Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Trailers From Hell

Thanks to Bedazzled! for pointing me to one of my new favorite sites. At Trailers From Hell you'll find directors such as John Landis, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen and Mick Garris giving commentary on movie trailers! From THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE to DANGER: DIABOLIK to ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN. It's all fun and fascinating for film buffs!


I’ve been posting quite a bit on Captain Marvel lately but mostly the original, 1940’s version. Can’t forget that during the seventies revival, the good Captain actually made it to television! SHAZAM! Was a dull show, actually—cheap-looking, modernized, and incredibly preachy. Still, it WAS Captain Marvel. Jackson Bostwick, seen here, was the first actor to play the part, being replaced along the way (in a dispute of which I’ve heard several variations) by one John Davey. Bostwick certainly looked the part with his dark-eyebrowed facial features but the longish hair kinda blew it (don’t even get me started on Michael Gray as Billy!). Davey wasn’t bad except for what appeared to be a broken nose and no acting talent whatsoever. Radio veteran Les Tremayne costarred as "Mentor," a character that the comic book version made into a newly mustachioed "Uncle Dudley." Billy and Mentor traveled around the country in an RV writing wrongs and teaching lessons. It’s what Saturday morning television did in the mid-seventies. Sigh. When this series ended, an animated version appeared but I was so fed up with network kids shows that I never saw a single episode.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Whistler

Bored and a little depressed, I'm posting this panel of Quality Comics mid forties SPIRITesque character, THE WHISTLER (apparently no relation to the radio WHISTLER) simply because it's 11:30 PM. What does THAT tell ya?

Adventure 300 Ad

Speaking of relaunches (as we were in that last post), has any Silver Age strip had as many relaunches as the Legion of Super-Heroes? Here's a 1962 DC house ad for the launch of the original run in ADVENTURE COMICS.

Captain Marvel Meets the Spirit

The CCI announcement that Darwyn Cooke will be leaving THE SPIRIT much sooner than intended coincided with my finally reading Jeff Smith's recent SHAZAM revival and the two events reminded me of this 1977 Alan Hanley illustration. I'm afraid my limited scanner could'nt grab the whole of this piece that served as a January, 1978 tabloid cover for TBG but you get the idea. I have this fear that SPIRIT will now go through multiple relaunches just like the good Captain. Some good, some not so good. Between the two characters, their Golden Age adventures are probably the very BEST of the best. It's good to see old friends and I've enjoyed both Cooke and Smith's versions but sometimes the real magic just can't be recaptured.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hot Dogs

When it comes to food, nothing is more pop culturey than the good ol’ American Hot Dog. Here from 1968—and just in time for a summer cookout—is THE NEW HOT DOG COOKBOOK. Promising 250 new and exciting recipes, many are just variations on a theme. Some of the more unusual ones are:
German Beef and Hot Dog Soup
Hot Dog Aspic
Jellied Hot Dog Loaf
Hot Dog Chili Pie
Hot Dog and Yam Casserole
Hot Dog Jambalaya
Creole Dogs
Hot Dog and Liver Sausage Loaf
Hot Dog Succotash
Hot Dog Stuffed Onions
Hot Dogs in Herb Biscuits
Hot Dog Pizza Pie
Drunken Dogs
Hot Dogs and Baked Eggs in Sherry Sauce
Frankly, I think the author had far too much time on his hands that could’ve been perhaps better spent protesting the Vietnam War or practicing Free Love.
Here’s a vintage ad for the ARCHIE ANDREWS radio series, also, sponsered as it was by Swift’s Premium Franks, and Miss Veronica Lodge declaring her desire for weenies. Inlater years, hamburger loving Jughead would even have a dog named Hot Dog!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Convention Booklets

As Comicon rages on without me (although I have it on live on G4 in the background even as we speak) here are a couple more convention booklets I've collected over the years. Omnicon was a Louisville, Kentucky convention in 1976 that was put on by Keno Don Rosa and James Van Hise. The biggest convention I had attended at the time, guests included cover artist Frank Brunner and STAR TREK's DeForest Kelly. Wearing my Trek uniform shirt in time-honored geek manner, I stood next to Kelly as he was interviewed on local TV. The con book is in the format of the fanzine, RBCC (not so coincidentally edited by Van Hise) and contains mostly reprints from that venerable publication including some early Don Rosa art and a cool SUB-MARINER strip by Mike Zeck.

I attended Omnicon with my parents but I attended the 1989 ChicagoCon with my then fiance. I've written about this convention before. This was where Reed Waller and the late Kate Worley asked us to hang out with them at an after hours party and we were too awestruck to do so. This was where my soon-to-be wife got so incredibly ticked off at Peter David on a panel and yet respected him enough to decide to name our future son (BookDave) after him. Her real goal that year was to meet her fave Wendy Pini and we did but Wendy came across as shy and demure (after Kate Worley who wouldn't?) and a far cry from the sword-wielding Red Sonja she had been when I had met her in Philadelphia back in 1977. This was where we met and hit it off with John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale, a tough, talented woman who died far too soon. Also, we sold Denis Kitchen some L'IL ABNER metal signs and had a nice long talk with him. Denis has long been one of my favorite folks in the comics business. Finally, this was the place where we watched Golden Age BATMAN ghost artist Dick Sprang introduce himself to DC head Jenette Kahn over her breakfast table at the hotel restaurant. Ahhh...memories. I hope this year's ComiCon attendees come away with cool memories like those and not just nightmares of the crowds.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Con Program Book Art

One of the coolest things about ComicCons back in the day was that the program books were collectible in and of themselves, loaded down as they were with exclusive artwork by guests and others! Here we have, from 1977 and 1987 respectively, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner and yet more Sergio Aragaones!

Random Panels of Comics Weirdness # 1

No comment except to say this is from MLJ's BLUE RIBBON COMICS # 20 from 1941.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Scott Shaw's San Diego Flintstones-1988

1988 was the only year I actually made it to San Diego (I was registered and paid up in '89 but didn't get to go) and throughout the year, Jackie Estrada and friends sent out progress report booklets. Often, the covers were just text and the con logo of the moment but here's one from that year featuring that Oddball Scott Shaw!'s (how are you supposed to punctuate his name anyway?) famous rendition of Fred and Barney creating Stone Age Comics!

Monday, July 23, 2007

That Monster Times Issue

Wow! I knew that was a cool Sergio poster yesterday but it never occurred to me that it would get me a couple of plugs (Thanks John and Mark!) that would increase my visitors tenfold today! This has been my biggest day ever after nearly two years of blogging. To all of you new folks, welcome! I hope you've enjoyed your visit to my little pop culture space here on the web and that you'll drop by to visit us again. Nearly every single day we offer comics tidbits, vintage ads, movies that fell through the cracks, book reviews, biographical pieces, rare artwork, Christa Helm info and sixties music appreciation. We've even been known to present Linda Blair naked once or twice (which has led to the words "Linda Blair naked"being the search terms most associated with this blog!) Someone asked which issue of THE MONSTER TIMES featured that pic of the Aragones poster so I thought I'd scan that, too. It was number thirteen, this nifty SPIDER-MAN issue which also featured Dr. Phibes, the UFO TV series and the earliest report of what would prove to be DC's SHAZAM. The centerfold is also a very early John Byrne piece, a 2 page horror story with an EC-style ending.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sergio Convention Poster-1972

From the pages of a 1972 issue of THE MONSTER TIMES, here's proof that even back in the day comic book conventions were overpopulated pop culture geekfests. This poster was done for Phil Seuling's legendary July 4th New York City Con by Mark Evanier's homeboy (and Groo's daddy) Sergio Aragones. For hours of fun, click to enlarge and just pretend to roam around the aisles. It's almost like being there (only without Peter Sellers).

I once saw artist Mike Grell on a panel at ChicagoCon describing different artists' approaches to the same material. In particular, he described a script that called for (as I recall) a rider to reach the top of a hill and see a thousand screaming men on horseback coming at him from the other side with weapons and charging elephants. Grell said his approach was to draw a large closeup panel in which all you saw was the rider's frightened eyes. By contrast, he noted, Sergio would more than likely draw TWO thousand men on horseback with weapons, elephants, rhinos and dinosaurs and then throw in a few gags around the edges! Grell then added that this would take Sergio about ten minutes to draw.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bob Phantom

Short on time after spending the last twenty-four hours in one way or another with Ha**y Po**er. Just a quick observation then: Isn't MLJ's 1940's character Bob Phantom the DUMBEST superhero of them all? I mean, yes, there's the dorky costume but that name! Bob? Seriously, WTF? Were all the good hero names already claimed?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Dorkiest Captain America Ever?

Just ran across this panel from CAPTAIN AMERICA # 23 ( 1943) and nearly laughed out loud! Just makes you long for those square-fingered, robust Kirby shots that would come later, doesn't it? GCD attributes this (with a ?) to Syd Shores but, oh, I hope not. Always liked Syd and especially his inking over Kirby early on in the sixties Cap run. When you consider that Simon and Kirby left Cap after only ten of his seventy-plus issues and a handful of stories published in other mags, Shores (along with Al Avison) ended up drawing the character more than anybody in his original run. I'd like to think he'd know better. (Oh, and for those looking for gay subtext in comics, Cap and Bucky go skinny-dipping together in this issue!).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer of Love

Sometimes I think I would have made a good hippie. The problem was that I was eight years old during what has come to be known as the Summer of Love (1967 if you haven’t been paying attention) and, by my recollection, never once considered going to San Francisco or trying to wear flowers in my buzzed haircut. The only acid I dropped that year was out of my chemistry set and my mom made me clean it up! Nope. I’ve said it here before but one of the wisest things Mark Twain ever said (and I paraphrase) is that everything happens ten years later in Cincinnati. In my 1967 world, even my friends’ older brothers had short hair, wouldn’t think of smoking anything that wasn’t a KOOL and their sisters would never dare wear a mini-skirt! Still, as I came to realize what was happening in the world at that pivotal time, I’ve always been fascinated by the counterculture. 1967 brought the world ZAP COMIX, the Monterey Pop Festival, Hendrix, Joplin and the Who. The love-ins and be-ins and doing your own thing and bags and flower power grooviness are all captured well in this out of print 1994 book, SUMMER OF LOVE by Joel Selvin. Although it concentrates mostly on the musical revolution, it goes back in time to 1965 to set up the cultural and pop cultural aspects that led to that magical period. It then goes forward to the inevitable morning after. To some folks, 1967 was all about sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s all detailed here. There’s even a handy who-s who/whatever became of? section in the back of the book! If you really were a hippie, here’s some true nostalgia for you. If, like me, you were watching from the outside, here’s a good one-stop chance to get caught up here at the fortieth (can you believe it?) anniversary of the one true Summer of Love! Groovy, man!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that Sarah Hamilton, the author of RATTRAP, is a ‘Net acquaintance of mine. Let me also say that in spite of living a stone’s throw from downtown Cincinnati, I have never in my life attended a football game. That said, and with a few caveats, I found RATTRAP to be a riveting, fast-paced thriller loaded with well-delineated characters. Self-published three years ago, it is clearly an amateur work and yet cocky enough to refuse to admit that.
The basic storyline deals with a female reporter with a troubled past and her investigation into allegations that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ number one draft choice raped a cheerleader. Much of the first half of the book deals with the behind-the-scenes machinations of the player’s unscrupulous agent as his attempts to spin doctor the situation are consistently undermined by the player himself. As we get into the second half, though, the whole thing somehow turns into SILENCE OF THE LAMBS redux.
In spite of the rambling narrative, Sarah manages to create not one, not two but a whole series of compelling, nuanced characters. Dexter Curtis is the black football player whose public image belays his true nature as a drug-taking sexual predator. Kim McConnell is the bisexual, promiscuous cheerleader with a background of drugs, abuse and suicide attempts. Jolyn Knowlton is the heroine, a tough but psychologically scarred reporter with a past that included her illicit lover being murdered in Israel. Nathan Redmond becomes the ultimate villain of the piece. He’s a mortician who moonlights as a killer for hire. On the side, though, he is a learned gourmet with a taste for human flesh. The more background Redmond gets as the book goes along, the scarier he becomes.
Written in the most explicit language imaginable, Sarah’s use of extreme detail in the sex and drug scenes adds immensely to their reality. Her trademark has always been the colorful turn of phrase and that, too, is well-represented in RATTRAP.
My main problem with the book is that it could have used a good editor. Said professional would have fixed the occasional mixed-up sentence structures, eliminated the consistent use of characters’ names when speaking amongst themselves, insisted on the use of contractions in the otherwise realistic dialogue (one thing I learned-ALWAYS read your dialogue aloud, preferably to someone else. If it doesn’t sound real, fix it) and not allowed so many of the pivotal moments of the story to occur "off-screen" as it were.
Even then, RATTRAP sucked me in and its short chapters carried me forward quickly. The one thing I truly missed was the author’s noted sense of humor. For the most part, it appears here only in its darkest form. Some of the more intense scenes could have been broken up by a bit more light-heartedness.
Although at times confusing, for adults RATTRAP is a fast-paced read and a nice look at the developing take-no-prisoners style of a very cocky, talented writer whose future books I eagerly await.
You can buy RATTRAP from Amazon here: Amazon.com: Rattrap: Books: S. H. Hamilton and here’s Sarah Hamilton’s own site, MEKASEFA, from where you can link to some of her online erotic fiction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 26

THE DOBERMAN GANG was a surprise hit in 1972. It was a low-budget picture with a no-name cast but it had a gimmick that clicked with filmgoers—trained Dobermans. Inevitably, it was followed a year later by a sequel, THE DARING DOBERMANS which, while it had at least a few familiar faces, was simply more of the same. Today’s movie-that-fell-through-the cracks is the third and final theatrical Doberman entry ( there were several TV movies later on). THE AMAZING DOBERMANS, released in 1976, had a bigger budget and the whole thing went pretty much to the casting. Fred Astaire, one of the truly GREAT film performers of the twentieth century, toplined. TV faces Barbara (I DREAM OF JEANNIE) Eden and James (MR. NOVAK, LONGSTREET) Franciscus, co-starred. Well, actually, Franciscus, a stiff but likable actor, was the main character. On the run from gangsters to whom he owes a considerable amount of money, he first meets a man who controls five of the big dogs with a device. He then joins a circus. He then convinces the man with the dogs to join the circus to help him get back at the gangsters who’ve tracked him down. It’s all very matter-of-fact and the dogs have less screen time here than in the others (gotta show that human talent they paid the big bucks for, I guess). It’s kind of entertaining and certainly moreso than the other Doberman entries due to the great cast. Said cast also included Billy Barty, Jack Carter (a so-so standup comic who was often well-cast as villians in movies and TV series of the period) and my late friend from the radio conventions, Parley Baer! Fred Astaire would continue a trend of appearing in unusual places for the remainder of his career, ending up in an episode of BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA and his final role as a skinny Kris Kringle in THE MAN IN THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yet Another DC Silver Age Ad

Here's a house ad from 1962 DC comics. Ironically, it's correct, too! Within the last few months, the very stories of these characters that were being plugged in this ad have been reprinted in the current SHOWCASE series of phone-book size collections. First AQUAMAN, then HAWKMAN, ATOM just a couple weeks back and now METAL MEN recently announced as coming soon! All 45 years past this precognitive ad!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fantastic Four-The OTHER Movie

I saw Chris Gore on G4 the other night co-hosting a preview of this week's bigger than big Comicon in San Diego and I was reminded of his late (but not really all that lamented) FILM THREAT magazine of the early nineties. One of the few mags promoting independent films at the time, it's covers hyped Traci Lords, Batman and Ren and Stimpy to get sales but then presented a number of more serious pieces inside (along with an often incredible amount of sub-NATIONAL LAMPOON "humor"). My favorite issue--and the only one I've kept--is this 1993 edition that cover-featured the brand spanking new FANTASTIC FOUR film that was supposedly about to be released. No less than 16 pages are devoted to the low-budget Marvel feature inside presenting detailed behind-the-scenes looks and info on the special effects. The picture, as most folks reading this probably know, was pulled from scheduled release at the last minute and "permanently" shelved. That said, I doubt if there's anyone who wanted to see it who hasn't by now through various sources including the Net. It isn't bad,a ctually. Obviously low-budget and some of the SPFX don't work that well but Alex Hyde-White is quite good (if a bit too young-looking in spite of the obviously fake white streaks in his hair). The rest of the cast looks great. I mean, seriously, Jessica Alba may be a babe but Sue is supposed to be a matriarchal figure...which she is here. Actor Robert Culp's son Joseph appears as Dr. Doom in a budget conscious suit of armor costume. I liked last year's FF movie but there were plot holes and continuity errors you could fly a Fantasticar through. This year's film fell victim to that "no money" thing we have going around here (unfortunately) but 1993's FANTASTIC FOUR will always hold a special place here at the Library. Don't get me started on that CAPTAIN AMERICA movie though!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies-Sorta

Okay, here's a good one. This ad from an early seventies comic book is for a 3-Record set Warner Brothers LP entitled LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES featuring Elmer Fudd on its sleeve cover. Now logically, this record would feature songs and music associated with the classic Warner Brothers cartoons, from the two series LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES. I mean, seriously, that isn't too much of a stretch is it? BUT...! Apparently the WB of the day thought it would be just amazingly hip and groovy to utilize the legendary properties that most kids, even then, had grown up on in order to sell MORE albums by folks whose albums otherwise weren't doing so well! The NERVE! Well, no, to the best of my knowledge, the Nerve did not have any songs on this set. According to the ad, though, the folks that do included an eclectic mix of groups and singers. Some (like Little Richard, the Beach Boys and John Sebastian) were then currently on the outs with the record-buying public while others (including James Taylor and Van Morrison) were on the rise. The ill-fated (but wonderful!) Sweetwater appears undoubtedly along with more totally forgotten bands like Lovecraft. I never had the album but I remember thinking even then..."What the hell does this have to do with my favorite cartoons!!??"

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Horror of Captain Marvel

Still glorying in Golden Age Fawcetts, I'm struck by how the company was jumping on the horror comics bandwagon toward the end of the legendary Marvel Family's run. Not only were the superhero stories becoming darker (and often featuring monsters) but the flagship WHIZ COMICS actually began spotlighting an EC-like storyteller named Doctor Death! In fact, in one of his earliest stories, we actually have this character here who immediately brought to mind EC's Old Witch from THE HAUNT OF FEAR! Still, the handwriting was not only on the wall for Fawcett but also on all those legal papers that DC had been sending their way for years so as sales dwindled, the company threw in the towel and retired what may have been the single greatest Golden Age hero franchise of them all and settled for publishing DENNIS THE MENACE comics and paperback romances ever after. (For the record, in the grand tradition of false advertising, the cover scene of the monster with Sivana's head does not appear anywhere in the book.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bookdave Reviews Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Hello, my name is Bookdave, and I’m Booksteve’s son and the guest reviewer today. Y’see, Dad and me and mom went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix today. At the theater, I found a fun game! There was a mat on the ground that had images projected on it and it reacted to your stomps. There was one game where evil monkeys were attacking a princess-cat, and you had to stomp on them. Another game was a trivia quiz where you stomp on the answers; Dad was doing great until a little kid came up and constantly pressed "C". ( I told her she had the wrong answer and that it was Jim Morrison who was known as the Lizard King. She said she didn’t care and was just having fun. @##!&!! three year olds! Sheesh!-Booksteve)
Stop interrupting, Dad! Anyway, the movie started out pretty simple: Dudley was teasing Harry at a park. Then, a pair of dementors attacked. Harry saved the day, but then got in trouble (he not only performed magic out of school, he did it in front of a muggle!). He then met a heroic, secret, anti-Voldemort group of wizards called the Order of the Phoenix, whose ranks include his friends and Dumbledore. They took him to the wizarding world, where Harry discovered that Mr. Fudge (the current Minister of Magic) refuses to believe that Voldemort is back and thinks Dumbledore’s after his job. The Daily Prophet even called Harry a liar! After a court scene where Harry won, Harry had a nightmare about Voldemort and finally got to Hogwarts. There, he learned that Dolores Umbridge, a woman from the ministry, was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She also seemed WAY too perky. Unfortunately, she refused to let them practice any spells. Harry screams that mere paper-pen work won’t prepare them for Voldemort, which lands him in Umbridge’s office. It’s pink and filled with living paintings of cats. She tells him to write, "I must not tell lies" on a piece of paper. But (Warning! Scary part!) anything he wrote with that quill was written in scars on his hand. Meanwhile, Umbridge has taken over Hogwarts, forming an evil dictatorship, making crazy rules, and even trying to fire Trelawny! Luckily, according to Dumbledore, "You can dismiss my teachers, but you have no right to force them to leave the grounds." This gets Umbridge a new goal: become headmaster! Meanwhile, Harry has created a team of kids that want to get GOOD Defense against the Dark Arts teaching. They do it in a room called the Room of Requirement that always fits your purpose. Harry teaches everyone spells like Stupefy and Expecto Petronum! What do they call themselves? Dumbledore’s Army! However, Umbridge, while creating millions of new rules like "Students may not be within 18 inches of each other", hired a bunch of Slytherins to hunt them down. That got Dumbledore in trouble (They ARE called DUMBLEDORE’S army after all). He claimed to be behind the group, but escaped the Ministry. This puts Umbridge in charge.
That gives you a good idea of the movie. However, there was something I experienced that you couldn’t. Y’see, the film was supposed to be in 3D at the end. Unfortunately, it broke abruptly while playing. Cries of "Hey! You up there! Fix it!" and "Projectionist’s a Death Eater!" (That one was Mom’s) rose up. We had nice little chats with the other moviegoers before it came back 25 minutes later (with what appeared to be about 5-10 minutes of the picture lost-BS). It came back in double-image-vision. Rather than turn it off and fix it again, the movie went on as planned except that it was 2D as they just decided to cut off one projector completely!
Overall, it was pretty good. I loved the fireworks and Luna Lovegood (She seems like she was born tranquilized and believes in things called "Nargles"). It would be better with the ump-hundred deleted scenes. It was good anyway. Well, the parts I saw anyway. I guess I couldn’t really give a good review with the whole broken-film thing. Overall, I can give it a 7; it would be an 8 without the nightmare-inducing quill. Just cover your eyes when Harry gets to Umbridge’s office (OF DOOM!).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doug Marlette

I think the first time I ever saw cartoonist Doug Marlette, who died yesterday in an auto accident, was on a talk show. THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW perhaps? GOOD MORNING AMERICA maybe? He was a Southern boy originally from my late mother’s home state of North Carolina and his long-running popular newspaper comic strip was called KUDZU. Marlette was also a Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist whose pointed panels graced the pages of many papers over the years but most notably those of THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. That’s the reason that he got talk show gigs!
KUDZU was a rather generic young man whose strip became even more popular when Marlette highlighted one of its supporting characters, the Rev. Will B. Dunn. The character of the Southern holier-than-thou preacher was used to comment on society’s mores (and/or lack of same) as well as to comment on the growing political and social effects of the religious right and actually got at least one strip reprint book all to himself.
A man of many talents, the late cartoonist also wrote and published a novel a few years ago and the marvelous book seen here, IN YOUR FACE-A CARTOONIST AT WORK. Sort of an autobiography/KUDZU collection/editorial cartoon collection and how-to book, it’s a fun read and a delightful insight into a very creative mind. A creative mind whose work I didn't get to see as often as I'd like but one I’m certainly going to miss.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

the Shield

No, not the TV series, the superhero! The very first (predating even Captain America!) patriotic superhero was the Shield from MLJ (the future Archie) Comics. Drawn by Irv Novick who would later go on to be one of the major Batman artists of the late sixties and throughout the seventies, the Shield's World War II homefront adventures were often hair-raising tales of gangsters, spies and monsters. With his young sidekick (Hey, it was a trend) Dusty, Joe Higgins not only fought evil as the Shield but seemingly even edited some of the comics he was in! For awhile, the inside covers of PEP featured editorials supposedly by Higgins. Even the very first appearance of ARCHIE who would later take over the whole darn company was preceded by an almost apologetic editorial from "Higgins."If you joined the Shield's patriotic fan club, you wrote directly to Higgins!

In the sixties revival, the Shield was actually the SON of the original Shield, a hapless loser whose personal life consisted of going from one menial job to another while fighting aliens and villians as a hero on the side. He also drug his father who had been turned to stone by an old enemy around with him hoping to find a cure! No word on what happened to Dusty except that in the classically bad MIGHTY CRUSADERS outing, "Too Many Super-Heroes," he turns up briefly with little explanation!
In the last couple years, Archie has reprinted a number of the early SHIELD stories in a trade paperback collection. Check your local comic shops for a bit of history!

Monday, July 09, 2007

1947 Rice Krispies Ad

As a child--heck, even as an adult for many years--my favorite breakfast cereal was Kellogg's Rice Krispies. Back then, "Snap, crackle, pop" meant good tastin' food. These days, it's the sound my knees make as I try to get up from the couch. Sigh. Here's Snap, Crackle and Pop from about fifteen years before I discovered them.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Jerry Siegel and the Spider

I never met Jerry Siegel but I ALMOST did! Jerry was scheduled to be a guest at the one San Diego Con I attended in the late eighties but was taken ill at the last minute and had to cancel. I had brought a copy of SUPERMAN # 50, the oldest issue I had, to get signed but alas.

In Gerard Jones indispensible history of comics and the men who created them, Siegel comes across as the most tragic man in comics. On the one hand he created Superman, the one character around which the entire industry built up. On the other, in spite of his imaginative plotting he was a writer of only passable skills and was never able to recreate his success or regain his creation. For DC, he did create THE SPECTRE but even that character was not a raging success initially. After the lawsuit, along with Joe Shuster, he created FUNNYMAN, a trivia question hero if there ever was one. In the sixties, he wrote many exciting but often ludicrous adventures of THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES before leaving DC again due to legal efforts to regain his original creation. He turned up at Archie where, as "Jerry Ess," he wrote many of that company's "ultra heroes" including THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS. With a reputation for outrageously bad dialogue, he faltered quickly with Marvel "realism," leading to the briefest of stints at that company. In the eighties, there was one last effort to make it in the growing Independent comics field but the grand old man, although revered by the current fans and creators, still couldn't make it work.

Lost in all of this was a strip I had never even heard of until recently, THE SPIDER! Superman's creator took over the already successful British strip running in the weekly story-paper LION in 1966 and wrote the Spider's serialized adventures for the next two and a half years!

The Spider was a weird looking pointy-eared criminal mastermind who traveled on webs he created and attempted to become the world's greatest criminal while wearing a jumpsuit that included elf boots and some kind of psycho bondage bra!

This book, KING OF CROOKS (note the name "Spider" not mentioned anywhere on the cover, probably for the same reason DC's Captain Marvel is called Shazam) reprints the first three SPIDER stories with the third being Jerry Siegel's debut, "The Spider V. Dr. Mysterioso." According to the introduction in this Titan hardcover, Jerry had chosen the strip to write when he had been sent copies of LION. In his later strips, it says that he made the character more of an anti-hero, using his skills to stop other super-criminals. Jerry is credited with bringing an authentic American feel to the otherwise made in Britain but set in America feature. Even his dialogue worked. The first example here, done before Jerry arrived, is just as outrageous as anything he would write here! This was a good fit for him. Upon his departure in 1969 (Why if it was so successful?), THE SPIDER passed into other hands but continued for only a few more months. Jerry entered the seventies at a low point but would end on a note of public triumph when DC was shamed into giving Siegel and Shuster financial and creative recognition in order to avoid bad press when the multi-million dollar SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE came out.

KING OF CROOKS came out a few years ago and is still available by special order from your local bookstore in the US. I got mine through Borders last week.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fawcett Ads

Well, we're off to Lexington early tomorrow for my wife's mother's funeral and then I have to go in to work after the two hour drive back. This will be only the third time in my life I've been in Lexington. I think Captain Marvel went to Lexington once...or was it Louisville? I know he went to Dayton, Ohio. There was a whole series of 1940's stories in which the Big Red Cheese visited cities around the country dropping names of local celebs and politicians. The idea was even repeated during the Bicentennial in 1976. Anyway, I've been on a golden-age Fawcett kick in recent weeks so here are a couple of nifty vintage ads to hold you over in case I don't get to post tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

1776-the Comic Book

Longtime readers will recall that both my wife and I are big fans of the film version of the Broadway musical 1776. Here, from 1973, we have the Charlton comics adaptation of said musical. About as oddball as anything you'll find over at Scott Shaw!'s Oddball Comics, this is, as I said, an adaptation of a musical...without music (in spite of what the cover says). As seen in the panels here, the lyrics of the memorable songs are quoted as dialogue...making them seem in context to be particularly inane. In fact, Joe Gill's "adaptation" virtually eschews any real narrative in favor of panel after panel of disconnected illustrations of scenes in the film. The art in those panels is by the prolific (if not particularly revered) Tony Tallarico who does a pretty fair job of capturing the likeness of some of the actors, particularly William Daniels (TV's former CAPTAIN NICE) as John Adams. Note also that despite the presence of the comics code on the front cover and the substitution of "blazes" for the rhyming "hell" in one of the reprinted panels, there appears still several dozen less than reverent references to "God" and a couple of "damns" and "dammits." Perhaps the code made exception because it was a musical? Historical? So under the radar they passed it without looking at it? Anyway, it's a pretty kitschy comic book. I recommend the DVD of the restored film itself. That's what my wife and I will probably be watching tomorrow for the quadrillionth time. Happy Fourth! By the way, ace researcher DEREK Tague does one heck of an imitation of Howard (Benjamin Franklin) Da Silva. If you see Derek in New Jersey this week, ask him to do it for ya!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Racial Stereotypes at Fawcett-1942

My ten year old son is incredibly smart, understanding and empathic for his age (his dad said proudly) and yet he is totally and thoroughly unable to comprehend in any way, shape or form the racial stereotypes that were so prevalent in the popular culture of the early 20th century. In comic books of the Golden Age, one can perhaps understand the desire to demonize the enemy during wartime but what was with the nearly subhuman portrayal of black people? More significantly, why was it accepted so readily in mainstream pop culture? This is all too big a deal to get into on the level it deserves right now but I ran across one thing today that really, really surprised me. Seen here is Steamboat, Billy Batson's valet from the early forties CAPTAIN MARVEL stories. In this 1942 story, he's hypnotized into thinking he, too, is a "Marvel." The art is probably by Cap's creator CC Beck (possibly with Pete Costanza or Marc Swayze). By astounding contrast, the second panels are from a CAPTAIN MARVEL, JR. story fom that very same year and show a perfectly realistic and yet obviously African-American child (at an integrated party, yet!) and was drawn by the too-good-for-comics illustrator, Mac Raboy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Captain Marvel For Mechanix Illustrated-1942

All you sissies go away. In case you didn't notice, this mag is NOT for you! We wouldn't take your money if you'd offer it to us. In fact,...why...that is...we'd go out of business before we'd sell to you! Yeah, right. When it comes to marketing, never alienate a potential market, stupid! Someone reportedly once asked Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame), the whitest old white Southern male of them all, at the height of the civil rights movement, his true opinion of black people. He is said to have thought just a moment before saying something along the lines of, "If they eat chicken, I love 'em!" Cap, alot of those "sissies" read your comics and with this 1942 ad, you were disrespecting them! Shame on you!