on DVD (in multiple box sets yet!) surely someone can let us have some of the forgotten good stuff...like Q.E.D.
Dr. Seuss-The Last Autograph?
Dr. Seuss didn't like autographings. It's been said that he wasn't even that fond of children, his biggest audience. That said, in 1986, when I was working at a bookstore (from which the Library greatly benefitted as you might imagine), I had every customer who came in for a week fill in a flyer I had made up in which they wrote a few words about their favorite Seuss book and how it influenced their lives. We dutifully sent off the thick package that resulted to Random House to be forwarded to Mr. Geisel in time for his March 2nd birthday. At right is the reply we received a few weeks later. Note the part that says they're "...sure he would be honored to know..." Hmmm. Sounded to us like they had no intention of bothering him with our package at all.
Still it was sad to read a few years later that the author of such immortal characters as the Grinch, the Cat and Sam (I Am) was in the hospital after a long illness and not expected to do well. Working at a different bookstore by that point, I determined to let him know how much we cared so we tried it again. This time, we had one of those giant get well cards and everyone who came in for a week signed it and wrote their favorire Seuss title underneath. Then, I called Maggie Thompson (no relation) at the COMICS BUYERS GUIDE where I had seen the initial reports and asked her if she could get me the name of the hospital and his room number. She came through and we sent it off. Again, a short while later we received the little note to the right. It wasn't all that long after that, however, that his death made the papers so I guess my last memory of Dr. Seuss is that he lied to me. He wasn't getting better after all. Sigh.
Now this is one of those movies where the poster, by legendary comics and sci-fi artist Gray Morrow, was the best part of the movie. This nifty color reproduction is from an eighties video release. The film itself was made in 1975 by Al Adamson, the man who brought you DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (with the unforgettable Zandor Vorkov!) and various other no budget home movies starring his top-heavy wife Regina Carrol. What passes for a plot features sexy stewardesses getting caught up in a cowboy story leftover from B Western days. Speaking of leftovers, Adamson always found roles for wonderful old stars who, for whatever reason (health, alcohol, age...) just couldn't seem to find a paying gig. In this outing, we have Yvonne (THE MUNSTERS) De Carlo, and real B cowboys Bob Livingston and Don "Red" Barry. This was Livingston's final film but Barry would go on to work fairly regularly in television before shooting himself in 1980. The real treat here is the brief appearances of The Ritz Brothers (Well, two of them at any rate), the zany second tier comedy troupe from forties Fox musicals. They're silly and...well, stupid actually but they make you laugh. Originally, this film would have had even more of a place in cult movie history if Adamson had had his way. Instead of the Ritz Brothers, the Three Stooges were meant to appear! Well, the "New" Three Stooges anyway. It seems that after Larry's debilitating stroke, Moe decided to re-form the act as he had done so many times before, this time teaming he and Curly Joe De Rita with Emil Sitka who had played the hapless straight man in much of their work since the fifties. Press releases were sent out when the team formed that included pictures like this one. An initial venture reportedly fell through leaving Moe anxious to get the new group exposure so Adamson's offer to appear in BLAZING STEWARDESSES must have looked pretty good. Emil, according to his account, was literally packed to head to the set when Moe fell ill and eventually died. The Stooges could trade Curly for Shemp, Shemp for Joe, Joe for Curly Joe and even Larry for Emil but everyone knew it just wouldn't work without Moe. Thus, the Stooges moved into legend, the Ritz Boys had their last minor big screen hurrah and none of it really mattered because probably only a few thousand people ever saw this picture...and even THEY were probably disappointed because it doesn't have nearly the T&A content that the title, and Gray's detailed poster, promised. As for Adamson, he was later murdered in bizarre circumstances that would probably make a much better movie than any he ever made.
OOPS! Forgot to mention that the library also includes a rather extensive collection of newspaper movie ads and clippings from the early seventies to the late eighties. The example seen here, for instance, is for a highly touted but more or less forgotten 1982 film entitled MEGAFORCE!! It was sort of a BUCKAROO BANZAI precursor with Barry (SPIN CITY)Bostwick answering the unasked question, "What if Chuck Norris had been one of the Village People...only with big guns?" Produced and directed by folks responsible for such diverse delights as THE GODFATHER, THE CHINESE CONNECTION and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, this "high tech" car crash of a movie came and went in spite of the hype machine being in overdrive. Left off of this scan, for instance, was a tag asking potential viewers to send $1.00 for the Official Megaforce Membership kit that contained a patch, a membership card and bike decals! Cool!
Anyway, from time to time we will also be revisiting some of the more memorable and/or bizarre ads. Check back often!
Okay, so what about some books from the library? Here are two picked off the shelf at random. SUPERFAN, published in 1972 collected the first twenty-one chapters of a 3 page per month strip done by MAD's Nick Meglin and Jack Davis for PRO QUARTERBACK MAGAZINE. Printed in the sideways format of the then-popular MAD paperbacks, this was undoubtedly EC Comics great Davis's longest sustained story! Let me make one thing clear--I hate football. Okay, perhaps "hate" is too strong a word. I just don't get it. Never did. That said, I absolutely love this book! Lots of MAD style celebrity hazing courtesy of future MAD editor Meglin but with a likable nebbishy hero and a traditional sports movie type plot! Skinny, super intelligent Y. A Schmickle says the magic word PSCWPLB...somehow...and inherits the football skills of many great players of past and (then)present. Along the way, he meets hippies and movie stars and sports announcers and...well, you get the idea. With an intro by the late Howard Cosell, SUPERFAN is lots of fun even if you miss, like I did, at least half of the pure football humor!
Conversely, SUPERFAN AGAIN is dull. Published two tears later, it features right-side up full page panels that make the actual content come out to about half of the first volume. According to Meglin's introduction, this one was done exclusively for this format and not as a monthly strip as both he and Davis were overextended at the time. Their heart clearly wasn't in this one but there's still a little fun and Jack Davis art is a wonderful treat anytime! If you see these at a used bookstore or on EBay, grab 'em!
Come in, come in! We're open! There's lots of cool stuff to see here. Yes, it's big, isn't it? Everyone says that. When my wife and I bought this house five years back, it had a huge dining room. Like most Americans these days, however, we find ourselves having meals in front of the TV set. Thus, the dining room became the Library. Nineteen bookcases and a few spinner racks surround the room with an additional dozen or so throughout the house, all loaded with pop culture books, movies, magazines, music, comics, collectibles and assorted esoteric ephemera. In the days to come, we'll be looking at some of the more fascinating pieces here on this blog. We'll offer a little background, some reviews, some forgotten pop history and more than a few surprises so check back often! I've been collecting this marvelous crap since 1966 so its about time I shared it with someone. Come on. Let's get started!