Monday, April 30, 2007

Captain Marvel Club Ad

John over at This is Pop Culture has been running quite a number of rare toys and ads of our Shazam-shouting hero lately so this one's for John. I particularly like the "Magic Eyes" as it was designed so that Cap's eyes follow you all around the room. {{{{{{{Shiver}}}}}}} Watch out Dr. Sivana!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sugar & Spike Meet a Gorilla...or a Bear

Here’s a comics mystery that I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere but which has bugged me from time to time since 1969! Like many super hero fans in the late sixties, I was a closet fan of Sheldon Mayer’s brilliant SUGAR AND SPIKE comics for DC. In 1967, SM (as he referred to himself during that period) introduced a new character into the strip named Bernie the Brain. Bernie’s precocious intellect was perhaps overly milked for the next couple of years before the book settled back into more traditional patterns. Still, that first story was quite a good one in which Bernie, Sugar and Spike take on an evil mastermind named the Octopus.
Okay, here’s the mystery: In 1967, when the story first appeared, Spike is tossed into a cage with a baby gorilla. In 1969, only two years later, the story is reprinted and that baby gorilla is now a baby bear! No other artwork seems to have been changed (other than a new splash page anyway). The bear and parts of the panels in which he appears seem to have been paste-ups. Why? Did SM or someone decided that a bear wasn’t as scary as a gorilla? Were there letters complaining about the gorilla? Quite frankly, the bear looks scarier to me! Since 1969 I’ve wondered why this was done! Steven? Sam? Anybody? You guys haven’t let me down so far.
Oh and DC, howzabout a SUGAR & SPIKE Showcase edition? Surely you realize that it’s the fanboys who would buy it, not kids!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Meet Johnny DC

This inside cover DC ad from 1962 introduced National's fondly recalled but short-lived mascot, Johnny DC. Note also the eclectic mix of DC's superstars here still 4 years away from TV's BATMAN making super-heroes hot again. I mean, sure you got your JLA members but there's also BLACKHAWK, TOMAHAWK, Lois and Jimmy, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Sugar and Spike, the Fox and the Crow and even Dobie and Maynard!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Thirty Years of The Rockford Files

Bob Hastings does the throwaway answering machine intro on my second favorite episode of THE ROCKFORD FILES. I asked him about it between rehearsals at last week’s OTR Con and he told me he had not the slightest memory of it. He speculated that perhaps they had asked him to record it during one of his two actual appearances on the show and than ran it at a later time. That makes sense. It’s also one of the few aspects of THE ROCKFORD FILES not covered in Ed Robertson’s obsessively detailed history of the series, THIRTY YEARS OF THE ROCKFORD FILES.

THIRTY YEARS OF THE ROCKFORD FILES is a massive update to Robertson’s mid-nineties book on the series, adding hundreds of pages of new material on the original run as well as on the many reunion movies done for CBS. In case you’ve never seen it, THE ROCKFORD FILES was a showcase for star James Garner, the easygoing MAVERICK of the 1950’s whose film career never quite took off as expected. Returning to TV in the seventies, Rockford became a sort of modernized version of the role that made him famous, honed and geared to the actor’s considerable skill at "playing himself" by Roy Huggins, Stephen J. Cannell and a handpicked production crew.

A successful yet often downtrodden detective in L A, Rockford’s "files," supposedly cold cases that he would reopen and solve, quickly fell by the wayside and Garner’s charm, the show’s quick wit and an incredible recurring cast of characters made the series’ Emmy-winning reputation.

As is the norm for this type of book, Robertson starts with a history of the show’s creation, cast bios, then an overview of each season, a look at every individual episode (featuring both plot details and behind-the-scenes info) and then a look at the post-network life of the series and the characters. What makes this book different is in the details. For instance, every episode listing starts with a transcript of the aforementioned answering machine message. Also included is a fascinating ongoing look at how the various guest stars crossed paths with Garner at other junctions throughout his career.

The backstory of Rockford gets complicated but Robertson sorts through and simplifies it as much as possible. It seems it was originally to be an episode of TOMA, a series which had major issues and was eventually reborn as Robert Blake’s BARETTA. Only when Garner became involved did it slowly develop the MAVERICK connection. As the series goes on, the author details the various corporate dealings that eventually led to the loss of semi-regular Gretchen Corbett as well as the major financial and health issues that ended the original run and stretched out in the courts for a decade.

Filled with marvelous stills, candid shots, ads, schedules and for some reason, a number of pointless caricatures by the gentleman who did the less than attractive cover, THIRTY YEARS OF THE ROCKFORD FILES is a treasure trove not only for fans of this series but for anyone who just wants to read an in-depth, well-researched story about how television worked in the seventies.

We have an entire bookcase of TV histories here at the Library. Some (like the official Mary Tyler Moore and Murphy Brown books) are extremely disappointing. Others are TV geek obsessive and wondrous. Ed Robertson’s THIRTY YEARS OF THE ROCKFORD FILES has just earned a place near the top of that list.
Here’s Ed’s site: Ed Robertson: Author, Journalist, Ghostwriter, Pop Culture Critic, Television Historianor you can get a copy from Amazon at: Thirty Years of The Rockford Files: An Inside Look at America's Greatest Detective Series: Books: Ed RobertsonThe price is a tad steep but the content is well worth the price. Thanks, Ed.

By the way, in case you're wondering, my two favorite episodes of THE ROCKFORD FILES are the ones featuring Tom Selleck as Lance White, the "nearly perfect" detective for who everything falls right in place…much to Rockford’s continuing chagrin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Separated at Birth?

I finally figured out who it is that I'm reminded of whenever I see everyone's favorite lost Idol, Sanjaya. That's right! Take a look! It's another funny-looking kid who couldn't really sing all that well and yet went on to do pretty gosh darn well for himself in the music business--RINGO!

Batman Colorforms

Lifted from the 'Net, here's an item that I somehow no longer have-BATMAN COLORFORMS. (Well, actually, I do still have Batman's left leg buried in a junk box somewhere but...) In retrospect, in spite of this box's Murphy Anderson art, Colorforms were a pretty boring toy. You manipulated little bits of clingy plastic on a cardboard backdrop to show characters in different poses. Still, on a day like this where I've been up since 4 after only a couple hours of fitful sleep and fever dreams, I long for the days when my seven year old self could lie shirtless on the floor with Batman Colorforms and let his imagination soar. With me sick and BookDave on the injured list, it could be a lot of fun for us both. 'Course, said seven year old self didn't have three cats and a dog to crawl all over him when lying on the floor (or nearly as much trouble getting back up again come to think of it!). Sigh. Guess that's why they call them "the good old days."
Actually, that box looks too big. Maybe that's not Colorforms in the picture at which case, never mind. I've been sick, people! Gimme a break!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

1940's Cough Drops Ad

Not that cough drops have worked for me lately mind you. I had to take today off work after excessive coughing yesterday and overnight led to near total laryngitis. Then, later, my son's school called to tell us his knee had popped out of joint and he was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance after falling because of it. X-rays showed no real issues other than the fact that it had popped out of joint and then popped back in. He's still in some discomfort and is not really able to walk well but they say he'll soon be fine. Unfortunately, at the ER, I had to try to speak with doctors and registration clerks so now my cough is back and I feel my voice tightening back up. Guess I better go take another cough drop. Sigh.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Sentinals of Liberty Ad

After a busy weekend and a couple of substantial postings, here's a quick shot of another early forties Timely ad for Cap and the Sentinals of Liberty. CAPTAIN AMERICA LIVES!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day 2 of the Cincy Radio Con 2007

Okay, the 21st Annual Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention is itself now history! To say it was a bit different than normal would be an understatement. Convention founder and guiding light Bob Burchett was absent for the first time due to last minute health issues. He led the pack of missing vendors, dealers, regular attendees and behind the scenes people. For one reason—health, office politics, finances and death mostly-- or another there were a dozen or more fixtures of this yearly show who just weren’t there this year. That definitely changed the dynamic and yet for some reason it seemed more enjoyable to my family than it had in several years.

The Dealers’ Room remained shrunken to the level it had been in recent years and every table was filled. The problem was that the diversity was gone. This year I saw no vinyl or reel-to-reel for instance and only a stray box of comics here and there. One table was all autographs and one delightful nostalgic ephemera but for the most part, everyone was selling DVD’s and MP3s. Now I will admit to picking up a couple of those myself but what happened to the variety?
The recent death of Hal Stone was recognized with a moment of silence but did not cast any kind of shadow over the proceedings. In fact, Bob Hastings was in quite a good humor even in an eavesdropped conversation in which he was comparing notes with the other guests on their new hearing aids and how much SAG would pay toward them.

It was good catching up with old friends such as Dan, Kathy and the ever-delightful Karen (World’s Biggest Jack Benny Fan) Hughes. Even my 10th grade Spanish Teacher showed up on Friday! Everyone signed a giant card for Bob Burchett. Re-creation director Don Ramlow (sporting a mullet look) who unexpectedly inherited a lot of Burchett’s "host" duties for the two days simply signed and wrote, "HELP!" Ramlow did an excellent job, however, and made it all look quite effortless.

I personally spent the day luxuriating in the continued kudos for my previous night’s performance. Wow! I must have been good! Say, if you or anyone you know taped it can you get me a copy. I’d love to hear what all the fuss is about! Anyway, throughout the day I was stopped continually by friends and strangers alike for a few moments of praise, a hug or a heart handshake. One guy even yelled at me from his car, "HEY YOU RAT!" He followed with a thumbs up and a "You were GREAT last night!" though so as my blood pressure settled back down I yelled, "MOUSE! Not rat!"

The Saturday re-creations included FORT LARAMIE, ESCAPE, CANDY MATSON (misidentified yesterday as GUNSMOKE, clearly an obvious mistake!) and the All Ears Theater production of THE GOLDEN BIRD. Bob and Rosemary Rice delightfully re-created THE BICKESONS in several sketches also and Rosemary and Esther Geddes-McVay did Jack Webb and Johnny Carson’s classic DRAGNET spoof, a bit Esther and her late husband Tyler had long since made their own.

My participation as an actor on the final day was as a stand-in for a member of the Kalamazoo-based All Ears Theater. As such, I actually had 5 roles in THE GOLDEN BIRD, a funny fairy tale original script written by Ramlow and based on a Brothers Grimm story. I was "Man," "Innkeeper," "Groom," "Guard # 2" and the screeching of the title bird for a total of maybe a dozen lines. The trick here was to diversify the voice sand I’m told I succeeded.

The ESCAPE was a vintage but apparently unproduced adaptation of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST that gave Bob Hastings a chance to be delightfully sputtery and silly onstage for an appropriate finale.

My wife and I always skip the banquet and go in only as the re-creations are about to start up. This is largely due to the ridiculous price the hotel charges for what is essentially mystery meat. For a third of the cost, we took our chances at a local Golden Corral Restaurant. (Don’t get me started on the hotel in general. Hopefully next year they’ll move it.) As we snuck in at the back this year, my wife was given a rather expensive telescope to be given to our boy anonymously from someone who had enjoyed my performance! Wow! We literally didn't know what to say. The awards ceremony at the banquet was relatively brief this year as many of the recipients had not been able to attend! It was, however, announced that, in spite of this year’s issues (and what I deemed to be a considerably down attendance also) there WOULD be a 22nd Convention! Can’t wait! By the end of the long day, though, my symptoms were returning--puffy eyes, sore throat, tired muscles. It was almost like the spell was wearing off and I was returning to being just an ordinary guy again after my annual two days of fame. Sigh.

The pictures seen here are of me onstage in my triumphant mouse performance. They were lifted from Charlie Summers’ website Nostalgic Rumblings where you can find lots more convention pics. Charlie, although unable to attend this year, was, himself, an absentee award winner at the banquet! That's Bob Hastings and I in the first one, in the second note my colorfully dressed sweetheart who announced and in the third, L-R, Esther Geddes-McVay standing, Bob, myself, Rosemary Rice and the delightful Ruth Last.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Man or Mouse at the Old-Time Radio Con

Talk about bookending a day! This morning I went to see a guy who wanted to take my very first TV appearance (with the comedy troupe the Ohio River Swim Club) from 1980 and clean it up, dust it off and use it in a web project. We’ll get into exactly WHAT as things develop but the interesting part was seeing myself at age 21, in a sketch I wrote myself, giving the dullest walk-through performance that anyone ever gave. I actually apologized to the guy for a "performance" I gave 27 freakin’ years ago now! I err…also apologized for the DEBBIE DOES DALLAS clips that followed. Hey, I was a kid and Betamax was a truly wonderful invention!
Cut to several hours later at the 21st Annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. Longtime readers know that the highlight of the annual convention for me has always been the re-creations. My wife and I have been privileged to perform with radio legends such as Ezra Stone, Parley Baer, Willard Waterman and the recently deceased Hal Stone. After working with him for more than 13 years at this show, I’m proud to count Bob (McHALE’S NAVY, BATMAN) Hastings as a friend of mine.
In the past 19 years I have played an Englishman, an African-American, a Chinese man, a wisecracking photographer, a detective, a French fur trapper, a chimp, a frog, a dog, a crow and a whole bunch of teenage boys and old codgers. My wife will tell you, however, that I dread every year’s auditions figuring that my 15 minutes are well-stretched and other, better, amateur performers will be cast instead of me. That hasn’t happened yet. This year, in fact, we walked in and our director for nearly all of the past two decades, pulp-buff extraordinare Don Ramlow immediately assigned me (well before the actual auditions mind you) 4 small roles replacing an absent someone in a pre-cast script by a group from Michigan to be performed Saturday night.
The actual auditions were for a GUNSMOKE, an X-MINUS ONE, a FORT LARAMIE and an ESCAPE! There were, as usual in recent years, a LOT of good folks auditioning. Even my 10 year old son, Bernie the Brai…I mean BookDave, tried out and gave a memorable run at the role of a talking radioactive mouse. He didn’t get it though. I did. It was the only role I got but it would do.
The story was Friday evening’s X-MINUS ONE entitled CHAIN OF COMMAND as originally broadcast in 1956. Bob Hastings was in more than a dozen episodes of that series originally but not this particular one, The script dealt, on the surface anyway, with a small mutant mouse who wanted a trap removed from in front of his door at an atomic laboratory. It was actually a sometimes clever, sometimes cliched metaphor for cold war fears of non-loyal hordes being in our midst.
Rehearsals came fast after the casting and within two hours I found myself on stage with the full compliment of this year’s guest stars—Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice (who played Betty on ARCHIE), Esther Geddes-McVey and Ruth Last (who has appeared in two Woody Allen films in recent years). Amongst the very few amateurs in this particular production was my own lovely bride of nineteen years working as the Announcer.
Ms. Last played the Mouse’s overbearing wife whose nagging takes him all the way to Washington about getting the mousetrap removed. Bob was the government clerk that they used to try and get my character drunk (and rather suggestively laid albeit in mousy form…with TWO female mice yet! And that’s in the ORIGINAL VERSION!!) to find out what foreign power he was actually working for and what secrets he knew.
A less than full house (maybe 150 people) seemed to enjoy the half hour performance. I love working with Bob because he and I actually look at and play off each other during the performance as opposed to simply standing there reading the script and thinking "Hey, it’s radio. It’s just reading, not actual acting." As some amateurs and even a few pros have done over the years. The original actor for my role had been John Gibson. I was vaguely familiar with him but when Don said that Ezra (HENRY ALDRICH) Stone had once played this role, I opted to go with a voice similar to Henry’s radio pal, Homer. At rehearsal, Bob suggested it made be a little too nasal and "Jugheady" and I agreed so I worked on toning it down for the actual performance. I ended up sounding vaguely like Elroy Jetson.
It seemed to work. I had more lines than any of the celebs and was on mike nearly the whole time with two three page exceptions. At the end of the performance, while still listening to our applause, Hastings patted me on the back and said I was "brilliant!" Ms. Rice, a consummate professional and perfectionist, offered similar kudos as I left the stage. The sound man, Dave Davies, came over and said that it was the best performance I’d given in all the years he’d seen me perform there. Two other people from the audience shook my hand and hugged me. Laura Jansen, herself an impressive actress, said, "You were SOOO CUTE!" Audience members I didn’t even know came up and introduced themselves to tell me their favorite lines and shake my hand. As my wife (who turned in a great announcing job!), my son and I made our way to the car to head home for the evening, more than a dozen folks just reached out and touched me and said things like, "Brilliant!" and "Funny!" and "You were just great man!" Part of me just wanted to stay and bask in it for awhile but I rarely eat on a day I’m acting so by this time (going on 9) I was starved!
Perhaps the best compliment of all was when Bob Hastings said he’d see me at tomorrow’s rehearsals and I told him I wasn’t in any of the celeb shows for Saturday. He grimced and said, "What?! Those…They NEED you!"
So, I bookended the day by revisiting my first and worst performance and ended it with my latest and by all accounts (don’t let it go to your head) greatest. Heck, even stranger, one of the dealers actually had a DVD copy of DEBBIE DOES DALLAS. That made me smile.
By the way, neither of the above pics was taken yesterday. The one of me is a relatively recent (but pre-dye job) cell phone shot taken by friend Kim and Bob's was lifted from the net for informational purposes. More on the rest of the convention tomorrow!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Uncle Scrooge Likes OTR?

Couldn't resist this random panel from a 1980's UNCLE SCROOGE (which, of course, means it could well be a reprint from a 1960's or 1970's UNCLE SCROOGE which itself might have been reprinting a 1950's UNCLE SCROOGE...But I--like Peter David-- digress). I'm pretty sure it isn't Barks. Still, it serves to remind that today is Day One of the 21st Annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention at the Springdale Ramada. If you're local and reading this, drop by. Today from 9-9, tomorrow from 9-3 with the annual banquet at 6. There's dealers, live re-creations with original stars and lots of fun and nostalgia. The dealers' room has comics, tapes, CD's, DVD's, MP3s, magazines, autographs, and just about everything else associated with OTR...except horses. Hmmm...hopefully I can get there before Scrooge. He might just buy out the dealers' room! I'll try to repotrt on Day One tonight.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

1950's Superman Ad

Here's one from, I believe, 1957 that was undoubtedly inspired by the still running ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV series with George Reeves. It's all well and good that you watched the show but DC wanted you to know that the character still appeared in comic books also!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another Erector Set Ad

Vintage ads for Erector Sets are always fun. This one concerns me, though, in that it may well have led to the beginnings of the Daleks or Cybermen or some other evil metal army! Or maybe the Metal Men?

Note also that the ad is exclusively aimed at boys...not girls. the risk of getting off-color here, doesn't it SOUND like they're actually marketing to women here? I mean, "Look at all the spectacular buzz-with-action models you can build with Erector."

Don't mind me. I've been sick.

Oh, and wouldn't we all love to have that SUPERMAN book?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another Weird Disney Combo

Here, from the early 1980's I believe, is the bizarre double feature of the Disney Studio's STAR WARS rip-off THE BLACK HOLE with Walt's late animated feature SLEEPING BEAUTY. The former featured cardboard characters, stunt casting, unfunny "cute" robots, a dragging pace and only passable special effects and yet was highly touted as the company's "state of the art" production that would prove once and for all that no one did fantasy like Disney!

The latter, of course, although made a couple of decades earlier, HAD actually proven that exact point only to have Disney execs down through the years go out of their way to prove that it was no longer true. Alas...

Monday, April 16, 2007


I know I said the other day that I wasn't in a position to comment on the Gary Friedrich/GHOST RIDER lawsuit that's been the talk of the comics blogs but this morning, that changed. As I'm lying in bed with my fever dreams (see previous post), I suddenly remembered THIS guy! HELL-RIDER ran two issues from Skywald in 1971, part of a failed attempt at expanding their line beyond black and white horror mags like PSYCHO and NIGHTMARE. Gary Friedrich was at the helm and in the accompanying piece details the character's creation. Now the back story is completely different but it's hard not to look at HR physically as a GHOST RIDER prototype!

Skywald was run by former Marvel man Sol BrodSKY and legendary cash-in publishers Israel and Herschel WALDman. Their horror line was actually pretty good and introduced us to artists such as the prolific Pablo Marcos (who went on to illustrate children's classics!). HELL-RIDER tries to be adult-nudity, the ocassional "dirty" word, a plot based on heroin smuggling and folks doing recreational drugs. It still hedges its bets a lot. The artists though include the ever-popular Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (who had worked with the Waldmans doing new covers for their unauthorized IW/Super Comics reprints a decade earlier.), Rich Buckler, Dick Ayers (whose name is misspelled. OH! The indignity!), golden age CAPTAIN AMERICA artist Syd Shores and "special effects by Bill Everett and Carlos Garzon! Not bad at all. It's an interesting failure and I can't help but think that Gary took the basic look of the character straight to Marvel and made GHOST RIDER. Food for thought for all of you comics blog Nancy Graces. Uuuuugh! Back to my sick bed now!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Old Doc Gamble

I've been fighting being sick since Wednesday. Tonight, I came home from work, had some hot soup and promptly got severe chills that required burying myself under multiple blankets for an hour. I checked with one of my favorite doctors, Old Doc Gamble from radio's FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY, and he prescribed calling off tomorrow so I could recover by next weekend's 21st ANNUAL OLD TIME RADIO AND NOSTALGIA CONVENTION. So I did. Doc was played on radio by Arthur Q Bryan who played a number of memorable roles over the arirwaves, all of which were eclipsed by his legendary cartoon performance as Elmer Fudd! He died around the time I was born though so maybe I shouldn't listen to him. Where's Doc Savage when you need him? Hmmm...I think the fever's getting to me.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bob Hope

Coming up this next weekend is the 21st Annual Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. Every year I look forward to that weekend like no other. Unlike many conventions, this one is more like a family reunion in which my wife and I get to catch up with old friends and celebs and, if we’re lucky, perform in some of the re-creations of OTR shows onstage.

All of this got me thinking today that the very first old time radio star that I ever met was also the very first movie actor I ever met, the first author I ever met AND the first comic book character I ever met! That would, of course, be that ol’ renaissance man himself, Bob Hope.

I met Bob at the autographing seen here in this 1976 newspaper clipping, about ten minutes before this picture was taken. He was in Cincinnati pushing his book, THE ROAD TO HOLLYWOOD, written with film critic and celebrity biographer Bob Thomas. The line was long and Bob appeared wearing the same loud coat he had been wearing an hour earlier on a live local TV talk show plugging the signing. Everyone was rushed through the line so all I got was this signature. I tried to say something to Mr. Hope but after watching him ignore several folks in front of me as he did me, I decided that he was pretty much deaf. He was just smiling and signing.

Everyone knows that Bob was a film star from the late thirties through the sixties, a radio comedian for more than a decade, and a television pioneer. Not as much has been noted about his writing career. Perhaps this is because his books were reportedly all almost entirely ghostwritten by his legendary writers. In and of itself, that isn’t a bad thing as they undoubtedly sounded more like the Bob Hope the public knew and loved than the real man did. Bob’s first books appeared during World War II and his final credited one within the last decade. Many of them deal with his various endeavors at entertaining our troops and are quite entertaining. One of the best is the 1944 I NEVER LEFT HOME.

Bob Hope also headlined his own DC comic book for nearly two decades. The comic featured a sitcom version of the real Hope in various adventures similar to his movies. Later additions included a talking dog (Harvard Harvard the third), a monstrous supporting cast and the legendarily bad super hero parody, Super-Hip! Mort Drucker and Bob Oksner provided art for Arnold Drake’s stories during the book’s peak years and Neal Adams (of all people) finished out the run (and no, he didn’t make Bob all dark and gritty). Hope himself is said to have kept a complete mint condition set of the entire run.

In real life, Bob Hope was a controversial figure for his right wing politics, his alleged racism, homophobia, misogynistic womanizing and even more extreme claims made by the lunatic fringe (Google Brice Taylor) that have never gone away. He also devoted probably millions of hours to charities around the world and arguably made more people laugh than anyone before or since. Woody Allen once said that Hope was also one of his favorite actors as he essentially played the cowardly lothario character in dozens of his films to the point where we believed he was playing himself. As he lived to age 100, one could easily make the case that he stayed in the spotlight too long and we all watched him deteriorate into a punchline very sadly and very publicly. Still, at the end of the day, both good and bad, HE was Bob Hope and in spite of all the huge cultural and pop cultural changes in the twentieth century, his name would still have to be near the top of the list of most important entertainers and humanitarians of the century. Thanks, as they say, for the memories, Bob!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Well, Xam!

The other day we mentioned the supposed upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL movie. In the news on that same day was Gary Friedrich's claim against Marvel's GHOST RIDER (not a lawyer so I'm not even commenting on that one) which reminded me of the classic SUPERMAN vs. CAPTAIN MARVEL legal battles. That, in turn, reminded me of this lesser known legal battle.

Here, from a 1968 issue of WALL STREET JOURNAL, are some details in the CAPTAIN MARVEL vs. CAPTAIN MARVEL suit! More specifically, notorious rip-off publisher Myron Fass was suing Martin Goodman's Marvel over THEIR stealing of HIS trademark on the name CAPTAIN MARVEL after Fass allegedly refused to sell the rights to Goodman for $6000.00! Fass, you old-timers will recall, published a rather insipid hero of that name who was in actuality a robot who yelled "SPLIT!" to separate his various body parts (Wow! What a cool power! Ahem.) To reunite his wayward arms, legs, etc., he would yell "Xam!" His book was populated with trademark-infringed characters such as Plastic Man, Bat-Man and Doctor Doom. And yet here he was suing the big guy claiming THEY were infringing him with their new Kree spaceman Mar-Vell! No idea how this one turned out. Sam? Anybody?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Metal Facts and Fancies

Last week's talk of a possible METAL MEN movie got me re-reading some MM issues in what passes for my spare time lately (around 4 AM usually). All of the early Kanigher-Andru-Esposito issues were a lot of fun with Doc fending off Platinum's ("Tina's") advances and all sorts of unlikely robot villains. The heroes even KNEW they were in a comic book, constantly talking directly to the readers at at least one point nearly every issue. One of my favorite features in these early days was the one page educational pieces illustrating the properties of various metals. Here, for example, is one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Well, Shazam!

Screenwriter John August (Look him up yourself. I haven’t liked any of his movies that I’ve seen) is being raked over the coals today almost as badly as Don Imus for his holier-than-thou pronouncement that the original CAPTAIN MARVEL comics were crudely drawn and inconsistent and he CERTAINLY isn't going to base his upcoming screenplay on them. Like classic TV, he says, "Old things suck." Ever the diplomat, let me point out that…well…those comics WERE crude and inconsistent! However…and it’s a BIG however…perhaps more than any other Golden Age comic, the adventures of the so-called "Big Red Cheese" became streamlined and stylized so that they looked little like other comics. Through the art of
C. C. Beck, Kurt Shaffenberger, Mac Raboy and Pete Costanza (amongst others) Fawcett’s Marvel Family took on a clean, modern look and feel and developed a perfectly workable and unique mythology. Yeah, I agree, those early WHIZ stories are crude. Even Simon and Kirby’s take on the character was more interesting than good. Skip 1940 then and cut to, say, 1947 or 1950 and discover the inimitable whimsy that permeated the best stories of Billy Batson and crew. Oh and "Old things suck" he says? Pity him, my friends. He’ll never know the joys of the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, CASABLANCA, CITIZEN KANE, the early BEATLES, Sean Connery’s 007, EC’s, Steranko art, underground comics or, depending on where he draws the line at "old," maybe even the original STAR WARS! Perhaps some friends of Mister August’s could perform an intervention and force him to watch Karloff’s FRANKENSTEIN.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Julie Andrews

This past weekend, it seemed like every time I turned around, THE SOUND OF MUSIC was on. It just served to remind me of the wonderfulness that is Julie Andrews. Make fun of her if you will but from MY FAIR LADY and CAMELOT through MARY POPPINS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC. S.O.B. (where she's topless!), VICTOR, VICTORIA (a big favorite of mine) and more recently THE PRINCESS DIARIES films, Julie comes across as a genuinely nice, strong, secure woman with one helluva singing voice! She looks wistful in this early seventies publicity shot for a TV special but for 50 years now Julie has shared herself and her talents with us so thank you , ma'am! Like Pete and Dud used to say, the magic words are still "Julie Andrews."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

R. I. P. Johnny Hart

Although never a favorite of mine, my wife brought a number of BC (and WIZARD OF ID) books to the Library when we got married and I did learn to admire Mr. Hart. In recent years, controversy has dogged him for his seeming intolerance of any religion other than his own but at his in the 1977 COLOR ME SUNDAY collection from which this illustration was culled, he was very funny!

Swiss Family Robinson Rides Again

Awhile back, a reader requested that I run some ads of the unusual seventies double features Disney released. I'm sorry to say that the movie ad section of the Library is currently undergoing renovation (I'm slowly filing them in some semblance of order!) and this is the first one I've been able to find. Here are two films that have virtually nothing in common- SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is, of course, the 1960 semi-classic with the great Sir John Mills (father of Hayley!), James MacArthur and Disney regulars like Tommy Kirk and Kevin (Moochie!) Corcoran. HERBIE RIDES AGAIN was the several years too late and nowhere near as entertaining sequel to THE LOVE BUG featuring likable Ken Berry (sort of a Dean Jones lite if you will) and the first actress who ever responded to one of my fan letters, Stefanie Powers (and yes, "f" is correct, not "ph." Stefanie TOLD me so herself so HAH!). The twist here...and the only thing these two films seem to have in common, the appearance of Helen Hayes, the First Lady of the American Theater. Not that Ms. Hayes appears in ROBINSON. The common thread is that James ("Book 'em, Dano") MacArthur is her son! Sometimes ya just gotta look a little bit deeper to find a reason...other than profit...for teaming up certain films!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

1965 DC Subscription Ad

This one always made me feel sorry for the letterer. Remember these things were still being hand-lettered at the time!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Kurt Russell

Dexter Reilly probably never visited a grindhouse but I did fairly regularly.

At age four one of my early favorite TV series was THE TRAVELS OF JAMIE MCPHEETERS starring—as unlikely as it sounds—Charles Bronson and the Osmond Brothers—oh, and Kurt Russell as Jamie. After that, whenever I’d spot him on another show I’d say, "There’s Jamie!" Eventually, it became "There’s Kurt!"

In 1969, with the release of Disney’s live action feature-length sitcom THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES, Kurt Russell was added to my permanent favorites list. He played a different role in THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE but it may as well have been COMPUTER’s "Dexter Reilly" as the entire film seemed like just another "episode." Dexter DID return in NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T and in a final belated sequel, THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD. Surrounded by sidekicks played by ( among others) the wonderful Michael McGreevy and cartoon voice legend Frank Welker, Dexter’s world is also home to a roster of enjoyable character actors including Joe Flynn, Cesar Romero, Phil Silvers, Eve Arden, William Schallert and Dick Bakalyan. These are people that I would pay to see chew the scenery even if there were no plot…and there barely was in these pictures.

In the first film, Dexter becomes super smart. In the second, invisible. By the third, six long years later, he’s super-strong...and STILL in college. After that, Kurt tried several times to reinvent himself as a grown-up star, finally succeeding with the help of director John Carpenter who cast him against type in ELVIS, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE THING.

Still, his life was inextricably tied with Disney. Seems he appeared as a child in that studio’s THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND which also featured a young lady named Goldie Hawn in a small role. When the two met up again years later, they became one of Hollywood’s more stable couples.

I remember seeing Kurt on an early ‘80’s Letterman show where he said he would really have preferred to have become a baseball star. He then told a story that shocked me and which I won’t repeat lest I heard it wrong, remember it wrong or missed a part where he said it was a joke. Still, it changed my thinking on him. Since then, he’s still been a pleasant familiar face in films but never again as much as he had been. That said, I am REALLY looking forward to seeing GRINDHOUSE. Having sat through my share of real grindhouse double features as an impressionable teen, it’s all nostalgia for me…including Kurt who, I hear, actually brings vestiges of Dexter Reilly to the role!

It seems that if I don’t see a movie in its opening week, I usually miss it until cable or DVD and I’m working the next seven days straight. If I DO catch GRINDHOUSE, I’ll let you know what I think!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Metal Men-The Movie?

The cover seen here may turn out to be prophetic in that a few years from now METAL MEN toys could be all the rage in the wake of their hit movie. That's right, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER is reporting that Doc Magnus's wacky robots, long a favorite of mine, are heading to the screen courtesy of some of the folks behind the X-MEN movies and CONSTANTINE. With the current state of moviemaking being what it is, this might actually be a good idea! Of course, with the current state of Hollywood production being what it is, it may well be a decade more before we actually see METAL MEN-THE MOVIE! (And please, please, please don't let 'em adapt the Sekowsky version!!!! Oh, no!!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disneyland Color Television

Here we have a licensed Disney product that offers false advertising (it's not REALLY a color TV), features off-model characters, misspelled names (Davy? Davey?) and the wonderful line "...Disneyland and his friends." Ya gotta love it!